Monday, November 30, 2009

Birding - 30/11/09

Went to Höganäs again with the family this morning. The barred warbler performed well, feeding on insects on the seaweed in the sewage outfall area. It's not going anywhere [although it narrowly survived a sparrowhawk attack today apparently] and will no doubt get numerous revisits if it makes it overnight and into December. Also here we had black redstart (1), coot (10), little grebe (6) and 110 migrating barnacle geese.

On the way home in the gloom at dusk had three grey partridges over the road near the airport at Barkåkra. Under ten records this year for me, so always nice to see.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cold weather movement - 29/11/09

Nipped out early to listen for owls this morning and had a tawny at Axeltorpsravinen. Moved on to Älemossen and listened to a good passage of thrushes overhead in the last of the darkness. Mostly redwing, but with a few fieldfare, mistle thrush and brambling in the mix. The northern half of Sweden has got cold recently and birds are finally moving out. Also here I watched 29 ravens come out of roost and all head in the same direction.

When it got light I decided to head for Petersberg. A few redwings were still flying overhead and wildfowl on the move as well. Whooper swan (36) and small groups of Canada and greylag geese heading south. Walked by the reedbed and had a calling water rail, spurred into sound by a close pheasant flyby. A single stock dove whizzed past and the pit had 35 tufted ducks. Time for breakfast.

Black woodpeckers are great. I watched this one at close range at Vasaltheden, as it levered off huge bits of birch bark whilst foraging.

Black woodpecker feeding signs.

After breakfast took the gang out for a walk along the stretch of coast from Öllövstrand to Vasaltheden. A flock of 16 ravens were feeding together in the fields at the beginning (perhaps from the Älemossen roost?). At least three Slavonian grebes were noted during the walk but other migrants stole the show today. I was hoping for the chiffchaff reported yesterday by Mats Ljungren at Glimminge, but instead the easy highlight was a 1K barn swallow over Vasaltheden and heading north. We also recorded a single white wagtail (south), nine crossbills (south) and a single snow bunting (south). The shoreline had teal (3, scarce at the moment) and redshank (2). Overhead a red kite made an appearance and to top it all off at the end, in the birches up against Glimminge was a superb (and rather confiding) black woodpecker.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Birding - 28/11/09

This grey weather is not conducive to early rising and we staggered out for a late walk in the morning. Checked out Frestensfälla for an hour, getting some good birds. Eight long-tailed tits were most welcome and we heard a crested tit. Overhead a sparrowhawk appeared briefly and then we went home for lunch.

After lunch I headed out for an hour and half. First stop was Axelstorpsravinen were I found a dipper in just two minutes by the bridge. Result. Time saved was spent at Bösketorp, where a staggering 8,740 bramblings flew over to a roost somewhere nearby. We had a heavy beech mast crop this autumn but where are these birds feeding? Other birds included a good selection of thrushes, including 20 redwing and 5 mistle thrushes, as well as bullfinch and black woodpecker heard.

A little way inland there have been reports of up to 20,000 bramblings this winter! Good news too if you are thinking of coming this way soon, the adult gyr falcon was seen at Farhult today, it's back!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Birding - 27/11/09

Harbour porpoises are definitely out there, but I only see them very occasionally in NW Skåne. This one washed up at Torekov in February 08.

Took the kids for a walk between Hemmeslövstrand and Eskilstorpstrand in the morning. Highlights were at least two gannets offshore, a single little gull and a total of four Slavonian grebes bobbing about. Along the dunes bumped into a vocal dunnock, had three common crossbills south and heard a black woodpecker.

Stopped off at Klarningen briefly but the fencing contractors were doing their thing and the place looked very deserted (more then normal).

In the afternoon I headed out on my own for an hour and a half at Sandön and Rönnen. Sandön was quiet with just two gannets past. Rönnen was a bit more like it with two massive white-tailed eagles perched up, plus black-throated diver (1), Slavonian grebe (2), gannet (4 more) and snow bunting (4). From here I watched a big flock of 18 oystercatcher going to roost on Själrönnen. The real highlight though was a small pod of harbour porpoises out in the bay - I only see porpoises a few times a year here, so pretty exciting.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving - 26/11/09

One of the things to be thankful for is ring-reading (I love it) - I got close to a leg-flagged purple sandpiper on the 21st at Torekov, it was almost certainly ringed at Sørkappøya, Svalbard this autumn by Kjell Mork Soot. Get in touch with him if you manage to read the code on a flagged bird (kjellmorksoot@fugler.com). I failed to relocate the flagged bird today...

