Friday 13 November 2015

Chesterfield Crag Martin

On Sunday 8th of November, news came in of a Crag Martin  (a Hirundine) from southern Europe had been seen flying around the the church spire of  Saint Mary and all Saints, which is famously known for its' twisted spire. I was unable to do anything about it for 3 days due to work so I resigned myself to another 'mega' passing me by. Steve James did give me a call on Monday morning to say he was going around lunchtime, but like I said, work got in the way and as it is unusual for these birds to stick around, you can imagine my amazement when, on Tuesday, the bird was last seen at 3.50 pm so it was hopefully not going anywhere till the following day, as they are day time migrants. And so, the Duchess and I hatched a plan to get to Chesterfield for first light, but the plan changed when Dave Gray put a call out to ask if anybody was going for the bird. We decided to go together, so arranged for  Dave to be at my house for 6.00 am the following morning; we made good time, and 50 minutes later, we were in McDonalds having breakfast. The church was only a couple of minutes away, and as we parked up, there were 40 or so birders already in position. Well, the next 6 hours were like watching wood warp - oh - apart from 300 Pink- footed Geese going East over the town, but no sign of our target bird. Had it been predated?.... or had it decided to move from its roosting site and headed for pastures new?  Anyway, we headed for home. 
Fast forward to Friday 13th. The Duchess and I are having a very nice breakfast in our local co-op when I get a call from my good mate Steve James - his words were 'the Crag Martin is' back!!  After a little choke, I thanked Steve and the Duchess and I nipped back home picked the binoculars  and camera up, and off we went, back to the 'twisted spire',  parking up at the same car park just across the road from the church. There it was, feeding around the church spire. It was great to see my good mate from the West Midlands crew, Jason Oliver there, as he had 'dipped' on the bird on Wednesday. We did have a good laugh about it all!! The bird only stayed for 10 minutes before disappearing; it reappeared again - but only for a couple of minutes. Having had decent views, we headed for home before the M1 got too busy. Trying to get images were a nightmare (excuses) - my best couple are below


As always thanks for stopping by!!!

Thursday 29 October 2015

Norflolks Eastern Gems

The week after coming back from Shetland, my mate Dave Gray was asking if any body wanted to go to north Norfolk for a days birding as a few eastern birds had turned up, so, on Thursday morning, Neil Hagley, Brian Moore, Dave and myself headed for Norfolk. After an uneventful  journey, and with the obligatory stop at Kings Lynn Mcdonalds for a sausage and egg Mcmuffin, we started at Wells wood looking for Blyth's Reed Warbler; Neil and Brian did get brief views of the bird, but it was really elusive. There were Goldcrest everywhere - but apparently not as many as the day before! I would have liked to have seen that fall  There was a Humes leaf Warbler reported, but the message was a bit vague as to where the bird was, so we decided to head for Holkham pines for a Red-flanked Bluetail. It was a good walk to where the bird was frequenting - again lots of Goldcrest on the way -but it was well worth it when this gem showed! On our walk back, an Isabelline Shrike showed distantly from Washington hide; reports then came of Olive-backed Pipit at Muckleburgh Hill so off we went to try and find yet another eastern migrant. After approx 45 minutes, Neil found  the bird doing what all OBP's do - creeping through the grass! Sadly, I didn't see it as we were short on time, and had to head for home,but I know it showed quite well after we had left.  All in all, it was a great day out with some good mates doing some general birding in a week which saw the east coast of Britain awash with eastern migrants.
Below is record  image of the Red-flanked Bluetail

