Sunday, 26 February 2017

Extremadura May 2016 - rain, rain, rain, a bit more rain and snow - but fantastic birding!

You will be pleased to know that I'm not going to break into song about 'The rain in Spain stays mainly on the Plain'. However, it bloomin' well rained most days on or around the Trujillo Plains when birding there for a week in early May 2016. Nevertheless, birding was good. Here's the preamble to my trip report, now uploaded at 'Birding Trip Reports - Other'. Also, please check out birding video from this trip at my YouTube channel.

Birded Extremadura for a week in early May 2016, based in Trujillo, spending most days exploring the nearby plains as well as making multiple trips to Monfrague throughout. Also, single trips further afield to the north just over in Castile y León (Sierra de Gredos Mountains) and to the south (Vegas Altas).

The weather was unseasonably wet throughout with blocking high pressure back home in the UK diverting low pressure systems over the western side of the Iberian peninsula. Only one full day of rain but most were showery with cracking late afternoon thunderstorms engulfing Trujillo. It was battered most days from 5pm and continuing into the evenings, you could set your watch by it! Never higher than mid teens (Celsius) meant for comfortable birding throughout, a fleece needed, but there was an increase in temperature on the turn of the weather on my last day.

Birding was fantastic, the crossroads half way from Trujillo to Monroy mentioned in the invaluable Gosney Guide (Site P4-4) was a must for raptors and grassland specialities. Nearby a Golden Eagle was unexpected yet most welcome site as it was pestered by a pair of 'tiny' Common Buzzards. However, the stars of the show were the territorial Spanish Imperial Eagles. Please see the full trip report for a day by day breakdown of the birding. The daily summaries were written at the end of each day, you might gather that I was getting a little fed up by the rain as the week progressed. The photos below offer a taster for the birding and the cracking scenery. Lots more in the report. Enjoy.

Please click on 'Birding Trip Reports - Other' - last report (pdf) in the Spain section.

A short video highlighting some of the fantastic birding is also available at my YouTube channel
The Spanish Imperial Eagles were breathtaking!

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Early year birding in London and Yorkshire

Several weekends birding Rainham in January and February produced the typical winter returns. At least 2 Marsh Harriers hunted the Silts whilst Common Buzzards looked on and a lone female Peregrine a top a pylon looked huge even at distance as it surveyed Wennington Marsh. Not forgetting the ever present Kestrels and big female Sparrowhawk that buzzed the area on several visits. A couple of Short-eared Owls patrolled Aveley Bay/MDZ on two visits. A Water Pipit was often seen feeding along the pool edges at the Shooting Butts hide whereas the wintering Rock Pipits on the foreshore seemed to be scarce this winter. Wintering wildfowl were evident especially as the reserve took on seasonal water and included a good variety of dabbling ducks, with double figures of Pintail. 5 (Russian) White-fronted Geese flew onto the reserve to roost (11 Feb) flanked by Greylag Geese. A group ranging from a dozen to thirty Avocets took a liking to Aveley Bay throughout., with Lapwing plentiful on both sides of the Thames but Golden Plover eluded me. A Grey Plover looked lonesome on the Thames shore with several Curlews, but Black-tailed Godwits roosted together on the reserve (150+ on 04 Feb). Lots of Stonechat around the reserve, Cetti's Warblers winding up their 'vocal chords' throughout, and a Waxwing entertained all in late January as it fed by the visitor centre.

Gulls on the Thames included the regular '5'. Also Yellow-legged Gulls seen at Rainham and up river at Thames Barrier Park (TBP). An adult Mediterranean Gull joined roosting gulls at Rainham's Coldharbour Point (14 Jan).

One 1st winter Caspian Gull at TBP from three Sunday visits was a low return given the numbers of Caspos present in the area, but of attraction were the colour-ringed gulls.

