Saturday, 29 January 2011

Tenerife - Jan 2011, Part 2

Blue Chaffinch, Las Lajas

Blue Chaffinch


Common Sandpiper


Tenerife Lizard

Any ideas? Probably female Crocothemis erythraea - Scarlet Darter

Grasshopper spp.

Surfbird !

Moth sp

Los Gigantes
Sunday 30th January 2011

Los Gigantes is a relatively quiet resort with a small habour, a few hotels and lots of apartments covering the area between the sea and the massive sea cliffs from which the town gets its name. There's not much space or open country all along the western coast and development continues apace. We did walk about 6 miles south past the seemingly endless apartments and shops but the only open ground was an area of rubble, but it did provide habitat for the one and only Berthelot's pipit of the holiday and a few butterflies.

It was necessary to drive up towards the foothills of the extinct volcano, Mount Teide to explore the unique vegetation and limited birdlife of the island. The second site I was keen to visit was the picnic area at Las Lajas in the El Teide National park, nearly 2000 metres above sea level. We chose a bad day for weather and most of the ascent was in cloud and rain but there were few other vehicles on the road. At the picnic site we were the only visitors, but it wasnt exactly picnic weather with persistent rain and a strong wind. It didnt look too good at first, not a sound except the drops of rain falling from the pines, but I eventually found what I was looking for: ten Blue Chaffinch feeding on the ground, there were also a few African Blue Tits around and a single Raven but that was it.

On the way back we took a wrong turn which took us along a causeway built across the lava fields, above the snow line and above the clouds. It was a surreal atmosphere with the sun shining on the snow with the clouds below us.
Having been largely successful in seeing the endemic species of the island at the two sites we visited, the only other birds were those we saw on our walks south of Los Gigantes either on the shoreline such as Whimbrel, Common Sandpiper, Little Egret and Ringed plover. In gardens and around buildings, such as Grey Wagtail, Collared Dove, Canary islands Chiffchaff and Spanish Sparrow and fly overs like Plain Swift, Common Buzzard, Kestrel and Barn Swallow. There were a few interesting insects including a Monarch butterfly, many of which Jan managed to photograph, the odd Lizard and a small school of Pilot whales.
On the coach transfer back we saw 2 Southern grey Shrike as we approached the airport to bring our species list up to 30. Not a huge total but some quality birds and lets not forget it wasn't a birding holiday!

Tenerife - Jan 2011, Part 1

Views from the Hotel, Gomera in the clouds. Birds seen from the balcony included Osprey, Yellow legged Gull, Turnstone, Grey Heron and Little Egret.

Saturday 29th January 2011

A winter break in the sun, with the possibility of seeing a few new Western Palearctic species. It wasn't a birding trip but I did take a pair of bins just in case we spotted something on one of our walks. That was the idea of a week in Tenerife, but the weather didnt play ball. In fact the weather was poor. Heavy cloud, and intermittent rain with snow, hail and strong winds in the mountains. On the plus side we stayed at a lovely hotel we did have a couple of sunny days and we did get to visit two sites which are known to host the islands endemic species.

The first of these sites was the laurel forest at Erjos about 20k north from our hotel at Los Gigantes. The first visit was quite late in the day. We attempted to follow directions from various trip reports on the internet but ended up going deep into the forest which wasnt necessary. We did hear a number of pigeons calling in the canopy above us but didn't get a glimpse. We could also hear 'crests', presumably the Canarian race of Goldcrests but again didnt get a glimpse. As we emerged from the woodland again we did get good views of Canary, Chiffchaff and Robin.
Back at the hotel we met up with a group of birders from Scotland who were extremely helpful in providing more detailed info on the Erjos site.
On the second visit I followed their advice and soon had both Laurel pigeon and Bolle's pigeon in the bag. The Laurel pigeon sighting was pure luck. I'd climbed a bank to get a better view over the trees at the start of the forest when a pigeon shot out just in front and below me for a second or so before vanishing into the trees again. The white terminal tail band and grey-brown back was distinctive. On the other hand I was able to get prolonged views of a pair of Bolle's pigeons perched in a tree with no leaves in the valley below. Other birds seen on this visit included Common Buzzard x 3, Sardinian warbler and Blackcap as well as numerous Chiffchaffs.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

