We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when….

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Daphne, a birding friend of mine inspired me to write this post after asking about a bird picture I posted on my facebook page. The bird in question was a Chough (Red-billed), one of my favorite birds from back home. I told Daphne in my reply that the Chough would easily make the Top 10 list of birds I miss from back home. So, what other species would make that top 10 “I miss them so” list?

Barnacle Goose

You have to go visit Caerlaverock Wildfowl & Wetland Trust Reserve in Scotland during the winter and watch the spectacular flocks of Barnacle Geese. A beautiful bird set against a backdrop of beautiful Scottish scenery.

Manx Shearwater

Sitting on the lush green grass atop a towering limestone cliff in SW Wales watching 200,000 Manxies gathering offshore is one of the birding highlights of my life and I got to experience it many times. One of the benefits of living within view of the world’s largest colony of this hardy ocean wanderer.

Great Skua

The “Bonxie” (the gaelic name for Great Skua) is quite simply a bad ass bird! If there was a parallel universe where Stan Lee created super hero birds, then the Great Skua would be The Incredible Hulk. I’ve seen hundreds of them but I’m always excited when I spot another one. There is only one other bird that provokes a similar emotional reaction for me and that’s my favorite bird, the Peregrine Falcon. I’ve seen a Peregrine mobbing a Great Skua, a very memorable minute!

Northern Lapwing

One of the most beautiful shorebirds in the world. Their song and display is simply awesome. Banding lapwing chicks at Dungeness was great! The chicks are surprisingly fast runners!

Wood Pigeon

I remember looking at my first ever Wood Pigeon through a pair of binoculars from a blind at my primary school feeding station. The colors were so sharp. Seeing them reminds me of younger days exploring the Cheshire countryside.

Common Cuckoo

In North Cheshire spring had arrived when male Cuckoos, fresh in from Africa, were singing their name. We used to call back at them when I was a kid, a party trick I excelled at in later years. When a female flew right over our heads on a college field trip my professor looked at me in awe! If only I was as good at keying out plants as calling in cuckoos!

Common Redstart

Is there a more beautiful British songbird? Simply gorgeous. It’s always exciting to find one. One of my favorite birds to band, they’re so timid and patient. The male’s plumage is a masterpiece of nature!

Long-tailed Tit

We caught a whole family flock one day when I worked at Dungeness. We released them all together and watching and listening to them them fly off was hilarious. They have such tiny bodies and ridiculously long tails that they look comical when flying. Women literally lose their minds when they see long-tails.

Eurasian Siskin

The males are stunning. Every spring we would enjoy watching them visit our feeders, stopping for a few hours before migrating north. Dad and I still talk about siskins every spring. Of all the backyard birds I’ve enjoyed, the Eurasian Siskin is easily my favorite.

Red-billed Chough

And last but certainly not least is the coolest looking crow on earth. Yes it is a corvid (crow) and has an amazing call which I love to hear echoing off the towering cliffs along the Welsh coast. I was lucky enough to work in Pembrokeshire where there is a healthy population of Chough. We monitored several nests and I got to band a few chicks.

I hope you enjoyed watching the videos as much as I did. Heading over to Britain in June and I’m hoping I get to see a few of these species again.

Spoonie in Orlando 

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I never get tired of watching this beautiful and bizarre looking species.



This immature spoonie was feeding amongst a small group of Snowy Egrets.



I managed to capture a short slowmo iPhone scoped video of them, which includes a spot of aggressive territorial behavior.

Roseate Spoonbill attacks!

Later in the day I got an iPhone picture of a handsome Red-tailed Hawk.



F’ it Friday!

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Pine Siskin

Florida Kids Care about Conservation

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I’m so proud of Maisie and Campbell for doing such a great job. Thanks Alicia Wellman and Dave Heller for putting this together and promoting the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail.

 

Chipola Feather Fest – Panhandle Birding at its BEST!

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Between April 24th and 26th Jackson, Calhoun, Gadsden, and Washington County will play host to the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail’s 1st annual Chipola Feather Fest. It promises to be an exciting event providing participants with great opportunities to see the little known bird life of the Central Florida Panhandle. I’ll be leading several trips and presenting workshops.

The area is home to the world’s largest population of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers…over 600 clusters can be found in Apalachicola National Forest. Join RCW expert Greg Schrott for a great field trip to this beautiful forest.

picture by David Moynahan
picture by David Moynahan

Festival organizers have put together convenient packages for one-stop shop birders.

