Sunday, July 16, 2017

Peru part 1

Having a full time job has slowed my rate of travel considerably but I still manage to get away occasionally. Back in April I spent two weeks in Peru, not on a hardcore birding trip but still managing to see a few nice things. 
We started off in the North, at Tarapoto for a few days then at the very nice Pumarinri Lodge on the banks of the Huallaga River. The highlight here was a morning boat trip on the river, giving superb close views of the incomparable Hoatzin (one of the best birds on the planet!) and some other good stuff:

Gilded Barbet

Yellow-headed Caracara

Three-toed Sloth


Brown-chested Martin

Pied Lapwing

Sand-coloured Nighthawk


White-banded Swallow

Cocoi Heron

Drab Water Tyrant and Southern Rough-winged Swallow

Oriole Blackbird

Smooth-billed Ani

San Martin Titi Monkey

Crimson-crested Woodpecker

Black-fronted Nunbird

Three Striped Poison Dart Frog

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Morocco, December 2016

With holiday time being at a premium now that I have a 'proper' job, I took advantage of the christmas break to escape to Morocco for five days.
A few hours after landing, following one of the most pleasantly hassle free taxi/bus/taxi-bus journeys of my travelling career I was skittering along the icy streets of the village of Imlil, halfway up the High Atlas Mountains, and after a 5am start on Christmas Day hauled myself to the top of Jebel Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. At 4167m there obviously wasn't a lot of life up here, but Alpine Accentors and Barbary Ground Squirrels were eking out a living from scraps of biscuits flicked respectfully their way by climbers impressed by their tenacity.
Barbary Ground Squirrel

Alpine Accentor 

Back down in Imlil, birds were really quite abundant. Feeding flocks rifled through the Walnut trees and terraced fields, though the high peaks ringing the village forbade the presence of that most crucial of photographic ingredients: sunlight. 
My target bird here was Levaillant's Woodpecker, and with just a few minutes left on my last walk before departure I was convinced I had dipped, despite hearing almost constant calls echoing around the village. Watching a flock of Serin jingling their way across a small valley, I noticed a flash of red as they alighted in the crown of a large Walnut, a woodpecker sitting silent and still, doing its best to avoid the clutches of my world list.
African Blue Tit

African Chaffinch

Levaillant's Woodpecker
I spent a night in the town of Tahanout on my way back to Marrakech for my flight home. A scan of Google Earth had shown an area of olive groves and scrubby farmland a short walk from a passable hotel and I hoped to catch a a few lowland specialties here. Sure enough, a short walk started with a Black-winged Kite mobbing a Long-legged Buzzard over the olive groves, which were fair heaving with wintering Blackcaps and Blackbirds, and Common Bulbuls and House Buntings scabbing food from nearby houses. Some dry fields further out produced my priority species of Moussier's Redstart, one male enjoying a quiet subsong, while Thekla Larks showed no such restraint and were belting out their best from every field.
Black-winged Kite

Southern Grey Shrike

Moussier's Redstart (male)

Moussier's Redstart (female)

Thekla Lark
A few shots from the mountains, an absolutely stunning trek in the snow. 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mallorca 11-15th April

Alpine Accentor 
Audouin's Gull

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Bonelli's Warbler

Balearic Warbler

Balearic Warbler

Little Bittern

Marbled Ducks

Moltoni's Warbler

Moustached Warbler

Moustached Warbler

Purple Heron


Sardinian Warbler

Whiskered Terns

Monday, February 08, 2016

January 2016

Despite the best efforts of a near constant Westerly gale, i'm still at WWT Steart Marshes for the winter, mostly busy with monitoring the wintering waders and wildfowl. I've been back over to the Avalon Marshes a few times for a bit of guiding, seeing all the usual specialities we would expect and  finishing with the Starling roosts, no time for any photos there though. Photography has been difficult at Steart too, mostly just because the weather has been so awful, though I have managed some pleasing shots on the occasional nice day. The highlight of the winter though has been finding a couple of rare ducks while doing my surveys, an American Wigeon and a Green-winged Teal, record 'phonescoped' photos below:
For the first time, I've entered Patchwork Challenge, an initiative to encourage birders to work their local patches as hard as they can, and hopefully see and find more birds! I think i've started well, with 94 species so far on the WWT Steart Marshes site. It's difficult to have a target in mind, but 150 species and a finish in the upper regions (top 10 maybe) of the Estuarine minileague would be nice. Its a super reserve and I give it a very close working over twice a week so i'm hoping to see plenty more in the rest of my time working there.


American Wigeon

Barn Owl
Green-winged Teal
Black-tailed Godwit




Marsh Harrier