Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Northern France!

A very early start on Monday found myself, Tony, Trevor and David Campbell (DBO assistant Warden) in Crecy Forest at around 07.30 where a reeling Grasshopper Warbler greeted us, followed shortly by Melodious Warbler, Short-toed Treecreepers, fly over Hawfinch. Nightingales, Garden Warblers, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs Willow Warblers and more were singing throughout the forest, the Woodpeckers let us down though with none being seen.
We move on to Sailly Bray which was disappointing by its usual standards, we still saw several Turtle Doves, Black-winged Stilts, Cattle Egrets, White Storks, Song Thrushes, White Wagtails and more Nightingales.
At La Bassee pools the water levels were very high, 100s of Black-headed Gulls were nesting, a couple of Mediterranean Gulls, Cattle Egrets, a pair of Red-crested Pochards among the commoner wildfowl.
Next stop Marquanterre. As we got out the car David Campbell heard a Bonelli's Warbler singing the other side of the car park, which surprisingly turned out to be the first ever one to be recorded there.
Bonelli's Warbler Marquanterre car park

 White Stork
White Stork, Spoonbills, Little & Cattle Egrets, Grey Herons.
Around this superb reserve Spoonbills, White Storks, Little and Cattle Egrets were common place, Warblers were singing all around the reserve, Avocets, Black-winged Stilts, Greenshanks, Redshanks, Common Sandpipers, Whimbrel, several Black-necked Grebes, a semi resident Crane, Hobby's also Black Kite and Crested Tits around the car park. The downside to the reserve is the late opening time of 10 A.M. and the ridiculously small viewing holes in the hides which give you back ache or neck ache trying to view the birds, also they made it impossible to get our telescopes onto the Black Kite. The reserve is also very popular with tourists and schools, several coach loads of each were present while we were there. 
Montagu's Harrier
Next stop a short distance from Marquanterre was a superb reed bed by the Somme Estuary which we found last year. Here we had great views of a female Montagu's Harriers, 2 White-spotted Bluethroats, Savi's Warbler, Great White Egrets, flights of Spoonbills, a Peregrine and another Black Kite! and more.
Our last stop was the Oye Plage area. Despite the very high tide we still found 2 Kentish Plovers and Little Terns. On the pools 100s of Sandwich Terns, tens of Avocets, more Black-winged Stilts, Black-necked Grebes, Spoonbills, 3 Ruff, Redshanks, Common Sandpipers and a Wood Sandpiper. A brilliant day out in excellent company ended with a respectable 124 species. 

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Spoonbills, Terns, Waders and another Pom Skua.

A late start this morning after a long day in France yesterday.
09.10-11.10 from the sea watch hide with AJG.
Gannet: 17W
Oystercatcher: 2E
Ringed Plover: 2E
Sanderling: 23E
Little Gull: 1E  2nd CY
Little Tern:10E
Sandwich Tern: 34E
Common Tern: 782E
Black Tern: 13+ at The Patch
Harbour Porpoise: 5+
Midday the Yellow Wagtails at Cockles Bridge were still posing on the roadside posts and up to 6 Hobbys were hawking over the fields.
Drake Garganey with 4 Common Scoter this afternoon
14.30-17.45 from the fishing boats with AJG.
Brent Goose: 3E
Shelduck: 1E
Garganey: 1E (Drake)
Common Scoter: 4E
Red-breasted Merganser: 4E
Great-crested Grebe: 9 around
Gannet: 38E      10W
Spoonbill: 3W  (17.15)
Oystercatcher: 5E
Grey Plover: 41E
Knot: 1E
Sanderling: 108E
Dunlin: 3E
Redshank: 1E
Bar-tailed Godwit: 1E
Pomarine Skua: 1E   (16.50)
Arctic Skua: 3E all dark phase
Black-headed Gull: 5E
Mediterranean Gull: 5E
Kittiwake: 8E
Little Tern: 8E
Sandwich Tern: 53E
Common Tern: 1188E
Black Tern: 8E
Swallow: 15N
House Martin: 1N
Yellow Wagtail: 1 N
Linnet: 1N

Sunday, 8 May 2016

The Poms keep coming!

