Monday 30 April 2012

Lunch Break

I returned home today - aware that birds were moving. Despite this I kept a direct course toward my child with no deviation. Well almost. I stopped for lunch at Frampton Marsh which is 5 mins from my journey course. It was unfortunate that I should bump into a Black-winged Stilt there although as a british lifer it was pretty underwhelming (probably due to the several hundred I have seen abroad every year for the last 5). Still a brit tick is a brit tick and number #329. Frampton was humming with migrants. Whimbrel  greeted me in the car park and Garganey came as a pair. 2 White Wagtails were pleasant as was their brighter cousin a smart female Yellow Wagtail. The waders were playing ball with a Little Stint and my first Little Ringed Plover of the year.

There was also a Bonxie knocking about that was demolishing a Coot but I didnt have time to see that and as quickly as I arrived I disappeared in a puff of dust toward Yorkshire. There was some birding in Norfolk but mostly I got pissing wet through. As such I will merely say that I year ticked Common Sandpiper, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Wheatear, Arctic Skua, Sandwich Tern, Little Tern and Arctic Tern plus I had a Blackbird between my legs. A fuller update may arrive in time.

Tuesday 24 April 2012


Off to Norfolk today with work. Cant say where/what Im doing due to the usual reasons but I might get a decent whack of downtime for some decent birding whilst I am there so I will endeavour to update the blog if I get the chance. Should also get plenty of seabird year ticks. Not a lot doing here apart from falling in the mud with my daughter in a sheep field and having to walk through the village looking like something from the black lagoon. Nightmare.

Plenty of these guys back now.

Friday 20 April 2012

30th Birthday Presents

Black-necked Grebes at North Cave thanks to Richard Willison. Far to good for me!
Thanks to all those that have relayed their condolences on my reaching this momentous milestone on my journey of inevitable decline and oncoming decreptitude. I seek joy in the fact that I remain firmly in the youngest 1% of birders despite hitting the first age milestone that you dont want to hit. My lovely wife and child have purchased (wife provided the capital I believe) a new birdtable with my parents adding feeders. A kindle will also be wending its way into my possetion soon I believe. Nice one.

please ignore the very long grass...

I spent the most momentous of days birding, well work surveys tbh but it was birding nonetheless. I was a sore with a bad back (different from last month but annoying - whats with the continual being mildly injured thing?) and thus a bit grumpy. I was even worse by the time I had surveyed the first sector and half the second with sack all about (1 Curlew and a few Shelduck). I kept an eye on the fishing pits behind the bund and these provided plenty of Pochard and Tufted Duck plus plenty of Great Crested Grebes and even the odd Goldeneye. No raptors or owls today but a big pulse of Swallows with a few Sand Martins. As I was finishing my second sector over 75 Swallows magically appearred. This was cracking as a single copse had 5 species of warbler vocalising (cant really say singing as only the Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff were really doing that). A Cetti's gave a brief burst of noise followed by a stuttering Sedge Warbler finding its vocal feet - perhaps a 1st summer bird? Maybe not being an early arrival. A Blackcap was sub-singing as well. I saw none of these naturally but it felt despite the showers and cool temperatures if there was a bit of migration going on.

Amongst the aythyas on one of the pits I found a 1st winter female Scaup, seemingly a different individual to last month which was on the pit next door and appeared to be an adult female. The new bird had a much smaller white blaze and was in messier plumage as well. No camera again due to the ever present threat of getting pissing wet through. Oh and my scope head returned so I got to remember how heavy lugging my scope/tripod combo about is. Even better for my back...

After I finished work I headed over to North Cave Wetlands in order to catch up with the Black-necked Grebes that had been present. Despite seeing dozens in Spain not long before its always nice to catch up with these beauties in god's own county. In this case three had dropped in - a pair which were like glue and a spare which stayed largely out of the way. I didnt see a great deal else although tonnes of hirundines were about and I saw my first House Martins of the year in North Cave itself. The Avocets were present in massive numbers and there were plenty of gulls about but my time was brief and I legged it.

Tuesday 17 April 2012

Ichneumon Wasp sp

This was hanging about on our climbers yesterday. Any ideas on ID? Pimpla sp.?

Monday 16 April 2012

New addition at 21 weeks

My wife is now 23 weeks pregnant but a fortnight ago - just before we left for Spain we got to see the baby again. It was being a git so we couldnt find out what flavour but here it is in all its glory. I can't wait to meet you.

