Friday 30 November 2018

Florida III - Day 1

My plan to sleep in the Everglades was thwarted by two things. One, I took the wrong the road, the small one which didn't have the big patrolled carpark, rather than the I-75. Two, the Chevy Camaro has almost no space in it. Lovely car but the back seats are only suitable for garden gnomes, and if you want the top down then you also lose the boot. We gave up and found a nasty motel somewhere near Naples, managing about five hours of sleep before we got back on the road. 

We arrived at the famous Ding Darling on Sanibel Island after an excellent all-American breakfast and began to set up the cameras. It was just after dawn and the loop opened in a few minutes. But wait, what are all these tiny tiny bugs? Surely they're too small to bite? Aaaaaarrrrrghhhhhhhhh!! In a few short minutes Mick and I were basically eaten alive. Note to self - if birding Florida swamps bring insecticide and apply it liberally. Drink it if you have to. It was awful, I didn't remember this from either of my prior visits at all. I do remember lying on a nest of Fire Ants once, but this was probably worse as you could not get away from them and they numbered in the millions. They were rapacious and unrelenting to the extent that we were unable to linger on the loop drive at almost any point and instead just got the hell out of there. Not that there were many photographic opportunities for us, mostly the birds were quite far out or into the rapidly increasing light. We found a cooperative Anhinga but that was it. I've now been here twice and not been able to construct any decent images out of it. For birding it is good, you will get a decent spectrum of Florida's egrets and waders, but I probably won't try again unless I have loads of time.

Our next stop was the fishing pier near the lighthouse. This had a very tame Snowy and Reddish Egret following the bait fisherman around, and a pair of American White Ibis perched nicely on a bare branch. It was getting bust quickly however with the usual shell collectors and others beginning their weekend at the beach. Note that the parking here is paid, and is extortionate.

This was several feet long and moved like the clappers!

We drove one more loop of Ding Darling and then went birding at the Bailey Tract, only a short distance away. This is small network of pools and canals with various walkable paths. Whilst Ding Darling is very well-known and has many visitors, Bailey is a potential location from which to get away from the crowds. It is probably far less popular because you have to get out of your car and walk! Despite the harsher mid-morning light we managed some promising images of a close Tri-coloured Heron, and we also found a large non-native Iguana which are apparently doing very well in southern Florida. 

We spent the afternoon having a bit of lunch, scratching our thousands of bites, and shopping for sunscreen and insecticide. Checking in to our hotel on Fort Myers Beach (Estero) as soon as we could we had a nap before heading down to the lagoons about an hour before sunset, which is around half past five at this time of year. The Wyndham Garden Inn is perfectly situated next to the most productive of the pools here, and we were soon into birds. All sorts of herons and egrets were fishing around the edge, and just before last knockings a Roseate Spoonbill came in to roost. Down by the sea Brown Pelicans and Royal Terns were going past. 

We decided to start here the following morning, following a strategy I had employed on my first visit - start at the far end near the causeway that goes over to Lovers Key. The sun rises directly over your shoulder as you head up the beach, and you can make your way from one bird to the next. 

Wednesday 28 November 2018

The internet speaks

Well well. Two weeks I wrote what I thought was quite an amusing take on what it is like to spend time in a bird hide in 2018. A bird hide with other people in it. I had spent quite a few hours in a hide not observing a Bittern, but I did see and hear many other things, and I am not talking about birds. I am talking about people. Five hours as a fly on the wall at a popular bird reserve in a well-populated area provided almost endless blog material. This was not a social experiment, I had genuinely wanted to see the Bittern and I still do. Staring at a birdless reed bed for hours on end however and you cannot help but pick up on the other things going on around you, and in that particular hide on that particular day the sideshow became the main attraction. I condensed it into one post centred around a number of the characters that were in there, left out all the boring bits about people sitting quietly observing birds (not many let me tell you!), and gleefully pressed 'Publish'.