Lots of local (Rainham/Pitsea) Black-headed Gulls (yellow rings) and Herring Gulls (orange/red rings) with a couple of Danish (white VH37) and GBB Gulls (black JWR26) noted. Scandinavian argentatus Herring Gulls are usually ten a penny back home in winter, but the Thames shore is and was dominated by argenteus examples. The brute of a 'Scandi' Herring Gull shown below dwarfed some of its British cousins.

Elsewhere connected with the pale/grey Stonechat early in the year at Richmond Park and a visit back home saw me and my dad twitch the Pine Bunting near York. A cracking Yorkshire tick, we were lucky to relocate it early in the afternoon (28 Jan) when wandering round the muddy field edges (after spending 3 hours in the rain staring at a hedgerow!) A group of 31 (Russian) White-fronted Geese was a fine sight at Ingbirchworth Res., South Yorkshire (29 Jan) even so as they 'yapped' in flight, not at all familiar with their call. A bit of a goose fest going on there as a flock of 8 Pink-footed Geese stopped off to join the White-fronts, Greylag (160) and Canadas (275).

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Yorkshire Birding - Xmas and New Year 2016/2017

A nice trip back home for the Xmas break. Weather was generally good throughout, no snow but more or less a wintry feel. Birding summary below.

South Yorkshire Moorlands
The moorlands and moorland edge provided steady birding over the period. 3 Buzzards at Midhope and similar numbers at Strines were noted on one visit as were scattered sightings of Kestrels. A skein of 35 Pink-footed Geese flew W over Strines Moor (29 Dec). The feeders at Broomhead Reservoir were busy with Coal and Great Tits regular and a couple of Crossbills flew over (24 Dec). Ingbirchworth Reservoir held at least 25 Bramblings in the Beech trees along its western edge.

Wath Area
A brief visit to Old Moor RSPB on a crisp frosty morning (28 Dec) saw a flock of ca. 60 Pink-footed Geese heading NW over the reedbed screen. However, the birding highlight was the sighting of a couple of Bearded Tits in this area - Wath Tick #188.

Gull Roost
Three visits to Anglers CP, West Yorkshire, produced a decent number of large gulls but no white-wingers. Each visit saw an adult winter Caspian Gull present and on one visit a small dark LBB Gull was in the roost (01 Jan), intermedius type. Several Goldeneye and Goosander were on the lake and Barn Owl hunted the scrub. A Woodcock flew over the car park at dusk (01 Jan).

After a slow start dipping birds at Crosspool, Sheffield, eventually saw the 'trillers' nearby at Stannington (15 on Dec) and south of Sheffield city centre (50 on 02 Jan). Elsewhere, when headed east stopped off at Hessle Sainsbury's near the Humber Bridge to see a flock of 50 (31 Dec).

Restricted to East and North Yorkshire. Connected with the wintering juv. Pallid Harrier near Welwick on two visits (27 and 31 Dec), with an excellent supporting cast of Hen and Marsh Harriers, Merlin, Peregrine and Short-eared Owls. Little Egrets present on the Humber shore are now to be expected and a couple were spooked by a hunting Short-eared Owl. The Peregrine flushed the shoreline waders (27 Dec) apart from a single Curlew that simply turned its head as if to give a Kermode-esque style 'Really?' The falcon changed its attention to the nervy Lapwings. A walk east on the same date along the river wall to a small marsh about a mile from the central watchpoint yielded a flock of 10 Geese (7 'White-fronts' and 3 'Tundra Beans') with a further 3 'Pink-feet' closer to the river wall.

Twitched the stunning (Eastern) Black Redstart at Skinningrove and despite a howling wind sandblasting the birders and the Chat, I managed to get a few record shots. It was very active constantly looking for food between the jetty boulders. En route Red Kites were evident over the A1M over a decent stretch running south from the A19 junction.

As always, looking forward to returning home soon.

