Thursday, 29 October 2015

Gulberwick - Cott (again!) - 2.10.15

Shetland Ponies!
We spent the first couple of hours exploring what our village had to offer. As it turned out it wasn't much! 20+ Golden Plover, Redwing and 3 Snipe was all that we turned up.

Male Siskin
We then decided to have another crack at finding Otter by heading to Vidlin. Luckily the rain stopped but unluckily we didn't find any Otter. 4 Whooper Swan (3 adult + 1 Juv) on a nearby loch were nice but the highlight near the ferry terminal was a flock of 5 Siskin feeding on thistles.

Our next stop was Swining. Apparently the last house here is owned by Simon King but whether that's true I don't know! It was a beautiful little spot though with a small stream and a few mature trees at the end of a small track adjacent to a Voe. Expecting to see another YB Warbler when I spied a bird fly out of tree and back in I was pleased to find it was the first Pied Flycatcher of the trip. But other than a Willow Warbler and a dead Hedgehog that was it!

Despite not being masochists we then headed back to Cott for the 3rd time in as many days for the Arctic Warbler. Again early signs weren't good. Everyone left as we arrived as they had just seen it and I picked out the/another YB Warbler. But just as I was walking down to view its favoured tree Brendon said there it is. Thankfully I got back to them just in time to see the bird as it crept up a tree before it disappeared again. 5+ hours of searching for a 5 second view but it was worth the wait in the end and it was duly added to the notebook! 3rd time lucky I guess?

Virkie - Catfirth - 1.10.15

With nothing new to go and see we went looking for our own birds and to try and boost the trip list. Before we'd even left Gulberwick a Merlin zoomed through after a poor passerine. We headed to the famous Pool of Virkie and bumped into the other group who had already cleared up what was on offer! Here we saw Grey Plover, Ruff, Bar-Tailed Godwit, Knot and Goldeneye with a few Pink-Footed Geese and a Lesser Redpoll flying over.

I then suggested going to visit the Sumburgh Hotel and have a walk around its famous garden. The list of things seen here is impressive so imagine my surprise when I saw the garden! Far from being wild and overgrown there was a small lawn with stone walls and and L-shaped area of no more than a dozen trees! Despite this lack of cover I still managed to pick up the 2 YB Warblers reported but failed to find the Spotted Flycatcher. A Snipe took off from a flooded field nearby and another Lesser Redpoll flew over briefly landing on the aerial of the hotel.

We looked on the map to see where to head next and it was decided to head just along the road to Hestingott. Here we stood alongside another tiny garden but with a bit more cover but in the 20 minutes or so we were there we had another 2 YB Warbler (are you sensing a theme here?!) and a fairly showy Red-Breasted Flycatcher. This unremarkable garden over a couple of days had held these 2 species plus Barred Warbler and Blyth's Reed Warbler!

We then got news that the Arctic Warbler had been seen again so off we headed towards Cott. On arrival the others were already here and despite heavy drizzle we stuck it out again for nearly 2 hours only for a YB Warbler to be seen. Fed up with this bird we set off again only to get a missed call from Brendan G that it had showed again soon after we left!

We headed to Catfirth with the intention of finding Otter but despite our best effort we had no luck. Only a Black Guillemot, a few Eider and another Slavonian Grebe were see. A quick trudge alongside the nearby plantation saw only a Goldcrest added to the list.

Wester Quarff - Weisdale Voe - 30.9.15

Red-Breasted Flycatcher
We started the day with a short trip down the road to Wester Quarff. Here we were out of the wind and in the sun it felt quite pleasant. Again as soon as we had stepped out the car we picked up a Yellow-Browed Warbler with Brendon picking one out in a small tree behind us. We then walked along the road to a well vegetated and tree filled garden where after a good scan we picked out the 2 Red-Breasted Flycatcher, Chiffchaff and at least 3 more YB Warbler. One of the latter even flew across the road and perched up on a barbed wire fence before realising it probably wasn't very safe to do so! Brendon then tried his luck with finding an Otter as me and Steve wandered further up the road. In the next mature garden we found a further 2 YB Warbler and a Lesser Redpoll overhead while out on the water 2 female Red-Breasted Merganser and a Black Guillemot were noted.

