Saturday, 18 April 2015

Spain Summary and Photos

I spent the first week or so of April over in Southern Spain (Andalucia) and had a brilliant time. Spent the first half of my trip with York legend and Blind Mole specialist Paz, and the second half of the trip I bumped into the Next Generation Birders trip led by Oliver Reville who had provided me with a load of gen prior to my trip (thank you Oli). It was great to be able to spend some time with this group of young, and very talented people.

This post is just a brief summary, I'll put together a proper trip report in my usual format after I've finished my Australia trip report, and got back from my rapidly-approaching US trip...

The trip was a recce for Birding Ecotours so as well as looking at the birds/wildlife I was keen to make some useful contacts and check out some good accommodation/food outlets etc. The wildlife on the trip was a huge draw with Iberian Lynx, the worlds rarest feline being the main prize but with many quality birds available, headlined by the impressive Spanish Imperial Eagle it had the potential to be a great trip. Throw in some cool butterflies - e.g. Spanish Festoon and assorted Swallowtails, a range or stunning Orchids, and Blind Mole and a good time was pretty much guaranteed.

Locations visited included the Andujar, Lantejuela, Tarifa, Bonanza, Brazo del Este and Montejaque areas, as well as a few other places in between.

Highlight birds of about 190 species included Spanish Imperial, Golden, Bonelli's, Booted and Short-toed Eagles, Black, Egyptian and Griffon Vulture, Great and Little Bustards, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Iberian (Azure-winged) Magpie, Iberian Grey Shrike, Iberian Green Woodpecker, Northern Bald Ibis, Black Wheatear, Marbled and White-headed Ducks, Rock Bunting, Rock Sparrow, Audouin's and Slender-billed Gulls, Bee-eater, Roller, Hoopoe, Woodchat Shrike and Scops-Owl among many others.

Non-avian highlight (in fact the highlight of the whole trip) was two Iberian Lynx - simply stunning and incredibly exciting to see! Lots of butterflies too - including the Spanish Festoon which was a big target for both of us.

Oh, and Paz and I got to go ringing Lesser and Common Kestrels with a couple of bird ringers we got talking to! Awesome time!

All in all it was a great trip, for now some photos.

Iberian Lynx - not my photo, taken by Jeroen Vanheuverswyn

Iberian Lynx - not my photo, taken by Jeroen Vanheuverswyn

Spanish Imperial Eagle

Black Vulture

Andy with male Lesser Kestrel

Male Lesser Kestrel

Male Lesser Kestrel

Montagu's Harrier

Short-toed Eagle

Short-toed Eagle (phone pic)

Woodchat Shrike (phone pic)


Black Wheatear

Black-bellied Sandgrouse (Phone pic)

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle

Booted Eagle

Great Bustard (distant phone pic)

Greater Flamingo


Iberian Grey Shrike

Iberian Yellow Wagtail


Northern Bald Ibis

Rock Bunting


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Latvia Birding Trip: Hawk Owls & More!

Last weekend I went on a birding trip to Latvia with Tim, Jack and Ollie where we met up with Tim and Jacks mate Gaidis who showed us around. I was using the opportunity to visit the country in preparation for some Latvia birding tours for Birding Ecotours - new Latvia itineraries coming soon!

The trip was a huge success and we found a huge number of quality birds including: Northern Hawk Owl, Ural Owl, Eurasian Pygmy Owl, Grey-headed, Eurasian Three-toed, White-backed, Middle Spotted and Back Woodpeckers, Spotted Nutcracker, Hazelhen, Black Grouse, White-tailed Eagle, Northern Goshawk, Rough-legged Buzzard, Tundra and Taiga Bean Geese, Whooper Swans, Bohemian Waxwing, Great Grey Shrike, Parrot Crossbill and lots more!

Trip report with lots of photos here:

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Black-headed Gull Resighting

Got a great email from the friendly Nils Helge Lorentzen this evening with the information regarding the ringed Black-headed Gull I found up at Townhill Loch, Fife area on the 15th February whilst dropping in on the Ring-billed Gull (see here).

According to the data the bird was 3cy+ when ringed in June 2012 in Stavanger, Norway. It has been seen several times within Norway over the intervening period, venturing a huge 12 km from its ringing location! However, this year it decided to go a little further and travel 348 km to Townhill Loch - no doubt enticed by the locals bread supply! My sighting was 964 days after the bird was ringed. The details are below:


26.06 2012
Breiavatnet, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway

18.07 2012
Breiavatnet, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway

06.03 2013
Breiavatnet, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway

29.03 2013
Mosvatnet, østsiden, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway

20.03 2014
Breiavatnet, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway

27.03 2014
Litla Stokkavatnet, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway

11.06 2014
Domkirkeplassen, Stavanger, Rogaland, Norway

30.06 2014
Slettnesvik, Høgsfjorden, Sandnes, Rogaland, Norway 

15.02 2015
Townhill Loch, Fife Region, Great Britain


I got a few record shots of the bird - just trying to get the ring sorted, these are below.