Boss the Costa (species list)

In vaguely taxonomic order with Lifers in bold and Spanish Ticks in blue

1) Shelduck
2) Mallard
3) Shoveller
4) Pochard
5) Red-crested Pochard
6) White-headed Duck
7) Red-legged Partridge
8) Quail
9) Little Grebe
10) Black-necked Grebe
11) Great Crested Grebe
12) Balearic Shearwater
13) Gannet
14) Cormorant
15) Little Bittern
16) Night Heron
17) Cattle Egret
18) Little Egret
19) Great White Egret
20) Grey Heron
21) Purple Heron
22) Glossy Ibis
23) Greater Flamingo
24) Griffon Vulture
25) Bonelli's Eagle
26) Booted Eagle
27) Marsh Harrier
28) Montagu's Harrier
29) Common Buzzard
30) Sparrowhawk
31) Goshawk
32) Kestrel
33) Coot
34) Moorhen
35) Avocet
36) Black-winged Stilt
37) Stone Curlew
38) Collared Pratincole
39) Kentish Plover
40) Grey Plover
41) Sanderling
42) Dunlin
43) Little Stint
44) Turnstone
45) Green Sandpiper
46) Redshank
47) Snipe
48) Whimbrel
49) Black-headed Gull
50) Slender-billed Gull
51) Audouin's Gull
52) Mediterranean Gull
53) Yellow-legged Gull
54) Lesser Black-backed Gull
55) Common Tern
56) Feral Pigeon
57) Woodpigeon
58) Collared Dove
59) Turtle Dove
60) Common Cuckoo
61) Great Spotted Cuckoo
62) Red-necked Nightjar
63) Common Swift
64) Pallid Swift
65) Alpine Swift
66) Hoopoe
67) Bee-eater
68) Iberian Green Woodpecker
69) Crested Lark
70) Thekla Lark
71) Sand Martin
72) Swallow
73) Red-rumped Swallow
74) Sand Martin
75) Tree Pipit
76) Tawny Pipit
77) White Wagtail
78) Yellow Wagtail (iberiae & flava)
79) Wren
80) Robin
81) Redstart
82) Black Redstart
83) Northern Wheatear
84) Stonechat
85) Whinchat
86) Mistle Thrush
87) Blackbird
88) Blackcap
89) Whitethroat
90) Sardinian Warbler
91) Dartford Warbler
92) Subalpine Warbler
93) Zitting Cisticola
94) Reed Warbler
95) Great Reed Warbler
96) Cetti's Warbler
97) Willow Warbler
98) Wood Warbler
99) Western Bonelli's Warbler
100) Common Chiffchaff
101) Firecrest
102) Pied Flycatcher
103) Great Tit
104) Coal Tit
105) Crested Tit
106) Long-tailed Tit
107) Iberian Grey Shrike
108) Woodchat Shrike
109) Magpie
110) Jackdaw
111) Spotless Starling
112) House Sparrow
113) Chaffinch
114) Greenfinch
115) Goldfinch
116) Serin
117) Crossbill
118) Rock Bunting
119) Corn Bunting

I obviously can't count... So 119 species plus 2-3 heard only. Pretty nice.

Boss the Costa (part 5)

I was over the crest of the holiday in terms of birding and I was pretty pleased with what I had seen but I wanted to focus on migration for the final third of the holiday. I was pretty lucky on Tuesday, 10th April as I stumbled upon the migrant capital of the local area - a campsite at the east end of La Mata within a small pine plantation and it held birds! I had caught up with a female Redstart in Potato City Park which was being bothered by a Robin and the weather was unsettled with big cloud masses passing through although only dropping their precipitation on the mountains of the high Sierras. It was obvious birds were moving but numbers werent huge. In the afternoon we visited the aforementioned campsite so Isabelle could play in the park.
Confusing lark - looks a bit intermediate to my eyes
I couldnt help notice a small warbler flitting amongst the branches from my bench and closer inspection showed an all white underside and plain face - Western Bonelli's Warbler. I got really good views as the canopy was only at 8 foot high - a significant improvement on my previous with this species (2 dips in Yorkshire and a poorly seen bird last year in a cork oak plantation. No photos sadly, nor of the three Little Stints that were bothering the resident Kentish Plovers from the wader hide round the corner. I was allowed a 10 minute walk around the fields and an upright passerine gave the impression of a wheatear sp from front on but when it turned laterally its plain mantle and long tail immediately gave it away as a Tawny Pipit. In terms of scarcity this is perhaps the rarest bird of the trip as it is a scarce migrant (1-2 records per year) and doesnt breed in the province. Similar in status to say Bluethroat in Yorkshire. I was chuffed but the local birders weren't impressed the next day (are you sure it wasnt a Richard's Pipit, I havent seen one of those here in 15 years etc etc (Richard's winter at La Mata in moderate numbers)). No photo which further inflamed them but corking views and at the time I thought it was a lifer but on inspecting my literature it appears I saw one on Kos in 2005. At the time I was a complete newbie so that could have been any lark or pipit really... It felt like a lifer anyway so I was very pleased. A female Redstart was also evident in the darkness of the pinestraw within the plantation as we left the area.

