Wise Birding Holidays

Monday, 12 June 2017

Beaver Slide!

Some great views of the female pink tagged Beaver on the River Otter last night. Particularly entertaining when she decided to slide down the weir! Enjoy!
The Beaver Slide!

Beavers forage on herbaceous plants during the summer - This includes the non-native Himalayan Balsam

She looks like she may be weaning kits - Fingers crossed!

Friday, 9 June 2017

FINLAND - Wolverines, Bears and Great Grey Owls

I have just returned from a Wise Birding Holidays short break to Finland. This 3 night short break was focused on trying to see Wolverine with a good chance of European Brown Bear and of course a few birds! For the second year running we were successful with no less than 9 Wolverines, 2 Bears and a lone Wolf! Add to this a pair of Great Grey Owls feeding 3 chicks, Capercaillie, Black-throated Diver, Greenish Warbler and Red-breasted Flycatcher and it makes for a great short break. Next year I hope to include a trip to see Saimaa Ringed Seal also. If interested please contact me through the website.
European Brown Bear - an amazing animal to see up close!

Wolverines are part of the mustelid family

European Brown Bear - This animal was seen on two separate days

Wolverines are carnivores and males are around 30% larger than females

Great Grey Owl is always a "must see" species when birding in Finland. We saw two adults feeding 3 chicks

Red-Breasted Flycatcher in Patvinsuo NP

One of the hides for viewing the Wolverines

Monday, 5 June 2017

Lundy May 2017

I recently spent the week Sat 27th May - Sat 3rd June volunteering for the RSPB as part of their ongoing monitoring of the Manx Shearwater colony on Lundy. The island was officially declared rat-free in 2006 and the population has increased over tenfold since that time from approximately 300 pairs to almost 3,500 pairs in 2013. This was the first survey since 2013 and the results will be out soon! We were a team of 11 staff & volunteers carrying out burrow checks all over the island. A very enjoyable week!
Below are some of the highlights:

South Light and Rat Island

Manx Shearwater

Recently excavated Manx Shearwater burrow

Red-rumped Swallow - I first found this bird in Millcombe Valley on 27th May and later learned it was seen up the east coast a couple
of hours before me by one birder. It was then seen early the next morning and then not seen again for 6 days when I took this photo

Adult Rose-coloured Starling, Millcombe Valley. A cracking bird found by our accommodation on 1st June by Tony Taylor

Rook - an uncommon Spring visitor to Lundy

Rook - I first found the bird on a very misty day in with the local Carrion Crows!

Black Redstart - A singing male woke me up whilst camping on the morning of 28th May

East Coast of Lundy looking north

The Old Light

North end of Lundy looking south

Some of "Team Shearwater"

Some more of "Team Shearwater"

White Wagtail

Common Whitethroat

Young male Soay Sheep

Sika Deer

Male Siskin, Millcombe Valley


Peregrine Falcon 

Puffin from the Oldenburg

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Northern Fulmar

Common Dolphin from the Oldenburg

Sat 27th May Red-rumped Swallow - 1 Sand Martin - 1 House Martin - 3 Swift - 3 Barn Swallow Spotted Flycatcher - 1 Reed Warbler - singing in Millcombe Water Rail - calling at night 
Sun 28th May White Wagtail - 1 Black Redstart - 1 singing male 
Mon 29th May Grey Wagtail - 1 Reed Warbler - Millcombe House Martin - 1 Siskin - 1 male Millcombe Spotted Flycatcher - 1 Millcombe Rook - 1 just south of Quarter Wall 
Tues 30th May Rook - 1 still House Martin - 7+ Linnet - 35+ Hobby - 1 in off sea at north end 
Weds 31st May House Martin - 4 
Thurs 1st June Rose-coloured Starling - 1 adult behind the Barn 
Fri 2nd June House Martin - 2 
Sat 3rd June Red-rumped Swallow - 1below Castle Hill 11.10hrs and again Quarter Wall Copse at 13.10hrs House Martin - 2 Kestrel - female Common Whitethroat - 1 singing N of Heligoland trap on East Spotted Flycatcher - 2

