Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Spring is kicking off!

Out for a bit of a stroll across the fields from our house this morning. We were struck by how much spring action has sprung into action! First we have four Brown Hares Lepus europaeus outside the front of the house. They have been there for four days now and the action appears to be hotting-up. We think that there are two females and two males, with one of the males being a bit of an outsider. He sits away from the other three, is regularly chased by one of the others and is clearly not tolerated by, what we think, is the other male. There have been incidents of all three chasing this individual, turning the field into a bit of a race-track. Pretty soon, all being well, it should turn into a boxing-ring. If anyone can throw any light on this behaviour it would be appreciated.
The shots below show the unwanted individual being chased and harassed by the other three. The first picture is of him/her having it away on his toes!

The chase is on...a three to one, uneven competition.

Yellowhammers Emberiza citrinella seemed to be everywhere which is good news as we know that these birds are in decline along with a number of other farmland species. Along a stretch of farmland hedgerow measuring less than a couple of kilometres we counted over fifteen singing male birds. Unfortunately getting a decent photograph proved tricky as the camera's autofocus system was determined to focus on twigs.

As well as singing yellowhammers other species in full song included Robins, Dunnocks, Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Song Thrush and Wrens. I heard my first singing Skylarks and I was able to pop off a shot of a distant aerial bird.

Pretty ropey pictures indeed, but better than the picture of a Peregrine Falcon that was surveying the fields from a pylon!

Spot the Peregrine!

This Dunnock  Prunella modularis proved to be more accommodating as did the Red-legged Partridges. Grey Partridges, of which we saw five, were much more flighty.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Birding in Louisiana and Mississippi Part: The Last

I'm just posting a selection of some of the photographs that I took during our time spent birding whilst in southern Louisiana and Mississippi. During our time there we saw about 120 species and I managed to get some decent photographs of about half of them, some really crap photographs of a few of them and no photographs at all of the remainder. Here, in alphabetical order for some reason, is a selection of pictures from the first group.
An alligator in a vest is called an investigator! Funny when I first heard it!!!

American Robin Turdus migratorius

Aningha  Aningha anhinga

Bald Eagle  Haliaeetus leucocephalus

Black Vulture  Coragyps atratus

Black-necked Stilt  Himantopus mexicanus

Boat-tailed  or Great-tailed grackle  Quiscalus major or mexicanus If anybody knows the difference please let me know!

Bufflehead Bucephala albeola

Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus

Eastern Bluebird  Sialia sialis

Eastern Phoebe  Sayornis phoebe

Great Horned Owl  Bubo virginianus

Grey Catbird  Dumetella carolinensis

Hairy Woodpecker  Picoides villosus

Hooded Merganser  Lophodytes cucullatus

Pied-billed Grebe  Podilymbus podiceps

Red-bellied Woodpecker  Melanerpes carolinus

Red-winged Blackbird  Agelaius phoeniceus

Song Sparrow  Melospiza melodia

Turkey Vulture  Cathartes aura

White Ibis  Eudocimus albus

White-throated Sparrow  Zonotrichia albicollis

Yellow-rumped  (Mytle) Warbler  Dendroica coronata

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A real tern up. Forster's Tern in Louisiana.

A couple of posts back I mentioned a site called Bayou Sauvage a few miles due east of New Orleans. During our second afternoon birding here I spent most of my time taking photos of Forster's Terns. Living in the UK I'm really not used to seeing terns in January yet here we had three species at least: Gull-billed, Caspian and these Forster's terns all feeding on inland freshwater. Although Forster's Tern is practically annual in Britain I've never seen one here so this was a good chance to catch up on this bird's winter plumage. This tern is similar to the Common Tern, but it's a bit bigger with heavier and bigger legs and bill.. The head markings, which you can see in these photos, are pretty unique in medium-sized terns but Gull-billed Terns also have these black patches in an oval shape on the ear coverts.
Whilst we there we had a long chat with a builder called Randy! He was keen to tell us about Katrina but he still had a sense of humour. He told us a cracking joke. What do you call an alligator in a vest?

Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri

Winter plumage Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri

Winter plumage Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri

Winter plumage Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri

Winter plumage Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri

Winter plumage Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri

Winter plumage Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri

Winter plumage Forster's Tern Sterna forsteri

Friday, February 6, 2015

Wood Duck: Birding in Louisiana Pt 4

This is such a fabulous duck that I want to do a post on this bird alone. Although it is fairly common it can be quite elusive and difficult to see as it lives in swampy areas and often hangs about under overhanging branches and vegetation. It helps if you know where to look. There are plenty of nest boxes in lakes in southern Mississippi that have been erected to tempt this species but as they are not breeding right now they were not much use in locating the birds. Most of the photos that I took were of the male birds as these are stunning...I wouldn't even know where to start writing a description as there seems to be so many colours and patterns. It is reminiscent of the Mandarin Duck that is now seen regularly in Britain but I reckon that the male Wood Duck has the edge over the Mandarin for sheer bonkers plumage. The female is OK I suppose!

Wood Duck Aix sponsa