Wednesday 12 December 2018

Cyprus Birding Trip Report - Oct/Nov 2018

Just under 100 species seen in Cyprus in a week at the end of October / early November 2018. A nice variety with some wintering specialities namely Finsch's Wheatear, Moustached Warbler and Armenian Gull. Was lucky to twitch a big rarity - Red-fronted Serin near Larnaca. The weather was good throughout, dry with temperatures mid to high 20s (degrees C) but comfortable, even though the constant NE wind was a bit nagging.

A good birding community on the island and thanks to all who helped me out whilst birding there and for feedback online since the trip, much appreciated.

To see the trip report please visit the tab at the top of the page: Birding Trip Reports - Other and it's the first pdf available at the Cyprus section. Enjoy.

Saturday 10 November 2018

Cyprus Gulls (Lady's Mile) Oct/Nov 2018

A set of photos of Gulls present at the pools at the top end of Lady's Mile, on the Akrotiri Peninsula, Cyprus at the end of October / early November 2018.  

Several visits (29 and 31 Oct and 01 and 03 Nov) produced similar results, up to 2,000 Black-headed Gulls with a single Mediterranean Gull picked out of the flock on two visits (01 and 03 Nov) and at least 2 Slender-billed Gulls as well (01 Nov). Usually up to a dozen large Gulls were present, sometimes keeping themselves to themselves and other times mingling with the Black-headed Gulls. My interest was in these large Gulls.

Armenian Gull was at the back of my mind given the timing of the visit, i.e. the start of the winter Gulling season. I thought I would struggle to pick out Armenian Gulls from what I presumed to be more numerous Yellow-legged Gulls. Having never seen them in the field before, how distinctive are these winter visitors to the eastern Med? It transpired that most of these large Gulls were in fact Armenian Gulls and Yellow-legged Gulls were particularly scarce at this location on these visits.

Armenian Gull Larus armenicus
A beautiful benign looking Gull, my first sighting of this taxon. The ring-bill of the adults/subadults, rounded head and dark eye and late wing moult were clearly noticeable. Even managed a few flight shots of one moulting adult / subadult.

Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
One adult photographed at this location. The bottom photograph alongside an Armenian Gull (left).

Mystery Gull
This brute had a striking black bill suggesting a young Gull, yet extensive grey upperwing on the closed wing suggested it being not so young? Smallish head, relatively feint and restricted neck streaking. What is it? Is this a big immature Yellow-legged Gull? The bill looks too? strong for Caspian Gull / influence?

Mediterranean Gull Ichthyaetus melanocephalus
A 1st winter was picked out of the throng of Black-headed Gulls. Lucky to get a clear phone-scoped image.

Slender-billed Gull Chroicocephalus genei
An elegant Gull, two shown here, they looked striking when they finally lifted their heads confirming their identity. The protruding front end as well as the pink tinged to the adult's underparts was a key feature in finding them when roosting amongst the many Black-headed Gulls.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Late Season Cyprus Birding

Birding on Cyprus has been good even though it is late in the autumn migration season.

Highlights include:

Akrotiri Marsh and Zakaki Pools - Armenian and Slender-billed Gulls, Squacco Heron, Little Bittern, Bluethroat, Penduline T, Moustached Warbler, Citrine Wagtail and Black Francolin.

Eleonora's Falcons at nearby Kensington Cliffs. They'll be off soon!

Finsch's Wheatears at Anarita Park... at last! What a smart species.

Greater Sandplovers at Paphos Headland.

Not bad given the weather is stuck in high pressure with a consistent NE windflow.

Sunday 14 October 2018

Twitching Dutch Football early October

Twitching European Football on a near annual European footy trip with fellow Owls friends. An early start on the Eurostar from London St Pancras (Friday 5th October 2018), destination the Netherlands. I bet the train is too fast to spot anything at Rainham Marshes RSPB. Yep and moreover, a bit foggy!

Time for a spot of raptor football on the outward leg from London to our base in Rotterdam. The fog soon cleared when crossing into Kent but the raptors were not playing ball, only a single Common Buzzard seen somewhere in NE France.

It could be Rotterdam or anywhere, Utrecht or Eindhoven!

