Monday, 31 March 2014

Cape Verde - 2014 - Day 1

Day 1
The group, under the leadership of Vaughan Ashby of Birdfinders, met up at Gatwick airport for our flight to Boa vista one of the islands of the Cape Verde group off the coast of West Africa. We were to see several airports as we travelled from island to island in our quest to see all the species on offer. On arrival we quickly dumped our laggage at the hotel and set off for some birding. We had already got our first 'tick', the endemic Iago Sparrow at the Airport with some Spanish and House Sparrows. We drove out to the coast where we could view an offshore island. We could see good numbers of Brown Boobies and a few Red billed Tropicbirds but it was a single Magnificent Frigatebird, the only one in the Western Palearctic which was the real prize.
Magnificent Frigatebird, a distant image of one of the rarest species in the Western Palearctic.
Manificent Frigatebird
In the event we saw two Frigatebirds, a male and a female which was encouraging.
On our way back we saw another 'new' bird, Helmeted Guineafowl, plus Black crowned Sparrow Lark, Bar tailed Lark, Hoopoe Lark, Brown necked Raven, Quail, Collared Dove, Osprey and Kestrel. Waders were represented by Greenshank, Sanderling, Ringed plover, Kentish plover, Black winged Stilt and Curlew Sandpiper. It had been an excellent start to the week.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Green winged Teal and Firecrest in Warks.

Tuesday 18th March 2014
After a disappointing day yesterday I decided to have another go for the two 'star' birds in South west Warwickshire. After a phone call from Dennis W. that the Firecrest was showing well from the pub car park at Earlswood lakes I headed off despite the forecast of heavy showers. As I arrived on site the heavens opened and it was a frustrating wait for the rain to ease off. When the rain eased enough to get out of the car it wasnt long before the Firecrest could be heard in the trees and bushes right next to the car park.and then the bird appeared, almost overhead. The Firecrest then showed almost continuously for the next hour often just a few feet away. After taking a few photographs it was time to have another attempt at seeing the Green winged Teal at Moreton Bagot. This time I was better equipped in terms of information and equipment. The Teal showed well in the 'scope' as did the 5 Green Sandpipers, but a bonus bird was my first Little ringed Plover of the year.
Firecrest, Earlswood Lakes

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Trial Runs

13th/14th March 2014
In addition to the usual patch birding I thought I'd try out the concept of the 1 hour list. Seeing(or hearing) as many species as possible in 1 hour. I started from the car park at Middleton Lakes RSPB. Brisk walking is required as the hour passes very quickly and visiting as wide a variety of habitats as possible is essential. I managed 46 bird species during an afternoon session which is far from ideal  and clearly with summer migrants and passage birds as well later in the year, this number will rise considerably. At least I had some idea of what was possible. The 1 hour went very quickly and its easy not to see some quite common species you take for granted on a normal days birding the local patch.The mere fact that you're looking intensively throughout the hour might mean finding that little gem tucked away! Who knows?
Saturday15th March 2014
I had intended trying another 1 hour blast but I got distracted. Firstly by an interesting Chiffchaff. I met Dave H and Archie A at my first stop - Coton Lake. Dave had taped a Chiffchaff with an unusual song. It was a pale, grey toned individual so the conclusion was that it was a Siberian Chiffchaff. It was only later when the song was analysed that it was found to be a mixture of Chiffchaff types. Very confusing and just shows how difficult wintering Chiffchaffs are to identify. Thanks to Dave H. for pursuing the issue.
I moved on to Ladywalk N.R. after checking some Horse paddocks for Wheatear. No Wheatear but I did find a Green Sandpiper and a Curlew on the reserve, the Water Rail also showed well. After a phone call from John A I managed to pick up Little Owl for the County year list on the way home.
Long tailed Tit, Ladywalk N.R.

Friday, 14 March 2014

The 1 hour Challenge

Friday 14th March 2014
How many birds can you see or hear in 1 hour. Its as simple as that. The time starts when you write down your first species and finishes precisely 1 hour later. Clearly there is no time to waste driving around from one site to another, so location is key and every bird is important. Have a go next time you are out for a day's birding. It would be interesting to see how many species birders can chalk up in a limited time and which areas have the best spread of common as well as rarer species. Not very Scientific I know but then its just for fun. Tweet your score @Bob_the_Birder

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Migrant Watch

Tuesday 11th March 2014
I started the days Quest scaling the Picadilly Heights, an ex slag heap next to the Picadilly freight Terminal. Found the odd migrant there in the past but today a few Meadow pipits, 3 pairs of Skylarks and a Green Woodpecker. At Coton there were a few Chiffchaff in the trees but little else. Cliff pool, Kingsbury Water Park was similar with very little on the pools but a couple of Chiffchaff along the path. By the time I reached Middleton Lakes it was a beautiful afternoon and a joy to be out and about. At first the northern pits looked pretty quiet with just a couple of Shelduck, 2 pairs of Oystercatcher and a multitude of Black headed Gulls. A pair of Redshank brightened the scene before a flock of 17 Dunlin took to the air before settling again on one of the many shingle spits. It was a very pleasant late afternoon viewing from one of the screens and bodes well when wader passage is in full flow. To finish off a single Curlew flew over and dropped into the northern pit.
Part of the flock of 17 Dunlin at Middleton Lakes RSPB
One of many Chiffchaffs seen in the Tame valley today

Saturday, 8 March 2014

In search of the elusive Bittern

4th, 5th, 6th,7th March 2014
 Fortunately local birding isnt about just one species. There are usually other birds to find if you look hard enough just as well as my search for a local Bittern has so far proved fruitless. Vigils at Brandon Marsh N.R, Ladywalk N.R. and Middleton Lakes RSPB have produced a variety of species but as yet no Bittern. Some of the species seen yesterday are shown below. Other species such as Hume's Y B Warbler seen yesterday were rather more camera shy.
Water Rail, Ladywalk N.R.
Redpoll sp
Great spotted Woodpecker
Green Woodpecker