Wednesday, 30 March 2011

well another week and another trip to the western isles, this time Tiree where we found 2 more White billed Divers (bill is gonna send me the pics when he sorts them out).  These two were great because after the one in Jan we both said we could have overlooked it a a distance so it was educational with what to concentrate on, it's not the bill with bins on a moving boat at distance trust me.  Both of these birds were over 300 metres away so I was really chuffed to nail them.

We managed almost a full day birding on Mull after the survey and saw the usual large numbers of Great Northerns, some slavs, a Red necked Grebe Bill found this in early march, it's a description sp for Argyll and it hadn't been reported since giving some idea of how well watched Mull is!  We saw a pair of WHhite tailed Eagles at the nest from the boat and good prolonged views of a Golden.  As usual Otters were fairly easy to see including a really obliging pair that I managed to video.  I used the iphone for this just held up against Bills Kowa 883 with 20-60 zoom I tried to focus using the phones screen but didn't quite nail it so the vid isn't quite sharp but it's still pretty good.  Trouble is it's too big to upload and I've no idea how to compress it so can't stick it up.

We also saw the Pied billed Grebe and I tried the video on that but focused with the scope first I think this is really impressive for a phone!!!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Just got back from the western isles where I saw Sky, egg, rum, cannae and muck without managing to set foot on any of them! I am however a fully qualified ESAS surveyor, does that make me an expert in my field!
Saw a massive dog Otter an adult White tailed Eagle and about half a dozen Bottle nosed Dolphin riding the bow wave of the boat everytime it came into or left Mallaig harbour.

A couple of pics of canna

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Sunday, 20 March 2011

Spurn bird obs now on twitter. Follow them @spurnbirdobs

Think that's how you find the feed anyway!

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It doesn't look any fuckin bigger to me!

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Friday, 18 March 2011

Here's a few maps to some of the sites we visited.  You might have to zoom out a bit but the green arrow should show the general areas I'm trying to point out.

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This is the area where we saw Brown -throated Sand Martin, other teams have dipped on this since the outer parts of the river became saline.

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This site is one we stumbled across.  The man made reservoirs with overflow pool, in spring this is probably a brilliant migrant trap.  The scrub along the river had a few Scrub Warblers.

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Probably not worth putting this one in but this is where we had Rock Martins in 2006.  Doubt they will be regular here but anyone passing might want to have a quick scan.  Then again I reckon the hirundines will be mobile so any of the other rivers the road crosses could hold them, we've seen Crag martin further north in a similar area.

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We weren't allowed into the port at Tan Tan Plage, it seems a bit hit and miss gaining access.  However we did see lots of Gulls just outside on the beach including lots of Audouin's.  Many of them were ringed and presumably from the Ebro colony in Spain.  Towel and Gristi took some ring details but don't know if they're received anything back yet.  We stopped at the 3 river crossing between Tan Tan Plage and Akfennir abd saw a few more Audoin's and a few waders but nothing really special.  One of the sites had about 500+ Common Scoter offshore which we were surprised to see this far south, just goes to show you're always learning.

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Lastly I'm putting this one in just to show the size of the place, If you go to the Kniffiss Lagoon and want to tick Kelp Gull I'd say you need to get a boat out to the island otherwise you are looking at a massive distance and really would you be happy ticking them?  I wouldn't.  The marker is the island where the birds breed, you view from the south side next to the barely visible building!

Thursday, 17 March 2011


In the past I've been away at xmas a few times, it's shit loads more expensive but gets me out of having to sit at my sisters with screaming kids and family I hardly know all day! Actually the real reason is when I had a proper job I had to use 3 days of annual leave over the xmas period which pissed me off so me and Gristi used to go away so we didn't lose any of our holidays.

We've done Morocco before, in 2007 and it was fantastic so decided on a return visit. This time Towel (Rael) Butcher and Blue (Pete) Wragg made up the rest of the team. We flew manchester to Marrakech with Thompson and hired a Fiat Punto which was too small in all honesty but being xmas cost about 3 million quid! Honestly some of the other Spurn lads went a month beofre us and got a Land Cruiser sport for about a hundred notes more than we paid!

We booked digs for the first couple of nights over the internet and then just found them on the day for the rest of the trip. We paid no more than a tenner each per night and everywhere we stayed the rooms were fine. To be fair as long as they had beds and warm water we'd have been happy.

The trip was essentially a re-run of the previous visit with us doing the mountains around Ouikimaiden, the coast around the Oued Souss and Oued Massa, the desert areas around Golimine and as far south as Tan Tan Plage and Kniffiss Lagoon.

It's been too long since we were there to remember all the funny little anecdotes, which probably means there weren't any!  So here's a few pics instead.

Light wasn't great in the mountains with a lot of cloud and some light snow flurries but I was quite pleased with this Crimson winged Finch which came fairly close.  Most of them were a bit distant for a DSLR

Love these thingsthey really are stunning, they just look right.  Surely only Azure and White Headed Long-tailed are better.