An evening reading on the balcony gave me 3 Bee-eaters west and as dusk became night at least three species of Bat. There was a tiny pippistrelle species hawking the lights low down and an audible small bat that flew a little higher and further - my first impression was also a pip sp but Im not sure if any have audible echo location which was easy to hear with my ears. Maybe something else. There was also an audible large bat which ranged widely and was more often heard than seen - maybe Noctule although there are other large bats present I think. Again im not sure which are audible to the human ear. There may have been a silent large bat sp as well but it was hard to seperate as the bigger bats didnt come down low very often. 3-4 Stone Curlews were seen flying and calling over the scrub and Red-necked Nightjars were heard. Just before I retired what sounded like a party of Cranes flew overhead but my certainty was masked by next door having the mother and father of all arguements.

The final few days involved snatches of birding with the 11th giving me a Crossbill west from the balcony and a short afternoon walk by the plantation yielded migrants in the form of a smart male Whinchat and a Quail flushed from under my feet in the meadows. Loads (c30) of Corn Buntings were getting horny with plenty of song and chasing behaviour seen and at least another 4 Quail were contact calling - seemingly fresh in.

The 12th started with a male Crossbill sat in the pine opposite the balcony before moving west (I wonder if they are breeding in the lowlands this year as they have never been present at La Mata for me before). I had Isabelle at the park in the morning to let my wife get some sleep and feel human so naturally I took her down to the plantation where Mistle Thrush were getting amorous with plenty of song and food carrying. Not a species I remember from Spain but apparently I saw them 4 years ago. A couple of pairs breed in the locale. 3 Redstart including a male were working the darker areas of the floor and a smart male Pied Flycatcher was seen and badly photographed by the gate. The slightly higher and more open area produced a brief Wood Warbler and a pair of Blackcaps. Lots of migs. I didnt get to the wader hide but I was pleased with the haul.

In the late afternoon I visited the raptor watchpoint at the west end with Isabelle napping. It held plenty of migrants like this morning with a male Marsh Harrier and a distant Great Spotted Cuckoo passing by, both 2nds for the trip with the harrier getting grief off the local Monty's. A Stonechat was perched in the reed stems and a couple of Willow Warblers were in the small, shrubby pines by the water level control building. A few Dunlin and Sanderling were new for the trip and they were joined by a handful of Turnstones and Redshank on the spit. A hulking 2nd summer YL Gull was also there with a few Slender-billed Gulls steering clear. Soon Izzy was waking up so we cleared off for an ice cream.

Swings are fun!

The afternoon of the 13th, the penultimate day, had a Tree Pipit in the plantation with left over Redstart and Pied Flycatcher despite overnight rains but upon returning to the flat thousands of swifts were in evidence and a bit of perserverence pulled out a prolonged view of an Alpine Swift flying over our relatives back garden with a Common Cuckoo seen flying west as well. A few Cormorants were also on the move and a party of8 headed west with a singleton north west.