To say the post generated some reaction is an understatement. I was not alone. Many people it seemed had experienced something similar and had the same frustrations. The “camotwat” in particular was a clearly defined person that people recognised from their own birding experiences. More generally poor behaviour – loud behaviour – in a place where it is expected and indeed beneficial to remain still and quiet, was something that struck a definite chord. My blog has no censorship, but the comments there – more numerous in response to anything I have previously written – indicated that people felt the same way and had enjoyed my rant. Well, I very much enjoyed writing it! I named nobody, posted no photos, indeed I did not even mention the location. It didn’t need any of that. Just a few present tense snippets of the odd few minutes here and there and it almost wrote itself.

But not everyone found it amusing. I suppose this is to be expected, we are a diverse lot. As I followed the spread of the post and its reaction on Twitter I chanced upon a separate thread with a completely opposing view. I was not amusing. Not in the slightest. In fact it was very sad that I had chosen to publicly criticise other people out enjoying nature, and of course Twitter being the echo-chamber that it is, many people agreed. At the time of writing this rejection of my point of view has nearly 1000 likes, far more than anything I posted about it! In the spirit of fairness I retweeted this thread and kept an eye on it. There were a few attempts from contributors to prop up one of my key points, which was that hides are supposed to be places from which to quietly watch birds, and that if you want to chat, discuss camera gear, listen to music etc there are probably more appropriate places, but overall I was firmly labelled an elitist snob. Hah! Better even than that though, one reader felt the need to declare me a sanctimonious pillock! This got a retweet from me as well, as a near perfect example of everything that is wrong with social media. With zero irony my judgemental stereotyping was used to blithely categorise me. Amazing.

There are varying levels of excellence on the internet, and although this Twitter user clearly wasn’t much of a fan, he has done very well. Personally I fail to see how anyone wouldn’t find my post amusing, but then I would say that wouldn’t I? I write it and read it as me, and my sense of humour is not necessarily easy to translate, especially not on a first read. Regular readers, a gratifying number of whom came out in support, knew exactly where I was coming from. Some - indeed most - have not met me, but having read my output for many years feel that they do, and they are probably more or less right. It would be difficult to read what somebody writes for close to ten years and still be in the dark as to the author’s general outlook. However this post has had around 2300 hits, which is roughly 10x the normal amount. A whole new set of people have happily been introduced to “WansteadBirder”, and whilst it is too early to say whether they are destined to become acolytes, evidently quite a number failed to read it as I intended and have taken offence.

Offence is of course very easily taken on the internet, and especially on social media platforms. It is almost de rigeur in many instances, and my experience is that people are very quick to jump on the bandwagon. Dare I say it but some revel in it.  It is just too easy to bash out an ill-considered and quick-fire response to whatever it may be, keyboards do funny things to people. Type first, engage brain later. Or perhaps not at all. I am a limited user of these places, but I try not to take any of it too seriously. I’d also encourage my blog readers, especially new ones, to take the same stance. I am sure I have said this before but rarely do I take myself seriously. And neither should you. Nonetheless, and cutting through the manner in which I chose to express myself, I wanted to say two things. One, I wanted to make the point that some people actually want to watch birds from hides, which is after all why bird hides exist. Two, I wanted to point out the reason why number one is rather hard if not impossible is because many people that spend time in hides appear to have rather lost sight of that, or more likely have never been aware of that at all. Personally I find tooled-up wannabe wildlife photographers to be the most egregious of these, hence why my blog post featured them front and centre. People who think I highlighted the toggers purely out of some arrogance stemming from my own interest in bird photography are for the most part mistaken. It was primarily all about behaviour and hide-etiquette, wrapped up in some gentle ribbing.

I do not want to start the whole birder vs photographer argument all over again. I am a bird photographer and I am a birder, and I am beginning to understand what each of those disciplines means. One thing I can definitely tell you is that one hobby is not more noble than the other, no matter what some may think, or may think I think. What I can also tell you is that bird photographers should make an effort to know their subjects just as they should make an effort to know their art. The people I singled out in that hide knew neither.