As always, thanks for stopping by

Friday 16 October 2015

Shetland 2015

The 1st of October, and time for my annual visit to the Shetland Isles with my travel companions, friends and fellow birders Brian Moore and John Waters. As usual, it was up at stupid o'clock for the 6.50am flight from Birmingham to Aberdeen, and then from there on to Sumburgh, arriving there around lunch time.... or so we thought!  The fog at Aberdeen meant we were delayed from leaving Birmingham which meant we didn't actually arrive on the Shetlands till late afternoon, and as we were staying this year in a cottage on the West side of the Mainland, at Aith, we were too late  to get any birding done, with the light already fading as we arrived at what was to be our home for the next 10 days.
 This was our cottage for the our 10 day stay, and the image below is a view of our cottage from the other side of Aith Voe - and just a piece of trivia - the RNLI life boat station in Aith Voe is the most Northerly in Britain.
I will not bore you guys with a day to day rundown of our itinerary - just some of our highlights during our stay, so, the following morning, after our breakfast, our first port of call was Norby, where a Pechora Pipit had been seen; Brian needed it for a British  tick. When we arrived there were a few birders there already looking in the vegetation around the loch, and as Brian and another birder walked towards where it had been frequenting, they flushed a bird which flew by them and landed on some twigs.  I heard Brian call 'that's it!', so in less than half an hour, Bri had a new tick.  The bird then became very elusive; we also noted a pair of Scaup on the loch, and there were quite a few Ravens calling above with Lapwings, Curlew and Greylag Geese in the surrounding fields. We then decided to explore some of the west side, birding as we went - there are some great areas out west, and I don't think its birded enough. We then headed for Cott, where we had reasonable views of Arctic Warbler, and then on to Wester Quarf where Red-breasted Flycatcher and our first Yellow-browed Warbler were noted - the latter were everywhere - probably the most I have seen on the islands; also, lots of continental Blackbirds and Goldcrest were seen. We then headed for Quendale where a Bluethroat was being seen really well. Whilst the weather was windy, the rain was staying away - until we got up Quendale Valley, when the heavens opened! The bird did the sensible thing and went into the quarry, where, after a while, we got good views of this little stunner
We traveled to the capital, Lerwick, on numerous occasions in search of an Olive-backed Pipit which we never connected with, nor the other two we tried for at different locations, but did have good views of Barred Warbler, Chiffchaff  and Siskin - and bumped into our good mates from the West Midlands, Archie Raven and crew. Also in Lerwick is Clickimin Loch; on here we noted Whooper Swan, Tufted Duck, Common, Herring and Black-headed Gulls lots of Oystercatcher and Snipe. Another good place for waders is the Pool of Virkie where we saw both  Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Knot and Ringed Plover. On the Sunday afternoon, we just happened to be birding around the Melby area and had good views of Red-breasted Merganser,  Great-northern Diver, Turnstone,  Kittiwake and Great Skua (Bonxie); there were also a few Twite and Rock Pipit about. When John checked his pager, a mega in the shape of  a Swainson's Thrush had turned up at Baltasound, on the Isle of Unst, so it was a quick dash for the ferry, as both John and I needed it for our British list. After  a couple of hours, and two ferry crossing later, we were at the site with 40 other birders, waiting for the bird to show, but time and light wasn't on our side so it was decided to do a controlled flush - and it worked!  I think we all got decent views of this North American Thrush and a tick for John and myself. The journey back was a lot less stressful, I can assure you! On the Monday and Tuesday it never stopped raining, so birding was mainly from the car. On Monday we were up at Sumburgh light house, trying to photo a Lapland Bunting. The wind was extremely strong though the Fulmars and Gannets seem to relish it!  I was pleased with my results considering the conditions. The only other birds of note that day was an adult Little Gull, Long-tailed Duck and Goldeneye; the Tuesday, in my opinion, was even worse than the previous day, but again birding from the car was the order of the day. Whilst driving by Hulma Water (it's between Sandness and Bixter) Brian saw a Little Egret - quite a rarity on Shetland - so rare that it's a 'description species', so a good find! We drove again to Quendale, where a Great-grey Shrike was close to the Mill, and good views were had of the 'butcher bird'; also there was a Lesser white-fronted Goose which was apparently ringed in Russia and released in Sweden to boost the population. The following day was bright and no wind. Everybody was expecting a big fall of migrants with a mega mixed in among them - us included - but it just never happened! We did note that lots of Redwing had arrived and there could have been an Eastern Thrush with them - it just needed finding. (well, that's what I was thinking anyway)  Also on the Shetland Isles was our good mate Steve James with his partner Emma. He told us to try Busta House gardens, and what a great garden it is! Garden and Willow Warblers were seen and some nice Brambling too.

