Friday, 23 June 2017

ET

...no...not phone home. In the interests of remaining topical I'm writing this during my break on my phone.

I'm afraid yesterday's attempt ended in failure and frustration. Great fun though?!!!

Left home at 3am (Tawny Owl, Barn Owl and 4 Hares on Snakey Lane) and after the joys of the M1, M25 and M3 ( crammed from 6, what a life) I arrived at Sandbanks at 9.15 for the first ferry to Brownsea Island at 10.

The bird left it's roost at dawn, returned once and was now missing. Around 15 birders made the journey. The hide was a decent size so everyone got a decent view. The breeding islands were VERY close, so all we needed now was "the bird".

Late morning...a message...

Seen flying over Sandbanks terminal  (where we had sailed from) towards the island.

Everyone in full focus now. Then a shout..."I've got it!". No-one else did. A difficult moment.

Around 1 the claimant from the terminal arrived. A brief account was given.

We had to leave at 5. Another report at 4 from "Poole Harbour".

I gave it till 6.30 and headed home arriving back just after mid-night.

Seeing is believing...


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Landed

Back in Costa del Bury. It seems we've brought the heat with us. No complaints though, I just think of the cold, dark winters!!!

Took my Mother out for a nice meal to the brilliant Pack Horse last night. Great to visit a proper pub.

I'd arranged to try for the ELEGANT TERN tomorrow with Tony Dixon...and maybe Phil Jones but as I write...no news.

I'll try to do a summary of my trip as soon as time allows...

Update: ET has been seen this evening on Brownsea Island (Dorset) webcam. Do you think anyone would mind if I took it as an armchair tick?! Just kidding...leaving at 3.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 9. Pic Noir

On site at 6.30...


...but no evidence by 10.45. I did see my first Woodpigeon of the trip though! I also saw a Treecreeper sp briefly and another Crested Tit.

10.50 (I was flagging a bit by now)...I heard one! I drove round to the area I thought it was coming from... nothing. I gave it 15 minutes then drove back to my original site. As I was doing this I saw a black shape darting through the trees. It had to be? It was, in fact TWO together!! They flew behind the car. I got out as one landed some 70yds away up the steep slope.


I could just see it clinging to the tree. By the time I'd lifted my camera it had flown off. I saw them both again through the trees before they disappeared down the slope. I didn't see them again.

Well pleased with what I got. You can always wish for more...like full frame pics. SEEING the bird is paramount, especially when it's a LIFER. I was especially chuffed to find them away from a nest and without a tape.

I returned​ to St Savin to pick Louise up and we headed for Bilbao.

I'll put some meat on the bones of the trip when I get back.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 8. No Creeper

The morning was spent at Plateau Sauge, a wonderful alpine meadow overlooking Gavarnie and Gedre...


A few Griffon Vultures were seen distantly but not much else. On the way back down to Gedre I did manage to fluke a Whinchat, which perched on a fencepost briefly.

The afternoon was spent at Col du Soulor. It was another attempt at finding Wallcreeper...and alas, another failure! I tried hard though. You can only scan rock faces for so long...


A last thrash in the morning as I try for my life BLACK WOODPECKER while Louise has a lie-in...

Pyrenees 17 - Day 7. Golden Day

Saturday wasn't busy at all...like every day here! Even with a cycle race?

We returned to the Valle d'Ossoue at a more relaxed time of 10. Yet another beautiful day (we've been very lucky with the weather). Much more Lammergeier action today including views of the youngster in the nest... should fly anytime now. I also had great views of Rock Bunting but no Thrush still.

I bumped into Flavien (a friend of Charles), one of the wardens for the area. Nice chap who told me some interesting stuff ( more later). During our natter he mentioned a spot to view the Golden Eagle nest...ears pricked!

After a picnic lunch we took on the trek...and it was SOME trek. We climbed high above the town on the east side. It was far steeper than anticipated... quite warm as  next 3 hours recowell. We made it though... eventually!

We spent the next three hours recovering. The youngster was seen clearly for extended periods and we had one brief pass from the parents.

It was time to go at 6.30. Yes, it happened. Both adults appeared circling the nest several times...magic!

Very lucky...


Friday, 16 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 6. Gavarnie area

Managed to sneak a few words down waiting in vain for a Lammergeier to show...

