A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

A tale of nature, wildlife and birding from Cheshire, North Wales and across the globe....

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Birding round up of the year 2017!

After the rollercoaster of a ride that was the British birding scene in 2016 (where firsts for Britain were turning up at a rate of knots), 2017 in comparison turned out to be a little bit of a damp squib. The majority of new birds and “uber” megas turned up on the remote offshore islands, while the year’s unquestionable star bird – North Ronaldsay’s fine adult male Siberian Blue Robin - was only seen by a handful of extremely lucky observers!
Siberian Blue Robin - North Ronaldsay

Nevertheless the year still held a few welcome surprises – Britain’s first DNA confirmed record of Elegant Tern down on the south coast was a huge bonus, while individuals of Red-breasted Goose, White-billed Diver and Rock Thrush ensured that 2017 held some grip backs at least!
Elegant Tern - Pagham Harbour, West Sussex
Elegant Tern (honest!) - Pagham Harbour, West Sussex
Red-breasted Goose - Cockerham, Lancashire
Red-breasted Goose - Cockerham, Lancashire
White-billed Diver - Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire
White-billed Diver - Woodhall Spa, Lincolnshire
Rock Thrush - Gwent, Wales
Rock Thrush - Gwent, Wales
Not every bird was gettable however – the Amur Falcon down in Cornwall – the first twitchable one of its kind – proved frustratingly out of reach during the working week, while the year’s Red-winged Blackbird, American Redstart, Cedar Waxwing and Yellow-breasted Bunting all proved to be just a touch too far away on remote islands to tempt us, especially having already seen 3 out of the 4 in large quantities over in America before.  
Red-winged  Blackbird - New York
Red-winged  Blackbird in New York
American Redstart - New York
American Redstart in New York
Cedar Waxwing - New York
Cedar Waxwing in New York
However, for me, our trips birding abroad stole the show for 2017. Mallorca and Tenerife provided some welcome European birding in stunning scenery and fantastic climes, while our once in a lifetime trip to Queensland Australia during the summer created some lifelong memories that will never be forgotten. A male Golden Bowerbird at his bower deep in the heart of the Australian mountains, the flashy colours of Fairywrens and Boatbills and the imposing majesty of the fierce and iconic Cassowary just mere feet away are all experiences that will live on in years to come. 
Green Turtle - Australia
Green Turtle
Likewise our snorkelling expeditions exploring the Great Barrier Reef and the accompanying helicopter ride above one of the greatest wonders of the world created lasting memories of an experience of a lifetime.
The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef
And so to the top birds of 2017….

In joint 3rd place are the diver duo of the Northumberland Pacific Diver and the Lincolnshire White-billed Diver – turning up on the same weekend and both affording absolutely unbeatable views. Having seen the returning Cornish Pacific Diver as a distant dot miles away through a scope, a chance to see this mega species of diver in Britain so close proved irresistible, and we soon found ourselves gazing eye to eye with this fearless individual mere feet away.
Pacific Diver - Northumberland
Pacific Diver - Northumberland
Meanwhile news was breaking of another rare species of diver giving phenomenal views further south with a White-billed Diver having been discovered fishing on a river in rural Lincolnshire 20 miles inland. In a remarkable coincidence, this mirrored the only other British record of an inland White-billed Diver to date, occurring on the very same stretch of river back in March 1996. Having had to wait a whole week before making the journey down to Lincolnshire it was a relief to finally connect with this stunning arctic visitor, finally putting to rest the regrets of not travelling to Devon/Dorset for the popular Brunnich’s Guillemot and Brixham White-billed Diver duo a few years ago.
White-billed Diver - Lincolnshire
White-billed Diver - Lincolnshire
In second place, while not strictly a lifer, is the beautiful male Pallid Harrier that graced the hillsides at the Forest of Bowland earlier in the year. Living in England, male Harriers are not something I see all that often, so it was an honour to be able to watch on as this ghostly displaying male skydanced his way over the moors in an effort to attract a mate. Sheer beauty, and to have a male Pallid Harrier skydancing over your head is a thing of enchanting magic. Without a doubt this was one of the most exquisite birds I’ve seen, and to watch him perform was an absolute privilege.
Pallid Harrier - Lancashire
Pallid Harrier - Lancashire
In first place, rather surprisingly, was Durham’s very own Scops Owl – found roosting in a small elder bush one morning in September where it proceeded to stay for the next few days much to the delight of the growing crowd of birders coming to admire it. This quirky, angry looking miniature bird of prey has always been a firm favourite of mine when visiting falconry exhibits, and having only seen Scops Owls abroad in Spain before, in near pitch black at that, this was a species that I was especially keen to see in Britain, seeming such an unlikely visitor from the continent. 
Scops Owl - Durham
Scops Owl - Durham
Thankfully the Scops was still in place when we arrived, tucked up against the trunk of its spindly elder and giving cracking views as it kept a watchful eye on the crowd, blending in perfectly with the gnarled bark. With 84 accepted records in Britain to date this is by no means a “mega mega” but it was still an absolutely superb bird that was most definitely worth travelling for and a bird on my personal wish list for Britain.
Scops Owl - Durham
With 2018 now in full swing who knows what avian delights await us – a wintering Wallcreeper is most definitely long overdue and is sure to whet the appetite of almost every birder in Britain, while a scattering of American warblers in the autumn would be most welcome, especially if a male Blackburnian was amongst them. With Far Eastern sprites also coming ever closer to our shores over the past few years, who knows what "First for Britain" oriental goodies might just be carried over on the easterly winds… Whatever the case, fingers crossed for a good bird-filled year! 
Wallcreeper
Coming soon to a south coast cliff near you... we hope! 

