Guangzhou Birds

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Sun Yat-Sen University

After working on the Maoming gator, I took a stroll through a boardwalk in some of the woods on the Sun Yat-sen University campus. There were birds calling around me, but they were partially drowned out by the cicadas. They were loud. Really loud. And at eye/ear level. Also, they sing with their butts.

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Cicada

When the birds weren’t drowned out, many of them were invisible because they were in the thick, tropical canopy. There weren’t many species of birds here (not that I saw, anyways, and it takes more time to learn to ID calls), but most of them were new to me. It was a pretty campus, just too hot and muggy. I swear the water I drank in Guangzhou skipped my digestive system entirely and just went straight out my pores.

Red-whiskered Bulbul. They were common here and have a pretty song.

Red-whiskered Bulbul. They were common here and have a pretty song.

White-rumped Munia

White-rumped Munia

Yingzhou Ecological Park

I finished working the first day and had another full day in Guangzhou, so one of the hostel workers and I went to Yingzhou Park on the other side of the river island I was staying on. Google Maps called it an Ecological Park, but it was…odd. I’m not sure what kind of park it should be called. It was a mix of nature walk, tiny zoo, and semi-abandoned kiddy park.

There was a shallow enclosure full of crabs.

There was a shallow enclosure full of a local type of crab.

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Plus a random crawdad in a pipe

Plus a random crawdad in a pipe

And a frog

And a frog

Out of nowhere, we came on this dinky dinosaur park with a kiddy train around it. This is a depiction of the famous Tenontosaurus & Deinonychus bone bed. Supposedly the herbivore was being attacked by a pack of the raptors. Originally, that was only said based on association (which could be a taphonomic artifact). I don't know if it's been re-examined to confirm that that's actually the case.

Out of nowhere, we came upon this dinky dinosaur park with a kiddy train around it. This is a depiction of the famous Tenontosaurus & Deinonychus bone bed. Supposedly the herbivore was being attacked by a pack of the raptors. Originally, that was assumed based on association (which could be a taphonomic artifact). I don’t know if it’s been re-examined to confirm if that’s actually the case. This was also the find that originally put forth the idea of dinosaurs as pack hunters (but, again, association in death does not necessarily equal association in life).

Bleahhhh!

Bleahhhh!

Next door to it was a continuation of the same habitat, but people had built little houses in there and looked like they were mostly living off the land and their chickens, though there were trash piles full of things like plastic bottles at the entrance. One couple we ran into was gathering some sort of root for stomachaches

I don't remember the name now

I don’t remember the name anymore

There were lots of butterflies in the area. I don't know what species any of them are.

There were lots of butterflies in the area. I don’t know what species any of them are.

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Butterflies are much easier to photograph than birds.

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Lots of flowers, too

Lots of flowers, too

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Hibiscus makes a tasty tisane

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Water hyacinth: not only invasive in North America

IMG_3576 IMG_3556 IMG_3566IMG_3570The park was quite pretty. There was a huge variety of plants and animals. And I finally saw an Asian Stubtail Warbler! I’ve been wanting to see one since I first saw a picture in the Thailand bird books on the way there in January. They’re a type of Old World warbler with a stubby little tail—very cute. It ran away before I could snap a photo, unfortunately. At another point, we had stopped to take a break on a bench in the shade when the sky above us was suddenly filled with swallows and martins started flying through the sky above our heads catching bugs. And I saw a White-breasted Waterhen! It also ran away and hid before I could take a picture; they’re quite shy. Lots of Japanese White-eyes flitting about (see the featured image). They’re tiny little things. About the size of the kinglets you see in the US.

Long-tailed Shrike. They're very noisy. Kind of sound like a parrot. Shrikes are fun birds because they skewer the birds they eat on sticks and barbed wire fences to eat later. Kind of like leopards stashing their prey in trees.

Long-tailed Shrike. They’re very common and noisy. Kind of sound like a parrot. Shrikes are fun birds because they skewer their prey on sticks and barbed wire fences to eat later. Kind of like leopards stashing their prey in trees.

Sooty Bulbul

Sooty Bulbul

On our way back, we stopped by her college campus near the hostel, which had a few common Tailorbirds in the trees. They were everywhere in Thailand in January.

List

Twenty birds here. A low number because of limited time and my location in the city center. But 12 of them were lifers. Not a bad run all things considered.

