Saturday, 24 June 2017

In the county......

24 June - A successful foray late morning in the county - 5 Stone Curlews seen, and, best of all, a female Montagu's Harrier watched hunting the fields. Also Whinchat, Corn Buntings and Meadow Pipits, and a Curlew calling.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Greenham Common.........

21 June - the midsummer solstice, and a trip to the heathland at Greenham with Richard Williams and Matt Pringle. Not dark til after 10 on the longest evening of the year, but the Nightjars churring from 2149h, at least 2 males, close by at times and a brief flight view. A fantastic summer sound. Also a roding Woodcock heard, and seen briefly, and a juvenile Tawny Owl by the car park. As it turned out, the last day of the June heatwave, 32 deg C!

Friday, 16 June 2017

Red-letter day at Blakehill

16 June - A busy day....... Robin Griffiths found the first Red-backed Shrike for Blakehill, a male, at lunchtime, and it stayed for the rest of the day, giving excellent views in the afternoon sun and some ops for photos - an excellent birding day following the Sussex Tern!

Elegant Tern!

16 June - on my return to the UK, a morning visit to Church Norton, and after several hours wait some flight views of the male Elegant Tern currently residing in the Tern colony in Pagham harbour. A New British bird for me and "elegant" at that as all Terns are - also Little, Sandwich and Common Terns seen, as well as a family of Peregrines on the shingle. Good numbers of nesting Med Gulls also seen on the island.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Northern Spain

8-15 June - An excellent 3 centre tour through very scenic Northern Spain, full of scenery, historic towns and villages, and lots of wildlife. Picos de Europa is west of the Pyrenees and extremely scenic, heavily forested but with dramatic crags and peaks - and an extremely scary cable car at Fuente De which I could not face going on. Griffon and Egyptian Vultures, Short-toed Eagle and Black Kites were obvious, and mountain species such as Firecrest, Black Redstart, Crag Martin and Alpine Chough. Stunning mountain villages and the very attractive town of Potes was the local base. Our intermediate stop was LaGuardia in Alava province - conveniently, with local Rioja vineyards, beautiful rolling valleys, many singing Nightingales - and the lakes, reed-fringed and excellent for warblers including Great Reed, Bearded Tits, and a few smart Purple Herons. The walled town here was fascinating and characterful. A further drive on very quiet and good roads ( a novel experience) took us to the Spanish side of the Pyrenees, stunning, with forest, crags and snow-flecked tops despite the exceptional temperatures during our visit. The bird life is very impressive - Vultures, Eagles, Swifts including Alpine, Crag Martins, high altitude species including Wheatear and Water Pipits - plus, after much looking and with the help of Ricardo Perez, superb views and some photo opportunities for Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush, my most-wanted species on this trip - memorable views of the male perched up in the early morning sun. Altogether a most enjoyable few days, I'd like to go back there again.......

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

The Little Bittern at Shorncote........

6 June - I was amazed three days ago to see an excellent photo of a female Little Bittern on Twitter.taken at Shorncote! Panic. A mega on my patch, and I hadn't seen it.......furthermore, a very skulking species. Over the weekend, the reports from others were that it hadn't been seen, despite a presence in the hide all day from 5am. However, early the next morning, the bird was seen briefly in flight, and I headed down in the afternoon prepared for a long vigil. The weather was showery, with a period of heavy rain for half an hour or so. The sun then came out....... and Matt Pringle suddenly said "it's sitting in the reeds!" Cue panic. No need, as the bird then sat, drying off and giving good views, for a full 15 minutes. Unbelievable and there was a hide full of happy people. Unfortunately I only had the 400mm lens with me, but I got a reasonable record shot. The first Little Bittern in Glos since 1964 ! A first for CWP. A real purple patch at Shorncote, with a Bittern seen several times in flight, and subsequently heard booming, just shows what is found when a site is well-watched. Thanks to John Fletcher for the find !

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Ham Wall - amazing place

1 June - A fine, calm sunny morning, and at last a window for a trip to Ham Wall, one of the best RSPB reserves in the UK. A large reedbed with an amazing array of wildlife. Altogether I saw 8 Bitterns, including 3 in the air together - in addition to hearing several booming. This is the only site for breeding Great White Egrets in the UK - apparently at least 16 pairs nesting this year, and birds seemingly all over the place, both fishing and in the air. 3 Little Egrets, 2 Cattle Egrets and several Grey Herons also seen - plus, after 2 vigils totalling several hours, the male Little Bittern at the eastern end - calling on and off, and seen in flight over the reeds. Marsh Harriers were also much in evidence, with 2 nesting pairs - other birds seen included Hobby, Barn Owl and Glossy ibis (on Meare Heath pool) with Bearded Tits heard, in addition to all the usual reedbed species. Several male Cuckoos calling also a female heard. An amazing place especially at the peak of spring.