Thursday, 30 August 2012

Glossy (ish)

Monday was our birding day over the bank holiday weekend when, after spending most of the day at Holme and Titchwell, we called into the Ouse Washes on the way back, late afternoon, after hearing that a Glossy Ibis, Purple Heron and Spotted Crake had been reported there in previous days. Although all three species were listed on the board in the visitors centre, the Heron and Crake were nowhere to be seen; but the Glossy Ibis most certainly was - in plain view outside the Grose hide.


This particular individual didn't look quite as 'glossy' as birds we've seen in Portugal but it was a juvenile, and the light wasn't good at all - I'm sure a little bit of sunshine would've made all the difference. Having said that, there were moments when we did catch a glimpse of that stunning iridescence...


...and anyway, it's always a great bird to see in the UK.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Summer?

I think most people would agree that generally Summer 2012 has been a wash out - and probably pretty disastrous for a lot of our wildlife. However, nature is nothing if not tenacious and on occasional days, and more frequently in the last few weeks, whenever we've had some reasonable weather, there have been birds and other creatures to see and appreciate...

This Swallow was enjoying a sunny afternoon in late May at Cley


In June, as part of a long weekend in Pembrokeshire, we visited Skomer island and these ever-comical characters had plenty of photos taken - who could resist...


Puffin
With so much wet, cool and windy weather I began to think we'd never get any Butterflies, but yet again, they've somehow seen it through and recently we've managed to find a few special ones. A Purple Emperor at Chicksands Wood in Bedfordshire..


Graylings at Snettisham and Minsmere (it's almost impossible to get a photo of these with their wings open)...

and several Wall butterlfies (which are really quite scarce these days), again at Snettisham, and also the Ouse Washes...


While we were at Chicksands Wood looking for butterflies a couple of Beds birders who were there for the same reason, called us over to see a mesmerising piece of wildlife action. A Brown Hawker dragonfly had pounced on a Migrant Hawker and was down in the grass eating it, and not a bit bothered by us taking photos of this rather gruesome scene...


In case you'd like to see what a Migrant Hawker looks like with its head attached to its body, this one was at Slimbridge when we visited in early August...



Our visit to Slimbridge wasn't for Dragonflies though, but for this Long-billed Dowitcher  - a vagrant wader from North America and Eastern Siberia. It was in amongst a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits (like the one to the left of it in the photo below). As it was feeding more or less non-stop, it was difficult to get a photo of it with its bill out of the water, but I eventually managed.  A good bird to close with, I think...

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Greek Odyssey

Carolyn, Malcolm and I chose a new destination for our Spring holiday this year – the Greek island of Lesvos [5-12 May]. Although it’s Greek it lies just 5 miles off the coast of Turkey, and for birders this means that the island holds a number species which are difficult to see anywhere else in Europe. Birds such as…       
Cinereous Bunting..

video
Masked Shrike...

and Krϋpers Nuthatch...


video

We stayed in the Aegeon hotel, just outside the small town of Skala Kallonis – a good base for birders because it’s fairly central to the island. Many evenings, as we strolled down to the town for a meal with the sound of sheep bells and Marsh Frogs filling the warm air, we saw what I think are Balkan Green Lizards along the side of the road:

Amongst the other ‘non-avian’ species seen were Spur-thighed Tortoise…

and Scarce Swallowtail Butterfly...


Lesvos also gave me the chance to get a first half decent photo of my favourite bird…


European Bee-eater
 With so many fantastic birds to choose from it was difficult to pick out our ‘Bird of the Trip’. Owls were the choice of Carolyn and Malcolm... 

Scops Owl...

and Long-eared Owl...


But for me it was the Crakes. A Spotted Crake turned up at the Tsiknias River – just a few minutes’ drive from our hotel, and this pair of Little Crakes were foraging along the banks of Metochi Lake in early morning sunshine. The top one is a male, with the female below...
video
video

By the end of the holiday we’d seen a total of 117 species, 24 of which were lifers for me. We’ve still several more to get there (for instance, I dipped on a few warblers that I hoped to see).  Fortunately there’s already talk of another trip next Spring, maybe for two weeks.  I hope so. Lesvos is a great place for a birding holiday – or indeed any holiday. Weather was scorching, the locals lovely and friendly, the scenery spectacular, and of course there were the birds…
Ruppell's Warbler


Black-eared Wheatear
Cirl Bunting
Cretzschmar's Bunting



Sunday, 15 April 2012

Snipe shots

These Common Snipe were at Frampton Marsh a couple of weekends ago. At first all I could find were snoozing birds...

Until this one came walking by...

Their type of plumage, often described as ‘cryptic’, provides them with good camouflage when they’re amongst vegetation because it breaks up the bird’s image.  You get an idea of this in the next photo –  where they ‘overlap’ it’s not easy to see where one bird begins and the other ends.

And here’s a little video clip of one using that incredible bill...
video

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Butterbumps

Our visit to Minsmere last Saturday was in warm, sunny weather and it really felt like the first day of Spring. The birds seemed to agree. A flock of Bearded Tits in reeds along the North Bank were ‘pinging’ to each other and flying around, and there were dozens of Divers on the sea (mainly Red-throated, but also some Black-throated and at least one Great Northern), all heading north – presumably to breeding grounds.
In the afternoon we divided our time between the Bittern and Island Mere hides. Later in the afternoon when we went back to the Bittern hide for a second visit, it certainly lived up to its name. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in one day – or had such good views of them. Each time one appeared  a call went up and a buzz of excitement went round everyone in the hide. It made me think about how highly we value these birds these days - just to see one, whereas for centuries their only value to humans was as a food item [hence the old fashioned name of Butterbump - because the flesh was considered so tasty]. How times change!
Several birds were in flight but there were also occasions when one walked across the channel in front of the hide...

















An unexpected visitor was this Red Deer hind who obviously found the water vegetation very much to her liking...