Monday, 23 September 2013

Chipperfield - 22.9.13

After a quick pop to the shops a Buzzard was seen circling over Kings Langley followed by another a few minutes later over the flat but this one was being mobbed by a Raven!

Cassiobury Park - 23.9.13

Almost an exact copy of the last few days in the park with a Sparrowhawk flying over the meadow closely pursued by 2 RN Parakeets. A Grey Wagtail flew over the canal and a Meadow Pipit flew over the pools. Mistle Thrush numbers hit 21.

Cassiobury Park - 20.9.13

Another Sparrowhawk flew through the golf course and a Grey Wagtail was by the canal. Mid morning 2 Meadow Pipit flew over the pools.

Cassiobury Park - 19.9.13

The usual suspects were seen again today with a Sparrowhawk heading over the meadow and a Coal Tit by the yard. A Meadow Pipit flew over the pools.

Cassiobury Park - 18.9.13

A male Mandarin was reported on the canal to me first thing but the only other bird of note was while I was having my lunch. The door was open and I thought I heard a Raven 'cronking' but as soon as I stepped out the door it had stopped. But then as soon as id sat down again it called again! This time I picked it up circling fairly high and even managed to get my work mates on it before it headed off east.

Cassiobury Park - 17.9.13

A Sparrowhawk flew over the yard first thing. Mistle Thrush numbers had now grown to 16 but that number was small compared to the tit flock that exploded out of a tree by the pools. There was at least 40 Blue Tit and 20 each of Great and Long-Tailed.

Cassiobury Park - 13.9.13

8 Swallow headed NE followed by a Grey Wagtail over the pools. In the afternoon a Rook flew over the tennis courts while on the courts were 2 Pied Wagtail consisting of an adult and a juv.

Cassiobury Park - 12.9.13

A Grey Wagtail flew along the canal and a Meadow Pipit flew over the car park. Mistle Thrush numbers had risen to 12.

Cassiobury Park - 11.9.13

9 Mistle Thrush were near the log benches and a Grey Wagtail flew over the paddling pools. By the car park a Coal Tit was calling loudly and the Chiffchaff was singing again.

Cassiobury Park - 10.9.13

The sun caused a Chiffchaff to briefly sing and 8 House Martin were overhead.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Cassiobury Park - 9.9.13

Just 11 Mistle Thrush and 8 Magpie were the mornings highlights but a Meadow Pipit that flew over the paddling pools in the afternoon brightened up a miserable day.

Wilstone Reservoir - 7.9.13

After dragging ourselves out of bed a trip into Watford town centre was needed to change our travel money back and to buy a few things. I was a couple of minutes away from the car park when my phone went off but being the good driver that I am I didn't answer it but waited till I had parked to listen to the voicemail. It was Joan Thompson with news that the first Herts Spotted Crake since 1996 had been found at Wilstone Reservoir. Just what I needed when I was about to walk around the shops! Once home I grabbed my bins and Tom and drove up. I nabbed a space in the car park and we wandered around to the jetty to join Lucy Flower, Roy Hargreaves, Brendan Glynn and Ephraim Perfect and a few others. There had been no sign for nearly an hour but within 20 minutes Roy said he had it and sure enough there it was albeit distantly. It soon went into the reeds and as everyone left I stuck it out for a bit longer which proved to be a good thing as I picked out what I thought was the bird but it soon vanished. But as I decided to leave I turned round and found Dave Bilcock hidden behind a Willow to be told it was on show! I had a quick look in his scope before he was kind enough to find it in mine and for the next 5 minutes we watched it as it walked towards cemetery corner but still distant. This was only my 2nd ever in the UK after a juv at Grove Ferry in 2002 and only my 2nd county tick of the year. We hung around hoping for better views but it again went into the reeds but just then young Ted Wallen who had turned up with his dad Phil suddenly shouted Osprey and sure enough from behind the Willow appeared my first Osprey at Tring reservoirs and first of the year. 2 juv Garganey were the last bird of note to be seen and I managed to get Tom to see all 3 good birds but whether it'll get him interested in birds is yet to be seen!!

