Friday, 23 February 2018

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Travel birding pt 2 - New York

On our first morning in New York, with a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel in hand for breakfast we headed up to Central Park, and there was good birding to be had everywhere I looked. Eating the first half of my bagel I clocked an American Robin, and was on to a coopers hawk perched up in a tree shortly after that, as I was alerted to what I thought were bird of prey cries. The noises turned out to be blue jays, which call relentlessly from everywhere in the park, but on that occasion it helped me to spot the Coopers, and give me a better insight into the differences with sharp shinned. I had my shots of the confusion species confirmed on an American birding forum, but they can be quite difficult sometimes judging from the discussions and photos online.  

Nearby, Jess clocked a male and female cardinal in the tree whilst Iooked at a pintail on the frozen pond.

I picked up an amazing male yellow-bellied sapsucker up in a tree at the Bethesda Terrace, and when I turned back to see him after photographing a nearby white-throated sparrow he had come down the tree giving amazing views.

Shortly after arriving at the rambles we came across an area by the pond where people had put down seed, and we saw a white-breasted nuthatch, and I also got a glimpse of a different woodpecker before it flew on. Unfortunately that was the last sighting of the woodie, so I was unable to tell which species it was, but I think it might well have been a red-bellied. I also saw American goldfinch, and at the Evodia Field feeders added tufted titmouse and a common grackle. Up at the reservoir I had wood ducks pointed out, and saw more hooded mergansers and buffleheads, though both were sleeping. I clocked a brown creeper, and also a perched red-tailed hawk which allowed some amazing close views. 

On the last day we took another trip up to Central Park, and I also added hermit thrush which gave amazing views, and managed some better shots of the blue jay and common grackle.   

Travel birding pt 1 - Iceland and Canada

Sunday 28th January saw us set-off on a brilliant travel holiday, taking in Iceland, Niagara Falls, and New York. Iceland was absolutely fantastic in terms of an experience and for scenery and waterfalls, but fairly light on the avian front, not that I was actively birding per say, but more taking advantage of the trip to see what incidentals I could pick up. The Iceland bird list pretty much went as follows – ptarmigan (from bus), whooper (Reykjavik), tufted duck, teal, greylag, snow bunting (Vik and Blue Lagoon), starling, house sparrow, peregrine (at Thingvellir - don’t think it was a gyrfalcon) fulmar, various gulls, redwing, and that seemed about it. I did also get a glimpse of some distant ducks from the tour bus which I would have loved to have double checked for harlequin or barrow’s if we were able to stop.    

We arrived into Toronto and shuttled to Niagara Falls where, after a long 30 hour day on Jess’ 30th, I plucked up some courage and proposed.  

When I woke up the next day I took in the Falls view from the hotel window. I could see lots of gulls in the swirl of the falls, and clocked a big bird of prey out over the water, which I’ve identified as being a red-tailed hawk from pictures. A walk up to Dufferin Islands revealed lots of mergansers, canvasback, as well as others like scaup, goldeneye, hooded merganser, bufflehead, ring-necked duck, and ring-billed gull (plenty of rings going on). 

 I also got great views of black-capped chickadee and an incredibly tame downy woodpecker. 

The next day I caught up with several dark-eyed junco in the same area as the downy, and a cardinal. It was freezing today, down to minus 10! The river was freezing over before our eyes, and as such it closed up a lot of the areas in which the waterfowl had been previously.  

Dufferin Islands were frozen over and didn’t reveal as many birds as I had hoped but also added American Black Duck for me, and we saw a sharp-shinned hawk on the way back down.   

Tuesday, 16 January 2018


Heather and Emily found a firecrest just recently at Sophia Gardens on Thurs 11th, and I re-found it yesterday. It gave stonking views and I was gutted not to have my camera to hand, but pleased to get several from the office on to it, as it was a lifer for many of them. Today (with cam in hand) we went over again, and I got some brief views before we lost it. Plenty of goldcrests about still though.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Xmas Tits (and other prezzies) Christmas 2017

 On Christmas Eve we took a trip with Olive to Stover Country Park. I was quickly on to Marsh tit, and even managed a decent shot.

We also saw one again from the raised walkway feeders so there's obviously not bad numbers here. I also managed to get a couple of nice snaps of the long tailed tits. With a bit of time and patience this would be a great spot to get some good photos. Mental note - one for 2018. 

Christmas Day saw a report of the Wally, the Yankee Widge, back in Exeter. So early Boxing Day I took another trip to Matford Marsh, parking in the layby we identified on the last trip. It was a cold morning, and I wrapped up against the chill. I had a quick scan of the group of wigeon on the main pool, but was pretty sure the wigeon hadn't moved overnight. I walked around to the back pool where it had been reported. There were lots of ducks over there, and one of the first I saw was a female mandarin, which was quickly lost from sight. There was an absolute scrum of wigeon feeding and bathing, and I waited for a few moments, eye down the scope to see if the American Wigeon was there. After a few minutes searching I tried the back field, but shortly returned. This time, after a few minutes I was rewarded with a fairly short view as it emerged from behind reeds to the left of the group, and it was out long enough to get a few poor digiscope record shots.

On 28th Dec we took  a trip to Broadsands so that I could try for a BNG. There didn't seem to be any on view, but after I scanned from the right of the beach I could see two divers from the cliffs. We walked Olive up to the top, and a gent informed us there were lots of Dolphin out in the Bay. I swung the scope out, and immediately found a pod over towards Brixham Harbour, and managed to show Jess them in the scope. I had some great views of some jumping out of the water too. The two divers typically moved over towards the other side of the Bay, but we could see them quite well in the scope. There were many cormorants and shags feeding in the bay, and we also saw a guillemot out past the main cormorant hang out point.

So, no black-necked grebes for me this year, but a nice last outing over Christmas all the same.