Sunday, May 21, 2023

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ~ Speyside & Aviemore ~ 15th to 17th/05/2023

A few days on Speyside with Dazza staying in Aviemore for the duration. Not specifically a birding short break but as per usual we did set aside a few outings. The weather was a mixture of showers and clouds but we did manage to enjoy a little sunshine.

Slavonian Grebe ~ One of five seen today at Loch Ruthven 

On Monday, May 15th we spent the morning at RSPB Loch Ruthven. This is a freshwater upland loch with sedge beds, deciduous woodland and heather moorland. It's the best place in the UK to see breeding Slavonian Grebes and we weren't disappointed today with five birds noted around the loch. Also of interest a fishing Osprey and Tree Pipits from the car park before the rain arrived.

A Cuckoo while at Glen Mazeran Burn

After lunch a slow drive along the single-track route through Strathdearn, stopping at several vantage points for short walks. This is an upland river valley (River Findhorn) with mixed birch, juniper scree slopes, open farmland and a few plantations. Highlights included single Golden Eagle, Golden Plover, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Wheater and Common Sandpipers along the river. Meadow Pipits were plentiful with Dipper and Grey Wagtail also noted.

Wood Warbler ~ A scarcity in Aberdeenshire so nice to pick one up in Aviemore.

Tuesday, May 16th and after a hearty breakfast we walked across from the hotel for a look around part of Craigellachie National Nature Reserve in between the showers. The reserve boasts birch woodland, open glades, tree-fringed lochs and slopes rising to a craggy summit. Unfortunately, the weather denied us a chance to venture up to the summit but the woodland was alive with Willow Warblers, Chaffinch, a few Treecreepers and my target bird, a single Wood Warbler!

Red Squirrel from the visitor centre at Loch Garten.

After Craigellachie, we drove the short distance to Loch Garten. A look at the visitor centre which had live cameras of the nesting Ospreys and good views out towards the nest site. It's also a good place to see Crested Tit around the feeders but apparently not during the breeding season. I'm happy to say that we did eventually see and hear two birds while walking the trail around Loch Mallachie. Also of note are Redstart, Tree Pipit, Treecreeper, nesting Goldeneye and Red Squirrels. A nice break and a good chance for Dazza to chill out.

Friday, May 12, 2023

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ~ RSPB Loch of Strathbeg ~ 12/05/2023

🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Friday 12th May 2023 ☁️ 9C ~ Wind NNE @ 2MPH ~ An early start today arriving at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg around 7:30am, a Grasshopper Warbler was reeling from the scrub just prior to the dipping ponds as I passed. As I parked at least twenty Common Terns were making a good racket overhead and the usual Tree Sparrows were around the feeders.

Two of four Drake Garganey on Starnafin Pools

I began overlooking Starnafin Pools from the benched area and here I was immediately onto Temminck's Stint, (2) Wood Sandpipers, (2) Little-ringed Plovers and an amazing (4) Garganey, all drakes! Quite the tally for NE Scotland.

Not a morning for the camera but a record of the Temminck's Stint ~ A Scottish tick for me after missing out on a couple of birds seen since I moved up here in 2020.

Also of note were (4) Roe Deer which seemed to have got through the perimeter fencing on Starnafin Pools and spent the whole time searching for a way out. I did inform the guys in the centre when they arrived so hopefully they've been sprung from their incarceration. Interesting point, if Roe Deer can get in so too Foxes!!

One of two Common Cranes ~ Always a pleasure to see them NOT sporting lots of leg bling!

I spent an hour overlooking the pool with Barn Swallows and a few House Martins skimming for flies and my first couple of Swifts for the year overhead. A couple of Common Cranes seemed to appear from nowhere, one on each side of the perimeter fence and were happily feeding.

Pretty sure this is a Grasshopper Warbler.

A walk to the Dunbar Hide produced WhitethroatYellowhammerMeadow PipitLinnet, Skylark, a single Lesser Redpoll and a Corn Bunting singing from the wires. I paused outside the Tower Hide for a scan of the reedbeds, a Willow Warbler singing behind and a Water Rail grated from the reeds below. As I walked along the reeds towards the Dunbar Hide a bird popped up into one of the willows low to the ground, no song, no calls. I only got the briefest of views and actually managed a photo, I'm pretty sure it's another Grasshopper Warbler

Sedge Warbler from the Dunbar Hide

Another hour in the Dunbar Hide produced Sedge Warblers at close range, a flyby male Marsh Harrier and feeding on the low ground at a distance a Great White Egret. Easily forty or so Curlew, a few Oystercatchers, Lapwings and various counts of Wigeon, Gadwall, Shoveler and Shelduck.