Mahgreb Magpie are pretty smart looking too much slimmer and with less white than our own, bet they still eat all the small birds tho!

Funny isn't it how some trips are so different despite being the same?  The last trip to Morocco we didn't see these at the Massa and only jammed them whilst checking a reservoir for drinking Sandgrouse.  This time they were everywhere in the hillside above the Oued.   Sitting right out and singing, They always seem to manage to position some vegetation between them and my lens but I'm still really pleased with these pics.

I really like this area at Goulimine, we've cleaned up each time we've visited.  This is the first time I've seen Trumpeter Finch here but you get a lot of Hoopoe Larks and some large flocks of Lesser Short-toed with smaller numbers of Short-toed, Desert and Bar -tailed in with them.  We've managed a few Thick-billed each time as well.   

Desert Lark, note the long dusky bill, whereas the Bar-tailed below has a much shorter more conical bill that is very pale giving it a cuter face.

Also when it has a good stretch like this you can see the clean cut tail band, this I find really hard to see as they fly past, as many birds do here as they seem to move between fields constantly.

These Thicky pics are from 2006 taken with my old Canon S2 so the quality isn't as good as it could have been with the 50d but they didn't show as well this time.

Just south of the desert area for the larks we visited a dryish river bed, in 2006 it was really good holding a few Spectacled Warblers and Red-rumped Wheatears, this time all we saw were a couple of Southern Grey Shrikes. Some serious amount of water had gone through here at some time recently and lots of the bushes were trashed which was probably the reason for fewer birds.

In 2006 this site also held a small flock of Crag Martins and at least 2 of these.  Rock Martin isn't supposed to occur in Morocco according to some trip reports, I've got a series of pics that seem to prove otherwise

Just south of the Goulimine town we found a man made reservoir with a overflow at one end which had formed a pool.  We had Ruddy Shelduck, and a few waders here mainly Kentish Plover and Little Stints but a few Green Sands and a Common Sand too.  In the scrub to the east were a few Scrub Warblers but the best was this superb Lanner which flew across the road carrying what we assumed was a Desert Rat, it then landed on the nearest pylon and ripped it apart, cracking bird.  Lanners got much commoner as we went further south with us seeing them at most sites south of Goulimine.

Down at Kniffiss lagoon we were hoping for Kelp Gull, well I was at least the others couldn't have cared less!  However after sitting looking at an island with a couple of piles of stones on it and willing the Gulls to be what I wanted we had to come away saying they looked like Great-black Backed or were too far away for us to do them.  So when Birding World landed on the doorstep the other day I was heartened to read the article suggesting that Kelp Gull is only present during the summer months.  The Caspian Terns were nice though.

On the last day we found some really nice agricultural land further inland from the sea at Massa where it's freshwater (the sea has breached the mouth of the river turning it saline and it's much degraded for birds on previous years) and had a cracking afternoon, it's a shame we didn't find it sooner as we'd have all been happy spending at least a full day here.  I took literally thousands of pics of these to get the ones here but I reckon they're some of the best pics I've taken with this camera.  Other birds here were Glossy Ibis, Marbled Duck, Bonelli's Eagle, Black-shouldered Kite and Brown-throated Sand Martin.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

First visit of the year to Spurn today, we've all been doing various management work tidying the warren repairing the heligoland etc. Nathan and myself were busy putting a new fence in the church field around the pond so the sheep can graze right to the waters edge which will hopefully make it more attractive to pipits and wags.

Because of all this work I didn't get much birding done but had Merlin and a cracking drake Pintail go over and had the Whooper flock at sammy's

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Friday, 11 March 2011

Here's a few pics from Orkney last week, wish the light had been better especially for the Lond tailed Duck and 3rd w Iceland they would have been excellent with a bit of sun.  Well they might not actually I still couldn't get the Eiders sharp even with good light, I'm just shit!!!!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Spent all last week on Orkney doing a couple of surveys, bit quiet not much to see but got about a day and a half to do some proper birding.
Spent a lot of time checking offshore looking for Scoter hoping for a surfer, didn't manage it obviously but saw a few Velvets plenty of Slavs and GND's. Had a couple of Icelands got a few pics but best of all was a cracking drake Long tailed Duck on the peer sea at Kirkwall, I'll upload the pics from the camera later but for now here's a nice pic of the old man of Hoy from the ferry home

Spent a bit of time looking for the northern bullies and bearded seal but as usual failed miserably, I don't think I'm ever gonna connect with that bastard seal.
Also good was the flock of Greenland Whitefronts at the loons RSPB reserve and a single with pinks at tankerness. I've only seen this race once or twice before.

Not really tried to use the new phone for pics through the scope yet but had time to fire off this one otter shot at tankerness, it's the only one I've seen on Orkney

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