  1. Common Blackbird
  2. *Red-whiskered Bulbul
  3. Chinese Bulbul
  4. *Japanese White-eye
  5. Oriental Magpie-Robin
  6. *Japanese Paradise Flycatcher
  7. *White-rumped Munia
  8. *Alström’s Warbler
  9. *Long-tailed Shrike
  10. *Sooty Bulbul
  11. Barn Swallow
  12. Red-breasted Swallow
  13. *Asian House Martin
  14. Eastern Great Tit
  15. *White-breasted Waterhen
  16. *Asian Stubtail Warbler
  17. *Oriental Reed Warbler
  18. Scarlet-backed Flowerpecker
  19. *Greenish Warbler–This one wasn’t on the avibase list for Guangdong, but I don’t know of other green warblers that make a “too-wee” sound like the Northern Cardinal of North America.
  20. Common Tailorbird

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Beijing Birds and Other Wildlife

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Before my first trip here, my advisor told me I wouldn’t see many birds in Beijing. Boy, was he wrong! I was only just starting to get interested in birds last time I visited, and at that point I didn’t have a field guide, so I didn’t pay much attention to birds I couldn’t easily ID. I saw a Black Swan, a Yellow Bittern, and a Common Pochard at Yuanmingyuan. And there are Eurasian Magpies everywhere here along with Rock Doves and Eurasian Tree Sparrows. That was all I got last time.

Yuanmingyuan

Big lily pads

Big lily pads

But I wasn’t going to come here again and not try for more, so the first morning after I arrived, I went birding in Yuanmingyuan (also called the Old Summer Palace) (It was cheaper to fly in a couple days before my host was here than to come in the day before. Also gave me a chance to adjust to the time zones a bit.). YMY was my favorite place in Beijing last time. There are man-made lakes filled with lotuses and ringed by giant weeping willows everywhere. There are people-heavy areas where you can do touristy things like rent a paddle boat to go out to an island, explore a maze or the ruins of an amazing giant water clock that was destroyed in a war with England, buy coconuts that they chop the tops off of and stick a straw in, or buy lotus leaf hats that look straight out of a fairy’s wardrobe. There are also less-frequented paths, though.

Something tells me the authorities here don't really pay much attention to security...

Something tells me the authorities here don’t really pay much attention to security…

I’d briefly visited some of them in 2010, but I was there with friends who were less interested in walking around the less well-kept areas. This time, those less-frequented areas are the ones I spent most of my time in. While walking around, I saw groups of people walking toward where I was with binoculars and cameras. They turned out to be the Beijing Bird Watching Society. They visit parks together every Saturday and I happened to pick the park they were going to that day!

A very small portion of the BBWS seen here. One of the fun parts about walking through YMY is the ruins that appear out of nowhere.

One of the fun parts about walking through YMY is the ruins that appear out of nowhere.

A fellow birder had recommended trying to meet local birders to me before and he was right. Birding with locals makes things so much easier. Plus you meet some fun people that way. There are quite a few birds on my list that I would of had to spend hours mulling over or not been able to ID at all if they hadn’t been there. And they knew where to go to see birds, so there would have also been many I just plain wouldn’t have seen. It turns out my five-year-old East Asia guide really isn’t up-to-date with its range maps. There were some birds we saw that, according to it, wouldn’t have been in the area this time of year. There was even one which it had listed as an accidental (no range map given at all), which the birders said was actually common in Beijing.

There was a bird map hanging on a wall to tell people where common species like to hang out.

There was a bird map hanging on a wall to tell people where common species like to hang out.

I wish Google had pulled up guides written in Chinese when I searched for them. One of them had a guide that looked much better and covered all of China. And since it had species names in both Mandarin and English, it would have been good to carry around on top of the ones I brought (I had to buy one for Beijing and one for Guangdong [intended for use in Hong Kong, so it doesn’t have range maps…blah] because there isn’t a good China-wide field guide written in English. I’d just hoped that Hohhot was close enough to where my East Asia map cuts off that there wouldn’t be birds not listed there. There ended up only being one I had to search the internet to find out about.) But they gave me a brochure of common Beijing birds and I bought another detailing the different warbler species from them (their warblers are hard to ID like our flycatchers; they all look the same). It’s in Chinese, but it has pictures and the scientific and English names, so it makes a great companion piece to my field guides.

We hit some really fun spots. The Northern Hobbies were out in force and actively feeding. We watched one pair zoom along the surface of the lake in front of us catching fish, then eating them on the wing high over our heads. One of them zoomed right toward us before veering off close to the last minute. That was cool. My camera was having a hard time focusing on them they were moving so fast. I ended up only getting one fuzzy, distant shot that wasn’t worth keeping.

Azure-winged Magpie

Azure-winged Magpie

Oriental Greenfinch

Oriental Greenfinch

White-cheeked Starling

White-cheeked Starling

Female Little Grebe

Female Little Grebe

Olive-backed Pipit. Pipits have a fun habit of wagging their butts up and down as they walk.

