Tuesday 29 April 2014

Turnstones at Shustoke reservoir

Tuesday 29th April 2014
In between picking up prescriptions, sending off samples and other geriatric time fillers I visited Shustoke Reservoir this morning. Max was there and put me on to the adult Black Tern sitting on the floats some way off shore. It was while we were chewing the fat that we noticed 2 waders flying along the west shore and then round to the far shore line. It was still quite gloomy and we lost sight of the birds as they flew low down to the far end. Uncertain as to whether they had landed I went for a bit of a look round but could not relocate them.
Turnstone, Shustoke Res.
Black Tern
Black Tern

Sunday 27 April 2014


Saturday 26th April 2014
After the depressing images coming out of Malta, duplicated through much of Mediterranean Europe and the Middle East but perhaps not on the industrial scale of Malta, its great to see some survivors locally. Today my birding time was limited but I still managed to get out to see a Black tern at Shustoke and a Whinchat at Corley.
Black Tern, Shustoke
Whinchat, Corley

Thursday 24 April 2014

Another good days Birding in North Warwickshire

Thursday 24th April 2014
Another interesting days birding centred around two County semi rarities. Having drawn a blank looking for a Bar tailed Godwit reported around Lea Marston yesterday. Acting on some more detailed info the bird was still on site this morning at Marston, near Kingsbury.
Bar tailed Godwit, Marston
The search for more migrants took me first to Piccadilly near Kingsbury and then to Wishaw but apart from Yellow Wagtails there wasn't much to see. I had just tucked in to my lunch at Wishaw when a call from Steve H. made me abandon the food and head back to Shustoke Res where he had found a Little Tern. Excellent.
Little Tern, Shustoke Res.
Little Tern
Little Tern with Common Tern
Little Tern with Common Tern

Wednesday 23 April 2014

A good day's Birding in North Warwicks.

23rd April 2014
Started the day at Middleton Lakes and was delighted to be met by a Glossy Ibis flying over Fishers Mill towards Middleton Hall. I didnt have to go too far before the next Magic moment. As I walked round Fishers Mill pool I could hear Sedge warbler. Keen to see a new bird for the year I waited for it to come up and show. I focussed on a small area of dead Reed stems. The Sedge continued to sing but remained in cover. Eventually a bird did appear but had no supercilium and a rounded tail. I couldn't believe it, a Grasshopper warbler feeding just a few feet away. I did see a Sedge warbler a little later but getting such a good look at a Gropper was the main event. Not much else around the Wetland trail but I did get another view of the Glossy Ibis as it flew south from Fishers Mill towards Kingsbury Water Park. Other good birds during the rest of the day included a Cuckoo, Lesser spotted Woodpecker and Arctic tern.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Its that time of the year

Tuesday 22nd April 2014
Had a quick look around the farm where the Black Redstart was found yesterday but no sign today. Another phone call from Dave H. soon had me on the move again though. This time it was a Garganey at Shustoke where there was also a Common Sandpiper and a couple of Arctic terns. It was the sort of day, damp and misty with low cloud and the threat of rain that you could believe anything could drop in. Several of North Warks. hardcore birders were on site and there was a good deal of light hearted banter and speculation about what might 'drop in'. Needless to say it didnt, but maybe tomorrow Eh.
Garganey, Shustoke Reservoir

