Sunday, 26 April 2015

Wheatears again

We seem to have a second wave, with up to seven on the Flats today following three yesterday. It was wet and miserable out there, but perhaps this is what allowed me to get ridiculously close to one of them. It looked damp and, frankly, pissed off, and I ended up pretty damp too whilst getting photos of it, but came away happy, where the Wheatear (which didn't move at all) probably remained peeved. Shame there was no sunshine, but these should set the scene. Hopefully more sunshine next week, and with it more birds. April has been amazing, I've had three patch lifers and missed another.


Saturday, 25 April 2015


Today has been epic. No, I didn't go and twitch a Heron. Nor a Godwit. Nope, today was all about the patch, the only place I wanted to be. And it was all about Warblers. It started off well, with yesterday's (and likely last year's) Garden Warbler singing away in Motorcycle Wood. With this tick under the belt I wandered over to the Vizmig Point, discovering that my timing was very poor as I arrived to see Nick with three coffees, and two other patch workers already present. Oh well. We chewed the fat a while, and then Tony left to twitch the Garden Warbler. Nervously, as it's always dangerous heading off solo and leaving a group of us. It turned out exactly the opposite though, as Dan, Nick, Bob and I were halfway towards Alex when Tony called with news of a singing Wood Warbler next to Motorcycle Wood*. Wow! A great bird anywhere, let alone the patch. We all hurried over there, though Nick and Bob didn't have quite the spring in their step that Dan and I did. How so? You guessed it, another massive grip-back was about to occur!

Dan I started running. Not really. We casually wandered over there, and after a temporary period of AWOL, the fantastic trill rang out from the copse. Ooof, and what a beauty it was! With rain beginning to fall reasonably heavily, the bird kept low and fed constantly, every now and then letting out a shimmering trill. Stu and Tim turned up to enjoy this special treat, as did Hawky - silky white underside, lemon yellow chest - stunning. Sadly I don't have anything to show you as I had looked outside and decided that the dark skies indicated a cameraless morning. Nevermind - I suggest you head over to Tony's blog for a peek of what I mean. Warblers in general are pretty good, but Wood Warbler - singing Wood Warblers - are epic. We probably watched it for an hour before the rain started to ease and thoughts turned to what else what might be out there. LOTS more Warblers as it turned out. And a male Whinchat and three Wheatears.

Steve, this is TWO

I picked up House Martin near Esso Copse, and then hitched a ride with joint second Wanstead lister (!) Bob over to the OSW, who was desperate enough to be driving over there for a Sedge Warbler recently found by Dan, and stopped when he saw us. This took a bit of locating and never really got going, but along with a Little Egret saw me hit 91 for the year. Back to Heronry for the year's first Common Sandpiper, and then a short stroll over to Shoulder of Mutton for the recently returned Reed Warbler. totting it up, I worked out that this was the eight Warbler species for the day, and the only bird missing was Willow Warbler. Luckily I know where one of those is, and so back off to the Flats I trundled. Sure enough, the Brick Pit copse bird was in full song, which made it nine for the day (the others being Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat). Can I count Goldcrest as a Warbler? I hope so!

* Motorcycle Wood is so-called because many years ago the local youf set fire to a moped there. Its blackened frame remained for just long enough to give name to the copse, but visitors now are no doubt rather confused. Anyway, now you know.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Surprising patch total

I've just spent a happy hour totting up my 2015 patch list. I had a feeling I was around 80-85, but didn't have any proof either way. So I'm quite surprised to be at the upper end of my guess, especially as I missed quite a few winter species, and have yet to even make the effort to see Little Egret or Tawny Owl. House Martin and Swift are still needed, as is Redstart. Despite this slack attitude, I'm still several species ahead of 2014 at the same date, but of course miles behind my peak year of 2013 when I managed 118. 

The last few days have been good, with a cracking male Whinchat on Monday (likely to be the same bird as Saturday), and then today my first Lesser Whitethroat and four (count 'em) Green Sandpiper. Four is a flock, and a big flock at that! I was wandering around with Nick in the SSSI when one of them called. Old Crofty is pretty sharp these days - the countless hours on patch are working - and he called it pretty much instantly. We found the first one in the sky pretty quickly, and were surprised to then see another one with it. Nick's bins are something like 100x magnification and totally enormous, mine are piddly in comparison, however this means they have a somewhat wider field of view and so I found myself counting a third and a fourth bird. This is unprecedented, I've had two before over near the Alex, but four in one hit is ridiculous. Not a bird I expected to get back in clear blue skies after the guys had one a week or so ago in the heavy mist, but the patch always has the ability to surprise.

