Godalming area birds

Godalming area birds


Friday, 21 June 2019

South Florida: day five and six

The chief aim of day five was to finally connect with the endemic Florida Scrub Jay at Cape Canaveral. It ended up proving to be the worst weather of the trip, with a surprisingly cold northerly wind and grey skies.

Florida Scub Jay, 30/1/2019.

As it happened, Storm Jaden was blowing a hooley the northern states and Canada, meaning plenty of passerines were fleeing south and, being based on a peninsula on the south-east coast of the US that morning, we witnessed a truly astonishing number (1000s) of American Robins piling in off the sea before feasting on berries all around us.

Northern Harrier, 30/1/2019.
American Robin, 301/2019.

Prior to soaking up this spectacle, Northern Harrier had made it on to the trip list with several birds quartering pools around Wilson. Eventually, after a nervous blank 10 minutes or so, the first Florida Scrub Jays revealed themselves at Canaveral National Seashore, before two individuals showed exceptionally well on the roadside verge. I make no excuses for the following scrub jay photo-fest …

Florida Scrub Jay, 30/1/2019.

Continuing through more pools to Playalinda Beach, not too much was seen with the wind really picking up. American Robins were still arriving en masse, visual migration of passerines unlike anything I’ve seen in Europe before. At the beach, a few Gannets and Forster’s Terns were offshore.

On the way out, we stopped on the main bridge over Indian River to Titusville. Bobbing on the water were a few rafts of Lesser Scaup, both Mew and Ring-billed Gulls were loitering around the car and a few Great Northern Divers were fishing close in. Best of all, however, was a large flock of Black Skimmers, taking five in an empty car park and allowing close approach.

Black Skimmers, 30/1/2019.

Lesser Scaup, 30/1/2019.

Ring-billed Gull, 30/1/2019.

Black Skimmer, 30/1/2019.

We knocked coastal birding on the head and ventured inland in an attempt to escape the wind. Viera Wetland, a sewage farm come bird reserve, was fun, but not spectacular, with a few terns (Caspian, Forster’s) along with the usual water birds. Another wastewater site nearby surprisingly delivered heard-only King Rail and Least Bittern in the breeze.

Pied-billed Grebes, 30/1/2019.

Forster's Tern, 30/1/2019.

After spending the chunk of the day doing non-birding stuff, we ended at the spectacular Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee NWR, a wonderful managed piece of cypress swamp. There were heaps of birds here, but best of all were the Snail Kites, with a couple of distant juveniles hunting in the flooded meadows. A few Northern Rough-winged Swallows hawked overhead, and it seemed every bush was teeming with warblers.

Savannah Sparrow, 30/1/2019.

Snail Kite, 30/1/2019.

Day six was relaxed, as we were back in the Evergaldes for the remainder of out stay, and there was one main target: Short-tailed Hawk. As far as I’m concerned these appear the neatest of the ‘hawks’, but they are rare and localised in the US, with almost the entire population in Florida (some are on the Arizona/Mexico border). This is generally a tropical species and migrates to the southern tip of the state during winter.

Short-tailed Hawk, 30/1/2019.

Anyway, after dipping earlier in the week I was pleased to locate one bird eventually, thermally just to the east of Eco Pond. Good times – I love a raptor, and these are particularly smart. The bird of prey success continued later, when a distant Swainson’s Hawk cruised over Lucky Hammock.

Swainson's Hawk, 30/1/2019.

Kildeer, 30/1/2019.

Eastern Black Swallowtail, 30/1/2019.

Earlier that morning we’d located a few Sedge Wrens on Research Road, along with some more Eastern Meadowlarks, absolute novelties for the European birder. We stuck our head in a few other places, including Gumbo Limbo, before spending the afternoon doing other stuff.

Eastern Meadowlark, 30/1/2019.

Great Crested Flycatcher, 30/1/2019.

Northern Waterthrush, 30/1/2019.

South Florida: day four

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