Thursday, 7 November 2013
Friday, 20 September 2013
I didn't have much hope for the last week of August being a mecca for migrants, but so far, it has been the highlight of my Autumn, and all were seen within walking distance from the house!
A 50 acre horse paddock and fallow-land which is private, but which I've managed to arrange access to, held the bulk of the sightings with 3 Redstarts, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Whinchat and Wheatear all putting in an appearance together with Tree Pipit overhead, and a decent number of Whitethroats (which breed in the more overgrown areas of the field).
Further afield, near Ashfield, another paddock and small dell always seems to have a migrant or two lurking, and this week I managed 2 Redstarts and 4 Spotted Flycatchers, plus Blackcaps and a Hobby.
More recent visits in the midst of some serious Westerly winds have drawn a complete blank in both areas.
Thursday, 29 August 2013
Saturday, 15 June 2013
And so, on a spur of the moment decision, I looked into heading to Finland to try and find Red-Flanked Bluetail, a species I have always wanted to see. Cheap flight routes weren’t easy to come across, but I eventually settled on Ryanair from Stansted to Tampere, then a hire car for the 5 days. Simple!
My original plan was to head up to Vaaltavaara, and wait there until I saw a Bluetail! However, the 10 hour drive put me off, and I stumbled on some other good Bluetail sites about 6 hours from Tampere in the North Karelia region of finland. This together with reports from Siikalahti, “the best bird lake in Finland” and my itinerary was pretty much made up. The weather was quite windy when I touched down in Tampere, so I decided on the bird lake first, and the Bluetail hunt hopefully in milder conditions.
Wednesday 5th June
The drive from Tampere to the wetlands at Siikalahti was pretty heavy going. Several hours, with quite a few roadside breaks. Also a multitude of Speed cameras and seemingly severely slow speed limits on empty roads kept catching me out!
One roadside stop South of Jyvaskyla proved to be memorable with a Grey Headed Woodpecker seen briefly, then later heard calling. On closer inspection I noted Pied and Spotted Flycatcher, plus Snipe and Green Sandpiper, and something else hooting which I later realised was a Tengmalm’s Owl! Also, a Black Woodpecker over the road.
Arrived at Siikalahti fairly late in the evening, and opened the car door to a wall of birdsong. This was to continue throughout the five days ,and was a magical aspect of the holiday. Thrush Nightingale, and Bittern were the most obvious birds calling here, but it didn’t take long to add Whooper Swan, Rosefinch, Blyth’s Reed Warbler, Corncrake, Sedge Warbler, Willow warbler, and Reed Bunting all to the “heard only” list. Birds seen included Slavonian Grebe, Red Necked Grebe, Little Gull, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, proving this site lived up to it’s “best lake in Finland” claim.
I slept in the car for a few hours, then walked around pre-dawn but couldn’t add anything more exotic to the previous night’s tally, a bit disappointing as I would have thought Spotted Crake, would have made an appearance here.
Thursday/Friday, I drove another fairly long haul up to the Patvinsuo National park, where Bluetails have several well publicised territories. A roadside break proved successful with Rosefinch and Blyth’s Reed Warbler both showing well. Another roadside comfort break got me a Black Throated Diver. I found somewhere to stay for two nights, but the shower facilities were the nearby lake which I didn’t fancy!
I tried Autiovaara Thursday afternoon and Friday morning, but was ultimately unsuccessful with the Bluetail, but did however find a whole host of other Forest specialities including Capercaillie, Three-Toed Woodpecker, Wood Warbler, Tree Pipit, Crossbills, and Siskins, Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, plus a singing Red-breasted Flycatcher which I couldn’t pin down, and a Pine Marten. I also heard another Tengmalm’s Owl here.
Spent the afternoon checking out another Bluetail site: Hamnivaara which was similar hilly woodland but with wider tracks, and better visibility. I decided I had a better chance of actually seeing a singing bird here. One of the highlights of the trip was a roadside Hawk Owl watched for several minutes near here, plus excellent views of a Red Breasted Flycatcher.
Saturday, I headed to Hamnivaara, by this time I was working nightshift getting up at 2am and birding til 10am!
The birding was still pretty tough with no Bluetail in sight. Plenty of the commoner species, plus a Black Woodpecker seen fairly well. No camera though, as I was pretty knackered by this time just staggering round with my binoculars! Also the persistent mozzies, 24 hour daylight, and lack of shower facilities were starting to take their toll and I gave up on finding the Bluetail. It was on my return to the car that I decided on one last walk up a track I had checked first thing, not sure why I chose this path, but 200 yards along I started to hear a Bluetail singing! Then followed one of those magical moments, the bird was singing distantly and just visible through a gap in the trees. I had a few minutes watching it then returned for my scope. Sod’s law the bird had moved deeper into the forest when I got back, but after working out where it was I eventually caught a glimpse of it fly down to eye level where I had a fleeting glimpse of the orange flanks, before it returned to the tree canopy. The holiday was now pretty much complete! No more getting up at 2 am.
Sunday, I decided to return to the same area at 6am the following morning hopefully for a better look of the Bluetail, but no luck. I didn’t improve on the previous days views, but did have a nice bonus of a Greenish Warbler singing nearby. There was also a Red-Breasted Flycatcher in the vicinity, and wolf droppings close by, making this a pretty awesome bit of forest!
