Sunday, 25 May 2014

Some Birds from Catalonia

We're just back from our 2 weeks family holiday in the Costa Brava.
Not primarily a birding trip but whenever I got the opportunity I would get out and explore the surrounding area. This would normally be in the couple of hours before breakfast before everyone else got up.
 Our base was the Hotel San Eloy a couple of kilometres outside of the very picturesque and delightful town of Tossa de Mar. The Hotel was situated right on the edge of a vast Pine Forest that spread over some very hilly areas, a stream that went right alongside created some wonderful habitat and the range of birds seen was really impressive.
 Before I even got out of bed I could hear Nightingale, Hoopoe, Cettis Warbler and Golden Orioles.
White Wagtails and Black Redstarts were breeding on the complex.


White Wagtail

Black Redstart
Every time I went out it seemed I would find something else; Serins, Firecrests, Melodious Warblers, Short-toed Treecreepers, Pied Flycatchers, Wood Warblers, Bonellis Warblers, Tree Sparrows Red-rumped Swallows, Crested Tits, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Woodchat Shrike, Subalpine Warbler Whinchat, Cirl Bunting and Hawfinch along with commoner species.                                                                            
Melodious Warbler

Golden Oriole

Birds of Prey seen were Short-toed Eagle ,Booted Eagle, Goshawk and Buzzard.
The castle on the cliffs or Vila Vella in Tossa was a good place to do a bit of seawatching with both Balearic and Levantine Shearwaters in reasonable numbers as well as on or two Shags a Gannet and large numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls. One morning I witnessed the marvellous sight of a straight line of 18 Greater Flamingos migrating Northwards just off the coast.
The Vila Vella itself held a good population of breeding Swifts with the odd Pallid Swift thrown in and a Blue Rock Thrush sang from the castle walls.
Yellow-legged Gull
On my one day devoted entirely to birding I hired a car and travelled the hundred or so kilometres North up the coast to the nature reserve  known as AIGUAMOLLS DE L'EMPORDA near Figueras.
This really was a fantastic place especially for water birds. White Storks were re-introduced here in 1987 and are doing fantastically well with nesting birds all over the place.
Glossy Ibis's, Black-winged Stilts and Squacco Herons were everywhere. Hirundines swarmed around and a man-made earth bank was home to at least a dozen Bee-eaters. A couple of Rollers were seen in the open fields along with Corn Buntings, Crested, Short-toed and Skylarks, lots of Wheatears, a couple of Stone Curlews,  Stonechats and Whinchat. The reedbeds contained Great Reed and Reed Warblers, Fan-tailed Warbler, Nightingales and Cettis Warblers 
A couple of Red-footed Falcon hawked over the reserve and other birds of prey included Marsh Harrier, Peregrine, Buzzard and Kestrel.
I could have spent much longer at this place as there is so much to see - if it hadn't been so windy I'm sure I would have seen even more- but I had to get back in time for our evening meal.
White Stork

Black-winged Stilt

Glossy Ibis

Squacco Heron

Little Egret

Bee Eater

White Stork on it's nest
On another of our days out we visited Barcelona and a bird I wanted to see was Monk Parakeet. Like our own Ring-necked Parakeet it is a former escapee that has done incredibly well in the wild. I did fear that they would be difficult to find but they were everywhere with even a nest colony in the park opposite the Unfinished Church.
Monk Parakeet
Another common bird in this huge city were Alpine Swifts that massed over the main square just before dusk.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Pale Beauties

I was back up at Attenborough at the weekend.
One species that can almost be relied on up there is Red-crested pochard. There were eight birds present on Sunday

Something I've noticed about this species is that it seems to be prone to leucism as I've seen several examples of this.

 This female was on the Tween Pond.

 A more usual female was on the Coneries Pond
 This pale male bird was keeping company with the lighter female
 while this normal male was near the Visitor Centre.

The leucistic pair.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Pitsford Redneck

Honestly, I have been birding close to home but as usual it seems all the best birds seem to be on someone else's patch.
 I did find my first Wheatear of the year at Ravenstone on Friday but a Red-necked Grebe at Pitsford Reservoir lured me out of the county again.

 The bird was showing very close to the dam so allowing as close a view as you're ever likely to get of this species.

