Monday, 23 June 2014

Short-Toed Eagle finally stays put!


This Eagle (in the last 3 weeks) has taken more years off me than anything else imaginable recently. I was away in Turkey and then Romania during the last 3/4 weeks and low and behold, a twitchable Short Toed Eagle makes an appearance. (Not) funnily enough, I was in the UK at this point during a short window of changing flights. Of course, to inject the pain even more, a few close mates had travelled down and were (enjoying) keeping me up to date with the latest happenings. Complete with tiredness, I wasn't in the mood for it, or for what was about to come!

The Eagle showed well that morning in Dorset, I was stuck at Manchester airport as the flight was inevitably delayed, to which in the meantime I could've driven to Dorset, ticked the eagle and driven back up (albeit, tight). It eventually flew off and that was it, at least for a while, there were reports then of probable short toed eagle sightings across the south coast; Hampshire, Sussex, Cambridgeshire and it looked like it was going to be impossible to track down. Until last week, I was in Norfolk, Short Toed Eagle in Sussex... yes, it was still a treck, but doable! I headed in that direction until 80 miles was to go and then news filtered through of there being no sign.

 I wasn't in the mood for pissing around, so I headed back home as time was getting on. All week since the eagle had been showing on and off Ashdown Forest and the anxiety was building until the decision was final. I headed down with on Friday evening hoping to get it roosting and of course, it wasn't, so Saturday morning it was. Finally, after 4 weeks of hell, the raptor showed well from range.
Short-Toed Eagle - When present in Dorset (Taken by Steff Leese)
 Occasionally perched up in a tree and also making long flights around the ridge, the Short Toed Eagle seemed pretty and fixed on the area. You couldn't beat that moment and to make things even better, it dived down and flew off with a snake and ate it whilst in the air. A truly brilliant birding experience!

North Wales finally pulls in a good bird

Finally, after a good while, Cemlyn pulled up a gorgeous Summer plumaged White-Winged Black Tern last week. The bird showed well just off the western car park over the pool adjacent to the farm track. I never actually knew that pool existed as I usually and always take the east side car park. The bird showed perfectly well and so close although taking pictures proved too much for my little Samsung, so I left it to the pro of Steff to fire them off!
White Winged Black Tern - Taken by Steff L
The contrast between the bird was beautiful complete with it's deep read bill and feet.
 
White Winged Black Tern - Taken by Steff L
Arctic, Common and Sandwich Terns showed well over the main lagoons making feeding flights. red Breasted Mergansers, Ringed Plover and Bar Tailed Godwits were present too along with a cracking 3 summer plumaged Med Gulls!
 
 
A gorgeous evening in a gorgeous location and thanks to Steff for driving this one! :)

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Red Necked Grebe at Frodham

Before travelling down to Norfolk last weekend, I dropped into Frodsham to catch up with the summer plumaged Red Necked Grebe which was over-summering on the River Weaver at Weaver bend. The bird has been pretty faithful to this site where it was found 4 weeks ago. It was my first Summer plumaged bird and only my second for the UK following a wintering bird on Valley lakes on Anglesey a couple of years ago. A record shot:
 
Summer Plumaged Red Necked Grebe
A Lesser Scaup was also present at Number 6 Tank, and also had Cuckoo and Marsh Harrier there too.

Spectacled Warbler in Norfolk

Slightly delayed blog post.... after a mad few weeks, I managed to make it down along with Steff to catch up with the nest-building Spectacled Warbler which had made quite an impression on birders during it's first week while I was away. The male speccy was found on the 2nd June and remained there to the 18th where sadly it's nest was washed away by a high tide.
 
To the people that visited it, it showed well and sang throughout its stay.
 
