Monday, 2 July 2018

Night of the Owls

Saturday 30th June 2018

Extraordinary events this evening. Ok the World Cup produced a couple of good games but it was after that as the orange glow faded from the sky, that the real excitement started. I'm very fortunate in being surrounded by bungalows allowing  uninterrupted views to the north from my bedroom.
    Last night I was lucky enough to watch  a couple of Bats briefly fly around a large Ash tree in a neigbouring garden, first bats I'd seen this year. As I waited for them to reappear a Tawny Owl flew low across the garden, a garden first. OK, as if that wasnt enough excitement it seemed to flush a Little Owl from another large Ash in an adjacent garden. I wasn't dreaming and I hadn't been drinking well, only a couple anyway. You don't see an Owl of any description for a year and then 2 turn up in your garden.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

The Dolomites - Northern Italy

Sunday 24th June 2018

Hardly time to unpack before jetting off again on a very different trip. No birding involved this time although I thought it would be rude not to take my bins. Malcesine was the base for this  Italian adventure with Jan my trusty companion and tour organiser and wife. Nice Hotel with views of Lake Garda from our room's balcony. Even with non birding status for the week it was impossible not to notice the Black Kites on their leisurely patrols round the Lake. It was also impossible not to notice the family groups of Red crested Pochards around the lake as we took our daily walk into the centre of Malcesine. We did some usual touristy things: cafes, castles and Churches but also did a bit of walking above the tree line after an enjoyable Cable car ride to the summit of Mount Baldo. Apart from amazing views in the perfect conditions there was para gliding to watch, coffee to drink and away from the madding crowd there were Marmots to watch and a few Alpine birds: Ring Ouzels, Tree pipits, Black Redstarts, Alpine Chough, Alpine Swift and Fieldfare with Crag Martins at lower levels.
The Dolomites - Northern Italy

Monday, 11 June 2018

Kazakhstan - June 2018

Monday 11th June 2018

After a relatively quiet spell of local birding. I was lucky to have the opportunty to find some more unusual species, including a new bird for me, on an adventure organised by Birdfinders to Northwest Kazakhstan on the very edge of the Western Paleartic.
The group led by Vaughan and Svetlana Ashby travelled to Atyrau in Kazakhstan via Moscow. We visited a number of sites around Atyrau some involving water courses and the Ural river itself and some involving tortuous treks into the Steppes, vast areas of flat dry grassland.Subtle changes in this habitat produced the 'special' birds we were after :Larks, Plovers and Cranes in particular places. Our 4 x 4 were tested on tracks through the Steppe terrain. On one occasion a loud bang was heard as we hit another hole causing a wheel to fall off. The wheel nuts were located back up the road and the driver did a great job in getting us going again.
Raptors were seen regularly in the skies with White tailed and Steppe Eagle the most impressive but  Black Kite, Marsh, Pallid, Montagu's Harriers and Long legged Buzzard were also seen. For me though the star birds of day 1 were Caspian Plover and Demoiselle Crane.
The Steppes also provide  a Habitat for Larks including White winged Lark a species not found elsewhere in the Western Paleartic. Other Larks included : Calandra Lark, Short toed and Lesser short toed Larks, Skylark and Black Larks.

Demoiselle  Crane

Distant Caspian plover

Black Lark

Calandra Lark

Calandra Lark

White winged Lark

Warblers were few and far between although several Sykes warblers were noted and Eastern  Olivaceous and Booted warblers were also seen. Isabelline Wheatear were by far the most common Wheatear of the Steppe with Pied Wheatear often seen around farms and towns. Red headed Buntings and Shrikes favoured areas with a few trees and bushes.
Small colonies of Red footed Falcons were seen at various sites, while along the river and on larger lakes Caspian and Pallas's Gulls were frequent with groups of Terns moving through: Black, White winged Black and Whiskered.

Pallas's Gull

Red headed Bunting

Another bird of the muddy river edges were Black bellied Sandgrouse coming in in small numbers to drink and soak their feathers.

Black bellied Sandgrouse
Lesser grey Shrikes were the most abundant Shrike species greatly outnumbering Red backed Shrikes

Lesser grey Shrike

Hoopoe with Lesser grey Shrike
This is by no means a comprehensive account but gives a flavour of the birds of the area
Altogether a most memorable tour, and my thanks go to the organisers and to my colleages for making it so enjoyable.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

A few sites in N.Warks

Tuesday 1st May 2018

Started the day with the short walk 'up the hill' at Mancetter but saw nothing of particular interest. Made a rare visit to  Middleton Lakes RSPB today, stopping off at Coton pool on the way where I picked up my first Garden warbler of the year. I hadn't been to Middleton for some time and thought there was a good chance of seeing 'Gropper' there. In fact it was very quiet warbler wise but I was treated to a wonderful Aerial display by 2 Hobbies as they chased down a tiring Swift.I didnt see the outcome but I didnt rate the chances of the Swift to survive for too long. Popped in to Shustoke Res. but apart from a single Common Sandpiper there was little else. After a coffee and sandwich stop at Atherstone it was on to Caldecote. A few yellow wags were seen distantly and several Buzzards were following the plough, but again nothing of any note.

Buzzard, Caldecote

Avocet, Middleton Lakes RSPB

Friday, 27 April 2018

Whinchat at Alvecote

Friday 27th April 2018

A few images of a Whinchat at Alvecote pools in the rain this morning.

Whinchat, Alvecote pools

Whinchat

Whinchat

More Garganey images from Alvecote

Thursday 26th April 2018
Garganey, Alvecote Pools

Garganey

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Good movement of incoming Migrants

Sunday 22nd April 2018

The pace has clearly picked up with the improvement in the weather. A Curlew flew over Mancetter Quarry and Sedge warblers and Lesser Whitethroats were seen at Alvecote pools. In fact I'd seen several Lesser Whitethroats well before my first Whitethroat and I still haven't seen or heard a Willow warbler. Just not trying hard enough !
Did manage to see the well watched Ring Ouzel at Little Packington and Brandon Marsh held a drake Garganey today. Just up the road at Baginton Airfield was a cracking male Whinchat as well as another Wheatear.
Gargany, Brandon Marsh N.R.
Ring Ouzel, Little Packington
Wheatear, Baginton