Red-necked Grebe
 As the wall of the dam obscures all but your head even Goldeneye seem unperturbed by your presence.
drake Goldeneye


Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Summerleys Specials

Summerleys Reserve in Northants seems to have some good birds lately and as I hadn't been for a while I thought I should pay a visit.
Currently Northants is home to no less than 5 Great White Egrets (only 5 more than Bucks), 2 of which were at Summerleys and showing very well. At one point having a bit of a scrap with each other.

Great White Egret
On Mary's Lake the female Long-tailed Duck was found eventually but the male Bearded Tit that showed well the day before was keeping it's head down in the chilly wind.

 The feeding station at Summerleys is very impressive and until recently was somewhere you could guarantee seeing Tree Sparrows as the reserve held a very healthy population.
 But now they seem to have totally disappeared.
The bird tables though are still very popular with a colourful array of Finches, Tits and other species, including a good number of Reed Buntings
male Reed Bunting

male Greenfinch

male Bullfinch

female Bullfinch

male Bullfinch with male Chaffinch

Friday, 7 March 2014

Just over the border....Again

This time just 400 yards out of Buckinghamshire - who says the Bucks Force Field doesn't exist.

 Having heard that the Dartford Warbler that turned up in neighbouring Bedfordshire last November was still around I thought I'd take a look to see if I could find it this lunchtime.
 It was a glorious spring day with temperature of about 15 degrees and several Butterflies were on the wing, mainly Brimstones but also a Peacock and a Small Tortoiseshell were seen.
 I won't name the site as when I found the bird he was singing as if on territory. If he should find a mate this is perfect habitat with plenty of Gorse scrub on the heathland.
 He really was cracking bird singing almost continuously and showing down to as close as 6 feet at times, although as is typical with this species constantly on the move and very difficult to photograph.

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Last one standing

Willow Tit is a rapidly declining species in this country and as far as we know only one individual remains in Buckinghamshire.
 Will.O.Tit has been residing at the Linford Reserve for at least the past 3 years so surely is now into old age. If he or she doesn't find a mate this year that must be it for another county bird.
 I managed to pop along the other day and had very good close views as he visited the bird feeders every minute or so along with a Marsh Tit for comparison.


Friday, 28 February 2014

Group trip to Attenborough

Maybe it was me extolling the virtues of Attenborough Nature Reserve that persuaded the RSPB group to take a trip up there last Sunday.
 We had a pretty good day, although not encountering anything too unusual it was good to see species that you wouldn't get that close to nearer home.
 Unfortunately water levels were high so there was no sign of the recent Bitterns or any waders but several Tree Sparrows put on a show at the feeders behind the visitor centre.
 This an excellent winter site for Goosanders and probably around thirty were spread around the lakes.
 The area around the centre as usual gave some good opportunities for photos of the commoner species that are attracted to the grain that is on offer

drake Red-crested Pochard

female Red-crested Pochard

drake Gadwall

Tufted Duck

Egyptian Goose

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Emberton Wildfowl

I've been visiting Emberton Park quite a bit lately.
It's one of the best places locally for wintering Goosanders, with as many as 20 recently.

Today there was just one male, I think the mild weather has encouraged them to head back north earlier than usual
Emberton has the usual array of common water birds with Mallard, Tufted Ducks, Pochard, Gadwall, Teal and Wigeon being there regularly.
Just occasionally something slightly more unusual turns up, like this drake Red-crested Pochard did this morning .

A couple of weeks back this female Mandarin  turned up on the main lake.

Today she had been joined by a male

This pair of scrapping Mallard were yet another sign that spring is approaching.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Someone thinks it's spring

A wander around Willen today
It had actually stopped raining, the wind had dropped and the sun had even come out.
 There was a feel of spring in the air and some of the birds clearly thought so. Song Thrushes were in full song and a couple of Cettis Warblers were letting everyone know they were there.
A Chiffchaff was most likely an overwintering bird rather than an early migrant.

 A more telling sign was this pair of displaying Great-crested Grebes.


Saturday, 8 February 2014

Garden Invasion

There's not been a lot of activity on the garden feeders this winter, presumably due to the mild weather.
 I have noticed this gang of Long-tailed Tits paying regular visits in the last week though. I counted a 15 although there could have been more. They were so eager to feed  that could care less about me.
Shame the sun wasn't out.