Pechora Pipit courtesy of Chris Sharp
Loch of Norby
Whooper Swan
After this success we headed towards Loch of Norby in the hope of connecting with yesterdays Pechora Pipit. After what seemed an eternity driving through barren areas we arrived and parked up next to the farm and were dismayed to find just 2 other birders! The loch was fairly sizeable and so trying to find a pipit somewhere on the edge of it was daunting. We followed the other 2 in and I walked along the edge of the loch which thankfully had been mostly trodden down by birders the previous day. We had walked the entire shore with nothing but Meadow Pipits for our trouble when taking the last few steps in the last 6ft of shore before we hit the farm a bird flew out and alighted on some pallets. It was hidden for me behind some weeds but luckily one of the other birders was higher up and shouted Pechora Pipit. I moved left and got it in the bins for a couple of seconds before it flew onto a tractor trailer and then off over our heads back into the iris bed. Luckily for me I'd seen the bird in Wales a few years ago but the other 2 still needed it so back we walked and after it flying a couple of times it finally perched up on a gate for the other to see well before we left it in the hands of a group of German birders! On the loch was a nice drake Scaup and back at the car a smaller loch held a flock of Wigeon, 3 Gadwall and 3 adult Whooper Swan. Offshore a single Black Guillemot was seen.

Little Gull
After a spot of lunch we headed back towards home but not before stopping off at a tiny place called Cott where in the garden of the last house was an Arctic Warbler. The strange thing with this bird is that it was tail-less just like the Arctic Warbler that spent a few days on Unst! Presuming its the same bird what are the chances of it being re-found on such an expanse of islands! As was usual practice we spent an hour or so looking for it having missed it by seconds on arrival but with no joy. Our 7th YB Warbler of the day was scant consolation but Steve got me onto two grebes out in the Weisdale Voe and to my surprise they were two winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe which were a welcome year tick. Just before joining the main road we stopped off and scanned through the gull flock and found the Little Gull that had been around for a couple of days. Apparently not that common on Shetland.

Mainland - 29.9.15

The day started off at Ollaberry in the hopes of seeing yesterdays Grey-Cheeked Thrush and to give Brendan G his scope back which he left on Unst! We had a good scan around and in the garden where the thrush had favoured but as was becoming far to common for our liking the bird had vanished overnight. I walked up the road to try and see if it was it another garden but all I could find there was another Yellow-Browed Warbler!

After another dip we headed off to Sullom Plantation in the hope of finding something ourselves. We parked up trying to avoid sinking in the grass verge and as soon as I stepped out the car 2 Yellow-Browed Warbler started chasing each other with a 3rd just in from the road! A Chiffchaff singing tried to fool us it was the summer but failed miserably! Half way through Steve pointed out the first Sparrowhawk of the trip. 2 Wren and a Goldcrest were the only other birds of note. We got back to the car and I noticed another car load of birders park up just along the road. Being nosey I went down to see what they could find! I turned a corner onto some rough ground and met one of the birders staring into the hedge. I asked what he had and he replied I don't know. Something took off from the ground and into the hedge. Just then it flicked up and looked roughly Robin sized. I waited a few minutes before heading back to the road to see if it was visible from there. Typically no sooner as I got onto the road the bird saw me and flew straight into the hedge. The other 2 were now in the car so I left to get back to them. It was about 20 minutes later a pager message came through saying there was a Bluethroat just where I'd left so no doubt that was the bird in question!

