Sunday, 17 March 2019

North Norfolk.

Firstly ill start with my daily treck to work from Corton to Ipswich, its getting light in the mornings now on the way in so im able to pick out some nice birds on the way. Red Kite, Great White Egret and Kingfisher.
On the patch 2 House Martins my first of the year (9th March) although beaten by Sand Martins (3rd March).
After work a Firecrest singing and calling in the Vicars Garden Corton (11th March) 75 Golden Plover CNSW (12th March)

OK back to our great day out in Norfolk, first stonking bird of the day was this very strange gull at Blakeney Harbour, I knew it wasn't a Yellow Legged Gull as it was just all wrong. After a lot of help from many Excellent gull experts it was decided this bird was a Ring Billed Gull x Lesser Black Backed Gull hybrid. However Gulls are so varied and tricky it could still be just a small Yellow Legged Gull.






Lesser Black Backed Gull Close by



Next good bird was a Red Kite at Burnham Norton and then as we stopped on the hill at Holkham a Spoonbill flew off the reserve and a few White fronted Geese were grazing around the pools. Still some Pinkfooted Geese about too. I checked lots of Brent geese up the coast but all i could find were Dark Bellied Brents.

We arrived at Titchwell and started with a Water Rail in the ditch behind the center. On the first pool was a Water Pipit hiding in the reeds.


Our first Red Crested Pochard also hiding in the reeds. Plenty of Knot, Avocets and 35 Med gulls on the freshwater pool.
On the sea just 1 Common Scoter and 3 Red breasted Merganser but the sea was so rough it was hard to find anything else.
On the way back 2 more Red Crested Pochards sheltering from the wind.




Had a slow drive back and passed Cley and came towards the Babcock Hide when our second Spoonbill of the day flew in and settled on the pool.




That was it for the day.

Today back on patch a Dunlin was feeding on the floodwater at COSW. 4 Crossbill flew over the garden whilst i was checking the moth trap and Redwing and Blackbirds were migrating over night.






Afteroon out at Orford had us walking the river, plenty of Avocets and Marsh Harriers were about it.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

Spain February 2019

Tuesday 19th February
So here I am again 3 full days in Southern Spain staying with a friend in Alcaidesa near Gibraltar.
We started out driving to the furthest site and actually a new site to me Laguna De Medina which is a large freshwater body.


The site is all set up for birding with boardwalks and a hide. Jeff didn't let on to what the site was and I was pleasantly surprised at just how good it was. 



I  will point out we left Jeff's in the dark but the first bird of my trip had to be a nesting White Stork, stopping occasionally on the main roads had us spotting out first Red Rumped Swallows and common usual Spanish Corn Buntings and loads of Blackcaps. .
Anyway once at Laguna De Medina we walked to the hide overlooking the Lagoon spotting many of the common species of Ducks including plenty of Red crested Pochards. Then to my surprise 5 White Headed Ducks of all ages including a cracking drake.





Checking through all the hundreds of Coot was a challenge but a very nice Red Knobbled Coot was spotted, bonus! A Few Black necked Grebe were also present.
Away from the ducks were many Swallows, House Martins and a few Common Swift. Crag Martins too. Gulls were mainly Black headed and Lesser Black backed gulls but also a few Mediterranean Gulls. As we continued along the boardwalks many common passerines and a nice flock of 70+ Common Waxbills and in the reeds a very early Great Reed Warbler.




We had a great few hours here but it was time to move onto our next destinations which was a site I had visited before and one I was also looking forward to as it was a complete change of habitat.
Vejer De la Frontera. An area of dry farmland and dirt tracks, target species Black Shouldered Kite. It wasn't long before we spotted a distant bird. Clever birds sitting where we couldn't get close so we had to observe from a distance but not bad views through the scope.   Other birds of note were Little Owl and many cracking Spanish Sparrows. We continued around the area to find 2 More Black Shouldered Kites but again distant views.





We continued on to Barbate where we had a quick look on the beach, not much in this area except a Locust. We were hoping for some chameleons.


At the area of Barbate we had another change of habitat, this time it was Estuary and Saltpans so it wasn't a surprise when we spotted our first Flamingos a good 200 or so, Audouins Gulls, Spoonbills and our first Caspian Tern, Osprey and a migrant Wryneck was a great spot by Jeff.


