Monday, 15 February 2016

Sunshine and (some) birding - Flamingo and Florida intro

I'm in Florida for a week this half-term; a far cry from the usual gull haunts that draw me normally at this time of year. To be honest though, this British winter has been pretty hideous so the pure blue skies today (having arrived in Miami last night) were a joy.

A walk about near the place we're staying in Cape Coral (on the Gulf Coast) early this morning was a really pleasant introduction - nice to get the Palm Warbler count up straightaway along with Red-shouldered Hawk, Common Yellowthroat, Eastern Phoebe, Grey Catbird, Myrtle Warbler and four Wood Storks. American birding like this is easy and a pleasure - and back before breakfast.
Red-shouldered Hawk Cape Coral, Florida 14th Feb 2016
Palm Warbler Cape Coral, Florida 14th Feb 2016
Wood Stork Cape Coral, Florida 14th Feb 2016
Anyway, as always, there was a target bird today. An American Flamingo turned up in January at Bunche Beach and has frequented from there to along the causeway to Sanibel Island. Turning up mid morning, it didn't take me long to locate this bright pink bird, an ABA code 3 bird - despite being a mile or so away, Karen was able to verify the sighting (and I got a grim phonescoped image that I'll keep to myself!). The showy Laughing Gulls nearby were a bit closer.
1st-winter Laughing Gull Sanibel Causeway, Florida 14th Feb 2016
One of the places I have the best birding memories of as a child was the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. This extensive area of mangroves, from what I remember, was just full of birds - loads of Roseate Spoonbills and stuff like that (plus a lucky sighting of a Mangrove Cuckoo). Today, though, the cuckoos weren't about due to the time of year and for some reason it was free entry so there were loads of people around. Not to worry though, as this place was still teeming with your 'standard' southern Florida birdlife - Reddish and Snowy Egrets, Roseate Spoonbills, Tricoloured, Little Blue and Yellow-crowned Night Herons, a couple of Bald Eagles and loads of Ospreys, White Ibis, Wood Stork plus Brown and White Pelicans, Short-billed Dowitchers, Willets and a Belted Kingfisher. Throw in a showy Alligator too and that was the wildlife drive.
Little Blue Heron Ding Darling WR, Sanibel, Florida 14th Feb 2016
Yellow-crowned Night Heron Ding Darling WR, Sanibel, Florida 14th Feb 2016
Alligator Ding Darling WR, Sanibel, Florida 14th Feb 2016
A quick walk along the beach at the north end of Sanibel was pleasant too, and back in the car park the birding wasn't too bad - Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Cardinal and Myrtle Warblers. On the way back off the island, Royal Terns and Ospreys kept us company. A Muscovy Duck flew over McGregor Boulevard in Harlem Heights; shamefully I'll have this as an ABA tick given they're countable here in Florida (having dipped the genuine articles on the Rio Grande in Texas a couple of years ago).
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher Sanibel, Florida 14th Feb 2016

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