Thursday, December 18, 2014

Postcard from Honduras

Brilliant blue-skipper (Paches loxus - I had just one afternoon of warmer, almost sunny, weather during the week on a day trip to Lancetilla -  an hour west of Pico Bonito. Butterflies and dragonflies responded and I saw a lot of new things including this little stunner.

I had a week in Honduras at the end of November, staying at The Lodge at Pico Bonito, which was excellent despite the non-stop rain (just my luck to be hit by a weather-bomb during my stay). The weather made frogging rather good but put a definite dampener on invertebrate activity and prevented me seeing many of the birds I had hoped to track down during the week. That said the place is amazing and if you have a week to spare and you fancy Honduras, this is the place to get to know the country and its wildlife. Great guides, accommodation and food.

 We visited the nearby Rio Santiago Nature Resort on two days. They have an incredible number of hummingbird feeders here and we had nine species of hummer including plenty of fantastic violet-crowned woodnymphs.

Another hummingbird easily spotted at Rio Santiago was the white-necked jacobin.

The Lodge garden was always worth stalking about to see what was coming into the feeders, like this collared aracari.

 Honduras finally produced my first male red-capped manakin, after a number of female/immatures in Belize and Guatemala.

This juvenile boa constrictor (Boa constrictor) was a nice find in the Lodge garden on the last day. A tick for me and yet another Brooke Bond wildlife card moment on tour.

The easy highlight of the week though was two Honduras brook frogs (Duellmanohyla salvavida) on a night walk at Rio Santiago.

 This crazy glass frog (Hyalinobatrachium fleischmanni) was the target of a concerted effort in the rain one evening at at the Rio Santiago Nature Resort with James Adams and some very good local guides. These frogs reflect or absorb light differently than most things!

More Duellmanohyla salvavida - this frog is a critically endangered endemic. They do not get better on the frogging front than this little beauty. The specific name is in honour of the local beer I believe...

 Some crazy invertebrates are attracted to the light at the Lodge, it was not brilliant whilst I was there because of the rain but things like this freaky Odontoptera carrenoi could be found.

 The blunthead tree snake (Imantodes cenchoa) was surprisingly easily found at night around the Lodge.

The animal I most wanted to see at night was the iconic red-eyed treefrog (Agalychnis callidryas). They did not disappoint at the specially-constructed ponds near the Lodge.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

seaduck spotting

Quite a few Slavonian grebes in the bay at the moment.

Checked the sea at Yttre Kattvik in the morning for divers, plenty of red-throated (3) and one black-throated. Also one Slavonian grebe. There were plenty of feeding cormorant offshore and at least 14 gannets and a harbour porpoise joined the show. Herring shoal? More of the same at nearby Kattvik (including two more Slavonian grebes) and then I headed to Malen to go through the seaduck assembled just offshore. I waded laboriously through the large flock coming up with 1100 velvet scoter, 550 common scoter 230 scaup, 30 tufted duck  and one long-tailed duck. Not a sniff of anything unusual. Lots of grebes though with at least another five Slavonian grebes here.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

late seawatch

The big forecast storm fixzzled out overnight but it still provided reasonable seawatching condition today. Sadly I spent a lot of the night up with a poorly child watching re-runs of Strictly Come Dancing... The sacrifices of parenthood... (although as a quick aside I think Pixie Lott deserved better).

So it was not until 1250 that I rolled up to Båstad to find most observers packing up for the day. Things were still going on though, a very distant sooty shearwater appeared in the north and was a good test for my fantastic new optics (I recently splurged on the ATX95...). Over the next two hours I was joined by Paul Cook and we watched an equally distant pomarine skua (1K) and Paul found me the great northern diver (in flight briefly) that had presumably been lurking all day in the bay amongst a good number of red-throated diver (25) and black-throated diver (2). Otherwise rather quiet with just two gannet of note, some close-in seaduck in the corner of the bay including at least 75 scaup and three species of grebe.

quiet at klarningen (20141212)

Had 40 minutes at Klarningen - very quiet as is usual in the winter despite the place being completely ice-free (of course). There was a big flock of common gull (250) on site though, together with at least 16 black-headed gulls and a single herring gull. One of the black-headed gulls was a superb leucistic individual, with just traces of dark pigment in the head and tail.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Erythemis simplicicollis - first for Guatemala?

On the afternoon of 22nd November I found this Eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) whilst checking the ponds by the entrance gate at Tikal. It may be the first documented record for the country, although if so this record just fills a gap in the known range rather than extending the species range as such.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

black duck still here

Managed to get out of the house today, since I got back I have failed to battle the jetlag whilst looking after a poorly child. But we all got out for walk today and eventually caught up with the male black duck at Rammsjöstrand after searching around Dagshög and Påarps mal. Later I had dusk at Klarningen, predictably quiet here with kestrel (1), rough-legged buzzard (1) and a grey heron south.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Postcard from Tikal

 Owl butterflies are often found along dark trails in the forest in Central America, this one is yellow-fronted owl butterfly (Caligo telamonius).

We went fishing for tarantulas on one day at Tikal and got one straight away. Although this Mexican red-rumped tarantula (Brachypelma vagans) had 'just' been found by one of the park maintenance team on one of the trails.

A huge gang of white-nosed coatimundis rules the parking area at Tikal.

Grey-necked wood-rail is tame near the the small ponds by the entrance gate.

Wet weather before we arrived soon turned to sun and brought out the army ant swarms and their attendant birds. This ruddy woodcreeper was hopping about like a mad thing and was unconcerned by our presence.