Cassiobury Park - 4.9.13

Just one bird of note today that being a Buzzard circling over the meadow.

Cassiobury not Central Park! - 3.9.13

Back to work and back to the park. It was a weird feeling after being in Central Park as every bird that I saw I was still expecting to be a colourful American bird! A Sparrowhawk flew over the yard and on the canal were 21 Mallard. A Chiffchaff and Kingfisher were near the waterfall.

Home To Dip - 2.9.13

While waiting for our cab back to the airport for the return journey home I managed to pick up some wifi in the hotel lobby and in cam emails telling me that there was a Wryneck in a place called Stapleford near Hertford. The flight landed and I asked if it was still present to which the answer was yes. So after Carey's mum had kindly dropped us at home I grabbed my optics and headed off in the hope of adding a bird to my county list. I arrived on site 40 minutes later to the news it hadn't been seen for over an hour. I stuck it out for 2 hours but to no avail and added another Wryneck dip to my Herts list. This one was the 3rd after missing one at Norton Green by an hour and the Tyttenhanger bird by 30 minutes although that bird was only seen for a few seconds by the finder before disappearing. So it wasn't the best of starts back home and I knew that it would be seen again and so it was at around 6.30pm and that was the last sighting.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Boston - 20.8.13

6 months to the day since we had booked our American/Canadian adventure we had finally arrived in after a 7 hour plane journey. Unfortunately my first experience of life over the pond was to have to queue up for 2 hours to get through immigration as out of the 40 booths just 10 were open. Due to this wait the rest of the day was limited to getting to the hotel and getting something to eat! Though the view from the hotel room mainly consisted of road and car park I still managed to get 2 lifers. Lots of AMERICAN HERRING GULLS of all ages were milling around and what I didn't know was the next door was the national convention centre which doubled up as a pretty big gull roost! GBB and Ring-Billed Gulls were in number too. The 2nd lifer was an unexpected one given the surroundings. A NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD flew up to land on part of the hotel roof but was too far for a photo.

Boston - 21.8.13

Red-Winged Blackbird, Common Grackle + View of Boston
Our first full day in Boston and we had pre booked a whale watching cruise out of the harbour. Even early in the morning it was boiling hot but thankfully once out of the harbour the cool wind picked up and for a few hours we were able to escape the heat. American Herring and Ring-Billed Gulls were everywhere and 7 Canada Geese were in the harbour. After 5 minutes of sailing the first good bird of the day was seen when a Bonaparte's Gull flew behind the boat. As we sailed past the islands offshore I had a scan and picked out my first ever AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHER. What I didn't realise was that this would be the only identified wader I would see all throughout my holiday! 3 Eider then flew alongside and past us and a handful of Gannet appeared. Just then the boat suddenly stopped and a just to one side of us was a Basking Shark. It obviously didn't want to be seen as it immediately dived and disappeared. Eventually some 20 miles offshore we saw the main prize when a Humpback Whale jumped out of the water and cam splashing down. Over the next hour or so we watched two of them as they broke the waters surface showing their hump backs and large tails. They were identified by the crew as Silla and Pinball. The commotion had brought in 25+ Wilson's Petrel that danced on the water around the whales. As we headed back to shore a Minke Whale put in as brief an appearance as the Basking Shark. 2 Sandwich Tern and a juv Laughing Gull were seen.

Back in the city and the heat again hit us so we bought some water and headed to Beacon Park to sit in the shade of the trees. As soon as we walked in my first COMMON GRACKLE was feeding with Starlings. Eventually I realised there were quite a few dotted around. As we sat by the lake in the public gardens 5 more lifers made into my notebook. A RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD landed by the waters edge for a drink and a MOURNING DOVE flew overhead. I then noticed up above the trees were 12 CHIMNEY SWIFT and they looked just as they are described as flying cigars! A male NORTHERN CARDINAL then made his presence known by calling loudly. An unknown warbler sp then flew past me but I couldn't relocate it and just as we were heading to the Cheers Bar of TV fame across the road a stunning RED-TAILED HAWK flew past and perched up in trees by the path.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Boston + Spectacle Island - 22.8.13