Monday 21 April 2014

One of those Days

21st April 2014
The Plan : the plan was to have a quick look around the Mancetter Hills, principally to look for Ring Ouzel and then ease up to Middleton Lakes to look for Grasshopper warbler and then maybe pop in to Shustoke Res. That was the plan but things didnt quite work out that way. I started at Steppy Lane but there wasnt much about except Linnets, Sand Martins and the odd Skylark. I walked back to the car but instead of going on to the Tame valley decided to check out some Sheep enclosures and Horse paddocks where a Wheatear had been found a couple of days before. Nothing in the paddocks except a single Yellowhammer but on a gate next to some disused farm machinery was a rather dark looking Redstart. My immediate reaction was Black Redstart but then caution took over as there hadnt been too many records and certainly not in Warwickshire. I continued to watch becoming more and more convinced it was indeed a Black Redstart. I phoned Steve H. and went back for my camera. On returning the bird showed again and I got a record shot.
Black Redstart, Mancetter N.Warks
Black Redstart
After putting out news I was joined by a few other local enthusiasts and although the bird disappeared for a while it eventually reappeared to give everyone reasonable views.
It was now probably too late to look for Grasshopper warbler so it was lunch at home, during which Dave H. phoned with news of a possible Red rump Swallow at Draycote Water. I wasnt dashing over for a possible but when it changed into a Fulmar I made a move. Normally I would avoid Draycote like the plague on a Bank holiday but a Fulmar is a great bird for Warks. so it was worth a try. Now can you 'see' a bird you didnt identify for certain at the time? I saw the Fulmar shortly after arriving. It was circling quite high up but the dark grey wings with white marks were clear however, the shape and pointed wings didnt seem right so I dismissed it. It was only when I saw Tim Marlow's photo that I was sure the bird I'd seen was the Fulmar. Other birds on site were less problematic: 7 Little Gulls, 2 Common Scoters and a flyover Whimbrel.
I needed a cup of tea and some peace and quiet after all the excitement. Morrisons on the way back was just the ticket. I was the only person in the Cafe. Back at home I remembered that I'd picked up a message somewhere along the line that the Red crested Pochard were still on Mill pool Alvecote.If I was going to do a County year list I needed to go.
Red crested Pochard, Alvecote

Sunday 20 April 2014

Happy Hour at Shustoke Res.

Sunday 20th April 2014
Got a call from Dennis W. first thing saying a few Arctic terns had dropped in at Shustoke Res. With overcast skies and rain in the air I decided it was worth a go even though I didnt have alot of time. No sign when I got there though, I checked out Coton on the off chance but nothing doing there either. I'd just returned home when a call from Dave H. said 2 Arctic terns had just dropped in to Shustoke. Cash in or cash out.  Do you - Dont you? Guests were not arriving till later than I'd thought so off I set again. Having parked up it was clear what Terns there were, were down at the far end. Great, a brisk walk was called for. I could see 3 birders on the far bank so I headed off round the west bank. I was half way round the bank when something almost surreal happened. I was suddenly surrounded by Arctic terns flying low only just above head height against the strengthening wind. I reckoned a flock of about 20 birds. It reminded me of a scene from the film 'Tora, Tora, Tora', about the Japanese attack on Pearl Habour. A young lad was having a flying lesson when his little plane is surrounded by Japanese Zero fighters coming in to attack.
Anyway, I continued around the reservoir to where the flock was concentrated. Dave H. Martyn and Kay were already there, watching the flock of 26 Arctic Terns and a single adult Little Gull. It s always a great sight every spring to see these long distance migrants in such pristine plummage. On the way back to the car park I saw my first Swift of the year. So it had been a quite productive visit.

Thursday 17 April 2014

More summer migrants at Middleton Lakes RSPB

17th April 2014
Having spent time in the southern end of the Tame valley on Tuesday I moved to Middleton Lakes on Wednesday. Coton pool had provided the only new migrant, a Common Whitethroat, on Tuesday but there had been an apparent influx of migrants overnight at the northern end of the Tame valley at least. For a start there were more Willow warblers about and several Lesser Whitethroats. A Cuckoo was heard at Fishers Mill and a Reed warbler also heard from the Silt lagoon. It was too late in the day to hear Grasshopper warblers but I was told there had been 2 or 3 reeling earlier in the day. I caught a brief view of the Glossy Ibis in the small bays on the Jubilee Wetlands and the Black tailed Godwit was still present. Not a bad day at all.

Friday 11 April 2014

Pied billed Grebe, Rutland Water

10th April 2014
A couple of images of the Pied billed Grebe in the Sailing Club bay at Rutland Water.

