Sunday, 30 September 2012

Birding Egypt - Abu Simbel, another Mega day

Painted Snipe
The day started with an early morning look at some ponds around the edges of Lake Nasser close to the town. The start of a Mega day's birding. At the ends of the shallow pool we started to pick out a number of waders; Wood Sands, Temminck's Stint, Ringed plover, Little Stint and Black tailed Godwit and a unfamiliar plover.  Three banded Plover is at the extreme northern edge of its range at Abu Simnel so is an excellent find. No sooner had everyone had good scope views before someone found a Painted Snipe out in the open, feeding along the shoreline. Outstanding. Other birds as we made our way back included: Yellow billed Black Kite, Rock Martin and Lanner.
Yellow billed Black Kite
Yellow billed Black Kite
The remainder of the day involved a boat trip on Lake Nasser. Extending so far south into Sudan the Lake has a good record for 'African' species but with such a vast expanse of water and so many islands a good deal of luck was required to find them. We saw White Stork and Spoonbills before closing in on a rather grey looking Stork, in fact a Yellow billed Stork. As we moved between the islands we came upon a large group of Terns including some larger dark winged individuals. The boatman manouvered so that we could get on to the island without disturbing the birds. Through our scopes we got excellent views of the 14 African Skimmers amongst the Gull billed, Marsh terns and waders. It was in checking out waders that the group not only found another 3 banded Plover but also our first Kittlitz's plover. What a place.

Yellow billed Stork
African Skimmer
African Skimmer
Kittlitz's Plover
Three banded Plover
Three banded Plover

Birding Egypt, Sept 2012 - Part 2, The South

19th-22nd September
We left the Red Sea and headed South on a long drive ( made even longer by a burst tyre) to Shelatin. This was a different Egypt, quite close to Sudan, very hot, very dry with an economy dominated by the camel trade. It was near the Camel markets we hoped to find Vultures. We drove around and saw a few Egyptian Vultures but it was the much larger Lappet faced Vultures we really wanted to see. We eventually found a group of Vultures on the ground, with more dropping in but unfortunately the locals took exception to our presence so we could only view from some distance, but with birds flying around low over our heads we still had excellent views of the Vultures.
Lappet faced Vulture,Shelatin

Lappet faced Vulture
 Lunch was an interesting experience as we watched the hustle and bustle of life in the town from a balcony overlooking the main street. Stick carrying seemed to be important but whether it was something to do with status or camels or sheep wasnt clear. On the birding front we found a group of Namaqua Doves on some rough ground in the town and brief views of a Hoopoe lark from the bus on the way in.
 Namaqua Doves, Shelatin
Namaqua Dove

The following day was another day in the bus as we travelled to Aswan with few opportunities for birding. As we reached Aswan we stopped to bird on the banks of the Nile and then the lush gardens of our Hotel.
The next day was a real treat as we took a boat on the Nile to explore the Aswan cataracts, a series of reedy islands. Most Heron species were well represented as well asFerruginous ducks, Egyptian geese, Purple Swamphens and Clamorous Reed warblers amongst others.
Purple Heron,Aswan
Striated Heron
Striated Heron
Pied Kingfisher
Purple Swamphen
Ferruginous Duck
Clamorous Reed Warbler
Senegal Thick-knee
After the early morning boat trip we headed for a police compound for the 11.00am convoy to Abu Simbel. Various vehicles arrived with much form filling in and checks made.What followed can only be described as an an episode of the Wacky Races cartoon. Vehicles manouvered to get a good starting position before the word Go!When it came any resemblance to a covoy disintegrated as lorries, cars, coaches etc. sped off across the barren desert never to be seen again. It was another long, hot leg of our journey but we pulled into Abu Simnel with time to search for African Mourning Dove. No luck initially so we moved on to a small harbour frequented by African Pied Wagtails. The Wagtails were very obliging so we had time to have another crack at the dove. This time we found a couple on wires so a successful end to a long day.

