Tuesday 23 October 2018

It's been a while..........

I know it's been a long time since my last post in February -  no excuses - I've just been too idle to do anything, so I thought I would sit and do a post about what I have been doing for the last seven months! Well, just after returning from Singapore, Neil Hagley and I went down to Staines Reservoir near London to have a look at the American version of our Shore Lark - a really striking bird - and we had a really good view of it; whether it gets split or not,I'll leave that to the powers that be.
                                                                     Horned Lark

Apart from birding my local patch, nothing of note really happened in March and April - just waiting for migration to really kick in. The start of May and my mate Mark Lewis took me to a local site of his in Leicestershire for a couple of butterflies in the shape of  Dingy and Grizzled Skipper - two new species for me,  then at the end of May, the wife and I had a really nice day at Bempton Cliffs. Always nice to see a Puffin close by.....

Every couple of years, the wife and I  spend a few days in June up on the north east coast, at Sea Houses, where we always make a trip over to the Farne Islands. If you want to get up close and personal to Arctic Terns, this is the place!  I have not posted any images as I have done a post on the Farnes already [see older post] Also in June, Pete Asher and I went to a site given to us by our good mate Neil Hagley, for a Small blue Butterfly;  if you want to know of any butterfly sites, Neil's your man!  Again, a great little site and another butterfly tick for the UK. There were also lots of Marble Whites there as well.
Marbled White

                                                                   Small blue
Small Blue

In July, my mate Ben Croxall messaged me to say that Jim Graham had found a Sandwich Tern at Cropston Reservoir;  I've dipped on this for a county tick on several occasions, as they normally only stick around for a short time before continuing their onward journey, but on this occasion it did the decent thing and hung around well into the afternoon so I could get there in time to see it.
Sandwich Tern Cropston Reservoir

Still in July, another mate, Dave Gray,  asked me if I'd go with him to Norfolk as he was picking up his new scope, so while we were there we called into the RSPB Titchwell reserve, where a Lesser Yellowlegs and been frequenting the fresh marsh. It was teeming with waders and ducks, hundreds of Godwits and more Avocet than I have ever seen together before in the UK; there were also a dozen Spoonbills showing well.  Dave eventually found the Yellowlegs in among the Godwits. After a preen, it flew right in front of the hide we were in -  not a bad couple of hours birding!
                                                               Lesser Yellowlegs
                                                                       Lesser Yellowlegs

August arrived with not much going on.  Andy Smith found three Great white Egrets at his patch at Thornton Reservoir so I thought I would go and have look. The reservoir is having work done on the outflow,so they have let the water level go right down which has given a temporary shore line almost all the way round - ideal for waders! I also noted six Common Sandpipers; I think Andy had seen well into double figures with this species
                                                Two of the three Great white Egrets
                                                             Great white Egret
Mid August, Dave, Steve, Steve's partner Emma and I all went on a sea safari with Orca, in association with Brttany Ferries, leaving from Portsmouth, sailing to Santander across the Bay of Biscay. These waters are renowned for excellent cetacean and bird watching. We had a great couple of days, with sightings of  lots of Common Dolphins, Fin Whale, Cuvier's beaked Whale,  Minke Whale, Tuna ans Ocean Sun fish; bird-wise, lots of Great Shearwater, but only a handful of Cory's. Probably the best bird noted was some very distant Griffon Vultures in Santander.
                                                                 Common Dolphin
A couple Fin Whales second largest animal on the planet

This was a great trip, which I can highly recommend, the only down-side being, the ship sails from Portsmouth to Santander, but returns to Plymouth, leaving you with a three and a half hour included coach trip back to your vehicle at Portsmouth!