Early start at 6. After a slight scare we were having croissants and coffee in Gavarnie at 7.30. Then it was back to the Valle d'Ossoue. I managed​ another view of the Red-backed Shrike but no sign of any Lammergeier's as the cliff was shrouded in mist. So we decided to try and climb above it and headed for Gavarnie Ski Station. This was my No 1 site for Rock Thrush. I gave it 2hrs plus on the switch backs but not a sniff. Disappointing.
      After lunch (crepes and ice cream) it was time for a Golden Eagle stake out while Louise visited the village shops. Nothing in over an hour. After she re-joined me we sat in the shade by the church and scanned the crags.
            Then... there one was, carrying prey. It was hugging the slope but the powerful jizz was apparent...and the huge frame.
             Unfortunately the camera wouldn't play at first (rather disappointing) costing me a better image. In fact I thought I'd blown it completely as it disappeared into the trees before I could get "on it". VERY fortunately​ it took off again some 15mins later allowing me to get a record shot. It's many years since I've seen this species, so this was another special moment.
              We spent the last couple of hours back at the Lammergeier site which was now bathed in sunshine (a wonderful 20c today with a cool breeze). No show but I did see my first Rock Bunting of the trip.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 4/5. High and Low Country

Wednesday - Today we headed for the Cirque du Troumouse area. We stopped at Gedre and I scanned the enormous cliff to the west. I was soon looking at a distant Lammergeier patrolling the ridge. We moved on to the picturesque Lac du Gloriettes. My targets here were Rock Thrush and Wallcreeper (very optimistically). Neither were seen but the walk was lovely amongst superb scenery. I did add Yellowhammer and Red-billed Chough to my lists.

Then it was on to the Cirque. We stopped off at Haus for a much needed cool drink…and a Magnum! We then started the ascent to the Cirque. The scenery as always was spectacular. My dream then came true as I spotted a Lammergeier patrolling the nearby slopes. This time it was close…real close! The beast then landed on a rock some 200yds away. As I was setting my scope to show Louise it unfortunately took off…but fortunately flew right towards us and over our heads!!!

A truly memorable moment, especially after my lack of success on my previous visit. The close pass was what I was after...and boy did I get it!

Thursday - A mercifully cooler day today...only 21c. A blanket of cloud covered the Gave valley so it was time to bird low. It was also time to try to put to bed one of my nemesis species...Rock Sparrow. Locally common...but not where I've been! Charles once again had some great info' on a site just north of Lourdes. I was up at 5.45 and on site by just after 7. Excellent directions had me walking towards the correct spot soon after. A bird landed on a wire, I lifted my bins...ROCK SPARROW!!!
Thanks Charles!

I spent the next hour obtaining some pics and just enjoying the success. It was good to study the species in detail and FINALLY catch up with it. I was going to head further north to try for Black-shouldered Kite but the weather closed in so I returned to St Savin to pick Louise up.

We tried a couple of spots locally but as soon as we gained any height the weather predictably deteriorated. It was time for Pibeste. This is an area just north of Argeles-Gazost. As we left the town I looked to my left and c50 Griffon Vultures were circling low over a wood! Some even landed in the trees...quite a spectacle. Also present were at least 15 Black Kites and 5 Red. With further help from Charles we eventually found another site by a dis-used quarry. Within 10 minutes I was enjoying extended views of a family of Melodious Warblers. I couldn't locate the hope for Bonelli's however. Our final stop was at the north end of Agios Vidalos. We pulled into a large car park by a visitor centre. In the next 30 minutes I enjoyed views of Egyptian Vulture (2), Short-toed Eagle (2), Booted Eagle (2) plus more Black Kites, Red Kites and Griffons.

Tomorrow we head for a big day out around Gavarnie. There won't be a report as I'll be er...knackered! Also you'll have noticed the lack of pics. Again due to internet speed...or lack of it, I've decided to leave it until I get home when I'll do a summary of sightings and sites. I'll also post a detailed trip list which may help you or someone you know if/when you visit this area in the future.

HP 66

Trip 55

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 3. EAGLE OWL

A slow start today (June 13th) as I was writing up days one and 2! Louise enjoyed the patio at the hotel while I slaved it out on the laptop in the room...with the fan on of course!

After lunch we headed for Leinz which is just east of Bareges. I had reliable information from Charles that this was my best shot at connecting with my LIFE BLACK WOODPECKER. t was another HOT one, way above average for the time of year (31c). Yes, we are in the mountains!? This obviously affected this Northern Europeans movements somewhat. The good news was I found the right spot but alas not the right bird. I DID see a Crested Tit though, which was a miracle under the circumstances.

