Sunday 24 May 2009

Ryton Woods

Green Hairstreak
Brown Silver line

Dingy Skipper

Figure of Eighty

Clouded Silver

Small Fanfoot

Mottled Pug

Drinker catapillar

Saturday 23rd May 2009

I joined two of my college friends, John Smart and Charles Richman at Ryton Woods Nature reserve on Saturday. John has been getting into Mothing and was keen to see if we could we could find any day flying moths as well as some of the Butterfly species. We saw a few birds : Cuckoo, Hobby, Whitethroat, Garden warbler and Blackcap. The bubbling call of a female Cuckoo had us puzzled for a while, being quite close it sounded incredibly loud for a Cuckoo.
We didnt do very well for moths just Silver y, Brown Silver-line, a Drinker catapillar and somebody else had seen Treble bar. We did see good numbers of Green Hairstreaks and Small Heaths and one or two Dingy and Grizzled Skippers.

I've added some shots of Moths I trapped in the Garden last night including my first Figure of Eighty.

Friday 22 May 2009

Trivia and a few Moths

May Highflyer
Least black Arches
Rustic shoulder-knot

Friday 22nd May 2009
Haven't been out locally much recently, it seems that all the passage stuff went through in a rush during the few days I was out of the country.C'est la vie. Did get nice views of Lesser Whitethroat near Fisher's Mill a couple of days ago and there are a couple of Swifts flying over the garden regularly so perhaps the decline in Swift numbers around Nuneaton has levelled off.
I saw 145 species in Spain plus another 7 that I only heard. I added a further 5 species to my Western Palearctic list.
You'll be interested to know what happened to my emergency rations ( my Duke of Edinburgh's Award expedition training has served me well) ie the Dickenson and Morris Pork pie. Well I resisted the temptation to consume it, but it was still fresher than the Ham and Cheese panini thing we ate at Madrid airport and a fifth of the price. Anyway I left said pie at the airport. It was sometime afterwards that I heard from Steve Haynes that there had been a security alert at the airport after we left. An object with a strange smell and releasing blue fumes had been removed from the cafeteria.

Trapped 3 new moths for the Garden night before last but only just Ided one of them thanks to Richard Mays. Rustic shoulder Knot, Least black Arches and May Highflyer.

Wednesday 20 May 2009

Spain 2009 - the final chapter.

Close encounter with a Great Bustard

A group of Great Bustards
Little Bustard

White headed Duck

Pale Shoulder

Lesser Kestrel

Great reed Warbler again

Whiskered Tern

Woodchat Shrike

Friday 15th May 2009

Fatigue was definitely setting in on day four, the early mornings, late nights (for some), travelling, and temperature took their toll. Tom was amazing, driving as he did hundreds of kilometres. I dont know whether it was his Churchillian sized cigars which kept him going but he never wavered in his quest to find all the birds he possibly could for us. Even though in our semi asphyxiated state some of us had ceased to care. We travelled back north to try and find some of the birds we had missed, there were not many but Tom enlisted the help of a local warden/keeper to find Black bellied Sandgrouse. We drew straws to see who would would act as lookout as the Landcruiser bounced over the fields but eventually we found a small group of Black bellied Sandgrouse and got reasonable views as they flew around us.

We had another go at finding Lesser Flamingo but again had no luck. At lunchtime we met up with the next group just beginning their tour. We swapped drivers and headed north for Madrid, stopping en route to get another look at Great Bustards. In fact we found a large group. I had a great opportunity to take photographs at one point but only through the insect splattered windscreen of the vehicle. Time moved on and we needed to get to the airport but not before we visited one more wetland site. In fact it turned out to be the best in terms of waders seen. There were Ruff, Dunlin, Black winged Stilt, Knot, Redshank, Greenshank, Little Stint, Black tailed Godwit, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Avocet, by far the biggest haul of wader species on the trip. So that was it. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience from start to finish. A huge thankyou goes to the two Steves and Pauline for their good humour and knowledge. I think everyone contributed in their own way. A thankyou to Tom Gullick who enabled us to see so many great birds and who showed us excellent hospitality throughout our stay in Spain.

Central Spain Day 3 - part 2

White Storks
- in abundance
- something to do with Don Quixote
site of my White rumped Swift dip

the group at ease
the group in the field

Thursday 14th May 2009

After dinner a short drive took us to a wooded area. We sat down in an open space to wait as the light drained away. There's something about the evening after a day in the sun. There seems to be a calm after the fiery heat of the day. I dont think there was another human within miles of us just natural countryside and its wildlife. The sounds were incredible, we heard Nightingale, Golden Oriole, Cuckoo, Scops and Eagle Owl.
Tom played his tape, the loud, repetitive call of the Red necked Nightjar rang out. We waited for a response. Eventually it came, very different from the churring calls of the Nightjars on Cannock Chase. Steve Cawthray spotted a couple of Nightjars above the treeline briefly but quite distant. Then, as the calls got closer a Red necked Nightjar flew just over our heads. We got back into the the vehicle well pleased with the views we'd had. As we drove back somebody picked out a shape on the track, as we approached it didnt move and in the headlights it was clearly a Red necked Nightjar. Why hadnt I brought my camera, I never learn. The best I could do was to take some shots with my mobile standing up through the sun roof. Tom slowly brought the vehicle to within feet of the bird which remained motionless. Wow what a view through the bins you could even see the redish feathering on the nape. Steve had to get out to persuade the Nightjar to move so that we could move on without harming it.
Back at the house we heard Toms Scops Owl calling in the garden. We persuaded Tom to play his tape to see if the bird would come on to the roof. The Scops called back as the tape played and then landed on the roof briefly to see what was going on. Tom was reluctant to disturb the bird any more than was necessary so we made do with the view we had. It had certainly been an interesting evening.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Central Spain - Day 3