 5 Pomarine Skuas lazily flapping by this morning
I arrived  at the sea watch hide around 06.30 with absolutely no expectations, I didn't even take my notebook, so the following is from memory.
Brent Goose: 20E
Shelduck: 2E
Shoveler: 4E
Common Scoter: c200E
Red-breasted Merganser: 3E
Black-throated Diver: 4E
Great-crested Grebe: c10 around
Gannet: c100E
Hobby: 1 out
Grey Plover: c8E
Sanderling: 3E
Knot: 1E
Whimbrel: c20E
Pomarine Skua: 17E
Little Gull: 2E
Kittiwake: c15E
Common tern: c200 around
Sandwich tern: c100 around
Alba Wagtail: 1E
Swallow: 6 in
By 11.00 A.M. I was on sea watch over load having seen the best part of 150 Pomarine Skuas in the last few days, I was in need of a full English.
1 of 4 Yellow Wagtails at Cockles Bridge
A stop at Cockles Bridge saw 4 Yellow wagtails, a corn bunting and 2 Red-legged Partridges.
Lunchtime from the garden 6 Hobby's over the fields, 2 Marsh Harriers, 4 Common Buzzards, a Kestrel, a Little Egret and several Grey Herons  coming and going from the Heronry.
On Walland this afternoon 2 Turtle Doves, several Tree Sparrows, 2 Common Buzzards and several Marsh Harriers. 
A day in France tomorrow so hopefully loads of birds.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Morocco day 2 & 3 Ouarzazate to Boumalne du Dades/ Tagdilt track.

Most of day 2 was  spent driving to Boumalne du Dades via Amerzgane and the Tizi-n-Tichkja Pass where we stopped for Tristram's Warbler and manged to see at least 2 though they did not pose for the camera. On the way we also saw Long-legged Buzzards, Bonnelli's Warblers, Melodious Warblers, 2 Barbary Partridges, many Turtle Doves and more. At Amerzgane we saw Maghreb Wheatear that also was camera shy.
Our hotel for a couple of nights at Boumalne du Dades.
Day 3 we drove into the semi desert outside the town where all the target species performed admirably among the flowers of the Desert!!!!
The flowers of the Desert!!!  Discarded polythene bags as far as the eye can see.
 Red-rumped Wheatear (male)
Red-rumped Wheatear (juvenile)
Red-rumped Wheatear (female)
 Desert Wheatear
Desert Wheatear
 Thick-billed Lark
 Thick-billed Lark
Thick-billed Lark
 Temminck's Horned Lark
Temminck's Horned Lark
 Trumpeter Finch
Trumpeter Finch
Thekla Lark
Melodious Warblers were very common in just about every habitat.
Further into semi desert Brahim promised us we would see Pin-tailed Sandgrouse. The car came to a stop and right beside us was a flock of 108 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.
 Pin-tailed Sandgrouse
Pin-tailed Sandgrouse
Chris, Brahim, Hamid our driver and Mark enjoying al fresco lunch after seeing not 1 but 4  "Gayuin" (Pharaoh Eagle Owls) If you want see them book with
 3 Pharaoh Eagle Owls in this picture
 Pharaoh Eagle Owl
Trumpeter Finch nest
Also seen here were Desert Larks, Lanner, Long-legged Buzzards, Woodchat Shrikes, Southern grey Shrikes, Black Wheatears, Pied flycatcher and more Melodious Warblers.

