Tuesday, October 17, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #64 ~ Napton Church

πŸ‚ ⛅16C Tuesday 17th October 2017 ~ More of a chill in the air this morning as I checked out the marina grounds before heading up to Napton-on-the-Hill. Several Pied Wagtails around the car park, a Chiffchaff feeding along the west bank and several Redwing taking advantage of the hawthorn berries was the best I could manage. Still waiting for that first Fieldfare of the autumn!

Redwing ~ Now arriving in numbers
I parked at the churchyard and had a casual wander around the grounds. The regular duo of Mistle Thrush were making their usual racket and several Redwings were flitting through the treetops. A Coal Tit calling, Nuthatch and a few Chaffinch before I bumped into Peter Finden, who I'd last met at Frampton Marsh a few months back. We spent a good while chatting before we both reacted to a couple of birds that suddenly flew into the nearby treetops. I think we got excited straight away, largish finch, big head, thick neck, short tail and distinct wingbars! As we carefully manoeuvred around a few yew trees, there in the treetops a Hawfinch! There were two birds, which sadly departed almost straight away but nevertheless offered an all to brief but excellent view. My first Warwickshire Hawfinch in 12years of living here! Despite being joined a short while later by Richard Mays and Dave Cox, who'd also had a Hawfinch sighting here last week, we sadly never managed to relocate.

Monday, October 16, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #63 ~ Storm Ophelia

πŸ‚ ⛅19C Monday 16th October 2017 ~ With Storm Ophelia blowing in I thought that a couple of hours spent at Brandon Marsh might pay dividends! However, I wasn't quite prepared for what greeted me. Not since my Brandon visit of March 2015 to watch the spring equinox eclipse have I encountered such strange and bizarre conditions!

Brandon Marsh today!
Skies took on unusual glow as Storm Ophelia picked up sands from the Sahara and particles from fires in Spain and Portugal, which may have appeared to some as a sign of an impending apocalypse. Apparently the dust has caused shorter wavelength blue light to be scattered, making it appear red. Ophelia originated in the Azores, where it was a hurricane and as it tracked its way northwards it dragged in tropical air from the Sahara producing todays phenomenon!

Little Gull ~ Taken in the strange saharan light!
The best from a birding perspective consisted firstly of a Little Gull, which graced East Marsh Pool on several occasions before finally departing. A huge count of Black-headed Gulls circa 500, but alas during my stay not offering anything too unusual, Common Gull and Lesser Black-backed Gulls the only other species. A Water Rail made a dash from left to right in front of the hide and I managed a count of (75) Wigeon before a Sparrowhawk scattered all asunder, so I gave up on that one!

Little Gull ~ East Marsh hide
From the Ted Jury hide a couple of small flocks of Redwing, plus (4) Redpoll and as I departed the hide calls of Brambling alerted me to (5) birds passing overhead. A single Snipe and Green Sandpiper the only other notables from the most weirdest of visits!

Little Owl at Shuckburgh!
Subnote: Yesterday Dee and I enjoyed a local stroll around the canal and Shuckburgh area, encountering one of the local Little Owls, which I managed a few images of after playing hide & seek for an enjoyable 1/2 hour!

Few more Little Gull images from today!



Saturday, October 14, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #62 ~ Brandon Marsh

πŸ‚ ⛅19C Saturday 14th October 2017 ~ A gorgeous mild start with a pre-dawn temperature of 15C as I checked out the marina grounds for anything of interest. The Pied Wagtail roost was dispersing with around twenty or so birds heading out, plus a couple of Skylarks overhead, the usual hoards of Gulls heading out from Draycote Water and (2) Meadow Pipits around the car park.

Meadow Pipit
Arriving at Brandon Marsh just before 8am I decided to head straight down to East Marsh Hide for a look at the pools. A small movement of birds overhead, picking up (4) Siskin, (3) Skylark and (2) Meadow Pipit, before I came across (4) Redpoll feeding in the alder by Primrose Bank. Fred Stokes was in the hide when I arrived, informing me that a Peregrine had flushed everything, including a Ruff just prior to my arrival! Bummer, I've dipped on Ruff thus far this year at Brandon!

