Tuesday 25 December 2012

Siberian Chiffchaff

 While out on Inishbofin last Thursday I came across what I was sure was a Siberian Chiffchaff. It was feeding with a Common Chiffchaff along a small drainage ditch next to Doonmore Hotel. The two birds were really chalk and cheese. It spend most of its time feeding in the drain but also spent time feeding with the Common Chiffchaff in an adjacent bed of rushes. I managed to download a recording of a calling Siberian Chiffchaff onto my phone and played it to the two birds to see what sort of reaction I'd get. The Siberian bird flew directly towards me and did an near 360 of me at close quarters. The Common Chiffchaff showed zero interest whatsoever. During this time the Siberian called a handful of times perfectly matching the recording with a monotone, mournful cheeep (or something like that, I'm useless at transposing calls onto paper).
The bird could transform in appearance depending on light conditions. In bright light the greenish fringes to the primaries and the tail feathers could be quite pronounced resembling a Bonelli's Warbler at times. In duller light this wasn't as pronounced. The axillaries and underwing coverts were bright lemon strongly contrasting with the rest of the plumage. The area from the back/mantle up to the head and down to the breast was a lovely khaki light buff colour. This was most intense on the ear coverts with some russet tones especially in stronger light. This was probably the most eye-catching part of the plumage for me. Stuck between the rusty ear coverts and a darker brown forehead and crown was a noticeable light buff supercillium. Only the lower half of the white eye ring was visible, the upper section melted away into the white buff supercillium.  The entire belly was cold grey with warm buff rear flanks and undertail coverts. The lower mandible was mostly pale which seems a little off for Siberian Chiffchaff? The legs were all black with yellow soles to the feet. It also exhibited some olive to the rump and the uppertail coverts which is ok for tristis apparently.
Unfortunately I hadn't brought my camera out with me so I had to go back out on Sunday to get some shots. There was no sign of the Common Chiffchaff which was a pity as it would have been nice to get some shots of it too just to show how different the two were.
I had an adult Glaucous Gull out there on Thursday and a first-winter Iceland Gull on the Sunday also.

Bright lemon axillaries and underwing covert sharply contrasting with the tan brown tones of the head.

At times the head pattern was almost reminiscent of Garden Warbler without the pure grey tones.

Some slight olive tones to the rump and uppertail coverts but apparently ok for tristis?

Yellow soles to the feet, rest of the legs black.

Bill not all black but again apparently still ok for tristis.

Iceland Gull

Thursday 20 December 2012

Florida 15th November 2012

Made my way further North from Fort Myers up to St. Petersburg near Tampa. I took a quick look again at Little Estero Lagoon in the hope for Yellow-crowned Night Heron, hoping that they would be more active first thing at dawn but again no sign. More good views of Reddish Egrets. I had a very distant Black Skimmer at least a mile up along the beach. By the time I managed to drive up it was gone but I did have two nice close frigatebirds (no camera) and a flock of about 100 Knots. At least 24 of these were colour ringed, an amazing percentage. Most had been ringed in Florida and a few in South Carolina going back as far as 2006. None have been resighted further North than New Jersey. All had lime green flags.
I still hadn't seen any Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, one of the rarest woodpecker species found in the States. I had already tried at least two reserves of open longleaf pine woodland and only managed a very brief view of a black and white woodpecker. North of Fort Myers at Cecil M. Webb State Wildlife Management Area I managed to connect with a pair which gave good views. The species is intensively managed. The forest floor is burnt every few years to keep it open as would have naturally happened historically. All birds are "banded" and single males are often translocated to area containing single females. The nest trees are marked by white circles at their bases. I also had untickable views of a Bachmanns Sparrow here. This is another speciality of dry pine woodland with saw-palmetto. They can be difficult to pick up when not singing in the Spring time.
I finished up the day around the Celery Fields/Ackerman Park. This was a small area that I nearly picked at random from the guidebook as I happened to be making my way up to Tampa at the time. This was an excellent example of how good some of these smaller lesser well known spots compared to the larger, better known sites. There was an excellent line up of waterbirds here including my best views of Roseate Spoonbill, they had all been a little distant up until this. Some nice views of Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Duck also but the light conditions made it difficult for photography.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill, only noticed the ring on the left hand bird on reviewing the shots, can't make out the code though.

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

White Ibis

First-winter Tricolored Heron

Snowy Egret

Adult Tricolored Heron

Little Blue Heron

White morph Reddish Egret

White morph Reddish Egret

White and red morph Reddish Egrets

Red morph Reddish Egret

Red morph Reddish Egret with a tocuh of white

American Bittern, taken in near darkness with a shutter speed of 0.8 seconds.

Double-crested Cormorant

Brown Pelican

American Oystercatcher

Western Willet

Greater Yellowlegs

Greater Yellowlegs



Magnificent Frigatebird

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Red-cockaded Woodpecker hole with someone at home.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker habitat

Sandhill Crane

House Wren

Fish Crow

Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks

Cooper's Hawk

Saturday 15 December 2012

Florida 14th November 2012

Birded all day around the coastal area of Fort Myers. One of the better days of the trip mainly down to the selection and close views of waders.
First spot was the Little Estero Lagoon, an area of mostly sandy beach with alot of people searching for seashells and walkers. The birds were well used to all this activity which meant great views of most of the stuff. There's a small lagoon just in behind the beach but it was fairly quiet in there.
Tried the famous J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island later. The visitor centre here is well worth a visit. It was probably the best VC I came across in my fortnight in Florida. There a big collection of wood carvings housed here mostly wildfowl and all by Jim Sprankle. The Harlequin, Bufflehead and Hooded Merganser cravings were unreal. The level of detail was just amazing possibly better than the real thing. The refuge is accessed by a four mile long one way wildlife drive. The main target here for me was Yellow-crowned Night Heron, one of the few heron/egret species that I hadn't seen up until this point. This is supposed to be a regular spot for them but even after driving the trail on two occasions I couldn't find any. The tide seemed to very high at the time despite the guides telling me that it was low tide at the time. There were small numbers of pelicans and a max of 200 waders present but certainly not the chockablock conditions that I had been led to believe from the literature on the site.
A far better and smaller site was Bunche Beach. Good numbers of waders were found on the righthand side. A Long-billed Curlew has wintered here for a few years and is a very scarce bird in Florida. I managed to pick it up way in the distance roosting with other waders across a impassable channel. Thankfully after a time the tide dropped somewhat and most of the waders came to me including the curlew. Amongst the 3 or 4 Piping Plover here I photographed a colour ringed bird. I managed to find out later that it had been ringed as chick this summer gone up in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan a good 2000 kilometres to the North. There's supposed to be less than 100 pairs breeding in Great Lakes area. Globally there are only 6000 pairs.

Adult American Oystercatcher

First-winter American Oystercatcher
Piping Plover, possibly of the melodus Atlantic coast breeding race.
First-winter Piping Plover
First-winter Piping Plover of the circumcinctus race, much paler.

Colour ring Piping Plover's journey.

Snowy Plover

Snowy Plover

Semiplamated Plover
Grey Plover

Least Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper (short-billed individual)

Western Sandpiper (long billed individual)

Short-billed Dowitcher

Western Willet
Marbled Godwit

Marbled Godwit

Long-billed Curlew

Long-billed Curlew
First-winter Ring-billed Gull

Cabot's Tern

Cabot's Terns

First-winter Royal Tern

American White Pelican, the original "Snow-bird" according to a passing guide on a tour bus.

Double-crested Cormorant, American White Pelican & Roseate Spoonbill.

Reddish Egret

Reddish Egret

Little Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Snowy Egret

Pileated Woodpecker