It was now 4pm and we had to return to Luz as I had a very important date with Charles. He'd kindly said he'd show me the EAGLE OWL nest site despite only having limited time between appointments for his daughter. Many, many thanks pal. After connecting we made the short trip south along the gorge to the site. He gave me excellent directions to the correct area of the cliff. After he was sure I was looking in the right place he said his goodbyes and left me to scan.

Just before 6pm a large dark brown shape flew in from the left and landed...


What a moment...truly memorable...and quite exciting!!! Another "right up there" moment in my Birding life.

It got better as a youngster then emerged from the undergrowth...


Not an award winner but you should be able to make out the adult with prey and the youngster behind...just!.

The cliff was in deep shade but it was still 28c. I reckon the distance was around 400yds across the gorge. I texted Charles the good news and thanked him again. Within 10 minutes he was back! "I couldn't resist!" were his words. He obviously couldn't stop long but a she left for the second time he said he'd give me a shout if the adult was showing from further down the road. It was...


To see an adult and a youngster in broad daylight plus a food pass, was something very special indeed.

I'll be back...

HP LIFE 60

TRIP 49


Pyrenees 17 - Day 2. Valle d'Ossoue and Cirque du Gavarnie

Earlier start today as we headed way up to the far south of the valley. We arrived at the famed and very beautiful Valle d'Ossoue around 9.30. It was already hot (24c). I've convinced Louise to do an earlier start later but today was just a recce. I had some excellent information off Charles regarding a LAMMERGEIER nest site and I just wanted to see if I could locate it and get some decent views.

As we found the spot to park I could see a large crucifix shape drifting along the ridge!!!
After finishing fingers and thumbs mode I managed to grab a single record shot...


Not the best I know but it was way up and the heat haze was significant. At least I'd seen one. It eventually drifted off up the Valley and then landed in the nest hole...therefore confirming the site...which was handy! I gave it another 3 hours while Louise read her novel but it didn't re-appear. I did see another great bird though. I noticed something shoot out of a gorse bush near to where we were parked. It looked "interesting". However, I couldn't relocate it in a 30 minute search. Then I saw it again albeit distantly...

A superb male Red-backed Shrike
The weather was again very kind so I suggested to my new wife that we did the walk to the Cirque du Gavarnie. This is no pleasant stroll I can assure you, Especially at 28c but you do daft things on holiday...don't you?

The scenery, as you can imagine is spectacular...


No significant sightings were made on the ascent which was hardly surprising in the circumstances but we had a testing walk and a much needed drink at the Hotel. On the way down though I saw a bird that I hadn't seen well for quite some time...a Garden Warbler! I picked up the superb song and after a roasting scramble I managed a photo through the vegetation...


By the tme we reached the car park we were all in. We found a nice Pizza place and enjoyed the evening view, which wasn't at all bad...


Haute-Pyrenees LIFE 58

Trip 45

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 1. Col du Tourmalet

OK. I'm up and running!

Briefly...the wedding day (Thursday) was great but we over-indulged a tad and the recovery time for both of us isn't what it used to be...

For the record...

Mr and Mrs Whitehead in front of the Whitehead Clock Tower, Bury 8/6/2017
Friday morning and early afternoon was spent recovering at "the Mothers". We flew to Bilbao from Manchester arriving at 10pm. A taxi to our Hotel saw it sorted for 11.

Breakfast at 8 and car picked up at 9 (pleasantly uneventful), we were heading for France. After a bit of fun negotiating San Sebastian we arrived in France early afternoon and cruised into the Haute-Pyrennes region for an evening meal in Argeles-Gazost. Then onto St Savin for an early night.

Friday morning I opened the shutters at dawn to this rather nice view...

Looking North up the Gave Valley
Anyway...what about the birds?

An early morning stroll around the Village proved surprisingly fruitful...and quite a relief to connect with some excellent woodland species...

However, my first sighting wasn't avain...

Red Squirrel
Jay, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Great Spotted (tried hard to string a Middle) and Green Woodpecker. I also had great views of a Red Kite...


It was also great to see so many Swifts zooming around the village.

After breakfast we headed for Luz and the Col du Tourmalet (famous for the Tour de France). The weather was superb on the tops.