Marsh Harrier from the East Marsh Hide!
Anyway, things improved for me a short while later when in from the east came a cream-headed Marsh Harrier. The bird dropped down onto Newlands Reedbed and spent a short time down before flying off west over East Marsh Pool, providing a hastily taken photo opportunity!

Marsh Harrier 

Other notables of the visit: Green Sandpiper, (2) Snipe and a good number of Wigeon, although I didn't make the count!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #61 ~ Napton

πŸ‚ ⛅18C Thursday 12th October 2017 ~ A few hours at Napton-on-the-Hill mid morning produced my first Redwings of the Autumn, with four birds in the treetops at the churchyard.

Redwing ~ My 1st of this Autumn
I spent a while here just sitting and listening, letting the birds pass through and while here Goldcrest, Coal Tit and a couple of Mistle Thrush, one even singing for a brief period. I noticed a couple of Red Admiral butterflies at the tops of the Ivy, plus a single Comma, which was perched on one of the several Yew Trees.

Sparrowhawk ~ Napton Hill
Heading off along the track down towards the farm at least (4) Redpoll, plus (2) Pied Wagtails in the sheep field. Here I bumped into Richard Mays and Dave Cox just as (4) Brambling passed through. One of two Sparrowhawks for the day appeared overhead and a single Siskin, before we headed back to the churchyard.

Boeing C-17 Globemaster ~ Napton's also a great place to indulge in my other hobby πŸ‘€ 
Napton Reservoir was reasonably quiet, the only notables, (4) Shoveler on the water, a Chiffchaff singing around the car park, (3) Redwing over, along with a possible Grey Wagtail, which unfortunately didn't call!


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

πŸ“– Diary #60 πŸ‡«πŸ‡· France

Dee and I arrived on Friday evening for a long weekend stay with her parents, who live near Chavigny, in the New-Aquitaine region of western France. Despite being a family visit there's still plenty of opportunity for some birding, not the very least around the substantial gardens, wood and orchards which surround the house. Even a short walk on Friday evening managed to produce Blackcap, Nuthatch, Cirl Bunting, Black Redstart, Firecrest and Red Squirrel.

Black Redstart ~ At least three around the gardens!
πŸ‚ ⛅19C Saturday 7th October 2017 ~ Saturday we did manage an enjoyable afternoon at La Brenne, renown to be one of France's best-kept secrets and only a modest 40-minute drive. This is, without doubt, one of our favourite birding hotspots. A patchwork of fishponds, heath and red sandstone outcrops La Brenne is an area of rich flora and fauna delicately preserved by its ‘National Park’ status. Known locally as 'The Land of a Thousand Lakes' this is a rich tapestry of habitats including marshes, deciduous woods, dry heathland and farmland.

Coypu [Ragondin in Frech] abound at La Brenne
At this time of year, La Brenne's summer visitors have already left: Whiskered Terns [c1000 pairs] Black-necked Grebes [150+ pairs] nest, as do Purple Heron, Cattle Egret, Night Heron, Black-winged Stilt, a few pairs of Short-toed Eagle, and 30+ nesting pairs of Bee-eater, plus wintering Cranes which are yet to arrive in numbers, but there's still a decent variety of species to see.

Great Egret ~ Resident around La Brenne
With such a big area to explore and limited time we only visited a small selection of locations we've become familiar with, and in particular the Reserve Naturelle de Cherine. Great Egrets are plentiful around the lakes, along with smaller numbers of Little Egret, a single Water Pipit was also noted. Waders during our visit, although small in numbers, included WhimbrelBlack-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Green Sandpiper and Greenshank. Common Buzzard, Kestrel and a distant Hen Harrier were the only raptors of the day.

Small Heath
Most of the activity was actually along the many paths and in the warm sunshine, a good number of butterflies were still on the wing with Clouded Yellow, Wall Brown, Small Copper, Small Heath and Common Blue. Black Redstarts seemed plentiful and Stonechats a regular feature. Two Woodlark were found during our stay and Skylarks too were seen passing through overhead.

