04/12/2016

Masked Wagtail at Camrose

Saturday 3rd December 2016
Saturday morning saw a trip to deepest SW Wales with Richard, Mike and Paul to twitch the Masked Wagtail at Camrose, near Haverfordwest. It performed well for the small group of 20 birders, preferring to feed on the road (taking mealworms?), dodging the cars and occasionally spending time in gardens or on roofs.

28/11/2016

Lapland Bunting at WWT

Saturday 26th - Sunday 27th November 2016
Lapland Bunting - phonescoped record shot
The highlight of the weekend was a Lapland Bunting at WWT Slimbridge on Saturday morning. First spotted on Friday morning it showed well around the Holden scrape in the sunshine, flying off for a period but returning later. An adult winter Little Stint was also on the edge of the scrape.
Cattle & Little Egrets, Frampton Court Lake
On Sunday, a short return visit to WWT in murky conditions didn't produce a repeat performance of the Lapland Bunting, which was reported later. I went back out later to Frampton for the Egret roost at Court Lake where four Cattle Egrets, four Great White Egrets and 17 Little Egrets were seen at dusk. The Great Whites flew straight in to roost over the back of the lake.
Redwing, WWT

22/11/2016

Chew and Local Sightings

Saturday 19th - Sunday 20th November 2016
Great White Egret, Herriott's Bridge, Chew
I did the rounds at Chew Valley Lake on Saturday after leaving Mrs. M. in Bristol shopping with the youngest daughter. A total of eight Great White Egrets were at Herriott's Bridge, also a first-winter Mediterranean Gull. One of the GWEs sported a red colour ring on the left leg with an engraved white three letter alpha code 'AAF'. This bird was ringed as a chick this year at Ham Wall (bird in top photo). Two Goldeneyes were feeding off the dam from picnic area 1, and a Cattle Egret and three more Great White Egrets were at Heron's Green Bay. I finished the afternoon, before being recalled for duty, at Stratford Hide. Here, two Water Pipits were feeding in front of the hide, rounding the excursion off nicely.
Water Pipit, Stratford Hide
Common Gull at Picnic Area No. 1, Chew
Med Gull from Herriott's Bridge
Stratford Hide
Cattle Egret, with Little Egret, Heron's Green Bay
On Sunday, a Winter Random Square survey in my home square didn't turn up anything surprising. There are some nice berry-laden Rowans around just waiting for the Waxwings to arrive. I found a Holm Oak growing near the bypass bridge st Naas Lane - not native but I hadn't spotted any that local before.
Holm Oak, Quedgeley
After my survey duties - I don't enjoy walking around housing estates with a notebook and binoculars - I went home for lunch before heading out again. I stopped at Frampton Sailing Lake where the Siberian Chiffchaff was heard calling several times, but I couldn't get a clear view of its plumage features. It is in company with two Common Chiffchaffs and two Goldcrests were also in the area. Finishing at WWT Slimbridge, two European White-fronted Geese were on the Tack Piece brifley before flying over the hedge to the Ox Piece beyond. A Peregrine was sat in the Turkey Oaks and a Water Rail showed in front of Martin Smith hide. From the Holden Tower 40 European White-fronted Geese flew from the Dumbles edge towards the northern part of the reserve, probably also to feed on the Ox Piece.
White-fronts, WWT
Enjoying a Cappuccino in the restaurant Nick tweeted that two Whooper Swans had just gone over Frampton Pools heading towards the trust. I checked the Rushy and there they were. Also here, in the run-up to the late afternoon feed, were 28 Bewick's Swans and a single Mute Swan. 
Whooper Swans, WWT
Whooper Swans, WWT
View over the Rushy, WWT - the Whoopers are asleep at the left back

