Friday, 31 December 2010

Review of the Year 2010

2010 has been a very busy but hugely enjoyable year for me, not only did I break 300 species in the UK in one year, but I also spent half of the year in Spain establishing some tours and deciding on a place to settle out here with the ultimate aim of being able to spend every year "tooing and frowing" between Spain and the UK.

I managed to go out birding nearly every day in one capacity or another, even if it was through work, I realise that this makes me a very fortunate person and I hope that my blog posts have reflected the enthusiasm I have towards birding. As I do a quick rundown of my highlights from 2010, I would also like to wish everyone who reads this a Happy and successful 2011!!


Bird of the monthBlack-throated Thrush at Newholm, North Yorkshire on the 16th

Birding moment of the month – Well the best moment of the month was by far on the 2nd when together with my day list team mate Will Salmon, we managed to get to Dawlish Warren in time to get great views of a Bittern in the fading light. Having drunk far too much on News Year eve this was the first real day of both of our year lists and Bittern was a real bonus!


Bird of the monthLittle Bunting at Polbathic, Cornwall on the 24th

Birding moment of the month – A 24 hour raid into Norfolk and various other counties with Joe Ray which included highlights such as, Rough-legged Buzzard, Red-necked Grebe, Ring-necked Duck, Waxwing and a Dusky Warbler in London!

Bird of the monthBufflehead at Langton Herring, Dorset on the 8th
Birding moment of the month – Watching a female Goshawk at stupidly close quarters in good light again with Mr Salmon, somewhere in the Devon countryside!

Bird of the monthHoopoe at Sandown farm, Soar, Devon on the 13th
Birding moment of the month – Doing a crazy 30 hour raid of Scotland with my Dad and Mike Hunter in which time we managed to see everything! Crested Tit, Black and Red Grouse, Capercaillie, Ptarmigan, Parrotbill, Osprey, Golden Eagle, White-tailed Eagle and all the other more common species.


Belted Kingfisher

Bird of the monthBelted Kingfisher in Murcia, Spain
Birding moment of the month – Without doubt the best moment of the month also concerned bird of the month. Having not been seen for nearly 3 weeks me and my Dad drove to the area the Belted Kingfisher had last been seen, after an hour of fruitless searching Dad screamed "I've got it"!!! There it was sat in all its glory fishing from a power line, what a bird and a welcome West Pal grip back!

Marmora's Warbler

Bird of the monthMarmora's Warbler at Blorenge, Wales
Birding moment of the month – I would usual have said that seeing a Marmora's Warbler singing in the UK would be moment of the month, if not one of the year. However £150 car decided to give up on me about 4 miles away, changing an enjoyable day into a pain in the arse day, therefore I will opt for something much more relaxing. Watching Hobby at a distance of less than 20 metres on Cannock Chase, shortly followed by Nightjar views in the company of my Dad and Mike Hunter. I doubt I will ever get such nice views of Hobby again, a great evening out!

White-tailed Plover

Bird of the monthWhite-tailed Plover at Rainham Marshes RSPB on the 7th
Birding moment of the month – Waiting silently in a crowd of over 150 people for the Norfolk River Warbler to start singing, it kept us waiting and you could cut the atmosphere with a knife! The bird started singing and it was certainly worth the wait, so loud and impressive but with the light fading would it show? Again the atmosphere was thick and with about ten minutes of light left I found the bird everyone was looking for – what a feeling, the 4 hour journey home seemed like 5 minutes after such a brilliant experience.
Bird of the monthSykes's Warbler at Druridge Bay Northumberland on the 16th
Birding moment of the month – Although I managed to see a few good birds in August, the Sykes's Warbler was by far the best moment. Leaving the house at 3am with Dad and knowing this species track record with not sticking, we made our way north hopeful but fearing it may well have moved on. Within 20 minutes of arriving we had been treated to great views, sharing it with only a handful of other birders – many people had waited on news but fortune favours the brave!!
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Bird of the monthEastern Olivaceous Warbler at Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire on the 1st
Birding moment of the month – Well September was full of great birding moments, not to mention the mad dash to the east coast with Dan Pointon for the Eastern Ollie, so without a clear favourite I will list my top three. 1 – Watching a White's Thrush that Dan Pointon re-located on Shetland after everybody else had given up. Thank god he called his fellow team members (me, Al Orton and Malc Curtin) back from the pub just in time to see it. 2 – Red-flanked Bluetail in the hand on Fair Isle which was amazing! 3 – Standing at North light on Fair Isle with Malc and watching migrants literally fall from the sky, including a minimum of 6 Yellow-browed Warblers, a very special moment that I will remember for a long time.

