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Tuesday 25 April 2023

Tropical Birdland - on 5th April, 2023

On 4th and 5th April, we found ourselves hosting our son's two daughters, Amelia and Jessica. As a previously scheduled visit to Tropical Birdland in Desford (14 miles / 23 km from our home) had been cancelled at short notice due to one of the girls being ill, and the girls were keen to visit this place, we decided that the Wednesday would be the day to take them, even though the weather was forecast to be dull and showery. This was also to be Lindsay's first outdoor adventure of any significant duration since her knee operation.

We arrived soon after opening time to find the car park already well populated with visitors' vehicles.

It was heartening to see a Red-and-green Macaw high up in a tree beside the car park - clearly a free-flying bird. As the girls were eager to get in to the place, I didn't have time to wait for it to turn round, so only got a very colouful rear view! If my ID is correct, this is a species of forests and woodlands of northern and central South America.

Red-and-green Macaw (Ara chloropterus)

PLEASE NOTE:- I did not make any notes about the birds we saw while at Tropical Birdland, so have done my best to ID their species from my photographs. It is more than likely that I have made a mistake somewhere, and would be grateful for any corrections. I will say a few words about ID tools at the end of this blog post.

Not so heartening to see, before reaching the entrance kiosk, was an enclosure containing a pair of Snowy Owl. Knowing how this primarily Arctic species, in the wild, will cover enormous distances, seeing them confined in this way was a little upsetting.

Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (male)
Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) (female)
Opposite this enclosure was another enclosure containing a pair of Great Grey Owls - another species of northern snows. However, these were both sleeping in unphotographable positions. These too, I felt decidedly uncomfortable about.

Having paid to get in and bought a tub of nuts for each of us, we entered the main area. The first bird that we encountered was an Orange-winged Amazon. This was clambering up the outside of a cage, and then entered the cage to join a congener. This is a bird from tropical South America and its habitat is forest and semi-open country.

Orange-winged Amazon (Amazona amazonica)
Also 'free-flying' nearby was a Red-shouldered Macaw. This is the smallest of the Macaws, and a native of South America.

Red-shouldered Macaw (Diopsittaca nobilis)

We next found ourselves back into an area with birds in enclosures.

The Orinoco Goose is found in every mainland South American country except Chile, French Guiana, Suriname, and Uruguay and has a 'near threatened' status.

Orinoco Goose (Neochen jubata)
The Chilean Flamingo is a species of southern and western South America and of 'near threatened' status. 

Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis)
The Scarlet Ibis looked fabulous. I'm not sure what this one was trying to eat. Scarlet Ibis inhabit tropical South America and part of the Caribbean. Their status is one of 'least concern', although numbers are decreasing.

Scarlet Ibis (Eudocimus ruber)
The last species I photographed in this area was Red-breasted Goose. This attractive Eurasion species is currently classed as being of  'vulnerable' status.

Red-breasted Goose (Branta ruficollis)
Before reaching the cafe, shop, and exit, one arrives at a large open area with perches installed. Here, it is possible to get really close to many free-flying birds and even have them perch on one's hand, arm, shoulder, or head. Some of the birds seemed attracted to shiny things - like ear-rings(!) or (strangely) fur. The girls had a wonderful time here - and I was pretty impressed too! I found myself taking close-ups of some of the birds and was intrigued by the textures of the faces of some of them.

The Military Macaw is native to forests of Mexico and South America, and its status is 'vulnerable'.

Military Macaw (Ara militaris)
There were two Mealy Amazon in the area, and these tended to make a bit of a nuisance of themselves with visitors, with the member of staff overseeing the area having to rescue people from their attention from time to time. The species has been split into two - Northern Mealy Amazon (Amazona guatemalae) and Southern Mealy Amazon (Amazona farinosa) - and I am not sure which of these two these birds were.

Mealy Amazon sp. (Amazona sp.)
The Hyacinth Macaw is a splendid bird. It is native to central and eastern South America and its conservation status is 'vulnerable'.

Hyacinth Macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus)
I was surprised to see what appear to be scarlet bristles on the side of the face of a Scarlet Macaw. It is native to humid evergreen forests in Central and South America and its conservation status is of 'least concern'.

Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao)
We now move to the Australian continent and the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, which is more common in the drier areas of Australia. Our granddaughter, Amelia, was most taken with this species, and spent quite some time taking this one for a walk, chatting to it as she did so. She named it 'Summer' and I think that she'd have taken it home given half the chance!
Red-tailed Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus banksii)

We move over to New Guinea for the next species - Black-capped Lory. The conservation status of this small parrot is 'least concern'. In the area we were in, it seemed to stay on perches out of reach of the many humans around it.

