Sunday, August 23, 2009

Pectoral Sandpiper

Well, having said we'd seen and photographed a Pectoral Sandpiper yesterday, it turns out we had seen one, but neither ID'd nor photographed it, instead I'd got all excited over a distant Wood Sandpiper. Today we set about correcting the error. So, here is a Pectoral Sandpiper:















The Pectoral Sandpiper then wandered over and joined a couple of Wood Sandpipers:
















This shot really helps with the differences in both plumage and bill shape and they are indeed quite distinctive. Whilst watching the Sandpipers and Ringed Plovers a pair of Greenshank flew in and joined the mud party. They were very vocal and flighty and a positive delight:

















The reeds and grasses are tall but it was still possible to get a reasonable picture from distance:




















Finally the pair of them wandering along feeding:














Sometimes they ran along 'skimming' for food, at other times they 'waded'. Great birds.

So with the Pectoral Sandpiper, our first new UK and life bird since Scotland, we're up to 655 unique species overall, of which we've seen 225 in the UK. We recently removed a number of sightings that on reflection could have been enthusiasm and weren't sufficiently proven on the basis we want to be as sure as possible. Next target is 1,000 life birds :)

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Feeding the ducks

Back at home this weekend we decided to make the most of a spell of pleasant weekend weather by having another walk around Hollowell. Anglian Water are doing a great job of letting the water slowly drain away so that there's a lot of mud exposed, ideal to attract passing migrant waders. I've been watching the reports from the US of various species being spotted hence the urge to head back there, that and it's only a few miles from home :)

We spotted Ringed Plovers, Common Terns, a Lesser Whitethroat two Barnacle Geese and Yellow Wagtails at various points around the reservoir, but the star of the show for us was the Pectoral Sandpiper present there.

We stopped off at Ravensthorpe Reservoir, before heading home, to feed the ducks. They respond well to our particular way of doing so, that is providing big quantities of grain - we hope this will augment the white bread, etc., they normally get fed:

video

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Friday, August 21, 2009

birding around the day job

As you probably already know I am spending quite a lot of time in the US at the moment, with work. Recently I've needed to be in New Jersey and New York whereas normally its Boston. This week just passed I decided to take my bins and camera with me on the basis I hoped to get a few minutes during the week to get out of the office or hotel and see what was about.

I tried first to explore around my hotel but being located on a Corporate Park the only way to move around outside the grounds is in a car. There are no facilities to accommodate pedestrians of any sort, which was quite a shock to me.

Anyway first-up is what I believe to be a juvenile American Robin:

















It's moulting into the more distinctive plumage with an all orange front. Apart from the Robin's the other birds were all European introduced birds such as pigeons and Starlings.

Next I managed to sneak out for half an hour at the end of a working day. Right out the back of the office is some woodland, so I felt I had a good chance of seeing something. The first few birds were very familiar including American Crows and American Goldfinch, this however was unfamiliar:
















The field guide I had with me wasn't up to identifying it so I emailed Helen over night and she identified it the next morning as a juvenile American Redstart:


















The fanned tail and yellow bars on the tail being distinctive and decisive in the identification. The other bird of note and one I've seen on each of my trips this year was a Black-and-White Warbler:





















The last picture I took on Tuesday evening before going back into the office was the fungus on a tree, I just liked the colour and the dappled sunlight:

















I got another thirty minutes of birding in on Wednesday evening. Stood in exactly the same spot but with a number of different birds. This White-breasted Nuthatch was one of three squabbling around:
















A Red-bellied Woodpecker:





















A Hairy Woodpecker:





















And a Downy Woodpecker on the other side of the track, made it three Woodpecker species in thirty minutes:





















Last but not least a juvenile Baltimore Oriole:





















No new species but it was nonetheless a good way to wind down a little after the mayhem of the working day.

On Thursday we had to head into Manhattan and decided to take the ferry. I was expecting a cross between a channel ferry and something smaller. The SeaStreak Catamaran therefore turned out to be quite a surprise.

Waiting for the service to depart from the New Jersey shoreline I watched a Common Tern perch, then fly off to grab a bite then settle down again:

















All around were American Herring Gulls, Greater Black-backed Gulls, Double-crested Cormorants and a good number of juvenile Common Terns.
The boat set off promptly, you can see here the wake and cloud of diesel when she's going flat out. My guess was 40 knots but judging speed on water is tricky. So much for the birding I expected to be able to do from the ferry though. It was like being stood in a storm!














We approached Manhattan from the south, this is the first bridge we passed under as we entered the New York islands:



















On the shoreline you can see an old fort, my guess is it dates back to the 19th century:













Finally, we passed relatively close to lady liberty:




















A murky day but the sunshine really catches well on the flame. Fingers crossed for more birding opportunities on my next trip.

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Saturday, August 08, 2009

An early Autumn?

One thing that has been apparent throughout this year, from early Summer, is that it's going to be an excellent year for fruit. We have already cropped blueberries, raspberries, peaches and plums, even though the trees and bushes are only in their first or second years, and we'll soon crop the apples, damsons and pears we've grown. These are some berries on a Guelder Rose:


















The Rowans in the hedge are similarly covered, as are the Blackthorn. The birds remain scarce, summer migrants are already heading home to Southern Europe and Africa. We keep seeing House Martins over the house but the Swifts have been gone for over a week now. In our garden most of the young raised have dispersed with the exceptions of those that flock such as Goldfinch, Greenfinch and of course the House Sparrows, we're regularly getting over a hundred House Sparrows in the garden at any one time and they're eating us out of house and home :)

Saturday being the only day without rain forecast we decided to walk around Hollowell Reservoir on the basis we'd seen reports of various waders stopping off as they head south from their breeding grounds. We did see a pair of Green Sandpipers, Dunlin a group of Snipe and a few Common Terns, but nothing of real note. This juvenile Spotted Flycatcher was mooching around in the bushes:




















Large Whites were browsing for nectar, competing with various other butterfly species. It was great to be out and about again and to be able to enjoy some sunshine:

















Of course one advantage of cloud filled skies is that they are more dramatic than a clear blue sky - maybe next year:










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