Postcard from Belize

Time spent in Central America in the winter is time spent with American warblers. Black-and-white warbler sightings are a daily occurrence in Belize.

The colourful keel-billed toucan is always a big favourite with clients and passing tourists.

Searching out the boat-billed heron is one of the less onerous tasks on tour. This beauty appeared right next to the trailside pond at Cockscomb.

Days spent snorkelling produced a fair crop of birds too. Brown pelicans were commonplace and we also visited breeding islands used by magnificient frigatebirds and searched tiny cays for migrants.

Our trip ended at Crooked Tree where we had a surprise white-necked puffbird.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Mårten and Olof score big - American black duck in BK!!!

With an incredibly low battery on my reserve camera I managed this poor record shot of the black duck before the camera retired for the day! It will not surprise you that there are better images of this bird on the internet.

With the clock ticking before a 23-day tour of Central America, I was busy packing when I received some astonishing news. American black duck at Dagshög!! I dropped everything, grabbed the gear that was not already packed and trundled off to Dagshög for a look. I have been a big fan of Olof Jönsson since his epic Corvo marathon in 2009 and he has found me several BK ticks since then. But this bird takes the biscuit. He was with Mårten 'duck-king' Müller... A great find, only the fourth Swedish record and a huge surprise addition to my BK tally!

Friday, November 7, 2014

three crossbill day

 Five two-barred crossbills were the highlight of three hours searching the gardens of Segelstorpsstrand for Sibes.

Inspired by Paul's find yesterday I headed to Segelstorpsstrand to search for Sibes. No joy as usual but there were a few good birds around. There were lots of mobile flocks of crossbill flying about and patiently hunting out the flocks whilst they fed led to my first parrot crossbill of the year and at least five two-barred crossbill. Searching the gardens turned up a flock of three blackcap but no other warblers. A 1K hen harrier floated south.

Two-bar

 In the late afternoon the kids and I had a look for the yellow-browed warbler but we had left it too late and came away with a hawfinch sighting.

Great spot

Thursday, November 6, 2014

yellow-browed!

At least four snow buntings at Torekov this morning, my first of the season.

After eight days in the UK it was great to be back in the field in BK today, despite the soggy weather. I checked out Påarps Mal first but there was little to see. Further north in Torekov proper I tried to find yesterday's little auk in the harbour but it had already departed. Four shags on the rocks here though and a peregrine paid a brief visit unsuccessfully hunting a starling. At the rev the easy highlight was four snow buntings and a redshank. Checked Ripagården for the reported parrot crossbills without success.

Wondering if I was destined to get a year-tick for my troubles I decided to head for Båstad harbour for another crack at little auk. Unfortunately there was way too much disturbance here with the harbour basin still being dredged and the damage from last winter's storms being repaired. So I figured on Klarningen next but Paul Cook rang me just as I got out of town, he had seen a yellow-browed warbler briefly in his lunch break and needed the id confirmed. Where was he? Only in the grounds of the dagis my daughter went to for three years!

Meeting up with Paul, he filled me in and I walked off down the footpath finding the bird quickly just where he had left it earlier, despite it remaining completely silent. What a great bird. I put the news out once I had got some decent images and Kent and Håkan popped out to have a look at it whilst I waited in vain for the bird to call and tried to get images. In the end I had to drag myself away to pick up the kids.

Yellow-browed warbler, one of my most-wanted BK birds finally falls.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

woo hoo!

Cracking day in the field today together with the kids, who kept themselves amused in typical fashion and enjoyed a superb burst of weather, with sun and ridiculous temperatures for the time of year.

Kicked off at Ripagården hoping for the three species of crossbill that have been hanging round. No dice with crossbills but the session here was not without excitement, most of which was offshore. The stiff southerly breeze produced a surprising number of seabirds. The best of which was a fairly close-in 1K pomarine skua. Further out a steady trickle of little gulls and kittiwake was evident and there were reasonable numbers of gannet in the mix too. Pleasant birding. Met up with Bengt here and as he was going south we went north!

Still a few cranes knocking about

Next stop was Yttre Kattvik just to see what the wind conditions were doing to sea-watching here. There were gannets going past but the gull passage was reduced. Interesting. Having promised the kids a burger for lunch our next stop was on the way - Klarningen. Some great birding here too with seven cranes flying in as we approached and quite a few geese on the ground. A quick look through the greylags and barnacle geese revealed at least four tundra bean geese and 11 white-fronted geese. The best bird here though was a redhead smew - only my second record of the year. Amazingly the curlew sandpiper remains, although this should not really be a surprise when we you consider that we have yet to experience temperatures consistently below double-figures this autumn...

After all this excitement we retreated to have lunch and run a few errands during which time I failed to notice that my phone was trying to tell me something. Jobs done we drove to Torekov, parked and finally received a text message saying that the rose-coloured starling was still being elusive!!! Where was it? Less than 300 metres from where we had parked! It took a while for members of the small team hunting for the bird to find it but there it was - a BK tick and one missed during a China trip two years ago. Amazingly this bird was found in the same place and on the same date as the one two years ago. The finder? Bengt of course. BK now has three records of this species and all come from Torekov.

Record shot of the rosy starling

Paul Cook had been one of the people trying to contact me during my 'lost hour' and he eventually joined us to have a look at the bird too. Before he arrived though the most surprising bird of the day drifted through the nearby gardens - a willow warbler, my first in October! Great day out.