Cedar Waxwing
Cooper's Hawk
Black Swallowtail?
Grey Catbird
American Robin
American Goldfinch + House Finch
Ring-Billed Gull
Northern Mockingbird
Double-Crested Cormorants
Mourning Dove
Song Sparrow
Monarch Butterfly
Whilst on yesterdays whale cruise we travelled past a group of small islands some of which you could visit so after a quick breakfast we wandered up to the quay where the boat travelled from. On the way 2 Peregrine Falcon flew over and a male Northern Cardinal sang from a roadside tree. After booking our tickets we had a short wait till the boat sailed so we waited in Chris Colombus park. Within minutes I noticed a BLUE JAY foraging in the grass then fly up to feed a young bird in a nearby tree. Shortly after I heard an unfamiliar call from overhead which got closer till a group of 6 birds landed on some weeds in a flower bed and once in the bins I saw that it was a family party of AMERICAN GOLDFINCH including a cracking male. 5+ Ring-Billed Gull were around the harbour. It was then time to go to Spectacle Island and after 20 minutes we had arrived. The first bird I saw was an adult Laughing Gull on the pier and then the next 4 hours it went tick crazy! By the visitors centre an adult Red-winged Blackbird was feeding with more American Goldfinches. 2 Mourning Dove flew over closely followed by my first ever Monarch Butterfly and presumably Black Swallowtail that fluttered by. A handful of hirundines above the trees contained at least 3 TREE SWALLOW and a few yards down the path I noticed a small group of birds fly catching from the tree tops. They were only 6 CEDAR WAXWING!! I watched them for a good 5 minutes before I realised I'd been bitten on the leg by a Horse fly. I stopped at a bench to apply some bite cream when suddenly all the small birds became agitated and when I looked up I saw the reason why. A COOPER'S HAWK was patrolling the skies. I went and had another quick look at the waxwings and up popped a GREAT CRESTED FLYCATCHER. The hirundine flock then moved overhead again and with them was a single CLIFF SWALLOW along with their American Barn Swallow cousins. It was 10 minutes later before more ticks came my way when an EASTERN KINGBIRD sat alongside the path in a small copse of trees. Also in the copse were 2 more lifers with a GREY CATBIRD and a LEAST FLYCATCHER along with a juv American Robin. We then headed back to the visitor centre and a Chimney Swift flew over. Once back at the centre I sat down at a picnic bench to watch the birds coming down to feed on presumably seed put out for them. 5 Mourning Dove were joined by a handful of American Goldfinch and then I realised some of the grey/brown birds were actually HOUSE FINCH. I'd seen the bird in the UK down in Devon but these were the first confirmed wild birds I'd seen. All of a sudden I realised there was a sparrow sp in front of me. A quick check of my book and the black spot on the front of the breast surrounded by heavy streaking told me it was a SONG SPARROW. I managed a half decent pic but the boat was on its way back so I packed away my camera gear. This turned out to be fatal as after a Northern Mockingbird showed distantly another sparrow sp dropped in as I was walking away. This one I knew straight away what it was after seeing photos of this species after they had turned up on the Azores. It was a LINCOLN'S SPARROW but with me having to walk by to get to the boat it flew up and out of sight. A truly great 4 hours!

Toronto - 23.8.13

Our last day in Boston but not much time to get out as we had a flight to Toronto. Due to a mix up with the airlines we were reserved on the flight but our tickets hadn't been confirmed so after a nervous wait we got on via the standby list. Once there I spotted a Cooper's Hawk from the plane perched on a runway light and on the taxi journey to the hotel I spotted an AMERICAN KESTREL sat on a power line. We later found out the hotel was the largest in Toronto and also was situated on the world's longest road (Yonge Street).

