Tuesday 28 February 2012

Beautiful Birds (39): 2012 Species List

Mute Swans near Mistley Towers and Manningtree, Essex, UK

I think I won't count numbers so much this year as species. The species marked thus: [L] are my 'lifers' or first (conscious) sightings. There are, for example, so many pigeons outside our window that I have decided to list each species of bird only once at the time of my earliest sighting.

This was my list for January and February 2011. I don't imagine the next couple of days will find me seeing many of the following which were on the list a year ago and which I have yet to see in 2012:

Snipe | Dunnock | Nuthatch | Teal | Redstart | Shoveler
 Treecreeper | Little Grebe
Chaffinch (I might yet see this fellow!)
Siskin | Wood Pigeon | Hen Harrier | Greenfinch
Gadwall | Tufted Duck | Wren
Great Spotted woodpecker
Song Thrush | Greenshank | Redshank

The discrepancy for those who are new to my blog is probably largely due to our move last Autumn from South Wales to Suffolk on the east coast of England. It is partly due to my current 'garden-less' lifestyle, to the fact that I was in America for two weeks in January and then pretty much confined to base by the snow and ice.

2012 bird species seen to date  . . .
  1. JANUARY Feral Pigeon (USA and Suffolk, UK)
  2. Starling (Liberty Island, NY, USA) Jan 2012 [red conservation status in the UK]
  3. Egret (wetlands outside New York, USA . . . hard to tell which species, I think 'Little') 
  4. Red-tailed Hawk (NY, USA) [L]
  5. House Sparrow (Liberty Island, NY, USA) [red conservation status in the UK]
  6. Mute Swan (Mistley, Essex, UK)
  7. Shelduck (ditto)
  8. Bar-tailed Godwit (ditto)
  9. Common Sandpiper (ditto)
  10. Carrion Crow (ditto)
  11. Ring-billed Gulls (rivers Hudson and Delaware, USA) [L]
  12. Canada Goose (river Delaware, USA)
  13. FEBRUARY Blue-tit (Flatford Mill, Suffolk, UK)
  14. Goldfinch - a flock (Flatford Mill, Suffolk, UK)
  15. Moorhen (Flatford Mill, Suffolk, UK)
  16. Rook (Flatford Mill, Suffolk, UK) 
  17. Buzzard (Suffolk, UK)
  18. Red Kite (Kirby Hall, Northants, UK)
  19. Long-tailed Tits (Suffolk, UK)
  20. Robin (Suffolk, UK)
  21. Redwing (Suffolk, UK) red conservation status
  22. Fieldfare (Suffolk, UK) red conservation status
  23. Mallard (Flatford Mill, Suffolk, UK)
  24. Blackbird (Flatford Mill, Suffolk, UK)
  25. Great Tit (Flatford Mill, Suffolk, UK)
  26. Coot (Flatford Mill, Suffolk, UK)
  27. Magpie (Suffolk, UK)
  28. Greylag Goose (Shotley peninsula, Suffolk, UK)
  29. Cormorant (River Orwell, Suffolk, UK) 
  30. Pied Wagtail (Ipswich, Suffolk, UK)
  31. Black-headed Gull (Ipswich, Suffolk, UK)
  32. Herring Gull (Ipswich, Suffolk, UK) red conservation status
  33. Lapwing (Orwell Bridge, Suffolk, UK) red conservation status
  34. Oystercatcher (Orwell Bridge, Suffolk, UK)
  35. Lesser Black-backed Gull (Suffolk, UK)
  36. Wigeon (Suffolk, UK)
  37. Red-legged Partridge (Shingle Street, Suffolk, UK)
  38. Pheasant (Shingle Street, Suffolk, UK)
  39. MARCH Brent Goose (a flock on Mersea Island, Essex, UK)
I hope to make a new Wordle list once I reach the end of February.

What else have I seen? Well, not much in the way of mammals or insects.
A quick round-up ...
  • Seals (two, off Suffolk coast, UK)
  • Grey Squirrel (New York, USA)
  • Rabbits (Suffolk, UK)
  • Molehills - fresh, but no moles seen (Northants, UK)
  • ?Stoat hole (Northants, UK)
  • Midges (Along the River Stour, Flatford, Suffolk, UK)
  • ?Red Spider Mite (Cambridgeshire, UK)
  • Snails (Northants, UK)
  • Slipper Shell (Shingle Street, Suffolk, UK)
Have you had any interesting or unusual wildlife encounters in 2012?

Saturday 25 February 2012

Beautiful Birds (38): Bass Rock photo on Scottish Island Explorer blog

A pair of Gannets

A Plunging of Gannets, Bass Rock

I am grateful to editor, John Humphries, of the glossy and informative magazine, Scottish Island Explorer, for featuring my blog on his site. You can see my post about the 21,000 Gannets on Bass Rock off Scotland's east coast here. You can also read a new post on the Scottish Island Explorer blog about Bass Rock.

Friday 24 February 2012

Wood Watch (1): Red Velvet Mite - mystery

Cambridgeshire creature (1)

Some days ago, we took a short stroll through a magical birch wood in Cambridgeshire. I was keeping an eye out for wildlife, but failed to see anything very unusual. My eyes alighted, however, on this tiny splash of colour, which I took to be a Red Velvet Mite aka Trombidium sp.

These mites play a key role in the woodland eco-system, for they assist with the decomposition process. You can read more about them here.

Cambridgeshire creature (2)

I last noticed a Red Velvet Mite on a rock on the beach at Laugharne by the Dylan Thomas Boat House in South Wales back in 2011. You can see my post here.

A comparison of the photographs above with the older photo below has led me to the conclusion that the latest creature (above) might perhaps be a Red Spider Mite, for it does not appear to have the same leg 'layout' as the Velvet Mite, which has a kind of 2x2 2x2 2x2 2x2 arrangement.

You can read a discussion about these creatures on Wild About Britain here. If anyone can help, I would be grateful as it is always satisfying to clear up a mystery, however small!

Re-posting of Red Velvet Mite, seen at Laugharne, 2011

Sunday 19 February 2012

Beautiful Birds (37): Shingle Street, Suffolk

We took a walk along Shingle Street in the Suffolk sunshine ...
... keeping an eye out for Guillemots, but the only possible auk was the bird beneath my question mark. ID, please?
A flight of Cormorants or a skein of geese?
Definitely a flight of Cormorants, with white patches of breeding plumage.
We noticed the occasional shell, like this Slipper Limpet (see here, too, for one I saw earlier)
As we drove away we spotted a field of Lapwing (and a single Red-legged Partridge).
My thanks to David (Gill) for getting out of the car to photograph the Lapwing for me. You can read his post here on the Orwell View blog. The partridge scuttled into the undergrowth, but you can read about the species here.

Monday 13 February 2012

Beautiful Birds (36): Pigeon Dance

Getting ready for 14 February ...

Still time for a spot more preening ...

The Cormorant patrolled this stretch of water ...

... and a small 'iceberg' began to thaw.

Not quite Swan Lake ...

... but an air of snowy tranquillity prevailed on the Ipswich Waterfront.

Thursday 9 February 2012

Beautiful Birds (35): The Cormorant

There have been a lot of Cormorants on the Waterfront at Ipswich these last few days. The weather was overcast and grey (probably snow-laden) when I took these shots from a distance, but I rather like the silhouettes.  

I had not realised that due to a lack of sea water fish, many Cormorants in Suffolk are apparently moving inland and finding food in freshwater habitats.

Ipswich Waterfront ... back in the summer!


Monday 6 February 2012

Beautiful Birds (34) At Penn's Landing, Philadelphia, USA

Three weeks ago we had a somewhat chilly picnic here on the historic banks of the Delaware at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. There were a few gulls pottering about in the sunshine.