More photos at 'Latest UK Bird Photos' and video compilation plus a separate one of the Caspian Gull available via 'Birding Videos (YouTube)'.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Barnsley Moorlands and a Pugneys twitch

Weekend birding back home. Saturday 26 November turned into a crisp sunny day on the moorland after starting off foggy at Ingbirchworth Res. with visibility down to 50 feet early morning. It started to clear around 10:00, and the highlight here was the mobile flock of 70 or so Brambling in the Beech trees hugging the western side of the reservoir.

A few moments later over at Midhope the fog had cleared providing difficult viewing conditions against the sun, so my Dad and I drove to Ewden Heights where Ewden Beck was cloaked in fog but the moorland tops were clear. Decided to walk out to Ewden Cabin/Shooting Lodge along the northern side of Broomhead Moor. The 45 min walk provided dramatic viewing of the rolling fog bank in Ewden Beck which receded then grew and finally dispersed late morning. We didn't give it long at the Cabin as the birding was slow with 4 distant Ravens of note.

Sunday 27 November and a quick twitch of the 2 Long-tailed Ducks up the M1 at Pugneys CP was, instead, more protracted. Missed an elusive LTD on the boating lake but saw an equally elusive fem/imm on the western most pond over the road at Calder Wetlands, where a Sparrowhawk nearly had a Song Thrush breakfast. A good variety of wintering duck seen and earlier on at the main boating lake a cracking 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull loafed around with a handful of similarly aged Herring Gulls. It looked better and strikingly white headed in real life than shown in the photo below.

A quick look at the 500 strong Canada Geese flock to the west of Ingbirchworth Reservoir produced 2 birds sporting red darvic rings (BAZN and CAFK). With thanks to Kane B, Tom L and Martin W on twitter for help with their origin -

BAZN adult male 29/06/2014 Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria. vv 27/112016 Ingbirchworth Reservoir. 123 kms SE. 2 yrs 151 days. CAFK adult female 29/06/2014 Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria. vv 27/11/2016 Ingbirchworth Reservoir. 123 kms SE 2 yrs 151 days

Joined 'Upland Tyke' at Midhope Low Moor and we birded there until 1445. A few finches included a pair of showy Crossbills and 5 Bullfinches. At least 3 Ravens patrolled the ridge around Pike Lowe where a couple each of Buzzards and Kestrels were seen. A flock of 30+ Pink-footed Geese tried to sneak by heading west. More details of the sightings at

Monday, 7 November 2016

Germany - Apr/May 2016 Trip Report

(Apr/May 2016) Annual long weekend visit to see my friends Chris and Sue in Germany. Birding around Kalrsruhe and over the years we have ventured north (Waghäusel and beyond) and south (Black Forest and Kaiserstuhl). Highlights added to my cumulative Birding Germany Trip Report updated at Birding Trip Reports - Other.

Some photo highlights below:

Friday, 4 November 2016

Cyprus October 2016 - Trip Report

Cyprus (October 2016) birding trip report on the web. Please take a look (pdf) by clicking on 'Birding Trip Reports - Other' and the pdf is available via the first link at the Europe section, or by clicking here.

3 new birds for me - Scopoli's and Yelkouan Shearwaters and White Pelican. The hot weather made migration slow, but it was still a fantastic place to visit.

Short video uploaded at my YouTube Channel (Jonathan's Birding Blog) - Desert Wheatear, Eleonora's Falcon, and Alpine Swift.

Enjoy the trip report and video any questions drop me a tweet @JohnoGull. A few photos to whet your appetite below.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Rainham RSPB: A Snob, a Magician and a LBJ

Saturday 29 October

A visit to Rainham RSPB centre taking the long route from Rainham station to the centre via the Stone Barges returning to Rainham station via the Serin Mound.

