Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Birding - 29/04/09

Slow worm - on the path at Ripagården this morning. More frequently encountered in this part of Sweden than in Norfolk (UK)

A walk out with Mum B, Mrs B and Number 3 around Önnarp later in the day produced this early Queen-of-Spain fritillary. The first Odonate of the year appeared briefly too but got away - almost certainly Libellula quadrimaculata

Spent a couple of hours in the field before breakfast at Ripagården. Things were quiet on the migrant front, although plenty of singing redstarts, lesser whitethroats and blackcaps have arrived on territory since I was last here.

Flushed the same pair of grey partridge again - they seem to have taken up residence. Other highlights were a fox (hard to see here, although evidently widespread), a slow worm and a superb grey-phase tawny owl perched low down in the wood being mobbed by a collection of passerines.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Birding - 28/04/09

Eskilstorps pools - it may not look like much but this kind of habitat is at a premium on the patch. Would look good with a citrine wagtail...

Had an hour at Eskilstorps pools this evening. A few more things discovered, including a pair of little ringed plovers that looked residential. Two goosander flew upriver.

Site of yesterday's grasshopper warbler - not heard again today

The big news here though is that they are re-creating a good-sized wetland and nature reserve next door to Eskilstorps pools. The diggers are on site and I am very excited!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Patch tick - grasshopper warbler

A terrible digi-scope attempt at the first spotted redshank of the year - gotta love-em (even when they're out of focus)

Hasslarps dammar - off-patch but always provides great birding when we stop off en route to the local shopping mall. It consists of former beet-factory settling ponds - it's like Cantley but without the smell. Three year-ticks here today.

Sandön (again) - water levels higher and a massive total of 82 greenshank! Probably over-looked little gulls in my haste but yesterday's birds may have moved on already.


Axeltorps ravine area - close to the house and rather scenic at this time of year. Grey wagtail and wood warbler breed.

Had a lot to do today with a dental appointment and the weekly shop but padded it out with some very productive spring birding. A dawn session starting at Eskilstorpstrand was the order of the day before the dentist. The beach had the annual spectacle of large numbers of red-throated divers circling high in the sky just offshore trying to summon up the courage to migrate overland to their breeding haunts. None went whilst I was watching. Last year numbers got into the thousands and a few white-billed were caught up in it too. Most of the action is just north of the boundary of the patch, but I will definitely cross the border to watch this year.

Moved on quickly to check out some nearby pools I had located using satellite images of the patch on the web. These proved to have great potential, with snipe (1) and green sandpiper (1) for starters. As I walked back to the car though I heard a grasshopper warbler reeling away from a rank field nearby - bonus! A great patch-tick and hot on the heels of the ring ouzel. Had time for a quick look at Petersberg pit on the way into town - here I had the first common sandpiper of the year.

Dental check done, I headed south and dropped in on Hasslarps dammar. This site is great and the network of pools and marginal vegetation just pulls migrants from the skies. First up was a smashing spotted redshank, feeding along the shallow edge of one of the pools. Also here was a superb male yellow wagtail. Finally got all three common hirundines in the air together - why is sand martin always the last one to fall each year here? A tiny reedbed held a lusty singing sedge warbler - that resolutely refused to show itself...

On the way to the shops I stopped off briefly at Sandön and here quickly worked through the waders. Best bird here was a fine carrion crow - we get hoodeds here but the carrion zone is not far off and so you can see 1-2 a year easily. Other highlights were a summer-plumaged bar-tailed godwit, in the company of a staggering 82 greenshank.

Got home in time to take the kids for a walk around nearby Axeltorps Ravine. I hoped for dipper but got wood warbler and grey wagtail instead. The beech woods looked superb.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Birding - 26/04/09

Day out with the kids today. We went exploring around the nearby lakes (Västersjön and Rössjön). Heard wood warbler nearby but failed to find the breeding black-throated divers on Rössjön. The kids had a great time paddling in the decidely cool water of the lake and eating cakes.

On the way home the avian highlight of the day appeared in the form of nine migrating cranes in Grevie. On close inspection they proved to have been joined in the thermal they were riding by a female hen harrier. They all crossed the ridge well west of our house and this probably explains why the garden has been quiet this month. The incredible warm weather means that soaring birds are not being funneled through the low points along the ridge. Shame, would have liked hen harrier on the garden list.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Patch tick - ring ouzel at last!