                                                                           Garden Warbler
Another great place we visited was Lea Gardens at Tresta. This was one of the places where we tried to find an Olive-backed Pipit; though we didn't score with pipit, we did note Mealy and Lesser Redpoll and a Lesser Whitethroat - probably of Eastern race. We decided to head south, back to Sumburgh for a Richards Pipit, but the bird had disappeared by the time we got there; we did add Skylark to our list though. On our penultimate day, we went north to Ollaberry in search of a Red-backed Shrike. On the way, we ticked Merlin charging across the road looking for its' breakfast. We found the site where the Shrike was, and the farmer there pointed us in the right direction. Once again, after an hour of looking, Brian found it feeding around a burn; the farmer said we could check out his garden just up the road too, which we readily accepted, and it wasn't long after that John was kicking his way through an iris bed. He was about half way up it when a bird flew out, which Brian and I saw;  it was very pale - a sandy looking colour. We needed to find out what this bird was! After about an hour, some other birders joined us, but the bird was being very elusive! Our initial instinct was that the bird was either a Blyth's Reed Warbler or a Paddyfield Warbler; after 5 hours, and with everybodies' little bits of information,we were all leaning towards Paddyfield. We badly needed to get an image but Brian, and I failed miserably, so, with our flight home being the next day, we decided to go back the following morning after we had loaded the car ready for 'the off',and try again. When we got there some birders were already there, but after an hour or so there was still no sign of the elusive Acrocephalus, so it was a slow drive south towards the airport. We did have brief views of a Dusky Warbler at No Ness, and a rather funny looking grey Little Egret at the Loch of Spiggie. All in all we had a  great 10 days; we traveled over a 1000 miles, had some good laughs, saw some amazing places and some great birds -91 species in total! Hopefully, when we submit the probable Paddyfield Warbler, it will be 92!   Just to say 'thanks' to Rory Tallack for all the info he gave us about the west side of mainland Shetland. There are some images below of our trip. I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I did taking them.
                                                                     Great northern Diver
                                                                     Hooded Crow
                                                                     Lapland Bunting
                                                                         Pechora Pipit
                                                                      Red Grouse

                                             Whooper Swan with a peat stained head and neck

Sunset over the Voe

Black Guillemot (Tystie)
As always thanks for stopping by..........

Tuesday 1 September 2015

The last few weeks birding

Since my visit to Stoke upon Trent to see the Red-footed Falcon, all my birding has been in and around Leicestershire - and mainly at my patch at Brascote GP. I think I have said before that sometimes it's really hard work at this site, although it has turned up a few good birds over the years and there have been a few good birds turn up over the last few weeks, so, going back to July26th, Pete and I decided to brave the elements as there had been some really strong NW winds for a couple of days. And so, on a windy, cold Sunday morning, with a rain filled sky,we set off walking around the pits.  All the usual stuff was about, with nothing special to write home about, when it started to rain - and quite heavily - so we started to walk back towards our cars.  Pete was about 15 meters in front of me when I noticed a small bird preening on the settling pool; there was something different about this bird, and on closer inspection, I realised it was a small Merganser!  I called Pete back and after watching it for a few minutes, Pete said "this looks like Hooded Merganser" to which I agreed. To make sure, he went back for the field guide whilst I sent a few texts to lads that bird Brascote; this breed of bird is kept in lots of collections, and you have to err on the side of caution about where it has originated, as this is a bird which breeds in North America; nobody will ever know for sure where it was from but we couldn't see any rings on the bird, and it was fully winged. Nick Sharpe and Carl Baggot also viewed the bird and they concluded it was a Hooded Merganser as well. Carl took some images - sadly, it was one of the times I didn't have my camera with me! I'll be sending a report to the BBRC and see what happens but I imagine it will be recorded as an escaped bird -  but still a great bird to see on your patch! Pete returned later that afternoon but the bird could not be found. On the 6th August there was a family party of 4 Ravens - not a common bird around Brascote - and finally,our first Hobby which was getting the Hirundines all excited!  It was good to see a few more Sand Martins about this year again, as they are usually not that numerous.There as been quite few Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers about this Summer as well. On the 16th August, I got a text from Nick Sharpe saying he had heard and viewed a Cetti's Warbler so I hot footed over to Brascote, where I spent nearly 5 hours trying to find it, but dipped on it; Carl Baggot saw it again at around 4pm so I went back early evening. A few more of the regular 'patch' birders were there, and finally the bird called, and we were able to get a brief view and a patch tick! - I think it could well be a first for this site. On the 30th of August, a Whinchat was found feeding from some gorse bushes - yet another patch tick!  the habitat is great for this species, so it was not going to be long before one tuned up - we get Stonchat most years now, and then, on the 31st Nick and I went back again to see if the Whinchat was still in residence but we couldn't find it, although the weather was awful,so it was probably in the middle of a gorse bush - and who could blame it! As we were walking back to the cars we were rewarded with 6 Whimbrel flying west, so all in all, some great birds over the last few weeks!  Hopefully, I'll have some images to post next time.
As always, thanks for stopping by

