Every day since my arrival I have been checking the beaches for Royal Terns because at this time of the year I have seen them resting during spring migration. Yesterday a small flock were on the beach at Dania close to the pier and amongst the sunbathers. A few were in full breeding plumage and remarkeably I was able to slowly and carefully shufle to within only 3 feet of them. I tried very hard not to disturb them too much as they were obviously resting from their migration. These are both Royals the one above being in full breeding condition and the one below has yet to moult through in to full breeding plumage. I am thrilled with this image below, it's a cracker and one of the nicest pics of my trip so far. Or perhaps this one s even better!
John U Lloyd State Park is a recreation area situated between Hollywood ad Ft Lauderdale. In the early morning after the gates open at 8 its a quiet place to be and very beautiful, next to the ocean with glorious white sandy beaches and sea the colour that you wished all seas were. I parked my car next to the mangrove fringed "Car Park Lot 1" and crossed the bridge over Whisky Creek to the dunes and the beach behond. Before I left the car I scattered some beef bones to attract vultures in! The plan was to entice them to the hide and then get some close up photos of the feeding activity. On the beach side of the dunes my attentions were diverted to this American Kestrel, the continents smallest raptor who was making the most of the tranquiulity, albeit in the strong breeze. A pair of Ground Doves flew in to the dunes for cover and then on the beach a small flock of Sanderling skittered to and frow, avoiding the surf but not me, magical!
Back at the car now I was greeted by a dozen or so vulture who had obviously smelt and located the bones as soon as my back was turned. I had totally underestimated the reaction of the vultures and am disappointed that I missed the opportunity. Still there is always tomorrow and I will be repeating the excersise!
Later on in the day we went out west again and found our way into Markham Park, a vast area of open spaces and lakes. On one of the playing fields was a another small colony of Burrowing Owls. I didn't stay too long amongst them, mindful that I would disturb them. It is the start of the breeding season and that would be totally wrong.
Also seen in the fields there were several pairs of Killdeer but the highlight of the day has got to be a Marsh Harrier that drifted past me on the edge of the Everglades.
This is a femalw Boat-tailed Grackle wel and truly getting stuck in to her bathing.
I just think it is so amazing that once you get good light then you can get really good pictures. Look at the way this bird has closed her eyes , she seems in bliss.
So here we are in the beautiful sunshine state of Florida and so far no sign of the sun today but inspite of that the temperature is a nice 80 degrees. Still a little jet lagged I decided to take it easy and just do a few recces of places that I know and love. We live close to a dock which is home to dozen or so Brown Pelicans who sit patiently waiting for fish scraps.They give great photo opportunities but I am going to wait for a sunny day o get some great in flight shots.
The burrowing owl was one of a dozen or so pairs nesting at Brian Piccolo Sports Park. Once you know where to look they are easy to spot, & not easily spooked. This one posed well on the sand by his burrow, these can be up to 6ft deep underground. You can see in the picture, dung which these birds use to adorn the nest hole entrance. Recent studies have shown that the dung attracts beetles etc. which the birds feed on. A bit like an avian pizza delivery!!
Thi is a Burrowg Owl and below a Momk Parrakeet. The former a rare endangered bird, threatened by human encroachment. The later and introduced species surviving and doing well but released carelessly.
After a 22 hour journey that took me from Manchester to Philidelphia and then down to Ft Lauderdale I have to admit to being jet-lagged and tired out. We awoke this morning to the first rain in South Frida since Christmas! Still with teperatures in the 70's and its only 9 in the morning , who cares.
As far as birds are concerened, from the beach side appartment balcony this morning I have already seen the local Osprey quartering the surf at first light and a flight of Pelicans passed over. Grackles are singing and Collared Doves, and European Starlings are very common.
On the Beach the Turtle Patrol has been by........... every morning the beach is checked for any signs of nesting turtles and then the eggs are protected. More of this later, and now I have established full connection here on the net I will report later today.