Spectacled Warbler
 
With my camera broken, I still managed a half decent pic through using the Samsung phone.
After that we had decent views of Spoonbill, Barn Owl, Marsh Harrier and we also popped in at Wheeting Heath, a little further south for the Stone Curlews. We saw a pair, out of the three pairs that were present on there along with a couple of chicks! A Spotted Flycatcher was also a nice addition at a nest site beneath the pines.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Terek Sandpiper at Covenham Reservoir

A very quick blog post as I think it's certainly worth mentioning. Tuesday saw another twitch where I was joined by Steff Leese and Zac Hinchcliffe as we went for the Terek Sanpiper at Covenham Reservoir in Lincs. Well worth seeing as it showed down to a matter of feet, but in the rush I managed to leave my binoculars and camera behind leaving me with a scope and phone. It's a good job these cameras on phones are reasonable reliable: A nice record shot at least!
 
 
A huge thanks to Steff for driving this one and another successful twitch!!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

King Eider in Aberdeenshire

The majority of King Eiders are found in Siberia, Alaska and Canada, with smaller populations in Iceland, Greenland and Scandinavia. King Eiders are annual visitors to Scotland but rarely seek any further south from there hence why I was forced into heading up there myself to see one. A loyal drake King Eider has made the Ythan Estuary his home for the summer months during the last 3 years therefore when it returned again this year, I was keen to see it.
 
Myself and Steff made the journey up via plane from Manchester and within less than an hour was landing in Aberdeen. Hiring a car was easy, and after doing so was able to get down to the Ythan Estuary within 25 minutes. We worked our way down the river from the bridge towards the mouth where the golf course is located.
 
Reaching the mouth of the river, we met a small group of guys who had already located the King Eider, but he was asleep. He remained asleep pretty much all day occasionally stirring on the incoming tide and moving up on a higher level.
King Eider - he wasn't always this active
The King Eider showed very well and seemed very settled in the estuary.
 
Other birds included Artic, Common, Little and Sandwich Terns, Summer plumaged Curlew Sandpiper and Little Stint, Turnstone, Sanderling, Knot, Dunlin and Ringed Plover.
 
 
Common Eider certainly was ignored either, I have never seen so many, there must be near 1000 of this stark contrasted sea ducks in the estuary and they seemed very tame at times too.
Drake Common Eider
Female Common Eider
Loch of Strathbeg was our next site where on arrival, I managed to pick up a Little Gull coming in presuming off the sea towards the lagoons. This joined up with the American Wigeon that had spent a few days in the vicinity. 2 Spoonbills was a good record for the reserve while a Garganey was also knocking about. The resident Bearded Tits showed on and off between the showers and a flock of 16 Barnacle Geese flew over the reserve during our time there. Well over 70 Mute Swans were present as well as 2 remaining Pink footed Geese.
 
 
Certainly a duck-filled weekend. Thanks to Steff for putting up with me as usual, and another great weekend to add to the memories.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Spainish Review: Wallcreeper and Dupont's Lark Video

After a fantastic trip to Spain, I thought it would be nice just to upload a couple of videos just of our two main highlights of the trip.
 
Wallcreeper was my initial main target and it had been a bird I had previously missed on a visit to the Pyrenees a few years ago. Our first location for Wallcreeper was Cuenca del ebro but after hearing reports of no Wallcreeper reports from there of the past week, we decided to set our sights much higher.... The high Pyreenes! A good hour and a half from our hotel, we set off for Parque Natural de los Valles Occidentales, Huesca. Upon arrival, we located a good steep cliff face just off the path and eventually caught up with one. A superb male distinguishable by it's deep black throat patch. The bird was calling from the tops and showed well during our time there.
 
Wallcreeper showing well upon the cliff face
A quick clip of the Wallcreeper whilst in Spain:
 
 
Another bird we thoroughly enjoyed seeing was the Dupont's Lark. This is a very rare breeding bird in Spain and it's the only place it breeds in Europe. Luckily, we acquired a good location near Zaragoza, and heard the bird at dawn from the word go.
 
Dupont's Lark
We later on had great views and a record video of the bird singing. A truly magical experience for any birder!
 