Whilst watching all these birds on the saltpans Yellow Wagtails of the Spanish race dropped in. A Sandwich Tern was spotted by us and a single female Red Breasted Merganser was a bit of a surprise, not common I don't think. Stone Curlews were numerous.





Time was ticking on so it was a case of making a slow trek home via many of the smaller roads picking up many specialties such as Calandra Lark. It had been a great day with a mass of species ticked off.
Wednesday 20th February

We headed to the area of Pelayo Town Algeciras and to a hide one of Jeffs friends had put together. Target was the Crested tit. The hide wasn't ideal for digiscopers as the birds were far too close, but for DSLR users the hide was superb. 



It was great to see common birds so close up. The Crested Tit didn't disappoint coming in regularly and producing the best views I've ever had.





Nuthatch, Grey Wagtail and Great Tit were the commonest birds on site. An early Iberian Chiffchaff was singing behind the hide.




It was hard to drag ourselves away from the hide but we had lots to do today heading to La Janda for the rest of the day.
Heading along the track we got great views of several Calandra Lark and could see many Cranes flying in the distance and then we almost ran over our first Hoopoe. Digiscoping it from the car wasn't easy. 


A Spoonbill flew up from the ditch and stood very close for a short time. Further along a good flock of 40+ Spoonbill in the flooded areas of the fields. 



Then we finally came across the 500+ Common Cranes. Beautiful birds and such great views on the deck and in flight. The sound was incredible.




A Single Flamingo was fast asleep in one of the floods along with a Water Pipit and a Green Sandpiper.
Carrying on along the track many more Corn Buntings, large charms of Goldfinch's and a stop for lunch had Jeff spotting the lovely Wasp Spider that must have survived the winter.



Our first movement of Raptors with several Black Kites. Up by the farm near Benalup a nice Bonelli's Eagle another Black shouldered Kite which showed better and a few Griffon Vultures which had been hard to find so far. The further in we traveled the fewer birds we saw and the track got pretty ropey in places but we made it to the end safely. 
My annual trip to the hide at Playa De Los Lances but it was extremely windy and a spring high time had far too much water in the bay. We could still spot many Audouins Gulls, Gannets, our first Shearwaters all Corys and 3 More Caspian Terns.
Thursday 21st February

Last full day so we started at Punta del Rinconcillo by palmones Estuary. It had Sand Dunes and a small pond that was pretty much dried up with Bullrush's and looked a perfect spot for Penduline tit I said. Jeff stated this spot was the last time he ever saw a Penduline tit some years ago.. On the way around the pond mainly looking for migrants I could hear what I though WAS a Penduline tit a quick check on line for the call and sure enough Penduline Tit it was. Bingo, we had a good search of the area and finally got to see at least one bird with another 2 calling in the same area. We didn't see any real migrants but a few Reed Buntings were a surprise and not something ive seen in Spain before I don't think. Chiffchaffs were the only migrants.
A walk down to the Estuary had us watching Curlew and Whimbrel lots of common Waders, Sandwich Terns and Gannets out to sea. 


Up to the Stork Factory at San Roque is again a must. 





A new wader on the pools where the Storks were feeding was a nice Little Ringed Plover, also another Green Sandpiper.
Then onto the woodlands at Pinar Del Rey We always have a cracking walk here spotting Bonelli's Eagle, lots of Hawfinch, Firecrests, Crested Tits, Jays, Black Redstarts, Short toed Tree Creepers and plenty more Chiffchaffs. A Sand lizard was a nice find. Minotaur beetles were everywhere rolling up cow dung.



Finally my favorite place on Spain is Castilla de la frontera. A favorite nesting place of the Lesser Kestrel and just a great vantage point to watch raptors and passerines drop in. 







At lets 6 Lesser Kestrels, many many Griffon Vultures and great views at eye level, Ravens plenty, more Black Kites, Black Redstarts both nominate and Iberian. 

Id better show you some bird pics.









Finally good views of our first Blue Rock thrush of the trip and Black Redstart




Couple of Souvenirs for the wife and a nice drink and it was time to head back to Jeffs ready for my early flight the next morning.

Another great great last minute trip 127 species in Spain in February has to be good.


A Big thanks has to go to Jeff and Antonio for there great Hospitality and great knowledge of the area.