Friday 17 July 2015

Back for Seconds

After my visit to the Red-footed Falcon last Saturday, and posting the visit on my blog, there was something eating away at me about the images I had posted; as I have said on many occasions, I'm no photographer - just a birder with a camera - but I still like to get decent images, so, with this in mind, I decided to return to the site on Thursday. I asked a few mates if they would be available but that word 'work' always seems to get in the way, so 'Billy no Mates' made his way to Chatterley Whitfield Colliery on his own. When I arrived, the bird was perched up in a tree having a good preen, and it sat there for nearly an hour before it decided to start feeding;  it perches quite close on the wires as some people are throwing out locusts for it to feed on.  I'm not quite sure how I feel about this practise - it does bring the bird quite close, so the images below, I hope, are a lot better than the previous attempts.

As always, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoyed my new and improved images!

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Hot foot to the Red-foot

Last Saturday afternoon, the 11th of July, I spent having some family time ending up at an Harvester pub for an early evening meal;  just as we were finishing our meal, my phone started buzzing in my pocket - it was my mate John Waters -he was going to have a look at the first summer Red-footed Falcon that had been found a couple of days earlier, just North of Stoke-on -Trent, and wondered if I would like to go along too. Having not seen one in the UK for probably 15 or so years, (the only other one was a female down in Cambridgeshire,) we arranged to meet at my place at 6.30;  a quick change of clothing for me, and at 6.45pm, we were off for the hour and half drive for the falcon.  I wasn't going to take the camera as the light wouldn't be that good by the time we got there - but I changed my mind at the last minute and picked it up anyway.  90 minutes later, we saw the bird perched on a concrete boundary fence post of the Chatterley Whitfield Colliery. This really smart bird showed very well all the time we were there, although never coming really close. We spent probably a good hour there watching the bird feeding on insects and the odd small frog. The overcast conditions were not ideal for images but I was glad that I had decided to take my camera as I managed to get some record images; they're not brilliant, but give you some idea of this very smart individual.

As I post this blog on July 14th, the bird is still present at the same site.
.........As always, thanks for stopping by!!

Sunday 28 June 2015

Gotcha!! about time

       For the last three years now I have  been aware of a Tawny Owl roosting in late spring and summer, in some horse chestnuts on my local patch;  it does have a favoured tree, so when Pete and I walk down through the trees, we always have a quick look, and very rarely you might get a glimpse of  the owl among the foliage - but never enough to get any images though, which does get a bit frustrating at times, to say the least! A few weeks ago, I was walking by the tree in question with another mate (Dave Taylor) and saw the owl sitting high up but in the open.  Dave had his camera with him so he started getting a few images but mine was back at the car, so off I went to get it - only for Dave to tell me on my return it had flown to another tree and we just couldn't find it! (Lesson there, I think - always have your camera at your disposal!)  So..... today I was on my own, walking around the patch.  I didn't walk by the trees, instead plumping to walk down the hedgerow hoping for a warbler or two, but to no avail. Halfway down the first track the 'yaffle' of a Green Woodpecker caught my attention, coming from its' favoured  tree.  I noticed a pair Green Woodpeckers which then  fly into the horse chestnuts - and the noise they were making was amazing!  This went on for 5 or 6 minutes, which got me thinking -  was the owl about??  I left them carrying on - they were not happy about something! I carried on down towards the wood, noting a Blackcap  singing his little heart out (I love their song) and it was good to 3 LR Plovers on the deep settling pool. The only other birds of note today beside these were 22 Swift heading south,  so I headed back to the car. On reaching the horse chestnuts,  I gave the owls favourite tree the once over - and sure enough, there it was - quite high, but in the open. Remember about the lesson about the camera?? well obviously I haven't  learnt yet, so back to the car get the camera, and hope the owl was still there when I returned! Thankfully it was. The foliage around it didn't help matters, but I was quite pleased to get some kind of image at last,  a couple of which are below                                        



As always thanks for stopping by!!

Saturday 13 June 2015

Whoop Whoop!!!!