πŸ‚ ☔️16C Monday 9th October 2017 ~ In sharp contrast to Saturdays glorious autumnal day Sunday and Monday's weather turned out to dank and drizzly. However, in saying that, a visit to La Pinail on Monday morning before our flight home did brighten sufficiently for a pleasant hour or so.


Dartford Warbler in the gloom!
Pinail Nature Reserve is situated about 10 miles from the house, in the ChΓ’tellerault area, this is the only Natural Reserve of France to be found in the district known as La Vienne. The result of millstone quarrying has given way to a mosaic of 3,000 ponds which are surrounded by moor and heathland rich in rare fauna and flora. Amongst the many bird species you can find here, Dartford Warblers are for me the most iconic.

Long-tailed Blue

Long-tailed Blue

Langs Short-tailed Blue
Finally, just prior to heading off a brief sunny period encouraged a few butterflies to make an appearance and these included several Wall Brown, a couple of lovely Long-tailed Blues and a Langs Short-tailed Blue to end the visit!

Friday, September 29, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #59

πŸ‚ ⛅18C Friday 29th September 2017 ~ I began the day at Brandon Marsh meeting up with Alan Boddington for a catch-up. We'd spent a short time in the East Marsh hide, noting (5) Swallows, (22) Snipe, Little Egret, a Kingfisher performing an amazing hover right in front of the hide and counting (60+) Wigeon, when a text from Bob Hazell over at Draycote Water initiated a change of plan!

One of two Little Stints at Draycote Water today!
Two Little Stints were a little too good to miss, so off we went! Both birds were showing very well along Farborough Bank when we arrived, along with (2) Dunlin and (2) Ringed Plover, other highlights during our stay.


Little Stints

Thursday, September 28, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #58

πŸ‚ ⛅18C Thursday 28th September 2017 ~ After the overnight rain and the promise of a fine autumnal day I decided to have a few hours at Draycote Water this morning!

Meadow Pipit ~ Several along Farborough Bank
I began with a walk along to Farborough Spit, a few Meadow Pipits along the route, as well as the usual haul of Little and Great Crested Grebes. A Wheater was feeding along the bank and pausing at the spit for a while, just a single Ringed Plover. Bob Hazell told me a little later that he'd recorded at least seven Ruff and a Greenshank here earlier, but they'd obviously moved on by the time I arrived!

Wheatear ~ Farborough Bank

Rock Pipit ~ Farborough Bank
Just prior to reaching the centre on the way back a single Rock Pipit appeared, pausing for a while for a few snaps. From here I decided to walk as far as the Valve Tower, taking some time out at Hensborough Bank. While here an illusive Weasel darted in and out of the rocks but never stayed still long enough for a snap. Two Grey Wagtail on the waterline and a singing Chiffchaff from the treeline. Overhead a few Skylarks passing through and while searching for them a Hobby drifted high, plus a single Swallow, my only hirundine of the day.

A late Hobby ~ Heavily cropped due to the height!
Along Draycote Bank, three noisy Ravens cronked their way past, eight Little Egret and four Buzzards enjoying a thermal in the warm sunshine. Sadly the feeding station was empty, so no Tree Sparrows on this occasion!

Little Egret ~ Firmly established now at Draycote
Spotting Bob in the distance I waited at the Valve Tower so we could walk back to the centre together. On arrival Bob's words 'I presume you've got the Egyptian Goose down their', Erm no says I #oblivious....

#Oblivious
Only a Sparrowhawk to report during our stroll back to the centre, although the elusive Weasel did make another appearance, evidence of how elusive he was below....

Weasel



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #57πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Wednesday 27th September 2017 ~ Arrived back from another excellent trip to Spain yesterday evening after spending six days at my buddy's villa in Mijas.

Guadalhorce Nature Reserve
After Friday's visit to Tarifa, I decided not to take my usual drive out to Fuente de Piedra (lack of water on site) and instead spend the dawn mornings at the Rio Guadalhorce Nature Reserve, this along with an afternoon excursion into the mountains just north of Malaga on Monday. Guadalhorce is just a short drive from the villa and is one of my favourite sites in Andalusia. Gravel and sand extraction have created several large artificial ponds and scrubland. Coupled with the fact that the Guadalhorce river estuary is on one of the main Mediterranean-crossing routes between Europe and Africa. You can never be quiet sure what you are going to see during each visit.

