domingo, 29 de abril de 2012

Alas, can I keep my promises?

Well, I soon broke my new year resolutions didn't I? To keep this blog updated weekly.

Truth be told I have been slightly busy these past months.. but to be honest most of it was down to laziness  And we can't be having that. Not in 2012. Oh no, no, no. 

So lets condense what I have been up to birding wise quickly and then try... TRY.. to keep this going weekly. 

Birdin' the patch!
Being based in Sotogrande in the Costa del sol does have its pros ( As well as its cons ). Its slap bang in the middle of a major migration route too and from Africa, so I can expect some nice migrants - Honey Buzzard  vis mig can be spectacular! and has its own 2 reserves, both of which offer up a nice variety of bird life. 

The past month ( April ) I have been paying a lot more attention to them and have discovered some nice birds and even had a few lifers - which is always awesome! The main highlights being; Nightingale, Woodchat Shrike, Black Kite, Spotted Flycatcher, Subalpine Warbler, Glossy Ibis, Short Toed Eagle and Spanish Sparrow.

I'll definitely be trying to keep up the regular visits to the patches and will post the sightings on here, as well as patch list which will added to the blog very soon - Basically as soon as I count it up! 

                                                        Nightingale at local patch

Further afield!
The discovery of a fantastic new site for me to visit at the start of the year was fantastic. La Janda is situated slightly past Tarifa and quite a drive from Sotogrande but holds an absolutely brilliant number of birds. Since the first visit I have been several times and found myself always with something to look at! and In winter it holds Black Shouldered Kite - One of my favourite birds! 

                                               Black Shouldered Kite

During this Spring at La Janda I have seen in no particular order; Montagus Harrier, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Black Kite, Red Kite, Short Toed Eagle, Booted Eagle, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Common Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel, Common Crane, White Stork, Purple Gallinule, Bluethroat, Cattle Egret, Bee Eater, Kingfisher, Hoopoe, Blue Rock Thrush, Griffon Vulture, Woodchat Shrike, Stonechat, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Zitting Cisticola, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Serin, Bluetit, Sardinian Warbler, Black Eared Wheatear, Mallard, Shelduck, Swallow, House Martin, Crag Martin, Swift, Little Egret, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting and most likely some more that I can't recall..

So that is basically it. I'll be travelling more in the future for tennis so that might tie in with some visits to some birding places. You never know what might turn up at the patch either! Happy Birding!

sábado, 7 de enero de 2012

This Year! 2012: The big one!

So the New year has been and gone. Its time to start afresh for another year! And let me tell you, I am looking forward to 2012! The main reasons being that I have set my self some challenges - Some birding goals to keep me motivated throughout twenty twelve.

Goals for 2012
1. To reach 300 plus birds on my WP/W/ L list.
2. To ( drastically ) improve my field craft and identification skills.
3. To see at least 3 endemics anywhere in the Western Palearctic - Or world.
4. To get out and about in the field at least once a week or two.
5. To keep this blog regularly updated!

Now bearing in mind this year will be set to be a big year for my Tennis as well. So it might well not happen that I can always follow through with every single of these 5 goals at certain times - Due to Training/Tournaments and what ever the year brings. Never the less I will try my utter best to achieve them!

So to all you of you who read or follow this blog, best of luck in 2012! And happy birding!

viernes, 28 de octubre de 2011

A weekend in Devon part 2

It was near dusk when we finally left the Cirl Bunting site... Happy with how the day had turned out we headed back to the Travelodge at which we were staying. Shortly after a delicious meal of fish and chips (Oh so British ) at Harry Ramsdens we headed back to our rooms and hunkered down for the night.

Dipper Quest ( Excuse the terrible name! )

Where too now? Dipper was the next target. Seeing as Dippers are a hell of a lot more common then from where I come from ( Dorset ) it was more of a case of finding a fast flowing river which would support the aforementioned bird...  So the next day we headed out into the Devon wilderness to find one.

After driving across Dartmoor for about half an hour we came across a little pocket of woodland located next to a little village. Having found what we were looking for, we parked the car and walked to the small fast flowing river. It was surrounded by families eating picnics. Not ideal, seeing as the children were also clambering over the stones inside the river... 

So we followed the course of the water further into heart of the woods to find a more peaceful spot. Weird red and white Mushrooms dotted the stony path as It progressively got more and more slippery. At one point I almost lost my footing but luckily managed to somehow grab a branch to stop myself hitting the ground. As a Tennis player I have to be extremely careful in situations like this, as anything like a twisted ankle could spell disaster and set me back by quite a bit. 

So walking a bit more carefully across the damp stone we carried on. I had been keeping an eye on the river 
as we walked and had seen nothing more then one or two Yellow Wagtails - Nice birds but not what I was looking for! Eventually the closed in path opened out into a sort of field and the river started to divert away from where we could follow it. This was good enough, we could not get any further so I propped myself up on a rock next to the water and scanned up and down the river. 

About ten minutes later I noticed a small bird appear far up stream. It was immediately obvious that this was my target! "Mission accomplished" I uttered ( This being my latest quote when obtaining a lifer.. Do not ask. ) and beckoned to my parents who were watching a mother pony and foal feeding to the far end of the field.  Sadly, that was my last view of the Dipper that day as It flew upstream within seconds... my parents unfortunately missed out on it... But anyway It was finally crossed out of my long list of  "Embarrassing birds I have never seen and should have list" So I was happy!

 The path where I nearly went "Arse over head"

Seawatching at Berry Head.

Happy with how that had turned out we now set our sights on a reserve going by the name of Berry Head to end the afternoon with a little bit of seawatching - Always a fan favorite in my opinion! What beats sitting on a cold windswept coastal cliff searching for seabirds? Preferably with a light drizzle to add that little touch of atmosphere.

Upon arriving, I noticed black clouds gathering in the distance... ( I said drizzle. Remember that ) So lugging the scope over my shoulder we hurriedly headed for the visit centre. A few drops began to fall as we arrived and within minutes developed into a full blown torrential downpour. Thank god we had got inside in time! Now, birding in the rain does not bother me to be quite honest but birding in something like this was not a good idea. I also had my parents to think about and they evidently would not venture out into "that", so the only viable option was to sit it out.

I amused myself for over half an hour watching the pirates and musketeers pack up their tents in the pouring rain. What a poor weekend to host an event where you dress up as things I thought ( Yes, I cant recall the name for it... ) The poor chaps.  Eventually the downpour eased down and we were able to venture out into open, but Mum was not all to keen all walking to the headland with all the mud everywhere so she headed for the car to read her book. So with just me and Dad we set off.

In the bushes located next to the head I counted up several Whitethroats, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 1 Chiffchaff,  5 Willow Warblers, tons of Dunnocks, Blue Tits and Great Tits. Also Surprisingly two Sedge Warblers that had evidently chosen to shelter in a patch of thorny scrub.

Sedge Warbler ( Taken by my Dad )

Upon reaching the viewpoint I was surprised to see one other birder, looking rather comfortable with his fold out chair and red and black umbrella.

I joined him on his watch and he informed me that a few Balearic Shearwaters had been passing, along with 
the expected Manxies and Bonxies. I unfortunately only managed the Manx and Bonx, the former in  numbers of around 100. We also had around 20 Sandwich Terns, 15 Commons and the obvious large numbers of  Northern Gannets. But with the weather yet again threatening to unleash a torrent of rain half an hour in, my Dad and I decided it was promptly best to head back to the car before we got a soaking. All in all it was not the most thrilling sea watch I had ever been on but it was still enjoyable. You cant always get what you want!

So with a brilliant weekend now over, it was time to head home. I had ticked of Cirl Bunting and Dipper, two birds that I had set out to see and succeeded! Perfect!

Next: A short report of my ferry crossing from Portsmouth To Bilboa on the 21st of August ( Birds are Included! ) and Sorry for the delay.. I am slowly catching up to the present!

jueves, 29 de septiembre de 2011

A weekend in Devon ( I am back! ) part 1

Hey, long time no see bloggers! I am back in Spain now after around a months break in the UK. Looks like its time to write all up what has happened birding wise! This is a shortened down account of a brilliant long weekend ( and a bit ) away spent in neighbouring Devon - Just a few hours away from home.

Devon - Search for the Cirl Bunting

I had always wanted to bird in Devon. Seeing as it was only a stones throw away from Dorset.
My parents and I had traveled through it a few times on our way home to Bournemouth after departing the ferry at Portsmouth. But we had never really stopped and had a good look around... I was also eager to search for two of Devons premier birds - Dipper and Cirl Bunting... With Cirl Bunting being the primary target.

As soon as we arrived I fell in love with the place. The mysterious ghostly allure of Dartmoor, the lively Seaside Towns, beautiful little Villages and all and all general friendliness of ( most ) of the locals was all very inviting.

                                                                   Dartmoor at dusk.

                                                        The Warren Inn on Dartmoor

The first day very little birding was done except for a brief visit to Dartmoor in the afternoon. All that was seen was a few Meadow Pipits and Stonechats flying around in the fading light and a lone Buzzard that drifted high over the moor before disappearing over the distant horizon. After that short excursion we popped into the Warren inn and had a drink. The rest of the evening was spent soaking in the atmosphere of this very famous pub.

The next day It was decided on to visit Dawlish Warren - A small reserve located to the end of the bustling  beaches of the town. Luckily It seems the holiday makers tend to stick to their side and rarely stray onto the main reserve or go near the hide - So there was virtually no disturbance birdwise. Well At least while I was there!

The short woodland walk to hide was dominated by tons of Greenfinch, Goldfinch and House Sparrow, With the odd Willow Warbler and Great Tit putting in an appearance. Sadly no Cirl Buntings popped up. Even with me silently willing it to happen ( Seems the gods were not with me this time ). We reached the mudflats opposite the hide within half an hour and here we finally bumped into our first birders of the trip. "Anything about?" Was the usual greeting. "Hmm not much to be honest" He replied - With that he pointed his finger out towards the sea and added  "There are a few Terns coming in"... "Mainly Commons."  "No Roseates?" I asked. "None today I am afraid mate" He replied.

Roseate Tern along with Arctic Tern have both managed to allude my radar over the years. Sadly It seems this was not the day to finally add these two little blighters to my list... we left the reserve after a quick pop into the hide - A few Hundred Oystercatchers with an assortment of waders.. ( Dunlin, Turnstone, Grey Plover and Ringed Plover ) ..and gulls dotted the sandy banks. I noticed that a Kittiwake was nestled in with the Common and Herring gulls - Interesting as you do not really get to see them all that often! They are also counted as one of my favorite gulls.

On the way to the car park we met another friendly local birder whom I quickly asked whether he knew any places we could find some Cirl Buntings. This was the right choice as he not only knew where to find them (!) but also added that it was almost, If not 100 percent guaranteed, that we would see them (!!). He himself had never failed. After thanking him I handed Dad the directions that I had written down and we set off!

About 20 minutes later we pulled into a little street surrounded by fields. Clambering out I immediately noticed a strange call coming from a row hedges down the street that I was not familiar with ( Hey, Im not the best at bird calls! but I knew this was different! ). I frantically clambered a stile into an adjoining field and rushed to spot. It took about several minutes for the bird to show but It eventually did - It was what I was after! A fantastic Cirl Bunting In all its glory! Albeit a female bird!

A few moments later a spectacular male bird popped up! The female was nice but paled into comparison with the male. With a bright yellow supercilium / facial mask, black eyestripe, black throat and various hues of brownish red on its body - This bird is truly one to see. Especially In Britain!

I apologise for the terrible quality of these pics - Not easy getting close!

                                                                 Male Cirl Bunting!

lunes, 15 de agosto de 2011

At home with the Brits. Part 2.

Clearly, no one knew where this "Garage" was located...  Up and down lanes we jogged. Scopes flung over our shoulders... Looking like some loonies that had just escaped from the local Asylum, or no less, a small military invasion that had decided for no apparent reason to descend upon an unfortunate Weymouth.

But after around 15 minutes of frankly having no idea of where to go. Some nice chap pointed us in the right direction. Well, sort of. How the seaside wall by the main entrance of Lodmoor has anything to do with a Garage I do not know... Maybe Its down the road? Or maybe I was too absorbed in trying to find the Stilt Sandpiper that I didnt notice it? ( Doubt it. Could happen though. ) Anyway, this is where everyone was, to put it bluntly.

Still no sign after about 45 minutes. My Aunt had gone off for a coffee and I was starting to think about joining her. The thought of dipping out If I left was the only thing that kept my feet firmly planted on the ground. I really wanted to see this bird... I mean really wanted to see this bird. No stupid "giving in" thoughts were going to stop me.

