zaterdag 29 oktober 2011

29 oktober 2011 - Ghana

Tomorrow afternoon i will be flying to Ghana for my 5th Sunbird/WINGS tour there. I haven't been for 2 years and am looking forward to seeing Mark, Robert and Francis i have a few days to go birding before the group arrives on wednesday evening.
Im home on 12th nov but if i find internet during the tour i will try and update the blog, twitter, facebook as i go along....
Im then only home for a few days before heading to Gambia on 17th nov.

donderdag 27 oktober 2011

27 oktober 2011 - Tarts tick

I had several options today, firstly drive to Zeeland for the Lesser Grey Shrike and American Wigeon (the former amazingly rare here considering it's annual in the UK) or head to Lauwersmeer for more raptors and geese.....instead I decided it was time to face up to my biggest 'tarts'....a tarts tick is a species that you really should have seen, but haven't (schaamsoort in Dutch)....anyway I still have 2 on my list, namely Jack Snipe and Razorbill, although i personally feel that Richard's Pipit is also on that list.

Anyway....we don't get many Razorbills in the province of Gelderland, and having not seen one whilst on the coast I will not drive more than 10km for a Razorbill. So today I set my sights on Jack Snipe (Bokje), and knew that Azewijn was a good place for them. It was only 30 minutes drive and after more precise info from a local birder (thanks) the 'life threatening, danger, no entry'' signs indicated where I needed to be.....

It didn't take long and I soon saw 5 birds, plus 6 Common Snipe (Watersnip). Photos of 3 different Jack Snipe below.

 I also saw Woodlark, lots of Redwing and Fieldfare, White-fronted Geese, Goshawk, Great Egret and this Kingfisher.
This Common Buzzard also came pretty close

On the way home I stopped near Lathum to look for Rough-legged Buzzards, can't get enough of them but had to make do with 7 Great Egrets, this one had just finished eating a vole spec.

and this very pale Buzzard

woensdag 26 oktober 2011

25 oktober 2011 - Dudes day out

It's been a few weeks since Frank and I birded together, and with the Red-flanked Bluetail (Blauwstaart) still present at Castricum we hatched a plan to head to the coast, and maybe we would even bump into our own rarity at the same time.

We had lots to catch up on from the last month or so, and i spent most of my time chatting away while Frank actually tried really hard to find some birds...

Thankfully Frank has a smartphone, so we wove our way through the woodland and dunes towards the location where the Bluetail had been hanging about. Aside from some crazy old dog walking lady (who seemed to have forgotten her dogs) we soon an adult Goshawk, followed by a ringtail Hen Harrier, plenty of Redwing and Fieldfare overhead and still lots of optimism.

The ringing station at Castricum was in full swing and the loop tape of singing Dusky Warbler, Bluetail, Red-breasted Flycatcher, Yellow-browed etc was a little offputting. We were joined by a few other birders, and one of the resident ringers brought us a Yellow-browed Warbler

I was just chatting to a lady birder when she mentioned to me that she had missed the bird twice already and that it was often seen flying across a clearing, at which point a small bird flew across, which Frank had also clocked. Frank had seen the flanks, but there was still a tense 15 minutes before i then had a point blank encounter, for less than a second with the naked eye....then it was picked up by another birder briefly, then by Frank and i again briefly, before it finally settled on the fence and showed well for 10 minutes. Aside from the Winspit bird in 1993 the only other UK bird i had seen was in 1999 in Cornwall, close to a Chimney Swift. Elsewhere in Europe i have seen them several times in Finland and further afield as migrant and breeder in Mongolia, and on passage in Beidaihe. They are an early spring migrant so we never saw large numbers in China. Their status in the Netherlands is quite different from that in the UK (30+ records last year?) with only a handful of truly twitchable records. They are one of my favourite birds and i would rather see a female or young bird than an adult male. That combination of flank colour, tail, pale throat, large eye and jizz make them instantly attractive.
We also saw a couple of Rough-legged Buzzards before retiring to the Pancake House for ham and cheese pancakes....
Franks enthusiasm was still high and he suggested we had a scan over the sea before checking for any migrants forced down by the rain.
We drove to the main car park at Castricum aan zee and after eventually deciding that €3.5 was rather steep for 2 dudes that wanted to see a Great Skua (Frank) or a Razorbill (me) we paid our money and thought we would check out the car park vegetation. Frank was now even more excited, raving about how good the bushes looked....i agred with him, while secretly thinking it looked birdless....we saw nothing, and i joked that we would still be stood there 2 hours later seeing nothing, so i started with another dull story about a bird tour, when suddenly we both picked up an interesting calling phyllosc in the distance. It sounded a bit Yellow-browed like but not quite right. I mentioned to Frank that there was a good chance that it was a Pallas's Warbler, at which point i saw a small bird fly along the dunes and disappear behind some elder/buckthorn scrub....panic....couldn't see anything, and now it had gone silent....after about 10 minutes we tried playing the tape for Pallas's and sure enough it responded, but we still couldn't see it, and it didn't sound very close. We kept looking and amazingly the bird popped up right in front of me (the scrub was devoid of other birds). The first views were of a striking super, yellow tinted in front of the eye, nice green mantle and wings, clean white underparts and central crown stripe and a flash of rump. This was probably in less than 5 seconds as i was calling to Frank that it was a Pallas's. Frank saw it then too and then i ran to the car to get my camera....kiss of death and although Frank then had a really good view of it again, and it called a few more times it never showed well to the camera. Still, we weren't complaining, a Dutch tick and finds tick for both of us, what a buzz!
We did then have time for a quick look over the sea, seeing several Red-throated Divers, a Great Skua (dude), some mega distant auks that were probably Razorbills (in Dorset i wouldn't have thought twice about it), a Hen Harrier was seen to the north and on the journey home we saw another near Amsterdam as well as a Great Egret.
A quality day, top birds, and yet more laughs. Just want to get out there again now and find something else before i go away on sunday. 