Toronto - 24.8.13

My first ever Black Squirrel
As part of the bus tour ticket we had bought we had a voucher for a free boat ride around the harbour islands. We set off and found out that the woman giving the guided talk was from Newcastle even though her accent was a mix of Canadian, Welsh and Geordie and every other sentence was finished off with a porn like Yeahhh! On and around the islands were at least 500 Ring-Billed Gulls with quite a few Double-Crested Cormorants sat at the end of the little airstrip. An adult Eastern Kingbird flew by and out of view but the best bird was a male BELTED KINGFISHER that flew up into the top of a dead tree and showed well.

Niagra Falls - 25.8.13

Turkey Vulture, Brown-Headed Cowbird + View from the restaurant.
When we booked our holiday we also booked a trip out to see the famous falls on the US/Canada border. We were picked up in a large blacked out 12 seater vehicle which thankfully had air-con! On the journey Common Grackle and Mourning Dove were seen in the city but just outside of Oakville I saw my first crow of the trip perched on a lamppost. It was an AMERICAN CROW even though we were in Canada! As we drove over a bridge near the eastern end of Lake Ontario a Caspian Tern flew up and alongside the van. As it was a tour bus we were driven around to different vantage points to view the falls. One such vantage point near the bridge/barrage I had a quick scan out over the water and saw a juv American Black Tern flying up and down. Thankfully I'd seen the Farmoor reservoir bird so I knew what I was looking at! Just then a small flock of hirundines flew overhead. Consisting mainly of Swallow and Sand Martin I noticed a plain brown bird with a white belly and undertail feathers which curved around to the top of the tail. It was a NORTHERN ROUGH-WINGED SWALLOW. Frustratingly we had to get back on to the bus to go around the the top of the falls so I didn't have much time to study it further. At the top of the falls a Song Sparrow was singing from a bush and after visiting the gift shop I wandered past a couple of juv Starling. I then did a double take and realised that Starling doesn't have a thick bill and shiny covert feathers when moulting. Once my brain had ticked into gear I realised they were juv BROWN-HEADED COWBIRDS! After an amazing trip on the Maid of the Mist right up to the falls we had lunch then headed off to Niagra-on-the-lake and on the way I counted over 20 TURKEY VULTURES. On the way home a BROAD-WINGED HAWK was seen while we were sat in traffic.

Toronto - 26.8.13

Our last day in Toronto as and we hadn't managed to get to High Park the other day we got up to go to Spadina Quay wetlands which sounded promising. We left the hotel in light rain but as we walked towards the city the heavens opened and a large thunderstorm erupted. We sheltered in a shopping mall and bought an umbrella and put on our rain coats only to walk out into blazing sun and high humidity! As we reached the shoreline it started raining again so we had a quick drink and once the rain had stopped we walked towards the wetlands. Never has the trades description act been needed more as we walked past the 'wetlands' as it was a tiny area where apparently Pike had bred and Night Herons and Toads could be seen. The small area of water had become totally overgrown and had rubbish in it and the only bird of note was a male American Goldfinch! Disappointed we walked on a little further hoping that we had been mistaken and the wetlands were along the path but no we had found it and it was rubbish! The walk wasn't a complete disaster as 3 PINE SISKIN flew over and onto my list.

New York - 27.8.13

Magnolia Warbler (honestly!)
After arriving in the Big Apple and settling into our hotel we walked the 2 blocks to the western side of Central Park. I had heard from other birders what the park has to offer and I was eager to find out for myself. At least 6 American Robin were near the entrance and a Red-Tailed Hawk flew through annoying the local Blue Jays. Common Grackle were also noted but a small bird fly catching from a fir tree saw me heading its way. Thinking it was a flycatcher of some sort I was pleased to see it was a warbler. But what one?! Good views were had but as you can see from the photo above it was pretty mobile! The dark streaking along the sides of the yellow breast coupled with a yellow rump and white patches on the upper tail eventually led me to ID it as my first ever MAGNOLIA WARBLER. It then flew over my head to another tree before going missing as the sun disappeared behind the neighbouring skyscrapers.

Riverside Park - 28.8.13

1 of the 3 Night Heron
No not the Riverside Park in Watford but the 4 mile long park on the east side of Manhattan along the Hudson river! Today was the only day of the holiday that I didn't add a new species to the list. A few Double-Crested Cormorant and Ring-Billed Gull were seen perched up on wooden poles in the river but half way along the park I came across 3 Night Heron sat out in the open on rusty metal beams. If only they did that back home!

