Mexico City

Another work trip this time to Mexico city, installing art works for the artist Richard Long at a private home and horse stables designed by Mexican architect Luis Barragan.

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My first time in Central America and as is the case with these trips I try to make the most of relatively urban birding outside of work hours with the exception of one entire morning just outside the city. The things I was hoping to see were mostly common, all it took was to track down a warbler flock or find the right kind of scrubby habitat and there were no disappointments although id like to spend more time in a wilder environment when/if I return one day and also spend some time at a wetland type habitat as I saw no waders, not a huge surprise at 2,500m above sea level!

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I counted 14 species of warbler, 9 of which were new birds for me and I believe I could have seen another 2/3 new species with more time. Below are the birds I photographed, beginning with the more common wintering north American Birds and later the Mexican specialties!

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Townsend’s Warblers

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Audabon’s Warbler

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Wilson’s Warbler

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Black Throated Gray Warbler

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Hermit Warblers

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Macgillivray’s Warblers

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Olive Warbler

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Rufous-Capped Warblers

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Cresent-Chested Warbler

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Red Warbler

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Slate-Throated Redstart

Nashville and OrangeCrowned warblers remained un photographed on this trip despite being very common, I also saw Hooded Yellowthroat which was new to me.

In the group I loosely think about as ‘other cool things that I’d like to see’ this includes Vireos, Tanagers, Humming birds and sparrows I saw a few new species of each thing like; Bullock’s and Black headed Oriels, Cassin’s and Hutton’s Vireos, Rufous Crowned sparrow and despite there being over 100 species of Humming bird in my Mexican bird guide I saw only three; Berrylline, Broadbilled and White Eared.

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Berylline Hummingbird

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Broad-Billed Hummingbirds

One of the unexpected birds of the trip for me were Canyon Wrens. These along with Bewicks Wrens broke up the sometimes deserted scrubland nicely with excellent song and characterful posing.

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Canyon Wren

Another stand out bird was the Vermillion Flycather I probably saw half a dozen of each males and females, the males looking incredible in flight but the peachy tones of the females stole the show slightly for me.

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Vermillion Flycatchers

As is the case with many of these work trip posts Im focusing on my targets and the birds that showed well and because I don’t make trip lists of use ebird I’m omiting lots of stuff that I did see and enjoy for example a few flocks of Vaux’s swifts, small mixed flocks of Blackheaded and Rosebreasted Grosbeaks, a Hook-billed kite, Hammonds, Least, Cordilleran Flycatchers + Western Wood and Greater Peewees but i’ll end this post with a random selection of photographs.

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Song Sparrow

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Lincoln’s Sparrow

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Blue Grosbeak

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American Robin

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Belted Kingfisher

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Green Heron

 

 

 

 

Gratuitous Beckton Iceland Gull photos.

 

Back in late December Dante had this Iceland Gull briefly on the Thames at Erith pier. The following day he and I saw it at Beckton Sewerage works where it seems to have taken up residence and is being seen regularly since. Today it came to bread and showed very well. Its the 3rd juv Iceland gull Ive seen at this small site.

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I realised I hadn’t posted pics of any recent Caspian gulls so here a few nice 1st winters that have been on our part of the Thames recently.

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Beijing new year 2020

Yet another exhausting work trip, this time Beijing and working right in the middle of the forbidden city. With no planned free/rest days I was hoping to just see a Naumann’s thrush at best in the freezing cold hour of light before the start of work each morning. Truth be told Naumann’s thrushes were common and could be seen and heard anywhere with large trees and I saw many in the grounds of the Forbidden city itself.

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After the first couple of days I narrowed down my birding spots and figured out where to make the most of the predictably flighty thrushes. Once I was seeing larger numbers I started noticing a good few Dusky Thrushes amoung them.

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I also noted several obvious Dusky x Naumann’s Hybrids like the one below.  the mix of red and black in the Harlequin pattern on the breast sides an flanks is cool.

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Both Dusky and Naumann’s  regular call sounded very similar to me however a few times I heard a higher pitched squeakier sounding thrush and picked out both Red throated (on several occasioions) and Back throated thrushes (just twice during the trip) Poor pics below – photo was taken at first light.

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Other birds seen around the grounds were the ubiquitous Eurasian Tree sparrows, Azure Winged Magpies, Chinese Blackbirds, Oriental Greenfinches, Large billed crows, Great spotted Woodpeckers, one or two Bohemian waxwings,  parties of Yellow-billed Grosbeaks and the odd Oriental Turtle dove.

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We were ahead of Schedule with work in the end and I was able to get one free day out of the City, so a commercial tourist trip to see the Great Wall of China seemed like a decent way to see what ever I could.

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On the drive to the wall we had many pit stops and whilst the other people in our party looked at The Ming tombs, a ceremonial tea house and had lunch I snuck off to look at a bit of scrub or check out a stand of trees.  The below Bluetail was nice, although quite a dull individual, a couple were seen along with more thrushes and things like Bramblings and one or two Elegant Buntings.

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The Wall itself and surrounding landscape were remarkable, freezing cold and surprisingly devoid of tourists. I saw a small party of Silver throated tits, along with Marsh tits, Chinese Nuthatch, Grey-capped Woodpecker and many Godlewski’s Buntings and my other Target for the trip; Siberian Accentor.

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They looked so great in the typical scrubby areas I saw them in, the eyestripe and throat looking golden against the foliage.

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September’s Short-toed Treecreeper notes.

