Wednesday 19 December 2012

More from the USA, Roadrunners "meep, meep"

Just like an episode out of a cartoon we came across Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner eyeing each other up in California!

Just in case it isn't obvious, these photos were not actually taken at the same place sadly, but it was fun seeing them both on the same day.

In fact we saw two roadrunners together (possibly three), which Gary told us was unusual.

This is about as close to flying as a Roadrunner gets I suppose.

One of them posed on top of a rock and enjoyed the evening sunshine for a moment or two.

In this picture you can see the green sheen on the tail which is not often visible.

The reason we went to this particular place was to see Ferruginous Hawk which we did, but you'll have to take my word for it that the white blob in this photo is it and that you can see its rufous 'trousers' too!

Similarly there is a beautiful Mountain Bluebird in this picture which stayed far off in the distance. It actually looks more like one of those huge 'morpho' butterflies we used to see in Brazil.

Here is a flock of Canada Geese, nothing very interesting about that you say? Well seeing them in the USA makes all the difference, they are supposed to be there and that feeling of freedom that a skein of geese instills in me can be enjoyed to the full. Added to which Gary and I found three Cackling Geese in the flocks, not sadly in this picture. One of them was tiny (for a goose that is, not, like, hummingbird-tiny it looked more like a duck in the flock), so we thought it might be an example of minima, but they are jolly rare there.

Gary and I having a beer belly competition, which I won by a yard and a half (of ale perhaps?)


Tuesday 18 December 2012

Snowy Owl in Washington State.

During our blast through Washington State, mostly in the teeth of a gale and horizontal rain, we had time to stop wader watching when we had seen the birds we had been after. (Details on Wader Quest blog.)

At the end of the day we were birding an island in the Ocean Shores region along the coast and we came across a total of 8 Snowy Owls. These birds are high on any birder's most wanted bird list, but we were treated to not just high numbers of them, we also got close looks at them as these photos will show.

These birds are arctic breeders right across north America, northern Europe and Siberian Russia. In the winter they move south and can be found across much of the USA, Scandinavia and Russia at that time. Occasionally they will appear in the UK Some years ago they even bred on Shetland and I was lucky enough to go and see them there although they had long since ceased to breed when I saw them.

They are very dependent on rodent population and their number vary depending on this vital food source's availability, in some years huge numbers of them move south if there is not enough food further north for them, other years very few appear.

This is a composite picture taken by Elis. The light level was so low that she had to photograph with the lens wide open, thus the depth of field was minimal. She wanted to record our friend Knut with the owl, so she took two shots and 'stuck' them together. If you look closely you can see the join.

Monday 3 December 2012

Bald Eagle

While looking for waders on Bunche Beach today we saw a magnificent Bald Eagle sitting on the sand. Elis took a series of photos of it as it flew off. Pretty stunning images I think you'll agree.

Sunday 2 December 2012


In Florida for Wader Quest, but of course we are not blind to non-waders, especially if they are a local rarity as was the case of the Western Spindalis. A western what? I hear you say, well to you or me this used to be called a Stripe-headed Tanager.

We had been birding at Cranford Park for waders and the people we were with said they were going to look for this bird, usually a denizen of Bermuda and the Caribbean islands, and asked us if we'd like to go. Well of course we felt guilty, but we went anyway.

The bird was a female, I'm tempted to say unfortunately, but around here that gets you a one dollar fine according to Robin the lady we were with, so I won't, but it was.
Western Spindalis

Needles to say there were many other interesting birds to keep us occupied between waders...
Palm Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle, male consuming a lizard he just caught.
Boat-tailed Grackle female
Common Grackle
Loggerhead Shrike
Turkey Vulture
Osprey with a fish
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Blue-winged Teal with American Coots
Mottled Duck

Ring-billed Gull

Laughing Gull
Royal Tern

Sandhill Crane

White Ibis

American White Pelicans

American Wood Storks
Roseate Spoonbill
Reddish Egret

and one or two things that weren't birds...
Faded Pennant Celithemis ornata.
Thanks to Mick Watts for the identification of this unusual dragonfly.