Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Birthday Birding

With all the cracking photos online recently of the two barred crossbills and the fact I had dipped on it earlier in the winter, I decided to take a trip over to the Brecks for a birthday outing. 

Dave was up for a trip out so he picked me up early and we were at Lynford by 07:30. Conditions on the journey were not very promising with heavy rain but by the time we had got there it had cleared up.

Things go off to a good start as we picked up a couple of singing firecrests before we had got all of our gear out of the car. One of them showed well moving about the birches singing. We walked up to the walled garden to find that the large wooden gates that had been allowing the drinking pools to be viewed were closed. We looked through the gaps but no birds were about so we went in search of them.

A group of 40+ crossbills flew over us and appeared to land in the tall trees close to us. We only managed to locate a small part of the group but that amazingly contained a male two barred crossbill! The birds were pretty flighty and soon moved off into some pines. Not sure how many crossbills there have been at the site recently but its is the largest numbers I have seen for a while. At least 70 birds were feeding the tree tops but they were too difficult to see and check through. 3 singing bramblings were also in the trees close by.

We lucked in too at the paddocks. We hadn't been there long when we heard 'tick tick' and 5 hawfinches flew in over our heads and landed in the tops of the tall trees. Sadly they didn't perch for long and flew off out of sight.

While attempting to phonescope some perched crossbills, another 2 hawfinches following by and another single went over while we were watching the 'crossbill pool' in the walled garden. Still no sign of any crossbills coming in to drink so we went in search of more firecrests but only managed a few siskins.

Getting back to the main track, we stopped talking to another birder when a group of crossbills dropped into the tall trees again. At least 30 birds were in this group including the controversial wing-barred crossbill sp and at least a couple of juv commons.
















Not the best photo you will ever see!!

A quick look along the river at Santon Downham failed to produce lesser spot (when does it ever...?) but we did have a couple of marsh tit, nuthatch and a kingfisher.

We rounded off the trip with 4 buzzard, 3 red kite, sparrowhawk and a female goshawk on the way home to complete an awesome mornings birding.
















Very very crappy phonescope shot of the best birthday bird of the day

Monday, 21 April 2014

Bluebells

With the strong cold winds on the coast, we decided to have an afternoon walk around Foxley Wood NWT reserve in the hope of finding some warmer conditions. We were not the only ones but at least the wood is big enough to take a few people.

There were good numbers of butterflies on the wing with good numbers of orange tip, peacocks and small torts plus a few brimstone and comma. There were also a few birds; willow warblers and chiffchaffs were singing well and we had good views of a feeding marsh tit.

The real highlight was the bluebells in the older parts of the wood. A very spectacular sight and the first time I have seen such a showing since working in the west.











Hazel coppicing








 









 



















































Bugle























Early purple orchid


















Wood anemone






















Bee fly

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Ringing and Rioja























But not at the same time of course!!!

The back of the ringers newsletter is a great way of finding new ringing opportunities. Last year we spent a week in Israel but this year our adventures took us to southern Spain for a week ringing with Dr Richard Banham


After a short 3hrs flight from Gatwick to Gibraltar we were met by Richard and his wife Thelma who took us shopping in Morrisons before the short drive north into Spain and our base for the week. We settled into our apartment and made our plans.







The great thing with the area is that there are lots of different ringing habitats with a short distance so we never had to travel far. Having said that, it wasn’t a ‘normal’ holiday as we were up at 4:30 most mornings to allow us to be out and have all the nets up before it got light.

Despite it being pretty early in the season and a bit too early for many migrants we had an excellent week ringing 251 birds of 18 species. The main species passing through during the week were blackcaps. Many of them were migrants but it was interesting to find that the resident birds differed slightly in their biometrics. We had plenty of practice in aging them; ringing 160 during our time
there.



The hazards of blackcap ringing!!!
One of the best things about the trip was ringing in different habitats each day. It was a fantastic experience to work in the orange groves. Not only were they full of birds but you could pick and eat the ripe fruits from the trees!



Male serin









Black redstart

Probably the best place we ringed at was a river site called Junta de los Rios. It was a mixture of scrub woodland, tamarisk patches and the edge of a wide river. We were also to put out nets on the river islands which were great for catching blackcaps but we also has a short net over a small backwater. This proved very successful in catching 2 kingfishers (bird of the trip) and an adult little ringed plover. The site was also excellent for raptors overhead with Bonellis, short-toed and booted eagles, 3 osprey, griffon vulture and black kite.







Easily the best bird of the trip!



Little ringed plover

The avocado orchard was a good site for adding new species to the bird list with a singing short-toed treecreeper close but not close enough to the nets, 6 flyover hawfinches (we were playing tapes for them) and a large passage of griffon vultures. Sadly the avocados were not ready to eat.






There was a subtle change in birds when we visited El Ventero del rio Palmones. It was a strange site in many ways. The habitat was sand dunes, coastal scrub with wet reed fringed pools but set on the edge of a massive container port with the Rock of Gibraltar dominating the skyline. After ringing loads of blackcaps earlier in the week, it was a surprise that there were not many about. Highlights were the 1st summer male subalpine warbler of the spring, 9 Sardinian warblers and 5 chiffchaffs. A couple of iberiae (Spanish) yellow wagtails spent a bit of time around the nets but decided not to go in.





'The Rock' shrouded in cloud



Subalpine warbler



Sardinian warbler

This changed on our last day at the wetland site of Desembocadura Rio Guadiaro where we caught a very smart (5) male.







'Spanish' yellow wagtail

Despite it being a bit early for large numbers of migrants, we had a great visit and would definitely return in the future at a different time of year. Highly recommended to anyone


Species
New
Retrap
Total
Little ringed plover
1
0
1
Reed warbler
1
0
1
Kingfisher
2
0
2
Goldfinch
4
0
4
Greenfinch
21
0
21
Cetti’s warbler
6
5
11
Robin
10
0
10
Chaffinch
1
0
1
Yellow wagtail
1
0
1
House sparrow
6
0
6
Black redstart
1
0
1
Chiffchaff
6
0
6
Serin
6
0
6
Blackcap
160
8
168
Subalpine warbler
1
0
1
Sardinian warbler
10
7
17
Blackbird
11
10
21
Song thrush
3
0
3

Monday, 27 January 2014

Any suggestions welcome

One of the nice surprises from our recent trip to Sri Lanka was the opportunity to see loads of wildlife other than birds. Being in the heart of the rainforest at Sinharaja we were perfectly placed to get up early and see what was about.

The dining area was covered to keep the elements off but the sides were open allowing moths to be attracted to the lights. On our first night, a bat spent most of its time flying round in circles hoovering up many moths. Those that made it onto the walls had to run the gauntlet of a dawn raid by the blue magpies!!

There were a few left for me to photograph although identifying them is proving a little trickier.





Hawkmoth spp





Can't decide if the last two are the different species or just individual variation...



Such cool camouflage



This beauty had a wingspan of over 6 inches!!






Black arches...?











Public enemy #1

You had to be up early to see what moths had been attracted to the lights overnight. If you left it until after dawn, upto 6 Sri Lanka blue magpies would be feasting on the nights catch!!!