In other news, the evil crew at Walthamstow have kidnapped Alan, our cute little Partridge, and are refusing to give him back. Somehow he is a patch tick for all of them bar the Prof, which is odd as I've seen one at the bottom of the Lockwood some years ago. If I were a complete dorky loser I'd be able to confidently state that it was May 9th 2007. But I'm not, so I can't.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Look what I found down the back of the sofa!

You never know what it's going to be. A bit of pizza crust, some lego, a coin or two, a hairband. Imagine my surprise when I unearthed these! All unpublished, and none of the really failing the quality test - there are plenty more to be found which are frankly terrible, but if this is a numbers game Steve.....

In other news the patch has come off the boil slightly. An incredibly early Swift was seen yesterday, but I was sunning myself in Spain and so missed it (although I did see a Swift there too). Redstart and Whinchat have both made an appearance, and I am hoping for both this week at some point. Oh, and I finally saw that bloody Pheasant, and though it gives me no pleasure, it is now on the list as heard and seen.

It was a post-work evening twitch, with my fellow Pheasant dipper Bradders. Pitching up at about 6.30, the bird had the good grace to cross the open ride at about half seven.It did so at approximately the speed of light, blink and you would have missed it. You had to feel slightly sorry for the stoic twitcher, who nearing his twelfth hour at the site that day, happened at that moment to be on the telephone and looking the other way... Oops. I didn't snigger. Much.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Central Park

On the way back from Florida I deliberately built a decent layover in New York City as I wanted to do a couple of things, including replace my one and only pair of trousers. This was a stunning success, and I pushed the boat out and bought two pairs which should see me good for years. In the knowledge of a fine deed done I made my way to 72nd street on the C train, which is the closest stop to the most interesting part of Central Park, the Ramble. It was great to be back, I love NY and hadn't been here since 2011, although that had been later in the spring. 

Spring wasn't very much in evidence, with large piles of snow still lying in some parts, and the winter feeding stations still very much in action. Luckily I had planned ahead and had some warmer clothes - you can see why Florida is so popular during Spring Break! Anyhow, here are a few photos from a pleasant few hours before I had to head back to JFK for the overnighter back home.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Another morning on the patch

We're all as keen as mustard at the moment, hordes of us out on the Flats every day at dawn. Today wasn't quite the day as yesterday, but how could it be? A Yellowhammer was about the best of it, though the day started with yet another Ring Ouzel. Or the same one, I have no idea, they all look very similar. I've seen somewhere between four and six in the last week, depending on whether you count each daily sighting as a new bird or not. Always early, and always vanishing sadly. Couldn't even get a photo of this morning's one, it was flightier than a Great Blue Heron. I think I'm on about 80 for the year, with a pile of winter species missed, so it's not going too badly really. Oh, and there was another Wheatear. It would be rude not to share it.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Halycon Days

I confess to loving patch birding. At this time of year. I've been out early every day for the last couple of weeks and it has been building and building. Whether any future day this year will top today is another question, but the patch is on fire. Today was exceptionally good, though it took a while to warm up. As has been the norm for every day this week, I met up with Dan, Nick, Bob and Marco on the patch, as well as Barry (hereafter known as "Hero") who has been coming over now that it has got good. We wandered around not seeing a huge amount, though a couple of Wheatears and Swallows made themselves known, as did the year's first Whitethroat. As we meandered around the Pub Scrub we got a message from Tim (hereafter known as "Legend"), surveying in the Old Sewage Works like wot a proper birder does, saying that he had a reeling Grasshopper Warbler near the allotments. Marco, being the proud possessor of transportation, showed his true colours and cycled off immediately. He did ask to be fair, but for myself, Dan and Nick it was a longer slog over there. As we neared the OSW, a message came through from Hero, who had a Red-legged Partridge near the Vizmig Point. Whaaaaat!!!!! Two patch lifers at opposite ends of the site! The Gropper a massive gripback from Nick, the Partridge an even massive-er gripback from Bob! What to do? Charge around like nutters basically.