Bluethroat ~ Often I find them in the wet ditches close to the reeds!
At this time of year, it's also a great place to find Bluethroat and I managed several sightings during my morning visits. On Saturday morning a Purple Swamphen was teasing me with brief views on several occasions, skulking in and out of the reeds in a newly formed scrape.

The energetic Zitting Cisticola (Fantail Warbler) 
However, I was distracted when a Zitting Cisticola (Fantail Warbler) suddenly appeared, almost within touching distance. These birds just never seem to stop, constantly 'zitting' overhead, so you can imagine my delight at getting a decent image of one!


Booted Eagle in the post-dawn light!
At least one Booted Eagle appears to roost overnight as each morning I find him perched in the same tree across from the river. An Osprey has been present on site too over the period and as you'd expect at this time of year, there's a constant flow of species passing through Bee-eater, Red-rumped Swallow, Barn Swallow, House Martin, Common Swift, the odd Pallid Swift and a few Honey Buzzard.

Black-necked Grebe from the del Rio Viejo Hide!

The pools always offer a good selection of waterfowl with Black-necked Grebe, Red-crested Pochard and White-headed Duck recorded during my visits, a single Ferruginous Duck was also present briefly on Sunday morning.

Greater Flamingo
Below I've compiled a full list of species seen during yet another excellent visit #BirdingSpain, along with a few more images to round things off.

Species List...

Shelduck, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Pochard, Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck, White-headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Gannet, Cormorant, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Great Egret, Grey Heron, White Stork, Black Stork, Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Flamingo, Griffon Vulture, Osprey, Short-toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Black Kite, Marsh Harrier, Hen Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Common Buzzard, Honey Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Black-winged Kite, Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Peregrine, Water Rail, Moorhen, Coot, Purple Swamphen, Black-winged Stilt, Collared Pratincole, Little-ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Kentish Plover, Grey Plover, Knot, Sanderling, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Redshank, Greenshank, Snipe, Ruff, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Audouin's Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sandwich Tern, Rock Dove, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Eagle Owl (h), Tawny Owl (h), Little Owl, Swift, Pallid Swift, Alpine Swift, Hoopoe, Kingfisher, Bee-eater, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Woodlark, Crested Lark, House Martin, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, White Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Redstart, Wheatear, Stonechat, Blackbird, Sardinian Warbler, Zitting Cisticola, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Firecrest, Wren, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Crested Tit, Long-tailed Tit,Nuthatch, Short-toed Treecreeper, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Jackdaw, Raven, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Serin, Common Crossbill, Rock Bunting, Corn Bunting

Black-winged Stilt

Crimson Speckled Moth ~ On the beach at Guadalhorce

Juvenile Greater Flamingo

Friday, September 22, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #56πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ πŸ‚ ☀️ 25C Friday 22nd September 2017 ~ Today was my annual drive down to Cazalla migration observatory near Tarifa and then on to La Janda, further along the coast. We arrived just after 9.30am for a 90-minute watch and it wasn't long before the birds began to appear, ready to make that short trip across the Straits of Gibraltar to Morocco and the African continent, unfortunately not visible early on due to sea fog.

Short-toed Snake Eagle ~ Passing over Cazalla
Booted Eagle
At first, the most prolific species seemed to be Short-toed Snake Eagle, at least 150 or so at different levels. But after a while, other species began to appear mingled in, Booted Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Black Kite and I'm always amazed at how many Sparrowhawks actually migrate, eleven during our stay. Peregrine and Kestrel were also noted.

