Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Back in Sweden

Knackered after Poland, I managed to get out for a couple of hours in the early morning. Walked between Lervik and Ranarpstrand and got some good birds. Finch migration was going full bore with flocks of chaffinches passing continually and at many levels. Occasionally buzzy brambling calls and skylark were in amongst them. A red-throated pipit called once on its way south. On the ground got grey plover (2 1K birds) and grey wagtail (2 1K birds). Managed to read another Danish mute swan darvic - which is always nice, even if they have not come far.

The nice warm feeling engendered by being back on-patch changed when I got to Ranarpsstrand and noticed this...

Usual apologies re quality, but what a bird. Anyone know what it is? Industrial melanism? Structurally quite good for a 'yellow-legged' gull but the plumage! Is it atlantis? Has it just got a dirty face? The real video is much better if anyone wants it let me know.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Biebzra update - Poland

Management problems at Biebzra are being solved with some serious machinery. This tracked cutter and trailer had several of us drooling and reaching for our cameras. Some consolation for the fact that the management work had scared away all the wildlife.

Just finished two days at the incomparable Biebzra Marshes in NE Poland. Just like Bialowieza Forest this is a must-see destination for the serious naturalist. At this time of year we chase elk, look for eagles and enjoy the landform and geomorphology. We had great views of three elk (male, female and yearling) close to the road at Osowiec. Eagles appeared suddenly on Day 2 after a few distant false starts and we got great views of two spotted and one lesser spotted eagle. At one fish pond we watched an osprey being deprived of its catch in mid-air by a wily white-tailed eagle.

Raft spider (Dolomedes fimbriatus) - both this species and plantarius are easy to see in Poland.

Penduline tit - we had a close encounter with these charismatic little passerines. Plenty of old nests found too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Beaver time

Beaver has been re-introduced into Poland and thrives. We had good views of a family on our first morning. It's impact on riparian habitats is massive. Here a stream has been reduced to a trickle choked with Elodea by the presence of a dam upstream.

A deadwood area in the pond just upstream of a dam. These beavers had made use of raised road embankment and had impounded an unnatural amount of water as a result. The subsequent tree die-off is a boon to woodpeckers.

Beavers are not shy about tackling large trees. Successful re-introduction into the UK will be an interesting exercise...


Hornets abound here in Poland and can frequently be found sun-bathing in the early mornings.

This nest was found under the stairs up to a watch tower. Hornets are pretty docile creatures. The nest reminds me of a Skånish speciality - a cake (spettkaka), the only difference really being that the hornets nest tastes better and has a higher nutritional value... :)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Poland - Bialowieza update

Four days at Bialowieza completed and we have not done too badly. Skunked out seeing bison though for a second time... Found abundant sign this year at two locations and got close but could not get to grips. The best mammal was a family of beavers watched as they returned to their lodge in the half-light of dawn. The forest here is awesome though and you never leave empty-handed. The stars were the woodpeckers; we managed to see white-backed (2), great spotted (common), middle-spotted (common), lesser spotted (3), three-toed (2), black woodpecker (common) and green. Only grey-headed eluded us (again). Other good birds included a superb encounter with a hazelhen (scope views perched and awesome flyby) and a few nutcrackers. The real star at Bialowieza though is the strictly protected forest reserve, a visit to which should be on every naturalists 'to do' list. It is just amazing. Still wading through the fungi spotted...

European bison - it's starting to get personal. One day I will see one in the field.

Three-toed woodpecker, one of seven species of woodpecker encountered this week at Bialowieza

Sympetrum pedemontanum, one of the highlights of today's look at Siemianowka reservoir - a curious little dragonfly with poorly-known habitat requirements. This was a decade tick for me, last seen in Georgia in 1998.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

He's off

Can you guess? Yep Phil's off to Poland for large mammals. Hopefully some posts will materialise, if not have a great fortnight and I will be back at the end of the month.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Birding - 15/09/09

Two dunlin at Klarningen this morning were the first I have seen at the site.

Clear skies overnight and a chilly dawn greeted me this morning. Checked out Klarningen before breakfast and it was well worth the effort. Found not one but two red-throated pipits, feeding together at the north end. They were furtive and more difficult to flush than meadow pipits and gave reasonable views as they scurried about, usually feeding close to, or along the vegetated edge of, channels. Needless to say it was the call that drew my attention to them, they would be easy to miss in a casual scan I reckon. Other new birds for Klarningen were Canada goose (7 over) and two cracking 1K dunlin. Otherwise two reed warblers were nice and the river reeds were full of reed buntings. I texted out the red-throated pipits to Martin Åkesson and he almost immediately rained on my parade by texting back that he had just had a two-barred crossbill go over. I nipped back to the coast for fifteen minutes but I suspect it was long gone. Good bird here.