 African Pied Wagtail
African Mourning Dove

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Birding Egypt - Sept 2012 - Part 1

Egypt is a country of extremes. The emptiness of the desert contrasted with the overcrowded chaos of the cities. The natural beauty of the coral reefs and the decay and deprivation of the urban sprawl. I travelled on an extremely well organised and well led tour with Birdfinders in the hope of seeing a few more Western Palearctic species. I was not disappointed. I estimated 10 new species would be realistic, I ended up with 16.
After a night in Cairo we flew down to Hurghada and then on to the Wadi Lahmi Eco lodge near Marsa Alam on the Red Sea. Our accommodation was yards from the Mangroves which fringed the shore and provided cover for a wide range of species including African Collared Dove, Greater Sandplover, terns, and many other more familiar waders.
The next day proved to be memorable. From the lodge we took a short bus trip to Hamata Harbour where we soon found White eyed and Sooty Gulls also,and more surprisingly a Common Rosefinch! We chartered a boat and with special permission explored the numerous off shore islands. I was delighted to get great views of several of the birds on my most wanted list, in particular Crab Plover and Bridled Tern but the supporting cast of Grey cheeked Tern, and Sooty Falcon was equally impressive. Despite my best efforts to fall out of the boat it was a privilage to experience such a beautiful place. The day was far from over, however. We returned to check out the Hamata Mangroves for a last chance of seeing the mythical Goliath Heron. I dont think anyone really expected to see it but suddenly Svetlana drew our attention to a large bird flying with very slow wing beats low over the beach half a mile away. Was that it? the bird quickly went out of view but was not seen to fly on. Had it landed behind bushes on the beach? A Sooty Falcon perched in a small tree and a number of Shrikes were almost ignored as the group walked on to get a better vantage point. Eventually a bird was relocated but only the head and huge bill was visible. Was this our Goliath Heron? We walked further along the beach, flushing a European Nightjar as we went, until we could see more of the bird. Eventually the heron walked into the open to dispel any doubts. O M W a Goliath Heron. A mega day.
Goliath Heron
Goliath Heron
White eyed Gull
Sooty Gull, juvenile
White cheeked Tern
Bridled Tern
Bridled Tern
Sooty Falcon

Friday, 14 September 2012

In the Meadows

Friday 14th September 2012

First up, apologies for managing to delete all my links, its Daisy Mays fault for changing his blog so no-one can find it. Silly Blogger. I'll try to restore them bit by bit. Went to Leicestershire today for a change. Came across Fosse Meadows Nature Park the other day looking for a pub. Its only up the road so I thought I'd check it out. Didnt see much, too many trees for my liking and dogs but they were pretty well behaved dogs.
Anyway, after lunch I headed for more familiar ground, Anchor Meadows, AKA Anchor bushes, AKA Caldecote bushes, AKA the Patch. Birds were generally elusive except the Robins but did find single Spotted Flycatcher, Garden warbler and Common Redstart with a couple of Chiffchaffs Raven overhead and several Blackcaps in the Elderberries nearby. Also saw briefly my first Painted Lady of the year. The abbreviated version of all this can be found on Twitter for those like myself constantly on the go, looking for birds and avoiding gardening and decorating and the like!

Raven with Jackdaw escort

Monday, 10 September 2012

Recent images

Monday 10th September 2012
A few images from the garden over the weekend
Small Tortoiseshell
Holly Blue
Red Admiral
Common Buzzard - blogworthy only in as much as its my closest garden record yet, lock up your hamsters!
Migrant Hawker
After a family weekend it was back to birding today. Brandon Marsh was the venue for the morning with Eygptian goose, 5 Green Sands and 2 Hobby providing the main interest.
Eygptian Goose, Brandon Marsh

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Life among the Cow pats

Thursday 6th Sept. 2012
Cow pats = Flies = Flycatchers - simples. Bird watching made easy! Well today anyway. I had turned down the chance to see a rare wader at Weymouth to spend the morning avoiding cowpats, not so easy when you're focussed on birds perched in Hawthorne and Elderberry bushes.
Spotted Flycatcher, one of 3 in the Anchor bushes today
No sign of any Common Redstarts today but 11 Blackcaps feeding on Elderberries nearby. Also a noticable increase in numbers of Robins.  playing about with to circulate info.


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Local news in (very) brief

Wednesday 5th Sept 2012
Despite a northerley tailwind and clear skies at night, a few migrants lingered at local hotspots. Not much seen at Alvecote though with just a few Willow warblers and single Chiffchaff in the hedges around Mill pool. The bushes near the Anchor pub between Nuneaton and Atherstone faired slightly better with an adult Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Whitethroat and a few phylloscs.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

More images from Cannock Chase

Saturday 1st Sept. 2012

More images from yesterdays trip to Cannock Chase

Common Whitethtoat
Stonechat, juv.
Black Tern, Kingsbury Water Park