They're back

Waxwing, St Nicolas Park, Nuneaton






Thursday 20th January

Thanks to a text from Stuart Chatwin via John Harris I got the message that a decent flock of Waxwing were in the next road to where I live. To my shame I jumped in the car which was just as well as it happened, 'cos they were not there. They didnt take much finding though, 500 yards away in Poplars opposite the estate pub, the Coniston. They were dropping down on berries on a bit of open ground between the pub and the Co-op. Managed to get a few images before the sun set and remember: these aren't just any Waxwings these are local Waxwings.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Tame and the Euphrates

Wednesday 19th January 2011
I headed for the Tame valley today, stopping off at Grendon- Boot Hill, Grendon - Legion Wood, Piccadilly Hills and the Cedars Cafe for a small breakfast and a rest. Moving on I reached Fishers Mill, the final destination, via Kingsbury Water Park. As for birds, not a lot really, a Lesser Redpoll, a few Green Woodpecker, a Willow tit and a Ruff, Little Egret and Redshank at Fishers Mill. I can add Redshank to my SF list but not the Ruff. For the sake of simplicity my definition of self found is seeing a bird I have no prior knowledge of. That means if I see and identify a species that I dont know anything about even if someone else has seen it first its still countable.

Trouble is birders are nice people and they love to share knowledge, as I found out today. I'd only just got to KWP when a chap told me there were a pair of Red head Smew on Otter pool. Now I may not have gone to Otter pool anyway but the opportunity to add another species to the list had gone.

Overdosed on natural history last night. I'm not a great lover of wildlife programmes on the telly but the Shetlands and marshlands of Iraq sounded interesting. I was diappointed in Simon King's Shetland story. To be fair I didnt see it all but it was too predictable and safe with close ups shots of Puffins, Gannets and Otters.

I enjoyed the programme on the restoration of the marshlands and it's wildlife in Iraq far more. True it was over dramatised in places but to produce a wildlife progamme at all in such a suspicious and dangerous environment was an achievement. The 'vision' of one man to restore a way of life was quite moving.

Unfortunately the wildlife photography a bit fragmented. It highlighted common species like Greater Flamingo and Black winged Stilt while completed ignoring phalaropes and a variety of waders in the commentary. It was still great though, to see Basra Reed warbler and Marbled Teal returning to their former strongholds. Lets just hope the Euphrates doesn't dry up completely.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Grendon Four

Waxwing, Grendon

Brambling, Ladywalk





The Grendon 4

Tuesday 18th January 2011

Got fed up with looking for my own birds so went to Ladywalk! No not really. I shall persevere but it can be lonely and it was a lovely day and I needed to take the camera out for a walk. Anyway got as far as Grendon for the ritual drive through. The Grendon four were perched high waiting for the Mistle thrushes to drop their guard, but then did their customary disappearing act. I chatted to the postman who said they were often in his Mum's garden and gave me precise directions which I thought was nice. I did a circuit round Little Brum but couldn't relocate them but in true Waxwing tradition they were waiting for me when I got back. This time there wasn't a Mistle thrush in sight, the birds came down to feed, the sun came out I took some snaps I gave the postman the thumbs up and continued on my merry way. I visited Ladywalk N.R. via a very quiet Coton pools and then walked back along the river through Hams Hall. No new birds to be found today but a great sight when a Sparrowhawk landed on the handlebars of Karl Sargeant's bike as I watching the comings and goings at the Ladywalk car park feeding station from the car. The bird was no more than 6 feet away. The camera was next to me, but useless, the bird was too close to focus and I daren't move a muscle. Just watched and enjoyed.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Local-ish stuff

Monday 17th January 2011
It wasnt a very inspiring morning, with drizzle and fog. Headlights were the order of the day as I drove up the A5. No camera again but I needed to get out as the weekend had been a total blank. First stop Grendon, bit of a ritual but it paid off for once with 4 Waxwings in trees near Boot Hill. From then on I did a bit of a circuit: Alvecote, Warton, Birchmoor, and Bentley Woods. The weather steadily improved through the afternoon to the extent that it was quite warm in the sun. I picked up some 'good' County birds along the way, Raven x3, Woodcock, Jack Snipe and a pair of Grey Partridge with other birds including Siskin, Goosander, Goldcrest and Treecreeper.