Spanish Imperial Eagle
Egyptian Vulture
Griffon Vultures
Griffon Vulture
Monk Parakeet
Great Reed Warbler
Rock Sparrow
Red necked Nightjar
Red necked Nightjar

Thursday 14th May 2009
As usual we had quite a long drive to our first target species. We arrived at first light and drove to a vantage point on a private estate from which to look for Spanish Imperial Eagle. Almost immediately a male Spanish Imperial Eagle drifted over us to see what was going on. Tom pointed out the nest some distance away but with scopes we could make out the female on the nest. The huge bill, white crown and shoulders standing out in the improving light. A memorable start to the day. We moved on to search for our next target White rumped Swift a bird with limited range and only found in a few locations in Southern Spain. We parked in a gorge overlooking a river which we scanned for some time. Steve Cawthray had a glimpse of the bird but the rest of us were out of luck. We did see Subalpine warbler and Dartford warbler though. Tom drove us down to river level picking up our only Black eared Wheatear of the trip on the way. We then walked along the river but despite finding two groups of hirundines with Swallows, Red rumped Swallows, Crag and House Martins there was no further sign. Pauline though following behind the men, for some reason I'm too much of a gentleman to say, had a huge stroke of luck and saw the bird briefly. I saw Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail and Golden Oriole but it was little consolation for missing the White rumped Swift. I was a bit quiet for a while not that Im particularly noisey any time. Our next stop involved scanning mountain ridges for raptors, vultures and Black Storks. The raptors tested our ID skills at first but as the birds got a bit closer we could pick out two Bonelli's Eagles, a Booted Eagle and a few Short toed Eagles as well as Griffon and Black Vultures and a Black Stork.

It was getting near lunchtime and I contemplated sneaking a bite of the Pork pie I'd bought with me me from home. My companions were horrified that I'd still got the pie festering in my camera bag so I decided to keep it for another time.

Tom picked out a lovely picnic spot for lunch though, right next to a pig processing factory, we ate our ham sandwiches to to sounds of squealing pigs in the slaughterhouse. Still when you're hungry...

The factory though was a magnet for Vultures who were fed on the left overs, there were over 300 Griffons, a good number of Black Vultures and 4 Egyptian Vultures. An amazing sight when thay circled round together. There were still a number of species we hadn't connected with so much of the afternoon was spent looking for Orphean warbler in particular. In an area of Cork oak we thought we heard an Orphean but it was very reluctant to show itself. We saw Azure winged Magpies, Woodchat, Spotted Flycatcher and Hawfinch and finally a male Orphean warbler complete with white Iris.
We returned to Tom's place for an evening meal but the day was not over. After our meal we were back on the bus for what turned out to be quite a memorable experience.

Monday 18 May 2009

Central Spain - Day 2

Penduline Tit
Melodious Warbler
Rock Bunting
Great Reed Warbler
Spotless Starling
Little Owl
Black Vulture
Squacco Heron
Collared Pratincole
Collared Pratincole
Black shouldered Kite habitat
Black shouldered Kite
Black shouldered Kite
Black shouldered Kite

Wednesday 13th May 2009

Our accommodation, Tom's spacious house, was very comfortable with excellent food and drink. The house was very isolated, surrounded by rolling farmland. No surprise that the garden had its own Scop's Owl which could be heard calling from time to time.
Day 2 began before dawn with a virtual breakfast followed by a long drive west. Our first site was a rocky gorge which held Blue rock Thrush, Black Wheatear, Rock Bunting, Red rumped Swallow and Crag Martin. We moved on to a reed fringed Laguna notable for an impressive colony of Whiskered terns but there were also Black and Gull billed Terns, as there were at most wetland sites. We did get brief flight views of Little Bittern but the other heron species: Grey and Purple Heron, Little and Cattle Egret were far more obliging. It was good to get decent views of Savi's warblers, and other warblers on view included Great Reed and Fan tailed. We heard Purple Swamphen but failed to entice one out of the reeds. Other species seen at this and other Lagunas during the day included White headed Duck, Red crested Pochard and Black necked Grebe (a count of over 80 at one site).

Other highlights incuded great views of Penduline tit and Melodious warbler at a river bridge and Chough, Raven, Black and Griffon Vulture, 10 Little Owls, Lesser Kestrel and Spectacled warbler around the ruins of an old (obviously) fortified town. You're maybe wondering at this point why I haven't mentioned food yet. Well thats because we haven't had any yet. A cup of T and a bowl of rabbit food an eternity ago. I know it wont do me any harm but I'm wasting away here. Pauline, alert to the situation kindly offers her selected nuts and raison mix. What a life saver but theres strict rationing and brazil's are at a premium.
At last the time honoured picnic site is reached. It also happens to be a reliable site for Black shouldered Kite. Its not long before the Kite is spotted in the top of a Cork Oak, one of hundreds spread out over a vast plain which wouldn't look out of place in Kenya. Steve Cawthray and myself chose to eat from the relative comfort of a hide from which we could see the Black shouldered Kite in flight, as well as Black and Griffon Vulture and Black Kite.
After a satisfying lunch we went in search of Orphean warbler nearby but only saw Sardinian warbler and Woodchat Shrike despite Tom's best efforts. Tom was also keen for us to see Ferruginous Duck and a vagrant Lesser Flamingo. Despite searching several flocks of Greater Flamingos our luck was out. We did however add Collared Pratincole and Squacco Heron to the day's tally before heading home.