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Mallorca Birding Trip Report (19th - 21st February 2017) - Species List and Locations

Day 1 – Boquer Valley – Embassament de Cúber (19th February 2017)


Balearic Warbler – 19th FebruaryBoquer Valley (2 males seen well singing in coastal scrub. Seen on both visits to the valley in the last quarter of the route on the slopes by the sea).
Balearic Warbler - Mallorca
Cinereous Vulture – 19th FebruaryMirador Ma-10, north of Embassament de Cúber, (5 birds seen circling and feeding on a carcass in the mountains).
Black Vulture - Mallorca

Day 2 – Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca (20th February 2017)


Moustached Warbler – 20th FebruaryParque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca (Two birds singing and showing well in reeds on the track up to the visitor centre).
Moustached Warbler - Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot – 20th FebruaryParque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca (3 individuals seen on canal near visitor centre. Two wearing neck collars and one without. Re-introduced population that has been present for over 10 years).
Red-knobbed Coot - Mallorca

Notable Species:

Marbled Duck – 4 seen at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca.
Balearic Shearwater – Large flock of 58 birds flying south at Muro Beach.
Little Bittern 2 seen at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca.
Night Heron – Large rookery at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca.
Griffon Vulture – One seen en-route from Palma to Port de Pollença and another seen on the route back to the airport.

Booted Eagle – A handful seen during the trip with three individuals at Boquer Valley.
Purple Swamphen – 4 seen at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca.
Black-winged Stilt – Plentiful at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca.
Kentish Plover – Large numbers at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca.
Audouin’s Gull – A handful seen roosting at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca on the pools behind the Villa Blue Hotel and Spa.
Hoopoe – 1 seen on the Ma-12 road south of Port d'Alcúdia.
Crag Martin – A small number seen at Boquer Valley and on the route from Palma to Port de Pollen
Booted Eagle – A handful seen during the trip with three individuals at Boquer Valley.
Purple Swamphen – 4 seen at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca.
Black-winged Stilt – Plentiful at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca.
Kentish Plover – Large numbers at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca.
Audouin’s Gull – A handful seen roosting at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca on the pools behind the Villa Blue Hotel and Spa.
Hoopoe – 1 seen on the Ma-12 road south of Port d'Alcúdia.
Crag Martin – A small number seen at Boquer Valley and on the route from Palma to Port de Pollença.

Blue Rock Thrush – Seen in good numbers at Boquer Valley.
Sardinian Warbler – Numerous throughout. Good numbers at Boquer Valley
Serin – Numerous throughout. Good numbers at Boquer Valley and around the visitor centre at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca.
Blue Rock Thrush – Seen in good numbers at Boquer Valley.
Sardinian Warbler – Numerous throughout. Good numbers at Boquer Valley
Serin – Numerous throughout. Good numbers at Boquer Valley and around the visitor centre at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca.
Marbled Duck - Mallorca
Marbled Duck

Additional Species

Shelduck
Mallard
Gadwall
Pintail
Shoveler
Wigeon
Teal
Little Grebe
Cormorant
Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Great White Egret
Grey Heron
Red Kite
Marsh Harrier
Kestrel
Peregrine
Moorhen
Coot
Avocet
Little Ringed Plover
Lapwing
Spotted Redshank
Greenshank
Black-headed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Sandwich Tern
Razorbill
Feral Pigeon
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Kingfisher
Meadow Pipit
Grey Wagtail
Robin
Black Redstart
Stonechat
Song Thrush
Blackbird
Blackcap
Cetti’s Warbler
Chiffchaff
Firecrest
Great Tit
Raven
Starling
House Sparrow
Chaffinch
Linnet
Goldfinch
Greenfinch

Heard only:
Fan-tailed Warbler

70 Trip Totals
4 Trip lifers

Orchid List

Giant Orchid (Himantoglossum robertianum) – Several seen at Parque Natural S'Albufera de Mallorca along the track to the visitor centre and another cluster by the sea at Muro Beach.
Giant Orchid - Mallorca


Sombre Bee Orchid (Ophrys fusca) – One seen on slopes near the sea at Boquer Valley.
Sombre Bee Orchid - Mallorca