Black-headed Gull Record Shot (Andy Walker 2015)

Black-headed Gull Record Shot (Andy Walker 2015)

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Waxwing and York Birding

Had a few short birding trips this weekend in the York area.

Some time was spent in my Patchwork Challenge area - where I added Red Kite to my year list. There was a also a small group (5) Lesser Redpolls showing nicely in front of the hide. There was also a young Peregrine Falcon chasing the ducks around. Otherwise it was the usual suspects - Whooper Swans, Black Swan, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Lapwing, Golden Plover, Redshank, Ruff, Dunlin, Curlew (substantial increase in numbers). Also a cool partially ermine Stoat! Several Barn Owl gave good entertainment as usual.

Further afield (from my patch) I had good views of a Waxwing in Acomb (record shot below), York and then in the pouring rain at Rufforth Airfield a first-winter Mediterranean Gull was the pick of the bunch.

Waxwing Andy Walker 2015

Chaffinch Andy Walker 2015

Lesser Redpoll 2015

Friday, 20 February 2015

Duck Dynasty

I love ducks and gulls... as you know.

After the Ring-billed Gull cleared off last Sunday morning I was left waiting for it to come back with little else to look at other than ducks and black-headed gulls...

It wasn't so bad, I found a Darvic-ringed Black-headed Gull (separate blog post when I get details - if you're unlucky), and also had a couple of Mallard come nice and close. I made sure no-one was watching me and then tried getting a photo of them. I've put a couple below, and another one of the Ring-billed Gull.

Mallard, Andy Walker 2015 (bored)

Two Mallards, Andy Walker 2015 (still bored)

Ring-billed Gull, Andy Walker 2015 (via Instagram)

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Ring-billed Gull and some Rugby

Had corking views of an adult Ring-billed Gull at Townhill Loch, Dunfermline this morning.

Ring-billed Gull Andy Walker 2015

Ring-billed Gull Andy Walker 2015

Ring-billed Gull Andy Walker 2015

Also made a brief appearance on TV this afternoon!

AWBirder and Lewis enjoying a Welsh try - as seen on BBC Sport!

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Harlequin Duck Twitch

Me and my old mate Lewis went up to Aberdeen this morning to chase after the Harlequin Duck that's been there for a while this winter.

There's been less than 20 records of Harlequin in the UK. Although not as flashy as the last one (North Uist 2013), this was at least very approachable. It showed very nicely down to about 20ft! Got a couple of record shots below (will check through my other photos when I get home!).

Harlequin Duck Andy Walker 2015

Harlequin Duck Andy Walker 2015

Harlequin Duck Andy Walker 2015

Harlequin Duck Andy Walker 2015

Harlequin Duck Andy Walker 2015

The Harlequin Duck - good views!

Harlequin Duck - phone-scoped Andy Walker 2015

Also had a really smart couple of Dipper on the river that came nice and close.

Dipper Andy Walker 2015

Dipper Andy Walker 2015
Dipper Andy Walker 2015

Dipper Andy Walker 2015

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Patchwork Challenge January Summary

Well January is over. I put some details of my North Duffield patch area up at the beginning of the month here and have enjoyed seeing some good birds.

I finished January on 82 species, 89 points. The best birds have included:

Green-winged Teal - gutted to have not found this (if only for the extra 3 points I would have scored!), was found by Jono while I was away for the weekend - the only day I didn't spend some time on the patch all month! Luckily it was there the next day but hasn't been seen by anyone else subsequently. Details/photos here.

Raven - although only worth the 1 point on the PWC score system, Raven was probably statistically one of the rarest birds I saw in the patch in January. My first local, and only second or third record in six plus years in the York recording area.

Hen Harrier - difficult to catch up with in the local area - some years they just don't happen, other years you can have a few knocking about. It's just a case of being in the right place at the right time - luckily I was this time.

Bewick's Swan - although the LDV is a Special Protection Area (SPA) designated specifically for Bewick's Swans, among a range of other species. They are far from regular these days. I've had the one family group a couple of times over recent years but for a few years before that nothing. The SPA citation is for 47 individuals - these days we're happy to get one bird! Conversely - Whooper Swans have gone the other way and are now here in large numbers and the site should be an SPA for them!

Other notable species seen in January include: Marsh Harrier, Peregrine Falcon, Stonechat, Black-tailed Godwit, Barn Owl and Corn Bunting. Pochard and Tufted Duck were pleasing too given the water levels.

Birds I've not seen so far, but should have done include: Little Owl, Red-legged Partridge, Grey Partridge, Treecreeper, Jack Snipe, Green Woodpecker, Pink-footed Geese (or any of the other more unusual geese that usually turn up in January).

Birds reported locally that I've missed include: Rough-legged Buzzard, Short-eared Owl and Oystercatcher.

Barn Owl from the LDV Andy Walker.