Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bird ID's

My thanks to Mark Wilson, Ken Earnshaw and John Showers for their help in identifying the two mystery birds from the US trip they were (a) a Yellow-rumped 'Myrtle' Warbler and (b) Palm Warblers - thank you. For the Indian ID's, my thanks to Jijo and Bob Bullock, the mystery birds have been identified (or not!) as follows:

1) Minivet, juvenile, species not identified (per Bob Bullock)


3) Magpie Robin, female (per Bob Bullock)

4) Not used

5) Brown Shrike (per Bob Bullock)


7) Leaf Warbler, specific race not identified (per Bob Bullock)

8) Prinia, species not identified (per Bob Bullock)

9) Whiskered Tern (per Bob Bullock)

10) Bulbul, species not identified (per Bob Bullock)

We've not had time to get any birding in this weekend as we had to get work done in the garden before the new fruit trees and berry bushes sprout otherwise moving them to their positions will set them back. Still means more food for the birds in the late summer and autumns ahead :)

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Winter Sun Day 2 - Shark Valley

Having showered up and checked out we headed to the other main entrance to the park, on its North side, level with Miami at the Shark Valley visitor centre. It was heaving, either as a consequence of the time of day or the boardwalk and ‘tram rides’ (e.g. open sided bus rides). The nature almost feels canned as there are Alligators dotted along the side of the canal and boardwalk and there are loads of Herons of different varieties there.

At one point the light was perfect and I took a couple of pictures with which I am very pleased, including these, of a Snowy Egret:

Here a Tri-coloured Heron in full breeding plumage, stands on what appears to be a nest:

One Alligator had clearly recently bred, their offspring look very vulnerable:

This Great White Egret showing very clearly the strong green breeding plumage colouration around the bill:

My favourite bird of the holiday was the Little Blue Heron, another adult shown here:

and juvenile:

As the sun started to set and the when we had to head off to our respective airports loomed, Black-crowned Night Herons started to appear:

And the last bird of the holiday, this Northern Mockingbird, the best view we had of one across the weekend:

You can get a very good sense of the Everglades in two days, at least we feel we did though clearly you could spend weeks here exploring too, especially as most of the land is accessible only by canoe and then only really during winter and spring.

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Winter Sun Day 2 - Main Park Entrance

A much cloudier, hotter and more humid day in prospect, we organised a late check-out with Ramada so we could get showered up before our respective flights. First stop was again the Anhinga Trail, although this time we’d decided to head out before dawn to experience the park as it woke-up, we find this is the very best time to go birding:

The gators were out to catch the first rays of sun:

Herons everywhere again, such as this Tri-coloured Heron:

These Great Blue Herons:

A female Anhinga wanted to keep sleeping but kept peeking out to see what was around:

She started preening:

A pair of Anhingas bonded whilst the female sat on a nest, first the male approaches:

Before he sat alongside her. The early morning light was weak yet accentuated the plumage of the birds, for example a Green Heron perched watching for food:

Another adult Little Blue Heron:

Then a new bird for this trip, a Common Yellowthroat:

A Purple Gallinule showed prominently:

We’d seen one yesterday but it was mostly obscured by reeds, this one was very bold. I'd recommend the Anhinga Trail to anyone visiting the area, it's a magical experience (though do check on advice based on the time of year of your visit). We’d already decided that from the Anhinga Trail we’d walk the Snake Bight trail, although in the end we stopped off en route having spotted some Blue Jays on the roadside.

These Northern Mockingbirds sit sentinel like, then fly out, grab a passing insect and return to their perch, flycatcher like, though their starting point is much bolder:

The walk out to Snake Bight is recommended for high tide. It turns out to have the highest concentration of mosquitoes of all the places we visited, I have seven itchy bites as I write this, even though I’m sat in Minneapolis airport and it’s below freezing outside :)

On the path we saw Hermit Thrush and Gray Catbirds:

Though they didn’t hang around for long. At one point I thought I heard a Grey Catbird by the side of the path and started ‘fishing’ it, when this snake slithered into view:

It gave me quite a start! We got to the end with great expectations but it was a low high tide so there was very little about except the mosquitoes and a few other slightly bemused birders and tourists, so we turned around and marched back to the car. We decided to head to the shop at Flamingo again so Helen could try the Key Lime Pie (she declared it tasty, but homemade would be better). Hunting across the open fields before Flamingo we spotted this Northern Harrier, the only Harrier of the trip. Outside the shop we sat down for a food and drink top-up and watched this basking Crocodile, one of the very few left in the park:

Once refreshed we decided to walk to the front, a short walk, but one that would get us closer to a large flock of birds we’d seen settling on a small island offshore. On one of the jetties an immature Laughing Gull was loafing:

Out in the bay it was apparent that high tide at least had some impact here. A large number of birds had been pushed up to a small island, hosting American White Pelican, Brown Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, Laughing Gull, two unidentified species of wader (too far with bins and camera and scope at home) and a large flock of these very black birds:

It was only apparent when they moved about that they were in fact Black Skimmers:

As the water rose, the American White Pelicans took flight and headed inland, this one flew within twenty metres of us:

In the trees by the bay a variety of small birds were flitting about, including this well named Black-and-white Warbler:

We stopped off again at Mrazek pond, this time the Wood Stork was a little closer:

A new species for this trip was this juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, sleeping:

An intermediate phase White Ibis, moulting from juvenile to adult plumage:

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Winter Sun - Butterflies

No birding trip is complete with out the odd butterfly photograph as they tend to occur in the same places and catch the eye with their movements, so here's another group of unidentified butterflies from a different place, First a small white one:

Next a medium sized brown one, feeding:

With a dark orange butterfly of another species (presumably) feeding close by:

And finally one which resembles a butterfly I snapped in India, though that could of course be entirely co-incidental:

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Winter Sun Day 1 - the rest of the day

We took to the road heading further into the park, at one point spotting this Loggerhead Shrike:

Were I a better photographer I’d have caught it mid-air flying over a bush, prey in mouth, but I had to settle for it landed and having consumed whatever it had caught. Our second stop was at Paurotis Pond, to view the Roseate Spoonbills settled in the trees at the back, along with White Ibis and Wood Stork, though all too far away to photograph for anything other than record shots. A group of smaller birds was feeding in the bushes alongside the pond. The nearest I can find in my guide, based on the pictures I took and what we observed (a light-brown bird, with a yellow rump, warbler size and feeding on the ground and in bushes) leads me to suspect Palm Warbler, though I’ll be checking this one:

The next bird appeared almost exclusively in pairs, moving through the bushes calling to each other in a gravelly voice. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers:

One of the Warblers took a bite out of a Gnatcatcher as it moved past, which surprised us, I guess the Warbler was seeing off a food competitor. We also saw our first Black Vulture here (the locals call them buzzards), but only high up and gliding.

Our third stop, a little beyond Flamingo, was at Eco Pond. Wading close to shore we watched a juvenile Little Blue Heron searching for food:

Eco pond was another great spot. On short walk around the perimeter we spotted first a Wood Stork, albeit distant, and then were delighted to watch a Roseate Spoonbill feeding within five metres of us:

I tried a couple of different exposures:

I’ve never been this close to a Spoonbill before, weird looking birds. It was approaching lunchtime so we stopped at Flamingo and the under-stocked shop to buy lunch (it’s the only store around and is virtually out of stock of food – surely a missed opportunity). Nearby was the deserted, hurricane damaged accommodation – it’s hard to tell if they intend to repair it or leave it derelict. All around Flamingo, Ospreys were displaying, calling, and nest building:

This one had caught a fish, which was still flopping about:

He called and called and called, whilst picking at the fish, before he started to eat it in earnest:

Walking along the edge of the harbour we spotted a pair of Brown Pelicans, first I photographed the male bird:

The female started a display, which I managed to catch in progress:

These are now unfortunately quite rare, one of the very many threatened species endemic to this part of North America, again under real pressure from the relentless and unchecked expansion of our species.

In the trees by the harbour we watched another new species, the Prairie Warbler:

Just out of Flamingo, heading back to the park entrance, is the trail to Bear Lake, which is only 3.2 miles out and back, so we decided to try that and see what we could see. We did spot a White Ibis feeding alongside the trial:

The walk was disappointing as it ends in a small island overlooking the lake, but this had been taken over by a large group of people who were (illegally) fishing, and who made it apparent they didn’t welcome other folk, so we turned around and walked back again.

We headed back towards the exit of the park, stopping off at Mrazek Pond to watch the various birds arrayed around the edge of the water, including Wood Stork, Belted Kingfisher, White Ibis, Great White Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tri-coloured Heron:

Green Heron:

Anhinga and Double-breasted Cormorant. On the water itself we watched a Pied-billed Grebe, Shoveller, Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal, including this drake:

A Great Blue Heron sunned itself in the fading afternoon sunlight:

Our penultimate stop in the park was the pullout for Nine-mile Pond, where a number of Black Vultures were on the ground, feeding and fighting. I got the impression this one had bathed and was drying out its wings:

The Turkey Vultures were preening too:

From the road another Red-shouldered Hawk, they must be quite common around here:

We walked the Pine Land loop as the afternoon sun faded towards the horizon but it was getting late and there wasn’t much about, so time to head out of the park and a slap-up feed at the restaurant opposite our hotel (and a beer!).

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