Tuesday 28 February 2012

Back on Home Turf

Short eared Owl, Kingsbury Water Park, Warks.
Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl

Short eared Owl

Bittern, Brandon Marsh N.R.

Monday 27th February 2012

Spent much of the day at Brandon Marsh Nature Reserve. Got views of a Bittern flying over Newlands but apart from a pair of noisy Oystercatchers flying around East Marsh that was about it.

Tuesday 28th February 2012

News of a Scaup at Coton Lakes had me scurrying off after a morning looking for a new fireplace. The fine adult drake Scaup was a good deal more attractive than any of the fireplaces I'd seen earlier. Moving on to Kingsbury Water Park there were no less than 3 Short eared Owls over Richard's meadow. At one point all 3 went up high and appeared to be displaying with wing flapping and talon grappling.

Wednesday 29th February 2012

A look around Coton pools, Nether Whitaker and Lea Marston produced nothing out of the ordinary but at Kingsbury 2 Short eared Owls performed well in the late afternoon sunshine.

Monday 27 February 2012

The Nile Valley - Part 3

Black shouldered Kite, Kings Island, Luxor, Eygpt
Black shouldered Kite
Black shouldered Kite

Black shouldered Kite

Senegal Thick-knee

Nile valley Sunbird

Nile valley Sunbird

Spur winged Plover


Good birds continued to appear as the week drew to a close. The Black shouldered Kite became more obliging allowing great photo opportunities but the biggest surprise came on the last morning when a pair of Senegal Thick-knees flew in and landed close to the perimeter fence of the hotel complex. So a surprisingly good week for birds with 3 new W.P. species seen, a comfortable hotel set in open gardens with great views, and opportunities to explore some of the wonders of Eygpt. On the downside, the hotel was isolated from the town of Luxor and visitors were discouraged from exploring the local countryside. Although most of locals we came into contact with were friendly there was still a certain tension and unease about straying from the secure areas. The hotel did run regular Birdwatching walks around the island under the guidance of Abdul who was obviously very knowledgable about the bird life of the area. I could have done with his know how in identifying some of the calls coming from the reeds but I still clocked up 64 species, which I thought was OK for a non-birding week !

Sunday 26 February 2012

The Nile Valley, Part 2

Purple Swamphen, Kings Island, Luxor
Purple Swamphen

Purple Swamphen

Clamorous Reed Warbler

Fan-tailed Warbler

Masked Shrike

Little Green Bee-eater

Little green Bee-eaters

The Nile



Common Sandpiper

Graceful Prinia

Short toed Lark

'Eygptian' Swallows

After the first couple of days the weather settled down to warm sunny days and cool star filled evenings. The hotel kept up a constant battle against Mosquitoes with regular 'dustings' of chemicals/smoke around the borders and hedges. Trouble was it eradicated other insects as well I only saw 3 Butterflies and one Moth despite the number of plants in flower. There must have been some insect life however, providing food for the birds and the 3 huge Bats seen on the last evening. Walks round the island continued to produce new birds; a small flock of Red Avadavats were eventually found out in the open as were several Purple Swamphens in areas where the reeds had been cut or burnt down. River watching proved a fascinating way to relax with the continual movement of birds and boats of all shapes and sizes. Large rafts of Coots were a regular feature as were smaller numbers of Wigeon, Teal and Gadwall. The odd Eygptian Goose flew up river, a pair of Glossy Ibis and small numbers of Gull billed and Whiskered Tern were also seen. A few wader species were seen on the river bank or on the small pools exposed where the reeds had been removed. A few Black winged Stilts, single Ruff, Common Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Greenshank were also seen. Warblers were represented by Chiffchaff( numerous), Sedge warbler, Clamorous warbler, Sardinian warbler, Savi's warbler - heard only, Lesser Whitethroat and Fan tailed Warbler. For a non birding holiday the list was getting longer by the day. Other noteworthy birds included; a flock of several hundred Spanish Sparrows, Crested Lark, Short toed Lark, 'Eastern' Stonechat, Masked Shrike, Black shouldered Kite, Sand Martin, Crag Martin, Northern Wheatear, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Little Bittern, Graceful Prinia and Turtle Dove.

