A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Winter Birding on Anglesey - Hooded Crow, Iceland Gull, Black Guillemots and Slavonian Grebe!

With a whole host of great birds present on Anglesey over the winter, we decided to make the trip over from the mainland to try and catch up with what was an excellent selection of quality birding goodies on offer.

First stop was the Hooded Crow that has been favouring the McDonald’s car park in Holyhead for the past month. Presumably a bird from Ireland or the Isle of Man, it was great to see this subtly beautiful corvid up close, perching obligingly on the aerials of nearby houses and on the lampposts in the car park itself. 
Hooded Crow - Holyhead, Anglesey

With various hybrids scattered across the line where both Hooded and Carrion Crows reside up in Scotland, it was refreshing to see what is definitely a pure looking bird.
Hooded Crow - Holyhead, Anglesey

The Black Guillemots at Holyhead Harbour dutifully performed on cue, and viewing from Beach Road they were in their usual spot feeding near the ferry terminal.

The Iceland Gull near South Stack RSPB at the Range also proved to be extremely easy to connect with, and as soon as we turned the corner towards the farm fields that the gird reference had directed us to (SH 22971 80396), we spotted a bright white shape feeding in the grass. 
Iceland Gull - The Range, Anglesey

Thursday, 21 January 2016

2015 Birding Round up!

2015 turned out to be a stonker of a year, with a number of fantastic birds not seen for decades successfully unblocked while several others that were only previously recorded on distant and far away islands finally made it to the mainland. It was also a year that included the inevitable misses, with the one day first for Britain Acadian Flycatcher a particular stinger, while the out of the way Isle of Lewis Wilson’s Warbler, the Scilly Great Blue Heron and the Orkney Chestnut Bunting all proved to be just a touch too far to travel. 

Both the Harlequin Duck and Hudsonian Godwit in the first half of the year were the first truly twitchable birds for 19 and 32 years respectively, both fantastic birds to see and with hopefully a nice healthy gap between the next records! 
Harlequin Duck - River Don, Aberdeenshire
Harlequin Duck on the River Don, Aberdeenshire (11th January 2015)
Hudsonian Godwit - Meare Heath, Somerset
Hudsonian Godwit at Meare Heath, Somerset (25th April 2015)
I also managed to see several notoriously hard to get birds during the course of the year, achieving great views of Serin, Penduline Tit, Blyth’s Reed Warbler and Red-throated Pipit. The latter in particular was a stunning male demonstrating the beautiful ‘red throated’ plumage, and while even though Blyth’s Reed can appear to be a dull brown job at the best of times, the excellent if brief views we got after working so hard to get just a glimpse of this elusive warbler over the course of two days in Norfolk transformed it in to something wonderful, proving that effort really does pay off.
Serin, Gunners Park, Essex
Serin at Gunners Park, Essex (7th March 2015)
Penduline Tit - Darts Farm RSPB, Devon
Penduline Tit at Darts Farm RSPB, Devon (21st March 2015)
Red-throated Pipit - Ludworth Moor, Derbyshire
Red-throated Pipit at Ludworth Moor in Derbyshire (3rd May 2015)
Not quite making it in to the top ten either were several species that showed amazingly well and exceptionally closely, with the Little Bunting and Ptarmigan especially coming to mind. The masses of Storm Petrels congregating around the boat at close quarters during the Scilly pelagics was also something not to be forgotten!

And so to the ten best birds of 2015….

Sunday, 17 January 2016

New York Trip Report (21st May-30th May 2015) - Photo Gallery

New York Trip Photo Gallery

American Redstart - Prospect Park, New York
American Redstart - Prospect Park (23rd May 2015)
American Robin - Central Park, New York
American Robin - Central Park (21st May 2015)
Baltimore Oriole - Central Park, New York
Baltimore Oriole - Central Park (22nd May 2015)
Black and White Warbler - Central Park, New York
Black and White Warbler - Central Park (22nd May 2015)
Black Duck - Jamaica Bay, New York
Black Duck - Jamaica Bay (29th May 2015)
Black Skimmers - Plumb Beach, New York
Black Skimmers - Plumb Beach (24th May 2015)
Black Vultures - Doodletown (24th May 2015)
Blackburnian Warbler - Prospect Park, New York
Blackburnian Warbler - Prospect Park (23rd May 2015)

New York Trip Report (21st May-30th May 2015) - Species List and Locations


Day 1 – Central Park

American Robin – 21st May – Central Park (Near entrance on south side). Numerous throughout

Blue Jay – 21st May – Central Park (Near West Drive). Numerous throughout

Northern Cardinal – 21st May – Central Park (Near Umpire Rock). Numerous throughout

Baltimore Oriole – 21st May – Central Park (Near Umpire Rock). Plentiful

Chipping Sparrow – 21st May – Central Park (Near Umpire Rock). A handful seen

Swainson’s Thrush – 21st May – Central Park (Near Umpire Rock). Plentiful

Cedar Waxwing – 21st May – Central Park (Near the terrace). Numerous throughout

House Finch – 21st May – Central Park (On the path towards Bethesda fountain). Male showing well and gathering nesting material. 5 seen in total – all males.