Pied billed Grebe, Rutland Water
Pied billed Grebe
Pied billed Grebe

Other birds seen Red Kite, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow pipit.

Tuesday 8 April 2014

More local stuff

7th April 2014
Had a very enjoyable walk thru the Tame valley with Steve C. It had started off quietly at Coton and Cliff pool, Kingsbury but then picked up with Swallows and a House Martin at Hemlingford Water, Kingsbury. News of a drake Garganey had us walking the wetlands trail. There was a mixed flock of Ringed Plover, Little ringed Plover and Dunlin but no sign of the Grey Plover reported earlier. Eventually Steve found the Garganey asleep on one of the islands.
8th April 2014
Change of scene today. A visit to Brandon Marsh proved very rewarding with an Avocet on East Marsh and 2 Lesser spotted Woodpeckers in Horsetail Glade.
Lesser spotted Woodpecker, Brandon Marsh N.R.
Lesser spotted Woodpecker
They're back!

Sunday 6 April 2014

Local stuff

A few images from last weeks local birding. Quite a quiet week for me with a Red Kite over the M40 near Kingsbury, and  probably over 100 summer plummage Golden Plover near Hurley the highlights.
Scaup, Shustoke
Mediterranean Gull, Middleton Lakes
Fox with Canada geese

Friday 4 April 2014

Sleeping with Petrels - Not

Day 6 cont. We had stuffed ourselves with Pizza for lunch, but now it was time to head back to the coast. We drove along an endless sandy track until we got to a bay with a couple of small boats, a shack and the remains of a large number of fish. Getting into the boat was a challenge but that was the easy bit. Most of us had stripped off, some more than others but this was not a time for modesty. It was practical to get as few clothes wet as was possible. Especially as you were going to sleep in them. Our guide and his girlfriend were great, as were the boatmen, in loading and unloading our kit and food.
It was a short ride out to the 'Petrel' island but quite a lively one, with huge waves breaking on the outer rocks.
Getting on board - the easy bit
Setting off and yes thats me in the corner losing my religion
Getting off the boat was a good deal more hairy if not downright foolhardy

 The island itself was only 6ft above sea level, flat and almost circular, perhap70-80 metres across at the widest point. It was actually getting on to the damn thing that was the problem. The boatmen manouvered the boat as close in as they dared but the water was still chest high as one by one we disembarked. We linked arms to support each other as we struggled over the slippery rocks but many of us got as ducking if a big wave hit us as we waded ashore. Much to the amusement of the wimps onshore. Anyway we made it and no harm done. Our guide put down a trail of wooden planks for us to follow, avoiding the Petrels nests and leading to a central area where we would spend the night.
The island was partially covered by sparce vegetation only some 4 inches high, underwhich the entrances to the White faced Petrels nest burrows could be seen.We set out our sleeping bags on the stone covered crusted sand and had our packed dinner as the day turned to night. It was some time after dark that the first White faced Petrels came in. Flying low, picked out in the red beam of a single torch the birds surrounded us, as more and more came in. It was a magical birding experience. The birds started to land on the patches of vegetation, very ungainly on land as they moved to their nest sites but beautiful little birds nonetheless.
All too soon it was time to switch off the torch and climb into the sleeping bags. Sleeping though was almost impossible, for me at least, trying to get into a comfortable position on the hard ground. As soon as you moved there was another rock sticking into you somewhere you didnt want it. And then it was dawn and then it was time to strip off all over again and then we had to wade up to our armpits and try to scramble into the boat as it heaved up and down. Everyone helped everyone else though, which was good and we were soon heading back to dry off on dry land. All together what you might call an experience!
On the drive back to the hotel we encountered an obliging flock of Black crowned Sparrow Larks and a photogenic Hoopoe Lark.
Hoopoe Lark
Black crowned Sparrow Lark - All photographs in this post courtesy of Michael Baker

After lunch, it may have been Pizza, we saw an Egyptian Vulture, a first for the trip. It was then back to the airport for the final time after what had been an extremely successful and enjoyable tour. The White faced Petrel was my 700th Western Pal bird, a personal landmark but more importantly it was great to meet up with some old friends and make some new friends. Thanks to them and to Vaughan for his organisation and tireless good humour.