Osprey ~ During my walk back to the centre.

My walk back to the centre produced a few raptors with Osprey, Buzzard and Sparrowhawk all noted.

A few more images of the morning...

One of two Little-ringed Plover ~ I'm told quite the rarity in NE Scotland just a few years ago. 

Great White Egret feeding on the low ground from the Dunbar Hide

A Wren banging out his huge song from the Dunbar Hide

Wednesday, May 10, 2023

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ~ RSPB Local Group ~ Dinnet ~ 10/05/2023

🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Wednesday 10th May 2023 πŸŒ€  14C ~ Wind NE @ 3MPH ~ Helped lead a day out with RSPB Aberdeen and District Local Group at Muir of Dinnet, Aberdeenshire.

A full report of the outing can be found HERE or on the group's website HERE

Tuesday, May 09, 2023

πŸ“– 🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 ~ Dark-eyed Junco ~ 09/05/2023

🏴󠁧󠁒󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Tuesday 9th May 2023 🌦️8C ~ Wind E @ 2MPH ~ After a few days' rest, it was back out for some local birding and to play catch-up with my Scottish year-list. To begin I'd decided to visit Rattray Head, a real hotspot for migration which often produces something unique. Today was no exception!

Our confirmation of a Dark-eyed Junco ~ A brilliant find by Andy Carroll.

As I arrived along the track towards the old B&B a car seemed parked in the middle. As I pulled up behind the door flung open and a guy tells me he'd just seen a Dark-eyed Junco!! You can imagine my surprise. The chap was actually Andy Carroll a local birder who I knew through social media but this was the first time we'd met. As we were both parking I noticed a bird fly into a nearby tree, the light wasn't good at this point but through the windscreen, it looked dark with a light belly. It didn't stay long but I was hopeful for Andy that this was it. Long story short, we both searched for a least an hour and we were joined by a third person until suddenly a bird flew across and perched on nearby posts, Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco ~ Rattray Head

What a brilliant find for Andy and for me a case of the right place, right time! From this point on, the bird offered some great views, was feeding well and looked in good condition. 

Pied Flycatcher on the fence of the old B&B at Rattray

A few other sightings while searching around Rattray included at least three Pied Flycatchers, Stonechat and a single Fieldfare and Redwing

Pied Flycatcher ~ Rattray

After the excitement of Rattray, I stopped for a brief visit at RSPB Loch of Strathbeg to look over Starnafin Pools. Although the pool was particularly quiet, save for a few Dunlin and Redshank a Spoonbill was feeding across on the low ground and the only other notable was a Grasshopper Warbler reeling alongside the dipping pond as I drove out. A final stop of the day at Inch Point along the Ythan produced a count of (9) Whimbrel, a good end to top day back home.

Whimbrel at Inch Point Ythan Estuary

Monday, May 08, 2023

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ ~ Zapata & Canal Sacaba Malaga 05/05/2023

My final birding of this outstanding spring visit to Andalusia before heading home involved a very early morning start with Derek Etherton meeting up at Zapata. Our target species for today were Red-necked Nightjar and Temminck's Stint. Details for Zapata can be found HERE.

We began at Zapata with a drive around the dirt tracks in the pitch black. Well, I say pitch black but the full moon was certainly a bonus as it was setting to the west. I'm also glad that Derek knows his way around this amazing habitat as you can easily come a cropper. As I did a few years back when I got bogged down in deep gravel after flooding, the less said about that the better. 

You can identify the Red-necked Nightjars when their red eyes suddenly appear in the headlamps as you are driving along. After what seemed an age Derek found two birds and even more amazing they were mating. The birds seemed totally unaffected by our presence and continued to offer some excellent views before eventually flying off into the darkness. The experience of watching these nocturnal experts will certainly live in the memory for a long time.  Blackbirds and Crested Larks were also noted along the trackside in the twilight along with a few Hares and Rabbits before we paused at a known Yellow Wagtail roost to watch the birds start their day. 