21 oktober 2011 - Tripod

A quick trip to Camera shop today to sort out a new tripod head. Nothing particularly exciting there, although it's good to know that it's nearly cheaper to fly to Nairobi than it is to buy a new Gitzo tripod! I settled for a new Gitzo head, and then took my tripod home and did some running repairs on it. So far so good, seems to be working much better, so that's 10 years service now, when i was getting through a Manfrotto once a year!
Anyway the highlight of the day was a flyover Rough-legged Buzzard over the A1 on my way to the shop.

donderdag 20 oktober 2011

19 oktober 2011 - The best hangover cure.....

is probably not 3 hours at a rubbish tip looking at gulls....but that's what we did today. It all started so well with this Eurasian Sparrowhawk flying overhead.
But soon it was all gulls, including last weeks reported Iceland Gull, which was in fact some ugly, leucistic Herring Gull thing
It was nice to see a few Yellow-legged Gulls again (memories of several hundred in Dorset now seem a long way away!)

But best of all were the 5 Caspian Gulls, including this 1st winter with lots of attitude, always bossing other birds around, grabbing their heads and sometimes calling
 here it's sharing the rubbish with a 2nd winter

In total there was 1x1w, 2x 2w and 2xad

18 oktober 2011 - Duiven and Veluwezoom

A much more relaxed day today as we pottered around in the rain seeing 2 Hen Harriers, several Great Egrets and some Crested Tits. In the evening we learnt that Blondes, tapas, pils, more pils, more blondes, some tripels, whisky, gin and more pils, followed by pizza isn't the healthiest diet in the world!

woensdag 19 oktober 2011

17 oktober 2011 - Friesland & Groningen

Last night i picked Stan up from Schiphol, and after a 'traditional' Dutch dinner of nasi and quite a few Belgian blondes and tripels we made plans to visit Lauwersmeer.
First good bird of the day was a Hawfinch which flew over the house in the morning, later followed by several Great Egrets along the journey.
Once by Lauwersmeer we soon saw 2 Rough-legged Buzzards by Jaap Deensgat, a distant Great Grey Shrike by Kollumerwaard, 300+ Bewick's Swans at Oude Robbengat
From there we headed towards Paesens seeing 2 more Rough-legged Buzzards along the way. The first was initially being buzzed by a Hen Harrier. The awful photo below shows the white lump of a Rough-legged sat in the field while 2 Hen Harriers (beautifully out of focus fly past)

and a slightly closer one of a Hen Harrier

Below are 3 photos of the same Rough-legged Buzzard

And then a second bird appeared

as well as plenty of Common Buzzards

There were great numbers of geese around in the fields, with thousands of Barnacles and Eurasian White-fronteds already

It was then time for refreshments with a small helping of whipped cream, flavoured with apple cake and hot chocolate! The weather was now so balmy that we sat outside, confident that Olive-backed Pipits were going to appear and eat our crumbs....they didn't!

We then returned to Ezumakeeg seeing at least 3 more Rough-legged Buzzards (7 for the day)

A second Great Grey Shrike

More Bewick's Swans

Raptors had been a feature of the day already and we had already had 3 sightings of White-tailed Eagles (2 ads and a juv) before 2 birds appeared again, plus 2 Marsh Harriers, a Hen Harrier, 1 of 7 Peregrine seen during the day. The Eagles caused massive panic in the wildfowl.

and the Shoveler and Lapwing were constantly flushing

On one occasion due to this young Goshawk

We waited on until dusk to enjoy the spectacle of the roosting Barnacle Geese, which were very impressive

but personally overshadowed by the idea what sort of numbers are involved here but it's in the tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands....amazing stuff!

Not sure those last 2 photos do it justice?
Also noteworthy as we left were a small group of Fieldfare and Redwing which landed in the reeds right next to us, only to burst out again as they realised we were there!
On the drive home in the dark we also had a close up encounter with a Woodcock at the side of the road, all in all a quite superb day and full of great birds!