Sunday, 29 December 2013

White-billed Diver

Last year when I tried for a big year list I did plenty of twitching. I considered going down to Cornwall for the White-billed Diver, but decided it was a bit too far. This year I've done no twitching, but when I noticed on Devon Bird Sightings that there was a White-billed Diver in Brixham, I thought it would be rude not to indulge in a last minute 2013 twitch. I collected Libby at 7:30am & we headed for Brixham Harbour, parking in the car park near the Astro Zenica building. Another couple of birders had just arrived & headed off towards the harbour, so we followed along. We walked to the entrance to the inner harbour where we found a line of about 8 birders with scopes. Within about a minute, the White-billed Diver popped up. How easy was that?! It gradually got closer & entered the inner harbour, giving us amazing views.

The WBD was very obliging & came right into the inner harbour
It was a bit showery, but luckily there was no wind & the water was flat. 
Met a chap using an Questar scope which cost him £2500 30 years ago!  You could see why, the image quality was excellent.
An impressive rainbow made up for the rain.
We moved to the other side of the harbour for even better views
I tried out my new 'point & shoot' Lumix TZ40 ....
...and was quite impressed
What a bill!!
Well worth the trip!

We walked out onto the breakwater & got a real bonus for the day with a Black-guillemot. I only saw my first ever this Summer on Shetland, so this was my first English sighting. It wasn't as obliging as the WBD, but I still managed a record shot.

A distant Black Guillemot 
The WBD had moved to the outer harbour to the left & the Black Guillemot was to the right.
Brixham from the Breakwater
Other birds of note were Purple Sandpiper, Black-throated Diver & Great Northern Diver.

On the way home we stopped off at Broadsands to see the Cirl Buntings. We met some birders from Wakefield who'd left home at 3:30am, been to Portland for the Brunnich's Guillemot, Brixham for the WBD & had dropped in for the Cirl Buntings on their way home! They were very tired but happy birders!

We saw the Cirls, what we think was probably a Siberian Chiffchaff, and a distant Black-necked Grebe in the bay.

 Cirl Bunting hunting

It had been an excellent day out. I remember now why I enjoy the occasional twitch!

Monday, 23 December 2013

BGM, Goosemoor & Dart's Farm

On Saturday I ventured out for a morning's birding with Alan, Libby & Annabelle. Alan ( had originally arranged for us to meet up at Dawlish Warren,  but the weather was due to be so wet that BGM was a last minute alternative.

It was pretty quiet in the hide at Bowling Green Marsh, and pretty quiet on the marsh as well for that matter! There was a large flock of Avocets, and one bird off by itself which had apparently been shot. The only other waders of note were a solitary Grey Plover, and a pale Redshank which we thought may be a Spotted Redshank at first, but decided in the end that it was just a pale common one. The best of the ducks was a Long-tailed Duck, my first of the year. There were no Mute Swans, but there was a Black Swan!

In the hide at BGM, the best place to be on a soggy day!
As we left the rain eased off so we went out onto the new walkway/ cycle track across Goosemoor. It's the first time I've been there, and there wasn't much about.

Goosemoor from the cycle track
Viewing holes, none of which seemed to be at a comfortable height!
The final stop of the day was Dart's farm. Again it was very quiet, with no ducks or waders, although our only Little Egret of the day flew in just before we left. The feeders were pretty busy with Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch & Reed Buntings, a Kingfisher posed nicely for us, and a Sparrohawk flew by being harassed by a Crow.

Viewing the marsh at Dart's Farm
Full list for the day:
BGM: Long-tailed Duck, Shoveller, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Pintail, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Snipe, Curlew, Grey Plover, Avocet, Dunlin, Lapwing, Greylag goose, Canada Goose, Bent Goose, Buzzard, Pied Wagtail, Red-breasted Merganser, Raven, Lapwing, (Black Swan), Little Grebe, Moorehen, Grey Heron, Meadow Pipit, Stock Dove, Green Woodpecker, Shelduck, Crow, Blackbird, Starling
Goosemoor: Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Stonechat, Robin
Dart's Farm: Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Cormorant, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Redwing, Reed Bunting, Mute Swan, Sparrowhawk, Kingfisher, Wood Pigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Magpie, Little Egret

Total: 58 species. Not bad for a soggy morning ( & I missed the Collared Dove, Jay & Rook!)

