Thursday, 15 March 2018

Fuerteventura (Spring jolly) - Day 1

Let's go !
Island map
Black-winged Stilt
Barranco de Rio Cabras
 Trumpeter Finch
American friends
Berthelot Pipit
Barbury Partridge
Black-bellied Sandgrouse
Southern Grey Shrike

My Dad commented a month ago that I hadn't been on any birding jollies this year so this gave me a nudge to get into action. I've seen some great images from Fuerteventura and fellow midland birder Craig Reed shared his recent trip report which made it sound like a great option. The attraction to see some fantastic desert species in glorious sunshine was just too good to be true. There was an added attraction as a Dwarf Bittern had been present for a number of months however not in the week previous to our stay.

Fuerteventura is just 96km from the African mainland and is thought to be 20 million years old. The average temperature 20.2 degrees centigrade whilst its ecosystem is mainly costal desert scrub. 

Accompanying me would be @1stbirdoftheday and we organised the trip between us. The flight was with Ryanair from Birmingham, accommodation through (Sunbeach apartment) & car hire from Avis. 

After leaving the airport at around 12.30pm we headed straight for Barranco de Rio Cabras. For anyone planning to go, do your research as there are no signs other than town names. Thankfully we were stacked with local intelligence from twitter & online groups. 

The Barranco took us about 10 minutes to reach in heat rising by the minute. We were joined by five birders from America & a lovely couple from England. The couple were spending their second day there and still not seen the Bittern !  I did think I saw the Bittern fly a short distance into cover but I couldn't get enough on the bird or the experience of seeing one previously. Some tough walking conditions didn't produce the sighting we hoped for but we did record Raven, Buzzard, Kestrel, Yellow-legged Gulls, Hoopoe, Greenshank, Ruddy Shelducks, Spanish Sparrow, White Wagtail, Skylark, Grey Heron, Southern Grey Shrike, Feral Pigeon and our first Fuerteventura Chats & Trumpeter Finches. Whilst it was great to see some of these species we did bag much improved views throughout the trip. With us melting in the heat we opted to return later in the trip.

Our second stop would be a place in the Gosney guide north of Antigua. Pulling in off the FV-20 it didn't look like a brilliant place but as we edged round the track birds started to appear in good numbers. We quickly added Lesser Short-toed Lark, Linnets & more Trumpeter Finches. Fancying our chances of more success we parked up and decided to give this farm land a real grilling.

Berthelot Pipits were impossible to miss, a very dainty bird who always seemed busy. On reaching the top of a sandpit two Barbary Partidges emerged. This was a great find as trip reports suggested these can be difficult. In fact we never saw anymore on the trip. There were at least three Southern Grey Shrikes roaming the area. The species we really wanted to see was Black-bellied Sandgrouse and we discovered two keeping a low profile and then flew south. Two Spectacled Warbler were chasing each other around the pits whilst we also added Coot & Moorhen. 

The day finished with 31 species. 

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Slavonian Grebe on Arrow Valley Lake (Redditch)

Arrow Valley Lake produced a real gem last week when Mark Islip found a winter plumage Slavonian Grebe. Frustrating I was at work when I received the message so wasn't able to get there. Mark caught sight of the Grebe through the reed bed on his bike. A great find that attracted many local birders to Arrow Valley which rarely attracts a variety. I did manage to get down to the lake after work but the Grebe was sleeping most of the time. Pit photographer Mark Clarke kindly sent a couple of images from his visit earlier in the day. The Little Egret was captured by the weir car park.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Ring-necked Duck on Cotswold jolly

Close views early morning
Side on view with filter
In the flock
Goldeneye passing the local Red-crested Pochard
Flock of Red-crested Pochards

Short video clip
After two days of great birding I thought I'd try and make it three out of three by heading into the Cotswolds to hopefully see a Ring-necked Duck. Cotswold Water Park is a bit of a maze but my previous evenings research proved fruitful as I parked up close to pit twelve.

Following the path to the north end I found the American vagrant with a flock of Tufted Ducks. For those never to see one, the Ring-necked is similar to a Tufted but lacks the tuft and high crown, the bill is grey with a white band. These diving ducks are exclusively freshwater birds who feed on aquatic plants and small fish. They breed in wooded lakes in Canada & northern America. 

The first UK record was in 1955 but are now annual with around a dozen recorded every year. 

After getting a few shots I watched the bird and helped a few other birders arriving at the scene. Within a few hundred metres was pit sixteen where there was 13 Red-crested Pochard and 4 Goldeneye (1 drake). 