I suppose I should be thankful for the swine flu vaccination provided yesterday by a cautious and considerate Swedish government, but I feel rough as dogs today! With no meaningful DIY likely, I sat at Torekov rev for an hour and a half this morning and had a great session. Three shags were fishing in a tight gang just offshore. My first rev Slavonian grebe was bobbing about in the waves. A stiff southerly was blowing and flying into it, occasionally dipping into the water to feed, was a sublime adult winter little gull. Further out a few gannets (7) were fishing and a steady progression of kittiwakes headed south (at least 150 during the session). My main aim was to try and find the flock of purple sandpipers that had included a leg-flagged bird on the 21st, but I could only find two birds, both unmarked. At least 11 redshank kept them company. From the woods behind five parrot crossbills occasionally erupted, calling loudly. A brief foray inland failed to locate them sadly (very few cone-bearing pines on site).

On the way home, dropped in on Ripagården for an hour. Much quieter here, but did manage black guillemot (1) and reed bunting (1) - both scarce in November here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Birding - 25/11/09

Busy day today, just got a short walk in around the village in the morning. Highlights were sparrowhawk (1), green woodpecker (1), redwing (12 over), brambling (12 over) and hawfinch (1). A few things still moving evidently.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sea-watching - 24/11/09

White-chinned petrel - not off Yttre Kattvik today. Regular from boats in Walvis Bay (Namibia).

Headed out for the last hour of the day for a quick look at the sea. Winds light westerly and a few bits and pieces reported further north so worth a go. En route had a nice male hen harrier over the road at Hov. Spent an hour at Yttre Kattvik for red-throated diver (3), red-necked grebe (1), kittiwake (3) and guillemot (7). Pretty quiet really.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Birding with the kids - 23/11/09

Well the weather continues to be grey and drizzly, so rather than submit the kids to a long walk anywhere, I drove 40 minutes to Höganäs and coshed off the 1K barred warbler. The bird was easy to find but harder to keep track of. It appeared at our feet on arrival and then drifted off slowly. If you are twitching with kids though that is the way you want it! We spent just 20 minutes here, also seeing little grebe (1) and coot (10). A November red-footed falcon and now a barred warbler, what next? Perhaps we might just get some real winter weather instead.

Next stop was Farhult for a quick half hour scan whilst the kids played on the beach. Hardly any wader habitat here due to high water levels, so it was mostly offshore. Highlights included black-throated diver (2), Slavonian grebe (5), red-necked grebe (1) and shelduck (4). The latter are probably birds returning north due to the warm weather!

The bridge at Sandön has taken a battering in storms this autumn!

Last birding stop of the day was Sandön. Five oystercatcher were the highlight here, this species is sporadic here in winter, but Sandön is a good place to score. Two white-tailed eagles sat atop Rönnen and that was our lot.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dreary, dreary me

Another grey, wet day. Nipped out for a couple of hours with the family. Spent 40 minutes looking out to sea from Yttre Kattvik from the car. Quiet busy considering the lack of favourable winds; red-throated diver (9), great crested grebe (7), red-necked grebe (1), guillemot (8) and razorbill (2).

Stopped off at Klarningen on the way home for a very quick look. Single rough-legged buzzard hunting the site as usual. A large flock of lapwing (140) included 25 golden plover and one starling.

Wagtail update

Terry (Birding Copenhagen) has just pointed out to me that Klaus Malling Olsen has posted this regarding the putative citrine wagtail at Lomma that I saw on the 14th. I wish I had trusted my doubts at the time... Oh well.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Birding - 21/11/09

Secretarybird - nice legs.

Game of two halves today, with a morning out with the kids at Torekov and then a last hour dash out to Öllövstrand with the entire family.

Torekov rev was busy this morning with at least eight purple sandpipers feeding avidly and hard to count (other observers with fewer children counted up to 12 during the day). One was orange leg-flagged, but I could not read the code, ringed this autumn in Sørkappøya, Svalbard! Also here dunlin (2) and redshank (10). The recent storm has replenished the weed on the beach and a big flock of pipits was making use of it when we arrived. Just had time to find a single water pipit, before a 1K sparrowhawk dived in and it all went to hell. We are in weird limbo at the moment, the weather is so mild that none of the normal wintering birds are here in any numbers, but the autumn stuff is long gone. This water pipit is only the second or third of the season on the patch. Offshore a few seaduck were noted; long-tailed duck (1), velvet scoter (1) and common scoter (2). The woods produced nine flighty crossbills.

