Sunday 6 November 2011

Bulgaria – Albena Steepes – 23rd September 2011

If you head inland from Albena in the general direction of Batovo, you find a large area of plans and steppes.  It was here that we found it most productive for migrating raptors.

Ten's of Steepe Buzzards, Rough-legged Buzzard, twelve Red-footed Falcons and several Levant Sparrowhawks.  A proper feast for the eye!

East Anglia Year Count: 156
Bulgarian Count: 120
Life bird count: 414. Year bird count: 253. Month bird count: 145 (Sep).
Photo: Steepe Buzzard (Buteo buteo vulpinus)

Sunday 30 October 2011

Bulgaria – Djulinski Pass – 21st September 2011

The Djulinski Pass runs along a hilly landscape from Gjulijovica to Djulino and produced some quite fantastic birding and scenery.

Woodpeckers are frequent as the road passes through the wooded areas, Greater Spotted, Lesser Spotted, Syrian, Green and Grey-Headed.  Red-backed Shrikes can be seen all along the road side and in many of the villages.  Finally, at one spot we saw a calling Sombre Tit, one of our target birds.

East Anglia Year Count: 156
Bulgarian Count: 120
Life bird count: 414. Year bird count: 253. Month bird count: 145 (Sep).
Photo: Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio)

Sunday 16 October 2011

Bulgaria – Lake Bourgas – 20th September 2011

Just back from a trip to Bulgaria, plenty to see with this being a massive migration route for birds moving through from eastern Europe to wintering grounds in Africa.

We experienced many birds but nothing as impressive as flocks of hundreds of White Pelicans.  In total we must have seen 5000 birds.

East Anglia Year Count: 156
Bulgarian Count: 120
Life bird count: 414. Year bird count: 253. Month bird count: 145 (Sep).
Photo: Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)

Monday 1 August 2011

Suffolk – Sizewell to Minsmere – 30th July 2011

A short diversion from looking back through the year.  We went out this weekend and chose to walk the costal path from Sizewell through to Minsmere, which to be honest proved exceptionally productive.

The first call was looking off Sizewell Beach at the outfall platforms, numerous Kittiwakes and over 40 Little Gulls, plus two Shags at rest on one on the markers.  Further on from there, on the perimeter of the power station we had great views of two male Black Redstarts, not uncommon in this area.

We then headed along the coastal path, good for Stonechat, Linnet and Pied Wagtail, plus a very vocal Green Woodpecker.  On getting close to the reserve we scanned across at a pool to the seaward side of the old Abbey ruins.  To my partner’s amazement she quickly located a Cattle Egret feeding in the shallow water, a 1st UK sighting for us.  Then a short while later another birder pointed out a Bittern, walking down the line of a small reed bed.

Some days it just all comes together!

[Please note the photograph is not of the Minsmere bird]

East Anglia Year Count: 151
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 213. Month bird count: 69.
Photo: Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis)

Thursday 28 July 2011

Look Back - March

Spring was in the air, by the end of the month the first visitors had arrived, I saw Chiffchaff on the 14th in the local park.

Also of note was the change in behaviour of our resident birds, increased song in the mornings and tip top plumage.  Early breeders had started (Geese and Ducks).
East Anglia Year Count: 146
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 210. Month bird count: 46.
Photo: Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Monday 25 July 2011

Look Back - February

This is when we started to notice the change, more light in the sky, winter visitors getting restless.

We found a large number of Whooper Swans on the Ouse Washes, they made for some excellent photographic opportunities.  The conditions were so good that I was able to use my two times converter for some of the work.
East Anglia Year Count: 146
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 210. Month bird count: 46.
Photo: Whooper Swan (Cygnus cygnus)

Thursday 21 July 2011

Look Back - January

Very short days, low light, winter visitors and all wrapped up on Mistley Key front watching Goldeneye remonstrating with each other.

Mount on a tripod, but keep it low get the best POV, use a high ISO, bit of noise reduction when processing and bingo!
East Anglia Year Count: 146
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 210. Month bird count: 43.
Photo: Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

Monday 18 July 2011

Mid Year Update

With the breeding season all but over and some summer visitors starting to return to their out of season areas (Cuckoos have already been tracked through Italy and back across to Africa). It may be a good time to take stock of the year so far.

I’ve not done as well as anticipated on the East Anglia bird count, there will be a second chance for the wintering birds and some of the migrants, on their way back, but I’ve not been to see Nightjars, Golden Orioles or Honey Buzzards.  Also Nightingale, Yellow Wagtail and Spotted Flycatcher have eluded me.

On the positive side we had a record count in Spain this year including four life time first species,  I’ve had some great results with the wild flower photography (despite completely missing the Orchid bloom in our local wood, save that for next year) and had two Waxwings outside our house.

So onwards and upwards but whilst we wait for the autumn movements to get underway I’ll try and post a few photographic highlights that didn’t make the first cut.  Thank you all for reading.
East Anglia Year Count: 146
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 210. Month bird count: 43.
Photo: Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Monday 11 July 2011

Seasonal Wild Flowers 8 – Southern Marsh Orchid

It is now a very quiet time of the year birding wise, with a lot of species taking time out to recover from their breeding and the late summer or autum movement not started, so I resort to a another season flower.

I photographed these beautiful examples at Minsmere a few weeks ago now.

East Anglia Year Count: 146
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 210. Month bird count: 39.
Photo: Southern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa)

Tuesday 21 June 2011

Suffolk – Bawdsey – 18th June 2011

We drove down to the coast around Bawdsey and stopped over at the pits to see if there were any Terns fishing off shore.  No luck with the Terns, but quite a large Swallow population moving in and out of the old coastal defences.

Here is what happened when a House Martin turned up!

East Anglia Year Count: 146
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 210. Month bird count: 82.
Photo: Barn Swallow & House Martin (Hirundo rustica & Delichon urbica)

Thursday 16 June 2011

Seasonal Wild Flowers 7 – Yellow Horned Poppy

Here’s another Poppy, found in the bare shingle, obviously yellow in flower and each flower lasting only a few days and its leaves giving a very waxy appearance.

Nationally it is rare, therefore it’s abundance in local areas does give a false view, it is on the protected species list.
East Anglia Year Count: 145
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 210. Month bird count: 77.
Photo: Yellow Horned Poppy (Glaucium flavum)

Tuesday 14 June 2011

Suffolk – Minsmere – 11th June 2011

Watch out for: Breading; Gulls, Avocets, Terns & Warblers

Such is their quantity, the sound of the Gulls and Terns on the scrape and levels can be hear from quite a distance as you walk down from the visitors centre.

In summer we always head for the hides on the coast first, to be greeted with Bearded Tits, Sedge & Reed Warblers from the path down, Common Terns returning from fishing trip just off the shore line and Black-headed Gull still bringing nesting material.  Once in the hide there is evidence of breeding Avocets, Barnacle Geese, Gulls & Ducks.  Waders are in short supply (only the Avocets & Black-tailed Godwits, when we were there), but also get great views of 3 Spoonbills and an escaped Flamingo!

We move along the coastal scrub, good evidence of a successful season for Whitethroat with numerous juvenile birds around.  Swallows dart in and out of the Sluice.

From the south hides we find several Mediterranean Gulls amongst the sitting Black-headed and there is a Hobby hunting over the read bed to the south.  Several Cetti’s Warblers are singing and we catch a good view of at least one.

East Anglia Year Count: 145
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 210. Month bird count: 77.
Photos: Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)

Thursday 9 June 2011

Suffolk – Loompit Trout Lake – 4th June 2011

Watch out for: Summer visitors; Warblers, Martins & Terns

It’s always good to visit sites in all seasons and this has been a good winter place for wildfowl & gulls.  However in the summer it changes into a site for breeding Ducks, Geese, Cormorants & Swans and a location for summer warblers that also breed.

On the water there were all of the following in good quantity; Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Graylag, Canada, Coot & Mute Swan.  In the surrounding reeds; Reed & Sedge Warbler.  Then in the near by hedgerows; Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Linnet, Long-tailed Tit, Goldfinch & Blackcap.
Of interest, it is generally thought that whilst the Tufted Duck are sedentary, ie the birds you see in the winter are those you see breeding in the summer, the Pochards do move around between seasons.

The breeding birds in the UK will leave for the winter, going south into southern Europe and the birds we see in the winter here have bred in northern Europe or even in the Russian Tundra.

Also Ducks and Drakes migrate at different times, the male birds moult earlier whilst the females are tending to their young thus are a few weeks behind.  This is why you see large numbers of male bird gathering at places like Abberton prior to heading south with very few females.

East Anglia Year Count: 142
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 208. Month bird count: 56.
Photos: Eurasian Linnet (Carduelis cannabina); Sedge Warbler (Acrocephalus schoenobaenus)

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Seasonal Wild Flowers 6 – Poppy

An evocative flower, long being the symbol of both sleep and death, they cover many fields and road sides.  Their presence shows the arrival of summer and their increased number is thanks to the reduced use of insecticides.

What a wonderful sight they are!

East Anglia Year Count: 141
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 208. Month bird count: 36.
Photo: Poppy (Papaver rhoeas)

Thursday 2 June 2011

Norfolk – Cley – 28th May 2011

Watch out for: Summer visitors; Waders, Warblers & Terns

After a week of sunshine we set off at just pass 6 O’Clock in the pouring rain and slightly doubting our logic.

