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).