'DID YOU SEE THE LUMP IN THAT FIELD? I think it was a mammal, maybe a marmot. I'm just going back to check' was the conversation somewhere between Rifle and Hayden on my recent Colorado tour. Well, to our delight, the lump turned out to be a badger, which was digging in the middle of a grassy field surrounded by Wyoming Ground Squirrels. Before too long it sat up with a ground squirrel in its jaws, which it then proceeded to shake violently for several minutes. Even though it is fairly common and widespread, it is rare enough to see a badger in the USA let alone some action like this. We hadn't seen one on our Colorado tour for over 12 years prior to this for instance. Needless to say, things did not end well for the poor ground squirrel, which forms the majority of the badger's diet in grassland areas.
Viewing entries tagged
CONTINUING THE THEME OF ARCTIC BREEDING BIRDS, a White-winged Scoter had been found during the birding festival near the A. Max Brewer Causeway to Merritt Island. Happily I was able to chase it on my last morning and it was still loafing around under the bridge at Parrish Park. Another Florida rarity and, following its recent split, a very welcome world lifer for me, which I had missed in several other places until now. The flat calm waters of the Indian River also provided a refuge to a couple of Black Scoters, with hundreds of Lesser Scaup, four Common Loons (or Great Northern Divers) and seven Horned Grebes of note. Whilst watching the scoter I spotted some air bubbles, away from where the loons were fishing and to my delight a Manatee's head popped up out of the water and I was able to take a short video of it as it swam by a few metres away. After a quick visit to the world famous Ron Jon's surf shop in Cocoa Beach I called in at St Cloud on the way to the airport, where on the shores of East Lake Tohopekaliga I added a Snail Kite and four very accommodating River Otters before it was time to start the long journey home. The temperature was back to a more normal-for-Florida 82 degrees fahrenheit today... although the 'Polar Vortex's' next cold front was only a day away. I also see that 'Storm Brigid' is forecast to bring chaos to the UK after I get back as the series of severe weather events continues.
PURPLE SANDPIPERS WINTER FAR TO THE SOUTH ON THE USA'S ATLANTIC COAST. Following a tip from Andy Wraithmell early morning saw me at Lighthouse Park at the southern end of Daytona Beach Shores. Even though it was also a new ABA area bird for me I need no excuse to look for Purple Sandpipers, another one of my favourites! Following heavy overnight rain the rocks of the jetty were suicidally treacherous so I had to wait until the sandpipers eventually worked their way towards the landward end of the jetty, in the company of Ruddy Turnstones. Happily they were incredibly tame and I was even able to approach them from the beach as they fed at the water's edge. Several bottle-nosed dolphins were feeding in the channel of the Halifax River, attracting numerous Brown Pelicans and Laughing Gulls to join their frenzy. A Palm Warbler hunted insects on the rocks of the jetty and the fishermen there trying in vain to catch something complained about the strength of the tidal race, which makes their task very difficult. From here I headed north to the pretty Anastasia State Park at St Augustine. Very similar to Little Talbot Island it is an area of protected dunes and foreshore stretching for miles. Of note here were 13 Semi-palmated Plovers seven Black-bellied Plovers, a handful of willets and the scattered beach roosts of gulls and terns included around 300 herring gulls.
Returning south I stopped at Daytona Beach Shores for the gull 'fly in', parking at Frank Rendon Park. I had seen it before but this evening's spectacle was even more amazing at high tide the gulls were squeezing on the narrow stretch of beach and being flushed constantly by millions of beach walkers. Some would take care to give the gulls some room but others delighted in flushing them deliberately. Sifting through the thousands of Laughing and Ring-billed, a couple of hundred herring gulls and a few Royal Terns I did manage to find an Iceland Gull (roughly behind the Best Western Plus Hotel), five Lesser Black-backeds and two Great Black-backeds.
A FIVE MINUTE DRIVE FROM THE HOTEL finally put paid to my moaning that everyone and his dog seemed to have seen purple gallinule this week except for me. I have inexplicably missed this bird on previous visits to the USA and it was something of a relief to see one at last. A big thank you to Jeff Gordon and Robert Kirk for sharing the news of the bird in the northwest corner of the Blue Heron Wetland today, pacing around the floating vegetation in which also lurked at least three big Alligators. I decided against poking my lens through the shelter belt alongside the drive. They are fairly small in comparison to old world swamphens and the most striking feature when bent over feeding was the shining blue neck. A quick spin around the rest of Blue Heron added a Wilson's Snipe but nothing else new for this trip.