Monday, 15 May 2017

More of the same

Not a great deal of excitement on the patch over the weekend. The best bird was a singing Yellowhammer on the golf course, the first I have seen here and not a common bird on the patch. Most frustrating bird of the weekend was a probable Pom Skua disappearing into the murk on Saturday evening, but the visibility was too poor to clinch it!
Lesser Black-backed Gull, Budleigh Beach

Juvenile Pied Wagtails,  Budleigh Beach

Dunnock, Jubilee Green

Friday, 12 May 2017

Missing the Pom Party

The last few days have been pretty uneventful on the patch after short visits first and last thing. The Lesser Whitethroat is still holding territory just N of White Bridge, good numbers of Shelduck on the estuary with around 20+ birds and the scrapes are still holding a fair amount of water which is very unusual for mid May, despite nothing of excitement using them yet!

Today I spent a "casual" hour in the morning and an hour this evening hoping for a Pomarine Skua which everyone around me seems to be enjoying! Axe Birder had a great count of 9 birds off Seaton this morning and they were later seen by Not Quite Scilly in Dorset, who incidentally is on a Pom Purple Patch at the moment! The best I could muster were a s/p Great Northern Diver sat on the sea, 17 Common Scoter west, 19 Whimbrel west and 2 Sanderling on the beach (not so common here).

Frustratingly, this evening a "Skua" probably Arctic was harassing what were presumably kittiwakes way, way out to the south this evening but it was just too far to id! Maybe tomorrow.....

Female Stonechat earlier in the week on the East Devon Heaths

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Yarner Wood NNR

This weekend we had great friends Dot and Marc to stay, so yesterday we ventured out to explore the excellent Yarner Wood National Nature Reserve and adjacent heathland. Great to see and hear so many Pied Flycatchers and Common Redstarts around plus a few Wood Warbler too. The Mandarin Ducks posed by the car park as usual and the heathland was alive with the song of Yellowhammer and Tree Pipit amongst others. All rounded off with a fine meal at the excellent Tin Pickle and Rhum!

Male Yellowhammer, Haytor Down

Drake Mandarin Ducks at Yarner Wood

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Back on patch!

This year, much of my time has been spent overseas leading tours for my company Wise Birding Holidays and other companies with tours to GHANA, MINNESOTA, MOROCCO, SPAIN and WESTERN SAHARA. I hope to add photo highlights of these trips soon.

As a result, my local patch birding has suffered!
Now I am back for a few months and hope to spend more time on patch. This afternoon, a wander round the Otter produced a singing Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Common Swift and small flocks of House Martin and Sand Martin plus 3 Whimbrel. Looking forward to some more local birding!
Lesser Whitethroat - singing north of White Bridge

Friday, 31 March 2017

Mr Kipling

My good friend Nigel Wheatley sent this to me after a recent visit to Paradise Park with his family. Nigel knows of my liking for cakes and thought this was somewhat appropriate - It made me chuckle!

Thursday, 19 January 2017


A look off Chiselbury Bay this afternoon was well rewarded with 7 Eider close in-shore. Eider numbers have declined alarmingly in recent years in Devon with just a single bird recorded in the whole of 2015! The last bird I saw in Budleigh was an eclipse drake off the West Cliffs from 4 - 8th August 2014. Also present this afternoon were at least 200+ Common Scoter, a few Guillemot and 2 RT Divers.

7 Eiders off Chiselbury Bay taken through my Scope with my iPhone

Sunday, 1 January 2017

2016 Personal Highlights

As it is the start of a New Year, I thought I would have a go at summarising some of my personal wildlife highlights of 2016 whilst living in Devon and guiding overseas with my company Wise Birding Holidays.

My first visit to this American state and despite -28 degrees C there was still life! A very brief Canadian Lynx was frustrating to say the least, but Wolves in their winter coats and Pine Grosbeaks, Ivory Gull and Snowy Owl in the snow were just some of the highlights.
Back home, a Brambling in the garden was a definite highlight and all important garden tick, taking the list to 71 species!
1st Winter Ivory Gull, Duluth 

Male Pine Grosbeak - one of many birds seen at various feeding stations

Wolf - One of two animals seen very well 

American Marten

Brambling in the garden!
I am very lucky to be able to visit this great country most years and though the speciality birds of this part of Africa are impressive, it is often the migrants in the desert that fascinate me the most. You never quite know what is lurking in any bit of habitat.
Egyptian Nightjar - an easy species to see in Morocco with the help of the locals

