November 30 and December 15 - Bald Point and Alligator Point, Franklin County Florida
These are coastal areas relatively near Tallahassee. Right after Thanksgiving we were hosting a visiting grad student and took her down there. Saw a pod of dolphins (pretty common) and large rafts of Black Scoter (definitely not common in these parts).
Also some interesting social interactions between two great blue herons on the beach (note the wing display - they displayed vigorously at one another but I was too slow to catch it - also it was sunset so not much light).
I went back two weeks later and found well over 1000 black scoter scattered along the alligator point shoreline. Mixed in were redhead and lesser scaup and a handful of surf/white-winged scoter.
Gulls - a Bonaparte's looking tiny next to a Ring-billed and some Herring Gulls looking pretty enormous next to a Pelican.
December 20 - St Marks National Wildlife Refuge
Meadowlark and juvenile black-crowned night heron. Lots of birds seen but not many good photo opportunities.
December 23 - Fort Worth Zoo
One of my former students works in the Education department of the Fort Worth Zoo and graciously volunteered to give me and any family members who might tag along a 'behind the scenes' tour. Among the critters she brought out was this Tawny Frogmouth. Apparently this bird is not fond of men's voices but it perched peacefully enough. Interestingly (at least to me) my nieces were unwilling to touch this bird although they would touch a young alligator and a tegu (large lizard).
We also got to see this Eastern Screech Owl.
Later on we toured the zoo. My camera was quickly commandeered and about 90 gazillion pictures were taken. Here are some Chilean flamingos courtesy of my niece.
December 27 and 28 - Vicinity of Summerland, BC, Canada
The Okanagan Valley in south central British Columbia has among the mildest and driest climates in all of Canada. It is a major fruit and wine producing region as well as a common place to retire. Also an interesting area from a natural history perspective with a number of arid adapted species occurring here and nowhere else north of the border. My own avian sightings here were mostly of more widespread western and northern species.
Trumpeter Swans commonly winter in the lakes of the valley floor.
I visited the alpine forest high on mountains east of the valley. I did see a few ravens and gray jays but, like most times I visited this kind of habitat, it has seemed very quiet.
My most exciting observations occurred on the residential street where my dad lives. The house beside his retirement home has bird feeders. A number of mallards(!!) would visit the yard to feed on seed that was on the ground. It was quite common to see them either in the yard, flying in or out, or sometimes walking. One day when we were getting in the van I saw a red-tailed hawk go blasting by heading for the mallards (they got away).
The next day I was waiting for my sister and tried photographing some quail visiting the feeder. While doing so a large flock of birds flew in and landed in a tree behind the house. They were Bohemian Waxwings - a life bird for me. You can't see the distinguishing traits in the photo but I could with my binos.