Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Long-billed Dowitcher - Slimbridge

Our purpose for going to Slimbridge today was twofold. Firstly to see the Long-billed Dowithcher, and secondly to look at the Spoon-billed Sandpiper exhibit. We arrived early and were surprised to find they don't open the doors until 09:30. So we waited, and Elis set to work photographing whatever she could find.

This Woodpigeon was interesting in that it is a juvenile. Not showing a white neck patch, these juveniles can sometimes be mistaken for Stock Doves.
Juvenile Woodpigeon
Here's an adult for comparison
Adult male Woodpigeon
Here a male is displaying to a rather disinterested female, I know the feeling mate!.

Male displaying to female

There was a small party of Long-tailed Tits in the car park, it is impossible to tire of seeing these little charmers, and here we have photos of a scruffy adult showing the ravages of a successful breeding season and a young bird with its brown mask.
Adult Long-tailed Tit

Juvenile Long-tailed Tit
Jackdaws are often overlooked, but they are handsome birds and well worth a look I reckon. The juvenile Blackbird shows that at least one pair had some success despite this rotten summer.
Eurasian Jackdaw

Juvenile Blackbird
This Lesser Black-backed Gull was loafing in one of the duck pens, presumably on the look out for chicks and eggs.
Lesser Black-backed Gull
So when we got into the centre we headed for the south hide where the dowitcher has been seen most days. On arrival we were confronted by a tight pack of Black-tailed Godwits, in which, we were told, the dowitcher was hiding.
Black-tailed Godwit flock
Two hours later I saw a dark cap and bill poking out from behind a godwit, it was our bird. It showed reasonably well and then went back to sleep behind three more godwits. It did eventually show itself well, good scope views, but too far away for anything other than record shots sadly.
Long-billed Dowitcher to the left of the Black-headed Gull. The others are
Redshanks
There was also a Ruff hiding among the godwits.
Ruff, centre right of picture facing right. The dowitcher's bill can just be seen
poking out to the right from behind the Redshank right of the Ruff. That's a
lot of rights, I hope I got it right!
During our wait Elis entertained herself with some of the local birds, namely this Common Moorhen...
Adult Common Moorhen

Juvenile Common Moorhen
 and she got this super portrait of a Common Sandpiper.

Common Sandpiper

We were disappointed to find there was not much information about the 'Spoonies' but we were shown a short video about the collection of the eggs. I'd have thought they would have made more of the project, there was no memorabilia for sale to raise funds, most surprising.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

New site added to links

I have just added the following link to the list in the right hand column of this page; UAE Birding.

This fantastic site has it all and is very user friendly. The UAE is a destination that many may not have thought of in terms of birding, but even a quick look through this site will change all that. Anything that you could possibly wish to know about the birds (and more) of the UAE is to be found there. It has pages for details of sites, a forum for discussion, details of guides, lists, a gallery of amazing photographs and much more.

From my point of view, the thought of seeing Crab Plover and White-tailed Plover is a mouthwatering prospect, but there are many other goodies to be found there for those not so bothered about waders.

Tommy Pedersen's likeable personality shines through in every paragraph on every page, both knowledgeable and humorous at the same time. Gathering information is rarely this much fun.


Tommy is an accomplished wildlife photographer, he took this incredible shot
of a Horned Sungem when he was with us in Minas Gerais, Brazil
₢ Tommy Pedersen.


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

New link: IOC world bird list.


I have just added the IOC world bird list to my links. That isn't to say that I have had a pang of conscience and decided to follow it to the letter as some more disciplined than I choose to do. I will still adopt my own cavalier and arbitrary splits based on what I believe to be reasonable (or if it gives me a tick to be honest!). Example: American Herring Gull, split by the IOC in 2005 and by me in 1992 (when I first saw one) anticipating the later 'official' split.

American Herring Gull: Connecticut, USA.
Seriously though, I can't say I get very excited about some of the more scientifically produced splits based solely on DNA or mtDNA, but I can get excited about birds that look and sound obviously different. I suppose you could say my list is not so much a species list, but a list of the different bird forms I have seen.

São Paulo Antwren: Is it a species or subspecies? ₢ Elis Simpson

I noticed in the IOC list that buttonquails are included with the waders and their allies, I don't think I'll be adopting that stance for the Wader Quest, even though I have seen a couple of species; for me that is a step too far. I will stick to the Peters' family groups and include everything from Jacanas to Seedsnipes.
Hudsonian Godwit: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. ₢ Elis Simpson

I do split the Black-winged Stilt complex and I also differentiate between Eurasian and Hudsonian Whimbrels for example. Remember I am not a scientist, but an enthusiastic birder and lover of all things avian.

White-backed Stilt: Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Waders hold a special place in my estimation, these tiny creatures often virtually circumnavigate the world in their travels. As their world is increasingly squeezed from all sides, the sight of a flock of Dunlin on a mudflat or beach serves to remind us of these little fighter's battle against overwhelming odds. They deserve our admiration and help.

Waders coming to rest on a Connecticut beach.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

REGUA - Guapi Assu Bird Lodge, Brazil.