Seeds/Fruits - aka syncarps of achenes

The ground was sprinkled with these seed heads, which I thought might be from the stately Maple Leaf Sycamore/London Plane trees that graced the path along the river bank. A quick Google search seems to confirm that my hunch was correct. You can see the beautiful bark markings on these trees on my previous post on Liberty Island.

We loved this ship!

The gulls were doubtless on the look-out for scraps; but not knowing the local protocol, we resisted any temptation to 'feed the birds'. 

I now know, thanks to Jeremy of Jeremy Inglis Photography, who left a comment on my Liberty Island page, that this is a Ring-billed Gull. Incidentally, researchers at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQÀM) have been undertaking a study on banded ('ringed') Ring-billed Gulls, which you can read about here. I think they are still accepting sightings [Postscript: I am posting this in from the comments, so please send your sightings off to the site given here: Martin PM said... 'Sightings are very valuable for us! Thank you for sharing information about our marking program.' Biologist MSc., Research Assistant, Laboratoire de Jean-François Giroux, Université du Québec à Montréal, http://gull.uqam.ca ].

Details of GullFest 2012 can be found here.

This Canada Goose drew up alongside the landing stage. Thanks to John of a DC Birding Blog, I now know the difference between a Canada Goose and a Cackling Goose, the one with the (partial) white collar in John's photo here.

My thanks to Redgannet for pointing out that the Delaware is tidal at this point.

Thursday 2 February 2012

Beautiful Birds (33): On Liberty Island, New York

It seems almost unbelievable that three weeks ago we were preparing for what looked as if it was going to be a very stormy crossing from the embarkation point of Castle Clinton on the Battery Wall in Manhattan to New York's Liberty Island, which rises out of the vast river Hudson. However, the ferry was large and pretty stable, and we soon found our sea-legs. Of course, it was only a short crossing, but I didn't realise that at the time! The weather turned bitter, and with the added wind chill factor, I have rarely felt so cold.

I soon had my first glimpse of the iconic Statue of Liberty from the windows of our ferry, the Miss Ellis Island.

The statue grew nearer and it was not long before we were disembarking. 

This was the view looking back towards Manhattan. You can see from the reflections that this photo was actually taken from inside the ferry on our return voyage, but it was pretty much the view we saw from the island. 

We just managed to brave the elements long enough to allow ourselves to circumnavigate the path around the island. I had particularly wanted to keep an eye out for any wildlife, thinking that perhaps I might see something other than the pigeons we had encountered everywhere in New York. The elegant London planetrees provided something approaching a less concrete and more natural environment. The patterned bark was quite beautiful, but it was far too cold to hang about for long ...

... though David stood still just long enough for me to take his photo! 

There were a few Sparrows scrabbling about in the freezing earth under the plane trees ...

 ... and the occasional gull flew past against a storm-laden sky. It was not long before large flakes started to fall on the statue.

This gull had landed and was looking hopefully in our direction . . . 

[P.S. My thanks to Jeremy of Jeremy Inglis Photography for his ID of Ring-billed Gull, Larus delawarensis. A 'first' for me Curiously, I note that there was a sighting of single Ring-billed at Essex, my adjoining county, yesterday!].

. . . while a Starling hopped about from foot to foot.

We may not have seen any very exciting wildlife on this particular excursion, but we enjoyed looking. Liberty Island was known as Bedloe's Island in a previous existence. It was originally part of the Oyster Islands, and is cared for these days by the National Park Service. It has been a smallpox station in its time and has apparently also been home to huge populations of 'English rabbits'.

Incidentally, anyone who has watched Earthflight will have seen the (trained) Snow Geese doing their fly-past above the Statue of Liberty (you can watch them here for the next 3 days). I understand that huge bird migrations can be seen from this vantage point at certain times of the year.

And finally . . . for anyone who is interested, this is what really took us out to the USA! You can see David with his Award if you scroll down.