Thursday 24 March 2016

That was the week that was, almost

20th - 24th March 2016

Bit of local stuff and a bit of out of County stuff, just. Local stuff included Caldecote flood meadows, Mansetter heights, and Shustoke Res. plus Middleton Lakes and Chasewater. Enjoyed my visit to Chasewater, walked all the way round which was a first and met some old friends which is always good. The object of the walk was to try and find the Ring necked Duck which had taken up residence.Initially there was no sign but it was eventually found asleep on the far side of the 'Swag'.When it did wake up it was a very smart drake. Well worth the effort.
The other walks were less rewarding in Birding terms. Still flocks of Redwing about but no sign of any Fieldfare. A walk round Shustoke produced a small flock 8 or so Bramblings in Alders at the east end and a single Redshank was seen but apart from the duck that was the highlight of the week so far.

Friday 18 March 2016

Waders on the move

Friday 18th March 2016

Spent the day at Ladywalk N.R. a few 'new' birds had arrived since my last visit on Wednesday. The Dunlin was still there and was joined, for a while, by a Ringed plover (originally identified as a Little ringed Plover). There was also a Curlew and 2 Redshank.

Curlew, Ladywalk N.R.


Dunlin with Ringed Plover



Wednesday 16 March 2016

Ladywalk N.R.

Wednesday 16th March 2016

Ladywalk N.R. again today for a spot of much needed Litter picking after last weeks floods. Missed the work party so thought I'd 'do a bit' anyway. God we're a mucky lot, the things that find themselves in the river! Neglected local birding recently so even Dunlin and Redshank were welcome year birds locally. Apart from that not a lot - pair of Shelduck, 6 Snipe + usual. Good number of Redwing yesterday but thinned out a lot today.

Monday 7 March 2016

Back to the Desert

The plan was to spend our final day working the Assouerd road looking for any species we had failed to see on our first visit. We had connected with all our target species a couple of days earlier but I was glad of the chance to get a better view of Dunn's lark. The wind had dropped but with so much dust hanging in the air with no wind to disperse it visability over any distance was limited.

Dust clouds

We stopped at the Water tower again, not expecting to see anything and sure enough we didnt see anything. Imagine how we felt when on our return we learnt the Allen's Gallinule, a very rare visitor to the Western Palearctic, was seen and photographed the next day. We must have been just a couple of metres away from the bird. We had even checked for footprints in the mud, nothing.
We moved on, at the Dunn's lark kilometre post the Larks were still there and showing well.

Dunn's Lark

Dunn's Lark
Dunn's Lark

Dunn's Lark

Black crowned Sparrow Lark

Desert warbler

We moved on to the Wadi were we met up with some old friends from a previous Birdfinders trip. They told us about Great spotted Cuckoos and Fulvous Babblers about 1/2 hours walk in. We walked in the opposite direction to our previous visit and sure enough found an adult and juvenile Great spotted Cuckoo and a pair of Fulvous Babblers.

Fulvous Babbler

I should at this point thank our leader Peter Lansdown who despite sustaining some nasty injuries in a fall remained positive and professional throughout and to all the birders in the group for their good humour and contribution to the success of the tour.

Western Sahara - wet feet

After our long drive into the desert and back day 4 involved very little driving, giving our driver Mohamed a well earned rest. We visited a wide expanse of sands just outside Dakhla. The beach stretched for miles with areas of seaweed, channels of water, mud and wet sand to negotiate.We could see groups of gulls in the distance nearer the shoreline and as we carefully selected a route to avoid the deeper water we hoped the object of our efforts - Royal Tern, would be out there as well.
The beach was also a wader watchers paradise: Ringed, Grey, Kentish plover, Dunlin, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Redshank, Greenshank,Curlew, Whimbrel, Sanderling and both Black tailed and Bar tailed Godwit were present in good numbers. We should have spent more time looking for rarer species but we had to keep one eye on the incoming tide. As we approached the loafing gulls we could make out groups of Terns among them. The Caspian Terns were obvious but we had to get even closer to see the Sandwich and Royal terns.

