Reflections on Florida… Part I

18 Nov

Well I’ve been back from Florida a couple of weeks now and had chance to go through and identify pretty much everything we saw.

I should say that this wasn’t intended as a birdwatching trip by any means but I managed to pick up a lot of new species for me and had probably one of my richest hours of biodiversity in the wild at the encouragingly named “Alligator Lake” (more on this to follow in Part III). Also worth nothing that I didn’t lug my 500mm lens with me to the states so all images are take with (at best) a Tamron 300mm with 1.4x teleconverter!

My first hour or so out of the house was an opportunity for my 6 year old daughter to stretch her legs in a local playground a few hundred yards from our base in Lake City.

That hour gave me a taste of things to come…first bird up was a northern mockingbird singing his heart out in the bushes above a pair of american crows picking through the grass.



Next up overhead the dark form of a turkey vulture gliding around, closely followed by several more and a black vulture in tow.

Black vulture

Black Vulture

Turkey vulture

Turkey vulture

A group of large-ish birds approaching from the North in a loose V formation gradually resolved into a group of 10 glossy ibis.

Glossy ibis

Glossy ibis

Then two birds I simply had no idea about… flying high with long black wings and a long black tail but a pale neck and head and long beak. It took me three days to work out they were anhinga. I’d never seen anhinga before and all the photos I’d seen seemed to show glossy black birds and it was the pale neck that had thrown me.



In one of the trees at the playground another mockingbird was in residence alongside the unmistakeable form of a blue jay which skulked in the depths of the tree. A tiny bird flashed in and out of view around the periphery – always managing to elude my camera but I eventually got a decent view of  a gold crowned kinglet.

A subsequent visit to the same playground also gave me my first views of the confusing juvenile little blue heron – confusing because it looks for all the world like a pure-white egret!

Little blue heron

Little blue heron

Parts II and III to follow

Wandering in Florida

28 Oct

First full morning in Florida and just been out for an hour to find a playground for my daughter. So far clocked up turkey and black vultures, boat tailed grackle, kildeer, glossy and american ibises, mockingbird, bluejay and gold crowned kinglet plus an unidentified stork/crane. Off to Alligator Lake this afternoon and then to buy a copy of Sibley. Photos to follow when we get home.

Euro roadtrip

24 Aug

Back from a bit of a roadtrip – instead of the usual circuit round Druridge Bay this time it was Bedlington -> France -> Germany -> Switzerland -> Germany -> Belgium -> France -> Bedlington.

A few lifers and year ticks… rough legged buzzard and black kite in France… white stork in Germany, red-crested pochard in Switzerland.

As much as anything I was impressed with the black redstarts in Germany – as common as sparrows and starlings in the black forest where we stayed with my brother for a few days.

Good on the butterfly front as well with pale clouded yellow, sooty copper and mazarine blue being lifetime firsts


Sunshine returns

18 Jun

Oddly… I had booked a day off for today and there was a large fiery thing in the sky and all there seemed to be holes in the grey bits of sky with blue showing through. Surely an unusual day was afoot.

I headed out up to Druridge bay for a bit of a wander. Druridge Pools was pretty dead… the budge pools had just a grey heron, a pair of tufties and a greylag goose and a pheasant watching from the sidelines.

On to East Chevington and there were better signs. Within 30 seconds of arrival I had a female marsh harrier hunting over the reed beds. From the hide the north pool was very quiet – a handful of terns and gulls at the south end and the odd reed bunting scooting past and a common sandpiper circling the pool.

Around the dunes at least four little gulls were bouncing around on the breeze amongst the black headed gulls and the sandwich terns.

The bushes around the track were alive with linnets, willow warblers, chiffchaffs, dunnocks and stonechat.

The real highlight though was as I returned to the car and suddenly flashing past was a cuckoo with a meadow pipit in hot pursuit. I reckon the last cuckoo I actually *saw* was about 15 years ago in Surrey, so nice to see one and grab an action shot as it evaded its diminuitive pursuer.

Jubilation and Expansion

5 Jun

This weekend has mostly been taken up with Jubilation… some time back I was persuaded by the good lady wife to apply for tickets for the Diamond Jubilee Concert… and then subsequently I was surprised to find I’d been one of the lucky 5,000 out 1.5m that got the tickets.

Even more surprising given that I have “previous” within the walls of Buckingham Palace – luckily I seem not to be on a blacklist.

Anyway.. birding opportunities were limited to gross generalisations :

  • Buzzards are on the increase massively. I’ve never seen buzzards close to London but I had4 sightings within the M25 circle this weekend
  • Ring-necked parakeets are also on the march. My kind host for the weekend lives in Surrey (Ewell) and had previously had regular visits from parakeets however in his new home he’d not had any sightings on 12 months. I managed three sightings from his kitchen in two mornings.

Other good birds this weekend emerged as we drove to pick up the little un who had spent the weekend with the grandparents and managed an osprey near Scaling Dam (host to a single male for most of last summer) followed by a merlin on the moors.

Minimal time to watch birds but an interesting weekend all the same.

Springwatch – Unspringing my Heron

31 May Heron Silhouette

Received an e-mail from Aunty Beeb this evening asking if it would be OK to show one of my flickr photos on Springwatch Unsprung tonight… who am I to argue?

Assuming no technical hitches with live TV, my photo of a silhouetted heron amongst teal at Druridge pools should be gracing BBC2 and BBC HD tonight (Thurs 31st May) but you can have a sneak preview right here….

Heron Silhouette

Heron Silhouette

More Welsh Wandering – Ospreys and Roseates

22 May

Further to my last post about my trip to North Wales, I managed to pick up a few new year ticks… some expected and some less so.

Most unepected perhaps was roseate tern at Cemlyn lagoons… I went to see the nesting colony of sandwich, arctic and common terns and I was not let down. Thousands of birds swirling in the air from time to time in a screaming dread I could see all three species in abundance when in the middle a single markedly pale individual floated past me with long flowing tail streamers and a dark beak. I snapped off a couple of shots to double-check later as I lost it out to sea.

Also on the lagoon a dozen red-breasted merganser including a pair obligingly close. After watching them for a while and taking a few more photos I returned out of the biting wind to the car whereupon I checked my photos. “No card in camera” the screen cheerfully reported. What? I opened the hatch for the memory card and there was my memory card in situ, but unlatched. D’Oh!

Anyway, an hour later the pager report chirped up.. roseate tern at Cemlyn Lagoon, so I at least I had confirmation even if no photos.

Also at Cemlyn I picked up my first ringed plover of the year.

The Llanberis pass offered up plenty of raven, pied wagtails, a pair of dipper and a single common sandpiper.

Also slightly unexpected were a pair of nesting osprey not far from Snowdon, a male circling around before heading for a nest atop a large pine tree… further down the road by a mile or so a big bold RSPB sign for “the Glasyn Ospreys” indicated I probably wasn’t the first to find them!

Back at South Stack I found choughs to be much more obliging than my last trip to anglesey – numerous individuals evident on each of four visits, including a pair nesting in a cave inside the cliff face. On the top of the cliff a cuckoo was reported eagerly being fed by an unwitting and long-suffering rock pipit.

I missed out on black guillemot at Holyhead Harbour, and also little owl which I was hoping for, but it was still a most enjoyable trip.