27th to 31st December 2016 - Madeira

There were a couple of other days out birding and a trip to Gran Canaria before the end of the year but none of these produced much so I've skipped them in favour of a great trip had between Christmas and New Year to Madeira.  It was the first time we'd been to the island and it was even better than I had hoped.  We got a cheap last minute deal through BA Holidays, leaving on Boxing Day and coming back on NYE.
Madeira Firecrest (if you think this photo is bad then be happy
I didn't subject you to the one of the Trocaz Pigeon)

Chaffinch
We relaxed in our hotel for the afternoon of Boxing Day and then headed out for our first experience of the birding on the 27th to Ribeiro Frio.  This was to prove ridiculously fruitful as we saw the 2 endemic species we had been hoping for within about 15 minutes of arriving.  Nice!  The Madeiran Firecrest were flitting around in the trees on the path up to the viewpoint and at times came very close (but being me, I didn't get any decent photos.  Of course).  Next, we scanned the forest down below the viewpoint and saw numerous Trocaz Pigeon flying around, eventually managing to get the scope on a perched one, which we watched for a good while.  After this successful first day we rather eased off on the birding, exploring the rest of the island and the Madeira wine lodges instead!

Speckled Wood (Madeiran or not?)

Kestrel

Monarch
A visit to the lava tunnels added Sparrowhawk (a species we've since heard is fairly uncommon on Madeira?) and Whimbrel to the list and a quick trip to Ponta do Pargo before we left saw Bertholet's Pipit, Spectacled Warbler and White Wagtail added to the list, among others.  A very relaxing yet productive birding holiday we felt!

Blackcap

18th November 2016 - Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, Las Vegas

I was in Las Vegas for work for a week and wanted to get some birding in.  I had arranged a trip to the Preserve early in the week but was, unfortunately, unable to attend, so the only other time I had was 2 hours on the Friday morning to pop over and have a wander around.

White-crowned Sparrow
The second I got out of the taxi I was in a happy place!  The Preserve is beautiful, the people there very helpful and there are so many birds!  I failed miserably in the first instance though - I had completely forgotten to charge my camera and despite trying to learn the birds I might see before I went to the US, 70% of the birds I was seeing I couldn't ID and I only had a small amount of battery to take photos of said birds.  Doh!

First Bufflehead!
The first bird I saw was actually one I could ID - a Verdin.  Super pretty (and tiny!) bird and the only one of my visit.  There were lots and lots of Yellow-rumped Warbler, a bird I luckily already knew from my trips to Florida.  I had been hoping to see Gambel's Quail and there were plenty around, very quirky little characters.  A Northern Harrier spent most of the time I was there seemingly following me around and over that period of time it had a kerfuffle with both a smaller falcon type bird and a larger raptor, neither of which I could ID.

Northern Flicker
A few of the other birds had stuck in my mind as they were a bit more obvious - so I instantly recognised the White-crowned Sparrow as it hopped around on the ground near me, a White-faced Ibis that flew past and the Bufflehead swimming everywhere.  The speedy trip was finished with a pair of White Pelican sat in one of the pools.

I say finished, but whilst out in the car park waiting for my taxi I was suddenly surrounded by the tiny whirring wings of 6 or so hummingbirds (not sure if Anna's or Costa's - probably Anna's?).  I was so happy when I got in the taxi I completely bored the poor driver talking about them for the duration of the ride back to the hotel!

Not at the preserve but a quick bird of note actually in Vegas - two Nighthawk flying down the Strip, which was a bit cool!  I wouldn't have had a clue what they were if I hadn't seen my first ones in Florida a month or so before.

I'll be back in both November of this year and Februrary of next, so I look forward to a few more trips to the Preserve where I can hopefully take a charged camera and also try to ID a few more!

I've stuck on a few awful photos of the ones I couldn't ID either at all or for sure - if anyone feels like assisting me, that would be excellent, thanks!

House Finch?

Yellow-rumped Warbler?

Suggestions for this on social media have been both Nashville Warbler and
Orange-crowned Warbler, but no idea how common they'd be around Vegas in November?