Saturday 25 February 2012

The Nile Valley - 2012

Nile valley Sunbird-Kings Island, Luxor
Red Avadavat -an introduced species only seen at first light
Purple Heron - common
Black winged Stilt - seen most days

Bluethroat - common on fringes of reeds and in quieter garden areas

Squacco - very common

Little green Bee-eater - common around hotel gardens

Black Kite, small groups constantly flying up and down the Nile at Luxor


Pied Kingfisher, very common

Sparrowhawk, only one seen

Laughing Dove, everywhere

Spur winged Plover, very confiding on watered lawns and gardens


Common Bulbul

15th-16th February 2012

Jan and I had a winter trip to Luxor, Egypt for a bit of Winter sun and local Culture. We booked a package through Thomas Cook staying at the Jolie Ville hotel, Luxor. Although this was not intended to be a birdwatching trip, this particular hotel being situated on an island in the Nile did present possibilities for seeing a few birds. Certainly through conversations with friends who had been there and from trip reports there seemed a good chance of connecting with a couple of local specialities such as Nile valley Sunbird and the introduced Red Avadavat. I had also been warned of the on going development on the island and the resultant loss of the natural habitat. This is certainly the case with the loss of much of the original Reed beds but development seems to have been put on hold to a certain extent as a result of the recent troubles and the devastating effect on the tourist trade.

Anyway the lush gardens and remaining reed beds fringing the island still provide habitat for a bewildering variety of bird species within easy walking distance. In fact birds such as Little green Bee-eater, Common Bulbul, Hoopoe, Nile valley Sunbird, Spur winged Plover, Rock Martin and Pallid Swift were seen daily from our accommodation.

The weather during the first couple of days was disappointing with a cold fresh wind and cloud in the afternoon. Breakfast could still be taken on the terrace on the shores of the Nile looking out over the river and mountains beyond. Feluccas were moored up to the shores their rigging well used by up to 4 Pied Kingfisher. Other 'breakfast' birds included, Squacco and Purple Herons, Bluethroat, Common Bulbul, Laughing Doves and Black Kite.

On the second evening of the trip I was struck down with severe gastric problems but had recovered sufficiantly the next day to do the valley of the Kings, Karnack and Luxor Temples. Must do's apparently that no trip to Egypt is complete without. It was interesting enough but I suffered from information overload which was a shame as I would have liked to have remembered more about Ancient Egyptian history. There were few birds in the arid valley but did see Trumpeter Finch, Blue rock Thrush, Rock Martin and Brown necked Raven despite the attentions of the locals trying to sell anything and everything from a complete life sized Pharoah's kit for ascending to the next world to bits of toilet paper for those urgent must-go moments in this world. The hassle was pretty much non-stop.

Tales of the unexpected

Friday 24th February 2012
After a few days away in the sun I returned to find lifts wanted to Wales on the pager. Why would anybody want........and in February? Unfortunately my pager didnt include messages about why folk wanted to go go to Gwent but it didnt take much finding out. Wow! do I need that? After a much needed 'welcome back to proper beer' pint at Church End, I arranged to go to Gwent the next day with Julian Allen. He'd seen the bird earlier in the week but couldnt resist second helpings. News that the Common Yellowthroat was still there came out early.We got on site just after 11.00am. There were about 30 or so other birders spread around the fields but mainly focused on the 'central hedge' where it had last been seen an hour and a half earlier. We were in for a long wait for this skulking little beauty. 4 and a half hours to be exact. Julian and I were standing close to a patch of Brambles at the top of the field when I guy came up to us and enquired whether we had heard any thing. We hadnt, but he was convinced a bird had dropped in to the Brambles making a call which he said wasnt a British bird. There was no further moment or sound as we peered into the dense mass of Brambles but the bloke was convinced THE bird was in there. After about 15 minutes a bird shot out and landed in another patch of Bramble. It faced us showing the most intense yellow breast and then it was gone. Hats off to the bloke that picked up the call, outstanding fieldcraft. We waved everybody over but the bird didn't show again for another 20 minutes and then for only a second or two. It was a matter of luck as to whether you were scanning the right bit of Bramble when it popped up.
So having seen some pretty exotic species in Eygpt the the previous week - full illustrated report to follow - it was great to catch up with such an amazing find in Wales. Well done the patch watchers, keep it up.

Monday 13 February 2012

Whitemoor Haye regulars

Grey Partridge,Whitemoor Haye, Staffs.
Grey Partridge

Grey Partridge

Tree Sparrow

Little Owl


Monday 13th February 2012
Whitemoor Haye near Alrewas is not one of my regular haunts by any means but as I was in the area it was worth a look round. It can get quite busy at the weekend with microlights and cyclists but today it was quiet. Its best to leave the car and get out and walk to check the hedgerows and open fields properly. Walking 'the square' produced good numbers of Tree Sparrows, a few Yellowhammers, a Little Owl, small flocks of Golden plover and Linnet and a pair of Grey Partridge.