Sunday, 2 November 2014

Great Grey Shrike

Got lucky for the second year in a row with a Great Grey Shrike on the local Commons this evening.
Interestingly, it was about 100 metres from the tree I found it in last year, but just three days earlier! Presumably a returning bird?
Found the bird with the Mrs at 17.00hrs (hence the dodgy pic!) after having watched a very nice male Merlin.

Great Grey Shrike - Colaton Raleigh Common

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Firecrests - Don't you just love them!

It's never a dull day when you see a Firecrest and there seem to be good numbers around the local patch at the moment. I have certainly seen at least 6-7 different birds over the last couple of days including this very obliging bird yesterday on Jubilee Green just a short stroll from home - Lovely!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

YBW - Patch Tick!

Yesterday I found myself a much overdue Yellow-browed Warbler on the patch. It is quite an interesting bird as when I first found it, the bird only called twice and it seemed to be giving a seemingly untypical inornatus call - quite short and subdued compared to the more typical powerful and drawn out call that I am familiar with. I only saw it briefly and it didn't seem the brightest YBW I had ever seen, though I was very conscious of the poor light. The last couple of days here have been very misty and murky on the coast and the light has been terrible! Thanks must go to local birder Matt Knott, who re-found the bird with me later in the afternoon. The bird then appeared to show dark legs and be quite dusky below, possibly showing some similarity to Hume's Leaf Warbler, though both wing bars did appear to be bright and obvious. The weak and short call was niggling me as well as the overall drabness of the bird so I was keen to see it first thing today.

This morning the bird gave a burst of 2-3 minutes of the more classic powerful drawn out "sooo-eet" call and so re-assured me it was just a standard YBW. It never gave great views, but I managed a few photos below. 

Interestingly, the bird does seem to show dark legs and the bill did still appear mostly dark (though "blown up" there is significant pale base to lower mandible) the supercilium doesn't appear that prominent before the eye and it appears quite dusky below. No doubting the prominence of the two wing bars though and the dark margins that enhances them. 
Certainly not the brightest YBW I have ever seen(!), but all in all, a great bird to have on the patch and all good learning.

Yellow-browed Warbler, West Cliffs, Budleigh

Firecrest, West Cliffs Budleigh

Saturday, 25 October 2014

AGP and Firecrest

Took a trip up to Davidstow Airfield last week with Russ to see the long staying juvenile American Golden Plover. It showed incredibly well and was probably the closest I have ever been to this species - a great bird.

Back on the patch, things are pretty quiet still other than the long staying Grey Phalarope and a Firecrest above West Cliffs. Regular visits to the stubble fields have so far only produced 100+ Skylark, but there's still time........

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Grey Phalarope

A very confiding Grey Phalarope is performing to visitors on the patch at present. Park in the Lime Kiln car park and walk east along the edge of the salt marsh below the obvious pebble ridge and enjoy!

Grey Phalarope - 1st winter Otter Estuary 21st October 2014

Monday, 20 October 2014

AZORES: Flores Island Week Two

The start of our second week continued with high pressure and southerly winds and delirium began to set in as we birded the same areas with little reward. However, things took a change on the 8th October when a front came through with associated wind and rain and although it did not look fantastic, it was a significant change in the weather!

We decided to persist with birding the Ponta do Albarnaz at the northern tip of the island with a good history of rarities. I thrashed all around the fields as the front began to abate and had nothing exceptional, though a Semipalmated Plover was a nice bird. In hindsight, perhaps we peaked too soon and should have waited until the front had completely passed!? The next day, in calm sunny conditions a group of Italian birders found a Scarlet Tanager in the very same fields - bugger! A Bobolink was also found and amazingly there were no American land birds found on Corvo this day!

We spent a final night back on Sao Miguel and managed to see the Willet that had been present since late September and rather fortuitously was just a short stroll from our hotel!

So, will we return to Flores? Yes, of course! - a beautiful island full of potential and the pull for me is that "most" things you see will be found by you.
Would I recommend it? Yes, but be prepared for pain! 
It is hard work sifting through the regular 8-10 bird species and frustrating hearing the news from adjacent Corvo. However, you have to remember Corvo is approximately 17Km2 with an average of 40+ birders in October compared to Flores which is approximately 140Km2 and has only a handful of birders at best! 
I think it is generally accepted that Flores would clearly compete with Corvo, but not until it has the number of birders required to cover the island fully - maybe in time.......??