Solitary Sandpiper

Bird of the monthSolitary Sandpiper at Seaton Marsh, Devon on the 11th
Birding moment of the month – Despite the other Rare's seen in October such as Green Heron, the best moment was easily seeing a Pallas's Warbler in Norfolk at Winterton Dunes on the 19th which took my UK year list to 300!!!!!
Bird of the monthDotterel in Murcia, Spain on the 9th
Birding moment of the month – Again the bird of the month coincides with the moment of the month. Finding a flock of 36 Dotterel in a ploughed field with Dad after a full and particularly slow day in the field was possibly the best moment of the year. The birds gave us superbly close views and this record represents the largest over flock recorded in Murcia and the first record of this species for quite a few years.
Red-footed Booby

Bird of the monthRed-footed Booby at l'Estartit, Girona, Spain on the 7th
Birding moment of the month – Although the Alpine Accentor that we had great views of only a few days ago were good, the epic twitch to see the Red-footed Booby was an experience I will always remember! A 1423km round trip with Dad was well worth it to see this special species that represented only the 2nd European record ever, the 1st was also in Spain earlier this year and both records could in all likelihood concern the same individual. Unfortunately the bird was taken into care after swallowing fishing hooks and despite the great effort of many individuals the bird died on the 23rd

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Wetlands and Raptors

Having met up with Mark and Sarah at 08.15 we headed for Santa Pola and the first port of call for our day. Here we managed to clock up a good number of species, including many of the wetland birds we had hoped for. The scrub land surrounding Santa Pola produced Richard Pipit (2), Fan-tailed Warbler (numerous) and Black Redstart (numerous).
Wetland species recorded during the 2 hours spent at Santa Pola consisted of, Avocet (numerous), Greater Flamingo (30+), Slender-billed Gull (numerous), Spoonbill (8+), Great Egret (3), Black-winged Stilt (numerous), Shelduck (numerous, below), Little Stint (8+), Dunlin (20+), Grey Plover (2), Kentish Plover (4), Spotted Redshank (7), Redshank (4), Greenshank (2), Green Sandpiper (3), Common Sandpiper (1) and a nice flock of Golden Plover.

Shelduck Flock - Santa Pola

Next stop was El Hondo where we managed to add species to our increasing day list in the form of Moustached Warbler, Stone Curlew (4), Common Crane (9), Red-crested Pochard (12), Black-necked Grebe (numerous), Crag Martin (numerous), Bluethroat (4+), Whinchat (1) and Penduline Tit (2).
During a brief break in the overcast conditions the place went raptor crazy and during a one hour period we recorded an excellent total of - Marsh Harrier (10+), Kestrel (4), Peregrine Falcon (2), Booted Eagle (10+, below), Osprey (1), Common Buzzard (3), Greater Spotted Eagle (2 - 1 3rd winter and 1 adult, below) and an immature Golden Eagle! Despite all these great birds, find of the day was without doubt a male Yellowhammer which was losely associating with a group of Reed Bunting on the South West track from the Vistabella road. Species Total of 121 for the 2 days with Mark and Sarah was great and I think our guests were equally as happy!

Greater Spotted Eagle, Adult - El Hondo
Above image and below 2 images - Pale morph Booted Eagle, El Hondo.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Save the best for last

With guests for the day Mark and Sarah Stubbs, we headed out this morning into Murcia and the Sierra Espuna's in search of new birds for our visitors and potentially my final West Pal year tick in 2010! First up was Mark and Sarah's main target for their day trip and my year tick - Alpine Accentor.

