Saturday, January 12, 2019

πŸ“– #2/2019 ~ Weekly Roundup!

☀️6C Friday 11th January 2019 ~ A few hours at Eyebrook Reservoir produced an amazing 10 Smew, sadly all at distance, plus over 50+ DunlinRedshank and a nice flock of Golden Plover circa 150.

Golden Plover at Eyebrook
Only a 40-minute drive to Summer Leys Nature reserve next where a drake Ring-necked Duck showed well enabling some excellent scoped views before the bird went AWOL.

Canon SX50 at full zoom to get this one ~ Drake Ring-necked Duck
πŸŒ‚☁️8C Saturday 12th January 2019 A day out with Dazza at Rutland water taking in the surrounding areas before heading onto the main reserve at The Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre, Egleton.

First stop was the North Arm around Burley fishponds where a couple of Great Egrets showed well. Three Slavonian Grebes were easily located but two Black-necked Grebes proved more difficult and were eventually found at distance. Better views of both species were obtained from the Fishermans car park but the strong breeze was a hindrance.

From Hambleton Old Hall a large raft of Tufted Duck produced a single female Scaup before Dazza picked out a Red-necked Grebe just beyond the group.

One highlight from around the main reserve was a drake Smew on Lagoon 4 but by far the most enjoyable sighting of the day was exceptionally close views of a feeding Jack Snipe from the Crake Hide: Video above!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

πŸ“– #1 ~ 2019 Begins!

☀️3C Sunday 6th January 2019 ~ A nice surprise during Sunday 6th's visit to Brandon Marsh was a Great Egret, which flew over me and down onto East Marsh Pool as I walked up the track towards the hide at around 08:30.

Great Egret ~ Brandon Marsh Sunday 6th January
☀️4C Monday 7th January 2019 ~ A quick stop on Monday 7th to catch up with a local Little Owl before heading off to Brandon Marsh, where a sub-adult Caspian Gull was the highlight and Draycote Water later for the gull roost, the latter producing Meditteranean and Glaucous Gull.

Local Little Owl in his usual spot!
πŸŒ€πŸŒ‚⛅5C Tuesday 8th January 2019 ~ The first away-day of the year and a visit to the Norfolk coast on Tuesday in pretty challenging conditions. In fact, the early morning spring tide, accompanied by some really strong Northerlies did cause a few issues with some sea defences actually being breached. The evidence of which was apparent when we stopped off at Salthouse, where a Seal was actually sheltering along the shingle near the old car park. Glad to say that by the time we arrived back to the car after a walk around Grandborough Hill it had in fact managed to haul itself back out to sea.

Twite in the harsh morning sun ~ Thornham Harbour

Stops at Thornham Harbour for Twite and Holkham Gap for Shorelark were successful, although the heavy showers in the afternoon were a hindrance. Of course, the large skeins of Pink-footed Geese and big numbers of Brent Geese are always a spectacle. RSPB Titchwell also yielded at least three Meditteranean Gulls.

Shorelark ~ A challenging job getting this one in strong winds

One of only seven Shorelarks at Holkham
Despite the conditions, it was a decent days birding, although sea-watching was difficult I did manage to log Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Gannet, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Red-throated Diver, plus Fulmars at Hunstanton.

One of the highlights on the day was a Hen Harrier at Cholsey Barns while having lunch, this along with Red Kite and both Grey and Red-legged Partridge.

Grey Plover ay RSPB Titchwell
Waders included Grey Plover, Bar-tailed and Black-tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Oystercatcher, Turnstone, Curlew, Redshank and Spotted Redshank, Ruff and Avocet.

Many thanks to Geoff Hood, John Raven and Fred Burton for their company.

Friday, January 04, 2019

Spain at Christmas

Fires lit and settled back aboard now after spending Christmas and New Year with Dazza at my best buddy's villa near Mijas, Spain. The winter birding was excellent and the weather simply stunning with mostly clear blue skies and temperatures in the low 20s.

Wintering Stone Curlews at Zapata

Osprey over Zapata
Over 10-days we spent plenty of time around Zapata, a little gem of a place at the north end of Malaga Airport. Incredible that with aircraft landing only meters overhead the habitat can yield so much. Wintering Bluethroats, Penduline Tits, Stone Curlews and an Osprey to mention a few.

White-headed Duck ~ Guadalhorce
At the opposite end of the airport is the reserve at Guadalhorce which I've mentioned here many times over the years, here too despite the disruption the birding was outstanding with key species such as White-headed Duck and over 30 wintering Black-necked Grebes.