The idea this year is to go for a self-found County list. Have to rely on instinct rather than text messages which should be interesting. A few more days like today would be useful.

Friday, 14 January 2011

A few images from the last couple of days, Great spotted Woodpecker - Ladywalk

Brambling, Ladywalk

Willow tit, Ladywalk

Waxwing, Grendon - my entry in this year's worst photo of a Waxwing this winter Award.

Friday 14th January 2011

I've been up and down Boot Hill, Grendon so many times, I'm getting to know the residents quite well. Actually thats a bit of an exaggeration but I did say Hallo to a couple of people who wondered what the hell I was doing. Today I decided to loiter rather than just drive round and it paid off when a single Waxwing perched up briefly but long enough for me to take my entry for the worst image of a Waxwing this winter Award. I think it may have a chance.

After taxi duty and a quick haircut there was still enough daylight to explore what a canal walk near Brinklow had to offer. After a heavy shower it was definitely a 'welly walk'. Not much of great interest birdwise except several Marsh tits on the edge of a bit of woodland the canal went past.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Gloom and gloom

Wednesday 12th January 2011

Had a look around Mancetter and Witherley for the Great White Egret yesterday but only found a Little Egret. Some nice walks along the river which might be more productive in the Spring but very little along the banks and hedgerows at the moment, except for a single Tree Sparrow.
Today I mostly visited Ladywalk N.R. and Hams Hall. It was damp and gloomy but managed to see a few good birds before the rains set in during the afternoon. The main feeding station was doing a roaring trade with a couple of Lesser Redpoll, Siskin, and male Brambling as well as the regular clients but no sign of the Mealy Redpoll recorded yesterday. Elsewhere on the reserve I was lucky to see Woodcock and Tawny Owl. Driving out of Hams Hall a Peregrine was perched half way up a small pylon next to a factory car park. I pulled up in the car park and had the closest view of Peregrine I can remember - and where was my camera? Back home. To be honest the light was so bad by now it wouldn't have been a great image.

Monday, 10 January 2011

A tale of woe

These potential snares are appearing in fields, in trees and parks across the country, posing a hazard to livestock and wildlife.

Monday 19th January 2010

Not many birds about today, at least where I was looking. Thought I might get lucky with the Great White Egret thats wintering on the River Anker, between Nuneaton and Atherstone but no joy. Did find the remains of two more Chinese Lanterns I've been on about. This time near Caldecote Hall. As there weren't many birds about I started to cogitate (they cant touch you for it). A scenario: an old codger, not unlike myself, is out birding in some remote corner of Warwickshire. He's minding his own business, troubling no-one. Suddenly he sees, or thinks he does, a Little Owl with a long tail and white face. Distracted, he fails to see the discarded frame of a Chinese Lantern lying on the Canal towpath like a snare waiting for its prey. He trips, falling headlong into the icy waters of the canal. Whether he dies of Hypothermia or drowns is unclear. The moral of this sad tale is clear however. We are all responsible for our own actions even if we are unwilling to acknowledge the possible consequencies.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Bewick's Swans in the Tame valley

Bewick's Swans, Bodymoor Heath, nr.Kingsbury

Bewick's Swan

Bewick's Swan

Little Egret, Cliff pool, Kingsbury

Sunday 9th January 2011

Interesting that Mark Skevington, that reknown Leicester birding blogger, should echo my concerns about the potential dangers of Chinese Lanterns. Perhaps we should start a National campaign.
Birding has been rather bitty over the last week for various reasons, an hour here or there so consequently havent seen much. A Raven and a few Goosander at Mill pool, Alvecote, Marsh tit at Ladywalk, Willow tit at Whitacre Heath, Bewick's swans at Bodymoor Heath, Little Egrets dotted about and thats about it really. Be nice to find some Waxwings now the sun has come out but all the local flocks seem to have moved on.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A day in Norfolk

Tuesday 4th January 2010

When John Terry rang up to see if I fancied a day in Norfolk principally to have a look at the Lesser white fronted Goose at Cantley I was a little reluctant. The weather was a bit iffy and the bird's credentials had been cause for some debate, but a day in Norfolk usually produces some good birding whatever, so off we went.

