Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Quick Catch Up

In the two weeks since I returned from Majorca I have done a fair bit of birding – all local(ish).

Shustoke this year has been poor, in recent years the quality of birds has dropped but this year has seen a real slump in fortunes. Normally I see 105 to 120 species this years despite numerous visits I am stuck on 92 species! I can only hope it improves as I have purchased a parking pass.

Since I moved Joy and I have had to lower our expectations for our garden birds. The previous house had a tremendous garden and outlook, this house however, is nowhere near as grand. The garden is about 5% of what we had before. We join a horse paddock to the rear and on Saturday there was a Spotted Flycatcher on show which bodes well for the future. Sitting writing this there are still a few House Martins around.

In the four visit there have been no highlights at Shustoke, the Lapwing flock stands c.50 but there have been no other waders at all. There were good numbers of hirundines towards the end of last week but these have largely moved on. There were still a few Chiffs and the odd Blackcap and 18 Greylag (god I’m scraping the barrel).

Middleton RSPB has been a little better, although there is not much habitat for waders at the moment there have been two Great White Egrets and a Cattle Egret (which I missed). Last evening (Tuesday) Joy and I had a Bittern fly into Fisher Mill pool. There have also been Barn Owl on show and a scattering of warblers which are slowly petering out.

Today I travelled up the M6 to the Sandwell Valley, mainly to see Rose-ringed Parakeet for the year, but also to see a lingering Little Egret which is a patch tick (It used to be my patch). The reserve was quite good and I saw my targets straight away, so I decided to venture out. I walked to Swan Pool then over the M5 to Salters Lane and around Ice House Woods and back.

I was surprised how much cover there is, it was difficult to see the sky in places, I have to say there is loads of habitat but few birds. This was probably down to the time of year rather than an actual lack of birds. Although it won’t happen I would like a few more open areas just for variety. All the pools are surrounded by trees, with little in the way of shoreline.

Also I counted c.80 Magpies during my walk, which can’t be good, but don’t expect a cull soon, It will upset a Magpie lover somewhere on Twitter and we can’t have that! (Bloody Social Media – every idiot has an opinion – including me) More CULLS.

Oh and the football pitches my football team used back in the 80s are now a Bloody Caravan Park!


Sunday, 10 September 2017

A week in Majorca

We had a family holiday at the Porto Pollenca in the north of Majorca. It was never a birding holiday but I would manage to get a bit in most days. I decided not to hire a car as the Boquer Valley was a 20 minute walk and we were on the edge of some fields that looked promising. Also the Albefera Park National was easily accessed by public transport.

We flew on the Friday having booked the holiday through Jet2 who we went with last year. The hotel was adequate borderline good, the food was plentiful (buffet style) and the drink was free being an all inclusive, (dangerous).

I visited the Boquer Valley three times and although it was not the best of conditions we saw several Booted Eagle, Balearic Warbler, numerous Sardinian Warbler and a few small groups of Crag Martin, several Eleonora’s Falcons and four Redstart.

Another site lay on the edge of town and although it didn’t look promising the small orchard held c.12 Stone Curlew also in the general area I saw distant Griffon Vulture, Corn Bunting, Thekla’s Lark, Mediterranean Flycatcher (split from Spotted), Hoopoe, Tree Sparrow and a couple of Redstart.

We found we could visit the Albefera by catching a bus from near the hotel, so one afternoon we decided to go, we arrived at 4.45pm only to find out that the reserve closed at 6pm. It was a good mile to the visitor centre so by the time we got there it was nearly time to leave. We dived into the nearest hide where we saw Glossy Ibis, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron, Little Egret, Osprey, Wood Sandpiper, Shoveler, Teal and Western Purple Swamphen.

On Thursday we agreed to pay a visit earlier but a torrential rain storm early in the morning delayed our arrival. However, with more time we visited more areas and it was really good and if in Majorca it is well worth a visit. Highlights included good numbers of Kentish Plover, Spotted Redshank, Greenshank, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Stone Curlew, Sardinian Warbler, Nightingale, Purple Heron, Little Bittern, Purple Swamhen, Cetti’s Warbler and the highlight seven Flamingo.

We visited the same hotel last year and walking down the front a gull flew past which I though was probably Audouin's Gull but I never connected again. So I wasn’t entirely surprised to find several resting on rocks that lay 400 yards off the beach. So on Tuesday when we had a day on the beach I decided to Swim out, much to my surprise they were completely unbothered. With just my head above water I sat amongst then at no more than a couple of yards distance, truly brilliant.