I've just returned from a relaxing cruise around Italy - and very nice it was too - but the Friday before  me and the Duchess were due to set sail,  (the 29th May),  I had a call from my mate Ben Croxall saying that Andy Forryan had found two first summer Whooper Swans on Groby Pool; I couldn't get there till early evening, and was expecting them to be in the middle or on the far side of the water - or even not to be there at all - so wasn't expecting to get any images, but on our arrival, the two birds in question were right in front of us and being very aggressive towards the local Swans and Geese.  I know these Whooper Swans are regular visitors in the winter, and we do get a few in Leicestershire now and then, but I thought it a bit of a bizarre record for two Whooper Swans to be in  Leicestershire at the end of May.

A very short post this time but thanks as always for stopping by.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Can't stop Twitching

My last post was about our twitch to the Scilly Isles for the Great-blue Heron, and I thought that might be the last of our travels for a while and we would settle down to some patch birding closer to home, trying to find some migrants locally, but May was to be another memorable month, starting on the 3rd with an Hudsonian Godwit down at Meare Heath in Somerset. It had been there for a few days, but as always, with other commitments, I couldn't make it 'till my good mate Steve James called me and said that he and his partner, Emma, were going for it on Sunday, and would I like to join them?  Could I be a gooseberry for a day??..... course I could!  and I accepted his offer. So, after an uneventful journey down to Somerset, it was just a short walk to where the bird was being seen, amongst a flock of Black-tailed Godwits. On joining the 70 or 80 birder already there, we bumped into our good mate from Warwickshire - Adam Archer - and his partner Nadia. (Did I mention gooseberry?) Anyway, Archie soon had us on the bird, although it was sometimes difficult to get decent views.  Emma and Steve went off for a wonder around the reserve and I stayed to try and capture some images - which was not easy considering distance involved and not helped by the bird hiding in amongst the Godwits (and any other excuse I can think of). A few images are below

The bird is middle bottom of the image note the darker under wings

On our way home from the Godwit, Steve noticed that a male Summer plumage Red-throated Pipit had come up on the news services, and was showing well in sheep fields at Chisworth, in Derbyshire; We both needed it, but had no plans to go...... until the following morning, the 4th of May, when Steve called to say he was going for it and he would pick me up if I wanted to go. Once again the trip was uneventful up into North Derbyshire, and,  two hours later, we were watching this stunning male Pipit. It was close by when we arrived, but decided to go and feed at the back of the field with some Meadow Pipits and Wheatear; It didn't come any closer while we were there -the image below is heavily cropped, but I think you get an impression of the bird.

Mid May, and the Greater Yellowlegs had turned up at Titchfield Haven in Hampshire. Now, after a week, the bird seemed quite settled, so I made a few calls to friends who either needed it or just wanted to go see another; Steve James needed it so he was my first passenger,and  Brian Moore who had already got it on his list, but was happy to see another said he would like to join us, so, leaving at stupid o clock (as usual), we arrived at 8.30am at the reserve. The bird had sometimes been sighted from the coast road, so having parked up, Brian got out of the car, picked up his bins to scan the Godwits that it was associating with, and the first bird he saw was the Yellowlegs!... even the birders that were already there hadn't seen it, as it was tucked in below them! This is what twitching should be like - out of the car and the bird right in front of you!.... or would that be boring?..........probably!!!  After an hour, off we went for some well needed breakfast, and after filling our bellies, we went back for another look at the Yellowlegs - but it had flown on to the reserve. Below are a few images of the Yellowlegs. Now, first of all I'm no photographer - I'm just a birder with a camera - and also I've just purchased a 2x converter from my mate Paul, and have certainly got to get used to it!. Anyway, enough excuses for the images! Also on the news services, there had been a Bonaparte's Gull frequenting Chesill Bay which is in Southampton, so not that far away and  we decided to go it. (None of us 'needed' it, but it is always nice to see another one)

We traveled the 12 or so miles to Chesill Bay and found the area where the Gull seemed to favour, but we spent well over 2 hours here before Steve spotted a small gull flying towards us, which did the decent thing and landed on the water, giving us time to confirm the ID - it was Bonaparte's Gull   -and a Black-headed Gull landed close to the Bonaparte's, which gave us an excellent size comparison, Sadly, it was too far away for any images though. All in all, a good days birding, with two N.American birds in the bag - and just to say - that neither the Hudsonian Godwit or the Red-throated Pipit were were seen again the days following our visit, so Steve and I had seen them and got two ticks by the skin of our teeth!  I can only conclude that the month of May was a great month for twitching for Steve and me........and its not over yet!
As always thanks for stopping by!!!