I managed to get a pass out for 2 hours on the morning of our departure and threatening cloud had failed to deposit any rain on the lowlands so the plantation held leftovers again with male Redstart and Pied Flycatcher plus a male Blackcap in a similar place to the pair a few days earlier. The wader hide was equally quiet despite the raucous noise of returning Common Terns. The three Little Stints were still present and progressing nicely into their confusing summer plumage whilst diligence paid off with a Grey Plover hiding amonst the salicornia being new for the trip. I was annoyed with the returns and with 40 minutes left I decided a seawatch was required with little expectation. The driving meant I had 25 minutes and only my bins (scope head is in the shop at the moment due to catastrophic failure a while ago). A couple of Little Egrets were fishing in the surf and as I moved round to the rocks of my chosen promentary between La Mata and Torrevieja a Whimbrel was farting about with 8 Turnstones and the same of Sanderling. With 2 minutes to go my heart was sinking when I picked up a small group of 5 Balearic Shearwaters heading south only a couple of hundred metres out. I have finally caught up with these on their breeding grounds! Further out Cormorants were passing when a couple of birds caught my eye as having a different flight style and close inspection revealed a 3-4CY and 2CY Gannet at about the limit of my binoculars effective distance. A province tick although I had seen many on the Plymouth-Santander ferry years ago. It was time to go.

It had been an excellent trip with plenty of great birds and sights. 113 species were seen all said and 2-3 were heard only (Lesser Short-toed Lark, Water Rail and possibly Crane). A few mammals and lots of Butterflies and insects were also recorded. Soon we were back at the decidedly chilly East Midlands airport.

Sunday 15 April 2012

Boss the Costa (part 4)

Today was my big day (Monday 9th April). Angela let me bog off and go birding for the entire time. My thoughts after finding 3 Black Kites at El Hondo last year was to head to the North Gate there for the raptor roost emergence and then head into the mountains, maybe via the visitor centre. A good plan if you ask me on reflection as I saw loads!

A minimum of 8 birds left the roost - hard to keep count!

I arrived on site at 6.30ish and dawn was still a little over the horizon. Soon a Cetti's Warbler piped up and a Night Heron left the reeds for its roost site to the south after a brief flyby. The sun was thinking about making an appearance when 3 Montagu's Harriers fly by. Except one wasnt - I did a double take on the third bird which seemed a little smaller and flew on flat wings - a Red-necked Nightjar. This was not an ID hurdle I thought I would have to cross but one to be aware of when size isnt apparent (such as in the early dawn when flying high).

Dawn at El Hondo from the North Gate
Pretty soon herons and egrets were emerging from the reedbed and the first swifts were in the air. Some ducks shuttling from pool to pool were variously Shoveller and Mallard. I walked along the track to the gate in order to get views of the smaller stuff and clamped eyes on a handful of Cetti's & Reed Warbler. A Great White Egret left its roost in the reeds (apparently 18 had been seen in the locale recently - a great number for this former rarity). As the sun rose and the roosting birds had largely left I moved off to the visitor centre but not before catching up with my only Chiffchaff of the trip plus a female Blackcap.

At the visitor centre it was soon apparent that mozzies were everywhere and I togged up in my hoodie and kept my hood firmly UP. Quickly a party of 7 Glossy Ibis left their hidey hole for a day stalking the wet fields in nearby San Felipe Neri. Making my way out on to the boardwalk and a Green Sandpiper was flushed by my footfall. Good birds at every turn. As I received the first of 29 mozzy bites to my face and neck I noticed a bird sat on the fence. Great Spotted Cuckoo - my first lifer of the trip and showing nicely.

The bird showed well for 5 minutes before I was joined by a warden which spooked it (I was racing round so he didnt flush anything. Two Purple Herons pitched down into the reeds at the next pool just as I arrived but I couldnt see them. There were plenty of White-headed Ducks, Pochard, Black-necked Grebe and Great Reed Warbler were singing from every stand of reed. A Snipe pitched down near to where the herons had gone in but quickly there was little evidence of anything.

The next pool held even greater numbers of waterfowl and the hide was full of cobwebs offering brief respite from the mosquitos. A Great White Egret was fishing just in front of me and 15 pairs of Black-necked Grebe were about. A few Collared Pratincoles were loafing on an island and one came to investigate flushing a Little Bittern.

Time was pressing so I left at speed nursing the soreness on my face with little regret for the plethora of birds that I'd seen including a drake Stonechat at the gate. I was going to the mountains. First stop was Maigmo, an isolated Sierra en route to Alcoy my final destination.