Washed windows in the afternoon and was rewarded with four hawfinch over the garden.

The last gasp afternoon session at Öllövstrand was fairly quiet. A fantastic male hen harrier stole the show right at the start. The only other birds of note were three golden plover over north.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Coast to coast - twitching again

Under the thinly veiled disguise of visiting Mrs B's Aunt and Uncle in Kristianstad, we all went twitching again today. The location was a larch plantation on the east coast of Sweden, near Landön, close to Kristianstad. The target a 1K male two-barred crossbill that has been present for some time.

After crossing Sweden (105 minutes) we found ourselves at the site and spotted a few birders loafing about. It quickly became apparent that a large flock of common crossbills was feeding here, so we all tramped into the middle of the plantation. Pretty soon we were eyeball to eyeball with a gang of common's, in amongst them goldcrests, blue tits and red squirrels. A real feeding frenzy. Occasionally and rather excitingly, in amongst the racket made by the common's, you could hear the 'toy trumpet' call of a two-barred close by. It did not take long before it flew up into a nearby pine to deal with a larch cone and we all got great views. I will not torture you with another of my appalling photos, check this one out instead (whoopsie, that reads wrong, it's a good photo Magnus). Job done, time for grilled sausages by the sea and then the short drive to the see the relations.

As well as being a Swedish tick, I think this may have been only my second ever two-barred crossbill. Pretty exciting stuff.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Birding - 19/11/09

Another quiet day, mostly spent stacking wood. Took the kids out in the afternoon. Tried a windy walk at Eskilstorpsstrand for an hour but saw very little. Spent the last bit of light at Klarningen where at least we saw some birds. The hen harrier (ringtail) was hunting when we arrived. A large flock of 100 lapwing was nice but better was a huge flock of 53 goldfinch.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Raining - 18/11/09

Dry sand (makes me feel better just looking at it).

OMG it will not stop raining today and the wind has picked up during the evening. Got a half hour walk in, in the morning. Hoping for hawfinch around the village but had to make do with redwing (6). After lunch nipped out to Ranarpstrand for a while, but only lasted half an hour in the driving rain. Nothing doing there.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Odonata - Namibia

Managed to record 18 species of dragonflies on the recent trip to Namibia, including several new species for the trip. Best of the new stuff was Pseudagrion massaicum (common at von Bach Dam this year) and Zygonyx torridus (two at von Bach Dam). Who knows what I could have found at von Bach if I had not been attacked by wasps whilst trying to catch the latter species!

Orthetrum trinacria (Etosha) - a dragonfly specialist, chomping on a hapless Diplacodes lefebvrii at Namutoni.

Ceriagrion glabrum - Mokuti Lodge (Etosha).

Pseudagrion massaicum - a tick for me at von Bach Dam this year.

The widespread Urothemis edwardsii at von Bach Dam.

Rhyothemis semihyalina - seen at three locations this year.

Birding - 17/11/09

A peacock 'basking' in the garden at noon was a bit of a surprise, the weather continues grey, although a weak sun tried a few times to make an appearance today.

After a trip to Ängelholm in the afternoon, we all hit Rönnen for the last hour of the day. A scan of the sea resulted in Slavonian grebe (2), long-tailed duck (2) and velvet scoter (2). The island seemed pretty quiet, the gyr is overdue to arrive, but things seem loathe to come south this autumn. Very few waxwings recorded yet, for example. The distant rocks off Sandön (Själrönnen) hosted a resting white-tailed eagle and that was our lot.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Birding - 16/11/09

A confusion of bearded tits - how many were there today? No wonder I cannot find any on-patch, they are all at Sandön.

A day with the kids started at Klarningen for a quick check, a great egret moved south yesterday and nearly got to me last night. It vanished without trace today though. Klarningen had similar birds to yesterday; rough-legged buzzard (2), hen harrier (1), lapwing (7) and snow bunting (20).

Drove over to Sandön, stopping en route at the big goose flock outside Ängelholm. A short time scanning revealed the presence of about 25 white-fronted geese, in amongst the 1250 greylag, and lesser numbers of barnacle and Canada goose. Sandön was good but misty. The kids behaved well and let me have a good look around. Some great birds appeared during our hour here including white-tailed eagle (adult), goshawk (male), water rail (2 heard), dunlin (65), kingfisher (1), bearded tit (40+), snow bunting (3) and reed bunting (1). Nice morning.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Birding - 15/11/09

One of two rough-legged buzzards spotted at Klarningen this evening.

Spent the morning mucking out the garden at my kids daycare place. Highlights included a showy black woodpecker and a calling green woodpecker. In the late afternoon nipped down to Klarningen to get some more exercise in the last hour of light. The big flock of 50 snow buntings is still on site and a flock of 35+ goldfinch was notable. At least two rough-legged buzzard present too, with hen harrier (ringtail) also hunting the site. The highlight came at the end of the day, as dusk gathered around me I heard an unfamiliar and rather irate call. Peregrine! It had been robbed of a black-headed gull kill by a rough-legged buzzard and was very pissed off. Great views on the deck (sub-adult bird) and as it got really dark the bird started flying to an fro in front of me. My first for the site and a great encounter to boot.

Black-headed gull - whacked by a peregrine and eaten by a rough-legged buzzard. Life can be harsh.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Twitch on!

Red-footed falcon (1K) - present since the 7th, this is a late bird and is mostly eating worms at the moment. I threw a juicy worm in its direction from the car, but the photo-gang arrived and scared it off... There are lots of good photographs of this bird on the net, this is not one of them!

Mrs B said she wanted to go and see the red-footed falcon today, so we went on a family twitch. Now normally I would avoid this, our success rate twitching as a team in Sweden is low (about 20%) but today we did surprisingly well. Having found the site for the falcon, a mere 45 minutes from home, we pulled into a layby to work out where the bird was, only to discover it was perched 20 feet away and the camera was in the back of the car. I dispatched Number 1 to climb into the back and fetch it, but the bird sussed us and flew off. We got good views in the next half hour but never got as close again.

Next stop was Lomma, where the educational [citrine?] wagtail was performing to a small audience along the beach. We got great views and heard the bird calling at one point when Number 3 screamed too loudly. Nipped over to Alnarpsparken late in the day hoping for Swedish tick number 3 (short-toed treecreeper) but failed as did the light. Getting two Swedish ticks is pretty exciting though, but back to the patch for me.

Most of Sweden is happy (after much debate) that this is indeed a citrine wagtail, the problems being that it lacks a good complete pale ear-covert surround and has a yellow base to the lower mandible, hardly a typical bird. The pale base to the lower mandible is the only strong yellow wagtail feature though, the rest suggests citrine (albeit poorly in the case of the ear-coverts). 1K citrine's in early November might be expected to be showing a bit of yellow in the head plumage too by now, but heigh-ho. The call sounded pukka to me though and so on balance I join the citrine camp. This bird was found on the last day of October and then went missing till the 7th, since then it has been showing well. [KMO in Denmark has since put forward the theory that this bird is a citrinexyellow wagtail hybrid, an identification that fits the bird better I think (in hindsight!)].

Friday, November 13, 2009

Birding - 13/11/09

Remember when the sun shone? Mrs B reports that in the last three weeks here in Sweden thay have had one day with sun. It is really miserable at the moment.

Got out with the family for an hour and a half around Ripagården this morning. Very quiet with little grebe (1), snipe (1), water rail (1, heard), dunnock (1) and common crossbill (5). Coming home had two red kite at Hov. Took the gang swimming in the afternoon to celebrate Number 1's recent birthday, en route had a superb rough-legged buzzard perched by the road at Skottorp.

Even post-typhoon Sabah looks more inviting than here!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Birding - 12/11/09

Another four-hour session today after dropping off the kids. Started at Glimminge, hoping for yesterday's brent geese, but no joy. Did get goosander (2), hen harrier (female), snipe (1), twite (4 south) and common crossbill (4 south).

Moved on to Ranarpstrand and walked through to Lervik. Highlights of this leg were Slavonian grebe (2), shag (2), bean goose (1 south, only my third patch record), skylark (4), white wagtail (1), twite (25 south) and snow bunting (10).

Picked up the kids and took them up the hill to Hålehallstugan (whooper swan 4) to play. Drove back via Ehrenstorp and found a flock of thrushes with small numbers of mistle thrush, redwing and fieldfare.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Birding - 11/11/09

Dropped the kids off this morning and headed out into the drizzle and cold for a four hour session. The aim being to try and rehabiliate my legs, which have atrophied after two weeks of Landcruiser-based mayhem in Namibia. Missed the sun, but good to be walking again.

Hit Påarps Mal for a quick look, just one adult shag in the roost, but a water pipit nearby was my first of the season. Other birds of note were 12 starlings over (apparently most have gone now, along with the skylarks) and one whooper swan over. A quicker look at the sewage works revealed less, just 7 teal.