Friday 1 May 2015

That was Scilly

When the Great Blue Heron turned up on the Scilly Isles, I really never gave it a second thought - even though it was a BOU tick, and  only the second for Britain - bizarrely found by the same birder who found the first one in 2007 (Ashley Fisher). Don't ask me why, but even for all the rarities that the Scillies turn up, it's never had a pull for me, but last week a mate of mine, Brian Moore, asked if Iwas interested in twitching the Heron - and asked if I knew anybody else that was interested in going? After a few calls, it seemed that everybody had got work or other things planned, so last weeks' trip was put on hold until this week, when other people were available; after a few more calls, Steve James said he was up for it, so at stupid o' clock on Tues evening, the three of us were on our way to Penzance in readiness for the 9.15am Scillonian lll crossing to St Mary's. The ferry left on time, so we would be on the island at mid-day;  the bird had been favouring Bryher, and sometimes Tresco, but it had done the decent thing and had taken up residence on St Mary's at Lower Moor. After an uneventful crossing, with only Fulmars a few Auks, Kittewake and lots of Manx Shearwaters to note, we checked the news services which said the bird was perched in an Elm tree, close to the school, so we jumped into a taxi to save time (we were on the 4.30pm ferry back). After an hour walking up and down a path where the elm trees, as we didn't know where the bird had been seen from, we decided to walk around to the ISBG hide at lower Moor. Before we got into the hide though, a couple of birders just coming away from the hide confirmed the heron was on the pool. I made a quick call to Steve as he was at the other end of Lower Moor, and it wasn't long before all of us were having stunning views of this huge heron.  It all went too quickly, and before we knew it we were on the ferry, heading back to Penzance. It was my first time on the Scillies - but certainly won't be my last! It was a great twitch -  a long way to go I know,  but these things have to be done................he said tongue in cheek!!!  Below are a few images of the Great Blue Heron

                                                Leaving St Mary's
Just passing St Michaels' mount on our way back into Penzance

As always, thanks for stopping by to read my blog!
Until my  next 'adventure' !

Friday 17 April 2015

Migrant windfall at Brascote GP.

On  Friday 10th of April, there was a lot of movement of migrants coming in on the South coast -mainly Ring Ouzel - but also really good numbers of Hoopoe in the South West, and a few Garganey were also being found, so, while out on Saturday morning putting up a couple of owl boxes with my good mate Paul Riddle, I got a message from Ben Croxall that our mate Nick had found 3 probably 4 Ring Ouzels at my local patch Brascote GP. Not having seen this bird at Brascote before, (in fact I must find out whether they have ever been recorded there) it was quickly on with the job in hand! The owl boxes were soon in position, so Paul and I made a quick exit for home, and planned to meet up at Brascote GP asap,  which is what we did! We arrived at the site and there were a few familiar faces there already, viewing two male Ring Ouzels in an hedge line running up the field - absolutely stunning birds!  I took a few record images - the birds never came close enough for good images. 
The image below is very heavily cropped, but a really good patch tick. The birds did fly off in an northerly direction, and we thought they had gone - but they were seen again later that evening and there has been 2 there now for the last several days, along with a few Wheatear who have joined them.

Ring Ouzel

Whilst there, I had my first singing Blackcap of 2015, and the day before my first singing Chiffchaff  - which obligingly posed for a decent image!


Now, for a long time, my birding buddy Pete Asher (my mentor) and I have said  that this site is ideal for Garganey, so it was no surprise when, on Tuesday, I got a message from Ben Croxall that Allan Pocock had found a pair of Garganey on one of the old settling pools - trouble was, I could not get there till Wednesday morning due to work and other commitments, so at first light the next day, I was at the pool waiting for my second patch tick in as many days - but they must have decided to leave the previous evening, which was a warm and clear night, so I will just have to wait for the next one to come along, and hopefully I will be the finder!
As always thanks for stopping by...........

