Sunday 21 December 2014

Merry Christmas

Christmas Robin
Just like to say thanks to the folk who have visited and commented on my blog and to wish you and your families a very Merry Christmas and a great 2015!!!!!!

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Cape Verde 2

Bar-tailed Lark
A few more images of the birds we saw around the hotel in Cape Verde, at times it was very difficult to pick up the both Larks as there colour blended in really well with there surroundings.

Brown-necked Raven

Cattle Egret and a friend

Male Iago Sparrow 

Stilts on the settling pools

Hoopoe Lark
Spectacled Warble
Hope you have enjoyed your visit!!

Friday 5 December 2014

Cape Verde

Last week the Duchess (wife) and myself were off to Cape Verde to celebrate a friends 60th birthday; it was going to be a relaxing 7 days in the sun, but having never been to Cape Verde before, and after a bit of research, I found that there were a couple of birds there I had not seen - Iago Sparrow (Cape Verde sparrow)  - which is an endemic, and the other was Black-crowned Sparrow Lark, so, on the 26th of November, and after a 6 hour non eventful flight, we found ourselves on Boa Vista - one of the islands in this archipelago 350 miles off the West coast of Senagal Africa. Our hotel - the Riu Touareg (which I can certainly recommend) is on the SE coast of the island. On our 30 minute transfer to the hotel, it was noticeable just how sparse the vegetation was - the first image (below) was taken from outside the hotel - and this what it was like as far as the eye could see - with just a few bushes scattered here and there.
 The hotel is very isolated apart from a tiny smallholding just north of the hotel; there are no other 
habitable buildings - or for that fact, no other buildings what so ever!  but on exploring,  the
following morning, the Duchess and and I were amazed just how much bird life was about - we 
first noticed small flocks of Spanish Sparrows feeding in the gardens of the hotel, and our first view 
of  the many Spectacled Warblers we would see

                                                                                      Spectacled Warbler
                                                                           Spectacled Warbler
                                                                            Spanish Sparrows

Just walking down the road adjacent to the hotel there were lots of Hoopoe Larks and then I came
across one of my target birds - the endemic Iago Sparrow - feeding a youngster.  I never managed 
to get a decent image of the male, but I think the female is quite a nice bird for a sparrow! Also in 
this arid habitat were lots of Bar-tailed Larks.
                                                                  Iago Sparrow

Bar-tailed Lark

Hoopoe Lark

We went out most mornings and my second target bird - a Black-crowned Sparrow Lark -was found on the third day - again just feeding at the side of the road. At one end of the hotel was a 
bit of a muddy area on which were a couple Kentish Plovers, also, a lot further away, was a Whimbrel and few Brown Boobies flying North up the beach

Black-crowned Sparrow Lark

                                                                Kentish Plover

 About 600 yards to the north of the hotel there is a settling pool from the sewage management plant, where a few waders feed.  I never tried getting close for any images as the birds were busily feeding and I did not want to interrupt them. Sanderling, Curlew Sandpipers, Ruff and Little Stint along with a couple of Greenshank were noted, also a few Wood Sandpipers, and Black-winged Stilts were the main birds. As I was leaving the pool, a single Turnstone was noted. Leaving this area on the fourth day, the duchess and I watched a bird glide over our heads - with it's sandy body with black tipped wings, it could only be Cream-coloured Courser! What a lovely bird, but sadly no images! The bird I did want to get an image of was the Brown-necked Raven, just because it was always around the hotel but never when I had my camera with me, so on the last day it was great to see this one land right in front of me
                                                     Brown-necked Raven

                                                             Black-winged Stilt

Altogether, I had 23 species of bird just from around the hotel, including 2 'lifers' - not a bad return for a chillaxing week!

Hope you have enjoyed your visit to my blog!