Chimney Swift – 21st May – Central Park (Flying overhead). Numerous throughout

Cape May Warbler – 21st May – Central Park (In pines near East Drive). Female feeding in pines. Only one of the trip.

Magnolia Warbler – 21st May – Central Park (In pines near East Drive). Male feeding in pines. All males seen – plentiful.

Warbling Vireo – 21st May – Central Park (In trees near East Drive). Two singing in trees behind the path. Several individuals seen throughout.

Common Grackle – 21st May – Central Park (On field near East Drive). Numerous throughout

Mourning Dove – 21st May – Central Park (In trees near East Drive). Numerous throughout

Downy Woodpecker – 21st May – Central Park (In tree next to the lake). Several seen throughout

Blackpoll Warbler – 21st May – Central Park (In trees at front of lake path). Males and females seen – plentiful.

Gray Catbird – 21st May – Central Park (In flight near the lake). Numerous throughout

Song Sparrow – 21st May – Central Park (On grassy patch by the lake). A few seen throughout.

Red-winged Blackbird – 21st May – Central Park (Flying near the lake). Numerous throughout

Common Yellowthroat – 21st May – Central Park (Under trees near Robert Wagner Cove). Males and females seen – numerous.

White-throated Sparrow – 21st May – Central Park (Near lakeside edge of Robert Wagner Cove). One of two seen on the trip.

Swamp Sparrow – 21st May – Central Park (Near lakeside edge of Robert Wagner Cove). One of two seen on the trip.

Canada Warbler – 21st May – Central Park (In trees at edge of lake near the ladies pavilion). One of three seen on the trip.

Chestnut-sided Warbler – 21st May – Central Park (In trees at edge of lake near the ladies pavilion). One of three seen on the trip – males and female seen.

Northern Flicker – 21st May – Central Park (The Ramble). One of several seen throughout.

Ovenbird – 21st May – Central Park (The Ramble). One of four seen on the trip.

Red-tailed Hawk – 21st May – Central Park (The Ramble). One of several seen throughout.
   
Also: House Sparrow, Starling, Canada Goose, Feral Pigeon
Magnolia Warbler - Central Park, New York
Magnolia Warbler

Friday, 15 January 2016

New York Trip Report - Day 10 (Central Park)

Day 10 -  Saturday 30th  May 2015

Our final day in New York dawned and after a great week and a half in this amazing city it was finally time to head home. Enjoying a final croissant from the bakery next door (and being given several sachets of delicious grape jelly to take back to Britain from the diner across the street) we went for a final spot of New York sightseeing, saving the best till last and heading up the fantastic Top of the Rock for breath-taking views of the city below.

An absolute must for anyone going to New York, we enjoyed unbeatable views of Central Park below, getting a birds-eye look at this ultimate green oasis, surrounded by skyscrapers and where we had delighted in our first American birds just over a week ago. Simply stunning.

With a couple of hours to spare before our taxi to JFK, we sat in Central Park to enjoy a final afternoon of New York City birding. Several Wood Ducks clustered around the bread being provided by a family at the water’s edge around the pond, jostling with the Mallards for scraps and providing the best views of this species all trip, being just a few metres away from the edge. 
Wood Duck - Central Park, New York
Wood Duck - showing fantastically!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

New York Trip Report - Day 9 (Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge)

Day 9 -  Friday 29th May 2015

With our final full day in America dawning, we had planned to visit Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a fantastic series of coastal and lagoon pools that offer prime habitat for a variety of water birds, many of which would be new to the trip. With reports of herons, egrets and a wealth of shore birds, this was a location that we were really looking forward to exploring.  With coastal marshes and lagoons, the habitat at Jamaica was completely different to what we had experienced so far, and we were aiming to bring our trip total of new birds up to 100 as a result.
Jamaica Bay, New York
The view of Manhattan from Jamaica Bay
Arriving at the visitor centre mid-morning, the lady at the desk promptly banned us from taking any food on to the reserve, so we quickly tucked in to everything we had brought with us at the picnic tables outside. This proved to be a good move, as several large crows flying overhead identified themselves by a series of low grunts – diagnostic of Fish Crows and our first new species of the day.