Thekla Lark at 5,000ft

Where there are rocks there's Rock Bunting
At Sierra Loja in the Granada Province, we took the climb up to 5000ft in glorious conditions encountering a small wintering population of Ring Ouzels, Azure-winged Magpies, Thekla Larks, Blue Rock Thrush and of course several Black Wheaters.

Black-winged Kite at La Janda
We also drove down towards Gibraltar and then on to the rice fields of La Janda, where once more wintering species were in abundance: White Storks, Common Cranes, Spoonbills, Hen Harriers and Black-winged Kites.

Griffon Vulture
On New Year's Eve, a drive across to the new Vulture feeding station near Campillos produced several Griffon Vultures overhead but unfortunately, despite there being the whole of a dead horse, not a pretty sight or smell, this was not enough to bring the hoards down, apparently, it wasn't ripe enough! Fussy things Vultures.

Flamingo's at Fuente de Piedra

Iberian Grey Shrike at Fuente
From here onto Fuente de Piedra one of Spain's largest lagoons for the awesome sight of 1000s of Flamingos and while in the area a couple of Iberian Grey Shrike added to the excitement.

One of four Black Wheatear at Canteros
Finally Canteros Los Arenales an old quarry some 3,000ft up to the back of Mijas Pueblo and Dazza's favourite walk. The day list here consisted of Crag Martin, Firecrest, Crested Tit, Dartford Warbler, Hawfinch, Crossbill and Black Wheatear.

And so the end of another superb visit and indeed another brilliant year's birding. To finish I've compiled the following video of the visit ~ I hope you like it and Happy Birding.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

2018 ~ A Year In Focus Part 1

As 2018 draws to a close I thought I'd put together a few slideshows depicting my 'Year in Focus'

The first of which is below and shows Northern Spain and the Pyrenees in May of this year.

Monday, December 24, 2018

πŸ“– #73 ~ Christmas Eve Walk πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ⛄️πŸŽ„

☀️20C Monday 24th December ~ Christmas Eve 2018 ~ Incredibly, just as we settled into our seats for our flight to Malaga after a very painless check-in the pilot announced that the airport was closed! This apparently due to a technical fault in the ATC centre, thus grounding all flights in and out!

Ryanair Dreamliner livery just prior to boarding
Thankfully, after a 2 1/2 wait at the stand, we eventually taxied out, arriving a few hours late at Malaga for our Christmas break none the worst and thankful that our aircraft had actually got into Birmingham in the first place, literally just a few minutes before everything went down!!

Despite the glorious conditions snow has already hit the high Sierras
The weather here in Mijas is simply gorgeous, cloudless skies and a temperature in the low 20's, although it drops like a stone after sunset. A nice leisurely Christmas Eve walk along the boardwalk at La Cala de Mijas produced lots of Gulls and thankfully I had the foresight to take along my trusty Canon SX50. The results of which are below ~ 


Meditteranean Gull

A trio of Audouin's Gulls

More Audouin's Gulls

A trio of Meditteranean Gulls

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

πŸ“– #72 ~ Golden Hour ⛄️

☀️6C Wednesday 20th December 2018 ~ Another visit to Brandon Marsh started quietly enough with a walk around the top and farm reedbeds. Not a lot on offer to be honest with the exception of a couple of Lesser Redpoll high in the poplar. The winter thrushes seem to have moved on, likely due to the fact that they've now thoroughly stripped the hawthorn of their crop and have taken to foraging among the leaf litter and local fields.

Bittern's sudden appearance
I settled into East Marsh Hide a short time later with no preconceptions. Having enjoyed amazing views of the Bittern during my previous two visits and the latest news had the Bittern relocating to Newlands reedbed I didn't expect anything too exciting.

One of several Bittern flight shots

Another flight shot
Therefore, you can imagine my utter surprise when the bird suddenly appeared in the open on the edge of the right-hand reedbed offering some unprecedented views. Unfortunately, as I was busy snapping away the bird suddenly took flight and headed for the channel over to the left. I must have about twenty different photographs of a Bittern in flight but can't offer one with the bird in the full frame due to the close proximity. Frankly, though, I'm delighted with how things turned out, especially with the camera completely on the wrong settings.

Peek-a-Boo ~ An Otter suddenly appears low in the reeds
The excitement didn't end there as shortly after, while all eyes were on the channel, an Otter suddenly popped its head out of the reeds. This presumably flushing the Bittern which burst out of the reedbed before circling and crashing back down, this as a Water Rail scurried across the channel, perhaps in fright. What a cracking visitπŸ˜€

Otter nonchalantly swims off after the mayhem

Caspian Gull ~ Almost went unseen with all eyes on the Bittern!

