Wise Birding Holidays

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Pallid Harriers

Pallid Harriers have always fascinated me, ever since I saw my first on the Isle of Sheppey in August 2002! I have also acquired a fair few photos over the years, so thought I would put them to some good use!

Aside from Kent, I have been lucky enough to see Pallid Harriers in Kenya, Jordan and most regularly on the Greek island of Lesvos. During this time I have always been eager to gain more experience about id and ageing. Lesvos is certainly a place to do that and I must thank KM for always being so approachable in sharing his knowledge of an evening. I am always learning more on every visit and the more you see the more you learn!

Turn back the clock by just 10-15 years and Pallid Harrier was  an extremely rare bird in the UK and certainly anything other than an adult male was considered an id challenge. These days with breeding populations expanding with recent colonists in Finland and birds appearing in Spain more regularly, the species is almost annual in the UK, the most common plumage being juveniles during the Autumn. 

Sightings in Lesvos during April are pretty much annual and seem to mostly relate to 2CY birds. Good views are always the key to a positive identification and more often than not, getting photos are usually essential to confirming all the features, as caution is always needed!


This grainy photo from the archives, shows my very first Pallid Harrier in Kent, August 2002.
A 3CY bird. Pretty much a full adult bar some central brownish central tail feathers moulting into adult.


Same bird as above

Adult or near adult male Pallid Harrier, Finland May, 2014. Strikingly pale with classic strongly contrasting black "wedges" in primaries

Adult or near adult male Pallid Harrier, Finland, May 2014

Adult male Pallid Harrier, Jordan, October 2013



2CY Male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2015

2CY Male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2015. Note the 4 "fingered primaries", (Hen shows 5 and Pallid and Montagu's just 4)
the dark ear covert patch contrasting with pale collar and the grey feathers beginning to come through on the mantle.

2CY Male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2015. Classic underwing pattern showing the pale and "unframed" look to the
underside of the primary edges. The primary tips are "diffusely" dark tipped. The unmarked pale base to the primaries shows
the "pale boomerang." 

Yellow iris confirms sex as male, though grey on upperparts perhaps more helpful in field at distance.

2CY male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2014. Again pale colar contrasting with dark area on ear coverts,
but underwing must be seen for positive id.

Yellow iris confirms sex as male.
2CY male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2014. Same bird as above. Still showing a lot of juvenile ginger coloration below.
Most 2CY birds seem to hold onto the classic juvenile plumage until late in the year. 
Primary barring mostly confined to central primaries. Pale "boomerang" visible.
Pale collar between dark cheek patch and dark "boa"
2CY male Pallid Harrier, Kalloni Salt Pans, April 2013


Similar to bird from 2014 in that it retains juvenile plumage still, despite being mid April.

Yellow iris confirms sex as male. Pale boomerang also apparent on underwing and although the pale collar and dark ear coverts
present, they seem to have been burned out by raising the light levels in the photo. See photo above for more realistic impression.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Dippers on the River Otter

A walk along the River Otter this evening and the Mrs and I stumbled across this juvenile Dipper being fed by the parent bird. Great to see they have been successful.



Saturday, 2 May 2015

Lesvos 2015

Another enjoyable trip guiding for Heatherlea on the Greek island of Lesvos 18th -25th April.


Kalloni Gulf, Lesvos

One of two Great Bitterns - a scarce bird on Lesvos but a good year this year!

Great Bittern - Skala Kalloni Pool

One of many Black-eared Wheatears of the commoner "throated" form

Black-headed Wagtail, Polichnitos

Superciliaris type Yellow Wagtail, Kalloni Salt Pans

Corn Bunting, Kalloni Salt Pans

Cinereous Bunting - a Lesvos speciality

Ortolan Bunting, Perasma

Cretzschmar's Bunting - another Lesvos speciality

Black Stork, Tsiknias River

Male Collared Flycatcher, Faneromeni

Female Garganey and Wood Sandpiper, Tsiknias River

Drake Garganey, Tsiknias River

Male Kruper's Nuthatch, Acladeri Forest

Juvenile Balkan Green Lizard

Masked Shrike - a locally common breeder

Second calendar year male Pallid Harrier - seemingly the most common age encountered here

Male Ruppell's Warbler, Kavaki

Male Ruppell's Warbler in song flight, Kavaki

Eurasian Scops Owl, Kalloni
White Peacock - Mega!
Short-toed Eagle, Kavaki

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

32 Year Blocker finally shows in Somerset

On Saturday I arrived into London Gatwick after having guided a bird tour to Lesvos and I calculated that there was just enough daylight available to make a diversion to Somerset on my way home for a stunning Hudsonian Godwit. Of course, the bird had other ideas and flew off before I made the diversion.

Fast forward to this afternoon and the re-finding of the bird at Shapwick Heath NR needed no further thought and within two hours, I was watching this great wader on a great reserve!






Saturday, 11 April 2015

Hilarious Beavers

The pink tagged female Eurasian Beaver (aka Patricia) showed well this evening. She spent quite a bit of time grooming herself on the river bank too - Check out the hilarious video below!






Thursday, 9 April 2015

More Beavers

Good to see both a male and female Eurasian Beaver are currently frequenting the lower River Otter. These are two of five adults which were tested and then released back into the area.

Very interesting to watch the behaviour of these animals. I have seen/heard a few tail slaps over the last couple of nights in reaction to the local Mute Swans and a dog that got a little too close! Tail slapping is often used by beavers as a signal to other family members that there is potential danger, to frighten a potential predator or to warn a potential predator that they have been seen.

Looking forward to learning more about these great animals over the next few months.


This is the green tagged male - Gordon

This is the pink tagged female - Patricia