Cape Verde - Day 6

The group drove out to a Lighthouse for a session of Seawatching, a much more sensible way of watching seabirds, keeping your feet firmly on dry land. As we approached the Lighthouse several Bar tailed Larks were seen as well as 3 Cream coloured Coursers. The sea watching got under way and it was clear there were a good many birds passing but mostly Cape Verde Shearwaters with a couple of Fea's also seen breaking the horizon. A few of the guys on the 'team' were experienced Sea watchers and the calls soon started coming in thick and fast. A couple of the Fea's petrels passed quite close giving great views as did a South polar Skua. Several Brown Boobies passed by as well as an Osprey which landed on the shore nearby.
Bar tailed Lark, Sal
Brown Booby
Cape Verde Shearwater
We returned to our hotel before the drive to the airport for our flight back to Boa vista where we had a good lunch before preparing for our overnight island adventure.

Thursday 3 April 2014

Cape Verde - Day 4 & 5

Day 4 started with a somewhat frantic breakfast followed by a game of find the vehicle as we were unable to park any where near the hotel in Praia. Reunited with our transport we set off for a session of sea watching. We had Brown Booby, Cape Verde Shearwater and a Fea's Petrel but all at some distance.We returned to the hotel to pack up and wait for our transfer to the airport for the flight to Sal and Sau Nicolau. As we waited in the hotel reception the TV was showing a programme on how to decorate your bra. Bit like Blue Peter back in the day with sequines and glue. Anyway it held our attention for at least 5 minutes while we waited to go. There was a further delay at the airport as having boarded the plane we were asked to get off again for technical reasons. They found a spare part remarkably quickly and it wasnt long before we were off. At Sau Nicolau we had quite a long drive through some spectacular volcanic mountain scenery to the town of Tarafal.
Dramatic Skyline

Day 5 An epic day, involving a sea crossing to a small uninhabited island called Raza in a small fishing boat. The voyage began well enough, in the lee of the island the sea was relatively calm. We saw a Humpback Whale on the horizon and Cape Verde and Little Shearwaters close to the boat.
Cape Verde Shearwater, off Sau Nicolau
Cape Verde Shearwater
 Flying fish and Portugese men of war also kept us company. However, as our boat began to get tossed about in open water my interest in the natural wonders around ceased. I was sea sick, boy was I sick. We eventually reached calmer waters again as we got close in to the island of Razo. We scanned the cliff tops for the Larks and eventually found groups of birds on the arid, desert like terrain. We also had good views of a Loggerhead Turtle quite close to the boat and a colony of Brown Bobbies on the cliff top.
Brown Booby, Razo
Razo's Lark
Loggerhead Turtle
All too soon it was time to leave the calm waters round the island and head out into the turbulent open waters - and yes I was sick again, only this time I had nothing to be sick with. The joys of Western Palearctic birding!

Tuesday 1 April 2014

Cape Verde - Day 3

We had a full day on Santiago, an airport free day. A day to look for more of Cape Verde's special birds. First on the Menu was the Cape Verde warbler but on the way to a known site we saw a couple of Buzzards. Very similar to Common Buzzard but a sub-species endemic to Cape Verde. At the Botanical gardens there were many Blackcaps, Waxbills and our sought after Cape Verde warbler.
Cape Verde Warbler, Santiago
We moved on to the reservoir again and found a Spotted Crake. With very few records in recent times this was a good find by the group.
Spotted Crake
After checking through the Egrets and Herons we moved on to some coastal cliffs and were rewarded with some stunning views of Red billed Tropicbird.
Red billed Tropicbird
Red billed Tropicbird
Red billed Tropicbird