Wednesday, 21 January 2015

EXMOUTH: Long-tailed Duck and Brent Geese

A pleasant afternoon on Exmouth Beach this afternoon......

Dark-bellied Brent Geese

Female Long-tailed Duck

Female Long-tailed Duck

Female Long-tailed Duck
Female Long-tailed Duck

Monday, 19 January 2015

Distant Dozing Ducks at Dozmary Pool, Cornwall

Some more bird survey work in Cornwall today allowed a bit of free time before the start of the survey, so I headed to nearby Dozmary Pool which in recent years has hosted a drake Lesser Scaup. I did a little bit of research to try and find just how many consecutive winters Dozmary Pool (on Bodmin Moor) has hosted this Nearctic duck. It seems a drake bird has been present every winter since at least 2008, though it would seem a 1st winter drake was present in the winter of 2012, so difficult to confirm  exactly how long a bird has actually been returning?

Sleeping adult drake Lesser Scaup with Tufted Duck

Drake Lesser Scaup ready to flap!

Revealing one of the key features: a sharp definition between the bright white secondary bar and the grey primaries

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Garden Mega!

This strongly marked Blackbird has been hanging around in the garden today. Must admit when I first clocked it with the naked eye, I did have to run for my bins! Almost Sibe Thrush like with that supercilium and it even looked blue in some lights! It was quite skittish often being hassled by the other blackbirds, hence the best photos I could get were through the window! Great looking bird......

Is that a Sibe Thrush in the garden!? Looks Sibe Thrush in colour here. Shame it lacked the barred undertail from this view!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Sierra de Andujar, Iberian Lynx and Eagles Tour Jan 2015

I have just returned from another great Wise Birding tour to Southern Spain in search of the Iberian Lynx. I really love this area of Spain and despite being in the enviable position of having seen Iberian Lynx on many occasions over the last few years, the cats always leave me wanting to return for more!

The weather was fantastic for our four day stay and so were the sightings. We had an incredible 9 separate sightings of at least 3 different animals and some very close encounters. In addition to the obvious stars of the show, other highlights included Spanish Imperial Eagles, Golden Eagle, Black and Griffon Vultures, Azure-winged Magpies, Crested Tit, Rock Bunting, Iberian Grey Shrike, Spanish Ibex and more!

Following the successful completion of the tour, Wise Birding Holidays donated 200 Euros to the ongoing work on a nearby estate. This involves managing Lynx habitat and creating artificial rabbit warrens to boost the recent crash in the rabbit population, on which the Iberian Lynx is so dependent.

This is definitely the time to see Iberian Lynx as it is the mating season and animals are calling a lot which makes locating them easier. Due to the great viewing at present, I may run another trip in Feb/March - so please contact me if interested.

Iberian Lynx, Sierra de Andujar

Iberian Lynx, Sierra de Andujar - different animal to above

Iberian Lynx on the prowl
Iberian Lynx habitat

Crested Tit

Spanish Ibex, Sierra de Andujar

Sunset over Sanctuario Virgen de la Cabeza
Iberian Lynx by tour participant, Andy Stanbury
Spanish Imperial Eagle, Sierra de Anduj
Iberian Lynx, Sierra de Andujar
Iberian Lynx by tour participant, Andy Stanbury

Spanish Imperial Eagle, Sierra de Andujar

Saturday, 3 January 2015

New Year Listing on Bikes 2015

It has become a bit of a tradition since moving to Budleigh Salterton, that me and the Mrs have tried to see/hear as many species as possible within the Budleigh and Exe Estuary area mostly using bikes as our transport. With the weather forecast for New Year's Day not looking great, we opted for the 2nd January instead and it turned out to be a good move with a calm sunny day!

Our final tally broke all our previous attempts and was a very respectable 97 species of which only four were heard only (Green Woodpecker, Dartford Warbler, Fieldfare(!) and Tawny Owl). Amazing really, considering this was all within just a 7 mile radius of Budleigh Salterton. 

The day started with Blackbird and Herring Gull and ended with Woodcock and Tawny Owl. We hit 70 Species at just after midday and then had a good run of species around Exmouth and Budleigh before finishing on the East Devon Commons. 

Highlights included: Egyptian Goose, Black Redstart, Slavonian Grebe, Red-throated Diver, Cirl Bunting, Yellowhammer, Dartford Warbler and Blackcap
Notable misses included: Kestrel, Treecreeper, Cetti's Warbler and RL Partridge.

One day we shall break the 100 mark!

