Sunday, 22 April 2018

Spring on the patch...

Over the past week or so we've had several trips up to the patch to make the most of the actually quite nice weather, and it has definitely started to feel like spring has arrived...

Last Sunday saw an influx of Willow Warblers on the patch, while Sandwich Terns and Swallows were also new for the year. The Budge Fields were holding good numbers of waders with 7 Ruff, 50+ Black-tailed Godwit and a Whimbrel, while a drake Garganey also put in an appearance there. A Water Pipit was looking smart in almost full summer plumage.

Stopping at Cresswell provided us with our first Yellow Wagtails of the year, and it was a nice surprise to see one of them was a male 'Channel', and this one has been seen on and off in the bay since.

This weekend there has been a bit less variety, but a lot of the summer migrants are in, with our first Whitethroats, Reed, Sedge and Grasshopper Warblers and Common Terns. More unusual were the 3-4 Garganey at Druridge Pools (probably two drakes from the hides and a pair on the pools by the old coal road).

The patch year list now stands on 134 (166 points).

Yellow Wagtail
Water Pipit - please select to view in HD at 1080p

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Cyprus - Birding around the villa...

After our morning of the second day at the Baths of Aphrodite, we spent the afternoon in and around our villa in Latchi, and the birding there was actually surprisingly good!

We'd noticed a scrubby area over the back fence and with a decent flock of sparrows we decided to check it out. One of the first birds we saw in the sparrow flock was a male Spanish Sparrow - a lifer we'd really hoped to get on the trip. We spent a while watching the group which in the end contained 5+ males and probably a similar number of females.

We moved to the next bushes and I saw a bird perched on the edge. Raising the bins we were pleased to see a female Masked Shrike, another new one for us. Other sightings in the area just over our back fence included a pair of Cyprus WheatearsSardinian Warblers, Fan-tailed Warblers, Crested Larks and a Hoopoe.

Later in the afternoon, a Black Francolin started calling from the field behind the villa, and we decided to check it out. We followed a small track up into the field and two Francolins were calling, one from just a few metres away, and despite the close range seemed impossible to get a view of. Eventually, my dad managed to pick it up in the field margin, although it quickly vanished again. He headed back inside, while I stayed on the track a bit longer. It reappeared and showed really well, without disappearing.

In the evening a steady passage of Swallows took place overhead, and a group of 40+ Red-rumped Swallows were great to see.

Black Francolin and recording below

Spanish Sparrows
Masked Shrike
Fan-tailed Warbler
Cyprus Wheatear
Sardinian Warbler
Starred Agama

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Cyprus - Baths of Aphrodite (part one)...

Last weekend we arrived back from a holiday in Cyprus, and I'm starting to be able to go through my photos from an awesome week. I'll probably do four or five blog posts over the next weeks detailing one or two days at a time...

The first one is about our first morning at the Baths of Aphrodite, not far from where we based ourselves in Latchi. My first lifer of the trip came almost immediately with an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler in the gully by the entrance to the caravan park. Also, we had become aware of the number of Blackcaps at the site - we estimated 50+ on this visit.

Moving along the dirt track, we had our first three of many Cyprus Wheatears, as well as a Northern sat up in a bush. The distinctive insect-like song of the male Cyprus Wheatear was a sound we would hear a lot during the week!

We also flushed a ringtail harrier, and with five primary 'fingers' and quite bulky features it was apparent that this was a female Hen Harrier. A phyllosc flitting around a bush proved to be an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler, and we got some stunning views in a clifftop bush at the east end of the caravan park.

When we reached this end, another ringtail harrier lifted off from the cliff side, and this time it was a female Pallid Harrier, providing a really good comparison to the earlier Hen. Walking back to the car park, a Wood Warbler was the best migrant we could find - in the trees above the 'bath', while a Long-legged Buzzard moved north over the ridge.

Back at the car park, a large group of hirundines had appeared, and comprised mainly Swallows, House Martins and Swifts, but also 5+ Red-rumped Swallows and our only Crag Martin of the trip. A great first morning birding!

The next blog post will be on the surprisingly good selection of birds around our villa in Latchi...