Saturday 1 November 2014

Twice in a week

October the 25th saw the last remnants of hurricane Gonzalo pass over the UK - but what had it brought with it on the bird front? Well, on Friday 26th, all was revealed - a Forster's Tern flew by Cape Cornwall; a yellow-billed cuckoo was found in Porthgwarra, Cornwall, closely followed by a Black-billed Cuckoo on North Ronaldsay; also a Hermit Thrush and a Chimney Swift in the Outer Hebrides - both a bit to far, but Porthgwarra in Cornwall (though 320 miles away) is quite 'doable', so, at 11.45pm  Friday evening, Dave Gray, Ben Croxall and myself travelled over to our other birding buddy - Neil Hagley - for an overnight drive to Cornwall. We were there for first light and so, with a lot of other hopeful birders, made the 15 minute walk towards the said dried up pond where the bird had been frequenting the previous day. As the light got better and better every one was hopeful the bird would show, but sadly, after about 3 hours, despondent birders started to walk back to their cars, and we shortly followed. It was going to be a long drive home - but not before taking the opportunity to see some of the other avifauna that was also in the area, so we headed for Penzance as there had been a Juvenile Rose-coloured Starling  being reported there for a few days. We parked on Sainsburys' car park and it wasn't long before it was seen feeding on a bush on the other side of the road. (Apologies for the image it's a record shot and heavily cropped)
Juvenile Rose-coloured Starling

Next stop was Copperhouse Creek in Hayle for a Lesser Yellowlegs. Once again we parked up - this time on the libary car park and there was the bird right in front of us! but too far away for any images, so I made due with this Bar-tailed Godwit.
Bar-tailed Godwit

A little detour to Davidstow Airfeild, where an American Golden Plover had been showing really well, but sadly not for us. This was a bit disappointing for Ben, as he needed it for life tick - and to rub salt in to the wound, we had only been left about half an hour when it came back on the news services and was showing well -but we were well on our way home by then. A  disappointment,  but still saw some nice birds forward a few days, I was speaking with Steve James about the weather (as blokes do) and he informed me we were going to get some Easterly winds mid-week and to get ready for a twitch at the week-end! 'Yes' I said, hopefully, but how right Steve was! On Thursday, news came up of a Eastern Crowned Warbler which had been found at Brotton in Cleveland, so, having spoken to Steve about going, we both made a few calls to see who else was available. The only one was John Hague - it was John and myself that dipped on the 2009 Durham bird - so at 3.00am Friday morning, after picking up John and Steve, we were off for hopefully, a different result from the week previous! Again, we were there for first light - and so were a lot of other birders! After about an hour, the bird was picked up in some sycamore;  there were birders running about all over the place trying to get a glimpse of this Eastern jewel, but, with a bit of patience and luck, I think everybody got decent views of  the bird and went away happy - we certainly did!  I tried to get some kind of image, but with so many people being there it was nigh impossible!I'm no photographer - just a birder with a camera, so seeing the bird is the most important thing for me. Needless to say, it was a lot better drive home this week!

Glad you dropped by and hope you enjoyed your visit!!

Monday 6 October 2014

Shetland 2014

On Wednesday the 24th of September I made my annual pilgrimage to the Shetland Isles (an archipelago about 100 miles off the NE coast of Scotland), so at 4.30 am, the taxi arrived, and, with my birding buddies Steve James, Dave Gray and  John Waters, we headed for Birmingham Airport. After two uneventful flights, we picked up the hire car - a Kia Picanto - which had not got enough power to pull the skin off a rice pudding! We headed for our home for the next 10 days, the Beach House at Hoswick, and after dropping off our luggage, we started to check out the local avifauna. We found Chiffchaff in our garden, and lots of Blackbird were about, along with Hooded Crow and a fly-over Bonxie (Great Skua). I won't bore you with a day-by-day list of birds, these are just a few highlights of our trip.....
Thursday, whilst out trying to see more migrants, a report of a Red-Eyed Vireo came in at The Sumburgh Hotel gardens, so off we went! Sadly, by the time we arrived, the bird had disappeared but we did note Snipe, Gold Crest, and at Sumburgh Head, Fulmar, Gannet and Raven were noted. We headed for Hestingott, to try and find the Red-Backed Shrike that had been there for a few days - and were successful following a good 'spot' by Steve. Other birds of note were Redstart, Wheatear, Merlin and Pied Flycatcher.
Red-Backed Shrike

Friday was extremely windy, so we went looking for more sheltered areas and found ourselves at Loch Clickimin, Lerwick. Noted water birds were Scaup, Whooper Swan, Kittiwake, Teal and large numbers of Tufted Duck with a few Wigeon. A report of an Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll had been found at Veensgarth, so off we went again! We were lucky to get good views of the bird, but sadly no images - unlike the Red-Breasted Flycatcher which we found on a small housing estate in Cunningsburgh!

Red-Breasted Flycatcher

Red-Breasted Flycatcher with a morsel

Saturday was again spent looking for migrants in and around Voe. Birds of note today were Twite, Brambling, White Wagtail, and, at the Loch of Voe, a possible Olive-Backed Pipit.