After a while my Aunt joined us again. We were starting to debate on whether to split up and scour the rest of  marsh in case it had decided to relocate to a different spot. A few people ventured off to a higher vantage point in the town, known as the "wall" to see if they could at least get a distant view of it. Phone numbers were  exchanged and pagers fumbled with. I decided to head for the wall - At least a view was possible... even if it was a terrible one.

This was to be one of my better decisions. Now I would not say I am renowned for taking wrong decisions but I am pretty darn good at it... Instinct ( Lets call it that ) told me to take a different path then the other guys.  The longer route to the wall, that takes in the opposite side of the mudflats, was my destination. A little way along the path me and my Aunt noticed one of our fellow birders ( that had departed from the group earlier )
had set up scope by a hedge row and was looking through his scope rather intently.

"Whats up?" I asked him eagerly. "I think I have got it" was his response. With difficultly, I stifled a "Holy Sh"t!! And I quickly raised my binoculars to connect with the bird that eluded Me, my Auntie and the rest of the birders all day. "Damn, these bushes are in the way" he and I almost said In unison. "Lets move up. I need to check all the features just in case... before I ring the others" He replied.

We shuffled up to a clear patch in the hedgerow and studied the bird. "Yep, thats it!" He almost shouted and quickly got down to ringing the other birders still at the mound and wall.  It was surreal... this had to be one of the best views of the rather eluding Stilt Sandpiper all week!  After a while the rest of the crew turned up and the mood swapped to one of relief and happiness. We all shook hands with the finder and congratulated him on the brilliant re - find.

No, I did not manage to take any photos of the bird... due to excitement and other things... ( Like forgetfulness ) but I stored the image of the bird in my mind. The long legs, plalish face ring and general "Jizz" of the bird stand vivid in my mind and always will. All in all, it was frankly fantastic time and one I am sure I will never forget! But... God, did we have to work for it! After the bird departed we said our good byes to bunch and set off for a quick look see around Portland.

We did not see much but I was rather lucky to pop into the obs at just the right time - While they were ringing a  female Melodious Warbler! I had some pretty amazing views of the scarce little warbler and they even let me take a few photos ( Will upload later ). I made sure to see the bird fly off and land in a tree so I could tick it without feeling naughty. I Thanked the assistants, bode farewell, got into the car and we set off home. Happy with how the day turned out.

viernes, 5 de agosto de 2011

At home with the Brits. Part 1.

Ahhh, it feels good to be back home! Friends, Family, Fish and chips... Good old Blighty delivers it all! It also delivers the birdies if your lucky.... Or if you know where to look. Now, Dorset might not be in the same league as say... Norfolk, Cornwall or Devon but It still has some pretty brilliant places to find birds.

From windy Marshes to beautiful Pine forests to rare Heathland and offshore Islands. It is pretty easy to rake up some good self found birds with a bit of patience and a bit of help from those ever helpful internet and mobile based services, such as Birdguides elsewhere...

With this in mind. I have eagerly been checking for some birds to turn up close by over the past week on the web... I fancied a good twitch to be honest, seeing as I do not tend to go on them much ( sounds rather.. odd? ). So, I was delighted when news broke of a Stilt Sandpiper ( No less a summer plumaged adult! ) which had been found at one of my old local haunts in Weymouth - Lodmoor.

With around Twenty to Thirty records in Britain, Stilt Sandpiper would be a lifer for me! A lovely bird I just had to go for in the limited time I had ( have ) over here. So off we went. Me and my Aunt! Scope in tow. Off on what never fails to feel like an adventure ( Almost like finding treasure ) to me!

...Finding this bird would not be easy. Two hours we had been searching the mudflats of Lodmoor. To no avail. Still, I was not too worried as I was sure we would get onto it after a while.What with all the birders scattered over the reserve, surely It was only a matter of time until it was re found somewhere. An hour later a fellows pager went off alerting us that the bird had been seen over by the "Garage". Garage? What Garage looks over the marsh?

Continued in Part 2.

martes, 26 de julio de 2011

Home for two weeks!

Hey, everyone. I just thought I would post an update to tell who ever reads this blog ( If there are any ) that I am leaving today to good old Great Britain for two weeks.

Now naturally I will be trying to get some birding in mainly around my old locals in Dorset. Whether the weather ( unintended pun ) lets me is another story... 40 days of rain anyone? But If I somehow manage to get out then I shall be sure to post the dally tallies on here, whenever I get internet access.... If I do.

So until the next post - Happy Birding!