Black-capped Lory (Lorius lory)
Back to the Americas again for the next two species.

The Black-headed Parrot (or Black-headed Caique in aviculture circles) inhabits the canopy, clearings, and edges of humid lowland tropical forests of northern South America and the status of this small parrot is one of 'least concern'.

Black-headed Parrot (Pionites melanocephalus)
The White-bellied Parrot (or Caique) is the only other species of this genus, and are found in an area mainly to the south-east of the Black-headed Parrot habitat. They also inhabit humid tropical forests.

White-bellied Parrot (Pionites leucogaster)
The girls had had a splendid time, but the rain was becoming more persistent and it was time to leave. We did, of course, exit through the gift shop, and the girls managed to find some inexpensive souvenirs.

Jessica and Amelia - Tropical Birdland
On the way out, I noticed that one of the Great Grey Owls had woken from its slumbers. The light was awful by now, however, and as the new lens on my new camera is not shower-proof, I did not spend any time trying to get a better shot than this one.
Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa)

ID Tools

As mentioned above, I did not take any notes about the birds during our visit, although there were infomative notes on the enclosures of those birds that were so confined. 

Relatively recently, I have been using the 'Obsidentify' app. on my phone for ID of many items in nature that I am not familiar with. This has, in general, been surprisingly good. However, when I came to use this app on the birds from this visit it failed miserably - unbelievably, the best it could come up with for that image of the Mealy Amazon, above, was that there was a 25% chance that it was a Common Sandpiper!!!!!! Possibly it was expecting to be ID'ing subjects from northern Europe, or even more local than that.

In a comment on the blog of my good friend, David Gascoigne, I noticed that someone was recommending the use of Google to identify where the shot of a monument was located. I tried this on some fairly obscure monuments and was amazed at how quickly it accurately identified these locations. I then tried it on some wildlife subjects and was extremely impressed.

If you use Google at all, but are not familiar with this facility, this is how it works:-

1. Go to the Google search page

2. Click on the image of a camera ('search by image') to the right of the window where you'd usually enter your search text.

3. It then comes up with options for loading an image.

4. Once you load an image I find that it is usually only a few seconds before you get your ID answer together with images and links to other instances of the item that you've searched on.

All the birds in my photos taken at Tropical Birdland were identified in this way, with the exception of the Red-tailed Black Cockatoo which I'd asked the attendant about because of Amelia's attraction to this bird. However, when I used Google, it confirmed this ID.

That brings me to the end of this blog post. I expect my next one, in about a week's time, to be back on track with UK wildlife. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature.

 Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard


Tuesday 18 April 2023

A Visit to Rutland Water - on 4th April, 2023

It had been a while since I last visited Rutland Water, largely because of Lindsay's post-surgery knee problems - I didn't feel comfortable leaving her alone for any great length of time. Things in that direction are beginning to get back to normal, however, and I at last felt that a longer spell out was in order. 

The weather forecast for this particular day was quite favourable and so, having packed a picnic lunch, I set off rather late in the morning for Rutland Water, taking my usual cross-country scenic route.  This route is not as happy a one as it used to be as, at one time, I had nine Little Owl nest sites along it and it was not that unusual to spot ten different owls during the two-way journey. Sadly, on this occasion, I noted that only two of those sites still looked as if they might be able to support a Little Owl, and one of those was very dubious. The main issue was one of natural tree decay, but tree removal or drastic reduction (2 cases), and building decay (2 cases) were also evident. 

At Cold Newton, a pheasant sauntered across the field beside me.

Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) (male) - Cold Newton
As I approached Newbold I noted a Red Kite but by the time I stopped the car and got my window down it was a bit more distant.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) - near Newbold

I stopped for my picnic by what was my Little Owl Site No.34, and was disappointed to see further decay to the nest tree and is, therefore, the one that I labelled as 'dubious' above.

It must have been a few years since I last saw a hare, so I was delighted this day to see one streak across the field beside me.

Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) - Newbold
While having my lunch, a message had come through about a Bearded Tit being seen from one of the hides. Arriving at Rutland Water, as I left the car park, I noticed a thrush in the paddock beside the car park. At first, I assumed that it was a Song Thrush, but it turned out to be a Mistle Thrush.
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) - Rutland Water, Egleton

I made my way directly to Shoveler hide, from which the Bearded Tit had been spotted just two hours earlier. I arrived to find seven people in the hide, none of whom were aware that this bird had been seen there earlier. Shortly after my arrival another message came through to say that the bird had been heard fying away about half an hour after it had first been spotted.
I settled in for a while to watch what was in front of the hide, where the water level was higher than I'd ever seen it before.
A Coot came drifting by. I am not sure if that is a long black tongue that it is showing, or something that it is trying to swallow. I didn't notice it at the time that I took the shot.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Rutland Water, from Shoveler Hide

A drake Pochard kept its distance.

