Friday, September 25, 2015

Summerland Key Birding Trip Report

I've uploaded a trip report from my recent field work in Florida Keys (8-15 September) which was based around Summerland and Cudjoe Keys, with a visit to Dry Tortugas National Park.

Highlights included Masked Booby, Brown Booby, Black Noddy, Brown Noddy, a host of migrant warblers, and oh, an Acadian Flycatcher

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Dry Tortugas

Earlier this month my job took me back took to Florida Keys. On our last day of field work we decided to have a break and head out to the Dry Tortugas National Park. Traditionally, this US birding hotspot is visited in spring but if your non-birding colleague is up for going, you will go anytime! This site is up there with must-see locations such as Cape May, Attu, SE Arizona, Hawk Mountain, Point Pelee and The Everglades. US-1, the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys, ends at Key West. But the Keys don’t end at Key West because 70 miles further out in the Gulf of Mexico lies the Dry Tortugas. Are these keys any different from the rest? You bet! Long Key and Bush Key have breeding Brown Noddy and Sooty Tern (all departed by mid-September). Hospital Key has breeding Masked Booby! And there are always a few Brown Booby around too. Where else in the ABA region can you see all these species at one site? But the birding was better than this as I saw a Black Noddy as well. 

We landed on Garden Key and explored Fort Jefferson but eventually we were distracted again by our particular interests. My colleague went off to snorkel in the beautiful tropical waters and I looked for the bird bath. Yes, September is the fall migration and the Dry Tortugas are a refuge for birds migrating from North to Central and South America. In an ocean of salty water the fresh water fountain is a magnet for small birds (and Glossy Ibis, White Ibis and Cattle Egret too on this visit) and as I sat and watched the procession of wood-warbler, tanagers and orioles coming to drink I was almost in a dream-like state. Sure, I’d seen many of these species in Florida, Arizona, Maine and New York but it was the ease of observing them here in the open. No patiently waiting for views of them in their breeding habitat – they were flying out into the open and revealing themselves as perfectly as they appear in the classic North American field guides. At least 17 species of wood-warbler were seen. When I was young I used to have vivid dreams about birds like Hoopoes and Northern Cardinals… and wake up so disappointed. 

This was a dream come true. Over 55 species were seen exceptionally well on a tiny island in less than four hours. Other highlights included a Black Skimmer, Least Bittern, around 120 Magnificent Frigatebirds, Dickcissel, Bobolink and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (get it in my scope, a birder once said!).

Fort Jefferson on Garden Key, Dry Tortugas National Park
South Coaling Docks ruins - location of Black Noddy
Interior of Fort Jefferson
Water fountain attracting many migrant birds

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Moving to the marshes

At the beginning of July we moved out of London and just into Essex. We’re living right next to Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve now, our living room overlooks the Thames estuary and I still cycle to work in central London, albeit with a train journey in the middle. Not surprisingly the birding is good on all fronts. In just over a month I’ve recorded 64 species (list in the side bar) from our living room window (aka the Observatory) including 16 species of wader (shorebird) and highlights like Little Ringed Plover, Marsh Harrier, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Mediterranean Gull, Common Scoter, Little Egret, Kingfisher, Sanderling, Arctic Tern, Little Tern, Avocet, Sandwich Tern and a peak of 88 Yellow-legged Gulls. Morning and evening I cycle along the sea wall, overlooking Rainham Marshes, catching the train at Rainham town and seeing many good birds on the way including Little Egrets, Marsh Harrier, Barn Owl, Bearded Tit, Hobby and Corn Bunting. It’s been a great change for us and our 7 month old is getting some fresher air!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Ayrshire Bird Report 2012

The 2012 edition of the Ayrshire Bird Report is now available priced at £5.00. Essential reading for anyone visiting the county, it contains the most important bird sightings recorded in 2012 as well as informative articles on Ayrshire's avifauna. It is published by the Ayrshire Branch of the SOC (Scottish Ornithologists' Club). Details: 114 pages with 8 full-colour inner pages of photographs, plus artwork and b&w photos. Please visit the Ayrshire Birding website for details of how to obtain your copy or e-mail me. 

Fraser Simpson (Compiler & Editor)

Kindrogan Trip Report 2015

Earlier this month I returned from my thirteenth trip on an undergraduate university field course to the Field Studies Council's Kindrogan Field Centre near Enochdhu in picturesque Strathardle, Perthshire. Mammal highlights included an Otter on the River Ardle as well as the regular crepuscular visits by the Pine Martens. In terms of birds, it appeared that Crossbills had a very good breeding season and Red-legged Partridge was a new addition to my Kindrogan/Strathardle list. 

On two mornings the alarm clock was set for 02:55 to experience the dawn chorus. I now have times for about 25 June mornings since 2003 and the figure below shows the first song of six common and regular participants.

A full trip list, including records of Goosander, Red Grouse, Osprey, Woodcock, Green Woodpecker, Tree Pipit, Dipper, Whinchat, Redstart, and Ring Ouzel, can be found on the main site at:

Friday, May 15, 2015

Ambience with a hint of birds

Here are a couple of new ambient tracks I've created recently, routing my synths through a Strymon Big Sky. Keeping it bird-themed, I've added a few sound recordings here and there.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

South-west Spain birding trip report

I've uploaded a birding trip report to the main website for the area around the small town of Zahara de los Atunes, situated on the Costa de la Luz in the Straits of Gibraltar in Cadiz province in south-west Spain on 8-18 April 2015. The highlights this year were two Lesser Crested Terns at Atlanterra on 12-13 April, and a Greater Flamingo and migrant Ortolan Bunting at Marismas del Barbate.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Yellow-crowned Night Heron drawing

A pencil drawing from the weekend of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron (Nyctanassa violacea). This was based on a photograph taken in the mangroves of Cudjoe Key, Florida where it was hunting crabs as I paddled past on a kayak. More at

No image on this blog or related sites may be used, copied, or re-posted without permission or payment

Friday, March 13, 2015

Blackbird (and Jack)

Here is a 10 minutes recording of an urban Blackbird (Turdus merula) singing from an internal garden courtyard, with four walls on either side enhancing the reverberations (plus some background contributions from my 8-week old son). Recorded at 05:35, 10 March 2015.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Red Kite drawing

Well, birding activity has been low since the turn of the year due to the arrival of a new hatchling in the family. This weekend I found some hours to do my first drawing in a long time, a Red Kite (Milvus milvus). March is typically the start of the peak period for this species in London (wanderers from mainland Europe?) and in fact two birds were reported over Hampstead Heath yesterday.

No image on this blog or related sites may be used, copied, or re-posted without permission or payment

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Grey Herons in low winter sun

Grey Herons seem to exhibit an endless amount of poses which makes them an inexhaustible subject. I've been photographing these birds since 2005 but it now seems more difficult to obtain something new and different.


No image on this blog or related sites may be used, copied, or re-posted without permission or payment

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Starling Murmurations

November did not have many sunny days, but the early December weekends have had some nice sunsets. I went to visit a Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) roost to photograph the murmurations. The birds arrived in some reasonable numbers quite late in the day and flew around for just 14 minutes before settling in for the night.


No image on this blog or related sites may be used, copied, or re-posted without permission or payment