Olive-backed Pipit. Pipits have a fun habit of wagging their butts up and down as they walk.

Male and juvenile Little Grebe

Male and juvenile Little Grebe

Azure-winged Magpie

Azure-winged Magpie

I think this was one of the Asian Brown Flycatchers

I think this was one of the Asian Brown Flycatchers

Common Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher

A dragon lying in ruins

Sleeping Dragon

A very happy fu dog

A very happy fu dog

Baby Chinese Stripe-necked Turtle (also called Chinese Golden Thread Turtles)

Baby Chinese Stripe-necked Turtle (also called Chinese Golden Thread Turtles)

Any idea what kind of freshwater fish this is?

Some sort of snakehead

There are two fish in this picture---an eel and a tiny goby smaller than its head

There are two fish in this picture—an eel and a tiny goby smaller than its head

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One of the lotuses the park is famous for. Last time I was here it was July and most of them were in bloom. It was gorgeous.

One of the lotuses the park is famous for. Last time I was here it was July and most of them were in bloom. It was gorgeous.

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Peking University

I briefly visited the Arthur M. Sackler Art & Archeology Teaching Museum on the Peking University campus just outside YMY before heading back to the hostel.

They had a very curious way of displaying framed art. They were angled too close to horizontal. Having them in display cases would be a good thing if the cases are climate-controlled. Otherwise, it's an odd choice. I hope those fluorescent lights have UV filters on them...

They had a very curious way of displaying framed art. They were angled too close to horizontal. Having them in display cases would be a good thing if the cases are climate-controlled. Otherwise, it’s an odd choice. I hope those fluorescent lights have UV filters on them…

Some sort of female Golden Silk Orb-Weaver on the campus There were several males in her web, some the empty skins of previous mates and others hopeful mates.

Some sort of female Golden Silk Orb-Weaver on campus. There were several males in her web—some the empty skins of previous mates and others hopeful mates.

Fragrant Hills Park

Life finds a way

Life finds a way

The next place I went was Fragrant Hills. For being a montane place further away from the city center than Yuanmingyuan, it was decidedly non-birdy. I only got two lifers (Coal Tit and Yellow-bellied Warbler). The relatively small number of other species were all repeats from YMY.

It turned out to be quite fun for mammals and invertebrates, though. I was particularly excited to see a Beech Marten. It’s the third wild mustelid I’ve seen (the others being a River Otter in Florida and a Least Weasel in the middle of Washington, D.C.) I thought I was going to get to see a chase and kill when it climbed up a tree a Siberian Chipmunk was hiding in, but it seemed more interested in just hanging out and looking around. It was still lots of fun to watch.

Some sort of cute little beetle that turned to look at my camera. Any idea what it is? It's not in any group I'm familiar with.

Some sort of photogenic little beetle that turned to look at my camera. Any idea what it is? It’s not in any group I’m familiar with.

And there were three species of squirrel in the park. A brown type about the size and shape of our gray squirrels (not sure what species), a black morph of a Eurasian Red Squirrel, and Père David’s Rock Squirrels. At one point, I was sitting on a wall writing birds down in my notebook when passing people gasped and exclaimed something. I looked up and they were looking at the wall next to me. There was a Red Squirrel running at me. It stopped when I looked at it and jumped off onto the walkway, then ran a circuit around the crowd before hopping up on my other side. I assumed it was asking for food and figured I’d give the crowd a fun photo. I pulled out a grape and the squirrel took it out of my hand with absolutely no fear, then hopped into the trees to go eat it somewhere.

Pere David's Rock Squirrel. Chubby-looking little things.

Pere David’s Rock Squirrel. Chubby-looking little things.

I thought that was a one-off until another one ran up to me while I was eating lunch. It was actually so fearless that it ran up to my little grocery bag that was on the ground, put its paws up on it, and looked inside. When I offered it a grape, though, it sniffed it and ran off. It did a circuit around the path and came up on my other side just like the other squirrel. I couldn’t get my camera out in time, but it sniffed my grape and snubbed it again. By this point, a woman had walked up the path and set something green on the wall for it. But this was the most picky squirrel I’ve ever seen because he sniffed it and ran away into the trees.

Seen here: The only picky squirrel in existence

Seen here: The only picky squirrel in existence running away from food

Giant squirrel feeder. Tiny human for scale.

Giant squirrel feeder. Tiny human for scale.

Drinking water

List

I’ve included what few additional species I was able to ID on the train ride to Guangzhou here. The first 47 were in Beijing. 25 lifers (one on the train to Guangzhou)!