Tally for two weeks in no particular order:
Little Egret - Sao Miguel
Grey Heron - daily on Flores
Eurasian Spoonbill - 1 juv. Faja Grande 2nd October
Hybrid Black Duck
Teal sp - possibly Green-winged Teal with seemingly strong ginger wing bar, but too distant to be sure...Lagoa Branca 29th Sep
Eurasian Wigeon - drake at Lagoa Lomba
Common Scoter - 1 female/imm Faja Grande 1st October presumed to be this species, but would have liked a photo/better view to check for Black Scoter!
Azores Gull - daily
Common Tern - daily
Cory's Shearwater - daily
Common Moorhen - Moinho
Snowy Owl - 1 female Faja Grande 3rd October in severe wing moult - relocated to Corvo from 5th!
Lesser Yellowlegs - 1 juv 30 Sep until at least 7th October
Willet - Sao Miguel on 10th October
Buff-breasted Sandpiper - 1 Ponta do Albarnaz 1st October
Semipalmated Plover - 1 Ponta Delgada 8th October until 10th October at least
Ruddy Turnstone - daily Faja Grande and Ponta do ALbarnaz
Eurasian Whimbrel - a number of birds on Flores at Faja Grande with a max. count of four
Eurasian Woodcock - 1 photographed at Alagoa and two other birds flushed whilst birding elsewhere
Feral Pigeon - daily
Common Woodpigeon - the odd bird every few days
Blackcap - daily
(Azores) Chaffinch - daily
Grey Wagtail - daily
Atlantic Canary - daily
House Sparrow - daily
Common Starling - daily
Common Blackbird - daily
Bobolink - 1 Ponta Delgada on the 9th October
Scarlet Tanager - 1st year female on 9th October Ponta do Albarnaz

Scarlet Tanager with the lighthouse at Ponta do Albarnaz in background

My first view of the Scarlet Tanager - Having narrowly missed finding it, the thrill of re-finding it the next day was slightly tainted, but still exciting....

Scarlet Tanager - 1st year female, Ponta do Albaranaz, Flores

Ponta do Albarnaz, Flores

Scarlet Tanager, Ponta do Albarnaz, Flores

Bobolink, Ponta Delgada, Flores

Semipalmated Plover, Ponta Delgada, Flores

Willet - Ponta Delgad, Sao Miguel

Willet, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel

Cream Tea Birder celebrating the Willet in true style with a custard tart on the hotel balcony! The rocks where the Willet was frequenting are visible in the background just behind the marina.

Willet, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel

Willet, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel
Eurasian Woodcock - not often you get views like this!

Flores Island looking towards Fajazinha from the high plateau above Faja Grande

Think I may have exhausted the Mrs with all the birding!

Monday, 13 October 2014

AZORES: Flores Island Week One

Now returned from a very enjoyable 2 weeks in the Azores, spending 12 days on beautiful Flores Island, the most westerly point in the Western Palearctic. Flores is a stunning island full of vagrant promise and a very exciting place to be.

Our first week was dominated by high pressure, warm temperatures and southerly winds so the chance of American vagrants were fairly limited, but still there was plenty to keep us interested. Highlight of our first week was without doubt seeing the long staying Snowy Owl. It was first discovered on Flores in May but reported sightings prior to our visit were few and far between. Despite looking daily, we only caught up with it on day six when the Mrs pulled it out of the bag whist having a coffee! Other highlights were as below.
Week Two to follow.......

Aldeia da Cuada, our home whilst on Flores

Female Snowy Owl, 3rd October 2014, Faja Grande, Flores

This bird was in the amazing setting of Faja Grande with its numerous waterfalls as a backdrop

The bird had been present on Flores since May 2014 and amazingly after our sighting the bird relocated to Corvo despite being in extreme wing moult

Lesser Yellowlegs and Azores Gull, Ponta do Albarnaz, Flores
The spectacular scenery of Faja Grande, the Western Palearctic's most westerly village on Flores
Drake Wood Duck, Lagoa Branca, Flores -  a returning bird for at least its 4th Autumn plus a presumed hybrid Black Duck? Quite grey tertials and pale tail sides
Lagoa Branca, Flores - home to the Wood Duck 

Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Ponta do Albarnaz, Flores

The constant stunning backdrop whilst birding on the west side of Flores

Friday, 26 September 2014

BRAZIL - Northern Pantanal Jaguars!

Now for the best mammal of all and my best wildlife watching experience to date!

On our first day on the Cuiaba River we stumbled across this impressive female Jaguar that we watched for over 40 minutes seemingly in hunting mode. The views were incredible and I really didn't think we could get anything better. Later that evening we saw a second animal at dusk briefly that could not be sexed.
The following day, our morning started well with an impressive male Jaguar swimming across the Piquiri River, but little did we know what was in store later the same afternoon!

From around 3pm until dusk we watched the same female from day one teaching two tiny Jaguar cubs to swim! One cub seemed a little more determined than the other and the mother took them into the water on at least three different occasions. Amazing to watch all this behaviour unfold in front of us for 3 hours and mostly on our own! Simply Superb. Then to top it all, we saw another Jaguar crossing the Transpantaneira on our return north making it at least 5 different animals in just three days and around 4 hours observation.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

BRAZIL - Northern Pantanal Mammals

The Northern Pantanal is just as much about mammals as it is birds and with a tally of 19 different species of mammal in a week, that is nothing to be sniffed at. Below are some of the highlights before we get on to that big spotty cat!

This Giant Anteater is actually wild animal and has been visiting Pousa Alegre Lodge since June

Southern Tamandua - Pousa Alegre
Giant River Otter - Pixaim River

Giant River Otter - Cuiaba River

Giant River Otter Cub - River Pixaim

Neotropical River Otter - Piquiri River
Brazilian Porcupine - Porto Jofre

Brazilian Tapir - Pousa Alegre