It's Sunday, the cases are packed. the camera is in it's flight case, and the tripod safely stowed in the Pop-up Hide Chair bag. The insect repellent is at the ready and a Field Guide to Eastern Birds of the United States is in my hand luggage. We are ready! Today is an absolute cracker here in Devon but no doubt it will revert to a dreary rainy typical English late winter day pretty soon. There are a few interesting birds around as well. Spoonbill on Exminster Marsh for example, not time to go for a look at that bird though but it is typical. Last year when I was away in Florida we had the Spotted Crake on the marsh and I missed that bird... but eh, I would rather be in Florida and watching Burrowing Owl, nesting Osprey and the chance to see some migrating warblers, sandpipers and other waders. I love the terns in Florida, Forstens and Royal are a certainty on the beach in front o f my sisters's house........ I am getting excited. Check back on Wednesday for the first report of the trip! See you soon,
Late this afternoon with the weather reasonably bright I had the opportunity to go and do a bit of watching for a couple of hours before tea. I chose Cockwood mainly because I could travel via Powdeham and see if the Cttle Egrets were still around by the Church. The sheep have been moved out now but the field still held about 10 Little Egrets. I didn't see ay Cattle Egrets though. I notice that they were reported "west of Powderham" on the Rare Bird Alert web site so perhaps they are going to stay and breed in the park. I really hope so.
At Cockwood the tide was on the way in but still out quite a way. I walked to the shoreline and sat in the Chair Hide. It wasn't ideal due to the tide rushing in much quicker than I was expecting. I re-positioned the hide further away from the waters edge, There was a few interesting birds around including Brent Geese, Greenshank and a few more Little Egrtets again. They really are very common here around the River Exe. When they are feeding in the water they are very interesting and I am always hopeful that they are are going to catch something worth photographing. I wa joined by a nice bird in front of the hide and after a bit of fishing he caught a really big mullet as you can see in the photo.
He flew with it in the hope of making to "dry land" but before he could make the few feet he dropped it but not before I got a nice shot.
So back to the car and the short journey home which turned out to be an event to say the least. I went home by the back lanes and close to home as I was about to join the roundabout by the Devon Hotel a police car was parked up almost blocking the road. I wasn't sure if it wa parked or he was making a turn. It tured out he was parked and doing what policemen do. I sort of scowled at him as I went past, annoyed that I had been forced to divert around him. This was a mistake because now I was beig followed be this predatory beast who probably knew he was in the wrong and himself illegally parked. Ayway, he stopped me and issued a fixed £30 penalty for not wearing a seat belt . I dont like being told what t do by anyone and tried to point out to him that he should be prosecuted for blocking a junction. Like that worked, I even told him that I was going to make a citizens arrest which almost made him smile and he pointed out that it was not an arrestable offence. It was fun anyway and almost worth the 30 quid to toy with him for 10 minutes. Money is the least imprtant thing in my life so fining me £30 is about as much use as hitting me with a feather.
In the garden today we have had the usual Chaffinches and Siskins and a couple of Starlings flew over which is the first from the garden for a few days. Just around the corner there are a few large trees and a small colony of Rooks are nesting. Rooks are one of the earliest breeders in the UK.
it's been a busy few days for me since my last post on Saturday. The weather has not been conducive to good photos and birdwaqtching and with my forthcoming trip to Florida I had a few business loose ends to tie up. My Birdwatching has centred on just casual glances around the garden and the odd photo opportunity from the bathroom. In addition I have been trying to sort out the resolution issues with the pictures on the blog. I always like to post as big a picture as possible on the site but at times if you are viewing on a PC then the pixel size of the displayed image makes it impossible to see the full image. This has now been resolved and from now on you will not see pictures with the right hand side cropped off,. Well at least I hope so. Thanks to my good friend Bryony who has sorted that out for me. Incidentally I work from Mac but have recently brought a Toshiba PC Notepad to enable me to post from abroad. I am rapidly learning the idiosyncrasies of the PC system! The Sparrow posted here today and the Collared Dove is really all about a test to check that things are now sorted. This afternoon I am off to see if I can find the Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers at Dunster so please check back later for an up-date. You have to admit that the eye of a Collared Dove is a smashing feature of this bird. This one is one of a pair that use my garden as their own and have well and truly paired up now. I suspect that it is the same birds that bred in the garden last year and successfully reared chicks .........squabs.... the proper name for young pigeons. On Saturday 6th, in the afternoon the Blackcap Warbler was seen in the garden.