Today I have added a new link, again long overdue. Guapi Assu Bird Lodge, or Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu in the state of Rio de Janeiro, better known as REGUA (see links section in right hand margin), is a fantastic place to stay and get to know the birds of south-east Brazil. Not only is it a great birding destination it is also one of the foremost conservation projects in that part of the world, designed to protect and regrow the highly threatened Atlantic Forest habitat.
Magnificent scenery over the wetlands at REGUA ₢ Elis Simpson
Chestnut-backed Antshrike photographed at REGUA ₢ Elis Simpson
Elis and I spent a few days there in 2011, it is quite a place. From my Wader Quest point of view it didn't go too well, I only heard the Giant Snipes that inhabit the marshy area, but Elis actually saw one, very high up, in flight. On the return journey to the lodge we came across this Tawny-browed Owl in the trees above the track.
Tawny-browed Owl ₢ Elis Simpson
The feeders attracted impressive numbers of Maroon-bellied Parkeets...
Maroon-bellied Parakeets at the feeders ₢ Elis Simpson
... here is a short video of them from our youtube collection of short clips;

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4d0CRLm8s3U&feature=context-cha

I saw my first and only Southern Antpipit there, its enchanting song filling the forest gloom. We were also surprised and delighted to come across one of the re-introduced Black-fronted Piping Guans. The site has also been selected as a release site for Red-billed Curassows. Both species are still sadly hunted and so we hope these populations will fare better than the unprotected ones.
Southern Antpipit ₢ Arthur Macarrão

Black-fronted Piping-Guan ₢ Elis Simpson
In addition to being a great place to visit and an excellent conservation project, the folk that run it are lovely people and we feel privileged to count Nicholas and Raquel among our friends.
Never a dull moment in Nick and Raquel's company, (apologies for the
rather unfortunate position of the flower in front of Raquel's face).
Lee Dingain and Rachel Walls are volunteers at the lodge spending many weeks there every year and last year R.S.B.S. had the pleasure of sharing a stand with them when they represented REGUA at the British Birwatching Fair; they too have become good friends as a result. Lee was responsible for creating the excellent REGUA checklist and often writes about and has news about REGUA on his interesting and informative blog (see blogs list in right hand margin). REGUA will have their own stand at the BBF this year, go along and see the magnificent work that is being carried out by them.
Me, Elis, Rachel, Alan Martin and Lee on the RSBS/REGUA stand 2011
c Elis Simpson
Alan Martin pictured with us here was one of the authors of A Guide to the Hawkmoths of the Serra dos Orgãos, South-eastern Brazil and is a council member of the World Land Trust, which supports REGUA.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Worldwaders.org

I have just added a fantastic site to my links, one that I should have added ages ago, but it somehow slipped my mind. With my enthusiasm for waders this is an interesting site, and what I like best about it is it makes us all scientists in a small way, adding to the knowledge of the worlds waders by the simple act of recording our sightings.

If you don't already I would encourage you to enter your sightings there, especially if you can get to a good wader spot regularly. These tiny and amzing birds are in real trouble around the world and any help we can give to those trying to protect them should be gladly given. Sadly I live nowhere near any waders for now, but I will add the few I see around here. Soon enough I hope to move to a better location for these birds, but until then...

Here's the link http://www.worldwaders.org/ I just love those little cartoon waders, they are just brilliant.
Dunlin copyright worldwaders.org

I made a lot of entries when I was in Brazil mostly because no-one else was; I think there were few in that area who even bothered to look at waders.

Interest in them was scant, they were too difficult to identify, so they didn't bother much with them. If you look at WikiAves you will easily come across waders that have been misidentified (at least when I was a user there were lots). I tried many times to assist with identification, but no-one it seemed was prepared to take the word of a Gringo. 'He isn't even Brazilian, what can he know about our birds.' seemed to be the attitude.

Admittedly some did grudgingly change their identifications, but most refused.

A well known local birder had the first record of Grey Plover for the municipality on WikiAves for months despite my protestations that it was in fact an American Golden Plover. It was eventually changed when my mate, the senior curator at the natural history museum joined in my protestations.

I once saw that an Upland Sandpiper that had been misidentified as a Pectoral Sandpiper. Granted the view was not perfect, being from the back. Helpfully I pointed this out in private to the photographer who chose to ignore my comment.

This guy was a newcomer to the game and was under the wing of my nemesis in Ubatuba, who was obviously advising him incompetently as usual. After a short time another photograph appeared in the Pectoral Sandpiper section by the same photographer.
          'In the first photo I posted the bird had its back to the camera. So that there are no lingering doubts about the species take a look at this slightly better photo, taken at the same time and probably of the same individual.'
          Well sure enough this was a Pectoral Sandpiper, but it was clearly not the same bird. The first bird had an long barred tail with heavily notched tertials and a median crown stripe and was clearly an Upland Sandpiper, the other had plain unmarked tertials and was plainly a Pectoral Sandpiper.