Typical birds seen here included...

Wheatear...



Water Pipit...




Black Redstart...


My main target for the day was to get decent views of SNOWFINCH. I'd seen them eons ago in their finest, when on a school ski trip in the Alps in the early 1990's! I missed them when we came in August 15 as they'd departed their breeding areas. I felt I had a good chance to connect today. What I didn't want was views around picnic tables or cafes, which they are inclined to frequent!

As always I had some information regarding best sites so I headed for the eastern car park at the CdT. I'd been reliably informed that the SF nested in the ski lift supports! After around 45 minutes I hadn't had a sighting. We had lunch and enjoyed the stupendous view...


...and one of the locals having a scratch...


Then I saw one in flight, showing the extensive white on the wings. Once it landed though...it vanished!?  I then noticed a drainage pipe...


I'd seen Black Redstart and Linnet drinking and bathing there, so I decided to see if the star turn would appear. Eventually, it did...


As you can see, a well camouflaged bird, very difficult to pick out against the terrain. It only stayed for a few seconds but this time I was on the ball and managed this pic.

A few Ravens and YB Choughs drifted over but no raptors? I then picked up another SF high on the grass bank...


Later in the afternoon I got my closest pic from the car...


Really pleasing to spend some quality time with this species. A good start.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - slow start!

Extenuating circumstances have meant my posts have not flowed this trip...to say the least!

The wedding day went very well and the honeymoon is in full swing. The weather has been kind and the birding has been excellent. I've even managed a glimpse of a Lammergeier.

I hope to post an initial report tomorrow with a few pics. We're having a slower day after our walk to the Cirque de Gavarnie today

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

ELEGANT TERN...for the worse!

MEGA Hants ELEGANT TERN ad (colour-ringed) Hayling Island at Fishery Creek at high tide with 8 Sandwich Terns

Something had to turn up...as I'm out of the picture. It's flown off but hopefully STILL in Britain somewhere. Hope it summers and I get a stab on my return? Now that IS positive thinking!!!

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Frampton Marsh RSPB

I like it...a lot! It's my type of spot. As soon as I laid eyes on it during my visit with Phil, I felt it was a place I was going to visit. It will be my "go to" new site form now on. Pity it's not a bit closer!

I can visit regularly however and it's within reach...just (under 2hrs). I much prefer natural habitats, especially enhanced ones. Don't get me wrong, any habitat created for wildlife is fantastic, I just prefer to spend my time watching in scenic surroundings. Also, I LOVE a good hide, always have...as long as it's (reasonably) quiet.  I guess that's developed from my 9 years at NDC and Wheldrake Ings prior to that. Plus I'm getting soft in my advancing years. The thing I really like about a hide is that you can just sit and watch bird behaviour...an ever changing scene.

FM gives opportunities for walking my dog, getting great views of a wide range of species in superb surroundings. It gives me spectacle. There's also the chance to find something..."good". On my last visit I had 2 Cattle Egrets, male Garganey, Barnacle Geese, Whooper Swan, 4 sp Ruff, c 20 sp Black-tailed Godwits, Curlew Sandpiper, Little-ringed Plover, 2 Mediterranean Gulls plus countless Avocets.

A fine view...


Very pleased to pick out a pair of Med' Gulls among the hundreds of Black-headed in the colony...



Later I got a brief fly-by in poor weather...








 
 
Great to see some...Birds!

Sunday, 4 June 2017

More Bonecrushers!

At the risk of sounding obsessed with this species I stumbled on THIS great news today. Maybe I'll get another chance in Britain?

At least chances next week seem high...

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Eagle Owl



Great news from Charles in the French Pyrenees. Confirmed breeding...




Hoping to get a peep next week?
 

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Ruff at Frampton

Not something you see everyday...
 




...and a Black-tailed Godwit through the reeds...


Part of a great day at a great reserve. More later...

Frampton Marsh

Just a quick one...as they say.

Having a day out in South Lincs at the superb RSPB reserve.I needed a change of scenery and boy have I got it here!

Writing this while I recover from extensive walking with Bud. I don't have access to all areas but I have enough to see most things.

Highlights so far...

Ruff c12...3 young males in fine dress and lekking. Not something you see everyday.

Garganey drake

Black-tailed Godwit sp

Whooper Swan... injured but now recovered

Green Woodpecker

LRP

Avocet...plenty!