The nearest we got to a PG Tips!!
Southern tip of Shetland (bar Fair Isle)
Sumburgh Lighthouse
Our next stop was the Busta House hotel where after asking permission we walked round the garden. 2 Pied Wagtail that flew over were the highlights and as myself and Brendon got back to the car the mega alert sounded. We wanted to go but Steve was nowhere to be seen! I found him and told him to go go go. We were headed to Quendale about a 50 minute drive away so off we went but knowing how unlucky this trip had been so far it wasn't a massive surprise to get the message when we were 5 minutes away that the Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler was just a Grasshopper Warbler! Then just to rub salt into our wounds we got news of a Pechora Pipit at Loch of Norby. This was about 30 minutes from where we had just come from but now it was 75 minutes away, A few swear words were said and the decision was made to go for it the next day. After all it was probably the same bird seen a week previously. As everyone else zoomed up the road towards the pipit we headed as far south as its possible to go down to Sumburgh Head lighthouse. We walked around the small garden out the back of it but found nothing more exciting than a Silver-Y moth! The Fulmars were trying their best to cheer us up by flying past close enough to touch. After a late lunch we went back to Quendale as news of a Bluethroat had broken. We bumped into a tour group in the car park that included a couple from the Watford RSPB group who told us where to go and that the bird was almost walking over peoples feet. As it turned out we took the wrong turn not once but twice! The second time we were held up by a herd of cows heading back to the farm. Eventually we found where the bird was but it had flown into the iris beds and became elusive. After a while Steve and I had a good perched view but by then all of us had had enough of the dippy day and so headed back for dinner!

Up To Unst - 28.9.15

Weird Sunset Cloud Over Yell
After the 3 of us got our first tick of the trip we headed up to the most northerly isle of Unst to try for the Pallid Harrier that had been coming into roost for a few nights as Steve needed it for his list. We headed off north towards the ferry terminal but on the way we stopped off at the SW end of Dales Voe as there looked to be a few birds on show. On stepping out the car I heard a Yellow-Browed Warbler calling from the trees in the garden. After a few minutes it was apparent that there were 2 birds! On the water was a summer plumaged Red-Throated Diver, 55+ Black Guillemot, 40+ Red-Breasted Merganser. A quick scan of the waters edge produced Snipe, Wigeon and a few Ringed Plover. Joining the 2 YBW in the garden was a Willow Warbler and a Goldcrest. Once we had set off again a Red Grouse flew over the car and a Mountain Hare shot off to safety.

With news of an Eastern Subalpine Warbler just down the road from the ferry terminal we stopped off in Mossbank but it soon proved to be a wasted journey as there were lots of gardens it could be in and with no other details apart from it being in a garden in Mossbank we quickly chose to carry on our journey! We caught the ferry over which for a car and 3 passengers was very cheap. The drive through the island of Yell was a quick one and on arrival at the next ferry terminal at Gutcher we had a bit of a wait so to pass the time we had a scan for Otters and any birds around. 6 Great Skua, 2 Snipe, 4 Fulmar and 2 Black Guillemot were seen as was my first ever Shetland race Wren. Being slightly bigger and darker with a different song. No Otters were seen though.

We got the ferry over and had arrived on Unst. Our first stop was Baltasound where a quick loo and tea stop livened us up! The first Redwing of the trip was heard as it flew over but not seen in the mist and murk. After a few wrong turns we eventually found Northdale where the harrier roosted. The other guys had already visited as they had got an earlier ferry and in the middle of nowhere were 3 small pine trees and in those they had found a Barred Warbler! We quickly re-found it and it became my 200th species of the year. In the hours we stuck around the area we had another Yellow-Browed Warbler, 2 Song Thrush drop out of the sky and a moment of excitement when some birders who were staying there flushed a Sylvia warbler out of a potato crop. After 5 minutes or so we pinned it down and ID'd it as a Lesser Whitethroat! Great Skuas flew over and looked out of place and a Wheatear was seen briefly. News broke while we were there of a Grey-Cheeked Thrush back on mainland at Ollaberry so we all hoped that'd stick till the morning. As it turned out the Pallid Harrier decided that after days of coming in to roost it wouldn't do so today!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Shetland (finally!) - 27.9.15

