Sunday, 24 March 2013

Twitch and run

I had to go around to Frampton this afternoon so I decided to take a detour after and pop over to Frieston and have a look at the lesser scaup. Looking at my records, it was about time I saw another one. The last one I saw was at Studland in 2002!

The wind was very strong and very cold but the bird was easy enough to find sheltering alongside the seawall with the tufty flock. Sleeping when I got there, it woke up spent a bit of time feeding, had a preen and went back to sleep.
Didn't see any sign of the redhead smew but the weather didn't really encourage me to linger very long!

The usual excuses for the poor digiscope shots, wind was thee main enemy today!


Sunday, 17 March 2013

Cheeky Monkey

Although the trip was birds, birds, birds, we didn’t ignore any other wildlife we saw. Most of the butterflies, dragonflies and other insects were small and a nightmare to photograph (future blog post) and despite all the snake horror stories (people stepping over sating poisonous snakes), I only saw the back end of a massive rat snake.
The most obvious non-avian stuff were the mammals. Goa is not blessed with a large list but we did manage to get 3 species, not including the rat that ran through a restaurant one night!!

A mongoose sp (never did find out which one) was seen hunting around the edge of the pools at the Biera Mar hotel in Baga and another one was seen near the kingfisher site at Backwoods. Mammal tick #1

Mammal ticks #2 & #3 came from Backwoods and were primates.
The Hanuman Langur or Vandor were really smart beasts with their pale fur, contrasting black faces and massive long tails. They were however, a real nightmare to photograph as they spent much of their time high in the trees and were very mobile.

Slightly easier to see was the Bonnet Macaque. They would spend much of their time hanging around the fruit stalls near Tamdi Surla temple trying to nick stuff from the tourists. It seemed to be a large family party that included a female with a tiny baby. They were right little characters and I can see some of myself in them…..

 Can I have an apple for looking cute please?

No shame, playing with himself in public!!

Still can't reach my back though...

Who's that down there?

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Fisher Kings

With all the wetland habitats, it wasn’t really a surprise to learn that there were plenty of kingfisher species on the Goa bird list. We were lucky enough to see all 8 species available to us.

White breasted kingfisher

Probably the commonest species we saw but that may have just been down to the fact that it was large and very vocal! We saw birds in all habitats and could often be seen well away from water due their varied diet. They eat fish, small frogs but also insects in wooded areas. We even had one on the wires outside our hotel room

Common kingfisher
I am sure they are just as common as the white breasted but, probably due to being smaller, we didn’t record as many. They were only found near water and were surprisingly approachable especially around the hotel.

Pied kingfisher

Very few records. 2 over pools near the hotel, 2 over rice fields at Siolim and 2 fishing at Carambolim Lake were the only records

Stork billed kingfisher

A beast of a kingfisher being nearly as big as a jackdaw!! The bird looks pretty much in proportion until you get to its beak! Only seen singularly sitting in trees looking for food. As in white breasted, is was just as likely to be found in wooded areas near water.

Collared kingfisher

The rarest of the family and has a very restricted range within India, Goa being the best place to see them. The Zuari River trip is the only place to see them and the boat takes you deep into the mangroves looking for them. The boatmen know where the pairs are and good views can be had. We saw 2 pairs and a single female. We were also very lucky to see one sat on fishing poles near Old Goa which we were told is a rare record away from the main area.

Black capped kingfisher

The best looking of the kingfishers. We only saw them on the Zuari River with a pair and 3 singles recorded. They were hard to photograph as they feed on small crabs on the edge of the mangroves
and can be hard to find.

For the last two species we need to head inland to the hills around Backwoods.

Blue eared kingfisher

Very much a forest bird and it took a bit of walking along rocky streams in search of them. They are pretty hard to locate so we were very lucky to get good views in an open area of stream. They are a little bigger that common, slightly darker but with a brighter blue back and rump.