Some sort of flycatcher?  

This was rustling round in the undergrowth for a long time, quite chunky.

Also no idea.  Some sort of sparrow?

Yellow-rumped Warbler?

Say's Phoebe?  Was more orange in real life

4th to 6th November 2016 - Scotland

Our weekend trip up to Scotland wasn't specifically for birding, but we did manage to fit a couple of little bits in.  We started with a trip to a small bit of water in Pitlochry where a Ring-necked Duck apparently was.  We saw him before we ever got out of the car, happily bobbing around.  We then headed up to Glenshee in yet another futile attempt to see Ptarmigan.  Plenty of Red Grouse, but no Ptarmigan to be seen.  However, we arrived in the blazing sun and 15 minutes later were engulfed by an incredible blizzard which instantly took the visibility right down - that was pretty interesting!  Half an hour later and we were back to blazing sun.  Crazy.

Ring-necked Duck
View from Glenshee ski centre before blizzard
Fieldfare
On the way back to the airport we had a hunt around Kinross for Waxwing (no takers) and also a stop off in Musselburgh.  This proved quite productive, with Red-breasted Merganser, Eider and Long-tailed Duck amongst hundreds of Oystercatcher, as well as Stonechat, Twite and a Bar-tailed Godwit. We hadn't brought the scope, so whilst we could see a raft of black ducks that looked as though they could have held the Surf Scoter, we weren't actually able to check unfortunately.

Jackdaw

Stonechat

Lots of Oystercatcher

29th and 30th October 2016 - Norfolk

I do love a weekend in Norfolk and this weekend was no different.  Our main target was the Isabelline Wheatear, but I wasn’t overly looking forward to it as I remembered the walk to the Spectacled Warbler in the same location and I wasn’t convinced my dodgy hips would make it.  Luckily as we left the flat a report came through of another near Ely, which is on our route up and so we made a beeline for that.  A short walk later and we were gazing at the lovely bird.  Perfect!
Cley beach
A detour to Welney was made to try and see some Bewick’s Swan but to no avail unfortunately.

Whooper Swan
We’d left London pretty late so there was only time for one more thing before sunset and we decided on the Desert Wheatear.  We parked at Salthouse beach and started trekking across the pebble beach which is when my hips decided they had had enough and I had to stop half way to the Wheatear.  Boo!  Amazingly though at this point Stuart spotted 2 low flying birds and got me onto my first ever Shorelark!  I spent a very happy hour sat on the beach watching them and showing them to the birders who walked past whilst Stuart went to see the Desert Wheatear.  Excellent evening.

Salthouse

Awful photo, but SHORELARK! SQUEEEEE
The next day we took our customary Sunday morning wander around Kelling Heath but there was nothing of note.  A report of Waxwing in Brancaster from that morning lured us over there but after a while of driving and wandering around we hadn’t spotted anything that looked Waxwing like and so we decided to call it a day.  As we were driving off, an odd looking Starling flock flew over.  Braking abruptly we hopped out the car and found that the Waxwing flock were mixed in!  We’d never seen Waxwing in flight before so it was really interesting to watch them before the eventually settled in a tree further down the road. 

Waxwing

Waxwing
To finish the weekend we had a brief wander around Titchwell.  As usual we amassed a decent list but there was a bit of uncertainty at the end when we were with a crowd watching the bushes where the Dusky Warbler had apparently been 10 minutes earlier.  Eventually a small bird was spotted low down and said to be it.  I’ve never seen one before so I’m still unsure – everyone there agreed it was but then 20 minutes later as we were driving off it was reported as not present!  The bird we were watching had pale legs, a dark line through the eye and was very pale underneath but I didn’t know at the time to check for the flick up at the end of the supercilium so I’m in two minds.  One to ponder on I think.

Year list: 212
Lifers this year: 23

Chaffinch having a bath

3rd to 17th September 2016 - Florida

We took another trip to Florida in September, not a birding holiday (gasp!) but with a couple of birding days allocated.  I’d done a small bit of research about what might be around but the first bird was a complete surprise and took some extra research to decide what it was – Common Nighthawk!  Very cool.