No luck with the reported CATTLE EGRETS or Turtle Doves.

I have some pics which I'll add later but it won't be tonight.

Onward...

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Birdsong

Sitting here in the lounge listening to Blackbird and Song Thrush competing out front. Lovely. A Lesser Whitethroat in the back is more noteworthy as a garden tick...but not as memorable on the ear!

 I see the GREENISH WARBLER sp didn't linger on Foula. I wasn't tempted personally. Oh for something...DEFINITE!!!

Monday, 29 May 2017

A First!

A FIRST for me yesterday. Never mind all these rare birds!

I was exercising my lad around 5pm in one of the usual spots. As I was about to pull in I looked across to where I was going to park and there in full view, not 20 yds away, right by the road was...?

A BADGER!!!
 
Needless to say I was too slow to get a pic. I looked on the passenger seat were it usually is. It wasn't there but I'd forgotten I'd moved it to the back seat as we'd gone out for lunch! Gutted!
 
 
Still a wonderful moment to see this animal so close in broad daylight.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Here and there

It seems migration ISN'T over...as flocks of Red-footed Falcons pass Spurn! Plus an Alpine Swift and Red-rumped Swallow!! Must have been a special morning.

I tried for the Hornsea RFF, leaving home at 5.30 and giving it until 9. No joy. I did have a brief chat with Richard Willison and Gary Dayes. Nice to see them both. 3 distant Hobbies were nice.

Overnight rain forecast with a SE wind. It's the end of May? I'll grill the Village all morning. If I
don't find anything...I'm moving!
........................................................................................

If you remember I was hoping to be in Alaska on this date but my joints won't allow...THIS YEAR! Hopefully, I'll be in a better physical state this time next year? Communication with this years tour is
obviously limited but I did find this post on their Facebook page...

Zugunruhe Tours...May 21st...

"We've been having a pretty successful three-day tour of Adak as a precursor to our trip to Attu. We've seen Eyebrowed Thrush, Hawfinch, Rustic Bunting, White Wagtail, Common Snipe, Arctic and Yellow-billed Loons, and 50+ Brambling. We leave for Attu Sunday night"

Image may contain: plant, tree, sky, bird, outdoor and nature

I've dreamed of making this trip for 17 years and it would be the perfect way to bring up my ABA 700. Everything crossed for next year...that includes a boat being available and a more favourable exchange rate!

Details of the trip are here. I won't bore you with what I "need" now (most things listed) until I've confirmed next year! I would hope to add on a few days around Nome on return to Anchorage. I better get saving.

I can dream lol!

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Migration?

Not a classic Spring!!! Dire sums it up.

I realize there's still time...but...it's been poor. Thoughts are now turning to my French Pyrenees trip which starts on June 9th...that's after I get married on the 8th of course! Not a bad place for a honeymoon. If you follow, you'll remember I went last summer with limited success. Still, it's a beautiful place at anytime.

I've been in touch with my contact Charles, who's kindly allowed me to show you his pics. News on the breeding front looks promising. I have info' regarding Eagle Owl (young about to show at the nest)...



Lammergeier (3 nest sites)



and a Wallcreeper nest site.

Quality birds I think you would agree. Other notable species include Egyptian Vulture, Rock Thrush, Alpine Accentor, Citril Finch, Snowfinch and Rock Bunting. I might even see a Black Woodpecker at last and MAYBE a Rock Sparrow?!

By my dubious calculations I reckon there's over 8o species to try and find of which just under half would be new for the area...for me!

.......................................................................................

Locally...I (belatedly) added Coot, Reed and Sedge Warbler down by the canal at Spurn whilst adding a new species to my Patch and Spurn list...Red-crested Pochard...a fine drake of unknown origin, as they say. I also had great views of a Hobby (P.111, H.83) being mobbed by Swallows (a clue) from the car, as I approached the Village.

Friday, 19 May 2017

A few pics

My best effort from my PALLID HARRIER walk...


A lovely Yellowhammer on Snakey lane...


A Redstart trying it's best to hide from me at Kilnsea...


A few of the wonderful Bempton seabirds...



Razorbills are my favourites.








This morning I made the trip back along the coast road to Hornsea Mere to see if  could connect with the Iceland Gull which had been present for a while. It wasn't hard to find amongst the "Wonderloaf brigade"






Hope you enjoyed them...