Sunday found us in Levenwick, where we found the Barred Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat, which looked to be of the eastern variety. News of Swainson's Thrush at Norwick, on the Isle of Unst, was recieved. We were two ferrys and approximately 70 miles away, but it was a new BOU 'tick' for three of us, so it was a mad dash then, to Unst! We didn't have much time on Unst though, and unfortunately the bird hadn't been seen for at least two hours, and due to ferry times, we had to leave without seeing it. 

Monday......Back on the first ferry available to try again for the Swainson's Thrush, and by 08.30, we were back at the same garden.....but to no avail! We did get flight views of Common Rosefinch, and also, a Wryneck - yet another good 'spot' by Steve! We decided then to go for a Temminck's Stint at Baltasound which was rather more obliging! We then moved on to Halligarth, as there had been a Rustic Bunting there for quite a while - which Steve needed for his list. Whilst viewing this bird, we also had excellent views of Barred and Garden Warblers.
A good day was had by all!

Barred Warbler

Garden Warbler

Whilst on our way back from Unst, news came in of a White Thrush near the Loch of Bow on the Shetland mainland. Although it was too late for us to get there that evening, we decided to target the bird the next morning, so, on Tuesday morning, we were to be found peering over a garden wall along with 60 other birders trying to get a sighting of this Siberian beauty. Though viewing was difficult, with patience, I think everybody got a view of the bird. The images below of the thrush were taken on Wednesday when we returned. The bird showed really well, and it's feeding method has to be seen to be believed - it paddles the ground, but it's head stays in exactly the same spot! ....... somebody described it as twerking, like Miley Cyrus!! 

White Thrush

White Thrush

After leaving the White Thrush, the Myrtle Warbler (I prefer the old name of Yellow-Rumped Warbler) which had been found a few days earlier had turned up in a garden at Grutness, so we headed off to see it. As you can see from the images below, we had great views of this American warbler!

Myrtle Warbler
Myrtle Warbler

Friday, as we were coming back from Scalaway and the Tingwall area, where a Pallid Harrier had been seen (Steve and John needed it for their lists), Steve, who was sitting in the back of the car suddenly blurted out those immortal words.....'Rubythroat'!!!  'Where?' we all shouted! Remember earlier in this tale I told you that the car was grossly underpowered??........well, to be fair to the Picanto, it managed to get four burly blokes to Levenwick - a distance of about five miles - in a speed you wouldn't believe! The bird was doing a circuit between a fuchsia and Hebe bush in a ladies garden, and, with patience, we all managed to see this enigmatic little jewel of a bird, along with about 60 other birders. I did manage to get one record image, but the bird was constantly moving, and as there was a restricted viewings in order to allow everybody to see it, I wasn't able to linger. Unfortunately, we were leaving the next morning, so weren't able to return for any more images.
Siberian Rubythroat
Below are a few images of some of the other birds we saw on our visit to Shetland.

Temminck's Stint
Whooper Swan
We had in the region of 90 species between us, and there are some bird I haven't even mentioned, like double figure counts of Yellow-browed Warbler, Kestrel - not a common bird - and neither is Carrion Crow.  There were also lots of Blackcap, a few Skein of Pinkfeet with Purple Sandpiper, Sanderling and Turnstone. We traveled just over 800 miles - I just hope the car recovers!
As always, I hope you have enjoyed your visit to my blog!

Sunday 21 September 2014

Patch Birding

I really should put more on my blog about my patch at Brascote Gravel Pits. Its not that i'm lazy - its just that it's only a small area of old workings that used to extract gravel, and there are only a couple of the old settling pools that still hold water; there are lots of sallow, and some old woodland, and this is all surrounded by arable farming with a few cattle, but saying that, we have had some really good birds - e.g. Bearded Tit, Black Redstart,  Avocet and Wood Sandpiper to name but a few! It's just sometimes really hard work to find anything at all - but I suppose that's why we do patch birding - hoping to find something a little more unusual than the more common birds. To this end, every now and then, I'll put some of the wildlife that appears on my patch. The Redstart  image below was from last weekend, found by John - a good mate of mine.
Common Redsart

As always, I hope you enjoyed your visit to my blog.

