Sunday 30 September 2012

News from home, well, my old home anyway!

Our old friend Frank van der Kallen has been out and about on our old stamping grounds on the coast in Brazil. He visited one of our favourite venues, Paraty. Paraty always made a pleasant change from claustrophobic forest birding; horizon to horizon skies and it was especially attractive as it involved shorebirds!

It was shorebirds that featured strongly in Frank's news, with three species involved, Pectoral Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs.
Pectoral Sandpiper: Frank van der Kallen

White-rumped Sandpiper: Frank van der Kallen

Lesser Yellowlegs: Frank van der Kallen
He also saw a group of Black Skimmers which were a tick for him, and photographed these two Little Blue Herons, the adult contrasting with the white juvenile.

Black Skimmer: Frank van der Kallen

Little Blue Heron, adult left juvenile right: Frank van der Kallen
 Thanks to Frank for bringing back some good memories of our time in Brazil.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

Some African birds.

As we are unable to get out and about at the moment, despite all the exciting bird news, we thought we'd share some of the bird photos we took back in 2005 in Kenya, this was before Elis had her super-duper Canon with a long lens.

Common Ostrich, a female in the Maasai Mara park

Hooded Vulture, seen along the highway

Grey Crowned Crane also in the Maasai Mara

Hadada Ibis, generally common wherever we went
White-browed Coucal, we snapped this while the rest were
photographing lions behind us.

Red-rumped Swallow at one of the hotels

Little Bee-eater on some dead acacia

Lappet-faced and Ruppell's Griffon Vultures around a lion

Cape Robin-Chat, this bird was very tame allowing close

Pied Kingfisher seen wherever there was water

Marabou Stork, also very common, even in town

Great White Pelicans with Grey Heron and Yellow-billed
Ducks at Lake Naivasha

Pink-backed Pelican also at Naivasha, but far less common

Helmeted Guineafowl seen in groups quite often

Kori Bustard, the only one we saw, what a bird!

Lesser Flamingoes, a classic image taken at Lake Nukuru
Blacksmith Lapwing, not many waders seen other than this

Tuesday 18 September 2012

The great British Badger bashing contest.

Today it starts. The unnecessary and disgusting pilot badger cull is under way.

It seems incredible to me that, time after time, scientific research indicates that there is no benefit to the cull and that it could even exacerbate the situation and yet this is ignored by our self-serving politicians (of all parties!). They will continue doing surveys until someone finally does some research to support their prejudices and spineless lust for votes.

I ask you this: Who gave the Bovine TB to the badgers in the first place? Why have the farmers not been charged with introducing an alien disease into a healthy, natural, wild animal population, and an animal that is supposedly protected by the law at that?

Talking of the law, how absurd that a police spokesman included in his blurb that the protesters, that will certainly be out in force, could be charged with 'disturbing badgers' among many other trumped up charges!

It makes you want to rush out and buy the cheapest milk you can doesn't it? Farmers continue to bleat about their hard times, yet they are prepared to stump up thousands to kill things unnecessarily. Place that money in research or a vaccination programme. If the government are so concerned about the farmers they should compensate them properly, not placate them by legalising their blood lust.

Custodians of the countryside? Don't make me laugh! These people will not be happy until every living thing that does not turn a profit in the countryside is eradicated! Buzzards, harriers, sparrowhawks, crows, badgers, foxes, hedgerows, wild flowers, the list goes on. Miserable, money-grabbing, murdering, ... well, you know the rest.

Farmers want our sympathy, this is NOT the way to go about getting it.

Leave our badgers alone!

Monday 17 September 2012

Garden tick

For ages I have been banging on about the lack of Greenfinches at the feeders, i.e. none! They have been seen in the fields behind the estate and are generally not uncommon (although significantly less common than in the past).
Greenfinch photographed Bury Field.
So I was delighted this morning to finally get one on the feeder, a garden tick. Elis rushed to get her camera, and as with the recent Coal Tit (which was never seen again by the way) the photo through the glass double-glazing was naff, so she tried to creep stealthily out of the back door to get a clearer shot.
Naff through-the-double-glazing record shot.
The Greenfinch was having none of it and flew up into the rowan tree where Elis caught this shot of it just before it flew off.
Our first Greenfinch.

Saturday 15 September 2012

RSPB North Bucks: Talk by David Lindo

Elis and I together with my mother went to David Lindo's well attended talk about being The Urban Birder held by the North Bucks RSPB group at the Milton Keynes Discovery Centre. In the talk David reveals how he came to be interested in birds and those in an urban environment in particular. He also touched on some of the interesting places he had been lucky enough to visit in the course of his Urban Birding crusade.

One of the most stunning pictures he showed was of a tree festooned with Long-eared Owls in Serbia, I think there were more LEOs in that tree than I have ever seen in my entire life.

David holding court
The audience seemed to appreciate David's light touch and sense of humour and everyone appeared to go home having been well entertained. If you haven't seen David's talk, make a point of it, you'll enjoy it, my Mum stayed awake for the whole thing, which is more than she usually does for her favourite television programmes! (Sorry Mum!)
Packed auditorium for David's talk. That's me in the second row with my Mum
in the pink jumper.

Thursday 13 September 2012

Be careful what you wish for...

Titchwell again! We love that place and this time we twitched the Baird's Sandpiper.
Baird's Sandpiper
 This is only the second Baird's I have seen and a lifer for Elis, so despite not getting feather perfect photos it was still a very successful and enjoyable day with the bird performing very well and giving cracking scope views.