Friday, 6 May 2016

Pomarine Skuas

1 of todays closer Pomarine Skuas
Another marathon sea watch and well worth the pain.
Brent Goose: 25E
Shelduck: 2E
Garganey: 1E
Common Scoter: 321E
Red-breasted Merganser: 5E
Red-throated Diver: 6E
Black-throated Diver: 3E
Great-crested Grebe: 15+ around
Fulmar: 2E  1W
Manx Shearwater: 1W
Gannet: 226E   6W
Oystercatcher: 18E
Ringed Plover: 3E
Grey Plover: 4E
Knot: 8E
Dunlin: 7E
Sanderling: 26E
Bar-tailed Godwit: 13E
Whimbrel: 37E
Great Skua: 3E
Pomarine Skua: 119E
Arctic Skua: 11E
Little Gull: 2E
Kittiwake: 24E
Little Tern: 29E
Sandwich Tern: 244E
Commic Tern: 566E
Black Tern: 1 around
Guillemot: 2 on
Auk sp: 6E
Swallow: 4 in
Harbour Porpoise: 10+
Grey Seal: 1

The Black Tern that fed  along the shore most the day

Thursday, 5 May 2016

A few Poms!

A long and sometimes frustrating sea watch today 05.30-18.05. As news of flocks of Pomarine Skuas to the west came through, the wind at Dungeness moved from SE to NE. Typically not long after I left through hunger and cold Nick Green ( had  a flock of 19 past.
Common Scoter: 352E
Long-tailed Duck: 1E
Red-breasted Merganser: 1E
Red-throated Diver: 4E
Black-throated Diver: 2E
Great Northern Diver: 4E
Great-crested Grebe: 17 around
Fulmar: 8E    1W
Gannet: 297E   19W
Great White Egret: 1 out
Oystercatcher: 13E
Whimbrel: 14E
Bar-tailed Godwit: 21E
Knot: 25E
Sanderling: 19E
Dunlin: 1E
Great Skua: 1E
Arctic Skua: 11E + 1 o/s (10DP, 2LP)
Pomarine Skua: 15E  (2-07.10, 1-07.20, 1-11.45, 4-13.08, 2-14.55, 2-15.55, 3-17.21)
Little Gull: 25E
Kittiwake: 73E
Little Tern:20E
Sandwich Tern: 290E
Common Tern: 537E
Arctic Tern: 4E
Black tern: 3E
Guillemot: 1E
Auk sp: 32E  3W
Swallow: 22 in
Harbour Porpoise: 5+
Grey Seal: 1

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Morocco 18-19/04/16

At 09.30 18/04/16 Mark Hollingworth, Chris Phillpot  and myself flew into Marakech on an uneventful Easy Jet flight, where we were met by Brahim our guide and proprietor of also our driver Hamid. They quickly loaded our luggage into a Misubishi Pajero which was  our transport for our 11 day visit. As we drove out of Marakech towards Oukaimeden Common and Pallid Swifts were abundant. We mad a short leg stretch break where we saw  Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrike, Little Owl, Hoopoe, Sardinian Warbler, Red-rumped Swallows, Crested Larks and Moroccan Magpie which gave me my first photo opportunity of the trip.
Moroccan Magpie
Arriving at Oukaimeden it was cold and overcast, high above us many Alpine and Red-billed Choughs were sky dancing as we made our way to the bottom of the Ski lift. Around the lift c60 Crimson Winged Finches were feeding and being photogenic.
 Crimson-winged Finch
 Crimson-winged Finch
 Crimson-winged Finch
 Crimson-winged Finch
                                 Atlas Horned Larks were also easy to see on ski lift slope. 
 Atlas Horned Lark
 Atlas Horned Lark
                                                                  Seebohm's Wheatear
The Seebohm's Wheatears gave great scope views but refused to let me get near them to photograph them, probably because I'm to old to leap around rocky slopes these days. While we there Rock Sparrows were seen, African Chaffinches, Blue Rock Thrushes, Moussiers Redstarts, dozens of Black Redstarts, African Blue Tits and an Alpine Accentor.
                                                                    Red-billed Choughs
 After a superb first day we made our to our overnight accommodation arriving as darkness fell.
                                             Mark and Chris relaxing after a long first day
We woke up to a cacophony of Nightingales. Chris and I took a dawn stroll around the superb grounds of the hotel, seeing Cuckoo's, Bee-eaters, House Buntings, Crossbills, a Black-eared Wheatear, Red-rumped Swallows and more.
 House Bunting
                            Red-rumped Swallows collecting mud a dripping tap at the hotel
This morning Brahim had promised us Levaillants Woodpecker, he did not disappoint.
                                                             Levaillant's Woodpeckers
Next stop Boumalne du Dades.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Garden Warbler!