Having finished our snacks, we headed in to the reserve, following the trail between Black Wall Marsh and West Pond to see what we could find. Several egrets on the coastal marsh were Snowy Egrets, the American equivalent of our Little Egrets and another new species for us both. 
Snowy Egret - Jamaica Bay, New York
Snowy Egret
Much smaller than the scattering of Great Egrets interspersed along the marsh and extremely similar to our more familiar Littles, Snowy Egrets can be separated by the yellow lores underneath the eye (grey in those of the Little). 
Snowy Egret and Great Egret - Jamaica Bay, New York
Snowy Egret and Great Egret displaying the size difference between the two!
Snowy Egret - Jamaica Bay, New York
The yellow lores clearly visible
Now we’re aware of the differences, we’ll definitely be checking each Little Egret in the UK a little more thoroughly for any Snowies hiding amongst them unnoticed!

Tree Swallows were in abundance at Jamaica Bay, and several zipped over our heads before landing in the nearby trees, giving fantastic views of their shimmering turquoise feathers. 
Tree Swallow - Jamaica Bay, New York
Tree Swallow - Jamaica Bay, New York
Tree Swallow - Jamaica Bay, New York
Tree Swallow
The most attractive swallows we saw during our trip, it was amazing to come across several nest boxes in use at the side of the path where the adults could be seen regularly peeking out of the holes and perching on the top.
Tree Swallow - Jamaica Bay, New York
Tree Swallow - Jamaica Bay, New York

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

New York Trip Report - Day 8 (Inwood Hill Park)

Day 8 -  Thursday 28th May 2015

With Wednesday having been dedicated to sightseeing at the Statue of Liberty and several species being regularly reported at Inwood Hill Park that we hadn’t yet seen during our trip (Orchard Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbreak, Hairy Woodpecker and Veery in particular), we decided to head up to the northern most point of Manhattan for our penultimate full days birding in the hopes of cleaning up on a few extra birds. 
Statue of Liberty, New York
Having not seen any in either Central or Prospect Park, and with individuals seen frequently here according to e-bird, our main target here was Orchard Oriole - slightly smaller and duller than the brightly coloured Baltimore Orioles we had become accustomed to.
Baltimore Oriole - New York
One of the Central Park Baltimores - the only Oriole species we had managed to locate as of yet!
Arriving at Inwood Hill and walking the short stretch from the tube station, we were soon heading along the winding paths that made their way through the huge trees and up the hill the park is named after. With much denser tree coverage than at Central Park, it was interesting to see how this difference affected both the species and the number of birds that we found.

A calling White-breasted Nuthatch was the first notable bird of the day, creeping up the trunk of one of the large trees lining the path before stopping to feed on a small morsel it had discovered lodged inside a dead branch. Being at the very tail end of migration now meant that we only saw a handful of warblers – the usual American Redstarts and Common Yellowthroats were flitting amongst the leaves while a female Blackpoll was the only other warbler species of note. A very quick view of a male House Finch disappearing behind a branch was a good addition for the day, while only our second Great-crested Flycatcher of the trip was equally as brief.

Heading east along the trail, we heard an alarm call echoing loudly through the trees and moving slowly closer to the source of the noise eventually revealed a woodpecker. Calling Alex over, I was sure I’d found us one of our target missing species – the larger size and positively huge bill in relation to the head eliminating any thoughts of the more familiar Downy. With Hairy Woodpeckers not often recorded in Central or Prospect Park, it was a relief to finally catch up with this chunky woodpecker after seeing so many Downys during the week. 
Hairy Woodpecker - Inwood Hill Park, New York
Hairy Woodpecker - at last!
Hairy Woodpecker - Inwood Hill Park, New York
Calling continuously and with a male Baltimore Oriole flitting around the branches nearby, I did wonder if the Hairy had a nest somewhere nearby. We watched this charismatic woodpecker for a good while as it scrambled up and down the dead branches above us, providing fantastic views and showing off the dagger like bill.


Significantly larger than the Downy Woodpecker, size is the main thing to take note of when separating these two similar American Woodpeckers, but as is often the case with a lone individual on a trunk, a true idea of size can sometimes be hard to determine when there is nothing to compare it to.
Hairy Woodpecker - Inwood Hill Park, New York
The beak is therefore another key feature to look out for, and on the Hairy Woodpecker it is usually the same length as the head, as opposed to the small, stubby bill of a Downy. 
Hairy Woodpecker - Inwood Hill Park, New York
Note the huge bill with regards to the size of the head
The outer tail feathers will also separate the two, as Downy Woodpeckers will have black bars all along the outer tail feathers compared to the all-white ones of the Hairys.
Hairy Woodpecker - Inwood Hill Park, New York
The white outer tail feathers were also clearly noticeable
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