Male Cyprus Wheatear at the Baths of Aphrodite

Female Cyprus Wheatear

Eastern Bonelli's Warbler
Crag Martin

Thursday, 12 April 2018

Holy Island...

Yesterday we headed to Holy Island for our first day of migrant-hunting this year. After easterly wind and drizzle overnight, we hoped there would be a few early migrants such as Ring Ouzels, but it turned out to be a bit quiet, only picking up in the afternoon when 2 Black Redstarts were below the Vicar's Garden and a smart Great Grey Shrike was on the Snook - my first in spring. 3 Slavonian Grebes were also showing well offshore, with two starting their moult into summer plumage. Sadly, despite much searching, we were unable to locate the Black Scoter...

1 Great Grey Shrike
2 Black Redstarts
3 Slavonian Grebe
5 Great Northern Diver
1 Short-eared Owl
1 Merlin
1 Woodcock
10 Robin
13 Blackbird
6 Song Thrush
14 Redwing
1 Fieldfare
4 Chiffchaff
1 Goldcrest
1 Blackcap
1 Wheatear
2 Brambling
350+ Bar-tailed Godwit
5 Black-tailed Godwit
28 Sandwich Tern

Great Grey Shrike
Slavonian Grebe

Saturday, 31 March 2018

Twitching Lothian...

Yesterday morning we set off on our first ever twitch to Scotland from home, hoping to catch up with the scoters at Musselburgh, Lothian...

The heavy rain and sleet on the drive up were a bit worrying, but thankfully it cleared as we crossed the border, and conditions at Musselburgh when we arrived weren't too bad. We walked east along the sea wall, and arrived at the twitch just as our target was found. The smart drake American White-winged Scoter was showing quite well with a group of Velvet Scoters, not far beyond the surf. It showed throughout our visit, although could be difficult to find in the rough seas, despite being quite close in. I opted for videos of it today due to the choppy water, so the below photos are nothing more than record videograbs!

Other birds off the sea wall include a drake Surf Scoter which gave a couple of nice flypasts, before settling on the sea, around 30 Velvet Scoters, 3 Slavonian Grebes and our first Sandwich Tern of the year.

We took quite an indirect route home! Calling in at Low Newton, the Grey Phalarope was showing nicely on the scrapes, while a first-winter Glaucous Gull was in the field next to Monks House Pool. Finally, at Druridge Pools, a Water Pipit was showing well along with 36 Black-tailed Godwits, 4 Pintail and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers.

American White-winged Scoter - video should be viewed in HD at 1080p

Grey Phalarope - video should be viewed in HD at 1080p

Glaucous Gull

Water Pipit - video should be viewed in HD at 1080p

Saturday, 3 March 2018

A few others from Norfolk and Rutland...

I've finally gone through the last of my photos from the few days me and my dad had in Norfolk in mid-February as well as Rutland on the way home.

A day in the Brecks produced the briefest of views of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, as well as a Golden Pheasant, 17 Parrot Crossbills and a Goshawk among others. Sadly they were all too quick for photos!

The following day on the north Norfolk coast one of the highlights was the flock of 100+ Snow Bunting at Salthouse, along with the geese on my previous post.

And on the way home we called in at Rutland Water, where 5 Smew included a very showy redhead and my first drakes for seven years!


Snow Buntings


Saturday, 24 February 2018

Black Brant, Dark-bellies and hybrids...

On the third day of our recent trip down to Norfolk (13th) we spent the day around Cley and Holkham, where the highlight was being able to get some good views of the Black Brant (our first), as well as plenty of Dark-bellied Brent Geese and a couple of hybrids. Here's a post with plenty of photos which will hopefully allow a good comparison...

Black Brant at Cley with Dark-bellied Brent Geese - video best viewed in HD at 1080p. Note the chocolate-brown tone to the upperparts. 

Black Brant x Dark-bellied Brent Geese hybrids at Holkham - with slightly duller flanks than pure Brants as well as slightly smaller collars and a greyish wash to the upperparts. For more on hybrids check out this Birding Frontiers post.

Dark-bellied Brent Geese