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Sidmouth to Budleigh Salterton

Went to Sidmouth today for a day out with the folks and the Mrs and then walked back to Budleigh. A lovely day despite the cold wind.......

Looking east towards Sidmouth

Ladram Bay

One of three Purple Sandpipers, Sidmouth

Female Cirl Bunting

Friday, 19 December 2014

Bunting Diversity Continues!

This afternoon I checked an area which has had up to three Cirl Buntings wintering in recent years which is significant in this part of Devon. Soon after arriving, I heard the distinctive tsip call of a Cirl Bunting and located two females, but after searching the nearby wider habitat I was amazed to count a minimum of 11 birds in one single group! Bizarrely, for no apparent reason shortly after finding the flock, five of the birds flew off high to the east and I lost them to view. I don't know when the last double figure counts of cirl buntings in East Devon was? Guess it is quite a few years?

There has been a migrant bird in Dorset in recent days at West Bexington, but I am not aware of any others? I look forward to seeing if the flock stays in the area. Be great to see them breeding in this part of Devon again......

Three of the eleven cirl buntings

Five of the eleven cirl buntings

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Female American Wigeons on the Gannel Estuary, Cornwall

Yesterday, I had some bird survey work to do in Cornwall and finished a little earlier than I thought, so decided to head to the Gannel Estuary near Newquay where two female American Wigeons have been present since at least late November. I was pretty keen to see these birds as I have limited experience of female American Wigeons and I always wondered just how many female birds get overlooked in the UK, so to have two on one estuary is pretty impressive. On arrival, I picked up one bird straight away and with a careful scan, the second less obvious bird with a darker head was also found without too much trouble. The beauty of this site, is the Eurasian Wigeon flock seems incredibly small (only around 70 birds) therefore making things much easier!

It was great to study these birds at quite close quarters and get a feel for their plumage. Interestingly, it was the rich chestnut (almost orange) flank colour that seemed to be the easiest way of picking the birds out amongst the flock. The cold smoky grey, dark flecked head was also prominent on one bird. Neither bird seemed to show black bill base line that "if" present is meant to be diagnostic for American, but absence of this feature is also not uncommon. Of course, the underwing is the "killer feature" for this species and it was also the best weather to see the feature i.e. dull light and I got lucky with some photos as below!

Well worth a look if you are in the area and well done to local birder Steve Rowe, who I believe found them.....

Two female American Wigeons both showing off their diagnostic brilliant white axillaries (armpit) compared to the greyer axillaries of the female Eurasian Wigeon (bottom right)

Two female American Wigeons facing each other at either end of the photo. Showing subtly different head shape (higher forehead) to nearby Eurasians

Female American Wigeon (the more subtle of the two)

Female American Wigeon (the most striking of the two) with Eurasian Wigeon
Male Eurasian and Female American Wigeons

Two female American Wigeons
Spot the Yank?

Monday, 8 December 2014

More Buntings

Had another look for the Lapland Bunting today in a different area and had a shock in finding a different bunting - Corn Bunting! The bird was very tricky to see and I only found it due to it calling but very difficult in the wind and with the noisy Skylarks. Seems to be the first record in Devon since 2010? I have always hoped to find one near Budleigh as they have bred historically. Hopefully we can encourage it to stick around as I am hoping to see the farmer tomorrow......

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting

Corn Bunting and Skylark

Corn Bunting and Skylark

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Lapland Bunting

A lovely calm and sunny day today, perfect for checking the sea, so I looked off Otterton Sewage Works where 3 Great Northern Divers, 1 Red-throated Diver and 6+ Guillemot were on the sea. However, highlight of the day was a late afternoon walk around the top fields with the Mrs. As expected I disturbed a few Skylarks and the odd Meadow Pipit and then a coastguard helicopter flew low overhead and flushed a larger group of Skylark ahead of me. As I scanned the flock in the sky I could see a smaller passerine in with them that looked like a bunting but they all flew off and I was cursing!

However, with a little patience the flock returned and the bunting was still in with the flock but remained silent. The light was not great to see much detail, so I grabbed a few SLR shots before the flock finally settled back in the stubble and my suspicions proved right as a chestnut wing panel and strong face pattern was clearly visible from the back of my camera. Result! My 4th Lapland Bunting for the patch after at least two birds during the invasion autumn of 2010 and a single bird in Nov 2011. I saw the bird again in flight and heard it call, but very quietly for a Lapland with a subtle mini machine gun trill followed by the odd tee-uu note, but very quiet amongst the Skylark.
A good day on the patch!

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting