Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Burning the midnight oil has its rewards

Have been pretty busy with work since coming back off holiday a few weeks back and last night I was up late working on some reports. As it was fairly hot and humid I had the window open and was rewarded with a garden tick in the form of a vocal Barn Owl that hung around the back garden for over an hour! Great stuff!

Hopefully if the weather holds I'll be off looking at Nightjars again later in the week, otherwise its report writing and more report writing!

Hope to have some new Brazil tour information up soon too which is exciting...

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Harriers & Jars

Had a good couple of days with work this week which has involved some incredible observations of breeding Marsh Harrier (under licence) and finished off last night with a pair of displaying Nightjar.

The Marsh Harrier day was great, beautiful weather meant slogging about through the countryside was more enjoyable than if it had of been throwing it down like has been usual this 'summer'! I'll admit to being slightly surprised by the density of breeding Marsh Harriers we found in the area we were checking. Whilst at the site we also has Hobby, 3 Cuckoo (2 together and another several KM away) and a single Turtle Dove amongst the more regular Yellow Wagtail, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler etc...

Yesterday evening we checked out a site where we'd had Nightjar last year (before the imminent weekly deluge) and in no time at all we'd re-found the pair, the male was busy churring away and then as if by magic the female appeared right over my shoulder, had a look at us and then flew over to the male where he started wing-clapping etc. We were lucky to have great views of this pair. Other than these birds the area was surprisingly quiet just a pair of Woodcock roding over us a couple of times. Can't complain with what we had though.

This morning a pair of Bullfinch in the garden was a good record and yesterday a Hobby hunting hirundines over the garden was enjoyable to watch as I was having my lunch.

Male Bullfinch (photo Richard Hampshire)

Friday, 15 June 2012

Summer is OVER. Its official.

Cuckoos are awesome birds and the BTO project last year satellite tracking them on their migration to Africa and back was great to watch and very interesting too. This year even more birds have been fitted with transmitters with several birds ringed in England, Scotland and Wales. Already birds are on the move - not surprising given the rank weather so far this summer.

Several of the Scottish birds have moved south, several of the Welsh birds have moved eastwards across to East Anglia and some of the English birds have moved locally, however one of them "Chris" has already had enough of our "summer" and has moved east to the Belgium Netherlands border, presumably already commencing his return journey to Africa. Wish I was heading that way too!

"Chris" the Cuckoo

You can keep track of the various Cuckoo's movements here: http://www.bto.org/science/migration/tracking-studies/cuckoo-tracking 

Thursday, 14 June 2012


Did a Quail survey last night and wasn't really expecting to get much due to the very low numbers of Quail present in the region/country so far this year. It was therefore a nice surprise to actually hear one! This was a repeat survey up on the Wolds after we had getting on for 20 singing males at the site last year. I'm confident we won't get that many this year but 1 or 2 will at least make the surveys a little more interesting!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Spot the Owl....

Was sent this from a work colleague the other day, can you spot the Owl... let me a) know how long it takes b) what it is.... Quickest correct answer wins nothing.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Little Beauty

Came across this Little beauty the other morning when I was out birding locally. There was a small arrival into the local area while I was in France, however they seemed to have dispersed quite widely over the last 3 weeks so I was pleased to have this. Still need it for my garden list though... All phone-scoped.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Coracking Bird. Roll Up Roll Up.

While in France (see posts below for trip report) I missed a couple of good birds on a work, local, Yorkshire and UK scale which was a bit of a shame - not that I can complain with some of the great birds (trip list here) I did get while in France.

One of the birds I missed was the Roller that was briefly at Spurn (found my Martin Gardner), however this was eclipsed by missing the Western Orphean Warbler at Hartlepool Headland on the same day, but neither of them hung around/lived, so I soon got over it!

Just before I was due to return to the UK from France I heard that the Roller had been relocated just a bit further north at Aldbourgh, I now had to hope that it would stay put for 4/5+ days more so I could get back home and see it at some point.  It looked like a pretty impressive adult from the photos so I was quite keen to see it, being 100% better looking than the 1st year birds that seem to turn up.  For many of the recent twitchable birds I seem to have been abroad and not managed to connect with them, for example I'd just arrived in Costa Rica to see the one turned up in Northumberland in 2006 so didn't see that one.

Luckily it hung around for every Tom Dick and Harry to connect with (and get some amazing photographs) and after work I drove across and enjoyed some really great views of the adult (male) as it fed in a drilled field, occasionally getting chased off by the odd Lapwing.

I saw a lot of breeding European Roller on Cyprus last year, but you can't beat a Roller on British soil (apart from Bee-eater maybe), they are just such spectacular birds! I grabbed a couple of record shots on my phone when it came fairly close. Time like this I wished I had a big DSLR! Anyway here are my pictures, check out surfbirds/birdguides galleries if you want to see some proper ones! Impressive when on the ground, but even more-so when in flight.

Roller on the deck... (Phone-scoped)

Roller off the deck... (Phone-scoped)

Highlight however was probably the oldish lady that parked her car on a blind bend with the back end stuck into the road to stop and have a look! She didn't even have any binoculars, scope or camera from what I could see!!! Classic!

Interestingly there appears to be a second European Roller less than 10 miles away at Hornsea! Crazy stuff birds!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

France: The other Wildlife seen

Butterflies - if you can ID any of the butterflies in the pictures below that are not on the list below please let me know (same goes for other animals)!

1.       Common Swallowtail
2.       Scarce Swallowtail
3.       Red Admiral
4.       Southern White Admiral
5.       Painted Lady
6.       Small Tortoiseshell
7.       Camberwell Beauty
8.       Peacock
9.       Speckled Wood
10.   Wall Brown
11.   Comma
12.   Heath Fritillary
13.   Glanville Fritillary
14.   Silver-washed Fritillary
15.   Meadow Fritillary
16.   Meadow Brown
17.   Small Heath
18.   Gatekeeper
19.   Common Blue
20.   Holly Blue
21.   Small Blue
22.   Mazarine Blue
23.   Small Copper
24.   Sooty Copper
25.   Sloe Hairstreak
26.   Black Hairstreak
27.   Large White
28.   Green-veined White
29.   Black-veined White
30.   Brimstone
31.   Orange-tip

1.       Wild Boar
2.       Red Squirrel
3.       Musk Rat
4.       Coypu
5.       Stoat
6.       Pine Marten
7.       Hare
8.       Rabbit
9.       Hedgehog
10.   Roe Deer
11.   Red Deer

1.       European Pond Terrapin
2.       Western Green Lizard
3.       Common Wall Lizard
4.       Grass Snake
5.       Marsh Frog
6.       Natterjack Toad

1.       Broad-bodied Chaser
2.       Black-tailed Skimmer
3.       Banded Demoiselle
4.       Western Demoiselle
5.       Large Pincertail
6.       Dainty Demoiselle
7.       Many other unidentified!

Photos generally phone-binned or phone-scoped.

Monday, 4 June 2012

France: Species list (birds)

Just put my trip list together, I recorded 131 species, not bad for a non-birding trip! Recorded more than some specific birding trips that I've read reports for since my return!

  1. Mute Swan: Common throughout the Brenne and seen on other Etangs when driving around, several large flocks in north France in vicinity of Calais
  2. Greater Canada Goose: Three seen in a field near Etang Foucault surprisingly the only record of presumably feral population
  3. Gadwall: Several seen on all trips to the Brenne (e.g. Etang Cistude, Ricot, Foucault, du Blizon)
  4. Teal: One drake on 27th May on Etang Foucault
  5. Mallard: Common throughout the Brenne and across many other locations, e.g. several pairs around Le Cluzeau, Vienne
  6. Shoveler: A pair on 30th May on Etang Ricot
  7. Pochard: Common on most waterbodies visited within the Brenne, female at Jardins artistiques de Drulon
  8. Tufted Duck: Common on most waterbodies visited within the Brenne and around Calais
  9. Red-legged Partridge: A pair seen on two dates near Gite (Le Cluzeau, Vienne), probably under-recorded due to vegetation/crop height
  10. Quail: Two heard on two dates near Gite (Le Cluzeau, Vienne)
  11. Pheasant: Fairly common in farmland, probably under-recorded due to vegetation/crop height
  12. Cormorant: Common in the Brenne where breeding colony, also recorded on River Loire
  13. Night-heron: Seen in the Brenne at Etangs Foucault, Bellebouche and Ricot, recorded breeding
  14. Cattle Egret: Seen in the Brenne mainly around Etang Foucault and Etang Ricot areas where breeding
  15. Little Egret: Fairly common in the Brenne where breeding
  16. Great White Egret: Singles seen across the Brenne on each visit (e.g. Etang at Le Temple, Etang des Essarts)
  17. Grey Heron: Very common throughout the Brenne and at all other locations visited, regular birds passing over Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne
  18. Purple Heron: Very common at Etang Bellebouche where breeding colony viewable from hide, recorded at most Etangs visited and on several marshy areas
  19. Black Stork: Single bird circling high over Etang Cistude on 23rd May lost at height in cloud
  20. White Stork: Three on a thermal near Belabre on 23rd May
  21. Little Grebe: One in full breeding plumage at Etang Cistude on 23rd May was the only record, likely under-recorded
  22. Great Crested Grebe: Very common on most Etangs visied within the Brenne, also seen on other waterbodies within the country
  23. Black-necked Grebe: Presumably breeding birds recorded at Etangs Bellebouche, Ricot and des Essarts with approximately 8-10 pairs recorded on 30th May
  24. Honey-buzzard: Common around Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne and also seen regularly in the Brenne and many other locations when driving around. Best views away from Le Cluzeau at Jardins Artistiques de Drulon where 3 performed very well giving close views
  25. Black Kite: Fairly common at most sites visited, especially common in the Brenne, regular over Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne
  26. Short-toed Eagle: Two seen in the Brenne from Maison du Parc (La Bouchet) on two occasions, also singles seen at several other locations within the Brenne
  27. Marsh Harrier: Common in the Brenne, several also seen over farmland when driving around
  28. Hen Harrier: Three adult males seen over farmland in the southwest of the Brenne
  29. Montagu’s Harrier: Several birds seen (males and females) across a range of sites within and outwith the Brenne (e.g. at le Cluzeau, Vienne)
  30. Sparrowhawk: Breeding pair seen around Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vinne, also seen at Chambord
  31. Buzzard: Very common throughout a range of very pale and very dark birds seen
  32. Kestrel: Common throughout with breeding pair regularly seen around Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne
  33. Hobby: Fairly common in the Brenne, also recorded on several occasions at Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne, also recorded near Calais
  34. Water Rail: One heard near Etang Foucault on 1st June
  35. Moorhen: Seen on several Etangs, town ponds etc
  36. Coot: Common throughout
  37. Black-winged Stilt: Over a dozen recorded at Etang Foucault
  38. Stone-curlew: One near Etang de la Roche-Chevreux on 20th May
  39. Little Ringed Plover: One on Etang Foucault on 27th May, four at Etang de Bellebouche on 30th May
  40. Lapwing: Several seen around Calais on journeys north and south, several also seen in Brenne, presumed breeding birds in agitated flight and presumed failed breeders in small post-breeding flocks
  41. Common Sandpiper: One on stream at Chateau Guillaume on 24th May
  42. Redshank: Two birds seen at Etang Montmelier on 1st June
  43. Black-headed Gull: Common breeder in the Brenne, also seen at various other locations when driving around. Flock of 40 over Gite at La Cluzeau, Vienne on 28th May
  44. Mediterranean Gull: Common along coast on journey north and south. Also seen in the Brenne and over Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne on 28th May
  45. Common Gull: One in Calais on 2nd June
  46. Lesser Black-backed Gull: Several in Calais on 2nd June
  47. Herring Gull: Common during journeys north and south from Calais when close to coast
  48. Yellow-legged Gull: One adult sat on an island on the River Loire north of Chambord on 31st May
  49. Great Black-backed Gull: One in Calais on 2nd June
  50. Little Tern: One at Etang Foucault on 27th May and two on River Loire on 31st May
  51. Whiskered Tern: Very common breeder in the Brenne, seen at most Etangs and flying between Etangs over farmland. Often very vocal
  52. Common Tern: Several seen on River Loire on 31st May
  53. Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon: Fairly common in towns
  54. Woodpigeon: Fairly common throughout
  55. Collared Dove: Fairly common throughout, especially in towns
  56. Turtle Dove: Recorded all days in a range of habitats, several breeding pairs around Le Cluzeau, Vienne
  57. Cuckoo: Very common across most habitats visited with numerous birds seen/heard each day often with multiple birds at same location
  58. Scops Owl: One heard calling at Git at Le Cluzeau, Vienne during 4 nights at dusk
  59. Tawny Owl: One heard calling at Le Cluzeau, Vienne at dawn on 24th May
  60. Swift: Common throughout breeding within towns and foraging widely over adjacent countryside, often sizeable flocks
  61. Bee-eater: A ‘new’ breeding colony observed on 30th May with at least 30 birds present. I didn’t check the old sites out.
  62. Hoopoe        : Very common throughout, multiple birds seen/heard daily up to at least eight birds on 30th May
  63. Wryneck: One bird seen on three dates near Le Cluzeau, Vienne
  64. Green Woodpecker: Common, recorded on most days in most areas visited, also often seen in towns/cities
  65. Black Woodpecker: A vocal (breeding?) pair observed very well at Chateau Guillaume on 24th May
  66. Great Spotted Woodpecker: Very common throughout with multiple birds recorded daily at most locations visited
  67. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: At least 2 pairs recorded around Le Cluzeau, Vienne, likely common but likely under-recorded due to vegetation cover
  68. Middle Spotted Woodpecker: One seen at Le Cluzeau, Vienne on 23rd May, likely to be under-recorded due to vegetation cover
  69. Golden Oriole: Very common in all suitable habitat visited, several pairs breeding around Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne. Very vocal during early part of trip, gradually getting quieter as settling down to breed. A pair seen copulating in a nest. Adult male observed in fight with Jay around nest site for 10 minutes
  70. Red-backed Shrike: Common within all suitable habitat, often noticed along minor roads on wires. Several pairs breeding around Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne. Nest found in hedge on 1st June. At least five/six pairs within 500m of Gite (in accessible areas).
  71. Woodchat Shrike: One pair found breeding (nest found) at Le Cluzeau, Vienne, the only record of this species on the trip. The pair were nesting in a lone oak tree in a meadow field
  72. Magpie: Common throughout
  73. Jay: Common throughout
  74. Jackdaw: Common throughout
  75. Rook: Common throughout
  76. Carrion Crow: Common throughout
  77. Firecrest: Two pairs recorded in Le Cluzeau, Vienne, one pair found nest building in garden of Gite
  78. Blue Tit: Common throughout
  79. Great Tit: Common throughout
  80. Marsh Tit: Fairly common with several pairs found. Fledged young observed near Le Cluzeau, Vienne on 25th May
  81. Crested Lark: Several recorded, mainly in northern areas
  82. Woodlark: Common breeder in most areas visited, five/six pairs around Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne
  83. Skylark: Common throughout
  84. Sand Martin: Surprisingly under-recorded with four birds seen (breeding) at Chateau Chambord the only sighting
  85. Swallow: Very common throughout
  86. House Martin: Very common throughout
  87. Cetti’s Warbler: Several heard throughout time in the Brenne
  88. Long-tailed Tit: Fairly common in parkland and woodland
  89. Western Bonelli’s Warbler: Recorded in several woodland areas, particularly numerous along eastern side of Etang de Bellebouche
  90. Wood Warbler: Several seen/heard around Le Cluzeau, Chateau Guillaume and Bois de Paillet
  91. Chiffchaff: Very common throughout
  92. Willow Warbler: Only a couple heard in Brenne, not recorded elsewhere, potentially under-recorded if not singing
  93. Blackcap: Very common/abundant in all areas visited
  94. Garden Warbler: Common in woodland areas visited, breeding around Le Cluzeau
  95. Whitethroat: Common throughout
  96. Grasshopper Warbler: One heard near Etang Foucault on 1st June
  97. Savi’s Warbler: Several heard within the Brenne (within general vicinity of Etang Foucault)
  98. Melodious Warbler: Abundant throughout, often very vocal
  99. Sedge Warbler: Common throughout Brenne
  100. Reed Warbler: Common throughout Brenne, fledged juveniles at Etang Ricot on 30th May
  101. Great Reed Warbler: One at Etang du Couvent on 23rd May, one near Etang du Blizon on 1st June
  102. Nuthatch: Common in woodland areas, breeding around Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne
  103. Short-toed Treecreeper       : Common in woodland areas, breeding around Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne
  104. Wren: Fairly common throughout
  105. Starling: Common throughout many breeding in ‘natural’ nest areas in trees in gardens/woodland edge
  106. Blackbird: Common throughout
  107. Song Thrush: Several singing males heard around Le Cluzeau, Vienne, probably under-recorded due to vegetation cover when not singing
  108. Mistle Thrush: Common in woodland, often seen along roads through forested areas
  109. Spotted Flycatcher: A pair breeding in garden of Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne
  110. Robin: Surprisingly under-recorded. Three (two adults and a juvenile) at Le Cluzeau, Vienne on 22nd May, singles recorded in parkland/woodland areas/Brenne
  111. Nightingale: Very common/abundant throughout most areas visited. Numerous around Le Cluzeau, Vienne and the Brenne. Occasionally seen very well, but most often heard only
  112. Black Redstart: Very common in urban areas, but also recorded in several garden/Chateau’s e.g. Chambord etc. Breeding in garden at Gite in Le Cluzeau, Vienne with fledglings recorded in late May
  113. Redstart: Singing male daily in garden of Gite at Le Cluzeau, Vienne. Female with fledgling on 20th May also at Le Cluzeau, two other males heard singing in wooded areas
  114. Stonechat: Abundant in all suitable habitat, especially so along road verges
  115. Dunnock: Recorded regularly around Le Cluzeau, likely under-recorded
  116. House Sparrow: Common throughout
  117. Blue-headed Wagtail: Several seen in the north of the Brenne, also seen in the north of France while driving north/south
  118. Grey Wagtail: Common at Le Cluzeau, Vienne along river where breeding in garden of Gite
  119. White Wagtail: Common throughout across all habitats
  120. Tree Pipit: Common in woodland and also in farmland near wooded valleys
  121. Meadow Pipit: Surprisingly under-recorded with several seen around Le Cluzeau, Vienne
  122. Chaffinch: Abundant throughout
  123. Greenfinch: Common in farmland/parkland areas
  124. Serin: Appeared more common in towns/villages than in the countryside
  125. Goldfinch: Common in farmland/parkland
  126. Linnet: Fairly common in farmland throughout
  127. Hawfinch: A single at Le Cluzeau, Vienne on 22nd May with two seen there on 26th May, likely under-recorded due to vegetation cover and generally unobtrusive nature
  128. Yellowhammer: Several seen in the north of France on both journeys
  129. Cirl Bunting: Fairly common in farmland around Le Cluzeau, Vienne where several pairs found breeding, also recorded in many other areas visited
  130. Reed Bunting: Several recorded in the Loire area with a couple of vocal males in a reedbed
  131. Corn Bunting: Common throughout, especially along road verges on wires/fence posts

 I went to a lot of good birding locations but these were generally visited at times of the day not particularly conductive to good birding, e.g. the middle part of hot days when birds were quieter and heat haze was more of a problem. I think the area I stayed, and the Brenne are excellent birding locations.

Will put together the other species lists over the coming days...

Sunday, 3 June 2012

France Day 14: The long and windy road..

The journey back up to Calais went well, all 400 miles of it! Managed to clock up 24 Kestrel and 10 Buzzard but also scored male Montagu’s Harrier on a fencepost, several Marsh Harrier and singles of Honey Buzzard and Hobby flying along the road. Had several Red-backed Shrikes and Hoopoe close to the Gite but then less of those while on the motorways, probably due to speed...

The Sat Nav Lady even took me right past the Bee-eater colony! One to remember for my next trip!

A roadside stop produced Green Woodpecker, Yellowhammer, Crested Lark and Blue-headed Wagtail with another stop giving great views of a number of Mediterranean Gulls. While waiting for our train in Calais I had several Herring, Lesser Black-backed, Great Black-backed, Common and Black-headed Gull and that was about that.

Holiday done. Just the drive back to Yorkshire to do…

I'll put a trip list of birds on the blog over the next few days, initial count suggests 131 species of birds, plus a good range of butterflies and other animals, not bad for a non-birding trip.

Friday, 1 June 2012

France Day 13: I got weed on by a Terrapin! (Brenne)

We took a drive back up to the Brenne for the final time of this trip this morning dropping into a few new Etangs that we'd not been to before.  Again it was a great morning, this area is incredible and I can't wait to get back here again.

We visited Etang du Blizon, part of the Cherine reserve and several smaller Etangs with names I don't have on me at the moment.  Highlights today included several Savi's Warbler, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Great Reed Warbler, Reed Warbler, Water Rail, Black-crowned Night Heron, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Cattle Egret, Great Egret, loads of Whiskered Tern, tonnes of Black Kite, Marsh Harriers (4 or 5) and a couple of Honey Buzzard.  Colour was provided by loads of Red-backed Shrike, with a handful of Hoopoe, Turtle Dove, Golden Oriole, Green Woodpecker thrown in too. Got a couple of Redshank, Lapwing and surprisingly 3 Canada Geese that were ambling through a cow field! All the usual suspects were still abundant such as Nightingale, Stonechat, Serin, Melodious Warbler, Whitethroat, Blackcap etc...

Highlight however was not a bird for a change, but was 3 Wild Boar that were foraging along the edge of a marshy area.  Also rescued a terrapin that was walking down the middle of the road! It thanked me by weeing down my leg! Again there was also masses of dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies everywhere.

This afternoon/evening we spent some time relaxing around the garden/Gite area connecting with all the regulars Hoopoe, Golden Oriole, Red-backed Shrike (3 pairs - I found the nest of one of these this evening), Quail, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Honey Buzzard, Short-toed Treecreeper, Firecrest, Nuthatch, Nightingale, Melodious Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Stonechat, Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Black Redstart, Common Redstart, White Wagtail etc..

Over the two weeks we've been here now its noticeable how much the vegetation has grown, and also that there is a wave of fledglings appearing all over the place.  Finally the Nightingales seem to be less vocal too, presumably some have settled down...

Tomorrow will be a long drive back north but hopefully will connect with something along the route...