Thursday, 27 October 2011

Window birds to die for

I have met a lot of British birders connected with France since I acquired a house there.  One who I have corresponded with but never met is Charles Hopper (for Suffolk birders he is the son of Robin one of the founders of SOG). Charles emailed me today to tell me of birds he had seen in Languedoc recently.  I mentioned when I came back to France in February I hoped I would catch up with Alpine Accentors and maybe Wallcreeper again.  He responded by sending me a photo of a Wallcreeper he had just taken outside the restaurant he owns in Luz-Saint-Sauveur in the Pyrenees.

Wallcreeper through Graham's window
I also mentioned that I had only seen Snow Finch once and back came a distant but very recognisable picture of a Snow Finch and a much closer image of an Alpine Accentor all through the window. All photographed in between our emails.

Alpine Accentor through Graham's window
 Me thinks that Charles's restaurant must be the place to eat to see this trio of difficult Alpine birds.

Snow Bunting

We are off to North Norfolk tomorrow for a few days and maybe I can find such a window.  I do expect to see lots of geese and maybe birds like Snow Bunting.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Still at home

 Better weather after torrential rain all last night.  A few jobs to do at home.  At the feeders one male Brambling appeared and a very smart Marsh Tit.

Marsh Tit

 Whe I was outside for a while a splendid Red Kite first called then soared over the house for at least ten minutes.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Confined to window watching

The weather here today was as bad as you can imagine.  Gale force winds and torrential rain.  Birds were visiting our feeders so I just watched them.  No sign of the Bramblings although they were here yesterday.  The niger feeder attracted 6 Goldfinches and 2 Siskins.  The latter have not been around much lately.

Juvenile Bald Eagle by Ken Marlow

My day was considerably brightened by receiving an email from my friends Judy and Ken Marlow from Alaska.  Apparently they heard scatching on their roof and when they investigated it turned out to be the gorgeous creature above.  Now that is a garden tick!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Record number of scarce visitors to the garden

It is always a pleasure first thing to wake up and look out of our kitchen window at our feeders.  the usual suspects were there in numbers but suddenly I noticed a male Brambling.  Within the next minute or two I saw two males and a lone female making 3 the most that had been in the garden before.

Female Brambling in the garden
Great stuff followed up with my Norwich scrapping hard for a precious point at Liverpool.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Cracker at Burry Port

Watching the tide table we got down to Burry Port harbour just before three o'clock.  Walking east along the beach we soon found the Slavonian Grebe which has been around for quite a few days now.  Our main quarry eluded us for some time though.

A winter plumage Great Northern Diver

We were joined by Dave Pritchard from Cardiff who was searching for the same bird.  He did find a winter plumage Great Northern Diver way out on the Burry Inlet as an early compensation.  Finally I was getting cold and decided to leave.  I got 400 yards back from Dave and decided to have one last look.  Wow!  there it was a superb adult male Long-tailed Duck.  Resplendant with long tail streamers and almost in complete winter plumage.  I bellowed down the beach and Dave came running.  We relocated this splendid duck and I retired home very content indeed.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Great time at Strumble

Because of recent excellent counts at Strumble Head I forced myself out of bed early and drove the 70 miles to the Pembrokeshire coast.

 I was not to be disappointed.  Peter Murray from Maesteg was already there and we enjoyed a few hours together.  If there is a better place in the UK for scoring 4 species of skuas then I have not found it yet.  Between 9.30am and 2pm we had 8 Pomarine, 8 Arctic, 4 Great and a single juvenile Long-tailed Skua.  In addition a Leach's Petrel, 6 Common Scoters, Arctic Tern, 2 Red-throated Divers and 4 pale-bellied Brent Geese.  Also over the cliffs were 2 Ravens and 3 Choughs.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

A Day in Gloucestershire

Visiting my daughter Bronwen I took Saturday out to do a bit of birding.  First I went to Slimbridge but there were few wild birds of interest.  I did think the male Shovelers moulting from eclipse plumage looked kind off smart though.

Moulting male Shoveler
Looking out over the Dumbles there were flocks of Golden Plovers and Black-tailed Godwits but no White-fronted Geese or wild swans yet.