Oriental dwarf kingfisher

The rarest and hardest to find. While watching and photographing the blue eared, our guide went off downstream in search. 10-15 mins later he returned having found the bird. An interesting walk over slippery rocks thankfully found the bird perched on the river bank. Despite the dull conditions, the orange beak and breast stood out like a beacon!! We were vry licky to get such good views but sadly it flew off before I could get any photos.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Amazing garden

Ever since we have been at our current house we have been improving it for wildlife by putting in new beds and borders with plenty of nectar rich plants, dug a pond and put up a load of feeders. Since I started garden ringing in 2010 I have increased the feeding and now have 12 feeders around the place.

The increase in feeding has paid off this winter with the number of birds around. With peak counts  in recent weeks of 42 brambling, 35+ siskin, 10 goldfinch, 6 lesser redpoll along with 30-40 greenfinch and 20 blackbirds it has been spectacular. Ringing has been good with 14 brambling, 16 siskin and a couple of lesser redpoll ringed in the last month. Hopefully I will get some controls out of them...?

I received news about a greenfinch I controlled here just before Christmas. It turned out to be the 2nd bird I have caught that was originally ringed at Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire

Bramblings in the garden

Friday, 8 March 2013

Orange headed ground thrush

Ever since seeing them in the tropical house at Slimbridge when I was a wee lad, I have always wanted to see an orange headed ground thrush.

Fast forward ‘several’ years and I now had the chance to see them in Goa although they were going to be of the race cyanotus the one without an orange head!!! Despite being basically bright orange, I had heard that they were very hard to locate amongst the dappled woodland and spend some of their time grubbing around in the leaf litter.

We were walking back through Arpora Woods when a load of monkeys disturbed some birds from the ground and made me stop on look. I couldn’t find the disturbed birds but I could hear something scratting about in the leaves behind me. A few minutes of moving to a better position and getting down on my knees, BINGO, an orangey stripy head came into view, it was a stonking ground thrush. I was very happy to have found my own.

Things were set to change once we got to Backwoods. They seemed to be all over the place and we even saw them feeding on fruits high up in the trees! As usual, the light in the forest wasn’t really very good but I did manage to get a few decent record shots that I am pleased with.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Help required

Can anyone out there give me some advice on posting images on here.

I never seem to be able to write near images without putting it as a caption. I don't have a problem with doing that but it screws up the formatting!!

On the subject of formatting, what is the point. The post before was written nothing like it has come out. Why the f*ck it put the opening line near the bottom I will never know, they were not like that when I wrote it and I didn't put in all the massive spaces!! I am getting pretty naffed off with is looking so shit and if I can't get it sorted I will be shutting down the blog again

if you have any ideas, PLEEEEEEASE HELP


Piccies part 1

Here are few bird pics from Goa. They are all digiscoped and take us upto Backwoods. There are still many to edit yet and I am sure that will take me a couple of week yet so stayed tuned for more in the future

There is the usual caveat with these photos. Most of them were taken in crappy light and have been heavily edited but you get the idea...

Brown fish owl. Awesome bird that flew across a river and sat out in the open. Just a shame that the light was so poor

Sri Lanka frogmouth. One of the best birds we saw. This pair ( brown female, grey male) were roosting on the edge of the camp at Backwoods. Just a shame the branch was in the way!

White rumped shama. A cracking looking bird but the low light in the forest doesn't do it any justice!

Stork billed kingfisher, a beast!!

Malabar pied hornbill. Male on right, female on left. Another of many Malabar endemics occurring at Backwoods

Little green bee-eater. Cracking little birds that were seen almost anywhere. Never got tired of seeing

Malabar parakeet, endemic to the Western Ghats

Coppersmiths barbet, common bird that could be heard calling everywhere. Always at the top of the tree so hard to photograph

Blue eared kingfisher at Backwoods. The bird spent much of its time hidden but I did manage to get a shot when it landed briefly on a rock. Just downstream was oriental dwarf kingfisher that sadly evaded the camera


Friday, 1 March 2013

Glorious Goa

When we decided to go to NW India last winter, people said that we were brave to go that way as our first visit to India. Why not go to Goa which is much easier and will break you in gently they said. Well the NE was a great introduction to the madness on the sub-continent and it did prepare us for a return trip to India this Feb.

