Monday, December 31, 2007

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Early attempts from a hide......

An hour in the feeding station hide at Summerleys this morning.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Friday, November 02, 2007

Florida - Gatorland

Gator Land proved a good location not only for viewing the alligators and crocodiles but also for getting very close to a good selection of wild birds such as Herons, Egrets and Wood Storks. The final species to be added to the trip list was Black-crowned Night Heron bring the total species seen to 124, 86 of them being new birds for me.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Florida - Cocoa Beach & Veira Wetlands

Our last full day which we decided to spend at Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic Coast. Tropical Storm Noel had been raging south in the Caribbean and was giving some dramatic seas on the Atlantic coast. The surf was high and some time was spent relaxing watching the waves and foam rolling in.

The drive back included a diversion to a location provided by Gallus called Veira Wetlands not far away from the Interstate 95 highway that we took to get to Cocoa Beach. Veira Wetlands is a purpose built reserve intended to be driven and viewed from a vehicle although today I walked the tracks and viewed each of the four pools. The highlight was an American Bittern that flew out from the vegetation. Also there were Green-winged Teal newly arrived for the winter as well as Tree Swallows, Savannah Sparrows, a Limpkin and another Bald Eagle being mobbed by a Red-shouldered Hawk.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Florida - Three Lakes

Today we drove around the St Cloud area stopping at various places including Reptile World and a call into the Three Lakes Management Area reserve to eat our picnic we had prepared in the morning.

This gave me an opportunity to look for a few specialist birds found in this slash pine habitat such as Brown-headed Nuthatch, Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Bachman’s Sparrow. The sparrow eluded me but the nuthatch and woodpecker both showed very well in pines close to the entrance track allowing me to get some decent photographs.

Supporting cast seen today included further Bald Eagles, Pine Warblers, Eastern Bluebirds and another Northern Harrier.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Florida - Fort-de-Soto

Another day on the beach was decided upon for today with a drive to the Gulf Coast where we would visit Fort-de-Soto, an island south of St Petersberg.

The island is a lovely spot and was very quiet today. The girls collected shells from the beach and I scanned the sandbanks for birds, soon finding a sizable flock of around 300 Black Skimmers which I had missed over at Merritt Island on previous visits.

Distant views required a concerted effort to separate out the small plovers and after a fashion I was able to pick out the Wilson’s Plovers and Piping Plovers from the more commoner Semipalmated Plovers on the sands. Scanning the edges of the mangroves from North Beach I counted seven Yellow-crowned Night Herons, a single Reddish Egret, American Oystercatcher and Roseate Spoonbill. Another Northern Harrier and Cooper’s Hawk were picked out on leaving the island later in the afternoon but the Dowitchers that apparently been near the causeway road earlier in the day had departed.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Florida - A Day Birding

Whilst planning our holiday I had contacted a Florida birder via the Birding Pals web site and was lucky enough to find Gallus Quidgley who works near Orlando as a Park Ranger. Gallus had agreed to pick me up at 6am today and to spend a whole day in the field to see as many of my target species as possible. An opportunity not to be missed and a day I had looked forward to for some time.

The day’s bird watching started at The Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens in Port Orange on the Atlantic coast. A fantastic oasis of mature woodland and ornamental flowering shrubs that provide me with my first Ruby-throated Hummingbird that fed on the bright orange flowers of the fire plants. Other species at this site included a very obliging Barred Owl, several American Redstarts, fly over Chimney Swifts, several Black-throated Blue Warblers, a Swainson’s Thrush, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, Scarlet Tanager and several Tufted Titmouse. Not a bad start !

Our next stop was Seabird Island by the causeway at Port Orange where a large gathering of Brown Pelicans were joined by two American Oystercatchers and some Caspian Terns amongst other Tern species already seen. The tides were higher than Gallus had hoped at this time of day so we agreed to move on and return later in the day when more sand banks would be visible. Flyover birds from the car as we drove down to Merritt Island were six American White Pelicans newly arriving as a winter visitor to Florida, a Peregrine and a Red-tailed Hawk

On Merritt we drove the Shiloh Marsh Road and along the way added many new species for the day including wildfowl such as Blue-winged Teal, Mottled Duck, Shoveler, Pintail, Lesser Scaup and an American Wigeon. My first Reddish Egret and Tree Swallows as well as two skulking Swamp Sparrows

Shorebird numbers were low probably as a result of water levels being kept artificially high leading up to the start of the duck shooting season. Dunlin, Western Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper and a single Semipalmated Sandpiper were all picked out along with some Greater Yellowlegs. Fourteen Roseate Spoonbills were counted on the marsh and a Northern Harrier was quartering.

The day ended back at Port Orange in the fading evening light watching the sand bank at Lighthouse Park, Ponce Inlet. Sadly no Black Skimmers as expected but some Lesser Black-backed Gulls and an adult and juvenile American Herring Gull.