After sorting out the conveyancing on the in-laws new house in Ängelholm, Mrs B and I headed for a quick twitch to Farhult. Great spot this and one I do not get to enough. The easy highlight was the 1K broad-billed sandpiper that has been hanging about for a few days in a large flock of dunlin. Also in attendance during cursory scans elsewhere were grey plover (3 1K), greenshank (3), bar-tailed godwit (12) and curlew sandpiper (1 1K). A water rail squealed in the reeds. Offshore a 1K red-throated diver bobbed about and the large flock of barnacle geese (1000+) was terrorised by the arrival of a subadult white-tailed eagle.

Today's 1K broad-billed sandpiper was a little stunner. It was present in the flock of dunlin on arrival but then disappeared. I walked in over the flats and scanned for quite a while before I noticed it again - it had been hiding behind the only bit of cover for hundreds of metres.

Took the kids down to Eskilstorpstrand to enjoy the sun and sea in the afternoon. They splashed about happily for an hour and I got a bit of birding in. A few waders were present with ruff (2), dunlin (14) and bar-tailed godwit (1). Close inshore a raft of 54 Canada geese and separately a bit further out ten common scoter (mostly male).

Footage of the phalarope

Just found this video of the red-necked phalarope on the 5th September at Klarningen on my camera...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Birding - 14/09/09

Took the kids out for a walk for an hour this morning during a busy day. We walked into the Älemossen area from the western end of the track. A new bit of path for us all. My main hope was to finally find a bullfinch on the patch for 2009. Amazingly 50m up the track we bumped into three calling bullfinches - job done. The only other birds of note were several jays - another bird you have to go searching for here, although it is common enough in the right places. No sign of any nutcrackers but a bunting that sounded like an ortolan flew over south... The struggle to bring myself up to some sort of speed as a vizmig birder continues! The kids enjoyed the sun and blueberries (fantastic season this year).

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Unlucky 13 - birding Falsterbo

Star of the raptor parade today for us at Falsterbo was this rough-legged buzzard. Others made do with a 1K pallid harrier. Oh the shame!

Went down to Falsterbo last night to stay with Terry (Birding Copenhagen) and three of his mates from East Anglia. They had evicted the Seven Dwarves and were living in a tiny cottage in the woods. Luckily there was just enough floor space for me. During the evening they gripped me rigid with tales of their second day at Falsterbo - short-toed eagle, black kite.... We hoped for more of the same on their third day.

Common buzzard - gentle trickle of birds through during the middle part of the day.

Rain overnight and a breezy northerly did not bode well however and we had a 'mare of a day. We somehow managed to miss all the good birds - Falsterbo has quite a complex geography and it is easy to be in the wrong place, unless you opt to sit at the end all day. We started at the end (Nabben) in the early morning. A few honey buzzards drifted south. The lagoon here was crammed with waders and we spent some time trying to find a broad-billed sandpiper in the throng of dunlin. No joy, but our searching turned up at least two little stint and a curlew sandpiper (the latter my first 1K bird of the year). A white-tailed eagle terrorised the local cormorants for a while and sparrowhawk were regular overhead. Several squalls came through whilst we waited here and we got wet! Passerine highlight came in the form of a single grey wagtail, although a few meadow and tree pipit were heard overhead. We elected for breakfast and a move to the heath to await raptors.

Red kites never failed to entertain, 30-odd birds passed us today.

Typically as we settled into our comfy chairs and waited for the raptor parade, the phone went. Martin Åkesson had found a Lapland bunting back in BK... The movement of raptors today was rather poor, although it included a splendid rough-legged buzzard, two hen harriers, another or the same white-tailed eagle and perhaps thirty red kite. A crane flew silently overhead but a white stork gave us the slip out to the west. A few crossbill and siskin were apparent. Out on the lagoon, four avocet will probably be my last of the year. With more rain in the offing I decided to head back to BK for a crack at the bunting. Tramping back over the heath produced a nice marsh gentian which somehow eluded me photographically.

An hour and a half later I was strolling through sunny fields in a light breeze back on the patch (Eskilstorp) - a phenomenal change in weather. Queen-of-Spain fritillaries were booted from underfoot and despite walking the field for an hour I could not find the bunting. Too bad, but I got home in time for a fish-and-chip supper.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Wildfowl counting - 12/09/09

Sloe birding today - very few waterfowl to count during the survey. I was surprised by the low numbers of eider and red-breasted merganser. Very little passerine migration either, Sweden may have emptied overnight (light winds and clear).

Had a wildfowl count to do today, despite the fact that I was supposed to be at Falsterbo, with Birding Copenhagen and his crack British team. They may have scored big (short-toed eagle and black kite reported) but I will get down there tonight and find out.

Walked the coast between Dagshög and Hovs Hallar (some ten kilometres). There was very little to count and numbers of all species were surprisingly low. I do this count in January as well and it is rammed with waterfowl then and lots of additional interest too (water pipits being a favourite). Highlights were few and far between considering the mileage but included a confiding peregrine, two pintail and a shag at Torekov and two whooper swans at Ripagården. Despite calm sea conditions only six alcids seen; with two each of black guillemot, guillemot and razorbill. No grebes or divers at all! Amazing.

Another atrocious hand-held digi-nightmare from the boy-Benstead. If you squint it gets quite arty. But you get the idea no doubt, what a stunner.

The other good thing about January counts is that the duck look nice.

Counted a few of these today.

We have had a few whooper swans on patch all summer this year, failed breeders no doubt. The southward migration has yet to begin.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Birding - 11/09/09

Barnacle geese heading north? What is that about? And where do these barnies come from and where do they winter?

Torekov rev, looking good but wader numbers have been poor here this autumn.

Got out reasonably early for an hour at Torekov rev. Some geese moving with greylag (101 north) and barnacle (185 N). Other waterfowl included teal (7), wigeon (12) and single shoveler and pintail. A poor selection of waders included redshank (8), common sandpiper (1), ringed plover (6), golden plover (31) and dunlin (31). Not much vismig but grey wagtail (1S) and siskin (12) were migrants. Bashing the bushes produced a single chiffchaff, reed bunting (2) and yellowhammer (3). Further north in Halland, Lapland buntings and bluethroats were dropping out, so there is hope for tomorrow.

A message in a bottle. I find one or two a year in Bjäre. Last year I sent one back from Sabah, just for fun...

After breakfast walked the stretch between Vejbystrand and Lervik with Number 1 and 2. They enjoyed looking for 'treasure' and we had a good time. It was quiet bird-wise with a couple of bar-tailed godwits and redshank. Spotted some thermalling raptors on the move, two marsh harriers and a splendid hobby. Lervik had a few yellow wagtails, two whinchat and 90 golden plover flew by (doubtless from nearby Ranarpstrand).

Nerd alert, more gadgets, Olympus LS10

Whilst on the subjects of gadgets... This year also saw me purchase an Olympus LS10 recorder, which was designed to record live music. This records bird/frog song exceptionally well - although you have to use software like Audacity to boost the volume of the recording for distant stuff. But for getting a record of what you are hearing it is great. You can also download tracks onto the hard-drive or a separate media card - this is handy for tape playback. So you have it all-in-one, a recorder and a storage device for playback. My only problem with it is you do not get a significantly better recording by attaching an external Sennheiser mike (something to do with the gain at the jack I believe...).

The handy Olympus LS10 - every birder probably has one by now, I am so out of touch, but well-worth having in the bag on those overseas trips.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I have seen the light!

Anyone who has spent any time with me in the tropics knows that I am addicted to night spotting. I just love getting out at night and poking around for frogs, reptiles, mammals and birds. The search for the perfect spotlight has taken me from my trusty 4 D-cell Maglite, through a bulky dive torch and onto to 6 volt and 12 volt spotlights with heavy batteries and connecting wires. With the exception of the Maglite all have been prone to wear-and-tear and the number of battery chargers I have gone through in countries with irregular currents beggars belief. Well all that seems to be over now, I have gone tactical... With both my spotlights out of action yet again I was contemplating spending £130 on a new 12v kit at Clulite where I have shopped in the past but then I started looking around at LED stuff and this made a lot more sense.

The LED Lenser X21 - oh my god! It is awesome, superlatives do not exist to describe this bit of kit. I just hope it is robust. Took it for a spin tonight and it rocks. Nice clean white light, good spot beam and a wide beam that is really going to make frogging a lot easier in the future. Pricey though. Chuck the name in google for a laugh at the macho hard-sell and check out 'you-tube' and online forums for a murky (or perhaps well-lit) world of well-informed torch geeks. I bought mail order from Doc at GlowGadgets, great personal service from a guy who only sells the best gear on the market.