Well we have just got back from a 2-week trip to Goa and it was fantastic. The food was great, weather was great (if a little hot at times) and the birding was 1st class. Unlike the NE where you really need a guide to get the most out the trip and to see all the difficult skulking species, Goa is much easier. Cheap and reliable taxis outside the hotel will take you to all the well known sites which are all within 45 mins from your hotel and if you have a flick through the fieldguide before you go, then most of the species are easy enough to ID.

We based ourselves in the north of the state in the edge of Baga in the Marinha Dourada hotel. This was an ideal location as it was only a 20min walk to the local sites of Baga Hill, Arpora Woods and a series of local saltpans.  These provide a good introduction to the area and its birds before heading inland to Backwoods.

The birding was excellent around the hotel grounds with white-browed wagtail, white-breasted kingfisher, clamorous reed warbler, purple sunbird, little green bee-eater and red-whiskered  bulbul. Overhead there were loads of black eared and brahminy kites, black eagle, steppe eagle, white-bellied sea eagle and a dusk, night herons and fruit bats could be seen. The first walk onto Baga Hill was a nightmare….There were soooo many birds singing and I didn’t know what any of them were! The loudest was white-browed bulbul and I soon got the hang of that song.  A lucky spot was a female Indian peafowl sat in a tree and the first of many sunbird species we saw. The top of the hill produced blue faced malkoha, indian blackbird, blue tailed bee-eater, Asian paradise flycatcher, white-cheeked barbet and Indian yellow tit to name a few.

The Beira Mar hotel that is famed to its close views of crakes and waders didn’t live up to expectations. The grassland had not been burnt and grazed this winter so it was very difficult to see anything although we were lucky enough to see a cinnamon bittern in almost darkness!

The highlight of the trip however was the trip into the edge of the Western Ghats to Backwoods. A very early (05:15) start was needed to make the 2hr journey from the coast. We arrived at about 7am where we were met by our guide Loven and settled into our lodge before tea and biscuits and into the field. There were so many birds around to name them all but highlights from the first trip out included orange breasted ground thrush, Maladar pied hornbill, Malabar grey hornbill, Malabar parakeet, little spiderhunter. Our lunchtime treat came on the form of 3 Sri Lanka frogmouths roosting on the edge of the camp. Such ugly birds but amazing to see so close!! A spot od raptor watching in the afternoon produced black, booted and  rufous-bellied eagle, brown- backed and white-rumped needletails, orieltal honeey buzzard and a white-bellied woodpecker. The day was ended with a dusk Indian pitta.

Day 2 at Backwoods saw us heading to a local school and along the river in search of owls. This proved to be very successful with great views of a roosting brown fish owl on the far side of the river. More raptor spotting in the late morning produced 3 new species in the form of a displaying crested goshawk, Indian spotted and Legge’s hawk eagles. By now it was getting too hot, it was 360c in the shade at 11am!!! An evening trip for nightjars produced a perched Jerdons but we only heard grey and savannah.

Our final day at Backwoods was a kingfisher day. Two difficult species are found in the area and we were lucky enough to get them both. First to be ticked off was blue-eared which turned out to be a bit of a show off and even allowed a few record digiscope shots. The 2nd species was a bit trickier. Loven left us watching the blue-eared while he headed downstream. 20mins later he returned with the news we wanted. A hurried walk over lots of boulders was worth it for the scope views or oriental dwarf kingfisher. The walk back to camp still provided some goodies in the form of a white male Asian paradise flycatcher, blue-bearded bee-eater, crested serpent eagle and 2 crested treeswifts

As we were at Backwoods for 3 nights, a trip to Bondla is included on the way back to the coast. The habitat is slightly different here and so produced some new stuff. 2 Indian peafowl sat in the top of a tree looked very out of place, a dusky crag martin was flying around a temple and brown-headed barbet were added. The 2 main highlights were big and small… The small came in the form of a speckled piculet, a very small woodpecker about the size of a great tit that was covered in white spots. The big prize we were looking for was Malabar trogon. At our final stop on the way back down, Loven could hear one calling so headed into the trees to investigate. Once he found one he waved us in, a lovely female was sitting low down on a branch. He then spotted another female and then a male!! I then found another male and we ended up watching 2 males displaying to 3 females, a fitting end to our time in the hills before returning to the coast.
I have got loads of photos to edit still so I will post some once completed and finish the trip report another night