Garden Warbler
A bit of a lay in this morning feeling confident that today would be a slow day after yesterdays marathon session. A text from AJG confirmed that the sea was quiet with 2 Manx Shearwaters, a Great Northern Diver and a Great Skua in the first hour after dawn.
I went straight to the observatory where David Walker was ringing.As I arrived he was ringing a Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat followed by the Garden Warbler above. AJG arrived back at the observatory after his walk around the Long Pits having heard Wood Warbler singing, on the down side he lost his mobile phone somewhere around the pits. We set off to retrace his steps me ringing his phone every few yards unfortunately we didn't find it, but we did hear the Wood Warbler again, also many Common Whitethroats, Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Willow Warblers and a trickle of Swallows over.
A 30 minute sea watch from by the hide was a non event. At the ARC a walk to the pines saw plenty of singing Sedge and Reed Warblers, a couple of Cetti's Warblers and a few Hirundines around.
Another watch from the fishing boats in the company of BM 14.00-15.15:
Common Scoter: 3E
Great-crested Grebe: 19 on
Fulmar: 1 around
Gannet: 15W    6E
Oystercatcher: 3E
Grey Plover: 2W
Kittiwake: 18W
Swallow: out
Late afternoon at Hay field 3 a Wood Sandpiper, 3 Redshank, 4 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plover, 2 Yellow Wagtails and 2 Little Egrets.
A pale Prominent first of the year from the Plodland MV

Monday, 2 May 2016

A good day on the sea!

2 of at least 12 Harbour Porpoises off the fishing boats yesterday.
An excellent days sea watching even though I left the hide a couple of minutes before the first Pom came along, but to be honest I was too cold, tired, stiff and hungry to worry.  
05.40-11.40 & 14.00-16.30
Brent Goose: 45E
Shelduck: 5E
Common Scoter: 124E
Velvet Scoter: 1E
Red-throated Diver:    4E 
Black-throated Diver:  3E
Great Northern Diver: 1E
Great-crested Grebe: 13 on sea
Fulmar:  4E  2W
Manx Shearwater: 2W
Gannet: 274E   145W
Sanderling: 2E
Oystercatcher: 7E
Great Skua: 6E
Arctic Skua: 13E   2W
Little Gull: 1E
Black Tern: 51E
Sandwich Tern: 263E
Arctic Tern: 50+E a very conservative total!
Commic Tern: 4,500+E
Little Tern: 76E
Kittiwake: 1E
Guillemot: 17W
Razorbill: 1W   1 on sea
Auk sp: 6W
Harbour Porpoise: 6+
Grey Seal: 1

Sunday, 1 May 2016

My first spring Pom of the year!

Arriving at the sea watch hide at 06.40 it was  immediately apparent that that very little was moving, within a few minutes most people left the hide. Soon after I left with AJG and SO making our way to the observatory.
We took a stroll around the Long Pits seeing and hearing the same birds as yesterday.
As the breeze started to increase from a southerly vector we decided to go back to the sea watch hide
with excellent results.
10.15-12.30 when the passage dried up. Thanks to AJG for collating the numbers:
Brent Goose: 2E
Common Scoter: 5E  19W
Red-breasted Merganser: 4E
Gannet: 176E
Bar-tailed Godwit: 230E
Grey Plover: 4E
Whimbrel: 10E
Great Skua: 6E
Arctic Skua: 1E   (DP)
Kittiwake: 3E
Commic Tern: 2027E
Little Tern: 3E
Black Tern: 2E
Auk sp: 1W

This afternoon from the fishing boats again with AJG and SO:
Gannet: 37E      9W
Bar-tailed Godwit: 170E
Great Skua: 2E
Arctic Skua: 1E
Pomarine Skua: 1E   at 14.52
Little Tern: 2E
Commic Tern:  83E
Sandwich Tern: 6E    33W
Swallow: 1 in