Rotterdam's top team, Feyenoord, were out of town and the fixtures gave us a trip to watch FC Utrecht on the Friday night and then over to watch PSV Eindhoven the following day.

So, first match up FC Utrecht vs NAC Breda, 8pm kick off. A short train ride NE from Rotterdam to Utrecht through characteristic flat lowland landscape, mainly farmland
separated by water channels and small villages. Always do a bit of birding and the journey produced the occasional Common Buzzard loitering on a fence post with 2 or 3 Great White Egrets studying the channels. A small flock of a dozen Barnacle Geese, and possibly the more numerous Greylag Geese, had the Dutch equivalent of 'Category C' feel to them. Earlier on after checking into the hotel in Rotterdam a very pale Common Buzzard flew over this phase, a more common sight than back home when it can lead to confusion.

FC Utrecht 2 - 1 NAC Breda
A few beers in Utrecht, a nice University city with more cycles than ever you could imagine! In the low 20's on arrival mid afternoon. A 30 minutes walk to the stadium along a canal, and a bag of chips before the match then joined the locals in the stadium. The first half and FC Utrecht were all over their opponents and took the lead on the stroke of half time from the penalty spot, only after the ref had checked VAR pitch side. Early on in the second half FC Utrecht extended their lead with an Adam Reach-esque curler from outside of the box and the game looked won. NAC Breda finally had other ideas and pulled one back, leaving not quite a frenetic finish but an exciting one. FC Utrect weren't exactly hanging on and a third goal wouldn't have been unjust. A nice atmosphere and passion from the home end, and the win moved FC Utrecht out of the bottom three but NAC Breda remained rooted at the foot of the table. Late train back to Rotterdam.

PSV Eindhoven 4 - 0 VVV-Venlo
Whilst birding was patchy about a dozen Meadow Pipits SW over the hotel on the Saturday morning in Rotterdam proved some 'Mipits' were still on the continent. Saturday afternoon we took the train from Rotterdam to Eindhoven, just over one hour away having got a good deal online, worked out at 10 Euros each off peak with a group return. Again several Great White Egrets sighted in the fields en route, some giving a nice fly by. Soon we were taking in Eindhoven and a few nice beers. In the early evening we took the short walk from the city centre to Philips Stadium to watch the Dutch champions PSV Eindhoven host VVV-Venlo. PSV have had a flying start in the league this season, being unbeaten in their opening seven Eredivisie matches. This was soon to become eight. Got to our seats just before the 1945 kick off and the light show before the teams took to the pitch was spectacular. PSV's start to the game was more measured, working the ball nicely around the pich. The opposition VVV-Venlo were no pushovers but I felt that PSV could step up to another gear at anytime. They did manage to take a 1 - 0 lead before the break following a move with a few neat passes that proved to be clinical.

After half time PSV moved through the gears. Our view was from high up, but was good because it allowed a study of the formation and movement employed by PSV. The final score of 4 - 0 perhaps flattered the hosts, there were several good goals and one came from a penalty following a VAR review at the end of second half injury time. The review was quick but an issue was the seemingly lengthy wait for a break in play for the ref to run off the pitch to view the monitor. A nice Stadium, decent atmosphere and easy access to the ground from the city centre made it a pleasant experience. Back to Rotterdam.

A flyby Egyptian Goose on the Sunday morning was probably one of two seen at the pond near the hotel on leaving. Left Rotterdam just before noon back to London on train, with a quick change in Brussels.

A cracking trip, good football and good company with many thanks all round to the friends who went out of their way in helping to get nice accommodation, arranging match tickets and travel - top quality! Even if they didn't laugh at my jokes!

Monday 8 October 2018

Mid September Birding - inland Yorkshire Birding highlights with a visit across the Pennines

Lancashire Hot Spots

Twitched an agile Pallid Harrier that had a brief sojourn over farmland skirting the saltmarsh on the East side of the The Fylde, Cockerham, Lancashire (17th). Nice to watch it quarter the fields after a Meadow Pipit snack or two, more on them later, as well as turning the tables on a mobbing Crow. A scan over the saltmarsh saw the now staple British Little Egret forage in the channels and Curlew and Lapwing were represented but outnumbered by noisy Redshanks. Panic set in when a Peregrine decided to put on the after-burners in search of a spot of wader lunch. Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Marsh Harrier also noted here.