It wasn't long after leaving the car that I had managed to locate a flock of 7 of these superb little passerines, feeding close to the track we were walking. Delighted with our start we continued to bird the area for a further 2 hours recording of note; Thekla Lark (4), Woodlark (3), Rock Bunting (numerous), Firecrest (5+), Crested Tit (4), Short-toed Treecreeper (3), Ring Ousel (8+), Redwing (20+), Fieldfare (3) and many other forest species with rather localised populations here in Spain such as Chough, Coal Tit and Jay

Above image and below 5 images - Alpine Accentor. Click to enlarge

Rock Bunting. Click to enlarge

After our great morning and lunch in the Espuna's we headed down to the lower elevations in search of some steppe species and again our luck was in! Black-bellied Sandgrouse (5), Little Bustard (1) Lesser Short-toed Lark (numerous) and Calandra Lark (numerous) were all seen well; as well as the more excpected species such as Iberian Grey Shrike, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier and Little Owl.

Mark and Sarah, who are here visiting family for 2 weeks over the holiday period will be joining us again tomorrow in the hope of another successful day looking for the wetland species of the area, fingers crossed we will enjoy ourselves as much as we did today!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Boxing Day Eagles at El Hondo

Only a quick post today as things are still a bit manic with family visiting and all the usual Holiday period goings on! We went out for a walk on the Southern side of El Hondo on Boxing day and couldn't believe our luck as Tonn, Not Tonn (the other 3rd year bird) and an adult Greater Spotted Eagle patrolled the skies at the same time! As well as the usual species seen here we also recorded of note; Moustached Warbler (6), Marbled Teal (5), White-headed Duck (7) and 34 Common Crane.

Interestingly, there also appears to have been a large arrival of Chiffchaff, Stone Chat and Reed Bunting, this could be due to the extreame weather in Northern Europe. Large finch flocks continue to be present on the Vistabella Road, mainly consisting of Serin (see below) and an unusually high number of Crag Martin were also on site today (below). Please click on any of the below images to make them bigger.

Greater Spotted Eagle

Greater Spotted Eagle (Not Tonn)
Greater Spotted Eagle (Not Tonn)

Greater Spotted Eagle (Tonn, note satellite tag)

Greater Spotted Eagle (Tonn fighting with a Marsh Harrier)

Greater Spotted Eagle Tonn (note satellite tag)


Crag Martin

Friday, 24 December 2010

El Hondo - Yesterday - Late News

Well with Christmas upon us, as many birders have probably experienced, my birding time has drastically decreased due to the many festive preporations. I did however manage to get out for a couple of hours yesterday, visiting the East of El Hondo and walking from the Vistabella road down to the Green hide.

A few good species were recorded on the way down to the hide, these included - Marsh Harrier (12), Hen Harrier (1, ringtail), Booted Eagle (4), Spotted Redshank (4), Great Egret (2), Cattle Egret (100+), Penduline Tit (2), Moustached Warbler (1 singing) many Cetti's Warbler singing and a 6 Glossy Ibis which floated over towards the centre of the reserve. By far the best find of the day was a Marsh Sandpiper which was feeding activley with a mixed group of Redshank and Spotted Redshank from the Green hide. Despite the bird showing well in our scopes it was well out of range for the D90 and my digi-scoping gear was in the car! Hopefully it will hang around for a few days!

The images below show a Booted Eagle which is ringed with a White ring on its left leg, this is fairly difficult to see but now I have pointed it out you should have no trouble finding it, click on the images to enlarge them. Finally I would just like to say (incase I don't get the chance to post again until after Christmas) Merry Christmas or Feliz Navidad to all my followers and readers of the blog, your comments and support have both improved the postings and inspired me to keep writting frequently, have a good en!!

Cattle Egret

Pale Phase Booted Eagle

Pale Phase Booted Eagle

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Raptor survey with Elche University

Today I met up with JuanMa and many other students and rangers associated with the University of Elche to conduct a comprehensive raptor study of El Hondo and Santa Pola. Listed below are my personal raptor totals recorded from my location during the survey period in El Hondo,

Greater Spotted Eagle - 4 (2 X 3rd winter, 1 adult and 1 juv), Booted Eagle (3 all pale phase birds), Osprey (2), Marsh Harrier (4), Kestrel (1). Other birds of note recorded from my survey location included a single Great Egret and 22 Common Crane. The below record shots show Tonn the radio tagged Estonian 3w Greater Spotted Eagle and a Juv bird.

