Sunday, 17 March 2019

Red Kites

17 Mar - A Red Kite low over the house at midday, possibly a bird on passage as March is the time for spring movement of Red Kites, and I've seen several locally in the last few days, but we also have local breeders so the situation isn't totally clear...... nice to see anyway. Some calmer weather is forecast at last.

Friday, 15 March 2019

Shorncote

15 Mar - A breezy morning, but marginally less gale force than recently. A Great White Egret feeding (next to a Little Egret for comparison) near the hide, a flyby Kingfisher, several Shoveler still present, a male Stonechat, a Grey Wagtail, and several Cetti's warblers and Chiffchaffs singing but keeping low because of the wind.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Mountains Hares and Ptarmigan in winter

11-12 Mar - A guided photographic day arranged with James Roddie, renowned wildlife and landscape photographer in the Scottish Highlands. I was very fortunate with the weather - a week ago, the hills were unseasonably green and were lacking in snow, but winter had returned in the last few days, a suitable scene for the wintry white raiment of the Hares and Ptarmigans to blend in. I awoke to a perfect winter scene of sun rising over snowy hill with mist clinging to the slopes, and snow lacing the tree branches, all lit by the low sunlight. Our original plans to go to the the hills west of Tomatin were stymied by an overturned snowplough on the narrow single-track road, which was quite treacherous with fresh snow, although easily passable. We therefore headed to the Cairngorm ski area which allows easy access to the northern parts of the Cairngorms, and we flanked around Cairn Gorm itself to the coire to the east - here the going was slow, with snow between the boulders up to 2 feet deep making for tiring going, but we soon started to see Mountain Hares in various stages of white, some amazingly concealed in rockpiles, out of the wind, and others out on the slopes and feeding on heather protruding from the snow. Beautiul animals and amazingly hard to see at times, blending in with the wintry landscape. Ptarmigan are usually easy to find here, but we didn't hear their calls and not until we were descending back to the car park did we find 3 birds, unobtrusive amongst the boulders, and well-camouflaged, tending to rely on their colouring rather than flight for their safety. We had close views of both male and female birds. A very successful day, stunning landscapes, with the sun reflecting and dazzling off the snow, and spindrift flowing over the landscape in the wind. We were especially fortunate to get good views and photo opportunities for both species on the same walk, as our planned excursion the next day was cancelled due to forecast very high winds on the mountains. A memorable day of stunning views, light and wildlife activity, in an arctic landscape, but in the UK.

Saturday, 9 March 2019

Slimbridge .........

9 Mar - An early morning visit, quite productive in terms of waders with a good number of Curlews out on the Tack Piece, also Redshank and Dunlin. South Lake held displaying Avocets and a flock of Black-tailed Godwits, and the stream outside Hogarth hide a pair of Kingfishers, with a female perched by the nesthole outside the aptly named Kingfisher hide. Very windy, so otherwise quiet around the reserve.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Foray to Catalonia

5-6 March - A short trip to Catalonia with Stephen Christopher of Catalan Bird Tours, excellent at finding the birds and knowing their precise locations as he's guided in the region for many years. The first day was the better weather-wise, we headed up to the Pyrenees and after a short wait with the cloud lifting, we had good views of a Lammergeier as it cruised through the valley and circled several times - the shape, long tail and fairly narrow wings (compared with the more numerous Griffons) gives it a Falcon-like silhouette. We saw the "beard" that gives it the alternative name of "Bearded Vulture" and also watched the bird swoop down to a carcase and pick up a bone to take it and drop it, and eat the marrow inside - fascinating. Also seen - Griffons, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard, with Crested Tit and Firecrest in the pines and Crag Martins circling. The following morning, an early start for the steppes, a plethora of Larks here including several Dupont’s ( heard but not seen) and many Calandras, looking especially large in flight. A short distance away, a cliff has been a regular haunt for a wintering pair of Wallcreepers, and after just a few minutes of scanning we located the male, now beginning to moult into summer plumage. Excellent views, the bird descended to the base of the cliffs and fed at close range, the constant wing- flicking distinctive. A highlight of the trip. Also seen in the area - Black Wheatear, Egyptian Vulture, Little Owl, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse, displaying Hen Harriers, and a very obliging Great Spotted Cuckoo, which presented a hairy caterpillar to the female as the ultimate courtship gift. A busy and successful couple of days.

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Blakehill

2 Mar - A morning visit to make the best of the sunshine, fairly quiet with a few Meadow Pipits passing and the spring Skylark chorus starting in earnest - the highlight was a Curlew that was feeding on the plateau and flew off north calling, towards CWP. Hopefully one of the breeding birds returning for the spring. A quick check on pit 200 (drained) produced a Redshank, present there for a few days now, and 2 Green Sandpipers.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Cotswolds

26 Feb - A couple of recent late afternoon visits to the Cotswolds during the current fine, warm spell, to a well-known location for Short-eared Owls - the birds emerged both days about 4.30pm, giving good views in the late afternoon / evening sunlight, always exciting to watch with their charismatic slow floating, twisting flight. Two birds emerged within a few minutes of each other, both flying up to a post to preen and look around quizzically before setting off on hunting flight. The low light was excellent for highlighting the subtle mottled plumage of these popular birds. No sign of the Barn Owl which also frequents this area. Also seen - Red Kite, Buzzard, Kestrel, and a flock of c150 Golden Plovers.