Good numbers of Cattle Egret coming from their nearby roosts.

We spent the sunrise around the river and ford noting group after group of Cattle Egrets coming out of their roost. (15) Night Herons and (27) Glossy Ibis also drifted by and around the river Black-winged Stilt, Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Little-ringed Plover and Little Egret. Where we stood a Penduline Tit was constantly calling but remained elusive and a Woodlark sang in the distance. The huge clouds of flies above the treetops attracted both Pallid and Common Swift, along with a few Red-rumped Swallows and Barn Swallows. Singing in the reedbeds and tamarisk Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warblers and Nightingales, plus (2) Pied Flycatchers and a single Common Waxbill were also noted. It's difficult to paint a picture of this magical hour at Zapata but you really have to see and hear it to believe it!

Temminck's Stints on the Canal Sacaba Malaga.

After breakfast at el Tardon, Derek drove me across to the Canal Sacaba Malaga for three reported Temminck's Stints. A new destination for me which is located on the north side of Guadalhorce and upon arrival, we managed the birds without any great hardship. 

Squacco Heron fly-by at Canal Sacaba

A bonus while at Canal Sacaba was the above Squacco Heron which nicely rounded off this year's 18-day Spanish Spring tour with a creditable 155 bird species and 17 butterfly species seen. 

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ ~ The Sierra de las Nieves 04/05/2023

πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Thursday 4th May2023 πŸŒ€ 26C ~ Wind E @ 4MPH I'm always delighted to join Andy Paterson, Derek, and Barbara Etherton for a day out and today's excursion was up in The Sierra de las Nieves National Park, an area my companions know very well having lived and birded in Andalucia for many years.

The Sierra de las Nieves National Park is located in the hills behind Marbella and to the east of the Ronda-Marbella road as it winds up the mountain along hairpin bends. The park centres on Mount Torrecilla (1909m) and covers an area of 30km by 20km or 18,530 hectares. The Sierra de las Nieves, formerly a natural park, was declared a National Park in January 2021 and formalised in May 2021. 
For information: Hostal Restaurante El Navasillo is a great place to stop for breakfast before entering the park (the restaurant is closed on Wednesdays)

It was a fantastic day out with many images to share, best described to begin as a pictorial. 

Our first hour was spent at a known water font and we just sat at a respectable distance in the shade watching and waiting ~  Six Western Subalpine Warblers noted 4 males & 2 females. Normally skulking in the scrub what a fantastic sight to see these birds out in the open.

Firecrest ~ Another bird often seen up in the pine canopy is quite happy to be out in the open bathing and drinking.

Crested Tit ~ What a stunning little bird & requires no discription!

A female Western Subalpine Warbler takes the opportunity to come in for a bath.

A female Blackcap is a more familiar sight to a UK birder.

During my recent stay in Spain, the Western Bonelli's Warbler has been by far the most common warbler. Often elusive and only heard it's a great opportunity to study this species in detail.

A Cirl Bunting one of three today comes down from the trees for a bath.

This Pied Flycatcher did try his luck at the font but was chased off pretty quickly by a Firecrest of all things. He only stayed for a short time before heading off.

There are always surprises when out birding and this Red-legged Partridge was totally unexpected!


Just prior to moving on to our next destination at Los Quejigales a Woodlark, which we'd heard singing for most of our stay at the water font finally decided to make an appearance.

Blue Tit ~ I've never seen one with such an amazingly vivid colour. (not enhanced!)

A few other visitors to the font included Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Long-tailed Tit and the bluest Blue Tit I think I've ever seen!

Cirl Bunting en route to the Los Quejigales parking area.

From here it was the usual stop/start affair checking out anything that moved on route to the Los Quejigales parking area, noting Short-toed TreecreeperRock Bunting and another Cirl bunting.  At one point we paused to talk to Alvaro from Wild Andalusia a local guide who Derek knows quite well.  He was actually photographing a Sierra Navarda Lizard but I think we may have spooked it as it shot off up into the rocks before we had time to see it in any great detail, it looked quite large! Apparently, this particular species is not known to the area and so could be a first for the reserve for Alvaro.