Saturday 14 March 2015

Central American Birding

Having been to Central America on a couple of occasions, namely Costa Rica and Panama, the Duchess and myself decided we would like to go there again. We liked the look of a birding trip to Honduras, staying at the 'eco lodge' Pico Bonito in the Pico Bonito National Park - a 400 acre reserve at the Northern (Caribbean) coast of Honduras - so, on Feb 17th, we departed London Heathrow for Houston Texas, where we would stay over night in order to catch a flight the next morning for San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Having had two uneventful flights, we had a short wait for the rest of the group to arrive from Miami before our two and a half hour transfer to the lodge. The birds on the way were mainly Cattle Egret, Great White Egret, Tropical Kingbird and white-winged Doves. By the time we arrived at the lodge, we had time for a wash and brush up before meeting up with our party again for dinner. The following morning, we woke to the sounds of lots of new birds singing and calling; the veranda on the restaurant had a few hummingbird feeders, and it was great to watch these flying jewels feeding whilst having your breakfast!  Rufous tailed Hummingbird, White-necked Jacobin, sripe-throated Hermit, Violet crowned Woodnymph  to name just a few.

White-necked Jacobin
Violet Sabrewing

After breakfast, our two guides Jose and Ezra took us for a walk around the some of the trails in the grounds of the lodge. Birds of note were Hooded Warbler, Wood thrush, lots of Clay Colored Thrush with Chestnut-headed and Montezuma's Oropendola, along with Brown Jays making their presence heard; Wedge-billed Woodcreeper and Red-throated Ant-tanager were also noted. We then went to one of the three tower hides that look out over the forest. From here, we saw Purple-crowned Fairy and the stunning Lovely Cotinga - What a bird! - lots of White-collared Swift were overhead, Blue-crowned Motmot was a good find but the find of the morning was a Great Potoo at the top of a dead tree in its' cryptic pose - unbelievable camouflage! Other garden birds of note over our stay were Black-cheeked and Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Boat-billed and Social Flycatcher, Keel-billed Toucan and Collared Aracari.  Our bird watching was cut short though by torrential rain, so we returned to the Lodge for lunch and continued birding from the verandah, as the rain never eased up for the rest of the day. Below are some images of the birds in the hotel garden.

                                                     Collared Aracari
This was an Iguana that was on the drive when we returned to the lodge one afternoon

This was one of our target birds - the Keel-billed Motmot

Keel-billed Toucan

                     Social Flycatcher.......How does it perch here without hurting it's feet?

                                                                  Summer Tanager

White Hawk

On our third day, the guides decided to change the itinerary as the weather was not going to improve locally. It was agreed that we would travel to the other side of the mountains, to the Rio Aguan Valley, on the southern side of the reserve. We stopped en route at several sites - the first being a small pool, where we saw Great Blue Heron, Crested Caracara, Eastern Meadowlark, White-necked Seedeater, and lots of American Kestrel perched on the overhead roadside wires.
Our next stop was on a river bridge where we saw Ringed and Amazon Kingfisher, Mangrove Swallow and Spotted Sandpiper. A little further along the same road, another small pool produced American Coot, Lesser Scaup, Yellow Warbler, Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, and a nice little flock of Blue-winged Teal. In the grass verge, Ezra, our guide, flushed a Grasshopper Sparrow, and told us to have a good look, as that was the best view we would get of it! - but just 10 minutes later, the Duchess found it perched in a bush, where it sat for a good 10 minutes, allowing all of the group the opportunity of really good views. Ezra said it is very rare to see one perched in a bush! 
Once we had entered the tropical dry forest, the birding did slow down - but we did see the endemic Honduras Emerald and the Salvins Emerald, along with Inca Dove and Purple Martin.
On our way back to our bus, there was a really small pool with only one bird on it - the aptly named Solitary Sandpiper! As we journeyed on to our lunch destination in the nearby ranching town of Olanchito, Grove-billed Ani, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Wood Stork were seen, along with quite a few Black Vultures scavenging on a dead horse. After a simple but delicious lunch, we continued back to the lodge for a rest before meeting for dinner.

