Thursday 24 April 2014

Velvet Scoter

Being an Easter Monday I didn't intend to venture out with the camera, as I know from experience how frustrating it is to try and take photographs when every family, their grandma and dogs are out and about. Especially with some springtime sunshine appearing. Anyway, late afternoon I got a text message telling me that a Velvet Scoter is very close to the shore at Leasowe. Having not photographed one before I made a quick decision to grab the gear and shoot straight up there.

A ten minute walk and I see the bird by the waters edge. Typically the sun was starting to disappear for the day and a black bird on grey water was never going to look great. I moved down to wait for the bird to come along towards me, which it did, as it started to move out around the groyne. As the tide was receding the sandbanks were starting to appear and it chose to go the other side of them. It was still there when I left an hour later, happily feeding on crabs, but it wouldn't come any closer with a dropping tide.

bird, nature, wildlife

Monday 14 April 2014

Extremadura, Spain. Trip Report. Day 4

Day 4. February 23rd. Sunny with a little cloud.
The final day would start with a look around the hilltop castle in Alburquerque. A Blue Rock Thrush was perched on the castle walls as we arrived. We climbed up on to the walls and could see Crag Martins flying around with House martins. Over the town there were a few  Lesser Kestrels which would be the first ones to arrive for the breeding season, a good number collect here as summer migrants. 

bird, nature, wildlife
White Stork
bird, nature, wildlife
Crag Martin

We would then head for the Gevora River in the vicinity of Alburquerque Birds seen here: Griffon, Egyptian and Black Vultures, Spanish Imperial Eagle, Sardinian Warbler, Hoopoe.

bird, nature, wildlife
bird, nature, wildlife
Crested Lark
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Egyptian Vulture
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Sardinian Warbler
bird, nature, wildlife
bird, nature, wildlife
Spanish Imperial Eagle

It would then be time for lunch and then our journey back to the airport for flights home.

It was a very intensive four days and with so much to see, my aim of recording the trip with photographs of the birds would be quite a challenge. I hope my shots give an idea of what to expect, if considering a well recommended visit. From a birdwatching point of view it couldn’t be faulted. 124 species in four days is very impressive. Godfried is an excellent tour leader, he knows the area very well and his experience of the birds meant that nothing went unseen. For anyone interested in visiting the area it would be worth contacting him –

I would like to thank Martin and the Surfbirds team for giving me the opportunity to go on the trip.  It has given me a great insight into the area and I will visit again for a photographic trip.
Species List For the Trip

