Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Siskins at Barnes WWT

Boxing Day at Barnes and my first SISKINS
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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Portland Bill 13 Dec

Once over the border into Dorset the Buzzards are everywhere. In Dorchester we saw a Goldcrest from the kitchen window.
Then on to Portland Bill hoping to see the Short Eared Owls I had read were around. Dusk was on the way. Rock Pipits by the cliffs. Wrens in the bushes.
I asked some passing birders whether they had seen any owls 'oh yeah there are loads of them over there'...and indeed right by the road were 3. Magnificent views - little (short) 'ears' evident

Montagnes Bourbonnais 26 Oct

In the region for a family wedding and took a day for a hike. Found where the GR3 crosses the N7 and had a splendid walk through perfect countryside to Chatelus and Arfeuille, which astonishingly turned out to be a place we had gite-d in 14 years ago!
Anyhow, great country birds too: kestrel, buzzard, jay, magpie, blue & great tit, green woodpecker, blackcap, corn bunting (superb identification by Leo!), song thrush, blackbird, wren, grey heron, chaffinch.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Australia Sep 08

Visited Bendigo and in the 10mins of fresh air I managed to secure, saw a fine GANG-GANG.

Took another day off in Sydney to visit the Olympic Park again.In the harbour, Silver Gull and CRESTED TERN. Pied Cormorant. Aus Pelican LITTLE BLACK CORMORANT, White Faced Heron, Willy Wagtail, Aus White Ibis, Black Winged Stilt, Masked Lapwing, NANKEEN NIGHT HERON, Common Myna, Starling, BLACK FRONTED DOTTEREL, Magpie Lark, AUS GREY TEAL, BLACK BACKED MAGPIE, WHITE PLUMED HONEYEATER, AUS REED WARBLER, Red Wattlebird, Dusky Moorhen, DUSKY WOODSWALLOW, Superb Blue Fairy Wren, Great Cormorant, Spotted Turtle Dove, Royal Spoonbill, BROWN HONEYEATER?, red legged wren?, Coot, RED BROWED FIRETAIL, BW LTT, Pacific Black Duck, LITTLE FRIARBIRD, Noisy Miner

Monday, August 25, 2008

South Africa 9-24 Aug 2008




Having had to flee Zuurberg when it was razed by a bush fire, we plucked up courage to return to the bush at wonderful Schotia, where we saw HELMETED GUINEAFOWL, CAPE LONGCLAW (pic), STANLEYS BUSTARD

Moving on to Knysna, at Tsitsikamma we saw LOURIE (KNYSNA TURACO now) and Lydia OLIVE WOODPECKER.

At the Featherbed Nature Reserve, JACKAL BUZZARD, ROCK KESTREL

Around Knysna, Speckled Pigeon, Red Winged Starling and Grey Heron.

Then on a great trip up the Keurboom River with an expert guide, Giant Kingfisher, REED CORMORANT, FOREST BUZZARD, (some excellent Lourie views), THICKKNEE PLOVER, WHITE NECKED RAVEN, WOOD SANDPIPER.

On to Outdshoorn, for CAPE SPARROW AND FOREST CANARY. Driving out from there thru the Little Karoo, PALE CHANTING GOSHAWK and probable Wattled Starling by the roadside. Near Swellendam, magnificent BLUE CRANE.

Final destination was Cape Town. At Hout Bay, HARTLAUB'S GULL and BANK CORMORANT. Excellent range at Cape Point: CAPE GANNET, ORANGE BREASTED SUNBIRD (pic), GREY BACKED CISTICOLA, CAPE GRASSBIRD, CAPE BUNTING and a Cape Francolin. And we swam with AFRICAN PENGUINS!

A rainy trip to Kirstenboch Botanical Gardens nonetheless yielded a couple of SPOTTED EAGLE OWLS, SWEE WAXBILL AND CAPE CANARY.

On the way back from Robben Island, a Shearwater.

On the top of Table Mountain, a GROUND WOODPECKER (pic).

Last couple of days with Yolandi and Rob - African Harrier Hawk in their garden, CAPE SUGARBIRD (pic by Rob) first spotted on a (wet) high mountain pass. At Boschendal Winery in the dusk we saw a magnificent Spotted Eagle Owl flying, and also a pair of DUSKY FLYCATCHERs. Final morning a short hike in lovely Jonkershoek (SOUTHERN RED BISHOP enroute) yielded CAPE BATIS (pic by Rob), CAPE FRANCOLIN and BAR THROATED APALIS (identified and photographed by Rob!).

Saturday, August 09, 2008

San Francisco 2-5 Aug 2008

On the afternoon we arrived, back down to the Lee Ryan park and saw Dark Eyed Junco, a pair of Forster's Tern, Cormorant' American Crow and Raven.
Next day Mike was off to golf at Half Moon Bay so I google-planned a route along the coast to Pillar Point.The blue skies of the bay disappeared on the way over the hills to a grey and slightly chilly coastline.I reached the shore at Kelly Drive and from there through protected (for Snowy Plover) scrub along the beach. Brewers Blackbird, Cley Sparrow, Black Phoebe, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Barn Swallow in the scrub. Forsters Tern and Thayers Gull (the local Herring) in the air. Brown Pelican patrolling and diving. Jack Rabbit in the scrub, Grey Seal and Sea Otter. SNOWY EGRET at Miramar harbour. Willet and Sanderling wading and scurrying.
For lunch I found a gritty fish café (the famous - or at least that's what they say - Princeton Seafood 'we serve crabs and other fine customers') in a car park (my theory is that round here they started with one huge car park then built a few shops etc on it) and had a classic miscommunication: I ordered a Petite Salmon & Chips thinking that was some sort of young/small salmon - like a Slip Sole to a Sole at Mary's in Walberswick. In fact of course it meant a children's portion! Which was in fact just right as this is America.
On to Pillar Point salt marsh and harbour : Great Blue Heron, Common Loon and a flock of SURF SCOTERS (pictured) , Starling, Double Crested Cormorant, WANDERING TATTLER (pictured), WESTERN GREBE, Whimbrel, BLACK BELLIED PLOVER (pictured), MARBLED GODWIT.Up on to the cliffs behind and there's a Red-Shafted Northern Flicker in the woods. Back down to the marsh and a superb WHITE TAILED KITE hovering and diving. CALIFoRNIA TOWHEE in the scrub.

Friday, June 06, 2008

San Mateo 3-4 June 2008

A couple of days in Foster City, just down the coast from San Francisco.
I identified a park near our hotel called the Leo Jordan park. Very manicured, alongside the artificial lagoon.a stroll on our first evening only found Crow, House Sparrow and Mallard.
But early next morning on a run I found that the landscaped copse was alive with birds. The only one I could identify without bins was an AMERICAN GOLDFINCH - a beautiful pale yellow. 0630 seemed to be the optimal time.
Around the hotel were dark-eyed Juncos.
Next morning I had to work rather than get out for a dawn watch, but in the afternoon we grabbed half an hour there before setting off to the airport and I found CHESTNUT BACKED CHICKADEE, HOUSE FINCH (like a redpoll), and BLACK PHOEBE (a twitching flycatcher).

Monday, May 05, 2008

The Gambia 8-16 Apr 2008

The Gambia 8-16 Apr 2008

Venue/Total/Lifers/Trip New
Tuesday Airport, Hotel/13/10/13
Wednesday Hotel /25/23/25
Thursday Beach, Kotu/43/35/38
Friday Abuko /39/20/20

Saturday Lamin/42/18/23
Monday Secret Place, Tanji/56/24/29
Total 130 /148

The birding extravaganza got underway from the bus at the airport, with Pied Crow and Black Kite.

We stayed at the Senegambia, which is a bird watching destination in its own right. As we first stepped out of our room we heard a commotion above and saw an African Harrier Hawk (just like you see at London Zoo) being mobbed by a couple of Crows. A first tour round the grounds added White Crowned Robin Chat (one of the species it is famous for), Speckled Pigeon, Palm Dove, Collared Dove, the amazingly colourful Yellow Crowned Gonolek (a snap of which on Trip advisor had clinched our hotel selection, Northern Black Flycatcher (we happened to pass the resident birdwatcher’s hut and he pointed this one out), Zazou the Western Red Hornbill, Common Bulbul, Cattle Egret (which sips tea at breakfast) and Senegal Coucal.

Next morning we added Grey Headed Sparrow , Pia Piac, Red Bellied Firefinch, Village Weaver, Hooded Vulture African Grey Hornbill, Western Grey Plantain Eater, Long Tailed Starling, Yellow Billed Shrike, Fruit Bat, Senegal Parrot (flew over during the 1130 Vulture Feeding), Green Wood-Hoopoe and Blue Breasted Kingfisher. The resident monkeys are Vervets and Red Colobus.

At 5pm we joined the daily guided walk round the grounds, with Modou one of the Resident Birdwatchers. We saw Splendid and Beautiful Sunbirds, Grey Headed Gull (which we had seen in small flocks flying along the coast, Grey Woodpecker, Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird, Broad Billed Roller, African Thrush, Lavender Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin (which identified the flocks of little birds we had seen on first day), Black Necked Weaver, Brown Babbler, Blackcap Babbler, Nile Monitor, Yellow Headed Agama.

Thursday we saw Palm Swift before breakfast and then a stroll along the beach brought magnificent huge Caspian Terns and Royal Tern.

At 3pm we went on our first Modou venture- £60 for 39 species around Kotu! At the pond we saw Rufous Crowned Roller, Spur Winged Plover, African Jacana, Wood Sandpiper, Little Egret, Hammerkop, Black Winged Stilt, Painted Snipe, Squacco Heron, Greenshank, Dabchick and Long Tailed Cormorant. Along the Cycle Track we found Sacred Ibis, Black Headed Heron, Grey Heron, White Billed Buffalo Weaver, African Spoonbill, Western Red Heron, Western Reef Heron (the Umbrella Bird), Black Egret, Senegal Coucal. From the corner by the Palm Beach Hotel we watched Little Bee Eater, Abyssinian Roller, Beautiful Sunbird, Red Billed Hornbill, Green Wood Hoopoe, Shikra, Blue Bellied Roller. From Kotu Bridge Pied Kingfisher, Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Grey Headed gull, Wire Tailed and white Throated Blue Swallows, Northern Crombec then Modou managed to tempt out by clever whistling an Oriole Warbler. Finally to the Sewage Works where we added Senegal Thick Knee, Fork Tailed Drongo Red Necked Falcon and White faced Whistling Duck!!

Next day, off with Modou to Abuko Nature Reserve. Shikra and Brown Throated Wattle-Eye on the way to the pond, then from the lookout there Grey, Black Capped, Squacco, Black, Purple, Black Crowned Night Herons, Black Crake, African Jacana, African Darter, Giant, Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, African Paradise Flycatcher, African Pied & Western Red Billed Hornbills, Village weaver, African Wattled Plover, Nile Crocodile, Little Greenbul, Violet & Green Turaco, Palm Nut Vulture, Greater Honeyguide, Grey Headed Bristle Bill, Senegal Parrot, Ahanta Francolin, Dik Dik, Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu, Lavender Waxbill, Fanti Saw Wing, Antelope, Grey Woodpecker, Blue Spotted Wood Dove, Snowy Crowned Robin Chat, African Thrush, Green Wood Hoopoe, Pied Crow, Hooded Vulture, African Harrier Hawk.

Next day we went with Tamba, the other resident ornithologist – equally as excellent – on a very different trip. An early start then off in a jeep – via Long Crested Eagle and Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird sightings - to a little hut under a weaver tree on the edge of the mangroves where a lovely breakfast awaited. Then into a boat, as the oyster women got into their dugouts to go and gather oysters from the Mangrove stems. Pied KF, Grey WP, Senegal Thicknee, Malachite KF, Sandwich Tern, Ringed and Grey Plovers, Striated Heron, Long Tailed Cormorant, Mouse Brown Sunbird, Wattled Plover, Grey Kestrel, Blue Bellied Roller, Fine spotted WP, Plaintain Eater, Wood Hoopoe, Yellow Backed Shrike, Pearl Spotted Owlets (replying to Tamba’s call – both he and Modhou use that call as it flushes birds out to mob the owl), African Golden Oriole, Brown Spotted Babbler, Spur Wing Plover, Double Spurred Francolin, Red Chested Swallow, Pink Backed Pelican, Whimbrel, Black Billed Wood Dove, Pied Crow, PiaPiac on a Donkey, Little Bee Eater, Palm Swift, Black Headed Heron, Red Bishop, Senegal Parrot, Rose Winged Parakeet (the only type in Africa – London has more varieties!), Great White Egret, Gull Billed tern, Black Kite, Rufous Crowned Roller, Great White Pelican.

Sunday we went to remote rural Senegal for a day – which is a separate and non-bird-based tale.

Monday, Modhou took us to the place which he and Tamba have discovered. Red Bishop, Black Headed Plover, Temmicks Courser, Green Backed Eremola, Beautiful and Scarlet Chested Sunbirds, Cordon Bleu, Little Weaver, Brubru, Yellow Fronted Tinkerbird, Zitting and Singing Cisticola, Tawny Flanked Prinia, Grey Backed Cameroptera, Plantain Eater, Buffalo Weaver, Brown Backed WP, Fine Spotted WP, Osprey, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Lizard Buzzard (another example of the dark grey series of Birds of Prey here), African Harrier Hawk, Hooded Vulture, Villots Barbet, Striped Kingfisher, Brown Babbler, Village Weaver, Violet Backed Starling, Double Spurred Francolin, Aby Roller, Yellow Fronted Canary, Namacqua Dove, Grey Headed Sparrow, Klaas’ Cuckoo, Yellow Billed Shrike, Venacious Dove, Northern Black Flycatcher, Northern Puffback, Cattle Egret, Rabbit. Then on to the lovely café at Tanji Beach for refreshment and a walk along the beach yielding Whibrel, Grey Headed, Lesser Back Backed and Slender Billed Gull, Pied KF, Wood Sandpiper, Caspian, Gull Billed, Lesser Crested, Little Terns, Turnstone, Sanderling, Gt White Pelican, Yellow and White Wagtail, Bar Tailed Godwit.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Good Trip to Barnes WWT

BLACK TERN, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, 2 Red Breasted Geese (Ringed)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

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Suffolk & Norfolk 18-21 Feb (72)

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The annual pilgimage for Leo and I.
Day 1: Minsmere 18 Feb (51 in the day)
Marsh Harrier, Bitten, Blue, Great, Coal and Long-Tailed Tits, Goldcrest, Fieldfare, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Robin, Blackbird, Starling, Pigeon, Magpie, Jay, Green Woodpecker, Meadow Pipit (at the Sluice Bushes, which we hadn't visited before), Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Black Tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Ringed Plover, Coot, Mallard, Moorhen, Teal, Wigeon, Turnstone, Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Snipe, Stonechat, Barnacle Goose, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Lapwing, Wren, Cormorant, Herring, Black Headed, Lesser Black Backed Gulls, Crow, Pied Wagtail, Pheasant.
We went to Hen Reed Beds to look for our traditional Barn Owl, and Leo saw a Bitten twice, plus lovely Marsh Harrier views, then a Grey Heron and then wonderfully 3 Egyptian Geese flew in (my favourite goose!) and landed in the field next door. But no Barn Owls by the time we decided to head off to Cley. Note for future, 5pm is the right time to turn up for the owls.
Day 2: Cley
Overnight at the George, which is (very - half price on weekdays) cheap and basic accomodation, but very good food and an outstanding local ale. Started at the impressive new visitor centre, which doesn't open until 1000 so we were not alone in waiting outside for the doors to be opened. however there were lapwings, black headed gulls and golden plovers to look at. Note: great views from here for lunch, but the family running the café don't exactly operate to a London metabolism. We walked the full 3.5 mile circuit and saw: coot, moorhen, Brent geese, greylag geese, wigeon, teal, shoveler, shelduck, black tailed godwit, avocet, pintail, stonechat, Dunlin, redshank, skylark, marsh harrier, grey heron, little egret, mute swan, oystercatcher, turnstone, greater black backed gull, herring gull, common gull, greenfinch, goldfinch, dunnock, wren, mallard.
The lady at the visitor centre was rather dismissive of the famous white crowned sparrow 'find the Swallow pub and then it will be obvious'. Indeed it was, apparently there are constantly birders there in all weathers. We joined them. Rumour was that it had not been seen for several days but there were still a dozen folk standing there looking at a bush (robin, chaffinch, house sparrow, blackbird). We got back in the car to leave when we saw them all rush to look at something. So we ran to join them. 'There it is !' they were crying, but we couldn't see it. So it seemed the closest we would get would be to have seen people who were seeing it! Then after another 20min, there it was right in front of us. Great view.
Then we snuck off to Titchwell
Also seen at Cley:Brent Goose, Little Egret, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Shelduck, Pintail, Avocet, Bl Headed, Common, Herring Gull
New for the day: RED LEGGED PARTRIDGE seen in a field from the car, WOODCOCK, on/off beach Bar Tailed Godwit, Sanderling, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Goldeneye, Merganser, Curlew, Ruff, Cormorant, Long Tailed Tit, Dabchick, Pochard,
Overnight in Hunstanton - not a mistake I will make again, though the curry house boasts Beadle and Tarrant as previous vistors, and was actually rather good.
Titchwell: New for the trip 7
Kestrel, a flock of Snow Buntings,on the sea: Eider & VELVET SCOTER, Brambling, Linnet, Reed Bunting
Other 23 Marsh Harrier, Cormorant, Merganser, Black Headed Gull, Long Tailed Tit, House Sparrow, Coot, Moorhen, both Godwits, Ruff, Shelduck, Shoveler, Mallard, Tufted Duck, both Redshanks, Grey Plover, Turnstone, Ringed Plover, Avocet, Snipe, Goldeneye

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Palm Beach 2- 6 Feb 2008

To The Breakers in Palm Beach for a conference. Flew into Miami then hired a car for the 90 min drive. Only Rock Doves around the airport, then loads of Great Egrets at the car hire place. On the drive tantalising over-flies by herons, egrets, ibises and vultures.On Sunday I had a free morning so drove up to the Macarthur Beach State Park and joined the guided bird walk there. Little blue heron white phase. Pictured: Great Blue Heron. Mourning Dove, Osprey. LAUGHING GULL. Turkey Vulture. Black Vulture, ANHINGA, Brown Pelican, Great Egret or Great White Heron, White Ibis, Double Crested Cormorant, Ring Billed Gull (Pictured - at last a gull with a name that helps identify it), Belted Kingfisher, Butterflies: Julia, Zebra Longwing (the state butterfly) a Sulphur and a Fritillary. Lots of the non-native Brown Anole lizard.

From the Hotel, a stroll on the beach saw a wader, pictured, which I think is a WILLET, even though that is down as an uncommon visitor to the Macarthur park. And around the pool loads of BOAT TAILED GRACKLES, where the female (pictured) is extraordinarily different from the male.

At sunrise, going for a run, I saw a cute little Sanderling beetling around the wave edge.Next day we had an outing to the Everglades, which was actually rather birdless except for Grackles, Vultures, Ospreys and a Belted Kingfisher. At Flamingo Gardens, a brave GREEN HERON was sharing the Alligator enclosure and WOOD STORK were taking advantage of the Flamingo food.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Portland Bill 29 Dec 2007

I recently discovered, via 10,000 Birds, the excellent Portland Bird Observatory website (see Links). So when we were down to visit the in-laws in Dorchester and needed to blow the ague out of our systems, it was an obvious choice. It is an unexpectedly long drive even from Weymouth to get to the Lighthouse at the end of the Bill, but well worth it. It was a clear but windy day and the sea was spectacular - truly tempestous. We werent quite sure where to walk to, but pottering around found many Rock Pipits and a Stonechat. The Observatory itself is the old lighthouse and looks like it would be a brilliant place to stay. All we could see on the sea were cormorants, with Greater Black Backed Gulls soaring past. We moved on to Chesil Cove, where there Kittiwakes amongst the gulls struggling in the wind.
Then just across at the most sheltered part of Portland Harbour we found a group of Red Breasted Mergansers and, after lunch, a Diver.