Common Redstart at Los Quejigales

At Los Quejigales we spent time looking for Common Redstarts, which nest here. Unfortunately, it was a challenge made all the more difficult by a group of workmen strimming the area under the nest boxes! Incredible really considering the location and time of year! We did eventually find 3 birds, including a smart-looking male but I have to say 'who makes these decisions'. I'm sure Andy will be making enquiries.

Our final drive took the low road back down to civilization stopping on two occasions for what turned out to be even more outstanding birding.

A pair of Black Wheatear feeding young along the lower road so after a quick photo we moved on pretty rapidly! 

This is just a small group (camera lens permitting) of Honey Buzzards that passed over mid-afternoon during a period of intense visible migration. Groups of 70~8~23 totalled 101 Honey Buzzards. In addition (15) Griffon Vultures, (2) displaying SparrowhawkBooted EaglePeregrine Falcon and a Short-toed Eagle were also noted.

Butterflies recorded today included this Pea Blue

Adonis Blue

Marsh Fritillary

Also of note during our drive down were: Iberian Grey Shrike, Alpine Swift, Pallid Swift, Nuthatch, Black Redstart, Raven, Woodlark, Firecrest, Stonechat and Grey Wagtail. What an outstanding day birding, great company great fun and great birding!!

Friday, May 05, 2023

πŸ“– πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ ~ Spain Visit Pictorial No.2 Spring 2023

Another pictorial of my current visit to Spain which includes a mid-morning visit to Guadalhorce on Tuesday 2nd May and a drive down to the Cazalla Bird Observatory at Tarifa and onwards to La Janda on Wednesday 3rd May. Site details for La Janda are available HERE. Details for Guadalhorce are HERE.

Guadalhorce can be quite frustrating at times with people still cycling around the reserve, despite new signage and fencing and a constant passage of joggers can be disruptive. I always attempt to get there pre-dawn when the birding is better but occasionally it's not possible. Still, it was a good visit with 55 species seen including a Caspian Tern on the Rio Viejo and a good selection of Gulls on Laguna Grande.

A Caspian Tern on the old river section ~ I last saw this species here back in September 2014

A favourite of mine is Audouin's Gull ~ Seven in total today

I've been surprised during this spring visit to Spain by how many Slender-billed Gulls frequent Guadalhorce. A count of 21 today. This after another large count of 27 birds on April 22nd

Mediterranean Gulls are always in reasonable numbers at Guadalhorce.

A count of nine Marbled Duck today, a species reintroduced in 2022 and doing very well.

Normally zitting away above your head it's not too often the Fantail Warbler (Zitting Cisticola) perches up for a photo opportunity.

Two Whiskered Terns today among the many Sandwich Terns ~ This one fishing on the Laguna de la Casilla

On Wednesday 3rd May I took the 90-minute drive to the Cazalla Bird Observatory at Tarifa. Arriving around 10am I stopped just short of the observatory for a coffee at Mirador del Estreco, which offers great views across the Straits towards Morroco. It was actually blowing a hoolie but just above 3 Griffon Vultures were braving the conditions and battling easily against the wind. These conditions didn't bode well for the observatory and so it transpired. I spend around 40 minutes without a single bird on passage, likely all held up across the straits in Morocco due to the strong winds. Hard to believe that the day before over 10,000 Honey Buzzards were recorded crossing the Straits!

The only saving grace at La Janda was this stunning Black-winged Kite perched in sheltered trees.

I hadn't actually planned to visit La Janda today but to try and avert a wasted journey I drove the extra 25 minutes from the observatory, taking the circular off-road track anticlockwise, entering La Janda opposite the Zahara turn-off on the N-340. A few hours later I was back on the N-340 on route home. 

Black-winged Kite

It was still blowing a gale and the birding was challenging. My worst-ever visit to La Janda with not a single piece of open water to be found. All the rice fields were currently being ploughed and at least half of the channels leading off the Canal colector del este devoid of water. Any Spoonbills, Glossy Ibis or White Storks I did find were located at the far end of the few channels that did contain some water. A stunning Black-winged Kite, a single Marsh Harrier and a fly-by Collared Pratincole were the only species of note! Driving northeast along the Canal interconnector where a few years ago many Cattle Egrets were nesting did not hold a single nest!! The demise of this once amazing habitat continues, very depressing!