 
 
In total we saw over 120 bird species with highlights including Wallcreeper, Dupont's Lark, Black Woodpecker, Penduline Tit, Lammergeier, Booted Eagle, Bee-eater, Greater Flamingo, Black Bellied/Pin Tailed Sandgrouse, Black Eared Wheatear, Scops Owl, Western Bonelli's/Sardinian/Subalpine Warbler, Black Wheatear, Blue Rock Thrush, Red-Rumped Swallow, Crag Martin, Fan-Tailed Warbler, Calandra/Thekla/Lesser Short Toed Lark, Griffon Vulture, Montagu's Harrier, Egyptian Vulture, Golden Eagle, Pallid Swift, Gull-Billed Tern, Black Kite, Purple Heron, White Stork, Great Spotted Cuckoo, Hoopoe, Short-Toed Treecreeper, Southern Grey Shrike and Alpine Swift plus many more.


Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Spotted Sandpiper at Draycote Water

A very, very last minute decision after work today took me to Draycote Water, Warwickshire located in the heart of the midlands for a cracking summer plumaged Spotted Sandpiper. Found earlier this morning, I found out about it just before finishing work and decided to give it a shot as it was a bird I'd wanted to see for a good while.
Spotted Sandpiper in fine Summer Plumage
 The bird was best viewed along the causeway between the valve tower and the small water inlet and it showed incredibly well from the path. The hardest challenge was acquiring an image of it without blurring as the bird was constantly on the run. Luckily, early on in the visit, I managed to get a couple of record snaps.
 
Tiring to say the least by very much worth it especially in such a fine plumage! That’s two summer plumaged American waders inside 3 days now!!

Monday, 5 May 2014

Lesser Yellowlegs and Cattle Egret

A day down in the Buckinghamshire area proved to be the better option of the day on the way back from Kent. Myself and Steff Leese hoped for some good birds to break and with the bank holiday, we had an extra day's hope in order to see them. It had been a surprisingly quiet weekend for migrants with limited views of Cuckoo, Green Woodpecker and Great Skua. Turtle Dove and Cetti's Warbler somewhat were heard but not seen so we turned our attention to orchids and butterflies (of which will follow in the next post). Things started to look up on the Sunday evening, after self finding a Drake Garganey and flyover calling Wood Sandpiper at Otmoor RSPB. Hirindines were thoroughly checked for that much wanted Red-Rumped Swallow but to no avail.
 
The Saturday morning broke with news of a summer plumaged Lesser Yellowlegs at College lake, Buckinghamshire. On arrival the bird showed very well from the main reception hide and remained all day.
Lesser Yellowlegs
Other birds also included a Turnstone, 2 Little Ringed Plovers, 3 Common Terns and my first Hobby for the year.
 
A Cattle Egret in Cambridgeshire was considered too far so we thought we'd give the Buckinghamshire bird a go. This birds appears to have been around since December but remained quite elusive during the day. Within the last couple of months, there have been reports of the bird showing at Briarhill Farm (although it hadn't been reported for a while). Luckily we located the farm and instantly noticed a white egret sat in the field with the cows. The Cattle Egret!!
Cattle Egret
The bird showed relatively well from distance occasionally getting spooked by the odd biker tanking it down the country lanes. We also had a couple more Hobby, another Cuckoo, Red Kite and Green Woodpecker from this site.
 
A decent end to a decent trip!


 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Northern Spain: Days 3, 4 & 5 (Pyrenees - Zaragoza)


Northern Spain Trip Report - 12th-17th April

Day 3: The Pyrenees: This was the element of the trip we had all been waiting for... Wallcreeper was the most wanted bird for two of us. Having stayed at Boletas birdwatching centre, we discovered that due to mild weather, the Wallcreeper’s at our ‘reliable’ site will’ve moved on, therefore, plan B took us into the high Pyrenees and over a 2 hour trip into them. After eventually getting there, we took a 20 minute walk to a sheer rock face... Within a matter of minutes we thought we’d heard one calling and not long after, Chris spotted one flying across the rock face to disappear around the other side. This was followed by another flight view, but we weren’t content with those views. A couple of hours passed and after Chris convinced himself that a brown bear was footsteps away, we decided to move around a little further. It was a good job as we were immediately awarded with superb views of a male Wallcreeper feeding away on the cliffs above us. We watched the bird for a further half an hour or so before it moved on.
 
