Wise Birding Holidays

Sunday, 13 January 2019

YBW Tipton St John: Take 2

A return visit to Tipton St John this afternoon, in the somewhat scarce sunshine of late, resulted in much better views of the Yellow-browed Warbler as it whizzed around feeding in the damp willow clumps. Also here were at least 2 Goldcrest, 4 Long-tailed Tit, 3 Bullfinch and a lovely Dipper singing on the nearby river.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Tipton St John by Chris Townend

Yellow-browed Warbler, Tipton St John by Chris Townend

Yellow-browed Warbler, Tipton St John by Chris Townend

Dipper on the River Otter, Tipton St John by Chris Townend

Friday, 11 January 2019

Siberian Chiffchaff

This afternoon I checked the back path north of South Farm Road looking for Chiffchaffs. I was pleased to find at least one, probably two Siberian Chiffchaffs feeding in the wet ditches with an obvious Common Chiffchaff. Chiffchaffs are so variable in plumage and such features change so much dependent on the light. I am generally quite cautious unless a bird calls.


Siberian Chiffchaff - Calling a single mournful "peep" note.
Warm brown ear coverts, strikingly white underparts, dark bill and green mostly confined to wing and tail feathers

Common Chiffchaff - Not the bird seen today, but a good comparison

Probable Siberian Chiffchaff - Not heard to call, but still fairly striking with bright white underparts.
Possibly too green on mantle but nowhere near as striking green as Collybita

Monday, 7 January 2019

YBW Tipton St John

A quick look along the River Otter at Tipton St John this morning revealed the Yellow-browed Warbler. This was my second visit to the area and as far as I know, this is the first time it has been seen since the bird was initially found by a visiting birder on December 28th. It is feeding in the small willows and along the River immediately north of the main Car Park by the River opposite Tipton Garage. Despite the gloomy looking photo, it is actually a fairly bright bird and called a few times whilst I was there.

This afternoon a quick look off the sea at Otterton STW revealed 7+ Red-throated Divers.
Yellow-browed Warbler, Tipton St John 7th Jan 2019

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

New Year Local Listing 2019

Keeping up Budleigh tradition, the Mrs and I started the New Year with a day spent trying to see as many bird species as possible in the local area Budleigh/Exmouth area. The final number of birds recorded was 85 species. Not a great total compared to previous years, but in our defence we didn't venture as far as Bowling Green Marsh this year. It's always good fun and some quality species were seen. Thanks must go to Matt Knott for the text updates on species in Exmouth that were very much appreciated.

Highlights included a ringtail Hen Harrier, Eider, Lesser Redpoll, Black Redstart, Dartford Warbler, Cirl Bunting, Red-throated Diver and Woodcock. Some rather embarrassing omissions included Sparrowhawk, Turnstone, Mistle Thrush and Snipe!!

There's always next year...........

Happy New Year!

Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 Wildlife Highlights

JANUARY: Sierra de Andujar in Southern Spain
A great trip with Helen where we enjoyed numerous Iberian Lynx sightings. 
One of my favourite parts of Spain.

FEBRUARY: Superior Forest and Sax Zim Bog, Minnesota
A great winter trip to Minnesota where our small group enjoyed some outrageous views of Canada Lynx! This was the 3rd successful winter tour for this tricky cat. 
Our day at Sax Zim Bog gave incredibly close views of a hunting Great Grey Owl and a Bobcat! TRIP REPORT HERE
Canada Lynx, Superior Forest Minnesota by Chris Townend, February 2018


Great Grey Owl, Sax Zim Bog Minnesota by Chris Townend, February 2018

MARCH: Western Sahara
This very scenic and interesting part of the Western Palearctic is always exciting to visit, especially during migration. Success once again with the key speciality birds and a surprise find of a Bittern in the desert! Only the 2nd record for the region.
TRIP REPORT HERE and more Photos HERE & HERE
Dunn's Lark, Western Sahara by Chris Townend, March 2018

Desert Sparrows, Western Sahara by Chris Townend, March 2018


Eurasian Bittern, Western Sahara by Chris Townend, March 2018


APRIL: Otter Estuary, East Budleigh & East Devon Commons
Finding a Glaucous Gull on the Otter and seeing my first Hazel Dormouse were certainly two highlights in April, as was being present with the professional team of ringers when the "East Budleigh Sparrow" was trapped and ringed. Although the DNA results showed it wasn't a true Italian Sparrow, it was still a very interesting bird nonetheless. See more on Steve Waite's Blog HERE and HERE

Second Cal Year Glaucous Gull, Otter Estuary by Chris Townend, April 2018

East Budleigh Sparrow by Chris Townend, April 2018

Hazel Dormouse, East Devon Commons by Chris Townend, April 2018

MAY: North Uist, Western Isles
Great to spend a week on the North Uist and Berneray with good friends Lee and Rachel. Brilliant to see the Corncrakes, a bit of Skua passage and to find a Lesser Yellowlegs!
River Otter Devon 
The Beavers on the River Otter were a lot harder to see this Summer, due to them having relocated to private land. Therefore it was great to see the female in May and even better to hear she was successful in raising more kits into the growing population.
Lake Saimaa, Finland
A now annual trip to Finland for Bears & Wolverines added something different this year with a trip to Lake Saimaa to see the rare Saimaa Ringed Seal. TRIP REPORT HERE
The beautiful scenery of North Uist, May 2018
Team Berneray

