FLORIDA SNOWY OWL

Snowy Owl (first winter female), Little Talbot Island State Park - the third record for Florida

SNOWY OWL WAS THE LAST BIRD I EXPECTED TO SEE IN FLORIDA as I booked my flights for the 17th Annual Space Coast Birding Festival last autumn. I had toyed with the idea of having a stopover in the northeast in the hope of catching up with the amazing Snowy Owl influx to the USA but had been talked out of it by Pete when we looked at the chance of heavy snowfall there causing travel delays. I was lucky to avoid a foot of of snow in New York yesterday, the airports were closed and 3000 flights were cancelled across the northeast USA... but the influx had already kindly delivered one of these magnificent owls to Florida instead. There are only two previous records for Florida, which is not surprising considering that Little Talbot Island lies at the same latitude as Agadir in Morocco on our side of the Atlantic! Another irony is that it is not purely the blast of polar air that has affected much of North America this winter that is responsible for the influx but more a bumper lemming year on the owls' Arctic breeding grounds. This morning's encounter was a very special one without another birder in sight on the lonely beach here, the sky completely clear blue in an icy northwest wind. The current cold winter is also affecting Florida, with the temperature in Jacksonville just above freezing at 38 degrees fahrenheit but the wind chill made it feel much colder.

There were a few other birds around and these included: Western Osprey (two); Northern Harrier (four males); Brown Pelican (three) and Northern Gannet (many feeding offshore). A small group of 5 bottle-nosed dolphins swam north and the more sheltered parts of the dunes were full of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Savannah Sparrows. A Palm Warbler, a couple of Northern Cardinals and several Northern Mockingbirds were also here. I usually listen to the radio to relieve the boredom of road journeys in the states and there is always some interesting comment. Today's outstanding contributions were the 16(!) signature sauces for you to try at Buffalo Wild Wings and news reader Renée Montana who reported 130 people killed so far in the crisis in Syria (the present total is estimated to be more than 120,000) - can we believe any of the nonsense on the news here?

Little Talbot Island beach (Iphone 5S Hipstamatic)