Greater Spotted Eagle. Left - Juv. Right - Tonn 3w.

Greater Spotted Eagle, Immature bird possibly also from Estonia as indicated by white PVC ring on its left leg.

Santa Pola also yielded some raptors in the form of, Osprey (1), Marsh Harrier (10), Kestrel (1) and a single female Peregrine Falcon. Also of note at Santa Pola were 6 Spotted Redshank, 14 Spoonbill and a single Great Egret. The considerably better images below are from yesterday at La Mata with 200+ Golden Plover and 120+ Stone Curlew being the best find of the day.

Iberian Green Woodpecker.

Above 3 Images - Avocet.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Segura River


I went for a walk with Dad today along the segura river; this area forms a huge mosaic of habitats from the river itself to the surounding mixed woodland, orange and lemon groves and setaside fields full of seeds from last years plant growth. Due to the diverse habitats its obvious that there are many species to be seen in this area, a run down of what we recorded of note is as follows;

Kestrel (numerous), Merlin (1), Sparrowhawk (1), Buzzard (numerous), Marsh Harrier (10+), Booted Eagle (3), Little Stint (7, below), Grey Plover (2), Kentish Plover (4), Stone Curlew (18), Golden Plover (200+), Dunlin (4), Avocet (numerous, below), Cattle Egret (numerous), Little Egret (numerous), Black-winged Stilt (numerous), Purple Swamphen (1), Shelduck (200+, above), Crested Lark (numerous), Thekla Lark (2), Lesser Short-toed Lark (15+), Iberian Green Woodpecker (3), Iberian Grey Shrike (9, below), Crag Martin (30+), Chiff Chaff (numerous), Dartford Warbler (4, below), Sardinian Warbler (numerous), Fan-tailed Warbler (numerous), Firecrest (2+), Serin (numerous - some flocks of 200+), Linnet (numerous), Cirl Bunting (12), Siskin (6), Long-tailed Tit (8), Crossbill (10+, below).

Dartford Warbler

Little Stint

Iberian Grey Shrike



Thursday, 16 December 2010

Murcia - Mar Menor

Greater Flamingo - La Manga Salinas
Today we headed into Murcia for 2 reasons, firstly to see if any Red-breasted Merganser had returned to the Mar Menor and secondly to allow my younger brother Ryan the chance to get to grips with my camera. As you can see from the images in this post he soon got the hang of it and is somewhat of a natural! We managed to find only a single Merganser but nevertheless we successfuly achieved the target for the day.

Other birds of note seen on the Mar Menor included; Sandwich Tern (2), Slender-billed Gull (numerous, see below), Black-necked Grebe (numerous), Great-crested Grebe (numerous) and a single male Cirl Bunting near the Rio de Albujon.

We also made a quick stop at La Manga Salinas recording the following species of note; Greater Flamingo (23, above), Avocet (19), Stone Curlew (21), Redshank (4), Little Stint (6), Ringed Plover (2), Black-winged Stilt (numerous), Black-tailed Godwit (3, below) and Monk Parakeet (5).

Serin - La Manga Salinas

Slender-billed Gull - Mar Menor

Fan-tailed Warbler - Mar Menor

Fan-tailed Warbler - Mar Menor

Black-tailed Godwit - La Manga Salinas

Black-tailed Godwit - La Manga Salinas

Sunday, 12 December 2010

La Mata walk about

The good weather is still with us and I'm trying to make the most of it while it lasts! Today I went for a walk around La Mata recording a few interesting species - Booted Eagle (2), Hen Harrier (1), Marsh Harrier (5+), Stone Curlew (19), Greater Flamingo (16), Avocet (numerous, picture below), Ruff (3, picture below), Little Stint (4), Kentish Plover (8), Slender-billed Gull (4) and Sandwich Tern (9).

Perhaps the best find today was 3 Richards Pipit which showed well at times, one of the birds was colour ringed with a single green ring on its right leg and a metal ring on its left. A picture of one of the individuals can be seen below.


Above 3 Images - Ruff
Richards Pipit