Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Mission Accomplished

Date: 26/09/2017
Patch, Somerset Levels, Chew Valley Lake & Chewton Mendip
Weather: Overcast, Grey but Warm
Species Highlights
Newton St Loe: Meadow Pipit, Little Egret.
Somerset Levels: Bearded Reedlings, Hobby, Marsh Harrier, Water Rail.
Chew Valley: Great White Egret, Cattle Egret
Chewton Mendip: Great Bustard.

Since USA not been out much although did go round patch with not alot changing, Little Egret still Top Lake and a large group of Meadow Pipits at 50 or so birds in Horse Fields with 6 Barn Swallow on the 19/09 but only 1 seen on the 24/09 most gone by now I'll check again Thursday.

Tuesday promised fine sunny weather, but on getting up it was grey and misty here in Bath but headed off to Westhay anyway looking in on Chewton Mendip my second attempt at the Great Bustard female which had been there, no sign so headed on to the Levels.
My targets today were the Bearded Reedlings which show well this time of year. On arrival I saw them almost immediately in reed besides the Boardwalk. With a few other Photographers watching and snapping I walked on and sat down within a few minutes 15 Bearded started to grab the grit.

Stunning birds and totally oblivious to humans it seemed.

Who's been eating all the Pies!

Although they look great wherever they are, it's always good to get them off the floor and perched in reeds or in tree's.


Then they went to the tree's along side boardwalk. 

I think at one point at least 30/40 birds were around us.

Took too many photographs but that's the great thing about digital, just means I need a bigger hard drive!

After a couple of hours and chatting to the other nice people there I wandered off around the rest of reserve with Marsh Harrier and Hobby seen also, got to the north hide and briefly saw a Water Rail always good. Lots of Common Darters in the last throws of life, making next year's Dragonflies.

I headed off.
I pass Chewton Mendip on the way home so a quick check for Bustard again, no show 3rd time! Still a hour left before I had to go so drove the short distance to Chew Valley and Villace hide, a few Great White Egret, Gadwall, Common Sandpiper on show but no much else from hide so went back to Heron's Green where more GW Egret at least 6/7 birds on show.

Robert was there and we relocated the 2 Cattle Egrets with his fancy Scope! He told me that not 60 mins before I'd arrived at Chewton the Bustard showed to him, so I headed back in that direction for one last attempt.

Was extremely happy when from field lane by gate I found bird very distant this 560mm full crop. But my first Great Bustard.

50% crop with barn you can see from main road, no wonder I couldn't see it before.
That was my lot and headed home happy. 
Mission accomplished!

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Thursday, 21 September 2017

Birding Across The Pond - Part Two

Date: 1st September 2017 - 14th September 2017
Location: New York > Niagara Falls > Las Vegas > San Francisco > New York
Weather: Everything but Snow!

Observation: In the air again this time flying to Las Vegas looking forward to the hot, dry desert like conditions....... well that should have been the conditions if Hurricane Irma wasn’t in the USA and the normally dry Vegas was wet! Thunderstorms too, but the next morning we headed off on a organised trip to Red Rock, a great place with desert and um well red rocks but also a few brilliant birds! First off while they were looking around the museum, a colourful House Finch landed, lens in hand spotted a few more with their red chests looking great with now blue skies overhead. 

But my main target was outside the ‘Restrooms’ an amazing Anna’s Hummingbird, stunning tiny things and my first ever! 

Carried on with the tour and saw Red-Tailed Hawk who landed in close by tree, Geckos and even Black Swallowtail and Monarch Butterflies. 

Next morning, another trip to.. You gotta go there Grand Canyon plus Hoover Dam. Hoover was ok it did have lots of Turkey Vultures but the Grand Canyon was great not many birds another Anna’s Hummingbird, a Brown Headed Cowbird being the best, but a few new Butterflies for me. 

The next day, a tour around Vegas, a must taking in Fermount Street, a must managed a Great-Tailed Grackle from the bus, but that was all. 

Next day San Francisco. 

Got to the hotel in San Fran and caught the Cable Cars and down to Pier 39, famous for its California Sea Lions and Brown Pelicans, great looking birds. 

Also Heermanns Gull, Western Gulls and Brandts Cormorants. 

Western Gull

Heermanns Gull

Another boat trip planned to Alcatraz, if you go in September, fly spray a must, 1000s of them very annoying! 

Apparently attracted to dead a decaying Cormorants on the island, once I rushed around the the tour, I got outside to a Black Phoebe, Northern Mockingbird and more shy Hummingbirds. There was a massive colony of Brandts Cormorant also Snowy Egrets. 

Off the boat and along to Golden Gate Bridge, blue skies and stunning, White Crowned Sparrow and a Shiny-Shinned Hawk also a California Scrub Jay in car park. 

Next morning, we spent a few hours in Golden Gate Park, great place to visit. 

Picking up Pygmy Nuthatch, Black-Throated Grey Warbler, a few Hawks, Pied Billed Grebe, Western Tanager, Chestnut-Sided Chickadee, Stellers Jay, plus more. Also a Anna’s Hummingbird humming 5ft from our faces!! 