Royal Tern

Audouin's Gull

Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern

Kentish Plover

Grey plover

With Royal Tern 'in the bag' we moved a bit further along the coast for a spot of Seawatching from a headland. Not my favourite aspect of Birding but in the event proved quite interesting. The fresh wind made it hard work for birds trying to fly North particularly for Petrels which seems to be continually flying one step forwards then 2 steps back. It also meant birds were forced to fly much closer to the shore than normal. Madeiran and European Storm petrels were identified. There was also a steady stream of Bonxies heading North

Sunday 6 March 2016

Western Sahara continued

I think the desert's unique atmosphere affected my memory as the events in getting to Dakhla and our first day in the Desert got slightly out of sequence in the previous post. Anyway to continue. We had one more species we really wanted to see and it would probably take some finding. Cricket Longtail is right on the limits of its range just north of Assouerd. We stopped at a Wadi with scattered trees and bushes which extended for miles either side of the road. The line of trees gave shelter and relief from the endless desert to a variety of migrating birds. We saw several Spectacled and Sub Alpine warblers, Southern grey Shrikes and Black eared and White crowned Wheatears as well as Orphean warbler, Red rumped Swallows and Tree pipit as we searched for the Longtails. It was hard going in the soft sand but our efforts were rewarded when we got our first sighting of a pair of Cricket Longtails.

Cricket Longtail

Cricket Longtail

Cricket Longtail

Southern grey Shrike

White crowned Wheatear

So, a successful day in the desert with 3 new species to me, but the bird of the day was a cracking adult male Lanner perched on top of a roadside bush seen at eye level from the bus.

Saturday 5 March 2016

Western Sahara - 2016 - Part 1

27th Feb. - 3rd March 2016

The trip was organised by Birdfinders. The party flew from Gatwick to Agadir, Morroco where we stayed overnight before driving on to Dakhla, our base in Western Sahara. Next morning  we did  a bit of birding on a beach adjacent to a local fish factory. We searched through the hundreds of mainly Lesser black backed Gulls but no sign of the Kelp gulls that had been reported there earlier. We moved on to Oued Sous, an estuary,close to Agadir where there were a greater variety of birds; Flamingos, Spoonbills. with migrating White Storks overhead plus several species of Terns and Gulls including Audouin's and Slender billed. On the adjacent scrub we had Barbary Partridge.
During the afternoon we headed south towards Dakhla. We passed through several checkpoints but they didn't hold us up and we made good progress through the desert to Dakhla.
We made an early start next morning heading south again towards Assouerd. On route we saw signs of migration with small groups of Black Kites making slow progress north against an increasingly strong wind. From the bus we could also see groups of Larks in the sparce roadside vegetation. We could ID Hoopoe Lark and Black crowned Sparrow Lark which whetted our appetite for some of our main target birds.
Our leader Peter Lansdowne had done his homework and identified specific Kilometre posts where certain birds had recently been located not far from the main (only) Assouerd road. Our first stop though was a leaking water tower. A couple of small pools had been created and had attracted an Allen's Gallinule the previous week but there was no sign of it now unfortunately. As we neared Assouerd we made further stops where Dunn's Lark, a species we particularly wanted to see, had been seen recently. This time, after a short search, we found them, although flighty in the strong wind. Desert warblers were also found here. We moved on to a small 'farm'-  a few derelict buildings, a small cultivated area, a pool of water and a few trees. Perfect habitat for Desert Sparrow, a bird high up on my most wanted list. In fact there were 20 or so of them.

Assouerd Road

Our Transport

Part of our group

Brown necked Raven

Black crowned Sparrow Lark

Hoopoe Lark

Desert Warbler

Desert Sparrow Bush

Female Desert Sparrow

Male Desert Sparrow