Black Storks ~ Attempting to gain height!
As light cloud began to bubble up a large group heading in turned out to be about fifty or so Black Storks, struggling it seemed to gain height for the journey! Just a few Griffon Vultures today, as most apparently have already gone through and sadly for the first time in four years, no RΓΌppell's Vulture, for me during this visit πŸ˜•

Stonechat ~ Lots around at La Janda!
After Cazalla we took the 30-minute drive entering La Janda at the Zahara Atunes crossroads and after immediately turning onto the dust track came across a Corn Bunting and Stonechat perched close by on the wires. As per usual lots of White Storks were in the rice fields, along with Glossy Ibis, heads occasionally popping up above the tall rice. Crested Larks could be heard and occasionally seen and along the roadside ditches and sluices many House Sparrows, Cattle Egrets and Little Egrets. A steady stream of Swifts, including at least three Pallid, along with House Martins and both Barn and Red-rumped Swallows.

Glossy Ibis at La Janda...
Halfway around the dirt track, a large area has been cleared producing a pool which offers excellent opportunities to search for waders, wildfowl and indeed to view the many Glossy Ibis, White Storks and Greater Flamingo. Waders included Curlew Sandpiper, Snipe, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Black-winged Stilt and Green Sandpiper. Two Spoonbills were also recorded.

Montagu's Harrier at La Janda!
By the time we'd reached the Benalup side of La Janda and ready for home, we'd encountered a single Black-winged Kite, quartering a field at distance, several Marsh Harriers, Hen Harriers and at least two Montagu's Harrier.

More images of the day....

White Stork at La Janda

Spoonbill

Corn Bunting

Thursday, September 21, 2017

πŸ“– Diary Update #55πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ πŸ‚ ☀️ 25C Thursday 21st September 2017 ~ The first day of Autumn if you're not using the meteorological calendar! I arrived here in Spain yesterday afternoon and after heading down to Fuengirola for some food shopping Dave and I spent the rest of the day just chilling on the terrace. Dave was making me envious recalling what he described as, stunning views of the local Eagle Owl, which was perched up on a telegraph pole one evening last week. Indeed we did hear the barking call of the bird at dusk, but despite hearing the bird on many occasions during my visits here, I've frustratingly yet to connect.

Sardinian Warbler ~ Often heard & difficult to photograph!
Sunrise here isn't until just after 8am so I was up an hour before, drinking coffee on the terrace, listening out and enjoying the cool morning air! Venus is currently a morning planet and just below to the left the rare sight of Mercury. The early birds seem to be Serin, with several just below chattering away in the pines. The usual Crossbills were making their way down from the hills, one perching up briefly. The local Sardinian Warblers then became active, always skulky and then a call of Red-legged Partridge from the scrubland below!

Firecrest ~ One of several today!
In the afternoon Dave had a few chores to complete down in Fuengirola so dropped me at Los Arenales, an area of the old quarry which leads up to around 1,100 meters offering stunning views over the Sierra de Mijas. Here the many repopulated pines produced more Crossbills, Firecrests, Crested Tits and a single Pied Flycatcher.

Rock Bunting ~ Los Arenales is an excellent habitat
At the highest point, I stopped for a while to enjoy some visible migration and this included (5) Honey Buzzard, (20+) Bee-eaters and various numbers of Red-rumped Swallows, House Martins and Swifts, including (4) Alpine! On the descent, the amazing sight of a Lesser Kestrel mobbing a Common Kestrel, the size comparison amazingly distinct. Two Rock Buntings, Peregrine and Booted Eagle to end the visit.

Little & Great Egrets in the evening sun at Guadalhorce...
In the late afternoon, Dave and I walked the perimeter of the Guadalhorce reserve near Malaga airport before heading for dinner. The usual excellent selection of waders included Black-winged StiltLittle-ringed, Ringed and Kentish Plover, Dunlin and a juvenile Knot! A single White Stork was I think my first for the reserve and eight Greater Flamingo, including six juveniles were happily feeding. The sea was particularly quiet, with just a few Gannets offshore.

Knot at Laguna Grande, Guadalhorce
A large selection of Gull's to the rear of the Laguna Grande included Black-headed, Lesser Black-backed, two Mediterranean and a wonderful looking Audouin's! Also of note before departing Hoopoe, Crested Lark and the ever-present Spotless Starlings and Monk Parakeets!

White Stork ~ Guadalhorce