Part oif the flock of 12 Mandarins

Male Mandarin displaying

I moved on to Cannop Ponds in the Forest of Dean with the hope of finding Mandarins.  I was not disappointed as there was a flock of 12 present.  They gently floated out from under their tree roost and gave wonderful views.  The males in full plumage were indulging in territorial display.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Two good birds

A bit better in the weather department so I set off the Burry Port.  Stopping at the slipway I walked east towards Pwll and after a while found the Slavonian Grebe in the channel with about 5 Great crested Grebes.

Wryneck - No pictures today so you will have to put up with a Spanish bird again

Moving on I joined a host of people at The Welsh Wetlands Centre at Penclacwydd watching a superb Wryneck right in front of the herons Wing Hide.  Whoever designed this structure had no concern for photographers.  The plate glass windows distort any picture and all my efforts were useless even though the bird was really close and giving great views.  What with the hides looking into the sun elsewhere you wonder if a birder had any part in designing that reserve.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

An Occasional Visitor

The weather continues to be foul so I amused myself by watching the birds on the feeders from the kitchen window.  A Red Kite sailed over early on and all the usual species were there feeding vigourously. 


What did catch my eye though was Treecreeper working his way up our Scots Pine.  We only catch sight of these birds occasionally in the garden.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Out Anyway

Despite high winds and grey skies I made my way down to Burry Port Harbour.  Walking out to the little lighthouse on the western quay I wondered if any seabirds might be blown in.  No luck there but I did find two winter plumage adult Mediterranean Gulls and 5 distant Brent Geese.

Mediterranean Gull

I also called in at Kidwelly Quay where I discovered the Long-billed Dowitcher after a lot of searching amongst 300 Redshanks.  There were also 120 Golden Plovers, 9 Greenshanks and 2 Dunlin.  At the Sewerage Works I also saw a Grey Wagtail.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Grim Weather in Wales

The last two days have been foul.  Low cloud constant drizzle and high winds.  Not much in the way of birds but I have got the feeders going and Nuthatches have been keeping me amused.


To make matters worse Susan, Tim and Roderick all saw a Lesser Spotted Eagle at Gruissan in my part of France.  A species I have never seen in France and not seen for over 10 years since my last ones in Poland.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Dipping out Big Time in Suffolk

I was in East Anglia Friday to attend the Annual Dinner of my old cricket club at Boxted.  It therefore seemed a good idea on Friday morning to go up to Boyton and add Sandhill Crane to my Suffolk and UK List.  I arrived at 11.15am only to be told that it left at 10.25am.  Unlike previous days it did not return.

A Sandhill Crane photographed in Alaska

As something of a compensation I called in at Levington Creek and Lagoon a  Suffiolk Wildlife Trust reserve that I had been connected with in the past.  The sun was out and the birds great.  At least 50 Golden Plovers and a smaller number of Grey Plovers, a couple of Black-tailed Godwits, 18 Avocets, 2 Sandwich Terns and 3 Little Egrets were highlights. Of course I should mention that a Dotterel a scarce bird in Suffolk had been seen here in recent days.  The tide was very low and of course I could not find it.

Dotterel photographed in Pembrokeshire

Serves me right I suppose!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Back in Wales and mopping up

At the first chance I drove down to Kidwelly Quay and after a short wait found the Long-billed Dowitcher feeding with Redshanks and a couple of Curlew Sandpipers.  A Sarrowhawk flew over and spooked the waders but the Dowitcher stayed put.  The bird was too distant and then light poor so I could not get any photographs.

Another Long-billed Dowitcher photographed amazingly in Oman

Not much else except a Red Kite hunting the Gwenrdraeth estuary which is a bit unusual.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Mammal Watch

There are some interesting mammals living in this part of France but seeing them is not easy.  Wild Boar signs are everywhere but they are understandibly shy because of the attentions of local hunters.  Rabbits and Brown Hares are seen quite often and Badgers are not too uncommon on the roads at night.

Brown Hare

 Polecats and Beech Martens also occur but almost never seen  Garden Dormouse and Edible Dormouse are common but again almost impossible to see alive.  Genets are also present and I did see one once but Wild Cats are very elusive.  Coming home from a local restaurant the other evening we had splendid views of a Red Fox which I had not seen in this area before.

Red Fox
Not much lately as far as birds are concerned  and we are packing up to return to UK tomorrow.