Update at 1915s. This afternoon was not in the least bit fruitful as far as Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers were concerned. This was made all the more frustrating by reports from two seperate birdwatchers who I met on my walk down the river. They both told me that they had had good views earlier on. I stood for at least an hour trying to get a look. I heard a few interesting calls and there was a bit of activity from tits including Marsh and Long-tail but no Woodpeckers unfortunately.
The Greylag Goose is the bird that all domestic geese are derived from. They are not necessarily all that common in the wild and most that are seen are the descendants of escaped feral geese. This is quite a confused state of affairs and most birdwatchers do not take a sighting of this species very seriously. This is a shame because they are magnificent big birds and as far as I am concerned more worthy of note than the commonly seen Canada Goose which of course have no right to be here at all and are justifebly hated by most serious bird watchers.
This morning as I traveled through Exminster Marsh on the Chinese Bike I was distracted by the presence of a flock of geese close to the road and amongst the Canadas were two Greylag. They may be feral but as soon as I stopped and climbed of the Chinese machine, off they waddled. I took a few photos though. As you can see they really are magnificent with immaculate plumage and subtle colours.
Later on as I watched a large flock of at least 300 Brent Geese, I heard my first Cettis Warbler of the year. I caught sight of a bird which was probably a Cettis but as I am not 100% sure then it will not go down aas a sighting. I was searching through the Brent Geese because amongst them, apparently is a Black Brant, a sub species which should be on the Pacific coast with others of its type and not with our Brent. For the life of me I can not find this bird even though I see this flock of Brent Geese most days but there are, as I said, at least 300 and the Black Brant looks very similar and as they spend al their time feeding with heads down, well I just can't find it!
Back home and in the garden there was qite a variety of interest. The Siskins are still the predominant species in the garden. Who would have thought that I would say that. We have at least a dozen still in the garden now. The males sing costantly and the females are carrying mesting material around. I can't honestly believe that they are going to breed in the garden, surely not. But it would be wonderful if they did. There certainly is enough cover for them and I am sure that they are being well fed.
From the bathroom window with the camera rested on a beanbag I spent an hour photographing the comings and goings. The Bluetit ringed in the garden in January, now with a mate in toe came to feed on the fat ball and at one time they were both haging from it. All the while the hen Blackbird was carrying her nesting material to an, as yet unfinished nest. Collared Doves were going through pairing rituals, chasing each other about etc. But believe it or not the best photo taken today was this one of a Wood Pigeon, probably one of the best pictures I have ever taken.
We woke this morning to a layer of snow in the garden, the second time this year but it's March! I went straight out to the hide to try and get some better photos with the very bright light it was going to be a doddle! More Siskins I am afraid but good ones and worth putting on the blog. The sun shines bright and I am about to leave for the little village of Cockwood on the banks of the River, yesterday when I was there had been Goldeneye ducks Here the male.
I went out this morning with the hope of taking some photos in an around the mouth of the River Exe. On the way I called in at Powderham to se if I could see the Cattle Egrets that had apparently moved from the Roundhouse back amongst the sheep by Powderham Church. There were at least 10 liitle Egrets but I couldn't see the Cattle Egrets amongst them In the Estuary at Cockwood a pair of Goldeneye Ducks were near to the sea wall but quickly moved away when they knew I was around. I did manage a poor photo of the male but not good enough to post here. So on the way back home and back at Powderham I had a closer look amongst the Egrets and sure enough there amongst the sheep was a couple of Cattle Egrets. I couldn't get close enough to get a decent photo but I decided to try and find out who owned the Sheep and ask if I could get in amongst them with the chair hide. I traced the farmer, Ben who was a grand chap. We had a long chat and once he understood that my motives were sincere and I was not going to upset his really lovely Dorset sheep, it was agreed that I could place my hide near to them and hopefully get some near shots of the Cattle Egrets.
As I looked through this one stood out as one of my favourites. It is quite hard to get two subjects both in focus and this one was almost there. It also pits our Cattle Egrets in a "place" and time and gives the whole thing some character.