A couple of hours later I was across the marsh over at Skippool Creek racing against the incoming tide to spot the Semipalmated Sandpiper that had been present for a few days. A bit of a slog around one side of the Creek to where most of the smaller waders were feeding or roosting. No sign of the Nearctic peep over several scans of roosting Dunlin (20). One final scan and out of nowhere there it was. I managed the following record photo and helped a few others who had now made their way over from the Pallid Harrier twitch to see the bird, before the rising tide pushed it out of sight against the near bank. Ok, it can be easy twitching other's finds as I was doing today, and the pressure can be off. From my recent experience of this species on the Eastern Seaboard of the USA, and without seeing the palmations or taking detailed notes of this individual, it did look to be a 'Semi-P' on size, shape and impression alone. Much credit goes out to those with the task in hand of writing or collating notes for submission of this individual.

Owt darn Wath?

Old Moor RSPB the wetland reserve in the Dearne Valley, east of Barnsley, South Yorkshire. A brilliant place but it should not be taken in isolation, it's one of three main bodies of water in 'The Wath Area' collectively forming one of the best inland birding areas in Great Britain - Broomhill Flash, Wombwell Ings and Wath Ings (now a major part of Old Moor RSPB). With apologies for excluding Bolton Ings. Will always keep a 'Wath List' and this week back home saw me drop on 2 Wath ticks (Dipper and Grey Phalarope) and a 2nd for me at this site in the form of Spotted Crake. Now on # 194 for the area.

  • The Dipper was only the 2nd ever seen here in the Barnsley Area lowlands and first twitchable record.

  • Less than 10 Grey Phalaropes have been seen in 'The Wath Area', this latest one arriving on a day that saw many appear storm driven inland (21st).

  • The Spotted Crake gave many a birder the runaround during this period, but showed well in the open from The Reedbed Hide during a torrential late afternoon downpour (20th). I also connected when it finally gave itself up to the masses in drier conditions as it was being booted by a Moorhen the weekend before, on the evening of the 15th. 

Is it a Manic Monday, a Terrible Tuesday or perhaps a fantastic Sheffield Wednesday? No, it's Mipit Saturday !!!

You can't beat a bit of visible migration, vis- or is it viz-migging. Saturday 22nd September proved to be a good day for this birding art form, when every Meadow Pipit ('Mipit') in the Western Palearctic appeared to be making there way West across Great Britain. Way up on the South Yorkshire moorland edge provided a good vantage point, looking north scanning across the heather clad vista. The sky was full of dots to the horizon, literally hundreds of Meadow Pipits moving on a broad front and when in earshot giving their varied flight calls. Seeing the sky full of Pipits reminded me of Cape May's (fall) morning flight over in New Jersey, USA when the Warblers zoom by overhead, only for a look to the East out across the pond at the Higbees Morning Flight watchpoint revealing more passerines reverse migrating over the entire Point. Only then can the shear scale of such a movement taking place be truly appreciated.

Back to South Yorkshire where with my dad we tallied over 700 'Mipits' in the morning and continued counts (Upland Tyke and Simmo) throughout the day logging a total of over 1,600 by close of play. The 700 of the morning was perhaps an underestimate on my part, the birds moving on a broad front making counting very difficult, it could easily have been twice that number. Not just Meadow Pipits, caught up in the movement were finches including a flock of 20 Redpolls and several Siskins, and up 70 of the latter moved north west along the chain of moorland reservoirs late in the afternoon. Not too far away as the Anthus flies, an incredible 11,000+ Mipits were noted on this day moving over Anglers CP, West Yorkshire. This weekend also saw Pink-footed Geese returning to their wintering grounds with several small skeins noted moving NW in the Barnsley and Sheffield recording areas. Bringing proceedings to an end on the Sunday (23rd) a pair of Merlins tormenting a group of Ravens above a moorland peak was a special sight. It was instructive to study the feisty moorland wizards interacting with the magnificent King of the corvids.

With thanks to Simmo, Upland Tyke and Ivan et al for help with birding information throughout the week.

More photos from the week back home at 'Latest UK Bird Photos'.