14/11/2016

Norfolk in November

Thursday 10th - Friday 11th November 2016
Shore Larks, Holkham Gap
I spent a brilliant two days birding in Norfolk with Mark, connecting with many excellent birds. We started off on arrival in Nelson's County at Thornham Harbour hoping for Twite. After not finding any, it seemed like a slow start. A Spotted Redshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed GodwitGrey Plover and Kingfisher in the creek were all good birds. Four Marsh Harriers over the reed-beds and salt marsh and Pink-footed and Dark-bellied Brent Geese were the first of many at various locations.
Thornham Harbour
Spotted Redshank, Thornham Harbour
Grey Plover, Thornham Harbour
Next stop was Holkham Gap where we soon connected with a 60+ flock of Shore Larks feeding on the salt marsh, This was an incredible sight and as if that wasn't enough the flock was supplemented by two Lapland Buntings. A small flock of Snow Buntings seen at long range couldn't be re-located.
Holkham Gap
Shore Larks, Holkham Gap
Shore Lark, Holkham Gap
Shore Lark, Holkham Gap
On the way to finish the day in the Broads we passed through Holt, stopping off to see seven Waxwings feeding on Rowan near the church opposite the High Street / A148 junction. It was great seeing these birds again, and it looks like they are arriving in force. Hopefully we will get some in Gloucestershire.
Waxwing, Holt
We arrived at Hickling Broad car park as the light was fading to walk to the raptor viewpoint at Stubb Mill. Along the footpath we saw a Barn Owl hunting over the marsh and then spotted a Peregrine. Thirty Fieldfares were in the hedgerow, and four Cranes landed in a nearby field. At the mill viewpoint, a further seven Cranes were seen, and at least 20 Marsh Harriers came in to roost.
Stubb Mill
Cranes at Stubb Mill, an atmospheric (i.e. blurry) image

Friday was a cracking day and a stroll from our B & B in Cley next the Sea with clear blue skies gave us some good photo opportunities for capturing the windmill i all its glory; the weather was like this for much of the day. On the beach at Cley along the first stretch of Blakeney Point we found a mobile flock of 30 Snow Buntings. Five Red-throated Divers, 19 Common Scoters, 33 Eiders, a Wigeon and two Gannets were noted offshore. A Stonechat was along a fence-line behind the beach.
Cley Windmill
Turnstone, Cley beach
The start of Blakeney Point at Cley
Our next stop was Burnham Overy to walk out to the dunes. As we approached Gun Hill, the ISABELLINE WHEATEAR landed in front of us and bathed in a puddle for a couple of minutes before flying off over the dunes, It was later relocated on the beach. A single Waxwing flew over as did a flock of 110 Golden Plovers. Four Grey Plover, two Knot, 20 Dunlin and 45 Sanderling were along the tideline. In the fields to the east of the path back to the road we noted 900 Pink-footed Geese, 200 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 200 Starlings, a Marsh Harrier and a Snipe. In the field next to the road as we headed towards Burnham Overy we spotted two Egyptian Geese.

The Isabelline Wheatear:
First view as it dropped down right in front of us
Bathing / drinking in a puddle
We were very lucky to see it so easily
It gave us super views
Then perched up briefly before flying over Gun Hill towards the beach
It was a bit more distant on the beach
Gun Hill, Burnham Overy Dunes
We ended our trip at Titchwell Marsh. A very long list of species included, on the fresh marsh a Jack Snipe, four European White-fronted Geese and seven Avocets. At the beach the highlights were two Velvet Scoters, four Long-tailed Ducks, a Red-breasted Merganser, two Eiders and five Red-throated Divers. On the walk back we paused to scan the marshes as the sun set. A Barn Owl was out hunting and several Marsh Harriers were seen. Two Chinese Water Deer were in the marsh - I have seen them here on the previous two visits. As the sky darkened and the moon shone, it was time to head for home after a very enjoyable two days.
Titchwell beach
Common Sun Star, Titchwell beach
Titchwell Marsh
Resting birds on the fresh marsh, Titchwell
Moon rising over Titchwell Marsh

31/10/2016

Gran Canaria

Saturday 1st - Saturday 8th October 2016
Hoopoe - Maspalomas
A week in the hot sunshine of Gran Canaria at the start of October produced some good birds despite this island not getting much representation in the available range of published bird guides. This isn't surprising since it doesn't hold any populations of the endemic Canary pigeon species which can be found on Tenerife and La Gomera, and Blue Chaffich is much easier to find on Tenerife; next to impossible on Gran Canaria.  Based in Maspalomas at the southern tip of the island, my birding was incidental, or confined to the occasional short solo exploration on foot, in between simply being on holiday. A brackish lagoon, La Charca, stretches behind the beach at Maspalomas, cut off the sea by the beach, and with the dunes along one side. La Charca was always interesting to visit and turned up some good birds.