I managed to get round to organising my notes on the Short-toed Treecreeper I came across at Langdon hole in september and thought I would share them here.  I wanted the description to be ‘water tight’ as its only field notes, a written description and photos compared to a bird in the hand and audio recordings of the voice. Although I have found each plumage feature to fit well with Short-toed and I believe my description of the voice to be a decent phonetic representation. Below is an excerpt from the description of the voice followed by annotated images ;

“I had been hoping/expecting to hear the Coal tit-like call to confirm my analysis of Short-toed treecreeper from plumage features. A couple of minutes later and I saw the Treecreeper fly back to the eastern end of the fence and begin working its way down towards me again, I knew I needed better photos and was sitting in the grass waiting for it to emerge when – “duii…duei…tduiit” – it called loudly from right in front to me, three Coal tit-like notes with the last sounding fractionally longer. An adrenaline moment! These same notes were heard again moments before the bird flew off down the cliff face towards more suitable cover and not seen again.”

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I also think that the site and structure on which I found the bird should be mentioned; a rusty metal fence right on the cliff face above the port of Dover, not exactly an excellent place to be a treecreeper for any length of time and suggestive that the bird was fairly freshly arrived, feeds into the find and perhaps the ID nicely.

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Back in the Zone with a lovely Casp

Today went to plan; I just wanted to see a nice Caspian Gull in the grey gloom of the Thames estuary after all those colourful Floridian birds in baking hot sunshine. Well we had some sun today but the Thames was grey brown as usual and a very elegant first winter Caspian Gull entertained Myself, Dante and Rich for a while at Erith.

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It seems to be a Bird Dante had at Rainham last week so hopefully will stick around.

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There were more waders on the exposed mud at Erith than ive ever seen: Perhaps 100+ Dunlin, c75 Black Tailed Godwits and many Redshank.

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Dante and I went to check if the Penduline Tit was still at Crossness and after a while waiting was heard to call and in fact came into pishing close to the Hide/screen. Nice light and great to watch, in fact my closest views of this species in the uk.

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Miami Dec ’19

Back to Miami for work at what I now think is the perfect time to get out of the uk for 2 weeks. Similar birds and in some cases the exact same individuals but a few differences and more of one thing, less of another for example I saw no swallows last year but this year I saw a flock of 200 Northern Rough-winged and perhaps 150 Tree Swallows. Its such a great place to watch incredible birds all before work in the morning or on the occasional half days off from hard graft.

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Unsurprisingly my focus was on Warblers and again it was relatively easy to see the common wintering species in the parks and green spaces. I beat my total of 15 last year with 16 species this year.

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Black-and-white warbler

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Northern Parulas

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American Redstarts

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Fem Black-throated Blue

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Ovenbird

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Prairie Warblers

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Yellow-Throated Warblers

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Myrtle Warbler

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Pine Warblers

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Common Yellowthroat

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Orange-crowned Warblers

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Nashville Warbler

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 (Western) Palm Warbler

Cape may, Magnolia, Black throated Green were also seen a few times but no photography thereof.

I enjoyed the following Hermit Thrush for about 20 minutes, the only one ive seen in Miami, Its crazy to think at that moment there was Graham’s bird on st Marys making the same movements, lovely bird.

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The below Summer Tanager was a tick for me, I saw it in the spot where I found a Western Tanager last year – a Florida Rarity.

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I recognized a buzzy little call from spring in Ontario – Indigo buntings, a small flock not exactly in their finery but still nice (below)

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An Inqusitive White-eyed Vireo came in to some pishing.

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The only sparrow Ive seen in Miami itself, a Chipping Sparrow was present in my ‘warbler spot’ one morning

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Broad-winged (Below), Red-tailed, Short-tailed and Red-shouldered (following pic) Hawks were seen as well as Coopers and Sharp shinned.

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Osprey

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TV’s

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(Above) The same Yellow-crowned Night heron that I saw every day last year on my walks into work, along with an Eastern Phoebe along the same fence line as last year and a Ringed Royal Tern. Its mad to think these are the same individuals, especially the phoebe which will no doubt migrate north for the summer and return next winter to the same spot, abit like me!

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Tricolored Heron

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Some nice 1st winter Ring-billed Gulls for good measure.

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The waders are special, mostly very tame and in good numbers.

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Short-billed Dowitchers

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Semi-palmated plover (showing off its 2 best close up id features in this pic: the white in the throat coming above the gape line aswell as the palmations, just about)

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Least Sandpipers

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Willet

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Piping Plover

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Spotted Sandpipers

Again I didnt make it to the everglades but lazily wandering around bumping into warbler flocks is exactly what I had the energy for this trip.

 

 

 

East Norfolk mid November

A weekend away to see family and what better place than to meet half way (my fam all live up north) than coastal Norfolk. A cheap and cheerful cottage near Hembsy right on the beach was our base for 2 nights and I did my best to fit in abit of birding here and there.

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Saturday morning I was up and out on the beach at first light and happened upon a mobile flock of 43 Snow buntings. the long and empty beach was perfect for them and its contours allowed some close viewing.

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After breakfast we got in the car and headed north west to Holkham where I was able to covertly twitch the Humes Warbler and a juv Rough Legged Buzzard near by.

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I really enjoyed the warbler, it was vocal and showed well enough. Chameleonic at times but the overall tones were noted, aseemingly warmer individual compared to the bird i saw last year in Sussex. I love the call and really hope to come across my own one day.

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The following day was started in a similar way with a smaller number of Snow buntings, a Firecrest near the cottage and 2 waxwings (that had been seen flying the opposite direction just before dusk the evening before) fly over head to and from an unknown location. Norfolks great, Ive not been up for a few years and might try again before spring.

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