Wednesday, 30 December 2015

So Long 2015...

Better than a soggy dunnock?
I manged to escape post-flood Lancaster and the pre-Christmas chaos by legging it to Florida for most of mid-December. The warmth and bright skies were most welcome.
I'm lucky enough to have been to this part of the world on a number of occasions and as a result I've seen most the birds that one might hope to encounter in the south eastern states. However, there are always one or two that slip through the net and so I decided to target one of these few birds missing from my list... the rest of our time was spent relaxing and simply enjoying walking around (always with my bins, naturally).
The 'new' bird I wanted was appropriately seasonal too - wild turkey. I've been in lots of places where these avian giants occur but I had so far failed to track one down so, armed with some quality gen I set off in search of my quarry. Fortunately the site was very close to a reserve that I'd always wanted to visit, the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.
Anyway, without boring you with all the thrilling details of our visit, we did find our Christmas turkeys (a nice flock feeding with sandhill cranes) and also spent a few hours enjoying the many birds, butterflies, mammals and reptiles of the fabulous preserve.

Where the Wildfowlers' Pools should be...
My first visit to the Aldcliffe patch following our return to Blighty was, let's say, somewhat uninspiring. After a several days of being surrounded by pelicans, royal terns, palm warbersmockingbirds and painted buntings the soggy, sorry gaggle of greylags and bobbing coot failed to get me excited. Even the massive amounts of water in the fields had failed to attract anything new. I managed to convince myself that a lone chiffchaff, a pair of grey partridge and couple of hundred pink-footed geese were well worth the effort through.

I had my final trawl of 2015 this morning, desperate to close the year with something of note. Of course, the amount of standing water is quite exceptional but given the mild conditions there appears to be very little movement of water birds into the area. Most things simply seem to have moved from Freeman's Pools to the fully submerged Wildfowlers' Pools (ie 18 gadwall, 22 coot, 8 goldeneye). A nice cold snap would hopefully see some notable arrivals.
The only 'new' birds were 3 shoveler (one adult drake, a 1st winter drake and a female) on the flooded fields to the east of the upper cinder track.
Once again the chiffchaff was in the same area again in the hedgerows near the Wildfowers' Pools gate. Nearby, a single redwing was with a small group of blackbirds and a couple of song thrush.
There were still c200 pinkfeet present in Frog Pond field.
A further 5 goldeneye were at Freeman's Pools along with 3 little grebe, another dozen or so coot, 18 teal and a handful of wigeon.

What the early part of 2016 will bring will largely depend on what happens weather-wise. I'm guessing we won't see much in the way of massive change, but it would be nice to get some colder, northern air in along with some of those classic winter birds. It still seems very much like autumn to me...
In the meantime, I'd like to wish all readers a very pleasant New Year and an enjoyable (flood-free) 12 months ahead.
Feliz año nuevo!


David Gascoigne said...

Your account proves that it's all relative in terms of which birds are exciting to find. Wild Turkeys are a dime a dozen where I live, but on a visit to Europe I am always thrilled to see even your most common species. A Blue Tit still blows me away.

Jon Carter said...

True David. It's always a thrill to see someone unused to what we may consider commonplace birds react to a new or unfamiliar bird.
I often remark that we Brit birders would be rendered speechless at the sight of a male chaffinch or European goldfinch if we weren't so used to seeing them!