Anser anser Greylag Goose
Alopochen aegyptiaca Egyptian Goose
Anas strepera  Gadwall
Anas crecca  Eurasian Teal
 Anas platyrhynchos  Mallard
Anas clypeata  Northern Shoveler
Netta rufina Red-crested Pochard
Aythya ferina  Common Pochard
Alectoris rufa Red-legged Partridge
Tachybaptus ruficollis  Little Grebe 
Podiceps cristatus Great Crested Grebe
Podiceps nigricollis  Black-necked Grebe
Phalacrocorax carbo Great Cormorant
Ixobrychus minutus  Little Bittern
Bubulcus ibis Cattle Egret
Egretta garzetta  Little Egret
Egretta alba  Great Egret
Ardea cinerea Grey Heron
Ciconia nigra  Black Stork
Ciconia ciconia White Stork
Platalea leucorodia  Eurasian Spoonbill
Elanus caeruleus  Black-winged Kite
Milvus migrans  Black Kite
Milvus milvus Red Kite
Neophron percnopterus  Egyptian Vulture
Gyps fulvus  Griffon Vulture
Aegypius monachus  Cinereous Vulture
Circus aeruginosus  Western Marsh Harrier
Circus cyaneus Northern Harrier
Accipiter nisus  Eurasian Sparrowhawk
Buteo buteo  Common Buzzard
Aquila adalberti  Spanish Imperial Eagle
 Aquila chrysaetos  Golden Eagle
Aquila fasciata  Bonelli's Eagle
 Pandion haliaetus  Osprey
Falco naumanni  Lesser Kestrel
Falco tinnunculus  Common Kestrel
 Falco columbarius  Merlin
Falco peregrinus Peregrine Falcon
Gallinula chloropus  Common Moorhen
Porphyrio porphyrio  Purple Swamphen
Fulica atra  Eurasian Coot
Grus gruS Common Crane
Tetrax tetrax Little Bustard
Otis tarda Great Bustard
Himantopus himantopus  Black-winged Stilt
Burhinus oedicnemus  Eurasian Stone-curlew
Pluvialis apricaria  European Golden Plover
Vanellus vanellus Northern Lapwing
Gallinago gallinago  Common Snipe
Actitis hypoleucos  Common Sandpiper
Tringa ochropus Green Sandpiper
Chroicocephalus ridibundus Black-headed Gull
Larus fuscus  Lesser Black-backed Gull
Pterocles orientalis  Black-bellied Sandgrouse
 Columba oenas Stock Dove
Columba palumbus  Common Wood Pigeon
Streptopelia decaocto  Eurasian Collared Dove
Clamator glandarius Great Spotted Cuckoo
Bubo bubo  Eurasian Eagle-Owl
Athene noctua Little Owl
Apus pallidus  Pallid Swift
Alcedo atthis Common Kingfisher
Upupa epops  Hoopoe
 Dendrocopos major  Great Spotted Woodpecker
Dendrocopos minor Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
Melanocorypha calandra  Calandra Lark
Galerida cristata Crested Lark
Galerida theklae Thekla Lark
 Lullula arborea  Woodlark
Alauda arvensis Eurasian Skylark
 Ptyonoprogne rupestris Eurasian Crag Martin
Hirundo rustica  Barn Swallow
Delichon urbicum  Common House Martin
Anthus pratensis Meadow Pipit
Motacilla cinerea Grey Wagtail
Motacilla alba  White Wagtail
Troglodytes troglodytes Winter Wren
 Prunella modularis Dunnock
Erithacus rubecula European Robin
Phoenicurus ochruros Black Redstart
Saxicola rubicola European Stonechat
Monticola solitarius  Blue Rock Thrush
Turdus merula Common Blackbird
Turdus philomelos  Song Thrush
Turdus iliacus Redwing
Turdus viscivorus Mistle Thrush
Cettia cetti  Cetti's Warbler
Cisticola juncidis  Zitting Cisticola
Sylvia undata  Dartford Warbler
Sylvia melanocephala Sardinian Warbler
Sylvia atricapilla  Eurasian Blackcap
Phylloscopus collybita  Common Chiffchaff
Regulus ignicapilla Common Firecrest
Aegithalos caudatus  Long-tailed Tit
 Lophophanes cristatus  European Crested Tit
Cyanistes caeruleus  Eurasian Blue Tit
Parus major  Great Tit
Sitta europaea  Eurasian Nuthatch
Certhia brachydactyla Short-toed Treecreeper
Remiz pendulinus  Eurasian Penduline Tit
Lanius meridionalis Southern Grey Shrike
Garrulus glandarius Eurasian Jay
Cyanopica cookii  Azure-winged Magpie
 Pica pica Common Magpie
Corvus monedula  Western Jackdaw
Corvus corone  Carrion Crow
Corvus corax  Northern Raven
Sturnus unicolor Spotless Starling
Passer domesticus House Sparrow
Passer hispaniolensis Spanish Sparrow
Passer montanus  Eurasian Tree Sparrow
Petronia petronia  Rock Sparrow
 Estrilda astrild Common Waxbill
Fringilla coelebs  Common Chaffinch
 Serinus serinus  European Serin
Chloris chloris European Greenfinch
Carduelis carduelis  European Goldfinch
Carduelis cannabina Common Linnet
Pyrrhula pyrrhula Eurasian Bullfinch
Coccothraustes coccothraustes  Hawfinch
Emberiza cirlus Cirl Bunting
Emberiza cia  Rock Bunting
Emberiza calandra  Corn Bunting

Monday 7 April 2014

Extremadura, Spain. Trip Report. Day 3

Day 3. February 22nd
Weather: Sunny with white cloud.

First today would be a trip around La Rocca de la Sierra and Villar del Rey. Some of the first birds seen were: A good group of Azure-winged Magpies, Black Redstart and Dartford Warbler. A walk behind an industrial area in the town of La Rocca de la Sierra would give us: Stone Curlew, Spanish Sparrow, Black-winged Kite, Hoopoe, Little Owl and a Great-spotted Cuckoo was heard. 
bird, nature, wildlife
Crested Lark

bird, nature, wildlife
Stone Curlew

 Then we had a good stroll along the river, we would see Griffon, Black and Egyptian Vultures. A Bonelli’s Eagle was circling overhead as well as a large forming group of Common Cranes which were heading off on migration. On the journey to our lunch venue at Alberqueque, we would see Bonelli’s and Spanish Imperial Eagle.
bird, nature, wildlife
Black Vulture

bird, nature, wildlife
Bonelli's Eagle

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Common Crane

bird, nature, wildlife
Common Crane

bird, nature, wildlife
Griffon Vulture

bird, nature, wildlife
Griffon Vulture

bird, nature, wildlife
Griffon Vulture

bird, nature, wildlife
Griffon Vulture

bird, nature, wildlife
Griffon Vulture

In the afternoon we would take an excursion through the Sierra de San Pedro to the Castle of Azagala. The castle sits high up above the surrounding countryside and is a great vantage point. With a lake and rocky outcrops below, there would be a lot to look for here. Species seen here would include: Golden Eagle, Black Stork, Crag Martin and Black Vultures which were loafing around on the rocks below.  

bird, nature, wildlife
Crag Martin

Thursday 3 April 2014

Extremadura, Spain. Trip Report. Day 2

Day 2. February 21st
Weather: Sunny.