Western Orphean Warbler and Common Redstart in the Desert

Western Bonelli's Warbler in the Desert

Seebohm's Wheatear in the Desert

During the Spring and Summer months I carried out breeding bird surveys for the RSPB with two other surveyors (including fellow birder, blogger and friend Steve Waite). The surveys covered over 130 KM squares on the eastern side of Dartmoor as part of the Moor than Meets the Eye Project. It was great to discover parts of Dartmoor that I had never visited before and to spend some great early mornings on the Moors.
April and May locally on the patch was also memorable in terms of Otter sightings. A family group of up to 4 animals were seen regularly.
Dartmoor  - Looking towards Warren House Inn

Spotted Flycatcher

Dunlin on Dartmoor
Otter on the River Otter

Otter on the River Otter

Otters on the River Otter

A trip to Finland in early June produced the hoped for Wolverines, a mammal I had always wanted see as well as a bonus Brown Bear. Birds were of course impressive as always with Hawk Owl being the hands down winner for me and a bird I never tire of watching.
Locally, on the River Otter, the highlight of the year was the successful breeding of our local Beaver pair producing an amazing 5 Beaver kits!


European Brown Bear

Male Capercaillie

Northern Hawk Owl

One of the five Beaver Kits with Mother
Brazil's Northern Pantanal is place I have been very lucky to visit on a number of occasions. It is part of one of the world's largest wetlands and simply stacked full of wildlife. For me, it is always the Jaguars that excite me the most. No matter how many times you see them, they always leave you wanting more! 
It was great to see two well grown young cubs this year.
Female Jaguar

Male Jaguar - This male has an injured eye and I saw him back in October 2015 too!

Female Jaguar
Giant Anteater

Two well grown Jaguar Cubs

Seeing my first Cuckoo on the patch was a definite highlight and at the same time a somewhat depressing reminder at how fast this species is declining.
A return visit to Spain and the Cantabrian Mountains in late August was just as exciting 
as my last visit with Wildcats, Wolves & Wallcreepers all seen very well and always amongst fabulous scenery.
Juvenile Cuckoo on the patch
Female European Wildcat

Female European Wildcat 

Pico D'Europa

Male Wallcreeper

In my opinion, California without doubt has some of the most impressive marine life anywhere in the world. Great seabirds, great cetaceans and impressive numbers. 
Clear highlight for me was seeing the planet's largest Beaked Whale, the rare Baird's Beaked Whale. 
Baird's Beaked Whale - a cetacean mega!

Pacific White-sided Dolphin

Black-footed Albatross

El Capitan, Yosemite NP

Despite being overseas for much of my time, I do always like to spend October in the UK as personally I find it is the most exciting time for birding in the UK. This year local birding was tough as the east coast was certainly the place to be! However, a few good local patch finds (Serin being the highlight) plus other local birds like Matt Knott's Tawny Pipit and Mike Langman's brilliant find at Berry Head all helped keep the interest going before I defected to Spurn!
Yellow-browed Warbler on the patch - one of at least two

Ring Ouzel on the patch

Matt's Tawny Pipit at Gore Lane

Mike Langman's great find of a Blyth's Reed Warbler, Berry Head

Siberian Accentor, Spurn 
A great trip to Namibia (including Botswana & Zambia) resulted in over 400 species of bird and 55 species of mammal. Clear highlights for me were Racquet-tailed Roller, Herero Chat & Dwarf Bittern (new species for me) as well as Pel's Fishing Owl that never fails to impress. Mammal highlights were many and included Aardwolf, Brown Hyena & Wild Dog.
Back home,a visit to the East Devon Heaths shortly after returning resulted in finding only my 4th male Hen Harrier on the heaths after many years and cold hours spent watching the area during the winter months.
Aardwolf, Etosha NP

Mel's Fishing Owl, Botswana

Wild Dog, Namibia

African Skimmer, Botswana
Male Hen Harrier, East Devon Heaths

Put simply, two patch ticks on the sea, Long-tailed Duck and Velvet Scoter! Plus the cracking Eastern Black Redstart at Mousehole.
Eastern Black Redstart, Mousehole