A dawn session before working on the house finally produced a ring ouzel! Hurrah! I was starting to get a bit depressed thinking I had missed it again this spring...

Drove into the car park at Ripagården, got out of the car and heard a ring ouzel straight away in nearby scrub. It flew and perched well nearby and I was chuffed. Fantastic view of a female - best look I have had for years. Next on the patch 'most wanted'-list is short-eared owl...

Walked around Ripagården in a daze but could not fail to notice the other year-ticks on view - a huge influx of house martin had obviously occurred overnight (seen at several sites during the day), wood sandpiper (1, fly-by) and a single whinchat (cracking singing male).

Checked out Flyttermossen (Torekov) on the way home and had a superb flyover 2K hobby. In the afternoon we went to grill sausages on the beach at Stora Hultstrand and had the first little terns of the year. Six year-ticks and not a cloud in the sky - nice one.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Birding - 24/04/09

Golden plover (!) - resting in a spud field, my first birds of the spring on the patch

Nipped out for an hour-and-a-half mid-afternoon. Quickly checked the coast between Lervik and Ranarpstrand. A few notables noted including: shoveler (pair), purple sandpiper (1 - resting at Ranarpstrand, getting late for them now), golden plover (6) and redpoll (1 @ Grytskaren, vocal and stationary, status?). A quick kick about at Lervik booted up a single snipe but none of the hoped-for migrating jacks (missed already?).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Birding - 23/04/09

Working on the house continues, had ear defenders on most of the day, so not much noticed. In the afternoon though during a quiet period, a pied flycatcher flew over my head. It went straight in to check a vacant nest-box and then whizzed off. Time in garden 30 seconds - looked like it was taking an inventory of available boxes!

All quiet in Båstad along the front, just four loafing Sandwich terns and a large flock of goldeneye (c. 50). Checked out Petersberg later, the highlight being 11 swallows and another large flock of goldeneye (probably including many of the birds previously out on the sea nearby). Drove back over Älemossen hoping for a ring ouzel but dusk fell too quickly. Did get chipping snipe up here though and a single tree pipit.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Birding - 21/04/09

After a day of DIY it was time for my Swedish lesson. Checked out Båstad first for whimbrel (1) and a large flock of goldeneye (65). After school headed out to Ripagården, picking up three lesser black-backed gulls in a ploughed field en route. At Ripagården, things were quiet until I flushed a pair of grey partridge, which whirred off and over onto the top fields. Incredibly my first this year - they are really are scarce on the patch. Omissions that still remain this year are long-tailed tit (harsh winter?) and bullfinch (?). The calm, blue-sky conditions mean that migration is going without a hitch and things are a bit dull at ground-level. Just have to hope for an over-shooting southerner I guess.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Birding - Sandön

Sandön - after days of easterly winds the water level is as low as I have seen it and looks good for waders

Managed to snatch half an hour off-patch at Sandön in a busy day. Acres of mud and exposed sand but not much doing here. Twenty greenshank were a highlight, marginally eclipsing the five avocet. Nearby at Rönnen, things were better with a female Lapland bunting - shame we did not go there then isn't it!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Birding - 19/04/09

Family day down in Sinarpsdalen (the valley behind our house). Drove down to the bottom of the hill and we all walked the 4 km back home - the kids did really well, although we only averaged 1 km an hour! The valley was hooching with hawfinches as usual - a conservative total of 8 was arrived at. I never tire of watching these hulking, great finches flying about - in the UK I would see them once or twice a year only.

An area of damp woodland had a drumming lesser spotted woodpecker and a nearby pond had a pair of little grebe (seemingly scarce breeder on the patch). Other notables were a male blackcap, small numbers of tree pipit and a single grey wagtail. Dropped everyone off at home and then walked back for the car!

Before going home, checked out Petersberg. On arrival heard a bittern booming briefly! A tramp around this small, reed- and Typha-fringed gravel pit failed to produce a view and I reluctantly went home for tea. Other birds here included the full complement of two pairs of red-necked grebes.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Birding - 18/04/09

A displaying green sandpiper takes a breather in the top of a conifer - another species I cannot get used to seeing as a breeding bird

I snuck out for two hours before DIY and headed for an exploration of the firing ranges at Önnarp. An hour and half tramping about here was not without compensation although I failed to find any black grouse or woodlark. Best bird was a male merlin streaking north over a clearing. The displaying green sandpiper was my first of the year and a heart-warming sight. I may also have heard nutcracker, which probably breed in small numbers hereabouts but can be tricky to pin down.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Birding - 17/04/09

The small reedbed at Ripagården pulls in bearded tits on a regular basis. Water rail breeds.

Walked 8 km this morning between Glimminge Plantering and Dagshög and back, hoping for a stray ring ouzel. No luck but a pleasant day with a brisk NE wind made for a great walk. Unbelievably some sections of today's walk were new to me, but I have now walked all of the coastline of Båstad kommun (it only took two years!). Good birds trickled in through the session with the highlights being: shoveler (2), gadwall (1), greenshank (2), green sandpiper (2), whimbrel (1), yellow wagtail (1 - year-tick), lesser whitethroat (singing male - year-tick), blackcap (male - long overdue year-tick!). Whenever I go to Dagshög I always think I should spend more time there - it looks good for migrants.

Had time before lunch for a quick look at Ripagården, the reedbed had a lonely bearded tit. A water rail was squealing away, saw young last year and it looks like they have taken up residence again.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Birding - 16/04/09

Redstart - new in and back in the garden

Took my bowl of cereal to the back window to peruse my domain as is usual and nearly sprayed it with muesli this morning. Two male redstarts were fighting for exclusive rights to the only organic lawn for miles. A year-tick and a species I still cannot believe I get in my garden. The victor is pictured above - now I will have to reward him with a suitable nest-box. Last year they fed regularly in our garden but nested just outside it. Also in the garden this morning; a song thrush (first for the garden this year) and a dunnock.

A brisk easterly wind dictated a walk along the moderately sheltered shoreline north of Båstad during the late morning. Light passerine migration evident, with finches, white wagtails and a couple of swallows passing north out at sea. The coastal woods and scrub produced little in the way of migrants, plenty of resident and recently arrived breeders singing though including a smattering of chiffchaff and willow warbler. Petersberg had a fly-over green sandpiper and a pair of red-necked grebe.

Finished the day with a hot dog session at Hålehallstugan to celebrate the birthday of No. 2. Birds here included two pairs of red-necked grebe, another green sandpiper, black woodpecker and my first jay on the patch this year.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Birding - 15/04/09

Took No. 3 for a long walk along the road to Yttre Kattvik, this morning. She fell asleep and I had a good two-and-a-half hours watching stuff migrate. Noticeable finch movement during the morning with small parties either heading north directly over the sea or hugging the coastline and passing overhead. Mostly chaffinch, but small numbers of siskin, linnet and brambling. Also overhead at least two tree pipits calling in flight - my first of the year. Behind us in the woods a black woodpecker gave its territorial song.

Out at sea things were going on too. The easy highlight was a male smew, trying to sneak through in a flock of curlew! Curlew were on the move today with small flocks passing every now and again.

After lunch we took a blanket up to Salomonhög and sat in the sun to see if any passerines were moving through the valley. They were and we saw several flocks of finches and meadow pipit before we had to leave.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Birding - 14/04/09

An early morning session saw me heading to nearby Vasaltheden and Glimminge Plantering. An enjoyable hour and a half ensued. Vasaltheden was busy with displaying waders, at least two male snipe were up and active, three pairs of redshank and a single pair of lapwing. Offshore a single Slavonian grebe loafed. Overhead a lone green sandpiper was a welcome sight. A quick look at Glimminge next door revealed a dozen resting curlew and a single, flighty ruff.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Birding - 13/04/09

Osprey - took this on the patch last year, possible breeder, kept flying inland with fish...

A late morning session with the kids in tow, produced my first osprey of the year, slightly late this year due to my being away at the start of the migration period. After lunch we searched around Älemossen, looking for a reported ring ouzel - no joy, this is a massive patch bogey bird for me and the cause of much heartache last spring. Let's hope that this spring is different... A small consolation came in the form of my first barn swallow this year.

