Sunday, 23 March 2014

A few more Purps

These shots were taken this morning in much better light than in the week.  The sun has just brought out some of the purple sheen on the scapulars which gives this bird its name, Purple Sandpiper.  The map below shows the breeding and wintering range of this species.  I was lucky enough to see this species on its breeding grounds in the high arctic in Northern Norway a couple years ago.  The tour leader pointed out a favoured area on the side of a windswept mountain in the tundra, and this is where this bird will be in another month. 

Breeding and wintering range of Purple Sandpiper

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Purple Sandpiper action shots

I saw about twenty Purple Sandpiper this morning at the usual place at Jubilee Pool, Penzance.  Most were roosting but one bird was determined to feed at the water's edge and in the surf.  Only one bird was showing any hint of the summer plumage purple sheen in its feathers.  Perhaps another month and the plumage will change.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Roseate Spoonbills in Florida

Roseate Spoonbills were locally common in small numbers is most suitable habitats.  They are wary birds though, and I only had a couple chances to get any decent shots.  The first image is a pair of adults and the two below show a first year bird. The species is a resident breeder in South America, mostly east of the Andes and in coastal regions of the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, the Gulf Coast of USA and on Florida's Atlantic coast at Merritt Island.  The photo's below were taken here.  They are indeed stunning birds and one of Florida's speciality birds to see.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Least Bittern deals quickly with a green frog

This female Least Bittern snatches a green frog from a pool at the Green Cay Wetland site near Miami, Florida.  It all happened very quickly.  The frog is pulled from the water, shaken to death in a milli-second and swallowed.  We only saw two Least Bitterns, a male and female, both at the Green Cay site.  Of all the wetlands we visited (scores), this place was my all time favourite reserve.  Truly stunning and only set up in 2005.  

Green Cay Wetlands, image by Eva Matthews.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Some nice passerines in south Florida

The passerines below were all fairly common and seen either daily or regularly in suitable habitat.  These are the juicy ones that you always like to find

Male Black-throated Green Warbler - scarce

Female Black and White Warbler, winters in small numbers in Florida. Saw  c.20 birds.

Blue-headed Vireo, seen in small numbers in most wooded areas. 

Northern Parula, common and males in full song in wooded areas.

Male Painted Bunting, uncommon but regular around feeders in reserves. 

Male Palm Warbler, second commonest passerine and everywhere. Some males already in full SP.

Male Yellow-rumped Warbler - the commonest passerine and everywhere. This was the brightest male - not bad for early March! Some were in song.

Green Heron makes a Pig of itself

This adult Green Heron battled for twenty minutes before it devoured this huge Pig Frog. It had to kill it before swallowing the frog. Throughout the scene, the heron never let go as the frog would have jumped away. Because of the frog's weight, the heron couldn't thrash the prey either, like a kingfisher does. It simply squeezed the life out of it, then kept dunking the frogs head in the water, presumably to drown it.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Florida trip

My wife and I visited south Florida earlier this month for a two week birding trip.  We covered 1800 miles, stayed in six different locations and visited many of the top birding attractions in this stunning State.  We notched up 148 species.  We saw most of the specialities including Snail Kite, Florida Red-shouldered Hawk, Florida Scrub Jay, Roseate Spoonbill, Painted Bunting, Purple Swamphen, every egret, ibis and heron possibly available, all the normal wintering warblers (most approaching summer plumage), and six species of woodpecker including the huge Pileated Woodpecker. 

We also visited the famous Florida Keys and took the 70 mile boat trip to the Dry Tortugas.  This tiny island in the Gulf is the only place in the USA to reliably see Brown Noddy, Brown Booby, Sooty Tern and Magnificent Frigatebird.  We connected with all of them in good numbers plus saw Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Brown Pelican. 

The Tortugas experience for me was the ultimate in a stunning trip but the high standard of wetland reserves, boardwalks and information centres, giving crippling views of the herons and waterbirds was simply mind-blowing.

Below are some images of birds we saw:  More images can be found on this link here

Least Bittern, one of just two seen on the trip, making this the rarest "heron" (for us).

Brown Noddy, one of hundreds seen at Dry Tortugas.

Ovenbird seen at Key West Botanical Garden.