Torekov rev was better though with a skulking purple sandpiper, that probably was alone rather than sulking away from a flock. Other birds here included redshank (5), common scoter (2) and velvet scoter (1). Driving across to Klarningen had a flock of 20 lapwing over the road at Hov - the only birds seen during the session. Lots of stuff has apparently left in my absence.

Klarningen was good as usual, water levels at an all time high, although a few field-drains have yet to be adequately disabled and water is still being lost from the system. Raptors featured with hen harrier (female), rough-legged buzzard (1), sparrowhawk (1) and kestrel (1) all present. But the easy highlight was an unbelievable total of 54 snow buntings - they are obviously on the move at the moment. Other notables included two short-necked but silent geese through south (rats!), snipe (1), great spotted woodpecker (1), treecreeper (1), goldfinch (1 south) and siskin (45). Despite the high water levels just 15 wigeon and three teal on site.

Picked the kids up and took them for a run around at Båstad for an hour. Whilst they wolfed down biscuits and juice I had five minutes looking out to sea for gannet (1), black-throated diver (1) and great crested grebe (3). Good day and great to be back on patch.

Owls of the Namib

The most frequently encountered owl is always pearl-spotted owlet Glaucidium perlatum, photographed here at Okaukuejo (Etosha).

Namibia always produces a handful of owls with little effort. Besides the species pictured here we also watched Verreaux's eagle-owl (Bubo lacteus) catching rodents under the spotlights at the Okaukuejo waterhole. An African marsh owl (Asio capensis) at the same spot on one night was my first sub-Saharan individual and barn owl (Tyto alba) showed here too. Spotted eagle-owl (Bubo africanus) eluded us yet again.

Halali (Etosha) is the spot for roosting owls, the security guys there can put you onto roosting birds like this southern white-faced owl Ptilopsus granti.

Another easy Halali bird is this male African scops-owl (Otus senegalensis), always found roosting close to the nest tree.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Coursers

I love waders, I guess as a result of growing up in Norfolk. One of the great things about Namibia is the three common courser species found at Etosha.

Temminck's courser - this was a bogey bird for me for a long time but surrenders every year these days.

Burchell's courser - scarce this year (after early rains), we saw just three.

Double-banded courser - a superb bird.

One day I will get a bronze-winged...

Welcome home!

Number 1 joined me in bed this morning and we had a great chat about what she had been doing during my absence. I glanced casually at the clock to discover I had just 44 minutes to get them to their day-care centre. URR-RUR-GUH! With Mrs B's early morning reminder to make sure I got Number 1 there on time for a theatre visit ringing in my ears, we ate breakfast, dressed and got everything sorted, loaded all three into a big pram and ran down the road. I looked at my watch as we arrived and was pleased to discover that we had arrived exactly an hour early...

I guess Mrs B had neglected to change my alarm clock when the clocks went back during my recent trip... After 'yesterday's' 40 hour journey from Walvis Bay to southern Sweden, it was no surprise I did not notice, although I was surprised that dawn was so late. As I walked back I was not too tired to notice a high, south-bound black woodpecker flying silently past. The news of a black-throated accentor the day after I left for Namibia was just typical, only the second record for Sweden and a cracking bird too, that weather system I rated highly before I left had delivered the goods.

Namibia - summary

The mammal highlight for me was this fantastic male cheetah, caught making its way to a bit of shade mid-morning. Career-best views for me of a species that had eluded me until last year.

Mammals always dominate proceedings in Africa - and we were pleased with our haul that included this superb leopard just three metres from the car. I have yet to miss leopard on this trip...

A great trip with a lovely group of enthusiastic people, they found a lot of stuff themselves and stuck it out through the constant demands for pre-dawn breakfasts, early morning sessions and night work. We deserved everything we saw basically and did very well. The trip started badly for me though on the first full day when I was stung by two evil vespertid wasp and had a full-body attack of urticaria (no photos, too ugly). Itchy as all hell for two days, no sleep and opened up my stitches too! Nice! All part of the job though and I will certainly check for wasp nests when I duck under road bridges in future.

Early rains had produced a crop of flowering plants that we normally do not see and Palearctic migrants were in early as a result too. Birdwise it was rather an odd trip, we missed a lot of small passerines that we normally see (just over-looked in the mayhem I guess), but we got a handful of species that were Namibia ticks for me. No lifers as usual but I am not grumbling. Will post more photos soon from the Namibia trip.