A Week in Scotland

Had a week in Scotland, on the Saturday Joy and I went to the Football and then on Sunday I had a day out birding on the Angus coast looking for Roseate Tern in the Carnoustie area. Unfortunately the birds didn’t appear although there was a good selection of birds on offer.

On Monday we climbed a Corbett just north of Braemar called Carn na Drochaide (818m). We parked in the Linn of Dee at Allanoquoich where the bridge over the river was washed away a few years ago. We managed to find a new footbridge further up the glen and from there it was a straight forward climb up to the summit cairn.

The summit of Carn na Drochaide with the Cairngorms behind.

Me in the same place

Carn na Drochaide from Braemar
Managed to fit in a little more birding during the rest of the week seeing little really, mostly because I didn’t fancy driving far. Short-eared Owl, Knot and Osprey were above the only birds of note.

Then on the Thursday we climb another hill, this one I had fancied for a while, it was long, close to Perth and its also the area of Scotland that my cousin traced our ancestry back too! It was beautiful but I wouldn't mind betting its cold in the winter.

We parked at Bridge of Tilt near Blair Atholl walking up the pleasant gorge over Gilberts Bridge after close on two hours we emerged from the trees onto the open hillside we crossed another old stone bridge which must have been used for cattle droving before after another mile or so crossing another stone bridge in the middle of nowhere with the hill Being Mheadhonach (901m) dominating the skyline behind it.

There was a faint path to follow which went straight to the summit. We could see the weather was deteriorating so we managed to get back to the bridge before a short sharp shower hit, where we managed to get a degree of shelter. Then in bright sunshine it was back to the car.

Summit of Being Mheadhonach

The view south from the summit of Being Mheadhonach

Down with the kids with a selfie

Being Mheadhonach with the aforementioned bridge.


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Tuesday 1st August

Popped over last night but on arrival it started to rain so I didn’t linger, however, there were six Common Sandpiper together just off the car park.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Monday 31st July

A couple of trips today with good numbers of the common warblers in family parties or mixed up with the roaming Tit flocks.

c.100 Swift were around in the morning with c.200 mixed hirundines enough to attract a Hobby which was unsuccessful in its attempt.

Kingfisher was seen twice and there was a single Common Sandpiper. Yesterday a family party of four Raven flew over.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Thursday 27th July

Have been over the Reservoir a few times since my return from holiday, but it has generally been quiet. On Tuesday, however, although there were not many birds it was interesting.

A man pushing a pram who seemed to spend most of the time on the phone had not one, neigh not even two or three but five Pit Bull type dogs which were running all over the place. They were harassing other dog walkers, they were in the water and generally causing a nuisance. Fortunately they appeared good natured but the one girl who had been pestered look quite shocked, god only knows what they result might have been had the dogs been aggressive.

Anyway, back to birds, this morning saw me connect with Hobby for the first time this year at the Reservoir, but generally it was quiet, although c.150 Swift dropped in ahead of the rain.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Thursday 20th July

Another day another walk, this time this was one I had been looking forward too as it was close to Perth and involved a good path straight to the col between the two hills.

This was a long way and the climb up the slopes of Creag Mac Ranaich was very steep, Joy was not a happy bunny. Fortunately there was an old fence which we followed and it had the semblance of a path besides it. There were three tops on the summit with the most northerly i.e. furthest away being the target. We decided to get the other hill out of the way before we stopped to eat so we made our way steeply down to the col.

The second hill was the highest of the two but it was much more straightforward and we were soon sitting at the cairn for lunch. Rather than cut the corner off and work our way through a mile of so of peat hag we retraced our steps back down to the path and arrived back at the car just before 5pm eight hours after we started. In total we did just over 40,000 steps during the course of the walk. Strangely it looked promising for birds but in actual fact apart from Meadow Pipit, Wheatear and a single Ring Ouzel we saw very little.

Meall an t-Seallaidh from the approach road

Creag Mac Ranaich from the approach road

The summit of Creag Mac Ranaich

The summit of Creag Mac Ranaich
Meall an t-Seallaidh from Creag Mac Ranaich 


Creag Mac Ranaich from Meall an t-Seallaidh

The summit of Meall an t-Seallaidh

The summit of Meall an t-Seallaidh with Loch Earn behind