First View Of Shetland
The View From Our Accomodation
So after a pretty good nights sleep on the ferry we finally laid eyes on Shetland while having breakfast. Once finished I popped outside and had a scan over Lerwick harbour. Quite a few Eider were joined by 2 Black Guillemot. Overhead were a couple of Raven and 4 Pink-Footed Geese. As we had two teams we decided to have a friendly competition to see who could see the most species during our stay. The other group got their hire car an hour before us and while we were still waiting Brendan called to say that they had just found a Bluethroat outside the accommodation as they were unload their bags! Not a good start for us! Eventually we got our car and headed to the village of Gulberwick which would be our home for the next 8 days. On arrival we met the owner who showed us around. We were only 20 hours late! Bloody Easyjet! We got our birding gear together and as there had been the expected negative news regarding the Lancy we headed south towards Toab hoping to all connect with our first lifer of the trip. We arrived and luckily found the weedy field where the bird was. Over the next 30 minutes or so we had flight views as it flew between the patches of thistles but at one point I was lucky enough to be in the right place to view it perched up just above the floor and so picked out the subtle ID pointers to this my first BLYTH'S REED WARBLER. After all getting satisfactory views we walked back to the car stopping briefly to have a look at our first Yellow-Browed Warbler of the trip.

Next stop was Sandwick in the hope of seeing a juvenile American Golden Plover but all we could find were 8 Golden Plover, 11 Rock Dove and a Black Guillemot.

We then decided to head towards the other groups Bluethroat via a stop off at Leebotten. Here we added 6 Twite and Great Skua to the list.

Red Grouse
We arrived at Tumbling near Bixter and started walking around the area the Bluethroat was last seen. Here I met the Biking Birder Gary Prescott. After a quick chinwag with him I went to look for the bird but with no luck despite it being there for another few days. A Red Grouse and Hen Harrier were seen though and one of my Twitter followers introduced himself to Brendon but not to me as I'd slagged off Easy Jet and he worked for them! As we were nearby we stopped off at the village of Twatt and got the photo by the sign!

Had To Be Done!
Our last stop was Tresta where some good looking trees hopefully held something of interest. Trees on Shetland aren't very common so any well vegetated area could turn up a good bird or two. The best bird here was another Yellow-Browed Warbler. A Goldcrest was in the garden across the road and a Rook was in a nearby field. A Robin sang from the cemetery and I didn't take much notice of it. It was only later that I realised they were slightly uncommon! A quick shop at Tesco and it was dinner and bed.

Shetland (supposedly!)- 26.9.15

Ever since reading a few pamphlets when I was a 13 year old YOC member about birds on Shetland and Fair Isle I've wanted to pay a visit. The one story that stuck in my mind was of a fellow YOC member who whilst visiting Fair Isle was fortunate to be present when a Crossbill was being ringed. The other bird mentioned was a Lanceolated Warbler! At 13 I'd not heard of that species before but it sounded pretty amazing! 27 years elapsed and after a poor couple of years on Scilly the decision was made to finally have a crack at Shetland. I was joined by Steve Blake and Brendon Fagan and finally the day arrived. They picked me up at stupid o'clock and we arrived at Luton airport at around 5am. Also on our flight were Chris Sharp, Brendan Glynn, Paul Frost and Dave Johnson (nice to meet you Dave!) After the nightmare flight going to America the previous month I was thinking that all my bad luck had been used. Oh how wrong I was! We took off on time and I picked out The Wash and Spurn from the plane before the cloud appeared. We reached Aberdeen in good time but then spent about 20 minutes circling overhead. Thinking we were waiting for a landing space all was good. But just then the captain announced that a warning light had come up with one of the engines but that it was still working fine but that we would have to divert to Edinburgh in the hope that a technician there could fix it and then we could set off again. This changed the mood on the plane. One woman was meant to be heading straight to her best friends wedding and we all had a connecting flight to catch. We landed and waited but then the captain kicked us in the nuts with the news that it couldn't be fixed and that we would all have to be bussed to Aberdeen. A 20 minute flight diversion would now take us over 2 hours by road. That was our connecting flight missed! We collected our bags and waited for news of busses but then even more bad and somewhat stupid news broke. Because we hadn't caught our connecting flight to Lerwick our return flights had been cancelled! Quite why that is the case I don't know but Steve and Brendan G went upstairs and thankfully made the company see sense that we did still want to get over there and then get our flight home! As they walked back one of the airport guys said there was an 8 seater minibus outside. Brendan said yep that's ours for the 7 of us which started arguments with other passengers as they had their names down on paper to be first out! We ignored them and grabbed our bags and were joined by another guy. Eventually we were on our way to Aberdeen but even then the gods had one last laugh at our expence when the mega alert went off to say that a Lanceolated Warbler had been found on Shetland. We would just have to hope it'd stay till tomorrow. As we had missed our flight the only other way over was the overnight ferry so Chris booked us all on with cabins and after a £5 bung to the driver to take us to the ferry port we got on board and settled down for the 14 hour crossing! Dinner and drinks were had but we made the most of the last couple of hours of day light by having a seawatch. Thankfully for me the sea was flat calm! 5 Goosander were seen just outside of the ferry terminal and once out at sea we joined Tring birder Roy Hargreaves and picked up around 20 Puffin, 3 Red-Throated Diver, 4 Arctic Skua and only my 2nd ever Little Auk found by Roy. It wasn't just birds that were showing as we had a couple of Dolphin sp, Harbour Porpoise and over 15 Minke Whale! The light had gone so we retired to watch Wales beat England in the rugby and then I had to sleep on the top bunk which I'd not done for many years!