But I digress. Reading huge number of contrary responses I realised that the issue could be summed up as follows. In order to encourage more people to connect with wildlife, and with birds in particular, should existing and dare I say competent birders turn a blind eye to bad behaviour in hides, put it down to life’s rich pageant, it takes all sorts etc. And going one step further, should they nonetheless seek to encourage and indeed possibly educate these new entrants? 

And if they don’t are they sanctimonious pillocks?

To be continued....

Sunday 25 November 2018

Florida III - Logistics and Itinerary

  • A three day trip in early  November (9th – 13th); I've been at this exact time of the year before, albeit slightly further north around Tampa Bay, so fully expected a repeat of those wonderful photographic opportunities. It did not disappoint. Accompanying me and chomping at the bit was Mick S for his first visit.
  • Flights with Britis Airways to Miami were pretty cheap all things considered, and I used some of my frequent flyer built-up perks to get a flat bed there and back - the return journey was especially important as I was going straight into work and needed some sleep. Other airlines are available.
  • Car hire via Avis was a fantastic Chevy Camaro convertible. God knows what engine it had but it made a lovely noise. Despite a likely dreadful economy fuel was only £50, which included driving across Florida and back again. Welcome to the land of the free....
  • We stayed on Estero Beach at the Wyndham Garden Inn. A twin room was basic but adequate for our stay - we spent almost zero time in it.
  • We visited a number of sites, some repeats from my first trip, others new. Ding Darling was once again disappointing for bird photography and we did not linger. The new sites, such as Bunche Beach between Sanibel and Fort Myers, proved excellent.
  • Weather was stunning throughout, with highs of 31c and blue skies. This actually meant that photography ended quite early on each morning.
  • Early morning and in shaded areas the midges were unbelievable. Invest in some repellent.


Day 0: A very early start at work to fit in a half day and then nipped to Heathrow for the early Friday afternoon departure to Miami. The nice shiny A380 I had booked had morphed into a knackered old 747 with no in-flight entertainment which was rather a shame. We arrived in the evening and set off for the long drive across the Everglades, attempting and failing to sleep in the car. The Camaro is great to drive but has almost no space in it so we gave up and got a motel in Naples.
Day 1: After breakfast at an all-night Denny's we were at Ding Darling for dawn, and spent the morning exploring Sanibel island. The afternoon saw a small amount of shopping and a nap, and then the early evening was spent reconnoitring Estero beach and lagoons in preparation for the following day.
Day 2: Pre-dawn start at the southern end of Estero Beach, walking north with the sun rising behind us. Mid morning we did a recce of Cape Coral for Burrowing Owl sites, and in the afternoon we sought out Florida Scrub Jay up towards Port Charlotte. Evening back at Cape Coral for the Owls.
Day 3: Early start at Bunche Beach Preserve, and an afternoon visit to the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary for a different selection of birds.
Day 4: Back at Corkscrew for a morning of birding and photography, and then back across to Miami for a 5pm flight back to Heathrow

Main Sites visited

Sanibel Lighthouse and Fishing Pier - tame Egrets by the pier and various other bits of habitat.
Estero Beach and Little Estero Lagoon - a series of lagoons between Fort Myers Beach and the strip of hotels, fabulously tame waders and egrets as well as Pelicans and Terns.
Cape Coral - Burrowing Owls amid suburbia, no photographic opportunities but a few Owls seen.
Tippecanoe Environmental Park - a confusing series of trails, but prime Florida Scrub Jay habitat.
Bunche Beach Preserve – an almost empty and massive beach carpeted in waders and egrets with the sun in a perfect position in the morning. One to go to again.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary - a long boardwalk through a Cypress swamp, magnificent habitat and various warbler and woodpecker photo opportunities.

Saturday 24 November 2018

Ahhh, Venice (II)

A few months ago my Mum had her 70th birthday, and my Dad took her on a cruise round the Med followed by a week in Venice. This had something to do with when they were young I think. Anyway, this was a lot more successful than my Dad's 70th when we had all booked to meet in Hong Kong, and a couple of months beforehand he fell over and broke his hip. We toasted him from the 28th floor of a restaurant in Kowloon. 