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Mallorca Birding Trip Report - Day 3 (Tuesday 21st February 2017)

With our final day on Mallorca beckoning and having succeeded in already locating all of our target birds for the trip, we decided to dedicate the morning to a return to the Boquer Valley in an attempt to secure better photos of the charismatic Balearic Warblers
Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Our flight home wasn’t until late in the evening, so this gave us plenty of time to explore the final section of the low coastal scrubland where the Balearic Warblers favoured, on this occasion taking the right hand path as opposed to the left which enabled us to get right down next to the turquoise blue bay. 
Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Boquer Valley, Mallorca
The patch of scrub the Balearic Warblers were favouring
The stark contrast in weather between this visit and our first attempt was apparent, and we enjoyed fantastic sunshine along with little to no breeze in what was perfect warbler hunting conditions. Almost immediately we caught a snatch of the distinctive song, echoing through the valley in regular bursts and leading us down the winding paths of the slope into an area of open ground. Providing a good viewpoint over the surrounding patches of scrub, it wasn’t long before we had our target, flitting around the vegetation and leading us on a merry dance across the Maquis.
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler playing hide and seek in the palms
Sitting low down and quietly waiting for the bird to come to us proved to be the best tactic, and we were soon enjoying mouth-watering views as this distinctive warbler perched up on the surrounding palms in front of us, proudly singing his heart out and offering several photo opportunities as he flitted from exposed perch to post. 
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
On one occasion it took us a while to register that a second male had crept up behind us, loudly belting out bursts of song from the shrub literally a few feet away, and we turned around to be met with point blank views of the charcoal grey songster.
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
After several hours enjoying both the beautiful scenery of the Boquer Valley bay and the company of our Balearic endemics, pleased with our vastly improved photographs we decided to head back to the car, conscious that we needed to get to Palma in good time for our flight back to the UK. 
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Balearic Warbler - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
A quick scan of the sea before we left revealed two Shags fishing amongst the jagged black rocks in the company of the ever-present Yellow-legged Gulls, while a pair of Crag Martins playfully swooped along the base of the cliffs.
Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Friar's Cowl - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Friar's Cowl was another interesting plant we found whilst in the Boquer Valley
An unfamiliar sound emanating from the imposing valley sides as we walked back to the car eventually revealed the culprits to be 3 Booted Eagles, soaring effortlessly along the tops of the mountains and providing great views as they twisted and turned in the air.
Booted Eagle - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Booted Eagle - pale morph
With both light and dark morphs present, it was great to see the contrast and differences between the two colour forms. 
Booted Eagle - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
Booted Eagle - Boquer Valley, Mallorca
The taller bushes at the base of the mountain once more held a good handful of Sardinian Warblers, this time more active in the pleasant Mediterranean spring sunshine, while Blue Rock Thrushes, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes all darted out in front of us on the track in regular intervals, as Serins once more serenaded us as we walked with their jovial display flights.
Serin - Mallorca
Serin
With our time exploring the Mallorcan landscape coming to a close, a scan through the conifers at the base of the valley revealed no Firecrests despite a careful search through the pine needles, instead only the usual mix of Robins, tits and finches chattering noisily in the trees. 
Boquer Valley
Goat - Boquer Valley
The Boquer Valley was full of goats!
A quick check of the parched orchard grassland revealed a single Meadow Pipit and 4 Linnets foraging in the dry sandy soil, while a stunning jet black male Black Redstart provided fantastic views back at the car park.
Black Redstart - Boquer Valley - Mallorca
Black Redstart
Black Redstart - Boquer Valley - Mallorca
Black Redstart - Boquer Valley - Mallorca
Boquer Valley - Mallorca
Boquer Valley - Mallorca
With our journey back down to Palma revealing nothing new, only raptors seemed active in the glorious afternoon sunshine, and we clocked up our second Griffon Vulture of the trip along with several Booted Eagles and a solitary Red Kite. Arriving at Palma in good time meant we were able to stop to admire the impressive cathedral and enjoy an early dinner of delicious Spanish Tapas before our flight, catching sight of a final Sardinian Warbler flitting through the waterside trees opposite the cafes along the cobbled street as we ate. 
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral - Mallorca
Palma Cathedral
Having secured all our target species and obtaining excellent views of all individuals concerned, we really couldn’t have asked for more during our trip to the fantastic Balearic islands. With a combination of the breath-taking mountain scenery and impressive wetland habitats, Mallorca had certainly delivered on all fronts; our 3 days of Mediterranean sunshine resulting in 4 new birds, including a fantastic Balearic island endemic to boot!
Balearic Warbler - Mallorca
Balearic Warbler
Red-knobbed Coot - Mallorca
Red-knobbed Coot
Moustached Warbler - Mallorca
Moustached Warbler
Black Vulture - Mallorca
Black Vulture
Mallorca
Mallorca
Mallorca
Mallorca
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