Sunday afternoon, I headed back towards Tampere, and stopped the night about 100km from Tampere with a view to checking out a National park with Flying Squirrel and other goodies, but I didn’t have much success at all here.
Drove to Tampere and home.
All in all a very exciting few days with constant bird song, plus a few good self-found birds. The only disappointment being the lack of photographs (I didn’t manage a single bird shot! As is often the case, serious bird searching and photography don’t really go hand in hand).
Also, it’s hard to imagine a place in Europe as difficult for catching up with all of it’s speciality wildlife. I have spent over one month in this country over the years, and still haven’t come close to seeing everything it has to offer. So I maybe back another year for Northern Bat, Flying Squirrel, Wolverine, Lynx, Wolf, Ringed Seal, Pine Grosbeak, Two-Barred Crossbill, Snowy Owl, Lanceolated, Booted, and Arctic Warbler!
Always nice to spend time in a true wilderness. I saw very few other birders around.. a few “zombies” around Siikalahti in the dead of night!
Plus, I only recall meeting 1 pair of hikers in the forests of North Karelia over 4 days!
The Bluetail has added significance for me as it is my 450th “self-found” species in the Western Pal.
The pick of my sound recordings below. (The Bittern is quite faint, and the Blyth's Reed Warbler has a Rosefinch mixed in)
And some sonograms:
Saturday, 6 April 2013
Took my dog on a long walk out of the village and across the local common. The area seems to have been in decline for breeding birds in the few years I have lived in this area.
Afternoons in particular can be a struggle, and today seemed to be heading the same way. Stonechat seems to be the latest species becoming very hard to find. However, looking back, the walk was pretty good. A hat-trick of our three Woodpecker species is always a memorable achievement, even if today all three were heard only in the distance!
A Wheatear foraged in the distance and a Raven called high overhead. The walk was rounded off with a singing Yellowhammer. One species at least that seems to be clinging on locally.
Friday, 5 April 2013
Monday, 4 March 2013
Fortunately, they stayed put while I got my scope and tripod out of the car and got nice views of 19 waxwings all sitting tight.
Funnily enough I had thought I heard a Waxwing in the morning, but scanning around the garden only revealed a Greenfinch. "Must have imagined it", I thought. Maybe I did, but a funny coincidence.
Sadly the real Waxwings turned up just as my Sunday lunch was being served, so I didn't get a chance to pursue them for closer views with my camera. Still, a pretty cool addition to the "seen from the house" list which now stands at a fairly respectable 73, and is missing one or two potentially easy species such as Stock Dove, Linnet, and most Waders and Wildfowl which should eventually take it towards 80.
Tuesday, 26 February 2013
Sunday, 27 January 2013
* Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Purple Sandpiper at Hurst
Recent snow has brought with it some much needed variety into the garden. Not so many Thrushes this winter, although Redwing, Song Thrush, Fieldfare, and Mistle Thrush all appeared in singles along with several Blackbirds. Finches on the other hand have really brightened up the month: Bullfinch, Brambling, Siskin and Redpoll have all been regular around the garden along with the regular Goldfinches, Greenfinches and Chaffinches.
Slightly further afield, I headed to Hurst Castle for the second time this year. A very high tide caught me by surprise, and the marsh was totally underwater by the time I began my return trek. the sea was rough, and highlights were a Guillemot and couple of (probable) Red-throated Divers. Along the shingle a Purple Sandpiper was a surprise, although they are recorded sporadically along this stretch of coast. Finally a single Pale-bellied Brent amongst the Dark-bellied birds was another nice bonus.
Monday, 14 January 2013
* Dunbridge lake continues to improve.. slowly!
Sunday brought an end to the low pressure and rain in Southern England, replacing this with sunshine and a cold North wind.
I headed North to the Test Valley farmland, and had a pretty good afternoon:
Hoe Lane: A disturbance put a large number of Crows and Woodpigeons up. I pulled over and scanned, to see the back end of something big in the distance. Looked like a Goshawk, but I wasn't able to nail this one. On the opposite side of the road was a Peregrine and a Buzzard as a small consolation!
Dunbridge Lake: Haven't been here for a while and was surprised to see a Great Crestred Grebe and a Female Goldeneye on the lake.. both firsts for me here. Goldeneye is a bird I don't recall seeing too often along the Test Valley.
Brook Sewage Works: The sewage beds continue to be quiet this winter but a Goldcrest and Chiff-Chaff were present.
Nether Wallop Sewage Works: The most birds I've ever seen here with a flock of 40 Pied Wagtails, and a single Meadow Pipit.
Jack's Bush: Ended the day at this prime farmland habitat. Merlin, Golden Plover, 180 Lapwing, 6 Corn Bunting, 2 Yellowhammer and 11 Grey Partridges here, plus a Barn Owl after dusk.
3 seperate Red Kites throughout the afternoon is also quite notable.
Thursday, 3 January 2013
I also checked out a group of telecoms masts just West of Winchester which looked to have a superb view, and looked like a good area for Vis-Mig. However, as is often the case, places look totally different in person compared to on the OS map and from aerial photos! There was a pretty good view, but this was obscured by trees, and the drop from the summit was too gradual. Plus it was a pain to get to, and much of the area was marked "private".
Wednesday, 2 January 2013