Thankfully when we arrived on the coast the rain had stop and during our visit we were not disappointed with the birding.  The star attractions were, 2 Little Gulls, over flying Spoonbills and Little Ringed Plover.  It was also good so see numerous Black-tailed Godwits in summer plumage, a number of Ringed Plovers, Martin’s, Sedge Warbler & Whitethroat.

Plus off shore Sandwich & Common Tern.

East Anglia Year Count: 141
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 208. Month bird count: 117.
Photo: Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)

Thursday 26 May 2011

Na Na 19 – 26th May 2011

So we’ve been back in the UK for a couple of weeks now and reconciled the list etc, but not actually been birding over that period.  Though the Park close to my work has thrown up breeding Garden Warbler and Blackcap!

More importantly right now last weekend was taken up by a trip up north.  The picture says it all.

East Anglia Year Count: 137
Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 206. Month bird count: 95
Photo:  Sir Matt – 19!

Saturday 21 May 2011

Spanish Birding – Round-up – 20th May 2011

So as you may have gleaned we had a very productive week in Spain. To summaries the domestics:
  1. We flew by a budget airline to Sevilla (picking our way through the minefield of ticket pricing, baggage allowance, baggage size, on line check in, baggage drop off etc etc).
  2. We stayed in the town of Aznalcazar, just to the west of Sevilla and north of Donana, in the Hotel Lince, reasonably priced and very friendly. 
  3. Hired a car from the airport booked through “do-you-spain” which turned out to be Hertz.
  4. But best of all; we booked a day with Peter who operates “Donana Bird Tours” (  Peter went out of his way to tailor the day to our needs, finding me two lifers, giving a valued insight into the area’s diversity of habitats and answering all those questions that had been on my mind after eight years of birding in Spain but had only books to refer to. 

Our schedule took us for a day down to the Jose Antonio Valverde (JAV) visitor’s centre, a day with Peter going out and across the river Guadalquivir right across to Paraje Natural Brazo del Este area, then a rest day in Sevilla before driving up to Monfague via Belen, then a couple more day in Donana, stretching pass Huelva on the coast to the Isla de Saltes. 

For reference we found the late John Butler's book A Bird Watching Guide to Donana, invaluable, plus several Mapa Provincial maps available from Stamfords of London.  Thank you again Peter! 

123 species in total and for the record I’ll list them: 

Little Grebe
Great Crested Grebe
Grey Heron
Purple Heron
Great Egret
Little Egret
Squacco Heron
Cattle Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White Stork
Glossy Ibis
Eurasian Spoonbill
Greater Flamingo
Greylag Goose
Muscovy Duck
Northern Shoveler
Red-crested Pochard
Common Pochard
Black-shouldered Kite
Red Kite
Black Kite
Egyptian Vulture
Eurasian Griffon
Short-toed Eagle
Western Marsh-Harrier
Montagu's Harrier
Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Common Buzzard
Golden Eagle
Booted Eagle
Lesser Kestrel
Common Kestrel
Red-legged Partridge
Purple Gallinule
Common Moorhen
Red-knobbed Coot
Eurasian Coot
Great Bustard
Black-winged Stilt
Pied Avocet
Collared Pratincole
Grey Plover
Common Ringed Plover
Little Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover
Black-tailed Godwit
Eurasian Curlew
Common Greenshank
Common Redshank
Wood Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Temminck's Stint
Curlew Sandpiper
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Black-headed Gull
Gull-billed Tern
Sandwich Tern
Whiskered Tern
Rock Pigeon
Common Wood-Pigeon
Eurasian Turtle-Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Great Spotted Cuckoo
Common Cuckoo
Little Owl
Common Swift
Common Kingfisher
European Bee-eater
European Roller
Eurasian Wryneck
Calandra Lark
Greater Short-toed Lark
Crested Lark
Thekla Lark
Barn Swallow
Red-rumped Swallow
Common House-Martin
Iberian Yellow Wagtail
Eurasian Blackbird
Zitting Cisticola
Cetti's Warbler
Eurasian Reed Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Melodious Warbler
Greater Whitethroat
Western Orphean Warbler
Sardinian Warbler
Common Nightingale
European Stonechat
Black-eared Wheatear
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Eurasian Penduline-Tit
Southern Grey Shrike
Woodchat Shrike
Azure-winged Magpie
Eurasian Magpie
Eurasian Jackdaw
Carrion Crow
Common Raven
Spotless Starling
Cirl Bunting
Corn Bunting
European Goldfinch
Eurasian Linnet
European Serin
House Sparrow
Spanish Sparrow
Eurasian Tree Sparrow

Golden Bishop
Common Waxbill
East Anglia Year Count: 133 (April)

Life bird count: 403. Year bird count: 203. Month bird count: 153 (April)
Photos:  Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus); Great Egret (Ardea alba); Adalucian Meadow