A play on the beach at the end of the day was good for a few common and Arctic terns, the kids being bundled back into the car in blankets. They will not stay out of the sea.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Birding - 12/04/09

Pasque flower - the local nature reserve is awash with them at the moment

A big day in the field at various sites around the patch. Yesterday's year-tick haul totalled 13, could not equal that today, but had a pleasant time all the same. The day's highlights included: small numbers of shoveler and gadwall, a pair of pochard at Petersberg (scarce on the patch), purple sandpiper (13 at Torekov rev), Sandwich tern (2 at Ranarpstrand), kingfisher (1) and the first willow warblers of the year.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Surf's up

Woke up from a 15 hour recuperative snooze yesterday to find that all hell had broken loose near the patch. Just north of here two megas had been seen! Amazingly a well-watched migrating black scoter had pitched in to rest in the bay just 15 minutes north of here. To add to the excitement a surf scoter had been found just north of that! The bad news was it was dark by the time I sussed all this out...

So today I spent from dawn till breakfast time searching out the black scoter - no joy, it was not seen all day. Then back to pick up the kids and off out again for the black scoter. Gave it another hour then headed up for a picnic with the male surf scoter at Påarp. This was much more obliging and showed well in with a feeding flock of common scoter. The general area was good as usual and produced a number of year-ticks including early whimbrel (2), greenshank (1), golden plover (23) and wheatear (1), as well as a big flock of curlew (202). Number 1 & 2, inspired by the sun, stripped off and went swimming!

Last stop of the day was Trönninge angar where a very quick inspection was also fruitful. The star bird was black-necked grebe - always a tricky bird to get on passage here. Other highlights (many of them year-ticks) included; avocet (1), green sandpiper (1), ruff (6), little ringed plover (3) and three resting whimbrel.

Not sure how many year-ticks I got today, as I am still jet-lagged, but it must have been a lot.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Birding - 8/4/09 - Barbados

Barbados bullfinch - male

A short stop-over in Barbados en route home, allowed me a chance of coshing off the endemic Barbados bullfinch - a reasonable split. The closely-related species (Lesser Antillean bullfinch) is common on Saint Lucia, so I was confident of finding it, given a reasonable amount of time around the airport. As we flew in though it became apparent that Barbados is a far cry from Saint Lucia. It is densely populated and lacks trees! Nevertheless I headed for the densest patch of garden visible from the airport gate and was soon watching an eared dove (missed on Saint Lucia). A finchy bird flew from nearby trees to feed in a palm on a roundabout and I gave chase. Sure enough it was the bullfinch - a female and looking very familiar. The field-guide suggests that the males resemble females and the species is monomorphic on Barbados. When the female was joined by the male I was surprised to find it was a dull grey overall, almost lacked any rufous in the plumage and had a pale throat. Clearly different from the female and very different from Lesser Antillean bullfinch. I think Clements was justified splitting this.

Beast of the Decade Nomination No. 7

Ethiopian wolf - one of many reasons to visit this fascinating country

Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis) is the most endangered canid in the world and is a highlight on any trip to Ethiopia. An estimated 550 remain, with the main threat being rabies transmitted from domestic dogs. For a full account of my 2007 trip to Ethiopia, go here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Birding - 7/4/09 - Saint Lucia

The huge frangipani hawk-moth (Pseudosphinx tetrio) caterpillar

The adult frangipani hawk-moth

The huge black witch moth (Ascaphala odorata) - wing-span up to 7 inches on this one!

Quiet day today with a couple of hours birding in the rain at Pigeon Island looking for roseate tern. No joy, but did get turnstone (8), Sandwich tern (6) and a green turtle.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Whaling - 6/4/09 - Saint Lucia

Pantropical spotted dolphins - this species saved the day on a quiet morning

Another whale-watching session this morning. Despite much calmer conditions on the sea, we failed to find any whales. The cetacean highlight was a large, hyperactive gang of pantropical spotted dolphins, which did a lot of jumping and wake-riding over a forty minute period. Birds were quiet too but we added red-footed booby and bridled tern to the trip-list.

We had at least 50 pantropical spotted dolphins this morning, they always put on a fantastic show whenever you find them

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Birding - 4/4/09 - Saint Lucia

St Lucia oriole - today we found an active nest, with adults busy feeding the young.

This morning headed out early for the Eastern Nature Trail, just south of Dennery. Here we quickly scored two pairs of white-breasted thrasher, as well as more Lesser Antillean saltators and St Lucia warblers.