The Gropper had apparently reeled for quite a few minutes when Legend had found it, but was now only doing the occasional burst, but that was enough. We soon located it in a bramble where it gave killer if brief views, and without Bob present! I then hoofed it back over towards the Flats for the Partridge, but unfortunately Hero hadn't stuck with it and in the brief time I had I couldn't find it - it was probably in the long grass somewhere. Nervously departing from the patch, it was no surprise when the boys sauntered over some time later, and laden with armfuls of paninis and litres of coffee managed to pluck it out in roughly the same place. I meanwhile put in a fulfilling day at work, but managed to leave at a vaguely sensible time to give it another crack, tweeting a request that all able-bodied patch-workers join me so that I had the best possible chance. A short wander around the Skylark area produced zip (although every Mistle Thrush got the blood racing!), but an inspired decision to try the Alex scrub found me come face to face with it pottering around under a goalpost on the main playing fields - it had stayed all day! Having fallen two behind Bob in as many days, this was almost karmic. It didn't last of course, as Bob was in the OSW reeling me in (did you see what I did there?), but still, it's a big grip back on the boys at the top, and it came out of nowhere. Bob and Dan joined me marvelling at the Partridge, still feeding in the open, and I dashed home to get a camera as the light was fantastic - I actually jogged and it really hurt, so I drove back. Happily the bird was still there, as was James, albeit briefly as he was off to the Gropper. I threw gear all over the place but swiftly put the kit together and got a couple of low shots before the light went - a sublime finish to the day. I've had a celebratory beer now, but remain incredulous at how today has panned out. When patch birding is good, it can be totally exhilarating!

Monday, 13 April 2015

The best way to see Lady A

Well it ended up being a two tick weekend. After successfully getting from London to Southampton within the four hours that the Greater Yellowlegs was present (skillful stuff this twitching lark), the next day I bagged the last Lady Amherst’s Pheasant in Beds. Heard only, but what a stunner! The delicate coughing noise it made was like the sweetest music you can imagine. Much like Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Lady A’s is a bird that is much better heard than seen – especially the gaudy male. If you see it, it’s basically confirmation that it’s completely plastic, I mean no real birds actually look like that. No, thankfully this one remained hidden in a thicket for the entire four hours of my vigil, making its presence known frequently and often. Each time it squawked I crossed my fingers it wouldn’t be closer, wouldn’t be about to cross the open ride, but fortunately it remained faithful to a part of the wood that nobody could see for the entire time. Some brief trepidation when a birder stood a bit further back and higher up called it, but I managed to convince myself that I was only seeing a Wood Pigeon perched in a tree, so avoided that particular pitfall. Others weren’t so lucky and have deluded themselves out of a tick, whereas mine remains as pure as the driven snow. Yet more people were unlucky enough to have it strut into the open a few hours later, and then again at last knockings, but I’d left by then, thrilled by the whole experience of not seeing the bird through a wire fence but having it call every two minutes from somewhere nearby. So a hugely profitable weekend. Had it been the other way around, and the Greaterlegs been heard only and I’d seen the Pheasant, I’d be looking at a total write off - a bird that sounded like a Greenshank and a bird so fantastically colourful it couldn’t possibly be genuine. As it was, it was a complete tick fest from start to finish. I love it when a plan comes together.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

A tale of two halves

Home: Wanstead
Up at 5.45, on the Flats by half six. Four hours later and I was wet, cold, and had seen just a single Swallow. And a topless woman who was bizarrely trying to change her clothes behind a bramble. Sheltered from the road, yes. Sheltered from an active London patch in mid April, no. It wasn't pleasant, it was just weird, but I suppose it was different, and a patch tick to boot. After such a great morning on Friday, when not only did I find a male Ring Ouzel but also saw my first Sand Martin and Yellow Wagtail of the year, a number of us were very excited about Saturday morning, especially with the prospect of early morning rain. In the event the rain didn't materialise until mid-morning, and Wanstead was more or less a bird free zone. I abandoned the patch as the rain got heavier, and when the sun came out gave it another go. This time I saw one fewer Swallow, and two fewer other things. I was on the way home when Bradders rang.

Away: Hampshire
A Greater Yellowlegs had turned up at Titchfield Haven. Interesting.....would it stick, and more crucially, it was it a real one. People may remember that Greater Yellowlegs Greenshank is a species that has caused me a little bit of angst in the past, but I am now older, wiser, and far more circumspect. Any reports of this species need to be thoroughly checked out, researched, critical questions asked..... Wooooo! A tick! So I said to Bradders that we should go, and immediately. He agreed, and guessing that might be my response, in fact just happened to be in the car and on the way to my place already, so it really was quite convenient that I wanted to go. To cut a long story short, the drive was easy (for me as the passenger), the bird showed instantly and amazingly upon arrival, and was flushed by a Sparrowhawk and flew off miles away about half an hour after we got there. In other words an exemplary twitch in all respects, the brick wasn't even needed. Twitching a Greenshank is still one of my most amusing birding failures, but nonetheless it's good to finally get this one. Especially after the long-staying bird at Strathbeg left a couple of days before I was due to go for it.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Fossil hunting!

