Sunday, 22 February 2015

Cirls, Smews and a Waxwing

A somewhat rushed blogpost this about some birding trips over the last week or so!

Last Sunday I spent a very enjoyable day birding with Keith and Sean....the long drive south to Broadsands car park near Paignton in search of the main target of the day, Cirl Buntings. After a bit of initial confusion as to where the seed was where the birds feed, we had good views of over 20 Cirl Buntings. Here there were also several Reed Bunting and a couple of Bullfinch.

Cirl and Reed Buntings

Male Cirl Bunting
We then headed onto Dawlish Warren to see if we could find the Bonaparte's Gull that has been overwintering. Despite not being reported for a couple of days, Sean eventually spotted the bird flying distantly across the estuary. Despite the distance, the diagnostic pale underwing could be seen quite clearly and even the black bill was just about visible. Dawlish also held an array of waders and wildfowl, as well as an unexpected Dartford Warbler.

Bonaparte's Gull
Final stop of the day was Exminster Marshes to see if we could find the 3 Penduline Tits that had been seen on and off there the previous fed days. Sadly they were not to be seen but Water Rail, Chiffchaff and Peregrine were some consolation.


The following day I ended up taking an unexpected trip to Dungeness. We started at Brickwall Farm where - from the car - we enjoyed good views of 2 Cattle Egret and a Raven. The remainder of the day was spent on the RSPB reserve (stopping off to see Tree Sparrows along the entrance track). Here we saw at least 7 Smew including 1 drake, hundreds of common wildfowl, 2 Marsh Harrier and a Barn Owl hunting near the new diggings.

Cattle Egret

Barn Owl

Redhead Smew 
Drake Smew

Last - but certainly not least - I have just spent the past 3 days in Norfolk/Suffolk. The main purpose of the trip was to attend a UEA (university of East Anglia) applicant day on Saturday. En route we stopped off at Mildenhall near Thetford to see if we could find the 1st-winter female Waxwing that had been present several days beforehand. Once found, I enjoyed great views of the bird which I had all to myself!




Given that UEA is my top uni choice (the course and location are just perfect) I thought it would somewhat appropriate to check out what is likely to become my patch in September. This worked out especially well as a couple of days previously a Great White Egret had been found just a mile or so from the campus boundary!

Great White Egret

A quick stop off at Minsmere on the way home was productive, highlights including a distant inflight Bittern, 2 redhead Smew, 4 Snipe and at least 7 Marsh Harrier.

Common Snipe
Marsh Harrier

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Spain Trip Report (of sorts..!)

Last weekend I spent 4 days in the Sierra de Andujar in southern Spain (approximately 3 hours north of Malaga). The main target of the trip was the critically endangered Iberian Lynx which, regrettably, I failed to see! However I saw a wealth of wildlife much of which I have had high on my wishlist for a number of years. I won't go through the exact details (much of the information regarding seeing Lynx is readily available online) so instead I'll just share some photos of some of my favourite moments from the trip.

Getting there was thankfully straightforward with return flights to Malaga available relatively cheaply and our accommodation at Villa Matilde was great and in an ideal location for Lynx searching.

Whilst at Sierra de Andujar, we split our time between La Lancha and Encinarejo (mainly the former) and visited the Guadalhorce reserve in Malaga upon arrival at the airport. We also briefly stopped at El Torcal near Antequera on our return in search of Spanish Ibex which we had failed to see at La Lancha. The wildlife highlights (these are just some of over 100 species seen on the trip) include:

White-Headed Duck
At least 8 seen at Guadalhorce including a couple of black-headed individuals (this is a variation in 1st winter males).

Greater Flamingo
3 at Guadalhorce (all 1st-winters) including one that showed very well briefly along the river.

Griffon Vulture
Relatively common at Sierra de Andujar (and a few seen at El Torcal) including flocks of 40+ birds riding thermals.

Black (Cinnaerous) Vulture
3 seen near La Lancha including one low individual

Spanish Imperial Eagle
A couple seen near La Lancha including one circling with a small group Griffon Vultures.

Booted Eagle
1 seen distantly at Guadalhorce.

Zitting Cisticola
A surprisingly large number displaying at Guadalhorce including some birds showing well.

Sardinian Warbler
Relatively abundant

Dartford Warbler
Common in Sierra de Andujar

Crested Tit
2 at La Lancha

Black Redstart
Very common!

Crested Lark
4 seen distantly at Guadalhorce

Thekla Lark
2 unexpectedly seen near La Lancha

Blue Rock Thrush
An adult male and 1st-winter male seen near La Lancha

Iberian Grey Shrike
A couple seen near La Lancha

Azure-Winged Magpies
Fairly common at Sierra de Andujar with small, mobile flocks very noticeable in the valley near La Lancha. Generally quite shy but we got very good views at Encinarejo. One of my favourite species form the trip!

Monk Parakeets
Frequently seen flying over in Malaga and I eventually located a flock feeding on berries just outside the Guadalhorce reserve.

2 at La Lancha

2 seen at Guadalhorce, 1 near La Lancha and a group of 4 along the Encinarejo trail.

Spotless Starling
A few seen most days.

Common across the region often associating with Goldfinches and Greenfinches.

A flock of 3 near La Lancha  and at least 12 along the Encinarejo trail.

Rock Bunting
2 at La Lancha and relatively common at El Torcal including a very approachable female in the car park.

Crag Martin
Several at Guadalhorce and seen occasionally at Sierra de Andujar.

Wild Boar
1 seen near La Lancha

3 seen near La Lancha

Spanish Ibex
Having failed to see them at La Lancha we stopped off at El Torcal on our journey back to the airport. After some searching I eventually came across a herd(?) of 16 animals. A bit of clambering over the rocks and I had superb views!