The highlights included (no particular order):
Canary Island Chiffchaff - common and vocal virtually everywhere
Sardinian Warbler - also fairly common and also vocal
Tenerife (African) Blue Tit - common - seen in various locations including Maspalomas and Las Palmas
Plain swift - good numbers seen especially around La Charca and the dunes area
Spoonbill - one juvenile at La Charca on 2nd
Greenshank, Sanderling, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Little Egret - several of each seen regularly at La Charca - Sanderlings also seen on the beach
Dunlin - one seen at La Charca on each visit
Whimbrel - one present at La Charca and seen on the beach several times during the week
Atlantic (Common) Canary - around Maspalomas and at Puerto de Mogán
Berthelot's Pipit - four at Puerto de Mogán
Hoopoe - 2-3 Maspalomas
Turtle Dove - juvenile in Maspalomas feeding on grassed area with Collared Doves
Common Waxbills - small flocks at Palmitos Park and Maspalomas
Black-winged Stilt - one at La Charca on 7th
Spectacled Warbler - pair in scrubby area at at Barranco del Negro, Maspalomas
Spotted Flycatcher - one at Palmitos Park on 6th
Pied Flycatcher - one at Palmitos Park on 6th
Kestrel (ssp. canariensis) - pair near La Charca present throughout the week
Greenshank, La Charca
Male Spectacled Warbler, Barranco del Negro, Maspalomas
Female Spectacled Warbler, Barranco del Negro, Maspalomas
Juvenile Little Ringed Plover, La Charca
Black-winged Stilt, La Charca
Dunlin, La Charca
Juvenile Turtle Dove, Maspalomas
Common Waxbill, Palmitos Park
Spotted Flycatcher, Palmitos Park
Atlantic Canary, Puerto de Mogán
Berthelot's Pipit, Puerto de Mogán
Canary Islands Chiffchaff, Puerto de Mogán
Tenerife Blue Tit, Las Palmas
Sanderling, La Charca
Whimbrel, La Charca
Juvenile Spoonbill, La Charca
La Charca, Maspalomas
Palmitos Park
Barranco del Negro, Maspalomas
Other species seen:
Yellow-legged Gull
Black-headed Gull
Spanish Sparrow
Blackbird (ssp. cabrarae)
Buzzard
Grey Heron
Monk Parakeet - this introduced, and noisy, species was usually making its presence known around Maspalomas
Monk Parakeet, Maspalomas
Spanish Sparrow, Palmitos Park
Butterflies
Monarch
Painted Lady
African Grass Blue
Long-tailed Blue
Small White
Canary Large White
Long-tailed Blue, Maspalomas
African Grass Blue, Puerto de Mogán
Painted Lady, Barranco del Negro, Maspalomas
Dragonflies
Epaulet Skimmer
Emperor
Red-veined Darter
Scarlet Darter (Broad Scarlet)
Red-veined Darter, Barranco del Negro, Maspalomas
Scarlet Darter, Barranco del Negro, Maspalomas
Epaulet Skimmer, Palmitos Park

Reptiles
Gran Canaria Giant Lizard
Gran Canaria Skink 
Gran Canria Skink, Palmitos Park
Gran Canaria Giant Lizard, Maspalomas
Others
An interesting crustacean:
Sally Lightfoot Crab, Puerto de Mogán

And an interesting plant: Canary Sea Lavender - re-introduced at La Charca

And a cool fish: Ornate Wrasse - in the harbour at Puerto de Mogán