Nice! As I havent hit the mountains before I scored an easy spanish tick in the form of Coal Tit before a large hawk rose on the ridge in the first of the photos above - a Goshawk. This was too easy. A migrant male Marsh Harrier was seen 5 minutes after the gos disappearred, one of only 2 seen on the trip.

 A hair raising drive to the false summit produced little other than some Long-tailed Tits and amazing views of the province and the peak. I dropped down to a lower level and started hunting for singing birds, quickly turning up my first Crossbill, Wren & Firecrest of the trip and in Spain. Robins sang and Crested Tits scolded but it looked like I was going to luck out on my main target. I got in my car and pulled away, flushing a dumpy bird from the pine straw, my first Rock Bunting. Not great views as I blocked the road at a difficult point but the bird sat up in a bush and gave itself away by its orange breast and belly, the striking head pattern less obvious in the dappled light of the understorey. Heading to Alcoy on a high, aware that my next lifer should prove easier to find.

A Magpie over the road was the only thing of interest in the half hour hike to Alcoy. A brief nutrition stop (it was 1pm and I hadnt had a drink or food all day, yikes) interupted my journey but I sailed past Font Roja and through the town headed for the cliffs behind where amongst the many Spaniards relaxing on Easter Monday were at least 23 thermalling Griffon Vultures ascending to the heavens from the only breeding site in the province after their reintroduction some 11 years ago. The birds were huge and quite a lot higher than my parking place but they were joined by a male Sparrowhawk which looked knat sized in comparison. I headed to Font Roja, the Sierra across the valley but it was a bust due to all the tourists so I bugged out for Santa Pola in the lowlands instead.

Back in the lowlands I stumbled on some gems in yellow in the form of Iberian Yellow Wagtail and Blue-headed Wagtail. I also stumbled on a couple of amourous young Spaniards shagging in a layby next to the very busy N-332. Eyes down. A Dartford Warbler briefly topped a stand of salicornia before disappearing as they do. A Water Rail was squawking in the reeds and distant terns wouldnt resolve into species (probably Whiskered). I gave up after I flushed a gaggle of Turnstones and turned tail but not before I noted another Great White Egret amongst the plethora of Flamingoes, Stilts and Avocets. I was knackered but very happy. The trip list was now 98 species plus 1 heard only.

Boss the Costa (Part 3)

Day 3 (April 6th) started with an early morning visit to the city park in Torrevieja to give my wife some respite from the little darling. Due to Peppa Pig the park was duly renamed Potato City Park. Other parents may/may not get this but hey - the machinations of a 2 1/2 year olds mind are odd. I did add Robin here, a migrant presumably (although 2 were present and holding territory on all 3 visits here). A basking Red-eared Slider was presumably an escaped pet (dumped more likely) although they do breed at Clot. Various Audouin's Gulls and Yellow-legged Gulls were bathing in the fountain here and a Willow Warbler showed that migs were still passing through.

My good deed was reinforced by taking the little one out in the afternoon for a ramble. She unfortunately fell asleep for 90 minutes instead so I took the opportunity to head to the outskirts of El Hondo and have a gander (the reserve proper is only open for 3 hours twice a week which is a crime). A Corn Bunting was calling from a crop near the Roller site (about a fortnight too early for these guys sadly).

I moved round to view the reserve and the sky was full of swifts and martins. Scanning through them found a Kestrel but no Alpines. Rather nicely a pair of Booted Eagles emerged, presumably migrants as few pairs breed in the province. One each of light morph and dark morph. These guys circled above for 20 minutes before heading east.

 Moving to the North Gate only gave me a Mosquito bite and I rescued the child as she was coming to from a monster of a mozzy on her leg. Splat! We had a look at the tip which held no storks as hoped for but plenty of gulls including Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull. There were plenty of scabby Cattle Egrets knocking about as well. I also noticed a small colony of Jackdaws in the palms which are a newish development I think. As we left a Stone Curlew flushed from crop close to the car and flew over the bonnet. I was surprised it took so long to find one to be honest as they are really common in the locale.

A beach day on the 7th at Los Arenales de Sol meant a family walk around El Clot de Galvany, the gem of the villa steppe. This little oasis regularly produces rare birds and usually has plenty of scarce breeders in the scrub, vegetation and on the pools. Sadly not this time although a Spanish tick in a Whitethroat was cool but the only other additions to the trip list were Sand Martin, Moorhen, Turtle Dove (the only one of the trip) & Little Egret. There were hordes of Red-rumped Swallows amongst the swifts and hirundines which was cool and plenty of vocal (if not visible) Ibe Woodies. The beach failed to produce any seabirds aside from the ever present Audouin's Gulls.