Sunday, December 16, 2018

πŸ“– #71 ~ Hero Whoopers! ⛄️

☀️3C Sunday 16th December 2018 ~ More exceptional views of the Bittern at Brandon Marsh, which showed well walking along the channel at East Marsh Hide this morning. It was also viewable briefly waterside of the reedbed looking back from the Baldwin Hide as I departed a short while later.

More exceptional views of Bittern at Brandon Marsh
Going walk-about!
Also of note, the four regular visiting Whooper Swans were back on the pool all morning. These along with a residing family group of Mute Swans, the latter of which I have a personal dislike for! Mute Swans are the bullies of the birding world for me and it was not surprising to see the patriarch of the group trying to drown one of its kind, not for the first time. A few years back this particular individual killed another family of five cygnets shortly after they'd fledged.

My hero Whooper Swans

Calm after the storm
Astonishingly the nearby Whoopers suddenly waded into the group of Mutes where a battle erupted, the Whoopers actually managing to dislodge and force apart the battling Mutes, thus rescuing the bird which was being set upon. Respect to those guys!!

Friday, December 14, 2018

πŸ“– #70 ~ Bittern Delight ⛄️

☀️6C Friday 14th November 2018 ~ It's been over a year since I've had such tremendous views of a Bittern at Brandon Marsh. There was a time not so long back when you could sit in East Marsh Hide in great anticipation of seeing one of these iconic birds close up during the winter months, but sadly not in recent years.

Bittern ~ East Marsh Hide 

Bittern in the channel to the left of East Marsh Hide
Therefore I was delighted today to have another opportunity, this after I thought my chance had gone, having been in the Ted Jury Hide when the bird was first seen. I'd returned to the hide to be told 'you should have been here 5 minutes ago'. Still, with great patience (not my best attribute) and in freezing conditions the bird eventually showed a half hour before sunset and it was well worth the wait!

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

πŸ“– #69 ~ Early Winter Surprise ⛄️

☔️☁️12C Wednesday 5th December 2018 ~ Having been away recently and missed some decent sightings I decided that despite the rain I'd spend a few hours at Brandon Marsh in the hope of catching up on things.

The weather was pretty dire so I decided to head straight down to the East Marsh hide and sit for a while. I knew from the Warwickshire Birders Whatsapp group that two Bewick Swans on site at first light had departed but from reports, the birds, along with a group of four Whooper Swans tended to reappear over the course of the morning.

Caspian Gull
There was a good selection of Gull's to scan and almost immediately I came across a Caspian Gull, which I believe has been aged as a 4th calendar year bird, basically almost adult, gull ageing is not my forte but I'm learning!

I spent a good hour before I decided to head down to Carlton Hide, pausing at the Carlton Ditch to listen out for Willow Tit, a regular here. There were several Blackbirds feeding on what's left of the almost depleted Hawthorn crops but a single bird took the eye. To my astonishment, it was a male Ring Ouzel! Due to the weather, I'd only brought my old Canon SX50 but fortunately, I had the foresight to snap a few record shots, before pressing the record button. Apologies on the quality and the panning away from the bird but I wanted to get a perspective on the habitat and a few points of reference, something that sadly I tend to do these days after past experiences with, 'anoraks'!

Still of Ring Ouzel
After the bird appeared to drop to the ground I moved around to the Carlton Hide, where I managed a brief second view to the left of the hide low in Hawthorn. Sadly, it wasn't seen again, despite more eyes joining the search, a very pleasing winter record, Ring Ouzel was last seen at Brandon in 2007.

One of two Bewicks at Brandon today

Whooper Swans on East Marsh
Thankfully both Bewick Swans and four Whooper Swan did indeed return to East Marsh, giving a great opportunity to compare both species together. Also of note: Stonechat along the bank at the main entrance, Grey Wagtail, two Otter sightings and a Mink, the latter of which, despite their beauty is not a welcome sighting for the reserve.

BUBO Listing

Friday, November 30, 2018

πŸ“– #68 ~πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡Έ Late Autumn, Spain 🍁

Following Saturday's visit to Guadalhorce Dave and I decided to have a short walk around Zapata on the Sunday (never bird in Spain on a Sunday if you can avoid it), followed by a trip out to Laguna Fuente de Piedra on Monday.

Zapata ~ Tracks and ford washed away by recent floods
My remaining time of this short break in Spain was spent exploring Zapata, which despite being devastated by the recent rains still continues to produce. Zapata was a real find for me a few years back, thanks to Barbara and Derek Etherton from the Adalusia Bird Society and a great place for seeking out Red-necked Nightjars in the spring and summer. Only 20-minutes drive from the villa this extraordinary habitat runs alongside the Rio Guadalhorce to the north-west fringes of Malaga Airport (basically the opposite side to the reserve at Guadalhorce) it consists of scrubland, scrape, small pines and bushes along with large reedbeds and a ford. Normally you can off road but with the tracks either flooded or washed away I chose to park up in the village and walk, in fact you probably see more that way!