  1. Eurasian Magpie
  2. *Red-billed Magpie
  3. *Azure-winged Magpie
  4. cardinal-sized birds with wide heads leading to small abdomens (seen from train; not ID’ed)
  5. Eurasian Tree Sparrow
  6. Rock Dove
  7. Eurasian Collared Dove
  8. Spotted Dove
  9. Oriental Turtledove
  10. Large-billed Crow
  11. *Oriental Greenfinch
  12. *White-cheeked Starling
  13. Marsh Tit
  14. *Yellow-bellied Tit
  15. *Eastern Great Tit
  16. *Coal Tit
  17. *Willow Tit
  18. *Red-billed Chough
  19. Black-crowned Night Heron
  20. *Little Grebe
  21. Great Crested Grebe
  22. *Arctic Warbler
  23. Yellow-browed Warbler
  24. *Black-browed Reed warbler
  25. *Radde’s Warbler
  26. *Red-breasted Flycatcher
  27. Asian Brown Flycatcher
  28. Common Kingfisher
  29. Red-rumped Swallow
  30. *Northern Hobby
  31. *Amur Falcon
  32. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  33. Grey-headed Woodpecker
  34. *White-backed Woodpecker
  35. *Chestnut-flanked White-eye
  36. Common Blackbird
  37. *Chinese Bulbul
  38. White Wagtail
  39. *Olive-backed Pipit
  40. *Black-faced Bunting
  41. Chinese Pond Heron
  42. bittern sp.
  43. *Siberian Stonechat
  44. *Eyebrowed Thrush
  45. Mandarin Duck
  46. Eurasian Moorhen
  47. *Yellow-bellied Warbler
  48. Little Egret
  49. Intermediate Egret
  50. Great Egret
  51. Grey Heron
  52. Mallard
  53. *Collared Crow

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Basel Birding

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I took one birding trip here after finishing working in the collections. But I also managed to get a couple lifers from my hostel. While I was walking down the road it was on, I saw a White Stork fly by overhead. The building had a green roof. The kitchen/dining room/lobby area was only one story and I could see its roof from my window. A little Black Redstart was there everyday foraging in the plants. It liked to sit on top of a skinny pole and preen when it wasn’t catching food. There were also an enormous number of Common Swifts flying in flocks and screaming overhead every afternoon.

Black Redstart

Black Redstart

I had originally wanted to go to a natural reserve just across the French border, but it turned out there wasn’t an easy, cheap way to get over there and back. There was a smaller city park on the edge of Basel and a large patch of green on the map beyond it in an adjoining town, Münchenstein. I took one of the trolleys to the former and found out that it was mostly a residential area. And the way the place was set up, it was sometimes hard to tell where public walking paths stopped and private property began. Which meant that I didn’t hike to the top of any of the mountains and did a lot of backtracking in order to avoid accidentally trespassing.

But the trip was still worth it. I saw so many raptors both in transit and there. Lots of Common Buzzards seen from the trolley. A pair of Sparrowhawks were soaring the thermals together in Münchenstein. One of them perched on the top of a conifer for quite some time. I walked up the hill to try to get close enough for a good shot, but as soon as I rounded a bend that gave me a good view, it took off. A Black Kite was soaring overhead as well.

There were a lot of House Martins there (the European version of Tree Swallows). You could tell that some of the nests under the eaves of houses had been there for a while because the owners had installed overhangs over their windows to keep the poop from piling up in front of their windows, and there were some huge piles of poop on top of them.

The young ones were almost to the point of fledging. You could see them impatiently sticking their heads out of their nests and begging any time an adult flew nearby, even if they weren’t actually heading to the nest. I tried to get a shot of a parent actually handing an insect off, but they only alighted for a split second before taking off again.

Feed me!

This is the closest I managed to get. Setting your camera to take multiple shots with each press of the shutter button is a must with swallows…

Aside from the Black Kite, I was only seeing common birds, so I decided to head to the park. There were plenty of other things to look at, though. There was all sorts of fruit growing everywhere—blackberries, pears, something that looked sort of like a small plum but I’m not sure what it was, plus several types of berries that humans don’t eat. I found some little invertebrates hanging out on one of the trees.

Some sort of stinkbug

Some sort of stinkbug

The snails had retreated into their shells and plugged them up to keep from losing moisture.

The snails had retreated into their shells and plugged them up to keep from losing moisture.

The park I went to was called Park im Grünen. It was a rather nice place. There were a couple little restaurants, ponds, forest, grassland, creeks… All manner of good habitat for birds. I saw two separate people feeding cheese puffs to birds. Why, I don’t know. That….isn’t a good choice for bird food. Even bread would be better.