At the weekend I was nearly a top Wanstead lister, joint on 140 with Bob. By Monday I had been relegated to third place by a Rook, and was stupid enough to then mention in print that Bob still needed Green Sandpiper. Well that was a clever move, because guess what, he doesn't any more....Talk about hero to zero, in the space of a few days I'm adrift by two species, with the prospect of more to come. Two species is the number of patch ticks I got in the whole of 2014! Anyway, the point is that the stupid Wanstead Park development plans might not be so stupid after all. Proposal 1I, if you recall, was to chop down some woodland in order to reveal a couple of small pointless mounds and carry out an archaeological dig. I scoffed at the time that this was a silly and pompously grandiose project designed only to satisfy 2.3 local history buffs, but now I find myself a firm backer. It might require a slight change to patch listing rules, but all those species that Bob has seen and none of the rest of us have could be revealed in the local fossil record! So a trowel and a brush have been ordered, Tony Robinson is on his way, and I'm going to break out my Tilley Hat as we remove the first layer.

Grip back
Seriously, many congrats to Bob on his latest addition, he and I both know that you can't beat a good patch tick, it's part of what keeps us going. And in his case that's been a very long time indeed ;-)


I managed to spend some time over the long weekend sorting out all the image files from Florida, and rather than post them all on here ad infinitum - this is a blog about Wanstead after all - I thought I'd just take a screenshot and post a link. If you follow it you will get lots and lots of photos of Waders, Herons, Owls, Ospreys, and even Gulls. If you don't, you won't, so it's all pretty simple and binary. Click for bird photos, hit your back button for whatever it was you were looking at before this. I can heartily recommend the former, but in all good conscience am not able to comment on the latter, though if it was via a link from somebody else's blog it is likely to be a better option. Sorry, I mean WTF, you mean you read other blogs? Pfffffff.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

A weekend in Florida - part 2

Day 2
An advantage of staying local mean an extra hour and a half in bed, which I gratefully took. Nonetheless, I was up before the dawn and off to Little Estero Lagoon, only a mile or so away on foot. I wanted to start at the eastern end so that I could walk the whole length of it with the sun behind me, and in contrast to the previous day, it looked like it was going to be fabulous. Although there wasn't the magical sunrise I had been hoping for, after a while the light was simply fantastic. Now I know why Arthur Morris has such an amazing back catalogue. OK, so there might be an element of skill in there too, but with such incredible light and such cooperative subjects, I honestly believe it wouldn't be possible to take anything other than a decent photo. So if you hate the ones that follow, all I can do is apologise.

The beach was busier than I was hoping, mainly shell collectors who appeared not to notice me lying on the beach, and were more than content to flush every single bird I was photographing, but I was in a good mood and let it lie. These, afterall, are my countrymen, and in any event the birds soon settled only a short distance away. Grey Plover, Wilson's Plover, Sanderling, more Herons and Egrets. Fantastic, and I ended up spending a good few hours there before returning for a great breakfast at a local grill. Wet and covered in sand I probably didn't look the greatest, but my dumb and contented smile probably let me in. Lots of coffee, lots of fresh orange juice.

I had a quick shower back at my hotel before checking out, and with the light quite harsh drove up to Cape Coral, mostly in a large traffic jam. Once finally there, I drove around the streets using my previously marked-up map looking for Burrowing Owl nests. They're usually marked by PVC posts sticking out of the ground and a wooden t-bar (for perching). Admittedly it wasn't the greatest time of day for it, but I managed to find two occupied burrows in different parts of the town. The harsh light meant that their eyes are really shaded but what can you do? Basically every place I went to I would have wanted to have been there at dawn, or at sunset, but on a two day trip that's a little challenging.

After doing as much as I felt I could with the Owls without staying until the late afternoon, I went a little further north to Placida, another location that seemed very promising. Specifically I went to the little pensinsula adjacent to the Boca Grande causeway. In actual fact it wasn't that great, or at least it didn't have all the Pelicans I was expecting. So instead I went birding for a little while, picking up a stonking male Hooded Warbler, before finding a fabulous Green Heron fishing from a mooring line. Getting a decent angle was tough, but I got there in the end after the bird swapped perches.It was able to extend fully vertically from the rope to the surface of the water, hanging there like a bat, quite incredible to witness!