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Acadian Flycatcher - 22.9.15

Acadian Flycatcher
The Twitch!
I'd just finished cutting the bowling green when the mega alert sounded. On checking, it said Kent, Empidonax flycatcher sp at Dungeness! A couple of updates told of its ongoing presence but around 11am a heavy shower went through and the bird vanished, Thankfully it was re-found in the garden I'd seen my first ever Dark-Eyed Junco in! Due to the trickiness of ID'ing birds of this family to species level given their similar appearance it was soon said not to be either Willow or Alder which was good news as I'd seen the previous 2 Alders in Cornwall and Norfolk. It was then being said to fit Acadian Flycatcher due to long primary projection and bill shape. Thankfully we were allowed home earlier than normal and with positive news I set off and was on site just before 6pm. I'd timed it perfectly again as the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to break out. This meant that the bird had become more active and gave excellent views for the hour I was there. The bird went to roost soon after I left and was never seen again! Luckily it was seen to poo a couple of times and the assistant warden at Dungeness Obs collected the samples and sent them off for DNA profiling. The results came back as 100% ACADIAN FLYCATCHER! This is the 1st record for GB and the 2nd for the Western Palearctic after one was found dead in Iceland.

Watford + Wilstone Reservoir - 17.9.15

Working in Vicarage Road cemetery all day produced 46 House Martin, 40+ Siskin, Grey Wagtail, 4 Meadow Pipit and 60+ Swallow.

Black-Tailed Godwits
After work I headed over to Tring to hopefully add a few new species to my patch work challenge list. I walked around to the hide and during the hour or so I was there I managed to see all of the birds I had wanted. 2 Black-Tailed Godwit were the first in the notebook. These were quickly followed by 3 juvenile Garganey, Scaup, 3 LRP, Ruff, Water Rail, 4 Common Sandpiper and 8 Little Egret. Last but not least I was lucky to have timed my visit perfectly as out of nowhere appeared the long staying juvenile Osprey. Shame it didn't stay too long a it flew close past the hide and disappeared!

Wryneck County Tick - 1.9.15

2 years ago when I got back from New York I went straight out the door to try and see a Wryneck in Herts. Unfortunately I didn't see it. Forward 2 years and luckily I had booked the day off work to get over travelling back from Las Vegas. Around lunch time news broke that Darin Stanley had gone and found a Wryneck at his patch in Batford while on his lunch break. I grabbed my gear and 30 minutes later I finally laid eyes on my first Wryneck in Herts. 4th time lucky!