Woodchat Shrike at Fuente de Piedra
Firstly though, Laguna Fuente de Piedra on Monday, the largest in Andalusia at 1,400 ha and best known for it's breeding Greater Flamingos. Unlike Zapata, the lagoon has benefited from the recent rains, including the surrounding pools. Here, the highlight had to be a wintering and very sad looking Woodchat Shrike, which by rights should now be in sub-Saharan Africa, although a handful of winter records are listed in 'Birds of Iberia'.

Another view of the Woodchat Shrike
It was a blustery day and most species on the lagoon were way off in the middle, with the remaining Flamingos even further away feeding in the shallows. From the Mirador we could make out a group of over 40 Black-necked Grebes, along with many Pochard and Shoveler. Most of the waders have moved out to their wintering grounds but we managed a number of Black-winged Stilts and a couple of Greenshank.

One of many Wintering Cranes around the province
A drive around the perimeter of the lagoon held our target birds for the day, wintering Common Cranes feeding in the nearby fields, one field producing (5) Stone Curlews, also wintering here.

Male Black Redstart ~ Well outnumbered by females
Back to Zapata and the remainder of my visits were spent in glorious autumnal sunshine, with temperatures up to 20C and almost exclusively alone. Just walking the paths and tracks produced what seemed to be birds in every tree, bush, reed or track. Black Redstarts, Common Stonechats, Chiffchaff, Serin, and Zitting Cisticola seemed abundant and both White Wagtail and Crested Lark constant companions with Blackcaps in full song and Sardinian Warblers always present but elusive, this despite the never-ending flow of airliners landing just a short distance away! Also of note the many Painted Ladies, Clouded Yellows and other butterflies still on the wing, which sadly I didn't take time to explore.

Greenshank alongside the ford
The river held Greenshank, Common and Green Sandpiper, along with Grey Heron, Cattle and Little Egret.

Marsh Harrier constantly on the hunt at Zapata
Passing Osprey
A couple of Marsh Harriers seemed permanently on the go, this along with Common Kestrel, the occasional Booted Eagle, another wintering species and passing Osprey, one or two also winter here. At this time of year Crag Martins come down from the mountains and every so often one or two would pass through.

Male Bluethroat ~ Probably a 1st winter
The extensive reedbeds which run along the old river course held large flocks of Common Waxbill, many Chiffchaffs, a number of Cetti's Warbler and up to four Bluethroats during one visit.

Common Waxbill ~ first introduced to Portugal, from Africa, in 1964, from where it spread to much of the country and Spain
A real surprise came during Tuesday's visit when I came across a Wryneck, which having been foraging out in the open decided to head for the rocks as I raised the camera. I've included below the worst ever record shot of a Wryneck you'll ever see! Apparently, according to local birders, one winters here each year and this may well have been the first record this autumn.

Look closely and you should see a very elusive Wryneck in flight!
Having only heard one thus far, on Wednesday, my final full day I decided to just to sit tight close to a section of reedmace in the hope of catching a glimpse of another wintering species, Penduline Tit. It was hard work but after studying every movement for over an hour I finally caught sight of a single bird feeding. Unfortunately, the best image I could manage of this very flighty individual was the back end. Still a great end to a superb short break and luckily I'll be back here, this time with my wife Dazza for Christmas and New Year.

More Images of the Visit....

Black Redstart at the villa

Vueling Airbus on approach over Zapata

Spanish Coastguard ~ Casa CN 235 

Another Bluethroat at Zapata

Volotea Airlines based at Barcelona ~ Boeing 717

Zitting Cisticola ~ Fantail Warbler


Serin at Zapata
Zapata down river
The coast of Morocco and Africa at sunset from the terrace
Another Booted Eagle display
Booted Eagle ~ I wonder where they get their name from?

Hoopoe at Zapata

 Species Seen...
Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, White-Headed Duck, Red-legged Partridge, Black-necked Grebe, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Greater Flamingo, Osprey, Booted Eagle, Marsh Harrier, Common Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, Stone Curlew, Lapwing, Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Mediterranean Gull, Yellow-legged Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove, Collared Dove, Eagle Owl (heard at the villa), Hoopoe, Kingfisher, Wryneck, Crested Lark, Crag Martin, Barn Swallow, Meadow Pipit, White Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Bluethroat, Black Redstart, Stonechat, Blackbird, Blackcap, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Woodchat Shrike, Jay, Jackdaw, Raven, Starling, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Serin, Common Crossbill, Common Waxbill