Although not a full endemic (it also occurs on Martinique), the white-breasted thrasher is one of the most sought-after birds on St Lucia

Finally got a half-decent shot of the warbler today

The rest of the morning was spent at Mamiku Gardens, where we had some excellent views of the St Lucia oriole at the nest. Stopped off on the way south at Boreil's Lagoon. Did not have time to cover the site thoroughly but quickly added a few widespread species to the trip-list including great blue heron, American coot, belted kingfisher and turnstone. Lastly hit the southern tip of the island (Cap Moule a Chique) where we enjoyed watching red-billed tropicbirds around the breeding cliffs.

Cricket - 3/4/09

Flintoff at the crease - not a day for him with the bat but he took a hat-trick as part of his 5-19 which was unbelievable to be a part of

The partnership between Pietersen and Bopara was critical for building the winning total.

Pietersen winds up to loft a six back over the bowler

The big day arrived - the fifth and final decider in the one-day international series between the West Indies and England. Exciting was not the word. It was raining when we arrived at the ground and we had to wait four hours for play to start. The atmosphere in the ground was unbelievable and the time just whipped by. The match was limited to 29 overs apiece and also passed in a daze. You can see the scorecard here. We won, it was superb. When Flintoff took his hat-trick I was stunned and euphoric. A great game.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Birding - 2/4/09 - Saint Lucia

St Lucia parrot - the jewel in the crown of the endemics (not mine, nicked from here)

Gulf fritillary (Agraulis vanillae)

St Lucia pewee - not sure if this is split by Clements, but it is a great little bird

This morning headed off nice and early to walk the Des Cartier trail. This is the spot to view the endemic parrot and we were not disappointed. En route to the viewpoint we had a few duff views of parrots flying above and below the canopy. But we only had to wait ten minutes at the hide though for the first of a series of very good flight views, as parrots shuttled back and forth up the valley. After an hour and forty minutes we finally scored a good scope view of a perched individual in a nearby tree. Superb. Other birds noted during the vigil included St Lucia pewee, lots of Lesser Antillean swifts and a brief rufous-throated solitaire. 

Birding - 1/4/09 - Saint Lucia

Caribbean buckeye (Junonia everete)

Lesser Antillean flycatcher

Decided to try the Edmund National Rainforest tract near Soufriere this morning. We jeeped in along a rough track and after 40 minutes driving elected to walk the rest of the way into the forest, through plantations and patches of old-growth. This paid off quickly as we were soon watching our first St Lucia parrot, albeit in flight. Other great birds along here included my first rufous-throated solitaire - a cracking bird - and I taped in a female-plumaged St Lucia black-finch (the last of the endemics under the belt). Plenty of room for improvement though, still got to get perched views of the parrot and a male black-finch if possible. On the way back to the jeep, picked up two more parrots in flight and finally got the endemic Anolis.

Over lunch we finally got our first swifts, but incredibly these were short-tailed swifts - a rare vagrant to Saint Lucia (overshooting?). This was confirmed on the slopes above Soufriere an hour later when we got our first good views of our first Lesser Antillean swifts. Bonus - just need to find black swift now... The slopes here were good for butterflies and we saw our first Caribbean buckeyes - a very photogenic beast.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Birding - 31/3/09 - Saint Lucia

Lesser Antillean bullfinch is a constant companion at the breakfast table, behaves like house sparrow but has a decidedly sweet-tooth

Tropical mockingbird - another common garden bird on Saint Lucia

At last a day in wet forest. Headed out to the aerial tram ride, situated in the watershed catchment forest near Castries. Birding around the base station and cafe produced good views of St Lucia warbler, my first pearly-eyed thrashers (monsters) and great views of a perched scaly-naped pigeon. A short walk in the nearby forest before breakfast quickly adds St Lucia pewee and we hear the euphonia high in the canopy.

After breakfast we cruise silently through the canopy in an 8-seater gondola. Here we search the fruiting mistletoe carefully looking for Antillean euphonia - amazingly we score, seeing one well and close by whilst the gondola is stopped in mid-air. At the top we get out and go for another short walk. This quickly adds Lesser Antillean flycatcher to the trip list, as well as more pewees. Good morning session with five lifers.