Baird's Sandpiper

Sadly it didn't come very close in the four hours we were there causing Elis to wish that a raptor would fly over and cause the bird to come closer to enable her to get better shots.
Baird's Sandpiper
We had missed lunch so dared to leave the hide for a dash back to the visitor centre where we availed ourselves of the delicious home made scones. Upon returning to the freshwater marsh, as we approached the hide it seems that Elis got her wish, a Hobby was stirring up all the waders. Elis took the shot below. The dot to the lower right is the hobby, and when we enlarged that portion, although the quality was not good the bird did seems to eating something in its talons.

The Baird's was never seen again... do Hobbies eat shorebirds?
Was this the Baird's being scoffed by a Hobby?

Saturday 8 September 2012

Short-billed Dowitcher, Lodmoor.

The B&B we stayed in was excellent, a place called 'Glenwood' on the Bangor side of Betws-y-Coed, the owners Said and Marie were lovely people and we'll certainly stay there again when we go up that way.
Glenwood: our B&B in Betws-y-Coed, highly recommended.
After the Choughs of yesterday, we planned to do the touristy thing with the 'chuffers' at the Ffestiniog Railway, but news of the Long-billed Dowitcher at Lodmoor transmogrifying into a Short-billed meant we swapped any thoughts of train rides for a 7 hour drive to Dorset. We set off after breakfast on the non-stop drive to Weymouth arriving at 15:00 hours. My legs had all but seized up and the brisk walk to where the bird was not showing didn't revive them much, however after a short wait the bird finally showed itself and I forgot my aching lower limbs as the beast performed rather well, if a little distantly, in front of the aquatic vegetation.
Short-billed Dowitcher
This was a British tick for me, the first and last bird being in Rosehearty, Aberdeenshire 11 - 24 September 1999 moving to Greenabella Marsh area, Cleveland until the end of October. I had phased from UK listing at that time and as I had seen them in the USA and was still not 'into' waders as I am now, I didn't make the journey up to see this long staying bird. There had been a previous record in Ireland in 1985, and there has been three records there since in 2000, 2001 and 2004. In short, a flippin' rare bird and no mistake.
Me and some of the assembled admirers grilling our quarry.
It was joined at one stage by both a Black-tailed Godwit and a Common Snipe which allowed interesting comparisons of size and features.
Short-billed Dowitcher with Common Snipe

Short-billed Dowitcher with Black-tailed Godwit and Common Snipe partially
hidden to the left.
Elis gripped me off once again with a Water Rail which I didn't see.
Water Rail.
On the way out a male Gadwall was asleep among the many Mallards and looked stunning in the late afternoon sun, as did a lovely Northern Lapwing.
Male Gadwall

Northern Lapwing

We then wearily drove back to Newport Pagnell arriving at home around 21:00 hours completing a tiring but very satisfactory day.
The sun setting over the Oxfordshire countryside.

Friday 7 September 2012


After leaving the myriad Oystercatchers to their noisy lives in Bangor we headed across the old Menai Bridge to Anglesey first stopping at the compulsory tourist attraction Llanfairpwllgwygyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. Which I am reliably informed means 'The church of Mary in the hollow of the white hazel near the fierce whirlpool and the church of Tysilio by the red cave', quite a mouthful in either language!
Elis being a tourist
After this we headed out around the coast road to Malltraeth that Charles Tunnicliffe made famous in his Shorelands Summer Diary. Although the birding wasn't that exciting it was good to see the scenes that Tunnicliffe had so ably described and illustrated. (The next day an American Golden Plover was found there! Bah!) From there we headed for South Stack the impressive clifftop RSPB reserve.
The lighthouse at South Stack
The cliffs at South Stack
Elis on the trail of the Red-billed Choughs

The plan here was for Elis to have the opportunity to photograph Red-billed Chough, she made the most of her chance.

Red-billed Chough

Up close and personal

These are truly lovely birds when seen in detail
These birds are not just good looking, their aerial antics are fun to watch as well

In addition we saw a Northern Wheatear, a family of Stonechats and a group of fly-by Ravens 'quarking' away to themselves.
Northern Wheatear



Leaving Anglesey we headed along the north coast of Gwynedd and stopped at Llanfairfechan. Here Elis gripped me off with a Grey Wagtail, the back end of which I only saw fleetingly as it whizzed off never to be seen again as I emerged form the local conveniences. A short walk along the sea wall didn't produce much except another wagtail species, this time the more mundane Pied Wagtail.

Pied Wagtail

We headed for a reserve along the coast road back towards Bangor at a place called Abergwyngregyn. It was a pleasant walk, but as the tide was out again by now we didn't get very close to any of the waders out on the flats although there was an impressive flock of some 1000 Eurasian Curlews loafing on the mud.
Marshes at Abergwyngregyn

Loafing Eurasian Curlews
The tamerisks and surrounding trees were alive with birds in one sunny corner, with Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tits, Goldcrest, Willow Warbler, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Treecreeper being in the mixed flock.

Coal Tit

Willow Warbler
Common Greenfinch
Common Treecreeper

We came across a small group of Ringed Plovers with two Dunlin. Although they were closer than the other waders they kept their distance. Elis noticed that some of the birds had coloured flags on their legs, but we were unable to read them at the time and the birds kept far enough away to make the photos little use except for discerning the colours. After closer inspection in the computer however some details were visible. More on that on the WaderQuest page.

Common Ringed Plovers and Dunlin

Flagged and ringed adult Common Ringed Plover

Not all the plovers were flagged and ringed

Juvenile flagged and ringed Common Ringed plover

Leaving there we headed back to the A5 to spend the night in Betws-y-Coed.