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


This morning I joined the East Devon Birders for a walk around Escot Park. It would be fair to say that the birding was a bit slow, although it was very pleasant & I did end up with 34 species on my list, including Redwing, Fieldfare, Grey Wagtail, Linnet, Goldcrest, Meadow Pipit, Snipe, Buzzard, Lapwing, Treecreeper, Nuthatch & Stock Dove.

A flock of Devon Birders in formation
It was chilly & foggy when we set off, but soon warmed up
The woods were pretty quiet.....well apart from us!
The 'hot spot' of the day...a large proportion of the days birds were seen here
My 35th bird of the day.....turkey at the Christmas lunch!
Then outside for a close encounter with a Devil Squirrel!
As usual, a very enjoyable day out with good company. 

Friday, 29 November 2013

Birding Florida

I met Mary & Paul in Miami on 28th October. 193 birds & a lot of miles later, we flew back from Orlando on 16th November. We basically drove clockwise around the state, going as far South as Flamingo in the Everglades & almost to the Georgian border in the North. We had a fantastic time as usual, and also as usual, came home totally exhausted.

On the roof of the Kendall Baptist Hospital, Miami,  looking for the local 'exotics'. The only 'countable' one we found was the Red-whiskered Bulbul 
Obsessive? Us? On the beach at Crandon Park.
At 'Lucky Hammock' near the entrance to the Everglades National Park.  It's by far the biggest birding car we've had!

Really? In the Everglades NP
Yes!  They pulled out the rubber trim & wrecked the windscreen wipers. We covered up!
The Everglades Mozzie uniform. 
On the Tamiami Trail Loop Road....we were about to get out of the car to look at a sparrow, then we looked in the roadside ditch a few feet away.  We stayed in the car.
Still on the Loop Road in the dark, we saw glowing eyes....
......we managed to find, & Mary managed to digiscope the obliging Whip-poor-will. Luckily we didn't get eaten! One of 23 Lifers on the trip (or 26 if I include the officially non-countable birds)
The Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary was a bit quiet, but it's an amazing place & well worth the visit. 
It did have some huge Lubber grasshoppers!
We'd been looking forward to the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. It didn't disappoint.
Our only Florida Scrub Jay, in Oscar Scherer State Park as  it was getting dark.
Not relaxing on the beach at Fort de Soto Park. Found a Long-billed Curlew, which is pretty rare in Florida. 
At a Florida Twitch on Honeymoon Island State Park. We didn't change our plans to go, we just got lucky!  Saw the Townsend's Solitaire & met Andy from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission.  I'd emailed the FFWCC for information on the Great Florida Birding Trail. Andy replied & offered to take us out if we visited Tallahassee. We did, & he did, but first we bumped into him at Honeymoon Island after he left home at 3am for the twitch! (

Townsend's Solitaire, it should be way out West. This is apparently the 2nd ever in Florida. 
Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.....lots of scary alligators, far too close for our liking. 
Happy to oblige!
It was worth running the gauntlet for fab views of a female Vermillion Flycatcher
Highlight of the trip was a boat ride at Wakulla Springs State Park. Scenery was amazing (apparently some of the 1950's Tarzan movies were filmed here), but best of all were.....

...the manatees. We were lucky as it had been quite cold the previous night, causing lots more than usual to swim up river to the springs.  
We met up with Andy, his wife Julie, daughter Maisie & a few other members of the Tallahassee Bird Club for a morning at St Marks National Wildlife Refuge. 
St Marks was huge & produced 9 new species for the trip, at least some of which we would never have found or identified without the local assistance! A male Vermillion Flycatcher was the star of the show!
Melissa from the Tallahassee Bird Club accompanied us to Tall Timbers Research Station early the following morning in search of Bachman's Sparrow. Unfortunately we didn't find one, but we did add another 7 species to the trip list, largely thanks to Melissa!
Our least scenic birding site....Tredinick Pond in Jacksonville. The pond was home to Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, Black Scoter,  Lesser Scaup (trip tick), & Canvasback (Lifer!). Not bad for a small pond in the middle of a huge construction site!
Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a fantastic place. Met a very helpful local who gave us some tips & some rather nice Nikon lens cloths!  (

Canaveral National Seashore, attempted sea-watch: we came, we got blown away, we gave up!
A Snail Kite, our second but closest look at Joe Overstreet Landing
The sign of a great bird trip......a filthy car!
Here's the full list of birds seen on the trip. 3 of them aren't officially countable according to American Birding Association rules, but we did! Where we only saw birds in one or 2 places, I've shown where we saw them. My lifers are highlighted. (I have absolutely no idea why Wild Turkey is white....bizarre!!)

Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Snow GooseMerritt Island NWR
Canada Goose
Muscovy Duck
Wood DuckWakulla Springs & 3 lakes WMA
GadwallEverglades NP
American Wigeon
Mottled Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveller
Northern PintailMerritt Island NWR
Green-winged Teal
CanvasbackTredinick Pond, Jacksonville
RedheadSt Marks NWR
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Black Scoter
BuffleheadPaynes Prairie SP
Hooded Merganser
Red-breasted MerganserMerritt Island NWR
Wild Turkey3 Lakes WMA
Ruddy Duck
Common LoonOsceola National Forest
Pied-billed Grebe
Wood Stork
Magnificent FrigatebirdFort de Soto
Northern GannetCape Canaveral National Seashore
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
American Bittern
Great Blue heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Reddish Egret
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron
Yellow-crowned Night Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Roseate SpoonbillEverglades NP & Click Ponds, Viera Wetlands
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Snail KiteShark Valley (Everglades) & Joe Overstreet Landing
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Red-shouldered Hawk
Broad-winged HawkKendall, Miami
Short-tailed hawkEverglades (dark morph) & Paynes Prairie (light morph)
Red-tailed Hawk
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Purple Gallinule
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
American Golden Plover
Semipalmated PloverSt Marks NWR
American Oystercatcher
Black-necked StiltSt Marks NWR
American Avocet
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Long-billed CurlewFort De Soto
Ruddy Turnstone
Red KnotMerritt Island
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Snipe
Bonaparte's GullClick Pond, Viera Wetlands
Laughing Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring GUll
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Greater Black-backed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian TernHuguenot Memorial Park
Common Tern
Forster's Tern
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Black Skimmer
Rock Pigeon
White-crowned PigeonEverglades NP
Eurasian Collared-Dove
White-winged DoveEverglades NP
Mourning Dove
Common Ground-DoveHagues Dairy
Monk Parakeet
Nanday ParakeetSt Petersburg
Eastern Screech OwlMiller Drive, Miami
Great Horned OwlGuana River
Burrowing OwlEverglades NP
Barred OwlEverglades NP
Eastern Whi-poor-willTamiami Trail
Ruby-throated HummingbirdSteinbergNature Centre
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed WoodpeckerTall Timbers Research Station
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Red-cockaded WoodpeckerOsceola National Forest
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Vermillion FlycatcherPaynes Prairie Preserve SP & St Marks NWR
Great Crested FlycatcherCorkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Blue Jay
Florida Scrub-jayOscar Scherer SP
American Crow
Fish Crow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Carolina ChickadeeTall Timbers Research Station
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Red-whiskered Bulbulnr Kenwood Elementary School, Kendall, Miami
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
Townsend's SolitaireHoneymoon Island SP
Swainson's ThrushA D Barnes Park, Miami
Hermit ThrushTall Timbers Research Station
American RobinMerritt Island NWR
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown ThrasherEverglades NP
European Starling
Common MynaTamiami Trail (Miccosuka Restaurant)
OvenbirdBill Baggs Cape Florida SP
Worm-eating WarblerA. D. Barnes Park, Miami
Blue-winged WarblerA. D. Barnes Park, Miami
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee WarblerA. D. Barnes Park, Miami
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue WarblerMatheson Hammock County Park & Florida City
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-throated Green WarblerA. D. Barnes Park, Miami
Eastern TowheeHoneymoon Island SP
Chipping SparrowTall Timbers Research Station
Savannah Sparrow
Nelson's SparrowHuguenot Memorial Park
Song SparrowSt Marks NWR
Swamp SparrowSt Marks NWR
White-throated SparrowTall Timbers Research Station
Summer TangerA. D Barnes Park, Miami
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted GrosbeakA.D Barnes Park, Miami
Blue GrosbeakA.D Barnes Park, Miami & Tall Timbers
Indigo BuntingEverglades NP
Painted BuntingSouthern Glades WEA
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
House FinchHernando Beach
House Sparrow
Mitred ParakeetMiami (Not officially countable)
Orange-winged ParakeetMiami (Not officially countable)
Whooping CraneThree Lakes WMA (not officially countable)