When the sun finally went down I grabbed a few slow-exposure Osprey shots and then had a wonderful seafood dinner at the nearby Fisheries restaurant, complete with a couple of ice-cold and alcohol-free beers. Life is good. And then I hit the road up to Orlando, punctuated by another restful sleep on the back seat, ready for my early morning flight back home. Via NYC, so more photos to come! In summary, if you're stupid enough, Florida makes a pretty damn fun weekend away!

Monday, 6 April 2015

Numbers three and four

OK, so these two photos are not quite up to the standard of the last lot I posted, but that's due to the two bird theory which I'm sure you've heard about. Not the two bird theory where you make a complete howler and then say "oh, that's not the bird". Nor the one where you miss a rarity but somehow see another. No, this is the one where both birds look at you, and then at each other as if to ask "are you thinking what I'm thinking?" and then fly off miles away. It's a well known fact that single birds are easy to photograph, whereas when they have company they're utter pigs. Pigs that fly though of course, and often some distance. So it was with these two, numbers three and four for the patch this year, and I got my ass handed to me.

That was the story of yesterday, along with my first Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Swallow and Buzzard. Today was even more fun, with my first patch Rook since 2009, an event so exciting I failed to photograph it, and then a Peregrine. Sadly I was at the park with the kids when the Red Kite went through, but such is life. This flurry of activity sees me hit the dizzy heights of 72 for the year. I am definitely a laggard, as in addition to Nick who is determined to see everything, both Bob and Dan seem to be on a bit of a mission too. Indeed the Rook was a full fat patch tick for Bob, which sees him overtake me in the local listing rankings (all six of us....). And while he still has a bevvy of absolute sitters still to see like Green and Wood Sandpipers, I need to somehow claw back Pallas's Sandgrouse (1863), and Archaeopteryx. Anyhow, must dash, there is more Florida to sort out.

I was able to prove how cool I was by calling out a 787-9 from the vizmig point, Virgin's G-VNEW (which indeed it is)

Sunday, 5 April 2015

A different perspective

I've popped this on the WansteadBirding blog too as it's a lot more topical, but here's a rare view of the patch from the air. I was on one of my ridiculously unnecessary flights back from Florida this week, and the plane out of City Airport banked right over Wanstead as it headed off towards Dublin. You could pick out almost every feature of the place, individual spots. As I looked out of the window I was listing them - Stone Curlew there and there, Lapland Bunting there, Slav there, Goosanders there there and there, White-fronted Goose there, and so and and so forth. I traced my normal route, I marveled at just quite how large it is and how we need a lot more coverage and that it's amazing we find anything at all. Now of course all this would be less meaningful without a photo but luckily I managed to get a snap out of the window with my tablet, and it has come out remarkably well.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

A weekend in Florida - part 1

·        A three day trip in late March (28th – 30th) with the sole aim of photographing extremely tame Herons, Egrets and Waders, as well as taking in a bit of early migration. I had wanted to go to Florida for a long time, as I greatly admire the bird photography of Arthur Morris, and this is his patch so to speak. I wasn't disappointed, and I now see in part why his photos are so spectacular. It was however rather busy as I had not realised it was Spring Break in the US, which meant that the population of every State east of the Rockies and north of Georgia had gotten in their cars and driven to Florida....
·        An extremely complex and stupid routing whereby I took nine flights when I could have taken just two in order to benefit from a sale fare out of Dublin. I quite like flying, but still. It also gave me an afternoon in NYC to see a suite of different birds, followed by an overnight flight back to London City Airport and straight into work. Zero jet-lag at any point, which was a bit of a result.
·        Car hire via Avis was a lovely Ford Fusion, very comfy and a nice big back seat for me to sleep on.
·        I did skimp on the hotels somewhat, with just one night booked on the Saturday at Estero Beach. Good thing I had booked as it was rammo everywhere. On Friday and Sunday nights I just slept in the car wherever I was, and showered in the various airports I visited.
·      Used my phone for navigation but this wasn't necessary really, everything was well signed.
·        Research was fairly brief due to lack of time, but as it was just me that didn't really matter. I used Artie's SW Florida site guide, and followed my nose. There were birds everywhere.