Bought a LED Lenser P14 too for back-up, smaller (4 AA) but incredible. If you are short of space or weight just pack this. For close tape-playback work in forests this will be more than enough.

Just a few pretty things seen at night in the last 12 months...

Spotted stream frog Rana picturata (Borneo) - easily one of the most photogenic frogs in Borneo.

The sluggish common mock viper Psammodynastes pulverulentus (Borneo)

Brown wood-owl Strix leptogrammica (Borneo)

Common genet Genetta genetta (Namibia)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Birding - 09/09/09

Had a couple of hours on the coast this morning. Walked from Vejbystrand to Lervik and then dropped in for a quick look at Ranarpstrand. Pretty quiet on the stretch walked; red-throated pipit was reported yesterday. Did get a scattering of wheatear and whinchat and about ten bar-tailed godwits. Overhead a few tree pipits could be heard. The best bird was a female hen harrier, seen well as it drifted south.

Ranarpstrand was a bit busier with golden plover (113), grey plover (1), greenshank (1) and snipe (1). Be interesting to see what the forecast northerly winds bring.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Birding - 08/09/09

Spent the morning working on the house and the afternoon looking after the kids; a flock of 25 siskin and five crossbill provided temporary distraction.

After my Swedish lesson, headed out to Klarningen for the last half hour of daylight. Those nights are drawing in real fast these days. Pretty quiet here with just 60 flyby golden plover and two snipe on the wader front. No wildfowl at all. Raptors included marsh harrier (3) drifting to roost at Skottorp and single kestrel and sparrowhawk. A single swift zoomed south against the setting sun. Autumn is really here.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Double dip Monday

Spent the day birding off-patch with the kids. Kicked off at Västraby - which hosted up to nine dotterel over the weekend. It was clear overnight so I should have known better than to get my hopes up. On arrival at the field there was a fat looking adult peregrine sitting right in the middle. Feathers strewn everywhere! Tried a few ploughed fields thereabouts but I think the birds had flown. Migration going on this morning though with the air filled with the calls of tree pipit, yellow wagtail and the first real numbers of siskin.

Next up was Sandön, where we were greeted by a throng of geese. Checking through for colour rings, I found birds ringed in Sweden and the Czech Republic. Also had a nasty encounter with a horrible hybrid - Emperor x barnacle or bar-headed x barnacle. More siskins and five crossbills over here. Two ospreys hunted in front of us.

Yesterday Rönnen had produced broad-billed sandpiper and a couple of little stints and a large number of commoner waders. Today it felt pretty empty (if you discount the 2000-odd barnacle geese). We did get redshank (10), spotted redshank (1 adult), greenshank (5), common sandpiper (3), ruff (2), dunlin (3), bar-tailed godwit (4) and ringed plover (10).

In the evening nipped out to Glimminge but things were very quiet here too. The big surprise was 200 barnacle geese heading north. Otherwise just redshank (1), oystercatcher (2) and snipe (5). Yesterday there was yet another red-necked phalarope here apparently.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Birding - 06/09/09

Tried some sea-watching this morning, the winds were a bit light (just 6 m/s) but at this time of year there is always something to look at. So I had an enjoyable 2.5 hours at Båstad but had to put up with a parade of bathing geriatrics going back and forth to the sea (most had clothes on thankfully). I thought the sea would be too cold by now...

The only seabirds proper were a single dark Arctic skua. But there was a large number of birds moving today. Raptors provided plenty of entertainment and included sparrowhawk (10), merlin (1), kestrel (3) and marsh harrier (1). Wildfowl included red-throated diver (1), black-throated diver (2, one rather educational that I mis-identified as a great northern...), Slavonian grebe (1), red-necked grebe (1), great crested grebe (1), shelduck (1), teal (7), wigeon (16), pintail (10) and velvet scoter (male). A trickle of waders was passing too with dunlin (12), sanderling (1), knot (1), ringed plover (4) and grey plover (1).

Nipped back to pick up the kids and we went for a walk at Axeltorpsravinen - no birds of note, we may have been too noisy to spot a dipper (or maybe they have yet to arrive).

Axeltorpsravinen - a very scenic small ravine (cut by a stream coming off the Hallandåsen) in beautiful beech woodland. This is a great winter site for dipper.

Put in another 1.5 hours sea-watching at Yttre Kattvik in the afternoon, whilst the kids played on the beach. Two distant Arctic skuas were mugging terns way offshore. Close in two red-throated divers and a red-necked grebe showed well in the sun (which has briefly re-appeared after a week of grey autumnal weather).