The plan was for my sister and I to surprise the old dear by simply turning up in Venice on her actual birthday. In the event I went by myself as my high-flying sister had an unavoidable work meeting in Asia, but the surprise part worked a treat and as it was only me I got 100% of all the brownie points on offer....

I infiltrated the city under cover of darkness, sneaking into their hotel just before midnight. Having failed to establish what time they would be heading down for breakfast I got up extremely early and went down to the restaurant. It was closed. I went down every half hour for the next two hours until finally I saw them through the door. Dad clocked me peering in and whispered to her that he had organised a surprise. I love it when a plan come together. Expecting a cake or flowers or something I then appeared at her shoulder, whereupon she burst into tears. I have this effect on people.

Anyhow, she recovered swiftly, it is after all the kind of thing I would be expected to do seeing as it involved getting on a plane etc. We then had a lovely day wandering slowly round Venice, taking boats, drinking coffee and wine, and having leisurely meals. It is a wonderful city, and in the autumn it is not quite as crushed by the weight of tourists as in the summer months. We found areas that were less visited and even people-free, you do not have to go far from the beaten track to feel as if you are perhaps somewhere else entirely, but then you look around and of course it can only be Venice, a unique place. I've been a couple of times before, once on a school trip, and once with my youngest a few years ago. It was as fantastic as I remember it, and this was a far more relaxed trip which afforded a the time for a few photos, including a couple with my funky 10x neutral density filter that blurs water and sky - see below.

My parents think they look awful - very old etc - so I am not allowed to post any of them, but the city is apparently fair game. Of course if they are that old then that means I must be very old too...

Monday 19 November 2018

Feeding the masses

I have good news. I have defeated the squirrels, at least temporarily. The conical baffles and new pole positioning means they just can't get on the feeders. They visit frequently, looking up at the feeders wistfully, but we have never seen them manage to get up. We have a new enemy....  Parakeets. Before I even turn my back they festoon my feeders - I've had up to eight at the same time. The squirrel proof ones are no barrier, they have worked out how to hang off the pole and nibble away without engaging the spring-loaded cage. Their preference is for peanuts though, and with a sack coming in at over £30 this is bad news. Yesterday I discovered that the greedy bastards have sabotaged my main feeder. Look!

They have ripped the wire cage apart and created the concept of free-pour. I was away when it happened, but I can just imagine the scene as the last bit of wire was pulled to one side and a free run of liquid peanuts slid into waiting beaks. I can see them now, lying on their backs on the grass, red beaks open as the lead bird directs the stream of nuts straight down on them. It took five days to empty a 1.5kg tube, they are insatiable. 

The other issue is that there are now so many that no other birds get a look in. When I looked outside on Sunday afternoon I saw five Parakeets and four feral Pigeons on the feeders, and two squirrels on the grass waiting for the spillage. Three species of Tit also visit, and I have Goldfinches on the nyger (which thus far seems uninteresting to the green horde), but overwhelmingly I just have birds that I don't want to see.

My next move is to put a cage around the feeder in the hope that this will allow small birds in and prevent bigger birds from scoffing everything, but these cost 20 quid each and are an expensive measure. Surely feeding our feathered friends is easier than this?

Sunday 18 November 2018

Why I like hides

So why do I like hides? Well, lovely comfy benches for a start, and big bright windows from which to look out. They are frequently heated, and also have tea and coffee making facilities. OK so I might have made that last part up. What I really like about hides is of course other hide users. 

Today I spent five and half hours in a hide trying to seeing a Bittern. Had I passed six I doubt I would be here to type this. Mind-numbingly dull, and frequently so irritating that I very nearly exploded. Me and hides do not mix.

Let me try and describe the scene. 

Somebody comes in. Thump. Whack. Creak. Thump. Bang. He is dressed in camo from head to foot, has no binoculars and a large camera. The lens is a piece of plastic junk but it too is covered in camo. Two more follow with even larger cameras. There are even more bangs. They get seated and things begin to quieten down. Then they notice a Lapwing

Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. 

Then the Lapwing turns and faces them. It is fully 30 metres away.

Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.

A couple of ladies come in wearing binoculars. One sees a Snipe feeding on the edge and tries to describe where it is. Ten minutes later the other is still none the wiser. I decide not to mention the ten Snipe asleep on the bank.

A small bird flies in. Pap pap pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click. Brrrr. Brrr. Brrr. Brrr. 

"Wagtail!" exclaims one of the camotwats. It is a Water Pipit

A Wren starts calling from behind the hide somewhere. "Oooh, that sounds like it could be a Grey Wagtail!" says one of ladies. What is it with Wagtails today? 

The Lapwing has moved closer to the hide, but is into the sun. The sharp angle and terrible light seem to encourage the whole hide, almost all of whom have a camera of some description. The noise of shutters is unbelievable, like a press conference. Gigabtyes are consumed. My camera is still switched off.

Pap pap pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click. Brrrr. Brrr. Brrr. Brrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.

As if the hide is not noisy enough already a few of the camotwats start discussing camera gear.  What is the point of wearing pattern-disruptive clothing if you are going to sit and have a loud chat?  "I made a bid of a £5000 on a xxxx lens but the guy rejected it. I can get it brand new for £6500 from blah blah. Should I get that or a new body?"

I resist the temptation to say that he could use an empty tissue box and a toilet roll with clingfim on one end, colour the whole lot black, write Nikon on it, and get images that were approximately similar. 

One of the camotwats has brought his wife with him. She is even less interested in birds than he is, to the extent she is stood at the back of the hide listening to music on headphones. She is really getting into it, and starts tapping her feet to the beat on the wooden floor. Initially I ignore this, let’s face it this hide is not exactly a library today, but eventually it gets to me. I look over at her but she is oblivious.

After a few minutes I actually turn around and ask if she can please stop doing that, but of course she can’t hear me. Luckily her husband takes a break from distant Lapwing photography and gets her attention.

Taking an earphone out she asks “What?”  “You’re tapping!!” he says, and laughs raucously. This is clearly very amusing for some reason, but she does actually stop tapping. One timbre is replaced by another as Lapwing photography resumes.

A Snipe appears even more distantly. An old boy pokes his lens out of the window and focuses repeatedly on it without taking a photo. Admirable, except that when his camera focuses it beeps. 

Beep. Beep. Beep beep beep beep. Beep. Beep. Beep beep beep beep. Beep beep beep beep. Beep beep beep beep.

After a few minutes the bird moves. 

Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap.

The camotwats have not realised a bird is 'on show', and desperately raise their cameras to join in the action. Lenses and wood collide. Bang. Thump .Bang. Scrape. Bang. 

Pap pap pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click. Brrrr. Brrr. Brrr. Brrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Brrrrrr. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.

Five thousand collective shots later they stop. Facebook is going to take a real beating tonight.

"So I could get the 1Dx2, or I could get the new 500 lens, what should I get first?"

They are discussing spending thousands of pounds on photography equipment that they have no idea how to use. They are insane. 

One of the ladies' phone rings. Loudly. Rather than answer it she unsuccessfully tries to flick a small switch to silence it. Her friend has to help and finally it stops. A conversation then ensues about how she never answers numbers she does not recognise. 

The same unknown number then rings again, whereupon she answers it.

It is Kevin, and she explains to Kevin she is in a bird hide and can't talk now.  It is only a small area of patio at the back that she needs doing, and yes, OK. Yes, OK. OK then, that would be great. OK. If that's not too much trouble. OK, bye now, talk later. What's that? Oh yes, that's right, yes. Ok then. Bye. Yes, bye now.

Even though the whole hide knows that Kevin is lined up to lay her patio she explains to her friend that that was Kevin, and outlines the work she is having done.

A new photographer enters the hide with a friend and finds a space. They are tooled up with large Canon lenses. Up until now nobody seems to have noticed the sleeping female Shoveler on the small island directly in front of the hide. These guys however do not miss a trick.


Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap pap. Click click click click click.Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap. Click click click click click. Pap pap pap pap pap pap pap.