Seemingly the idea was that everyone would say 'Oh! That's a Pectoral Sandpiper for sure' and make me look silly. However it seems I had the last laugh as I notice now that I have had a quick look that the identity has been corrected. Here are links to the two photos concerned.
Pectoral Sandpiper http://www.wikiaves.com/366986&p=1&t=b
Upland Sandpiper http://www.wikiaves.com/224048&p=1&t=b
Don't take my word for it, see for yourself. I note that the bit about his earlier picture is still present on the comments of the Pectoral Sandpiper (in Portuguese of course).

Monday, 16 July 2012

Tanagers in Brazil

This video was taken in our friend Jonas' garden in July 2011. He put out bananas for them every day and they loved it! There would often be great twittering congregations of them, lighting up the surrounding shrubbery like Christmas Trees.
video

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Wader movements

Recently I mentioned the unusually large group of Red Knots at Titchwell that have been summering there for the last few years, this year reaching around 2,000 birds. It seems that Waders are changing their habits.
Red Knots over Titchwell, Norfolk June 2012
In the news yesterday there was a report about huge numbers of Black-tailed Godwits arriving in South Wales a month before normal. This would indicate a bad breeding season and although most agree that a single bad breeding season is not a disaster, several in a row would be. It will be interesting to see how many juveniles turn up.
Black-tailed Godwits, Titchwell, Norfolk June 2012
Last month there was an influx of Wood Sandpipers, they seemed to be everywhere (except in Newport Pagnell) we didn't get a chance to go and see one, but we will surely get a chance later on (he says hopefully). We haven't seen one this year.
Wood Sandpiper, Titchwell, Norfolk August 2011
We did try to see the Long-billed Dowitcher up at the ouse washes but failed miserably, it had gone the day we went.

Today there are three Pectoral Sandpipers reorted in Norfolk, Northumberland and Wexford. The Norfolk one could be of interest if we are out and about, but we have already seen this species this year in Brazil.

Pectoral Sandpiper, Ubatuba, São Paulo January 2012
Yesterday there was a White-rumped Sandpiper reported, but I don't recall where exactly, this again we would go and see if we were out and about, but wouldn't make a special trip as we saw one in the USA.
White-rumped Sandpiper, Milford Connecticut May 2012
 However the Temminck's Stint that was seen yesterday and again today at Rutland could be of interest if it stays; we can't get away today.

July and August are exciting times for wader watchers and we can't wait to see what this autumn brings!

Friday, 13 July 2012

Plovercrest Video and Photos

Plovercrests are one of the most sought after birds by any visiting birder to the Atlantic forest in south-east Brazil. The male with its fantastic crest is a sight to behold.
Male Plovercrest ₢ Elis Simpson
The female, although not as spectacular, has a certain amount of subtle charm of her own.
Female Plovercrest ₢ Elis Simpson
Here is a video that Elis took of the Plovercrests at the feeders in the Pousada Três Pinheiros in Campos do Jordão. This is the best place I know for seeing these little gems with any certainty. The rufous hummer that appears briefly is a female Brazilian Ruby, another endemic.

video

Accommodation at the Pousada Três Pinheiros: http://www.pousada3pinheiros.com.br/

Spoon-billed Sandpipers

Here is the reason why I have embarked on my Wader Quest.

Maybe I can turn this idea into something that can help raise awareness to the plight of species like the Spoon-billed Sandpiper that faces extinction, and raise money for projects like that in this link about the very first 'Spoonies' being hatched in captivity in the UK.

http://www.birdguides.com/webzine/article.asp?a=3352

Just one small step in the very long road to saving this delightful and unique little wader.

With everyone counting the pennies and the global economy in freefall, there has never been a harder time to get funding from governments etc. Can I make a difference? Can I do something? Answers please on a postcard.... (or e-mail of course).

Congratulations to the international team involved in the Spoon-billed Sandpiper project.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Vermilion Flycatcher

No birding the last few days; too many commitments, rotten weather and the time of year seem to be slowing things down for us.

So, as it is cold and wet outside, and our days are relatively birdless (except for our busy feeders), I thought I'd cheer myself up by publishing this photo of a Vermilion Flycatcher in the Brazilian sunshine. Look at that sky, I can almost feel the heat on my shoulders! It was taken in the square outside our apartment in Ubatuba.
Vermilion Flycatcher ₢ Elis Simpson

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Some other local wildlife

Flowers: Not being an expert on the subject I have had a go at identifying the following species. If you more learned botanists out there see any mistakes, please let me know.
White Clover Trifolium repens
Red Clover Trifolium pratense
Lady's Bedstraw Galium verum
Hairy Bird's-foot Trefoil Lotus hispidus
Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Woolly Thistle Cirsium eriophorum
Poppy cultivar Papaver sp.
Insects: Again no expert, and help required on the id. of the damselflies.
Damselfly sp.
Same species, er... slightly different circumstances.
Banded Demoiselle.
Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina

Birds: These I know, these are species seen around Newport Pagnell and Milton Keynes recently that didn't fit into any blog.
Carrion Crow

Grey Heron

Rather sickly looking Greenfinch

Meadow Pipit

Song Thrush

Linnet

Reed Bunting