In September, on the way back from visiting relatives in Devon, Sue and I took a little detour off the M5 in Gloucestershire to Rodborough Common in search of Adonis Blue butterfly - another species I needed for my British list. After half an hour or so of searching, we finally found a very worn male feeding on some vetch. It wasn't ideal weather looking for butterflies as it was so windy, but walking back to the car we also found a female that was in better condition than the male
                                                        A very worn Adonis Blue

A nice female Adonis Blue

Well, that's  really brought us up to date! We are now in October and there have been rarities up and down the country, but mostly on the Shetland Isles or the Scillies. The Azores has been getting peppered with American passerines, so when a White-rumped Swift turned up in Yorkshire at Hornsea Mere - a first for Britain - a possible twitch was on! It was found late afternoon, so getting there in daylight that same day was never an option; I was going to go on news the following day, but like most swifts, it didn't stick around, and wasn't seen again. It was only a couple of days later, however, that a Grey Catbird turned up at Land;s End in Cornwall. This was only the second time this American passerine has been seen in Britain, and so a twitch was duly organised,  and very early the next morning, I was en-route,travelling the 325 miles to see this stunning bird with John Waters, Brian Moore and Rosie Thomson. My images don't come close to doing this bird justice! A really good day, and many thanks to John for driving us all!

                                                        Grey Catbird
                                                                    Grey Catbird
Grey Catbird

Well, thats everything up to date, and I will try not to leave it so long next time to tell you about more of my exploits, as I do enjoy doing and sharing my blog with you. Hope you have enjoyed your visit and thanks for stopping by. Until the next time.........

Tuesday 27 February 2018

Singapore Botanical Gardens

It's certainly been a while since my last post, but not much has been happening on the birding front. On 27th of January this year, my wife and I went off on a non-birding cruise to Thailand and Vietnam from Singapore,with a 3 day city stay prior to the cruise. We decided to visit the Botanical Gardens on our first day in Singapore as we had been told it was a lovely site for a pleasant walk, with a few birds to be seen into the bargain! We were't disappointed - the gardens are stunning with lots to see and enjoy. During our stroll around, we saw the following birds.....
( a poor image of a) Yellow-vented Bulbul

Javan Myna

Common Myna (looking a bit worse for wear!)

Some other birds of note were Asian Glossy Starling, Black-naped Oriel and great 'flight' views of a Blue-tailed Bee-eater.
Whilst walking down towards Symphony Lake - a large lake in the gardens - we got talking to a local birder who informed me that there was a Band-bellied Crake on the other side of the lake. He also told us that it was only the second time this bird had been recorded in Singapore, and that the species is on the near-threatened list, through loss of habitat. It is seen in several South-East Asian countries. Can't believe I found myself on a 'twitch' thousands of miles from home. We had to stop en route to watch this big beastie below......

Monitor Lizard Swimming

Monitor Lizard sunbathing on the footpath after his swim.

Whilst waiting for the Crake to show itself, I managed to get a few images of  the male and female Olive-backed Sunbird

Male Olive-backed Sunbird feeding on birds of paradise flowers

 Male Olive-backed Sunbird

Female Olive-backed Sunbird

Female Olive-backed Sunbird

There were also lots of Feral Pigeons and Spotted Dove, along with a few Jungle Fowl (which have most likely been introduced, as were the Mute Swans swimming on the lake)

Spotted Dove

Jungle Fowl

 Below are a few images I managed to take of this quite elusive Band-bellied Crake

On our walk back towards the exit, we also had nice views of Collared Kingfisher which were sitting in trees and calling to each other.

Collared Kingfisher

Collared Kingfisher

The last bird we saw whilst in the Botanical Gardens was a very confiding White-breasted Waterhen. I wish all birds (feathered variety!!) were this easy!
White-breasted Waterhen

The next day we caught the Hopper to sight-see, but got off for a few hours at The Gardens in the Bay and noted Yellow Bittern, Arctic Warbler, Chinese Pond Heron and Oriental Magpie-robin. Where normally, you see lots of House Sparrow, in Singapore it seemed that they were not so common, whereas Tree Sparrow were very abundant. Also noted here was Zebra Dove and House Crow.
After spending the three days in Singapore, we joined the ship for a very enjoyable cruise, and from then on, we never really birded anywhere else but as we were leaving the port of Laam Chabang (Bangkok) I did tick a flock of Black-naped Terns. Whilst cruising Thailand and Vietnam in the South China Sea, I did expect to see one or two cetaceans, but on our three sea-days, we never saw any birds or animals - and it wasn't for the want of trying! Quite bizarre, really!
As always, thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed  reading about our trip around The Botanical Gardens of Singapore!