On arrival at Cantley we were met by the local Barn Owl, which was a nice start to the day but we missed the Solar eclipse being focussed on the geese. As we walked towards the railway crossing a skein flew towards us. The last but one bird looked distinctly smaller and we kept our eye on it as the flock landed on the marsh directly in front of us. It didnt take too long before we picked out the Lesser white front amongst the Taiga Bean geese. After scrutinising the bird for some time we moved on, eager to get to the north Norfolk coast. Holkham was the first stop but as we parked on Lady Ann's drive we could see a large flock of geese fly off into the distance. We carried on the the hides though to look for the Ross's goose and Rough legged Buzzard's reported earlier. No luck, there were very few geese still around. We did see Marsh Harrier and Peregrine and got good views of a ring tailed Hen Harrier on the walk back to the car.
We had only just resumed our journey when we stopped on the A149 just west of Holkham marshes. A couple of birders were clearly looking at something quite intently. On enquiry they had been looking at not one but two Rough legged Buzzards but they were currently out of view. It wasnt too long however before a juvenile Rough legged Buzzard could be seen, albeit briefly, perched on top of a hedge.
A few flakes of snow fell as we moved on to Thornham for our next quarry the 'Northern' Harrier. There were about 10 birders at Thornham habour scanning the salt marshes. Amazingly the bird was on the ground about half way out giving occasional wing flaps so we were clearly in the right place. It was just a question of waiting. We didnt have to wait too long before this American version of the Hen Harrier flew towards the habour and gave excellent views for several minutes before moving to quarter the Reed beds to the west. At last it was time to relax with a drop of Pork pie before heading for home. The weather had been good and we had seen some interesting birds - a very enjoyable day.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Is it Superman? No its a Chinese Lantern.


'We're doomed', I found something new to moan about today. The latest 'must do' thing to impress the neighbours is to send up Chinese paper Lanterns at New year. Fireworks are so last year. If you can afford to fire off a few rockets and the like then you really need to get with it or youre kids will be a laughing stock when the teacher asks them to write a story about how the family celebrated the New Year. Believe me next year the sky will be full of the things, posing a threat to migrating birds, early warning systems, civil aviation, the railway network, livestock and lots of other things. Am I exaggerating the problem? Today on a local walk I saw 3 ex-lanterns festooned in the trees at various locations. A bright red affront to natural beauty, with bits of potentially lethal wire hanging about. Unless the manufacturers come up with degradable material then both town and country will have an additional hazardous waste/litter problem. I'm amazed 'elf and safety dont 'av something to say about it. Just a thought!
Yesterday got cracking views of the juvenile Glaucous gull in the roost at Coton but today did some local walks after having a look at the Pink footed goose near Polesworth. The walk was largely along bits of the Coventry canal between Polesworth and Caldecote. Not many birds about to be honest and the most notable were probably Tree Sparrow and Curlew.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Images of 2010

My Top Ten images of 2010 - Leach's Petrel, Coton Lake, Warks.

Arctic Redpoll, Unst, Shetland Isles

Buff bellied Pipit, Shetland Isles

Maghreb Wheatear, Morocco

Stone Curlew, Morocco

Temminck's Lark, Morocco

Snow Bunting, Draycote Water, Warks.

Pied Kingfisher, Eilat, Israel

Jay, Brandon Marsh, Warks.

Sparrowhawk, Brandon Marsh Warks.

Another year another post. Hi, hope everyone is fit and raring to go. Spent New year's eve enjoying the hospitality of Margaret and Pete and some locally brewed Ale in Leaminton Spa. So 2011 started slowly from a birding point of view, that was until I saw a male Blackcap in their back garden. What a good start to 2011, so despite the weather it was back to do a bit in the Tame valley after breakfast. If the Bewicks' or some wild geese were to be seen then that would be an even better start to the year. The swans were difficult, most of the flock had moved a good distance away so with only bins a bit of a yomp was required to get any sort of a view but 2 adult Bewick's Swan were eventually located. Moving to Coton I year ticked my first group of Birders, most looked in remarkably good shape despite tales of unmentionable disease, injury and misfortune over the Christmas period. The hide at Coton was pretty full but there were some good birds to keep us all entertained. The Bittern showed well and the 2 red head Smew were still present. Other birds seen included; Water Rail, Common Snipe, Yellow legged Gull and Sparrowhawk and Skylark. I vacated my seat just before a Glaucous gull dropped in to roost. Typical, but thats birding for you.