This one somehow managed to get four in his beak before leaving to eat them in private

This Carrion Crow somehow managed to get four in his beak before leaving to eat them in private

You can see here that some of their wing feathers are actually a slightly bluer shade of black

You can see here that some of their wing feathers are actually a slightly bluer shade of black. The Crows here were really chatty.

The waterfowl were the usual collection of European park fowl—Mallards, Eurasian Coots, Mute Swans, Tufted Ducks, Red-crested Pochards…

A sleepy female Red-crested Pochard

A sleepy female Red-crested Pochard

This is a male Red-crested Pochard, but he's an eclipse morph, so he lacks the red crest and basically looks like a female with red eyes and a hot pink beak.

This is a male Red-crested Pochard, but he’s an eclipse morph, so he lacks the red crest and basically looks like a female with red eyes and a hot pink bill.

Odd position to nap in...

Odd position to nap in…

I was very happy to spy a Cetti’s Warbler amongst the plants at the edge of the water. It stayed pretty hidden, though, so I wasn’t able to photograph it.

I did manage to remember that my new camera can take video, though I kind of suck at it. It doesn’t seem to make much difference for the minnows, but you’ll want to change the coot video to 1080p.
The baby coots were being very belligerent. There were also big schools of minnows swimming near the surface and eating the floating algal mats.

Mostly repeats here, but I still managed to get four lifers!

  • Wood Pigeon
  • Rock Dove
  • Carrion Crow
  • House Sparrow
  • Common Swift
  • Great Cormorant
  • *Black Redstart
  • *White Stork
  • Mallard
  • Mute Swan
  • European Coot
  • Common Moorhen
  • Red-crested Pochard
  • Tufted Duck
  • Common Buzzard
  • *Black Kite
  • Sparrowhawk
  • House Martin
  • *Cetti’s Warbler
  • Blackcap
  • Grey Heron
  • European Blue Tit
  • Great Tit

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Isle of Wight Birds

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I only went on one trip where I was actively seeking to find new birds while on the island. A lot of my birding was done form the beach in front of my guest house, or even from bed! I kept my binoculars on my bedside table and was able to watch a Northern Gannet (in the featured image) wheeling about shortly after I woke up one day. But because I hadn’t been to seaside habitat in England before, I still got lifers out of it. And because the one place I went for birding had a lot of heath habitat (which I had also not been to), I got lifers out of it as well. I was going to go to some wetlands relatively nearby, but that ended up not happening.

First summer European Herring Gull

First summer European Herring Gull

There were Black-headed and Herring Gulls everywhere. Great Black-backed Gulls were less common, but there were a few about–more on the western side of the island than the east. Every once in a while, you’d see a Common Tern flying around and diving for fish. It was cute how they shook themselves off after diving and taking off again. Most of the gulls on Sandown’s beach were adults. There were many more juveniles and adolescents around the Needles where they nest.

Most of these are juvenile European Herring Gulls. This must be the section of cliffs where they nest.

Most of these are juvenile European Herring Gulls. This must be the section of cliffs where they nest.

Adult Rook

Adult Rook

Rooks were actually about as numerous on the beach as the Herring Gulls and you’d see on heaths and in forests as well. Rooks are odd because the adults loose the hair-like black feathers that cover the back of the beak in most crows. I assume it’s an adaptation for scavenging carcasses. The other common corvid on the island is the Jackdaw. They’re predominantly grey instead of black and like to hang out on rooftops.

Jackdaw

Jackdaw

Not pictured: twice the number of juveniles in the bush, all hanging out with this one adult.

Not pictured: twice the number of juveniles in the bush, all hanging out with this one adult.

I’m not sure what was going on, but holy crap were there a ton of juvenile European Starlings. A giant flock of them liked to spend the day in the garden by my guest house. There were dozens and dozens of them and only a few adults. They aren’t that prolific. Why was the juvenile:adult ratio so high?

Many of the feral pigeons here were white

Many of the feral pigeons here were white

Top left: a Shag; center left: a Great Cormorant; bottom right: a Great Black-backed Gull for size comparison

Top left: a Shag; center left: a Great Cormorant; bottom right: a Great Black-backed Gull for size comparison

There are two types of Cormorant on the island and I was able to find both. The Great Cormorant is bigger, has a relatively bigger head, and a more streamlined body. The Shag is smaller, has a relatively smaller head, and a bit of a potbelly.