Interested in woodpeckers? There’s a package for that! Are you a beginner or intermediate birder? Register for the Beginner’s package, which includes field trips and workshops that will give you the tools to improve your birding skills.

What other species will participants have the opportunity to see?

Bachman's Sparrow at Apalachee WMA
Bachman’s Sparrow at Apalachee WMA
Swainson's Warbler in Jackson County
Swainson’s Warbler in Jackson County
Cliff Swallow at Jim Woodruff Dam -  largest colony in Florida
Cliff Swallow at Jim Woodruff Dam – largest colony in Florida
brilliant blue Indigo Buntings are relatively common in the festival area
brilliant blue Indigo Buntings are relatively common in the festival area
When it comes to eye candy, Red-headed Woodpeckers are king
When it comes to eye candy, Red-headed Woodpeckers are king

For more information and/or to register for the festival VISIT THE FESTIVAL WEBSITE

An old friend returns

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On December 4th 2011while banding birds in my yard I caught an adult female Baltimore Oriole. She was the first oriole I banded. Every winter since that day she has visited our yard on an almost daily basis typically between November and March. She loves to eat grape jelly and suet from our feeders but we’ve also seen her eating beauty berries and holly berries. Where does she go for the rest of the year? No idea, but because she is banded we do know that for 4 consecutive winters she has been here in Tallahassee.

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Since I initially banded her in 2011 she has thwarted my attempts to recapture her. She knows exactly where the nets are! However today she had a momentary lapse, possibly due to the large numbers of nervous finches visiting our feeders. Julie spotted her flying into the net! It was an exciting moment, at least for us. The oriole was far from happy! I took her into the house, checked that her band was in good shape, measured her and studied her plumage. Her head, nape and mantle markings had gotten darker and she was more orange than she was 4 years previous. One interesting plumage feature was the atypical orange rear crown feathers. This standout plumage feature, one she had 4 years ago and every year since, has become more prominent.

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After taking several pictures I released her. She flew to a mulberry tree, and sat for awhile, no doubt relieved to have lived through her second abduction. When I banded her in 2011 I aged her as an adult, which means she will be at least 6 years old this summer! A ripe old age for a songbird. May she live for many more years and grace our yard again for winters yet to pass.

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Pine Siskins

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We’re experiencing an irruption of siskins in Florida this winter, which happens about once every 4-10 years. Birders around the state have been seeing and/or hearing small numbers of siskins since the fall but it’s only become apparent in recent weeks how big of an irruption it is. Many backyard birders are starting to see flocks of up to 30 siskins at their feeders but it’s difficult to assess how many total birds are involved as a feeder can only accommodate so many birds. Many are often sitting in trees out of view waiting their turn. Some are just stopping for a quick bite while migrating back north.

Backyard banding of finches in Tallahassee has shown that there is a daily turnover of birds. More research is needed. Future project?

I banded my first ever Pine Siskin today.

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Bachman’s Sparrow

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Sometimes the birds just cooperate when we least expect them too! This Bachman’s Sparrow decided a cold, windy, rainy day in February was perfect for sitting in the open allowing scope views and pictures. Cheers!

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Chillaxin with yard birds

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So birding is going to be a little tough over the next month or so because I have a ruptured ear drum in my left ear caused by a nasty ear infection. As it’s the Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend we decided it would be best to chillax at home and enjoy our yard birds, a perfect way to help me recover from what had been an exhausting week. Friday night, Julie suggested I bust out the mist net. It was a great idea…beaucoup fun!

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Hermit Thrush: such a pleasant bird to handle.

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American Goldfinch: I caught a whole bunch of these guys. The males are starting to look gorgeous.

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Baltimore Oriole: always a delight to see this species in our yard.

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There were tons of American Robins & Cedar Waxwings in the neighborhood this weekend.

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We very rarely get Eastern Bluebirds in our yard so it was a big surprise to catch this stunning male.

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It’s always fun catching our local resident species too. The Brown Thrasher was really noisy! Being deaf in one ear certainly helped. LOL

Eider Down

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This one survived seeing me… I know of at least one other birder who saw it after Maisie and I saw it.

Saw what?

The Common Eider of course! On Amelia Island…Florida Lifer #391!

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