Grand Canyon To Las Vegas - 29.8.15

Cars of Seligman
Closest I got to a Roadrunner!
Moth sp
Say's Phoebe on a Sheep!
Bullets and Burgers. Only in America!
Hoover Dam
Viva Las Vegas
Luxor Hotel
Our last full day came all too quickly and it was on the road for the last time. A fuel stop at Red Rocks produced a House Wren, 3 Chipping Sparrow and a few breeding Swallow. Our next stop was the town of Seligman on the famous Route 66. The town Radiator Springs was based on Seligman in the Pixar film Cars. 3 Lesser Goldfinch and numerous Swallow and Turkey Vulture were seen and one of the best Milkshakes I've ever tasted was had! After 45 minutes it was back on the road heading for lunch in Boulder City. The temperature was again on the 40's so eating lunch wasn't much fun. It was made slightly easier with the last lifer of the trip. A SAY'S PHOEBE was using nearby trees and Sheep as a perch to hunt insects!

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Grand Canyon - 28.8.15

Cedar Waxwing
Western Tanager
Western Wood Peewee
California Condor
A few of the group chose to get up at silly o'clock and walk part way down into the canyon but the 2 of us opted for a more leisurely day. We got dropped off at the visitor centre and as soon as we turned the corner a small group of birds took flight and landed in a small tree. I lifted my bins and there in front of me were 8 Cedar Waxwing! Always a great start to the day. We then caught the shuttle bus up to the start of the southern rim walk. The walk was about 3 miles to where we wanted to go and of course during the walk I had one or two looks at the birdlife! 2 Pink-Sided Junco got things rolling along with 4 Western Scrub Jay and 2 Pygmy Nuthatch. I then saw a movement ahead of me and out popped a BEWICK'S WREN. 3 more Zone-Tailed Hawk circled over before a Hairy Woodpecker called loudly from the other side of the road. As I was watching 3 Bushtit and a female Black-Chinned Humming bird I was alerted to some hirundines overhead and after a few seconds I picked up 6 VIOLET-GREEN SWALLOW as they headed west along the south rim. We carried on our walk and I noted the following along the way. Mountain Chickadee, 6 Western Bluebird, Juniper Titmouse and a White-Breasted Nuthatch. We then arrived at Hopi Point where a couple of years earlier my mum had been lucky enough to have a California Condor fly over. So with this info I put my bag in the shade and waited. I then waited some more until 3 hours had passed! The wait wasn't too bad as in that time I had seen a female Western Tanager, Rock Wren, 10 White-Throated Swift, Red-Breasted Nuthatch, Northern Flicker and 2 WESTERN WOOD PEEWEE. With no sign of any condors we headed back to the visitor centre. I had wanted to go to the condor talk by a ranger but after spending so long not seeing one I just wanted to head back to the hotel. Plus we couldn't find where the talk was! We got off the shuttle bus and bumped into two of the group who were going to the talk and thy showed us on the map where it was. Right where we had just left! With this we joined them and arrived just after it had started. About 5 minutes in a lady asked do condors fly that high? I looked round to see an enormous bird of prey flying in towards us! I stood up and got it in my bins and shouted It Is A Condor!! Surprisingly only a few people got up to watch it but then it swung round out of view behind a building. While watching it the ranger said as you're up you can help me out. She gave me the end of a tape measure and pulled it to show how big the wingspan was while I had my bins in the other hand trying watch the bird. According to Phillip from our group it was hilarious to watch! We settled back to the talk but just then the bird returned in front of us circled and landed on a rock just off from where we were sat. I and a few others then gave up on the talk and took in the view of this ugly giant! My first CALIFORNIA CONDOR. A couple of mammal ticks were seen too with Mountain Longhorn and a cracking male Elk on the drive out.