From the hotel in Olivenza, Lesser Kestrel had been seen and Spotless Starlings were perching on the roof.  The morning would be a trip to the Alqueva reservoir. On the way we would stop off at some cork woods which were very productive for passerines. A good list of birds were seen including: Short-toed Treecreeper, Thekla and Crested Lark, Hoopoe, Cirl Bunting, Hawfinch, Woodlark and Serin.

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Cirl Bunting
bird, nature, wildlife
Short-toed Treecreeper
bird, nature, wildlife
Short-toed Treecreeper

bird, nature, wildlife

bird, nature, wildlife
Thekla Lark

bird, nature, wildlife
Thekla Lark

 At the reservoir we saw Cattle Egret, Golden Plover, Osprey, Stonechat, Zitting Cisticola and Hoopoe. A gathering group of Griffon and Black Vultures were high overhead.

bird, nature, wildlife

bird, nature, wildlife
Black Vulture

After a picnic lunch we headed to Badajoz town which is situated on the Guadiana river, this is the border between Spain and Portugal. Here we would do some “Urban birding”.  Along the edge of the river are a series of long thin islands, these have small trees, scrub and reeds and are home to a great variety of birds. We also saw Otters here. The birds seen here were: Common Kingfisher,  Little Egret, Great Egret, Purple Swamphen, Little Bittern, Penduline Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Grey Wagtail, Chiffchaff and Common Waxbill.

bird, nature, wildlife
We then headed to the town of Alberquerque. As the sun was setting we would wait for an Eagle Owl, which returns each evening to announce it’s territory on a rocky outcrop near the town. A little dark for photography, but great to see such a bird fly in and sit on the rocks.

Wednesday 2 April 2014

Extremadura, Spain. Trip Report. Day 1

In February, I was given the opportunity to represent Surfbirds on a four day famtrip (familiarisation trip) to southern Extremadura in Spain. This being the Province of Badajoz.
The trip was organised to promote this under-watched area for birdwatching and was led by the experienced and very knowledgeable Godfried Schreur

 The full trip report with an impressive 124 species list can be found at the Surfbirds site - Surfbirds Trip Report
It was a very intensive trip with photography being quite difficult, it was stop and go and the birds were often quite distant. Especially on the first day with the poor misty weather conditions. Still, I managed a few good shots of some species and I hope it will give birdwatchers an idea of what they can expect to see.
I flew into Lisbon airport in Portugal. The road journey to Badajoz province takes about two and a half hours.

Day 1. February 20th. Weather: Misty and grey with showers.
A visit to the plains and steppe of Valverde de Legan├ęs was our first location. This habitat of large open fields, interspersed with olive groves and the occasional few big trees is the perfect landscape for our target birds here.  Great Bustard and Little Bustard were seen in good numbers, on the ground and in flight. A  few Black-bellied Sandgrouse were seen flying over, as a Merlin was spotted sitting on a post. Large groups of White Storks were perched up on nests in the large trees, as Hen Harriers and Red Kites patrolled the fields. Calandra and Crested Larks could be seen and heard calling.  Common Cranes were heard in the distance.

bird, nature, wildlfie
Great Bustard
bird, nature, wildlfie
Great Bustard
bird, nature, wildlfie
Great Bustard

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Black-bellied Sandgrouse
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Little Bustard
We then moved on to the lagoons at La Albuera. Two hides overlook the main lagoon which is home to waterfowl. Amongst the more common birds here such as Pochard and Gadwall, of interest  were Egyptian Goose, Red-crested Pochard and Black-necked Grebe.  A pair of White Storks had taken up residence on top of a tower hide nearby, with more in the trees beyond. A Singing, Southern Grey Shrike was seen in a nearby tree and both Hen and Marsh Harrier were spotted here.

bird, nature, wildlfie
White Stork
bird, nature, wildlfie
White Stork
Lunch and the afternoon were spent at a private estate in  Valverde de Leganes.  We would be shown how the Iberian Pig is farmed and the breeding of the Toro Bravo (fighting bulls).  Birds seen here of note were: Pallid Swift, Corn Bunting and Green Sandpiper. Serins and Crested Larks were calling in abundance.  A nesting colony of White Storks occupied a number of large trees here. The day was finished off watching Common Cranes coming in to roost, large numbers were gathering in the fields.

bird, nature, wildlfie
Common Crane
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