Tricoloured Heron

The first of the two allocated days of birding was at Merritt Island and the first stop on our driving tour was actually for a mammal – manatees!  We went to the recommended location, expecting to see possibly a fin in the distance or something if we were lucky, but were surprised by what must have been about 20 manatees, coming as close as they could – I must have been less than a foot away from one at one point.  We also nearly fell off the pier when one surfaced next to us with a teeny tiny baby manatee swimming beside it.  Squee!  When I was finally dragged away, we then started to do some birding, seeing a flock of Osceola Wild Turkey, a few Red-shouldered Hawk and two new ones for the list – Red-tailed Hawk and Belted Kingfisher.  The next lifer was one we were aiming for and Tristan found it almost immediately after we set off on the walk – Florida Scrub-jay!  That walk then turned into one of the worst experiences I have had with biting insects, they were continuously very painfully nipping at me and drew blood!  Grr.  It was a good location for Gopher Tortoise however. 

Sandhill Crane
Baby Manatee!
Back in the car and we saw plenty of species from the heron and ibis families.  Another unexpected addition to the life list was Mottled Duck and a Clapper Rail who kindly flew across the road before landing right beside it.      

Gopher Tortoise
Florida Scrub-jay
I’d like to thank the lovely gentleman at the visitor centre for the really useful information and locations to visit, I wish we’d had at least double the time to explore.

Green Heron (?)

Willet

Alligator
It was off to the Disney Wilderness Preserve for the second day of birding.  Whilst in the car going up the driveway we stopped to look at a lovely (loud!) bird that had flown up to a perch beside the road and identified it as an Eastern Meadowlark, a lifer for all of us.  Another lifer kindly flew into view as we left the car, a massive Pileated Woodpecker.  What an amazing bird.  A loud bird stumped us somewhat, but later Oliver Simms kindly helped out with the ID and confirmed our suspicion that it was a Carolina Wren, another lifer.   The rest of the walk around the Preserve was very quiet, with 3 unidentified birds, a very hot sun and some wading through flooded paths.

Eastern Meadowlark
Carolina Wren (Thanks Ollie!)




I wanted to carry on birding so on the way home we stopped off at Kissimmee Lakefront Park for a quick look, which became a lot longer look as it’s a great location!  Almost immediately we had Limpkin, which wasn’t particularly phased as we walked past and there were plenty of both types of Grackle and both types of Vulture around too.  We excitedly watched a group of 4 Sandhill Crane fly towards us and were amazed when they landed just feet away and happily went about pecking in the grass.  They appeared to be a family group with two juveniles.

Limpkin
Osprey
The Park was good for warblers, with a couple we couldn’t ID as well as good views of Yellow Warbler and Yellow-throated Warbler.   This is meant to be an excellent location for Snail Kite and whilst we saw a number of very large empty snail shells, the kite was nowhere to be seen.  Something I was amazed at here and indeed over on Merritt Island, was the sheer number of Osprey.  They were seemingly on every post and we had some brilliant views of them catching and carrying fish.

Young Sandhill Crane

Yellow Warbler?
That was the end of the official birding but we of course kept our eyes open when out and about, spotting a few Bald Eagle, Mockingbird and other lovely birds.


Lady Red-winged Blackbird (thank you for the ID Ollie) 

Anhinga

Summer 2016

As is usual for me, birding was on the quiet front between June and September, with just a couple of trips.  A brief weekend away with family in Wales produced a Grasshopper Warbler right next to the house – only the second I’ve ever seen! A last minute (flight booked 5 hours before departure) trip to Aberdeen was very productive, with 7 species added to the year list, 2 of these being life listers – White-winged Scoter and King Eider.

Puffin 




Skylark


Yellowhammer

 A slightly more local twitch was for the lovely little Common Rosefinch in the Lee Valley, followed by a celebratory pint.  The last trip of summer was a walk around Minsmere in hope of the Purple Swamphen.  We missed out on that, but added 5 others to the year list (including that damned elusive Reed Warbler).

Baby Wheatear