Sunday 31 August 2014

Black Tern at Cropston

Earlier this week there was a Juvenile Black Tern reported at Cropston Reservoir not to far away from where I live, so on wednesday evening with nothing else better to do I thought that it was worth a visit to see if I could get any images. On arrival there were a few Common Terns perched at the water tower, and it wasn't long before I picked up the Black Tern feeding out in the middle of the Reservoir along with hundreds of Hirundines mostly Swallow and Sand Martins.Along the dam 3 Common Sandpipers were busy chasing each other about but I did manage to get a few Images, but the Tern was always to far out to get some really good images so the record shot below though cropped  is the best I got. In the couple of hours I was there 2 Raven and 6 Little Egret and 3 female Mandarins were also noted.
Juvenile Black Tern

Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper
As always hope you enjoyed your visit.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Migrants on the move

On Tuesday evening, a it was nice, being quite warm and with no wind, I gave my mate Pete a call to arrange to visit our local patch at Brascote GP. On arriving and checking the front pit,we saw that the 5 juvenile Gadwall were still present, as were the 2 Little Grebe; the flock of geese seemed to have expanded, with over 200 Canada Geese and 22 Greylag in with them.We then headed for the sallows pit, but as we were walking down the path, we noticed  two or three Long-tailed tits and with them was a Phylloscopus Warbler. We waited, and after a few minutes the Phylloscopus Warbler showed well, - and .....not just one Willow Warbler, but at least five were seen  in with a tit flock, which had a minimum of 28 Long-tailed tits, Blue and Great Tit, and a Chiffchaff;  these were just the birds that we were seeing -  more must have gone through unnoticed through the willows. Carrying on to the bottom track, the only other bird of note - though being a nice one - was a Hobby a nice couple of hours birding.

Long-tailed Tit

Scruffy looking Willow Warbler
Hope you have enjoyed your visit!!!!!

Monday 11 August 2014

Penzance Pelagic

I was thinking to myself a few weeks ago about how short my British list of Petrels is, with only Storm and Leach's seen... and also only Manx and Balearic Shearwaters....but the thing is, I didn't want to go down to Pendeen or Porthgwara, on the Cornish coast, and sit there for hours.  I'm afraid I am not a big sea watcher, so imagine my surprise when Rare Bird Alert tweeted that a company in Penzance was running pelagic trips on every Saturday in August... so, after a few phone calls to friends, we were booked on the boat for the 9th of August! At stupid o'clock last Saturday morning, Steve James, Dave Gray, John Waters and myself  headed for Penzance for our 8 hour pelagic. In the previous few days, lots of the big Shearwaters had been seen from the mainland and from pelagic trips running from the Scilly Isles.... plus the winds were in our favour, so fingers crossed, we should see a few birds! After the compulsory 'full English' in the cafe on the harbour car park,(certainly recommend it) at just after 8.00am, we were off towards Wolf Rock Lighthouse, 8 miles from of Lands End. It wasn't long before some Common Dolphins were spotted, and there were quite a few big Gulls about - Great Blacked-backed and Herring Gulls mostly.
Great Blacked-back Gull
Herring Gull
The further we got out  we saw Fulmars skimming over a quite a  big sea swell, and also lots of Gannets in all sorts on plumage from juvenile through to stunning adults - then a shout went up - Sunfish and just a few 
meters from the boat, an Ocean Sunfish just gently floated by - one of 3 we saw during the day.
The strange and wonderful Ocean Sunfish

We had been out for a while, and were approaching Wolf Rock lighthouse, which is about 8 miles out from Land's End, so it was time to start 'chumming'. Paul and Martin - the guides on the boat - started to throw an evil concoction of fish remains, oil, and cornflakes - the latter floating on the sea, so the birds had something to see, once the slick started dispersing. First of all, the smell bought in large Gulls and Fulmars, then Steve called out 'Great Shearwater!' but the bird had landed on the water which made it difficult to pick up; however, it  soon took to the air, and flew around the boat for quite a while. Shortly after, the other big Shearwater - Cory's - made an appearance, but we did notice that the Cory's didn't linger - they just seemed to fly straight through. 
Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Cory's Shearwater
There were quite a few European Storm-Petrel seen, and also lots of Manx Shearwater - neither came close for any images - but sadly that elusive Wilson's Storm-petrel failed to show..... but that just gives us another excuse for another pelagic voyage!!! On our way back to port, a few Harbour Porpoise were seen, and we had a grand view of St Michaels' Mount - all in all, a great day out with 2 new additions to my British list

As always, I hope you have enjoyed your visit to my blog!