Pochard (Aythya ferina) (male) - Rutland Water, from Shoveler Hide

A pair of Gadwall were a little more cooperative than the Pochard.

Gadwall (Mareca strepera) (male) - Rutland Water, from Shoveler Hide

Gadwall (Mareca strepera) (female) - Rutland Water, from Shoveler Hide

A Cormorant posed rather nicely on one of the small platforms.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Rutland Water, from Shoveler Hide
There were many Shelduck out on the water, but only one came close, and another flew by.

Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna) (male) - Rutland Water, from Shoveler Hide
Appropriately, a drake Shoveler presented itself for a photo.

Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) (male) - Rutland Water, from Shoveler Hide
It is always a delight to see when a Cormorant (or Shag) spreads its wings, and I was pleased to catch this one.
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Rutland Water, from Shoveler Hide

A Greylag Goose presented itself too.
Greylag Goose (Anser anser)  - Rutland Water, from Shoveler Hide
Shortly after taking that last shot, I took a stroll down to Buzzard Hide where little was visible, except at a great distance, and then moved on to Crake Hide, where I was disappointed to see the water level was so high that the usual scrape area was completely under water. I didn't stay long, as nothing was happening and so returned to Shoveler Hide.
Once back at Shoveler Hide I caught a second Cormorant with spread wings.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Rutland Water, from Shoveler Hide

Somebody in the hide alerted the rest of us to an extremely distant Marsh Harrier flying across in front of us. I raised my camera, more in hope than expectation, and managed to just about get a record shot.

Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus) (female) - Rutland Water, from Shoveler Hide

A gentleman arrived at the hide and, in conversation, mentioned that there were several (he thought maybe twelve) Avocet on Lagoon 4. As it was nearly six years since I last saw an Avocet, I was keen to go and try to find these, so I headed to Plover Hide, which overlooks the north-east corner of Lagoon 4.

I had forgotten how small Avocet are, and didn't find them for a few seconds after opening the hatch in the hide (it was empty when I arrived). I soon had them spotted however. I didn't count them but think that the estimate of twelve wasn't far off the mark. They kept me entertained for the next quarter of an hour or so, although they never came closer than about 50 metres.

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) - Rutland Water, from Plover Hide
I was occasionally distracted from the Avocets by the activities of Black -headed Gulls.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Rutland Water, from Plover Hide
There was another distraction when I spotted a Brimstone butterfly approaching from the left of the hide. I kept my eye on it for a while, hoping it would come in front of the hide, but it kept its distance and I only got a record shot.
Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni) (male) - Rutland Water, from Plover Hide

Here's one last shot of an Avocet, with a Great Crested Grebe for size comparison.
Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) - Rutland Water, from Plover Hide
I was not able to stop late as our daughter and granddaughter were coming for tea, and it is an hour and a half, or more, from Rutland Water to home, so I set off back towards my car.

On the way back, I called in at Osprey Hide and got a departing shot of a drake Teal. I have never before noticed that the 'teal green' on the head can dramatically change colour in some light conditions.

Teal (Anas crecca) (male) - Rutland Water, from Osprey Hide
As I left the hide and walked down the tree-lined track, I noted a small bird flitting about up in the branches to my right. It shot across the track and onto a tree trunk on my left, and I saw it was a Treecreeper. It was on a dark trunk, and I was facing strait into the sun. I'd got totally wrong settings and the only shot that I managed to salvage was this one, which doesn't show the salient features of the species - except for its relatively cryptic plumage!
Treecreeper (certhia familiaris) - Rutland Water, from near Osprey Hide

I also called in at Redshank Hide where a pair of Greylag Geese were fairly close by. I have absolutely no idea why it crossed my mind to make goose-like noises, but I was amazed that one of the geese responded and, for a little while, we enjoyed an intimate conversation! Here's a shot of that goose, responding.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)  - Rutland Water, from Redshank Hide

My journey home resulted in an owl-free day, but I did have another sighting of a Hare at Newbold.

Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) - Newbold

I needed top stop to answer the call of nature near Burrough on the Hill, and was more than surprised to see yet another Hare - no sightings of Hare for years and then three separate sightings in a day!

Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus) - near Burrough on the Hill

Thus ended my excitement for the this outing.

I had throughly enjoyed being at Rutland Water, but found the journey there and back to be depressing on two counts - the previously mentioned disappearance of the Little Owls, and the fact that I used to take this route every Thursday with my old pal, John Truman, who sadly died a year and a half ago.

I have a suspicion that my next blog post, which I will probably schedule for a week's time, will be rather different to any blog post I have produced before.

In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard