Friday, 29 April 2016

Lamin Lodge (Day 5 Gambia)

Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
African Darter
African Darter
Through the mangroves
Tour party
Lamin Lodge
Lamin Lodge
Lunchtime guests
Namaqua Dove 
Love Gambia

Reading the tourist literature about Lamin Lodge you would be expecting fancy restaurant, that it is not. It is a nice place where to take in lunch over looking the mangroves. We also pre-booked a mangrove tour which took about 90 minutes. Very relaxing time and managing to see my first Snake bird the African Darter. This was the only one we saw during the stay and the guides gave me plenty of time to get a good look. Caspian terns flew over head and we also found our first Blue-cheeked Bee-eater. I was hoping to see an Osprey or two but no luck with this species I’m afraid. As we headed back along the sand track I shouted a loud halt as a Namaqua Dove was feeding right in the middle of the road.

If you are intending to do a full morning in the mangroves check the tide times and be prepared for the boatman and any one associated with the boat dispatch centre to ask for tip. Personally I’d only return here if I was birding.

Early morning hotel birding (Day 5 Gambia)

Long-tailed Glossy Starling
Long-tailed Glossy Starling
Pied Crow
Three Yellow-crowned Gonolek 
Black Kite
Green Vervet Monkey
Senegal Coucal
Senegal Coucal
Green Vervet Monkeys outside our room
Green Vervet Monkey
Yellow-billed Shrike

I took advantage of an hour before breakfast to try and catch a few more species around the hotel before breakfast. From my research, Starlings were going to be one of the easiest species to see however during the whole trip I found them very difficult. The main reason for this is the habitat around the hotels has sadly gone which moved some of the species on. Thankfully I caught up with a couple of Long-tailed Glossy Starlings and managed to get a few photos. Monkeys around hotel were also sparse until this day when the local tribe arrived for the day which delighted onlookers around the pool.

An hours walk recording Yellow-billed Shrikes, Papiacs, Red Hornbills, Whimbrel, Palm Swifts, Senegal Cougal, Cattle Egrets, Pied Crow (strangely difficult to photograph as always seem to be in flight), Yellow-crowned Gondeleks was just brilliant.

Salford Priors Wheatear

I do enjoy it when the Wheatear are moving through on passage. Our highest count this year has been six including these beauties I managed to capture near the central lagoon. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

M6 super twitch for Audenshaw Kentish Plover

Kentish Plover
Kentish Plover
Location map

When a Kentish Plover was reported in Audenshaw, Greater Manchester I was instantly tempted to go. Since I've been birding, opportunities to see them are very rare and are generally always costal. The species is a summer migrant to northern Europe and breeds on bare ground. 

Going early without news was too much of a gamble so I headed to work as normal and waited for news and for the traffic to become quieter. I think I timed it well as I saw heavy traffic going in the opposite direction on both journeys.

Arriving at any type of twitch is always funny as we always tend to see at least one pensioner breaking into a run as if he's just heard the bird will fly off in the next two minutes. I was not disappointed as I witnessed a gentleman making giants strides around reservoir 3 to reach the Plover.

The bird is very similar to a Ringed Plover but is slightly smaller with longer legs & a slightly thinner bill. Whilst not a stunner it's narrow breast-side patched were good see so close. Considering the constant coming and going up above the bird seemed very comfortable and let everyone get fantastic views. I duly jumped back on the M6 and returned to work very happy I seen another new species at close quarters.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Black-necked Grebe stars at Salford Priors

Black-neck Grebe

Black-neck Grebe
Ringed Plover
Villa Park scene either side of patch visits

Despite feeling a little worse for wear after a curry and beer night I was still on patch for 7am hoping catch up with anything that had come in during the night. I started with an extensive search in the Pophills area. My first Common Sandpiper flushed from the nearside corner and along the hedge line a Lesser Whitethroat was singing along side a couple of Blackcaps.  The Skylarks appear to doing very well and there was territories all around the pit. The main pit was very quiet with nothing different of note. Our first broods of chicks were  visible when a Mallard appeared with her new young family. When checking the area that the Turtle Doves first return to, I recorded my first two Common Whitethroats.

With Southampton FC at Villa Park, and having a free ticket, I was all set to leave for the train when Chris Lane text saying “Black-necked Grebe on main pit”. I flew down there faster than Lewis Hamilton in the hope the bird would just stay for another 10 minutes. Phew……as soon as I arrived the Grebe in summer plumage could be seen on north end of the pit. The light was in the wrong direction however I did manage to get a few record shots and bits of video. This was only the second record of the species at the site with the only other one being in September 2013. I duly let the Salford clan know who all came down during the day. The bird was still present until at least 7.30pm.

It was then off to Villa Park to watch the super Saints stroll to a 4-2 win in a very toxic atmosphere. It was great to see the Saints rack up an easy win against the Alcester Squires (Paul Hands) team to keep the local bragging rights in hand. During the second half I had another text from Chris – Whimbrel on ground. Then another – Brent Goose.

Needless to say I was flying out of Villa Park at the final whistle to head directly back to the pits for my third visit of the day. Sadly I missed the Brent Goose by 5 minutes but did get some fantastic view of the Whimbrel. I’d only recorded this species flying over before so this was a real bonus on a great day. Whilst I missed the Brent I still bagged another species in terms of a Ringed Plover that was keeping company of the Little Ringed Plovers on the central flashes.

My Sunday visit was restricted to a couple of hours in the afternoon where the Whimbrel was still present around the central lagoon and there were six Wheatears that I watched for a good hour sat down on an old concrete block. As I headed back to car I flushed a bird that flew very low up the channel towards the east bund – a Cuckoo !

Quite a weekend at Salford Priors.

Friday, 22 April 2016

The Romsley Hoopoe

On Thursday I'd just got to junction 2 of M5 when my phone went off "Hoopoe at Romsley", I turned the car around to make the very short 7 minute journey to Romsley where the bird could be seen in a large tree on the outskirts of a paddock.

I did consider returning on the way to work the following morning but the light was poor however I couldn't resist a turn off the M5 again on the way home to see if the bird was showing any better. Those hopes were duly delivered as I pulled up I could see the bird through the edge feeding in on the paddock grounds.

According to the stable staff the bird was first seen last Saturday.  Only recently the Black Country had a long staying Hoopoe in Kingswinford entertaining many.

If you do intend to go, park carefully as a few of the local white van drivers do bomb along that road very quickly.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Ouzelling about on Bredon Hill

With the weather set fair and very little wind about, the wife and I headed up Bredon Hill for our Sunday walk. We hadn't been up there for a long time and the route we took was different from our previous visit. 

In the early stages we came across plenty of Roe Deer bounding along whilst the birding highlight was a Marsh Tit that looked to be on family duties. We heard our first Redstart about half way up but didn't get a sighting - there was no need to worry as ten minutes later we had four different Redstarts in view at the same time. The camera was being troublesome so photo were limited.  The views were magfiicant and I could have quite easily sat there all day. 

After re-uniting the baby lamb (shown above) with its mother we headed across the escapement to look for Ring Ouzels. Nothing and all quiet to start with, then we saw a male fly towards us and then back across to some bushes. Whilst watching the Ouzels (two seen in total) we came across top Worcestershire birder Rob Prudden & his wife who were enjoying Bredon at it's finest. 

Great birds, top company and tired legs……………just lacked a good coffee.

Sunshine, snow & showers

Snow and flooding greeted me on Saturday morning at Salford Priors making it a most forgetful morning. Sessions like this make you consider why you really do it. Everything seemed to be taking cover except for a large flock of all three hirundines. With very little passage of birds over head I retreated home with a morning grump on. 

Not to be beaten I headed for Abbots Salford where thankfully I found our first Reed Warbler of the year and then four Sedge Warblers. The morning rain looked to have brought down large numbers of Blackcaps as I found 20+ all within the same area. A number of Swallows were sat up on the wires between the pools which was great to see. Wildfowl numbers are generally the same except for the dropping number of Teal. 

Hopefully next week will bring something different. 

The February Patch Challenge resulted in a drop of four places to 11th and I will be surprised if I don't get another drop in March. After a brilliant trip to Gambia its been tough to keep motivated with habitat being destroyed daily and a lack of birds. 

Please note I have added the Warwickshire March sightings complied with Jon. You may note a Firecrest is included at Salford Priors. Regular pit birder Mark Islip found this bird on 28th March but given the habitat, access arrangements in addition to me being away on holiday it was decided that the information could not be shared along normal channels. A first for site and reward for Mark for plodding round in difficult conditions. Great work.