The 8th was largely a lazy day on the balcony as my wife was struck down with morning sickness but I esconced myself on the balcony watching a huge passage of Common Swifts with about 20/minute passing all day. Associated with this were a few Pallid Swifts, a Bee-eater and a single Alpine Swift mere feet from the balcony. A Purple Heron came in off and after circling landed not by the lake but in thick scrub. A largish raptor came in off as well - this made it interesting but sadly not that interesting as it was a light phase Booted Eagle which stayed well away from the flat.

This was bobbing about in front of the balcony most of the day so I had to take a photo. Love them!
Late afternoon and Isabelle was napping again. This time I did go to the west end of the lake and watching the scrub from the car I noticed two raptors high up - both pale phase Booted Eagles so 2-3 in the day. These headed south west over La Salina de Torrevieja, La Mata's bigger brother which still operates for salt extraction. A small flock of Redshank bombed about and a Cuckoo passed east. 3 Montagu's Harriers were hunting the reedbed - seemingly we are still waiting for a few to get back as 4 pairs were present last easter. Round on the Lemon Tree Road - closer to the reedbeds I found some migrants! A Subalpine Warbler was brief but a smart male. The arse end of a female Redstart was tricky to pin down as I chased it through the salicornia with it raising hopes of a Nightingale with its atypically shy behaviour. 6 Northern Wheatears were in the usual place and all looked to be Greenland race. An unseen Lesser Short-toed Lark flew overhead without me clapping eyes on it. I still havent seen one on the deck - just heard the call whilst a small passerine goes over. A pair of Little Grebes were breeding on a small reervoir used to irrigate the Citrus groves.

Record Shot?

Boss the Costa (part 2)

Second full day and my morning cuppa was rudely interupted by a flock of 4 Bee-eaters drifted west over the apartment vrrrtt-ing as they passed. To be fair all I heard for the most part was the noise before I picked up 4 specks in the sky amongst the large westerley passage of Common and Pallid Swifts.

As a family we decamped to the Sierra Espuna in Murcia - about 90 minutes away and an exceptionally beautiful place. In the foothills we came across a short walk with the stations of the cross up it with a large statue of Christ at the top. As an atheist it is all a bit meaningless normally for me but with a Catholic wife in a catholic country on the first day of the Spanish Easter weekend (they start to celebrate on the Thursday) in the sun it was super nice. We had a picnic at the bottom before ascending.

On the way up a Crested Tit came and had a look at us and there were tonnes of Chaffinches, Sards, Great Tits and Serins. A dark mid-sized raptor overflew us and I couldn't put a name to it. Looked too long-tailed for Common Buzzard and too early for Honey Buzzard but I was erring to the latter on plumage and shape as it moved across into the next valley obviously migrating. A green butterfly was photographed on the way up. Any ideas?

The statues were quite pleasant but I wanted to get into Espuna proper... House Martins flitted overhead as we got going. The drive up was bumpy but we ascended into the pine forest and quickly saw lots of Spanish subspecies of Red Squirrels. 3 goat-deers as my wife called them turned out to be Barbary Sheep, an introduced type of goat for game shooting in the park in its former incarnation. I picked up the self same raptor I had seen earlier a few miles to the south west and it was evidently a very dark Common Buzzard doing a Honey Buzzard impersanation. Up with it were a handful of Red-rumped Swallows. Black Redstart were in evidence amongst the smaller pines and there were plenty of tits and chaffinches bombing about.I didnt get much chance to do any birding as my little girl wanted to amble about and play but my wifes sharp eyes picked up a pair of Bonelli's Eagles over the ridge displaying. They appeared to be 2CY and 3CY birds (I think) but they drifted south west out of view. Our journey home turned up Cattle Egret and Kestrel. That was it for Espuna and Murcia but an area well worth a proper birding return visit (along with the Guadalentin Valley nearby). Now up to 48 species for the trip and the Crested Tit was a Spanish Lifer.

Sierra Espuna

Boss the Costa

I'm just back from a n 11 day stint in the Costa Blanca. Not sad to leave the expats behind but a very pleasant break with plenty of birding slammed in. Im going to update chronologically with a species list at the end. That ok? Tough luck bad boy!