Grand Canyon - 27.8.15

What a view!
We left our hotel in Kayenta and made our way to the Grand Canyon. The first bird of the day was a Loggerhead Shrike on a roadside fence post. The second Loggerhead Shrike was again by the side of the road near Tuba City. Things got a bit exciting just after we passed the town of Tonalea when I picked up a large raptor thermalling over an area of wasteland. Even before I'd lifted my bins it turned and with the sun on it a large white tail beamed out towards me. Once I'd got the bins on it it only confirmed my suspicions that it was indeed an adult BALD EAGLE! It was only then that I thought what the hell is a fish eating bird doing nowhere near water! A bit later I managed to get onto some Wifi and on checking google maps I found a small lake near where the bird was. A little while later a pit stop near Page saw just one bird make the notebook but what a bird it was! Sat on a fence post was a BENDIRE'S THRASHER! Unfortunately as soon as I got onto it it flew to a shrub and promptly disappeared. Why don't we get good birds like this on fence posts back home! The last stop before the canyon was in Cameron where 5 Great-Tailed Grackle were in the car park of the tacky souvenir shop!

Mountain Chickadee
After I popped the question!
After what seemed like ages we arrived at the Grand Canyon. We parked up and got our first look out over the huge hole in the planet. Certainly breath taking. The birds started being noted with an adult Green-Tailed Towhee, 6 Mountain Chickadee, Red-Tailed Hawk, 15+ Turkey Vulture, 4 Western Scrub Jay, White-Breasted Nuthatch, 2 hummingbird sp, Juvenile Yellow-Headed Blackbird and the highlight a cracking ZONE-TAILED HAWK. We then went to nearby Tusayan to get a take away pizza. While waiting for it to cook I saw 2 Pygmy Nuthatch and 4 Western Bluebird outside our hotel. We then took out pizza back to the canyon and ate it watching the sun go down. As the sun set I proposed to Carey and thankfully she said yes!!

Horeshoe Bend To Monument Valley - 26.8.15

Horseshoe Bend
We started off the day at the spectacular Horseshoe Bend. Whilst taking in the view I also picked up a Rock Wren, Loggerhead Shrike, 4 Turkey Vulture and a Peregrine.

White-Breasted Nuthatch
The next stop was the Navajo Monument reserve and its amazing caves. We didn't have too long here so we quickly walked the length of the boardwalk out to view across a valley. There built into a large cave/hole in the side of the cliff face were a number of dirt built buildings which the Navajo tribe used to live in. After taking in the views Carey headed off for the loo and to eat her lunch while I took a slow walk back to see what birds were around! The first birds I came across reminded me of our Long-Tailed Tit in the way a small group would move while constantly calling. But our here they were a group of 6 BUSHTIT! I watched them till they flew off and quickly got onto a showy White-Headed Nuthatch. A bit further along the path 2 hummingbirds flew by chasing each other. Thankfully they stopped long enough for me to get a look at them through the bins and ID them as my first BROAD-TAILED HUMMINGBIRD.

A fuel stop in the town of Kayenta allowed a leg stretch and got me another lifer when a BAND-TAILED PIGEON flew in and landed on a fence post.

The Storm!
Don't try to do a panoramic photo when a car drives past!
Traditional Dance Before Dinner
Our destination for today was Monument Valley and dinner with the Navajos. All was going well until we were about 20 miles from the visitor centre when I noticed in the distance a ominous storm cloud! As the miles passed the storm grew bigger and grew closer to us! We arrived and parked up and coming right for us was a huge thunderstorm that had all the hallmarks of a tornado producing storm cell! It had a shelf cloud at the front and a wall cloud at the back but unfortunately it didn't produce the hoped for tornado which would have been another box ticked on my bucket list! In the end it just chucked it down with rain as we were having a look around the gift shop! It did however produce a lovely rainbow which angled itself perfectly with one of the monuments. This storm was one of many to hit us that day and typically for us our dinner was in the middle of nowhere only reached by another open top metal box truck! Again we got wet and were waiting to be hit by a bolt of lightning but by the time we arrived at an amazing cavern with a hole in the roof and our guide gave us a traditional song it had dried up and a great evening was had by all including a delicious Taco!