Empire State + Central Park - 29.8.13

Northern Cardinal + American Robin
After having breakfast on the roof garden of our hotel we headed off to visit the world famous Empire State Building. We had timed it well as we walked straight through without any queues and after 2 lift journeys we were at the viewing platform looking out over famous landmarks such as the Chrysler Building and the new World Trade skyscraper. Just before we were going to leave I picked up a large bird of prey heading south over the southern end of Central Park. Thinking it was one of the famous Red-Tailed Hawks I fished my bins out of my rucksack and to my surprise I found myself looking at an Osprey! Not what I was expecting to see while I was 100 floors up!

Next stop was to Highline Park which is a disused railway line that has been transformed into a mini nature reserve with a boardwalk through the middle and shrubs either side. We only walked half of it as by now it was scorching hot but I did see a Monarch Butterfly on one of the flowering shrubs. We then walked up to Times Square to catch the tour bus and drive around the top end of the park and through Harlem and we jumped on board just as it was leaving. We got off on the east side of the park and quickly visited the Metropolitan museum of art as I wanted to see a flight of intricately carved wooden stairs! These weren't any ordinary stairs but they came from the original Cassiobury House that stood in Cassiobury Park until 1912 when it was demolished! Very nice they were too!

We soon left and walked back through the park to the hotel and on the way I had a look over Turtle Pond complete with its many Turtles and on the far side with some Mallards was a fine drake WOOD DUCK. After all the escaped birds I've seen back home it was nice to see a wild one! At least 6 Grey Catbird and a similar number of Northern Cardinal followed us along the paths through the ramble until I noticed a movement in the trees just off the path. I got onto it through my bins and could see it was a warbler with a white eye stripe and a patch of white feathers on the wing bend. I had a quick scan through my book and found it was a female BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER! Shame it wasn't a male but it was a lifer none the less. It soon disappeared only to be replaced with a lovely flash of yellow from my first ever AMERICAN REDSTART! It showed a couple more times before vanishing. Out on the field areas were 40+ American Robin.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Central Park - 30.8.13

Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher + Red-Tailed Hawk.
As it was my birthday I decided to treat myself and join up with a guided bird walk around the park. Unfortunately for me the meeting point was the Conservatory Garden on E 106th street and I was staying along W 63rd street! Ahead of me lay a 40 minute walk but I didn't mind one bit and once I'd reached the reservoir I noted 3 Double-Crested Cormorant. Just to make sure I was heading in the right direction I asked 2 of the park staff where I should head and shortly after leaving them I spotted a movement in a tree up ahead. To my amazement it was a lovely little TENNEESEE WARBLER. It soon flew off so I went and joined the group that was being led by Debbie Allen and within minutes a pinky male House Finch was seen. The second lifer of the day was a CAROLINA WREN singing from a bush that was identified by John Day who over the two walks helped me get onto the birds and give me pointers on what they are (so thanks John!) and then a strange sight was a Great White Egret that flew high overhead. The first of possibly 15 female/juv American Redstart was seen followed by my third lifer of the morning when a female DOWNY WOODPECKER hopped around on a tree. The first of 4 Common Yellowthroat was heard calling then seen in a shrub bed before a juv Red-Tailed Hawk showed brilliantly perched in a tree. 5 more lifers soon followed. A NORTHERN FLICKER perched up on the top of a dead tree. A juv CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER that showed well for a few seconds. But in between I missed out on a male Black-Throated Blue Warbler but scored with a lovely female BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER and a brief Empidonax flycatcher was seen but not ID'd but another flycatcher was seen with a Great-Crested Flycatcher. But then the one bird I wanted to see more than any other suddenly appeared in the tree next to us. A gorgeous male BLACK AND WHITE WARBLER moved around the tree Nuthatch like. While I was watching it someone found an adult BLUE-WINGED WARBLER up ahead and my gaze was averted to watch it. A Night Heron was perched in a Willow tree by one of the small ponds and in the woods I saw my first ever CHIPMUNK! Later in the day Carey and I had a wander and I had 2 Coopers Hawk fly over.