Cool looking Red Squirrel
 Boring bit first we flew with Ryanair and hired cars from......snoring already. Why do people put that shit on trip reports - if you want a cheap car, flight and accomodation ask about it. Use the internet. Write about the birds!!!!

Now the pictures in the report are genuinely awful - they are all pretty much record shots of stuff as I didnt set out to photograph stuff well (just bird bird bird). Anyhow after shit air left us sat on the tarmac for 2 hours we got off narrowly avoiding the French air traffic control strike which paralysed everything. A swiftish couple of hours later we landed in Alicante and in the late afternoon sun picked up our hire car. First bird of the trip was... a House Sparrow. I suppose you have to start somewhere but the usual dross (Blackbird, Greenfinch, Serin, Spotless Starling, Hoopoe, Swallow) was soon UTB without trying. We passed Santa Pola salinas in the falling light of the evening where we picked out Yellow-legged Gulls but little else.

Soon we were passing La Mata - the huge saltlake next to where we stay and notched an early Montagu's Harrier at the west end. We arrived at our flat in La Siesta, Torrevieja a few moments later. From the apartment Collared Doves, Woodpigeons and Pallid Swifts could be seen. This visit, due to the expanding family we were in a 1st floor apartment next door to our elderly relative that we stay with. This gave an amazing vista over La Mata and the surrounding area. The video is taken looking north east. The west end has a reedbed, some sandy scrub and loads of Citrus Groves. Adjacent to our flat is loads of scrub with some salicornia near the water and small stands of trees. To the east is the visitor centre with some basic agriculture, pasture, pine plantations and sand flats. Nice variety.

The firt full day (the 4th) I had two rambles around the local area inbetween doing the things you do on the first day... The first walk was at dawn and the highlight was hearing a Red-necked Nightjar doing its steam train impression. The rest of the stuff was pretty normal (but nice to see in a UK context). Mostly covering the scrub and lake edge I pulled out Iberian Grey Shrike, Thekla Lark, Zitting Cisticola, Slender-billed Gull, Sardinian Warbler, Crested Lark, White Wagtail, Kentish Plover, Avocet, loads of Corn Buntings, a flyover Grey Heron plus dross like Goldfinch, Red-legged Partridge, Common Swift & Shelduck. Waiting for the family to awake from their slumber I chilled out on the balcony with a coffee and my bins taking the above video. Temperatures were high teens (they touched 26 degrees one day and were typically 18-21 with a cold day of 16). A pair of Woodchat Shrikes were flitting about in the scrub ahead and a band of Cormorants flew north west on migration (passage and winter visitors to the province).

Once the motley crew was assembled we headed into Torrevieja where aside from being a good dad and husband I couldnt help noticing a Lesser Black-backed Gull circling a trawler from my vantage point on the promenade. Plenty of Audouin's Gulls were patrolling the harbour - they were more common than Yellow-legged Gulls generally throughout the trip. I couldnt help but notice the plethora of Feral Pigeons in the town... Yuk. A shower was looming and this cut short our trip.

Impressionist. I forgot to take photos of gulls...

Once the rain had passed I had a late afternoon ramble which saw a few migrants including 7+ Willow Warblers and 3 Cuckoos. Other stuff included the distinctive Iberian Green Woodpecker (full species surely) plus Redshank, Great Tit & Common Tern. The latter on their breeding colony. Day 1 done and 38 species (plus 1 heard) mostly reacquainting myself with the locals although the Lesser Black-back was a Spanish Tick

Sunday 1 April 2012

A Bit of Stuff

Yesterday I did a bit of ringing at Tophill Low - my first session of the year. We only caught about a dozen birds but a nice selection of stuff included Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit and a few Wrens. Somehow the jedi mind trick of ageing birds seemed to become clear and I managed to see some moult limits on the greater coverts in the 2CY birds which was pretty cool. It was really dull so no photos. A couple of Sand Martins were my first of the year and other vis migs were getting on for 80 Fieldfares and a bunch of Bullfinches.

Today I took a few photos of the many insects on the verdent blossom in the garden including the Peacock Butterfly above. Plenty of strange types of bees, hoverfly and a Beefly were seen. I got a few photos so any idea of ID would be appreciated.

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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