                                                                    Honduras Emerald

                                                           American Kestrel

                                                                    Black Vultures

Eastern Meadowlark
Grasshopper Sparrow
Solitary Sandpiper

Amazon Kingfisher

Day four dawned bright and sunny, and we were off to the mangroves of The Cuero Y Salado Wildlife Refuge -less than 30 minutes away. The refuge comprises of over 35,000 acres of rivers, lagoons, mangroves and forest areas, and is reached by a quirky little train that takes you by some wet plains. If anything of interest is seen, the train stops to allow the bird watchers to get good views, which was great for us......but not sure the locals appreciate it! The train ride started well with Spot-breasted Oriole. We stopped several times to view the wetlands, where we saw Bare-throated Tiger Heron, White Ibis, Northern Jacana, Red-winged Blackbird, Black and White Warbler and Northern Parula. On arriving at our destination, Belted Kingfisher and Neotropic Cormorant could be seen. We were then given life jackets to wear, split into two groups and put into small skiffs, with a guide in each one, to explore the mangroves. The first birds of note were Lesser Yellow-headed Vulture, Black Hawk and Osprey. As we got into the mangroves we saw Black-headed Trogon, Pale-vented Pigeon and Green Kingfisher. Our guide then pointed out a Northern Potoo - again in the cryptic pose; a Yellow-crowned Night Heron flew over the lagoon, and overhead, an Aningha circled. A pair of American Pygmy Kingfisher were observed mating, and we had really good views of the strange looking Boat-billed Heron. All too soon, we were heading back to the jetty, ready to get the returning train - but not before a Magnolia Warbler was spotted, along with a Chestnut-collared Woodpecker! 
The train ride back was much the same as the outward journey, with us stopping for Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Tri-colored Heron, White-tailed Kite and lots of Great, Snowy and Cattle Egret.
We returned to the Lodge for lunch after a very enjoyable morning!
The afternoon was spent walking the gardens again, where birds of note were Yellow-winged Tanager, Turquoise-browed Motmot, Green Honeycreeper, Yellow-olive and Great-crested Flycatcher.

American Pygmy Kingfisher

Boat-billed Heron

Green Heron

Neotropic Cormorant

Northern Potoo

Magnolia Warbler

Our next excursion was to the Lancetilla  Botanical Gardens, which are in a coastal valley area, and were originally a commercial project where fruit trees were grown and studied. Almost as soon as we entered the grounds, we exited the bus and walked along a short ride, which was very productive! Spot-breasted Wren, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Lesser Greenlet and Squirrel Cuckoo were quickly ticked off, closely followed by a beautiful male White-collared Manakin;  Passerina Tanager, Dusky-capped Flycatcher and Black-headed Saltater were also noted, and a Ruddy Crake was heard by our guides, but, despite their best attempts to find it for us, it disappeared! We then moved off a short distance in the bus to the visitors centre, where we alighted again. Streaked Woodcreeper, American Redstart and Slate-headed Tody Flycatcher were added to the list, as were Short-tailed and Zone-tailed Hawk. We left the botanical gardens and set off to Tela, a coastal town, where we went to a beach side taverna for lunch, and from here, Brown Pelican, Royal Tern and Laughing Gull were added.

The following day we stayed around the lodge, but the group were given the option of going up into the mountains or staying around the gardens to do some birding.....I chose the latter, so, with Jose as our guide, four of us had a gentle stroll to see what we could see! We were not disappointed - Yellow-throated Euphonia and Ferruginous Pygmy Owl were seen not far from reception, along with Gartered Trogon, Crimson-colored Tanager and the stunning Barred Antshrike. There was a cocoa plantation in the grounds, and Jose said he had heard an owl in the vicinity a couple of days earlier. To our amazement, it wasn't long before he found it - a Vermiculated Screech Owl! Walking back towards the cabins, Rufous Mourner and White Hawk were seen, and a Roadside Hawk flew overhead.
Roadside Hawk

Ferruginous Pygmy Owl

Gartered Trogon

Our last day! 
Today we went to the River Santiago Nature Resort where there is a hummingbird feeding station. Again, after leaving the bus, the first birds of note were Ivory-billed Woodcreeper, Brown-rumped Attilia and Brown-crested Flycatcher, then it was on to the feeding station.
The area was alive with hummingbirds whizzing about - you didn't know where to look first! - Scaly-breasted and Stripe-tailed Hummingbird along with White-bellied Emerald, Green-breasted Mango - and the one we had all hoped to see - the Band-tailed Bar-throat! I could have just sat there for hours watching these little gems coming and going, but we had to move on! On our return journey, we decided to get out and walk, as there was a river alongside the road. We walked for about a mile and our stroll was rather fruitful as we saw Yellow-faced Grassquit, Buff-throated Saltator, Worm-eating, Tennessee and Townsend warblers along with White-eyed Vireo and Black Hawk-eagle. After a lovely last day, it was back to the lodge to pack ready to go home.
All in all, another good trip! 

Ivory-billed Woodcreeper
Buff-throated Saltator

I hope you have enjoyed sharing my trip to Honduras, and, as always, thanks for stopping by.