Central Park - 31.8.13

Record shots of the Olive-Sided Flycatcher, Veery and Baltimore Oriole.
After yesterdays great birthday walk around the park I went along again in the hope of some more lifers around the parks famous ramble. We met up at the boathouse on the eastern side of the lake and while chatting to John I noticed 4 birds distantly over his shoulder. I got them in the bins and was pleased to see they were Chimney Swifts. Quite quickly I saw a bird fly from a dead branch catch an insect and fly back. I alerted the group and they were happy to ID it as an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER apparently not that common a bird in the park. Either this bird or another 2 were seen throughout the walk. As the walk got under way another flycatcher was seen then heard giving a lovely Pee-Wee sound. There in front of us was my first ever EASTERN WOOD PEE-WEE. The birds then came thick and fast with both male and female Black and White Warbler followed by my first ever RED-EYED VIREO one of 3-4 on the walk. In a group of trees and bushes 2 more lifers were seen with a WARBLING VIREO which we heard another couple singing later on and just below it myself and 1 other birder picked out a SWAINSON'S THRUSH. A few yards away a female CANADA WARBLER showed well. In the tree next a gorgeous black and red male American Redstart flitted over. A Least Flycatcher was followed by 3 House Finch by a stream. They were then joined by a stunning male Baltimore Oriole and an equally stunning male BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER which was nice to see after missing the male by a second or two the day before. A Parula Warbler then gave a single burst of song but frustratingly wasn't seen. A Carolina Wren showed briefly in the same flowering shrub with my first ever VEERY. We then walked on a little further before a small group in front of us alerted us to a stunning LAWRENCE'S WARBLER. This bird is the hybrid offspring of Golden-Winged and Blue-Winged Warbler and had been seen the previous day but nonetheless was a cracking looking bird and well worth seeing. This started off another mad few minutes with a BLUE-GREY GNATCATHER overhead and a WORM-EATING WARBLER nearby. I then picked up a distant movement and found I was looking at a lovely YELLOW WARBLER. Unfortunately it  flew before anyone else could see it. It must have been 15 minutes before I saw my next lifer when a RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER dropped onto a tree in front of us but just as I was going to get a photo it flew off. On the last leg of our walk back to the boathouse I picked up what I thought was a small thrush a few feet ahead of us but once I had it in my bins I realised it was another lifer for me in the shape of an OVENBIRD. The final birds of the day were two Magnolia Warbler chasing each other through the trees.

Central Park - 1.9.13

The hummingbird bush!

After finding out where the best place for Hummingbirds was myself and Carey payed an early morning visit to Strawberry Fields to a clump of orange flowered plants. I only had to wait 2 minutes and then in flew my first ever RUBY-THROATED HUMMINGBIRD. It was a female with its white tail tips and sped around the flowers feeding on the nectar. It showed well for a few minutes even perching in a nearby tree briefly before it flew off and didn't return in the 15 minutes I waited.

After that excitement we headed off for our last walk in the park of the holiday. Quickly 2 Carolina Wren were found and gave me my best showing so far and then after a while we bumped into the bird walk group. I had another chat with John and introduced him to Carey and while we were chatting 2 birds flitted up onto dead branches nearby. As others got on them they were tentatively ID'd as Least Flycatcher with their bold eyering and flicking tail. It then went mad and a quiet wander through the ramble turned into a 15 minute bird fest! I picked up an adult Chestnut-Sided Warbler to our left quickly followed by a Black and White Warbler to the right and then the call went up saying 2 Yellow Warbler were infront of us. An Eastern Wood Pee-Wee was next onto the list and just as we said our goodbyes another small group of birders found what turned out to be my first view of a PARULA WARBLER which was a relief after yesterdays brief snippet of song. On the way back out of the woods a bird popped up a foot to my right. It was a cracking male Black-Throated Blue Warbler!!

So after 2 amazing weeks I managed 57 new species including 13 species of warbler.