Corncrake at the RSPB reserve at Balranald, May 2018

The Island of Eriskay, May 2018

Female Beaver on the Over Otter by Chris Townend, May 2018
Saimaa Ringed Seal, Haukivesi (part of the Saimaa lake complex) by Chris Townend, May 2018

JUNE: Dartmoor, Devon
During the Summer I was very privileged to survey the world's most southerly breeding population of Dunlin on Dartmoor. The work was for the RSPB, a repeat survey of the Dartmoor Mires Project commissioned by Dartmoor NP. I certainly couldn't have done it without the hard work and humour of good friend Russ, as well as a number of other RSPB staff that gave up their time to help walk all those transect lines! Nice to find male Red-backed Shrike and Quail whilst carrying out the surveys too!
Dunlin, Dartmoor by Chris Townend

Me and Russ slightly delirious after having finished the survey work


JULY: Mongolia
A memorable month spent in Mongolia! Simply too many highlights to mention from a beautiful country with some great wildlife. Seeing Pallas's Cat and Oriental Plover were two of my personal highlights as well as finding Mongolia's 3rd record of Great Knot! Pleased to capture Snow Leopard on the trail camera too! - See video below. 
TRIP REPORT HERE

One of our Base Camps
Azure Tit, Mongolia by Chris Townend, July 2018

Pallas's Cat, Mongolia by Chris Townend, July 2018

Oriental Plovers on the Mongolian Steppe by Chris Townend, July 2018

Oriental Plover, Mongolia by Chris Townend

Asian Dowitchers with Black-tailed Godwits by Chris Townend, July 2018

Finding Mongolia's 3rd Great Knot was an exciting part of the tour! Great Knot by Chris Townend
Grey-tailed Tattler, Gun Galuut in Mongolia by Chris Townend, August 2018

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Mongolia by Chris Townend, July 2018

Juvenile Saker Falcon, Hustai NP by Chris Townend, July 2018
Mongolian Ground Jay by Chris Townend, July 2018
Pallas's Sandgrouse by Chris Townend, July 2018

Snow Leopard Base Camp



AUGUST: River Otter, Devon
Despite being overseas for much of the year, I love getting home and birding the patch! Finding a rarity on the patch is just as exciting to me as seeing some rare bird overseas. Therefore, finding a Spotted Crake this summer was a brilliant summer surprise.

Spotted Crake, River Otter by Chris Townend, August 2018
Spotted Crake, River Otter by Chris Townend, August 2018
SEPTEMBER:
River Otter 
Barn Owls have always been one of my favourite birds since seeing my first one in Norfolk when I was just 14 years old. To see a bird  hunting in full daylight on the patch was a real treat. I have no doubt Cattle Egrets will become far more regular in future years, but finding birds on the local patch is still a pleasure!

East Devon Commons
Pallid Harrier on the East Devon Commons was a bird I was not expecting! All very much thanks to Matt Knott - A great find by Matt and a great bird. See Matt's write up and great photo HERE

Barn Owl, River Otter by Chris Townend, September 2018
Cattle Egrets on the River Otter by Chris Townend, September 2018

Barn Owl, River Otter by Chris Townend, September 2018

OCTOBER:
West Penwith, Cornwall
A Grey Catbird in Cornwall during mid October was too much to resist after having dipped a bird on Anglesey back in 2001.

Isles of Scilly
The Isles of Scilly is simply my favourite place in the world. A beautiful mix of islands with many great memories of friends, family and birding.
Grey Catbird, Land's End Cornwall by Chris Townend, October 2018
Grey Catbird, Land's End Cornwall by Chris Townend, October 2018
Grey Catbird, Land's End Cornwall by Chris Townend, October 2018
Sunset over Samson, Isles of Scilly, October 2018
Great Egret, St Martin's by Chris Townend, October 2018
Beautiful St Martin's looking towards Tresco, October 2018
Grey-cheeked Thrush, St Mary's by Chris Townend, October 2018
NOVEMBER: Ghana
My sixth visit to this lovely country and it was as good as always. My personal highlights were finally seeing Brown Nightjar, Red-fronted Antpecker and a Common Potto. 
Brown Nightjar, Bobiri Forest by Chris Townend, November 2018
Rosy Bee-Eaters near Kakum Forest by Chris Townend, November 2018
Egyptian Plover, White Volta River by Chris Townend, November 2018
Common Potto, Kakum Forest by Chris Townend, November 2018
Yellow-headed Picathartes, Bonkro by Chris Townend, November 2018
DECEMBER: East Devon Commons
During the winter months Helen and I spend many hours on the East Devon Commons looking for raptors, particularly Hen Harriers. This winter has been good so far with a juvenile ringtail Hen Harrier hunting the Commons often late in the afternoon.
Ringtail Hen Harrier, Woodbury Common by Chris Townend, December 2018