Common Guillemot

Common Guillemot

There are a few types of pelagic birds you can potentially see on the island, but the only ones I was able to find were the Northern Gannet and the Common Guillemot. I’m still happy with that, though. It’s hard to find pelagic birds unless you’re at a rookery while they’re nesting. And I was very lucky to see the guillemots. I was looking through my binoculars at a gull and happened to pan past five black dots on the water. They were too far out to ID, so I took pictures and was able to tell after zooming way in on the image. It took a while to get a picture of them, though. I kept losing sight of them when I switched from binoculars to camera. By the time I was able to photograph them, four had flown away after a boat came too near for their liking.

Stonechat

Stonechat

Walking along the Needles Headland was quite pleasant. I was on what amounted to little more than a deer trail running anywhere from 10-20 feet from the edge of the cliff. Hardly anyone was out there. A second path further in had people on it now and again, but the only person I encountered was a guy sitting on a bench and reading a book. Other than him, it was just me and the birds, who tried to fly away from me by flying in the direction I was moving, which meant they kept having to fly again. Lots of European Goldfinches, Meadow Pipits, Common Swifts, and Barn Swallows out there. A few Stonechats as well. And I spotted a single Pied Flycatcher.

Three Meadow Pipits somehow managing to sit on a a barbed wire fence

Three Meadow Pipits somehow managing to sit on a a barbed wire fence

Juvenile European Goldfinch

Juvenile European Goldfinch

Adult European Goldfinch. Stupid reed blowing into the exact wrong place at the exact wrong moment...

Adult European Goldfinch. Stupid reed blowing into the exact wrong place at the exact wrong moment…

A couple of the birds on my list were actually on the mainland coast right before or after I boarded the ferry. My Isle of Wight & nearby coast list (35 total, 12 lifers):

  1. Common Buzzard
  2. *Montagu’s Harrier
  3. *Jackdaw
  4. *Rook
  5. Carrion Crow
  6. Eurasian Collared Dove
  7. *Stock Dove
  8. Rock Dove
  9. Wood Pigeon
  10. European Herring Gull
  11. Black-headed Gull
  12. Great Black-backed Gull
  13. *Sandwich Tern
  14. Common Tern
  15. *Northern Gannet
  16. *Common Guillemot
  17. *Great Cormorant
  18. *Shag
  19. House Sparrow
  20. European Starling
  21. European Goldfinch
  22. *Stonechat
  23. Pied Flycatcher
  24. *Meadow Pipit
  25. Common Kestrel
  26. Common Swift
  27. Barn Swallow (these might be split from the subspecies in the US someday)
  28. *House Martin
  29. passerine sp. 1
  30. passerine sp. 2 (Two times I heard little birds that were hiding deep in the bushes…Too bad I’m not good with songs)
  31. Common Blackbird
  32. Mute Swan
  33. Common Moorhen
  34. European Coot
  35. Mallard

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London Birds

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The Natural History Museum is on one side of Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park and I stayed on the other, which means I got to walk through it on the way to and from work. They have some good bird habitat in there. Unfortunately, it’s the only place I got to go birding. There were a couple other parks and a wetland outside the city center I wanted to go to, but I got very tired and my feet got very sore this past week, so I missed out on that.

But it’s okay because Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park are great for birds. The only bird below that I didn’t see there is the Red Kite (it was flying above a station right outside London on the way to the Isle of Wight).

This coot has a nest underneath a solar panel in the middle of a pond

This coot has a nest underneath a solar panel in the middle of a pond


I can't decide if baby European Coots are really ugly or really cute.

I can’t decide if baby European Coots are really ugly or really cute.


One baby climbs up to hang out under its mother with its two siblings (only one visible here)

One baby climbs up to hang out under its mother with its two siblings (only one visible here)

All but the first of the above pictures are from the Italian Garden pools. The first is at Round Pond. The two chicks from the Moorhens’ first brood are foraging by themselves now and their parents are building a second nest. The male runs around looking for choice bits, brings them to the female, and she adds them to the nest.

Handing off nest-building material

Handing off nest-building material


Baby Moorhens look much more normal than baby coots.

Baby Moorhens look much more normal than baby coots.

The Great-crested Grebes on the Long Water (which is an oxbow lake of the Thames) are quite hard to photograph. I happened to be taking pictures when they were actively feeding. As soon as I’d get a shot line up, they’d dive.

Far too many of my grebe photos look like this...

Far too many of my grebe photos look like this…


Great-Crested Grebes are quite pretty

But I did eventually get some decent shots


Common Blackbird hiding under a leaf

Common Blackbird hiding under a leaf


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They’re quite photogenic


Long-tailed Tits have such tiny beaks!

Long-tailed Tits have such tiny beaks!


Don't let the brown head fool you--this is a Black-Headed Gull

Don’t let the brown head fool you–this is a Black-Headed Gull


As juveniles, their head coloration isn't completely in

This juvenile’s brown head feathers are coming in


Greylag Geese were everywhere

Greylag Geese were everywhere


Male Tufted Duck

Male Tufted Duck


Female Tufted Duck

Female Tufted Duck


Mute Swan

Mute Swan


Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose, an exotic with a breeding population here


Lots of black-and-white feral pigeons here. They're quite pretty

Lots of black-and-white feral pigeons here. They’re quite pretty


Female Red-crested Pochard

Female Red-crested Pochard


Mistle Thrush with an earthworm

Mistle Thrush with an earthworm


Juvenile Eurasian Magpie

Juvenile Eurasian Magpie


Grey Heron trying to catch dinner

Grey Heron trying to catch dinner


A pair of female Mandarin Ducks

A pair of female Mandarin Ducks


Sleepy girl

Sleepy girl

There were other species in the park I was hoping to see. I found out about them because of this wonderful blog by a London birder who goes there every day and keeps track of the daily goings-on of several bird families. Unfortunately, none of the ones he listed the past couple weeks that weren’t already on my list were out when I went looking for them. But it is a great blog, so if you’re interested in birds, you might want to check it out.

Somewhere in this tree is a Little Owl that's hiding from me

Somewhere in this tree is a Little Owl that’s hiding from me

What’s even more fun is that the birds there are so used to humans that most of them ignore or interact with you. I saw one man sitting on a bench with a Carrion Crow eating from his hand. Further up that path, a man was holding his hand out toward some bushes and tits were flying in and grabbing seeds from it. I couldn’t resist doing that myself, so a couple days later I bought a seed & dried fruit mix and went back to those spots. The crow wasn’t around, but the tits were. Someone else was already feeding them when I got there (and a Rose-ringed Parakeet), so I waited until he left to start.

A Great Tit eating from my hand

A Great Tit eating from my hand

Rock Doves showed up, of course, because they always show up when someone’s feeding birds. It was mostly Great Tits eating from my hand, though I did have two Blue Tits come by. Even a European Robin took a seed. I saw a European Nuthatch in the bush, but it couldn’t work up the nerve to take part. A small, skinny squirrel on the ground really wanted some food, but was afraid of the pigeon mob. I tried tossing a big seed his way, but the pigeons immediately converged on that area, so I wasn’t able to feed it, unfortunately. A Eurasian Jay also felt the same way.

I wasn’t going to feed the pigeons since they’re bound to get fed more often, but one clever individual figured out that he could just fly up to my hand instead of waiting at my feet. A couple others tried to follow suit, but there isn’t exactly room for multiple Rock Doves on my hand. They either landed right on top of him or they had beak battles because they didn’t want to share (just like the parakeets I used to have, actually). So I ended up slowly shaking out seeds on the ground while holding one hand up for the tits.

Some of the tits I saw this week had scraggly feathers. One of the Blue Tits that came to my hand actually had a completely bald head. After some online sleuthing, it turns out that they can lose feathers that way if their nests are infected with mites. But it’s not fatal and they will regain all their feathers some time after fledging.

And at one point I ran into a ton of rabbits.

For some reason, there were a lot of bunnies on this small patch of green. Only about  a third of them visible here.

For some reason, there were a lot of bunnies on this small patch of green. Only about a third of them visible here.


Looking out for danger

Looking out for danger

Many of the birds I saw in London were repeats from Paris, but I still got 12 lifers:

  1. *European Herring Gull
  2. Rock Dove
  3. Wood Pigeon
  4. European Starling
  5. Common Blackbird
  6. Eurasian Magpie
  7. Carrion Crow
  8. *Mistle Thrush
  9. Great Tit
  10. *Long-tailed Tit
  11. Eurasian Robin
  12. Mallard
  13. *Red-crested Pochard
  14. *Great Crested Grebe
  15. Mute Swan
  16. *Greylag Goose
  17. Tufted Duck
  18. *Egyptian Goose (I’ve seen one in the US, but they’re all escapees there.)
  19. European Coot
  20. Common Moorhen
  21. Rose-ringed Parakeet
  22. *Goldcrest
  23. *European Nuthatch
  24. *Mandarin Duck (another exotic with an established breeding population)
  25. Blue Tit
  26. *Grey Heron
  27. Common Pochard (I’ve seen one in China before)
  28. Black-headed Gull
  29. *Red Kite

Paris Birding

Mute swans
Standard

Birding is one of my big hobbies, so of course I’m going to try to see and appreciate as many birds as possible while I travel. The collections were inside a park called the “Jardin des Plantes”. Most Paris gardens are extremely manicured, which means not much habitat to provide for a high diversity of birds. The Jardin falls into that category with the exception of one area of conifer forest on a hill which has been allowed to grow almost as it will and a gated area which one can take a bird tour through on certain days and times that seem to be completely random (I was never able to go on one).

Wood Pigeons are everywhere here. They’re city birds along with the Rock Pigeons which are an invasive species in the States (but native here).

Wood Pigeons are quite round

Wood Pigeons are quite round

Another common city bird is the Common Blackbird. They aren’t related to our blackbirds; they’re related to our robins….which in turn are not related to Eurasian Robins…bird names are confusing…

Female Common Blackbird. The males are all black with yellow beaks and eye rings.

Female Common Blackbird. The males are all black with yellow beaks and eye rings.

I liked to eat lunch on one of the benches outside. The first day I bought a crepe that I couldn’t eat all of. I ended up tossing bits to the sparrows and pigeons walking around. Then the Carrion Crows showed up and I only fed them after them because corvids are my favorite birds. They’re highly intelligent and have wonderfully mischievous senses of humor. There was a pair of them and they would catch food out of the air like dogs catching a frisbees, which was quite fun to watch. Sometimes they’d just position themselves beneath it; other times they’d jump and catch it. They ate some of it, but would frequently wait until they had a mouthful to take it to their nearby fledgling. It finally hopped over and tried to catch stuff itself, but the parents kept jumping in front of it to catch food themselves.

Carrion Crows are awesome.

Carrion Crows are awesome.

Rose-ringed Parakeets are feral in Paris and breed in the Jardin now. They were abnormally quiet when I saw them. Also extremely well-camouflaged against the leaves of their favorite tree.

Rose-ringed Parakeet nomming away

Rose-ringed Parakeet nomming away

On my way home one day, I ran into a group of French birders looking up into a conifer. They told me there was a female Sparrowhawk with two chicks. The chicks were starting to get their adult feathers in.

It's at that awkward stage of life...

It’s at that awkward stage of life…

One day it will be as gorgeous as its mother

One day it will be as regal as its mother

Some sort of big, gorgeous flowering plant in the garden

Some sort of big, beautiful flowering plant in the garden

I also went to a huge park outside the main part of the city which is allowed to grow wild–Bois de Boulogne. If you’re in Paris and interested in birding, you should definitely spend a morning or even a whole day there.

Song Thrush

A very cooperative Song Thrush

Another one that just hopped up on a stick ten feet away and posed for me

Another one that just hopped up on a stick ten feet away and posed for me

I randomly spied this fella while trying to photograph a Blackcap

I randomly spied this snail while trying to photograph a Blackcap

Common Chaffinch

Male Common Chaffinch eating a berry

Common Moorhen

Common Moorhen

Eurasian Coot adult and juvenile

Eurasian Coot adult and juvenile

Baby Eurasian Coots hanging out beneath a low-hanging branch

Baby Eurasian Coots hanging out beneath a low-hanging branch

Oh that was unfortunate timing...

Oh that was unfortunate timing…

Birding in the middle of a big city in summer is never going to be extremely fruitful in terms of number of species, but when you’ve never been to an area before, you’ll still get plenty of lifers (that’s what birders call species they haven’t seen before). And it certainly helps to head to big parks.

My final Paris list is as follows (lifers indicated by a *):

  1. Rock Dove
  2. Eurasian Collared Dove
  3. *Wood Pigeon
  4. *Common Blackbird
  5. *Carrion Crow
  6. *Common Kestrel
  7. Eurasian Magpie
  8. *Common Swift
  9. European Starling
  10. House Sparrow
  11. *European Goldfinch
  12. *Yellow-legged Gull
  13. *Eurasian Wren
  14. *Rose-ringed Parakeet
  15. *Blue Tit
  16. *Great Tit
  17. *Sparrowhawk
  18. *Eurasian Jay
  19. *Blackcap
  20. *Common Moorhen
  21. *Song Thrush
  22. *Marsh Tit
  23. *Willow Warbler
  24. *Eurasian Robin
  25. *Common Chaffinch
  26. *Garden Warbler
  27. *Eurasian Bullfinch
  28. *European Redstart
  29. *Pied Flycatcher
  30. *Black-headed Gull
  31. *Great Spotted Woodpecker
  32. Mute Swan
  33. Mallard
  34. *Eurasian Coot
  35. *Grey-headed Woodpecker
  36. *Common Buzzard
  37. swallow sp. (I didn’t get a close look and there were three species it could have been)
  38. passerine sp. (I only got a split second look before it flew away. It may have been a Stonechat, but I’m not sure, so I won’t be including it on my life list.)

Which means I ended up getting 29 lifers out of Paris. Not bad. 🙂

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