Watching the sea - just two Arctic skuas in the afternoon session. A pom and a long-tailed went through during the middle of the day...

A superb red admiral was in the garden this afternoon - a scarce butterfly here it seems.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Another phalarope!

A rainy hot-dog grilling session at Grytskaren with the kids produced a few birds. The little bay at Lervik had waders again; greenshank (2), ruff (3), knot (8) and dunlin (1). Nearby at Grytskaren were more knot (16), bar-tailed godwit (10), greenshank (1), common sandpiper (2) and ringed plover (3). Ranarpstrand was quiet but muppets were scaring off the birds again...

Red-necked phalarope again! They're like blooming buses - my third BK bird in three weeks. The first was a blatant twitch, the second might have been self-found, but this one was all mine. Nice find and great to get at Klarningen. It was feeding avidly and evidently finding plenty to snack on.

After tea I nipped out, supposedly for a short session at Klarningen. Almost the first bird I looked at was a red-necked phalarope! After two years with none on the patch this was my third in three weeks and self-found finally. I rang out the news to Martin Åkesson in neighbouring Laholm, as I thought he might be interested and he said he would come down. So I stuck around to meet him. In the interval I crept up on the phalarope until it was feeding just two meters away. Magic stuff. Had a good natter with Martin when he arrived but we were forced to leave the site by a vicious little squall. Other birds here during the session included ruff (4), golden plover (30) and ringed plover (1).

Klarningen just gets better and better...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Year-tick - sanderling at last!

Desperate no more - two sanderling finally arrived on the patch today

Mrs B went back to work this week after 18 months of maternity leave and we are all getting used to the new regime. Having spent the last two days looking after the kids and cleaning the house I was desperate to get out for a walk. Headed out for an evening session at Torekov in a strongish southerly and driving rain - nice. Plenty of waders about at the rev with dunlin (60), knot (2), redshank (5), wood sandpiper (1), ruff (1), snipe (1), ringed plover (30) and grey plover (2). But the star birds were two cracking first-year sanderling - an overdue addition to the year-list. Nice one! Another surprise was flock of 13 shoveler - my previous best count on-patch was four.

On the way home checked out Påarps Mal (no shags in the roost) and Glimminge (muppets flushed all the birds).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A good day - 02/09/09

Kicked off at dawn at Torekov - a grey day with a blustery SW wind. I was busy counting waders when I found a red-necked phalarope (presumably Sunday's bird?), it flew off almost immediately and I could not relocate it. Elusive! Other waders included; redshank (5), common sandpiper (1), ruff (1), turnstone (2), dunlin (25), knot (3), ringed plover (20) and golden plover (64). Wildfowl were obviously on the move too with gadwall (2) and pintail (4) new in.

Checked out Hasslarp after breakfast with Mrs B. We sadly managed to overlook an adult black-necked grebe which was reported just five minutes before our arrival (I must get that pager soon it seems!). But we had a good session here nevertheless. The easy highlight was a string of eight honey buzzards migrating over the site. A few wildfowl evident here too, with teal (160), shoveler (20) and pochard (2) noteworthy. Not many waders though with just ruff (6), wood sandpiper (1) and snipe (5).

An hour at Sandön produced a large number of geese (800 barnacle and 350 greylag). Searching through the goose horde looking for neck-collars I was surprised to find a small cackling goose (minima). It was obviously paired with a barnacle and they flew off together towards Rönnen after a decent grilling. Educational, but plastic as all hell. In amongst the geese were Slavonian grebe (3), grey plover (2), bar-tailed godwit (9) and oystercatcher (1).

Nipped into Ranarpstrand on the way home (4 bar-tailed godwit south) and took the kids to play at Hålehall stugan (25 common crossbill). Shame about the black-necked grebe but a top day nevertheless.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Birding - 01/09/09

Before my rendezvous with yet more paint, I spent half an hour checking out the hedgerows at the back of the house. Bumped into a feeding flock that contained a number of migrants fattening up before the big flight. Nice to see redstart (3), spotted flycatcher (1), blackcap (1) and whitethroat (1).

After my evening Swedish lesson I headed over to Klarningen and had a good walk round. As I arrived I flushed a 1K goshawk which flew and perched up for scope views. A number of migrants were apparent with greenshank (1), redshank (2), common sandpiper (3), swift (3), fieldfare (13), yellow wagtail (35) and tree pipit (5). A single adult little grebe was a surprise, 40 teal skulking up one of the overgrown channels were less so.