When leaving the water park a male Peregrine flew over me heading south.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Worcestershire Saturday double

Whoopers at the Moors
View from the Cuckoo hide
The Flashes

There was no stopping on Saturday after a morning pits visit and another enjoyable hour in Studley, I was kindly granted access to head over to Westwood Pool in Droitwich. Warden, Wayne opened up for us to see the Black-necked Grebe that had arrived the previous day. Some fantastic scope views revealed the Grebe was most likely an adult coming out of winter plumage. The light was lucent allowing us to see the birds very red eye and much brighter plumage than a juvenile would have. I did take a couple of shots but I didn't take them until the bird was more distant, hence quality not good enough. Many thanks to Terry & Wayne for sorting access.

After a delicious scone and cuppa at Webbs (Upton cafe closed) we headed down to the Flashes to see the first of the returning Avocets. Ten have returned so far, all favouring the deep water. There was quite a crowd gathering in the main hide hoping to see the reserves Barn Owl but we favoured to head over to the Moors where we were lucky to see five Whooper Swans who joined up with the resident Whooper. It was great to hear all six take off together, so fingers crossed they have a safe migration home. 

Salford Priors latest

Teal on Pophills
Pophills Orchard
Main Pit

A very average week down at pits with nothing much at all to blog about. The Treecreeper (seen in the Church yard) was finally added to the patch year list taking us to 83. 

Maximum counts for the week included a Green Sandpiper, 31 Shoveler, 8 Gadwall, 7 Pochard (central lagoon), 34 Shelduck, 86 Teal, a single Snipe, 150+ Chaffinch (Pophills orchard), Grey Wagtail, Green & Greater Spotted Woodpecker and 100 Linnets.

Mike Inskip reported good numbers of Fieldfare, Redwing and Chaffinch's at Cock Bevington. Thanks to all contributors.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Forest of Dean birding and bores

Cannop Pool
A real raptor day
 New Fancy View
Overgrown viewpoint
 Great Grey Shrike
Great Grey Shrike
 You looking at me
Nice with Chorizo
With the big freeze approaching fast you could certainly feel the easterly wind on Friday as I headed down to the Forest of Dean with fellow patch birder Chris Lane. I planned a circle of the forest giving us the best chance to see as many of local species as possible. 

First stop was Cannops Pools were the highlight was 36 Mandarin Ducks. I've had to work hard for these on occasions but this time we had no such worries as they were swimming around, resting on banks & also flying between the pools.

We didn't score with Crossbills at Parkend Church but did get stunning view of Goshawk emerging from the forest in front of us then circling giving us super views as two Greater Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming hard. Siskin were noted in most places during the morning. Two Hawfinches flew east behind the church and we saw another couple on the green when passing through.

It was then up to New Fancy View where there were a handful of birders looking for their year ticks. It was quiet for twenty minutes until I picked up two birds on the horizon of which one started to display to the pleasure of the audience of birders. Chris picked up a Peregrine & there were also Sparrowhawk & Common Buzzards.

I did warn Chris on the walk to Crabtree Hill I'd never seen this particular Great Grey Shrike on five previous visits and a number of photographers past us returning to the carpark with glum faces and telling us "no sign mate ".

There was no need to worry as the Butchers Bird perched up beautifully and stood out as we reached the brow of the hill. We watched him move around his terriotry and catching prey. The distant images I took do no justice to this stunning bird.

Back at the car park four Wild Boar were munching their way through any remaining grass looking to a late lunch. It was fabulous to see the boars at such close quarters but also a bit alarming that they appeared so tame. A morning of quality birding..............

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Studley Hawfinches

Late afternoon Thursday shot through the branches
Light made it difficult
Tried a couple of filters
Parking at the front of church
Saturday shot
 Now thats a beak ! (Saturday)
 Different type of angle
 Saturday Hawfinch
 Sunday Hawfinch
Sunday Hawfinch

Straight after work on Thursday I headed to Studley Church (B80 7AC), just a few miles from home, to see a small flock of Hawfinches Chris Lane had discovered in the morning.

After sharing the news with the patch clan, a maximum of 14 was recorded by Francis Peplow however the average tended to be around four or five. 

From entering the gate of the church at the front, take the patch on the right and view the tree in back left corner of the church yard. (Directly in line with the church). The birds are very flighty and do fly towards the new Studley Castle development. Good luck if you go. 

On Saturday I recorded at least six birds whilst Sunday was similar amount - perhaps one less.