Sunday, 24 May 2020

Annoyed of Wanstead

Thank you for bearing with me over California and Florida. I had not been planning to write them up at all, but with everything subsequent to them cancelled or rapidly heading that way I needed a bit of a lift, and I have to say that going through all of those waders brought a smile to my face. I am itching to go back and do it all again. However.....

This weekend I should have been in Northumberland celebrating my parents' golden wedding anniversary. My sister and I had rented a house large enough to accommodate all 12 of us, and the long weekend was going to be spent in the great outdoors and then sprawled around a comfortable and rather grand sitting room. On Monday evening I was coming back to London with my Mum and one of my nieces, and on Tuesday together with them and my youngest daughter, was flying to Pittsburgh and from there driving to Ohio. There we would have met up with my aunt, uncle, cousin and [later] sister for a few days, and together we were to visit my Grandmother, now aged 94, in her care home. At 94 I cannot help but wonder how many more chances we will have. Meanwhile my eldest daughter was accompanying my Dad back to Scotland to help look after him and my sister's other two children, and Mrs L would be in London supervising the final burst of GCSE revision for my eldest.

Well now.

No anniversary celebrations. No family get-together in America. No visiting of ancient relatives. No cousins spending time together. No GSCEs and no end-of-an-era school leavers jollity. We've seen no-one and been nowhere. Meanwhile I read of Government advisors quietly skipping off to see families and lovers, I see reports of fun days out birding here there and everywhere, of long-distance twitching, and of photos of crowded beaches and clogged roads all over the country. 

You can imagine how that makes me feel. No doubt there are solid reasons for some of this activity, and I am sure that many people have found ways of justifying it to themselves, but quite a lot of it makes me seethe. Imagine what nurses and doctors seeing this first hand must think. The selfishness of so many people is quite extraordinary. My 'favourite' was a news report of some people who had driven an hour and a half to go to a beach and were without any sense of irony annoyed that lots of other people had done the same thing. I've also read stories of people who never got to see their aged parents again because they died before they could visit, and I'll be honest here - I cannot reconcile those two things. People who are irritated that other people also felt like a nice day out, and people who won't get to see a family member again ever.

Right, deep breath.

Here in Wanstead it has been feeling quite like June for quite a while already. Other than the majesty of local Swifts birding has been scant, and unfortunately I have now turned to insects. On Thursday night we put out the moth trap for the first time this year. Immediate success with Buff-tip, Small Elephant Hawk Moth and Angle Shades - three mega-cool species to find in my back garden. Seek and ye shall find.

We've also had regular visits from a Broad-bodied Chaser that likes to rest up on a particular Yucca leaf, returning to it time and again much like a Flycatcher, and there have been a variety of other interesting insects that I have discovered whilst gardening and on whose identity I am currently clueless. Help is at hand in the form of various established pan-listers, including local birder gall-afficionado James, who was able to tell me that the really smart little bug I photographed was the catchily-named Rhabdomiris striatellus. Given I am not going to be going very far for the rest of the summer and quite possibly the autumn as well, developing an interest and gaining some knowledge in things other than birds may be one of the best ways to get through this.

Stay safe. And don't be selfish.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Florida IV - Day 4 and Trip List

Day 4

Final Day! The beers had not too bad an effect, so once again I found myself at Bunche Beach at sunrise. Same deal as the prior day, however the tide was different by an hour and it simply was not as good as the ideal conditions simply did not last as long before the sun became too harsh. Nonetheless I got a few more images - given how many I posted from the prior day I'll mostly skip over these. Suffice to say that I had another fun couple of hours.

After a repeat of the breakfast and packing routine from the previous day I headed back across the Florida Panhandle, taking a different route through the upper Everglades - taking instead the road south, Route 29,that bisects the two main east-west crossings. I am glad that I did, it was a very quiet drive through the Fakahatchee Preserve and I was able to stop in numerous places for roadside birding which added Crested Caracara to the trip list. With time running out I made a short diversion to the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk. This was quite quiet in the middle of the day, but several Barred Owls were calling, and there was a large Alligator in the pond at the very end as well as a Pileated Woodpecker.

I had one final look at the Snail Kites at the small bend near Cooperstown and mid-afternoon handed in my rental car at Miami International for the early evening overnight flight back to London and my lovely desk at Canary Wharf. It had been another great trip with a good balance between birding and photography.

Trip List

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Florida IV - Day 3, Naples Botanical Garden

Day 3 - Afternoon

After returning to my hotel and getting cleaned up, I spent the rest of the morning having a leisurely breakfast at the local Denny's and packing up. The early afternoon was then spent shopping for my kids at the Miramar Outlet Mall before once again I could concentrate on birding. I drove down to Naples and found my way to the Botanic Garden - tropical plants are another hobby of mine and I had missed out on Fairchild/Montgomery yet again. In short it was lovely if you like that kind of thing, and as ever I combined the two hobbies and essentially birded my way around the gardens. I managed a solid 25 species, including quite a few that were new for the trip list including Ring-necked Duck, Downy Woodpecker, Common Yellowthroat by the lake and Common Ground Dove feeding on the paths. If you have an afternoon it is very pleasant place to while away a couple of hours. Other species seen can be seen on the eBird checklist here.

Tri-colored Heron

A section of Philodendron. I think this one could be "Burle Marx", named after a famous Brazilian plantsman, with the one above being "gloriosum"

After this I went shopping for two essentials. 1) Beer and 2) something to BBQ. I am mostly vegetarian these days, but when in America.... With my evening sorted I drove back to Estero Boulevard and checked into my new hotel, and with the sun setting I plonked myself in a deckchair on the beach and happily watched the sun set over the Gulf whilst swigging a cold beer. The beachfront BBQ was then fired up and I finished the day exactly as I had intended - sat on warm sand listening to the waves and having some nice food and more beer. It's a wrap!

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Florida IV - Day 3, Part 3 - Smaller waders

Day 3, smaller waders

What, you're still here? And you want more?? Well, if you insist I suppose. Ha! I know you don't and I'm afraid that cuts no ice at all. Here are a selection of the smaller waders on Bunche Beach...

Semipalmated Plover

Wilson's Plover. A much beefier bird than the others.

Least Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper

Piping Plover



Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Florida IV - Day 3, Part 2 - Larger waders

Day 2, larger waders

This post is the second one about a three hour session on Bunche Beach at Fort Myers on the Gulf Coast in Florida. It is an exceptionally good location for wader photography, the best I have found, but only with very careful planning. That means checking tide times and the weather. I've got this wrong just once and it won't happen again. People after words rather than photographs should probably click their "back" button about now. People who want to look at six subtly different images of Marbled Godwit, by all means continue... There will be a third post on smaller waders - the Peeps as they're known. 


Short-billed Dowitcher

Grey Plover

Marbled Godwit