Wallcreeper (male)
During our time, we had good views of Lammergeier, Golden Eagle, Alpine and Red-Billed Chough, Crag Martins and the occasional House Martin.
Lammergeier gracing over our heads - taken by Steff Leese
We moved further up the valley acquiring great views of Rock Bunting, Green Woodpecker and Griffon Vultures.

Rock Bunting

Egyptian Vultures and the occasional Booted Eagle showed well soaring high over us as we birded through the valley. Firecrest and Crested Tit were other notable birds too. On our return we heard Black Woodpecker, they became impossible to see (although Chris strung one to get us all going... Although he’ll never admit that). We didn’t see one that day although they were about. We drifted back towards our base, on the way stopping for any key targets.
Crested Tit - Taken by Steff Leese
 
We dipped Citril Finch but gained Woodlark. Cirl Buntings showed well all the way along. We decided to take a slight detour into Huesca city centre in the hope Scops Owls had made their return into the country. We entered the city half asleep and gave it some time walking around like fools with our birding gear and Chris attempting to do his 'bonnng' Scops Owl impression, with the only interest being the funny looks off the locals, until, eventually we heard one back.... Or maybe two!! We legged it over to the little park area which was a lot quieter. They certainly gave us the run-around calling from all around us, although we believe it was probably the same bird flying around in circles calling above our heads! It eventually landed and Steff came up trumps and located it in the tree in the dark like a pro!
Day 4: Pyrenees and a trip up the ski lift: Snow Finch and Alpine Accentor was today’s targets and Chris gave us a nailed on site... They were to be found pecking around a cafe on the top of the ski resort. We got up there and nothing apart from skiers!! Water Pipits and Black Redstarts were present in the surrounding areas as was, Yellowhammer and Dunnock (No Chris, it’s not Alpine Accentor!!). We made our way down with stunning views across the snowy mountain range and headed down the way we had just come.
 
 
He left the snowy landscapes behind and drove to San Juan de la Peña, (an ancient monastery) North of Huesca in the uplands. To salvage a poor day, we added more species in form of a cracking Black Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker. We had more Griffon Vultures from the viewpoint along with another Egyptian Vulture, Peregrine Falcon and Lammergeier.
Egyptian Vulture - Taken by Steff Leese
 
Citril Finch was a bird Chris had missed also on previous visits, so when we halted in the car because we saw a small finch feeding on the path ahead of us, life couldn’t have got much better for him when it turned out to be just the bird he needed.
 
Citril Finch - Taken by Steff Leese
Day 5: Laguna de Gallocanta and home: Having pretty much the whole day until our evening flight, we had until about midday to bird. Chris suggested a lake an hour south of Zaragoza, so we travelled down in the search of Little Bustard. We came across a superb Griffon Vulture sat just off the roadside managing some fine shots.
Griffon Vulture
We spent most of our day searching the surrounding areas for this bird but to no avail. Yellow Wagtail, Crane, Black Winged Stilts showed well on the lagoons as well as 2 Greater Flamingos which were a decent record for the area. We discovered after speaking to a local that a Black Stork drifted over an hour before we saw him. There were plenty of gulls and terns but all too far to ID... We were lucky to get 2 gull billed terns reasonably close. Time had caught up with us by that point and we needed to head back to Barcelona. Steff opted to drive and thank god she did, we’d have never got back. Over all, a superb trip and a huge thanks to both Chris and Steff for contributing highly towards its success!
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