Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Christmas and New Year travels

The last couple of weeks have been a bit of a blur of airports and longhaul flights and varying climates.  I flew to the UK on 23rd Dec and spent five days in shock at just how dark Britain is in winter (it was the first time in five years that I have experienced a British winter).  Fortuitously my sister lives next door to Fen Drayton RSPB reserve so during the brief periods of day light I was able to do a bit of birding - best being a short-eared owl hunting along the reserve'saccess track.

I also made a morning dash to Norfolk to see my friend Sacha, and the Western Sandpiper at Cley (old habits die hard).

On the 29th I flew to Orlando, Florida to join my wife and her parents for New Year, and to end the year with a glut of year ticks.  Florida is just amazing for birds - my in-laws have a fairly unremarkable garden but it was covered in White Ibises then a flock of 100+ Brown-headed Cowbirds followed by a flock of about 30 foraging Palm Warblers on my first morning, and a few hours later three Sandhill Cranes strolled across lawn, totally unfussed by my presence. The last bird of the year was a Great Horned Owl in a neighbour's garden at sunset on 31st was also a world tick!

Myrtle Warbler in the garden
Chipping Sparrow in the garden
Sandhill the garden!
We also made a trip to the Everglades from 2nd-4th January, which unfortunately coincided with a cold front coming from the north which introduced chilly and windy weather and this made it hard to find the wide selection of wood-warblers that I had been hoping for, however I still came away with 5+ Black-and-white Warblers, Common Yellowthroat and two Northern Parulas, whilst I had earlier picked up a Yellow-throated Warbler on the Disney Preserve just down the road from my in-law's place.  It's also a good start to the year when your first mammal of the year is a Manatee!

On the way back to Thailand I had a stop over at Newark and so made a fleeting visit to Manhattan, walking from Madison Square gardens to Central Park, scored a few birds in the Ramble and on the lake (best being a female Bufflehead and a very showy Cooper's Hawk), and then headed home.  Now the jetlag has mostly gone, and I'm ready for some Asian birding!

Cooper's Hawk in Central Park

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