Back to the hotel and sleep. A spare 2 hours in the morning before our flight back to New York. We took the Cable Cars to Lombard Street, amazing to ride the expensive Cable Cars, hanging on from the outside of the cars felt like I was in the old TV show “The Streets of San Francisco”. Was looking for the Red Masked Parakeets, that have lived here since the 1960’s but also got a Western Kingbird a bonus! 

We caught the last internal flight back to New York, which was a long 6 hours. The girls went shopping and I went for some peace around Central Park, it’s massive, 3.5 miles long and easy to get lost in. The Hurricane was keeping a few birds away, the local birders were saying, but any birds were good for me and I managed to get a American Kestrel. 

We spent 2 weeks in the USA, a great place to visit but very busy, lots of traffic and people but some great spots. Ended my trip on 68 new birds and 9 new butterflies and around 2000 photos overall. Walking around with lens and camera felt safe and the birders and people I spoke to seemed nice and friendly. 

If anyone is thinking of going or needs any advice we, as usual, are happy to help. 

Hope you enjoyed the blog as much as I enjoyed doing the trip!

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Birding Across The Pond - Part One

Date: 1st September 2017 - 14th September 2017
Location: New York > Niagara Falls > Las Vegas > San Francisco > New York
Weather: Everything but Snow!

Observation: We had planned a trip to United States earlier in year and the 1st of September came and we boarded a Virgin Atlantic jet bound for New York City, it was my first time although Lauren had been before (a few times!). 
I was reminded a number of times, it was not a bird-watching trip but my 400mm lens and binoculars were first things to pack! 

We arrived late afternoon and a short trip into Central Park was first on the cards, House Sparrow were everywhere in the Park, it seems they are having a very good year there. Then a shiny iridescent bird showed a Common Grackle the 400mm not needed as most birds I was seeing were very close, lots and lots of people in park, so I guess not bothered. 

Common Grackle

American Redstart

American Robin, lots of these in Park 30+ all posing and feeding. 

Blue Jays were calling they sounded like Hawks. 

American Redstart, Great White Egret so close you could touch them, almost! 
Song Sparrow and Northern Cardinal were my next new birds on this short visit. 

After visiting an extremely busy, extremely busy! Times Square, time for bed. An early rise and time for a boat trip to Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty, Ring-Billed Gulls everywhere, 150+ and to think I rushed to Chew Valley for ONE! Laughing Gull in good numbers also perched up scavenging around picnic tables calling, can see why they are calling Laughing Gull. 

Double Crested Cormorants dotted around the Island too. Next up, One World Trade Centre and the site for the Old World Trade Centres, a huge waterfall now sits in the footprints where the buildings used to stand. 100’s of people stood remembering the disaster. A few trees dotted around the site and I spotted an American Redstart and a very smart Black n White Warbler! 

Lens out and a few snaps with 100’s of people around oblivious to them! While looking an Ovenbird also appeared. 

That evening we planned on going to Dumbo Park for a few night shots of the Manhattan Skyline, while there had an Eastern wood Pewee and a Philadelphia Vireo, thanks to the Merlin bird app for ID’s other would have taken ages to ID all these birds. 

Philadelphia Vireo

Next morning, another wander around Central Park picking up a few more birds including Peregrine Falcon, Northern Parula, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Grey Catbird, Northern Flicker, Common Yellowthroat plus an amazing Magnolia Warbler, lots of others too. 

Northern Flicker

Magnolia Warbler

Spotted Sandpiper

White-Breasted Nuthatch

Black and White Warbler

Grey Catbird

Off to Airport for the next part of the trip to Niagara Falls, our hotel was amazing with a view over both falls American Falls and Horseshoe Falls which make up Niagara Falls, while watching from the 48th floor, a Turkey Vulture casually drifts into view followed by a diving Peregrine Falcon!!!! 

A great place, American Goldfinch, Bonaparte’s Gull and again many Ring-Billed Gulls made up the majority of species around the Falls. After doing the boat trip to the waterfalls, amazing and very wet, we walked from USA to Canada across the very close Rainbow Bridge and on entering Canada saw a colourful Black-Throated Green Warbler with a Black-Capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse and a Downy Woodpecker. 

Black-Throated Green Warbler

Black-Capped Chickadee

 Black Squirrel

Groundhog / Woodchuck

Song Sparrow

Ring-Billed Gull

American Crows and even a California Gull with the hundreds of House Sparrows in the Picnic site! 

Had 1 Golden Eagle and more Turkey Vultures overhead. On going back through passport control and back into USA we headed for a small nature reserve called Dufferin Island, a walkable distance from Niagara just. It rained and we got lost a bit but it was worth it! 

When we found it we had Caspian Tern, massive! Red-Winged Blackbird, Willow Flycatcher, Downy Woodpecker so close, Red-Eyed Vireo, Belted Kingfisher plus many more a great little spot, time ticked on and we had to leave. 

Red-Winged Blackbird

Caspian Tern

Northern Cardinal

Red-Eyed Vireo 

Downy Woodpecker

New York City @ Night

Niagara Falls, Canada

Part Two:

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