So far I have resisted saying anything to anyone but this is too much.

"IT'S A SHOVELER!!!!!" I scream.

The Shoveler wakes up and swims away. Two Gadwall then appear from around the back of the reeds, and in the ensuing chaos I decide to leave.

I never did see the Bittern

Tuesday 6 November 2018

A tale of two lists

Now that I have given up UK listing and year-listing (a brief flirtation, two or three years to get it out of my system) only a few lists now remain. I still have a passing interest in London, and a little bit of me still wants to see birds in Essex, but actually all I currently fussed about is Wanstead. The patch. I've now lived here for about 14 years, and I reckon I've been birding the place seriously for about nine of those.

How do I define seriously? Well, I have some statistics.....

I moved here in 2004. At that time a bird list was a completely unknown concept for me, and it wasn't until about 2008 that I started to record what I saw with any regularity. My earlist year list for the patch shows that I saw just 83 species, but back then that was an extremely pleasing result as the up until 2007 I had seen just 70 species ever. By the end of 2009 I had lifted this to 105, of which 102 were in that year alone. I was hooked. 

Gradually the year totals grew, as did my overall patch list. 2010 saw me record 108 species and boost my patch list to 120. A further seven in 2011 and five in both 2012 and 2013 put me on 137 with some great patch birds like Wryneck, Stone Curlew and Osprey. 2014 was a slower year with just two new birds added, but normal service was resumed in 2015 with a further five including a quite stunning Red-legged Partridge. 2016 added three more, including Ortolan Bunting and Great Grey Shrike - quality needs to be eked out. The great Hawfinch invasion of 2017 provided that year's only tick leaving me on 148, and 2018 as I am sure I have already said has been mind-bendingly good. 150 was swept aside with what amounts almost with disdain (actually I went weak at the knees, as related here)

This year is now the tenth in which I've seen over 100 and I once reached the dizzy heights of 118. It has been a slow and mostly steady climb, and a truly dedicated blogger would have made a graph. 

But there is another.....

In 2009, almost exactly two months after I started this blog I lost my job. I'd like to think the two are not connected. Whilst I didn't lose interest in Wanstead, indeed I birded it more than ever previously, I had the time to go further afield. Rainham Marshes. With children in tow I appeared at this riverside site quite frequently and gradually established myself with the local birders. Andy, Phil, Dave, Howard and others would kindly keep me updated and it was not at all unusual if I went several times a week, often on a twitch of sorts. In two years I went from 141 to 183, including such London gems as Montagu's Harrier, Snow Bunting, Merlin, Gannet and Eider. Those two years boosted my London list massively, but then along came the need to go back to work and everything slowed to a crawl once again. In the eight years since then I've added just 13. It does of course get progressively harder, but from the start of 2014 to the end of 2015 I added none at all! 

I know all this because I have kept records for Rainham in a similar fashion to my home patch. I won't bore you with them except to say that I am back in the game and a significant milestone that I really ought to have crossed many years ago is now in my sights. Last year I moved quite quickly for Quail, Black-winged Stilt and a Common Crane, and this year Marsh Sandpiper and Rough-legged Buzzard were snaffled at short notice. This leaves me on 196. I know what you are thinking.


I agree, and that is why last Sunday morning shortly after first light I was on the sea wall at Rainham listening out for Siskin. Whilst I may have seen close to 200 species at the site, there are a few embarrassing blanks on my list. Others are Firecrest, Bullfinch and RavenThere are enough seasonal possibilities that could occur and indeed regularly do occur that I decided now would be a good time to really put a bit of effort in, spend a bit more time there.

But of course this comes with risks.....

I expect you can see where I am going with this.

Yes, whilst I was on the river wall at Rainham straining my ears for non-existent Siskin, Nick was happily inking in a pair of Cattle Egrets flying over Wanstead Flats, the first for donkeys years. My first genuine non-twitching attempt to add birds to this other patch list and not only do I draw a complete blank but I miss a mega back on home turf. There is probably a lesson here. 

Next weekend I'm going to Florida.