Laughing Gull at Estero Beach


Day 1: Flight arrived at Miami via NY at about 11pm, and I was on the road very quickly. I slept in the Everglades for a few hours and was at Ding Darling Reserve on Sanibel Island for dawn and spent the morning there. Midday at Blind Pass Beach, the afternoon at Sanibel Fishing Pier, and then the late afternoon session at Little Estero Lagoon.

Day 2: Dawn and all morning at Little Estero, Cape Coral in the afternoon, and Placida for the rest of the day.

Day 3: Early morning flight from Orlando to NY via Miami gave me four hours in Central Park, and an opportunity to buy some new clothes as most of mine are falling apart.

Main Sites I went to

Ding Darling NWR - a fantastic wetland reserve, though not that good for photography as many of the birds were too far out. You drive a one-way loop, stopping as you like.
Blind Pass Beach - between Sanibel and Capitiva, good for roosting waders though my timing was poor.
Sanibel Fishing Pier- incredibly tame Egrets hang around waiting for handouts. Good migrant scrub.
Little Estero Lagoon - a series of lagoons between Fort Myers Beach and the strip of hotels, fabulously tame birds.
Estero Beach - plenty of roosting waders
Cape Coral - Burrowing Owls!
Placida Fish Restaurant - Ospreys and Pelicans, with plenty of decent scrub to find migrants in.

American White Ibis

Day by day account

Day 1
After sleeping in the Everglades and a decent breakfast at all-night diner near Fort Myers, I found myself at the gates of the fabled J.N. "Ding" Darling  National Wildlife Refuge. This is a place that I have known about for many years, but never had the opportunity to go. To say I was excited doesn't do the word justice. It doesn't open until 7.30am (and be aware it's closed on Fridays), but I was first in the queue and that's about the time it gets light anyway so not a problem. Once the gates opened it's simply a question of paying your $5 and then walking or driving the four mile loop trail. Being in America, I chose to drive it, as did almost everyone. There are huge pools each side, and they were teeming with birds. Willet, White Ibis, Roseate Spoonbill, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Pelicans, the list goes on and on. Not a great deal was close enough in for the camera but I didn't care. It was fabulous, and supposedly is a shadow of its former glory. All I can say is "wow", it was phenomenal. For starters it was teeming with fish, jumping out of the water, flurries, shoals - the Egrets were having a field day. Bigger fish too, Ospreys catching enormous great things with ease. It was just first class habitat. The Spoonbills were sadly right at the back, and indeed although I saw several birds over the weekend, they were always the furthest away. I'll have to go back - shame.

Tricolored Heron

I drove the loop a few times, seeing new birds each time, including a decent selection of Warblers - Parula, Black and White, and Palm. A pole nest had an Osprey with nearly fully-grown young, and overhead an Anhinga zipped past. Gradually it became busier, and once it had got to the point where I had to identify birds for groups of geriatric US birders it was time to move on. I left the loop for the final time and turned off to the right, towards Captiva. I stopped at Blind Pass beach, which is where Sanibel joins Captiva, and spent literally 45 minutes getting parked - the place was heaving. I knew, as I finally headed off down the beach, that it wasn't going to be great and so it proved. Way too many people - I found three Willet, all of which were repeatedly flushed to buggery by all manner of human activity, and try as I might there was no spot on the beach which was empty. So much for my Skimmers and Terns, so I headed back to the car and back towards the Sanibel Lighthouse.

Once again it was nearly impossible to get parked, and the place was rammed. The fishing pier did have the incredibly tame Egrets that I had heard about, but with so many people around I wasn't feeling the love so I just did a bit of casual birding - the usual fare really, though a Frigatebird was pretty cool, and the only one I saw all weekend, as was a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

I got stuck in a huge jam on the way back to Estero/Fort Myers Beach, my base for the evening, but eventually found Little Estero Lagoon. A gem of a place, a bit mucky, but with the muck and the slime came fewer people - hurrah! More incredibly tame birds, including a Reddish Egret, a bird I'd been hoping to see for its amazingly fishing style, a skipping, dancing, hopping chase through the shallows. None of this slow stalking, it was all that and more, incredible, and the photos don't do it justice. There was a Palm Warbler sat on the sand, and I did a bit of wader photography on the beach that was so enjoyable I decided that I would start here again tomorrow. The other choice had been the Venice Rookery, but that was nearly a two hour drive and after my back seat slumber I needed some proper rest. 

A welcome shower, dinner at a great seafood grill, a couple of beers and a good old-fashioned deleting session saw the evening out. Camera ready by the door, what would the next day bring?