Saturday, January 31, 2015

South Louisiana and Mississippi Birding Pt 1.

Been back two days now from a 17 day visit to Mississippi and Louisiana. We flew out to Jackson MS so that we could visit our eldest son and daughter-in-law in Meridian MS before driving down to the south-east corner of Louisiana to sample the varied delights of New Orleans or more correctly Newlins! There were some great opportunities to get in some birding and we managed around 110 species which, considering where we were at and what we were doing was not so bad. We walked around lakes Okatibbee and Bonita near Meridian as well as bumbling around the golf course and birding from the house...which was much more impressive than expected. In the first thirty minutes of looking out of the patio windows we had seen half a dozen Dark-eyed Juncos, 25 Chipping Sparrows, a couple of White-throated Sparrows, a Carolina Wren, two Carolina Chickadees and two House Finches, a superb male Northern Cardinal, two Northern Mockingbirds, 45 Cedar Waxwings, over 50 American Robins, a few Turkey Vultures and a Red-bellied Woodpecker. A Sharp-shinned Hawk also put in an appearance but it stayed in the shadows of a tree and I could only manage a couple of record shots.
In Louisiana we spent most of our time in New Orleans but we managed to bird the City Park and get out to the Beau Sauvage Nature Reserve for a couple of days. A trip on the Pearl River and Honey Pot Swamp proved useless for birding and alligatoring but good for snaking and racooning.
This first post is of birds that I managed to photograph around the house in Meridian.

Carolina Chickadee in the back garden.

Chipping Sparrow. These were all over the feeders in the garden.

Dark-eyed or Slate-coloured Junco. Very common around the house.

House Finch. A pair were frequently at the feeders

Male Northern Cardinal. Another frequent visitor to the garden feeders.

Red-bellied Woodpecker atop a tree out the back of the house.

Dodgy picture of a Sharp-shinned Hawk.

Northern Mockingbird. All over the shop as we say!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Birds in cages in photos Pt 5

This is a slight deviation from my original plan as many of the photographs that I have taken of Black Kites have been of flying birds rather than those cooped up in cages. It is frequently encountered at bird parks and falconry shows although I would have thought that it would make a pretty poor falconer's bird being more of a scavenger than a hunter. Still they must be quite easy to look after. The Black Kite Milvus migrans has been split into three species~: Black, Black-eared  (lineatus) and Yellow-billed (aegyptius). Black Kite is fairly widespread in most of Europe (but only a vagrant in Britain), most of Africa south of the Sahara, India and Australia. Black-eared is primarily Asian and Eastern Russian and the Yellow-billed is found in sub-Saharan Africa. Black-eared Kite has been recorded in Britain with one being present in North Norfolk a few years back as far as I can remember although I think it is considered as a subspecies as far as the BOURC is concerned.  Black Kite has been recorded over 360 times in Britain but there are no records of Yellow-billed Kite. Interestingly I have come across as many Yellow-billed Kites at Bird of Prey Centres as I have Black Kites. Yellow-billed Kites are paler and more evenly coloured than Black Kites and they have a Yellow bill surprisingly! The difference in head plumage in particular can be seen by comparing the first photograph of a Black Kite taken last February with the rest of Yellow-billed Kite taken in September.

# 6 Black Kite/ Yellow-billed Kite Milvus migrans/ aegyptius

Black Kite Milvus migrans

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

More Captive Raptors

This is the fourth post in my project on captive birds of prey. Actually, looking through the collection of photographs that I have taken over the past year the project will include a few species that are not birds of prey. But more of that at a later date. Today I am posting single pictures of two species, one that is quite common in captivity and the other seems to be much rarer. The first is the American Kestrel Falco sparverius which I have come across in a couple of captive settings and the second is the Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus . I have only encountered one Booted Eagle in captivity.
The American Kestrel is widespread in the Nearctic and the Neotropical zones, ranging from Canada, except beyond the Arctic treeline, down to the southern tip of South America although it is not found in the dense forests of Amazonia (what little dense forest is left!). The Booted Eagle on the other hand is a Palearctic, Ethiopian and Asian zone species found in parts of southern and eastern Europe, Africa south of the Sahara and India. The latter two areas being winter quarters.
The Booted Eagle has not been officially accepted as a genuine vagrant in Britain although it can be found in the list of Category D species...birds seen in Britain but likely to have escaped from captivity. So presumably more are kept than I thought. The American Kestrel on the other hand has been recorded as a genuine vagrant  twice in Britain, once in Shetland and once in Cornwall and both in 1976! The Shetland bird was a male and the Cornish bird was a female. They missed each other by just a couple of weeks but could hardly have been further apart and still be in Britain. Shame really!
The Kestrel was photographed in February 2013, long before I'd planned this project, and it was not caged but rather tethered to one of those typical plastic grass covered stands that are so popular with falconers who display birds. So no nasty cage wire in the way but the photo is not really of the sort that I want. The Booted Eagle was in a large cage and was photographed in September 2014.

No 4 American Kestrel Falco sparverius

American Kestrel Falco sparverius South Yorks Feb 2013

 No 5 Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus

Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus  ICBP Helmsley, Yorks. Sept 2014

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Raptors in Cages in Photos etc Pt 3

Continuing the project of birds of prey in captivity my third post features the Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus. The Bald Eagle is a Fish-Eagle found in the Nearctic and it has counterparts in many other regions of the planet including parts of Scotland where we have the White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla. This is a magnificent two ways about it. Even when enclosed in a pen it is still stately, majestic and powerful. Just look at the stance and aggression shown by the bird in the first image which was taken at the ICBP at Helmsley in Yorkshire back in September.
I have seen this bird in the wild back in the day in Florida, hunting fish, not surprisingly, in the Everglades. A place I remember as being full of Alligators and mosquitos: both of which bite people whenever they can. These pictures are of an adult bird which can be identified by its white head and white tail and the yellow bill. I'm not certain how common this species is in captivity, but I have only come across this one individual. I would imagine that they take some serious looking after if they are to be kept healthy and in good shape. Never a bird for a falconer...unless you want to hunt fish!

No 3: Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus. Looking for trouble!

Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus. Artistic interpretation