Welcome to my birdwatching blog. This blog will contain stories about my bird watching trips, interesting bird news and other tales that may or may not be bird related. I want to make it useful to the avid birder as well as those who may only have a passing interest in bird watching. I enjoy photographing bird life, common and rare through a spotting scope, not that they always sit still long enough for me. Being on the outskirts of North East London, my reports will not only cover my local patch of Redbridge/Waltham Forest, but also dip into deepest Essex, Suffolk, Kent and Norfolk.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

New England birding on a non-birding holiday

I don’t really do birding holidays or treks or whatever they’re called because I have to spend my money on a normal holiday. My wife usually has all the ideas and I”m cool with this. If I was ever to buck this trend and blurt out Trinidad & Tobago for instance, she would eye me suspiciously and accuse me of picking a birdwatching hotspot and, well, she’d be on the money. So I leave it to her. It actually doesn’t matter where in the world we go because wherever it is, it will have birds and more to the point, birds I haven’t seen...and if I’m really lucky, birds I haven’t a clue about.

New England. Unlucky.

It’s good but not exactly South Africa (next year hopefully) I love America though and this wasn’t a bird trek so I couldn’t expect much. More than that, it was a coach tour so I didn’t even have the luxury of slamming on the brakes and running through the undergrowth to spot a fly by.

We were going to whale watch so I had a plan there. Screw the whales – but not literally you understand.

So it goes like this. I only had a compact camera so the images are record shots at best so pleas be underwhelmed.

Our first stop was New York and the only birds I could positively ID were these two Red-tailed Hawks circling over Central Park when we visited Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon Memorial.

There were thrushes hanging out in the park but I couldn’t get a good look at the so have to leave that to imagination which is apt I suppose. We weren’t in New York State for long and headed into Massachusetts where we stopped at a farm shop to get coffee etc. While everyone took photos of pumpkins and other random crap, I found a Hairy Woodpecker taking lumps out of the next door farm. There were also a small party of Red-winged Blackbirds and a rather elegant Monarch butterfly.

Hairy Woodpecker

Red-winged Blackbirds
My first Monarch Butterfly.
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler
There was quite a lot of bird activity at our next stop over. By now, we had arrived in Vermont and were based in a ski resort hotel in the Green Mountains. I had an hour or so to spare after breakfast to check out the hotel car park which was surrounded by forest. First, I had Yellow-rumped Warblers. One was in the trees close to the hotel and the other was actually on the hotel roof which I managed to shoot through a forth floor lobby window as it hunted for flies.

Back in the hotel grounds, things were hotting up. Birds were flying about everywhere. Dark-eyed Juncos, Downy Woodpeckers and a Field Sparrow grouped together under a few shrubs close to the hotel entrance. I wish I had been staying all day in the hotel but I was booked on a trip up Mount Washington so any detailed viewing was nipped in the bud.

Dark-eyed Junco and Field Sparrow

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

The Downy Woodpecker is small, smaller, just, than our Lesser Spotted Woodpecker by about 10mm. Most of the time I found it climbing the limbs of small shrubs it is that small!

I also saw a Northern Cardinal but couldn’t get a shot, not that any I may have taken would be any good.

On the road to Mount Washington, I had an American Kestrel and an unknown raptor in a telegraph pole – how I wish I could have stopped the coach for a better look but that’s package holidays for you.

American Herring Gull

Cory’s Shearwater

Cory’s shearwaters



Ring-billed Gull

Manx and Cory’s Shearwaters

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Ring-billed Gull
Great Shearwater
So from Vermont, we traveled back to Boston and apart from some mandatory gulls on the beach beside our hotel – Ring-billed Gulls and American Herring Gulls, I did spook four Black Ducks out of the reeds early one morning before we set off whale watching.

Very Black Ducks

The whale-watching was of course the perfect place to watch birds. Everyone got very excited about the humpbacks, me included but when the marine biologists told us that an indication of where the whales were would be huge seabird activity, my excitement was always going to be greater than anyone else's. Gannets first followed by an A-list of Shearwaters including Manx Shearwaters, Great Shearwaters and very numerous Cory’s Shearwaters really made my day.

Trip List: Common Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Great Shearwater, Cory’s Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Mute Swan, Mallard, Black Duck, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Wild Turkey, Killdeer, Ring-billed Gull, American Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Hermit Thrush, Northern Mockingbird, Eurasian Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle), Field Sparrow, House Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, House Finch.

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