Joined MM on the way down from the station and first off Rainham 'West' held several Stonechat, and along the path running parallel to the edge of the silts a passerine was flushed by a bird of prey. This was a cracking (silhouetted) Merlin which turned on the after-burners and within seconds belted it's way onto the silts and out of view. Stone Barges was quiet with wintering gull numbers building up and on walking down towards Coldharbour Point small groups of Redshank made their way upriver on the rising tide (50 in total). Stonechat and Reed Buntings were noteworthy in the bushes, if only we had paid more attention to the Stone Barges bushes :) (Nice one SH re the Dusky Warbler). A pair of Common Sandpipers were at the western most end of Aveley Bay and a pair of Avocets flew downriver. On the reserve a male Marsh Harrier tangled with a Buzzard as viewed from the riverwall, and a lone Ring-necked Parakeet flew north over Aveley Pools (5 others earlier south of the river opposite Coldharbour Point).

After a rest at the RSPB centre and a brief river watch (nowt moving) decided to head back along the riverwall. A Green Sandpiper called from the reserve and the foreshore held 3 or 4 Rock Pipits. Set up shop at Serin Mound and it was fairly quiet for the first 30 minutes, but things were about to change. About 13:45 a Brambling flew west calling but I could not pick it out against the leaden sky. Shortly afterwards a male Snow Bunting went through, this one I did get onto, more on the sighting later. At about 14:20 a small dark Falcon flew low over the old riverwall and landed straight out on Wennington Marsh about 300 yards away, a stunning fem/imm Merlin, fair to say the bird from earlier in the morning. I managed to get the phonescoped record shot of the Merlin below before it took off and was lost to view neat the silts. Sadly it didn't return in the next hour but another birder and myself were treated to nice views of Kestrel, 3 Marsh Harriers (ad male and 2 cream-crown juvs) and distant Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk. A handful of Chaffinches migrated over as did a lone Redpoll. Then it was time to walk back to Rainham station. A cracking day.

Snow Bunting notes
A few minutes after a Brambling dweezed somewhere overhead at around 13:45 (interspersed with its supplementary soft 'sup-sup' calls), a piercing 'teu' rung out from over Wennington Marsh. Not a call I was familiar with but quickly tried to remember from the 'Collins Guide' - Snow/Lapland Bunting sprung to mind. The bird repeated the call with same ferocity and I picked it up, a long-winded passerine flying over the marsh which had now started to turn and was making a 'bee-line' for the landfill. I tracked it and as it passed level with me (100 yards away and not very high) I could see extensive white wing flashes of a Snow Bunting and almost simultaneously it gave it's more typical 'trolloping' ripple call, a call I'm familiar with from birding the north Norfolk coast in winter.

The bird flew towards the top of the landfill appearing to make heavy weather of it, with slow wing beats revealing the wing flashes in detail confirming it as a male. To be honest the contrast looked like a giant male Banded Demoiselle damselfly (ok the bands do not cloak the end of the wing). The white wing markings were extensive and stretched from leading to trailing edge contrasting with dark wingtips. At one stage the bird was flying with a Skylark in tow, allowing for comparison of the Bunting and Lark shapes. The Snow Bunting being slightly smaller, looked long-winded but they were more slender and the underparts were more streamlined than those features on the Lark. The rest of the body of the Snow Bunting was silhouetted.

Light conditions were ok, reasonably neutral with 8/8 cloud cover and hardly a breeze. The bird almost flew back towards the Serin mound but regained it's flight path to the southwest and over the tip. I stayed in the area for a further hour and half, but no further sign.

Sunday 30 October

Back again at Rainham RSPB, caught up with SH's excellent find, London's 2nd? Dusky Warbler . It was typically elusive but over a long waiting period managed to have excellent flight views and saw it well in the bushes on 3 or 4 occasions. Calling 'tic' fairly frequently.

Walking down to the RSPB centre what must have been yesterday's fem/imm Merlin took off from the slope up to Rainham 'Ridge' west of Aveley Bay car park. It perched on a hillside post and launched itself in pursuit a couple of times, ending up back on a post. After a few minutes it flew off with purpose towards the landfill. I managed to get a few photos (mainly phonescoped). One shown below, much better than yesterday's effort!!! More at 'Latest UK Bird Photos'.

A short video of the Merlin uploaded to my You Tube channel, enjoy.