Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year's end

A quiet end to the year here. Lots of office work accomplished, a bit of DIY and a male bullfinch over the garden. Hoping to finish a review of my 2009 shortly and preparing for another team-up with Terry for the steppe eagle tomorrow. A new year means a new year list. A Happy New Year to everyone out there.

The ups and downs of 2009

I spent a lot of time birding in BK with the family in 2009, I think they enjoyed it as much as I did.

As the year draws to a close, I thought I would write a review of the year. In many ways 2009 was an odd one. The economic downturn meant fewer trips abroad for me and as a result more time at home. The patch list benefited accordingly and I scored a superb 220 species in BK - a total that will be hard for me to beat in future years. It has been a year of consolidation, after two and a half years I am now familiar with the geography of BK and seen most of the commonly occurring species. Now all I need to do is to work on improving my strategy and flight call/identification skills and find more birds!

Patch highlights
Cold weather in the early part of the first winter period saw sightings of over-wintering jack snipe, woodlark, water pipit (perhaps four) and black redstart on the patch. A bizarre encounter with a bittern at dusk as I was driving down Sinarpsdalen was the highlight of January.

My return from India in February was a shock weather-wise, but soon produced my best find to date on the patch - a superb hawk owl at Torekov. A successful shorelark twitch followed shortly afterwards. A night birding session on the Älemossen circuit produced a calling pygmy owl - my first on the patch. A great month.

My best find this year was this superb hawk owl on-patch at Torekov, one of three in Skåne last winter, this bird was the most elusive.

March delivered the goods too, with my first patch bean geese and a twitched king eider at Rammsjöstrand. Spring was a quiet affair for me but April produced self-found grasshopper warbler and most importantly my first ring ouzel - the latter a long-anticipated patch tick. May followed on quietly but included a great reed warbler singing from the reedbed at Ripagården.

Summer saw me spend an increasing amount of time around the Klarningen area, as this fantastic new wetland started to attract birds even before its completion. Quail, Egyptian goose and short-eared owl were added to the patch list in June as a result. A run of red-necked phalaropes was a feature of the late summer and early autumn and I managed to find one myself at Klarningen - one of the most satisfying finds of the year (I love phalaropes). A singing 2K male rosefinch at Öllövstrand in June was good value and highlighted the potential of this site.

Usually a very scarce BK bird, this autumn saw multiple sightings at a number of sites. I saw three and self-found this little beauty at Klarningen.

Sea-watching came good in the autumn and I managed to do OK this year. Slowly getting my act together on this discipline. A Cory's shearwater gave me the run around on a few occasions and remains a much-wanted addition to the patch list. New birds seen whilst sea-watching were Caspian gull and a superb brace of red phalaropes (on what for me was the most exciting sea-watching session of the year). October finished with a Lapland bunting (at last) and a Siberian chiffchaff before heading abroad again. The back end of the year is always quiet in terms of new birds, but just before the cold snap the Klarningen area came up trumps again with Bewick's swan, bean goose and white-fronted goose.

The patch - nowhere better! 16 new birds in 2009 and still plenty to play for in 2010.

Off-patch twitching highlights
The year kicked off with a 2K gyr falcon at Rönnen and the regular adult was spotted a few times in the first winter period also. The unbelievable news of a yellow-browed bunting (a much-wanted lifer) near Stockholm in early January had me arranging an impromptu and successful family holiday. On the way home my first Swedish hawk owl was one of the wildlife highlights of the year, pretty quickly followed by finding my own on-patch.

March was notable for another Swedish lifer, after hearing singing birds on a number of occasions in my life, I finally got the better of a male Tengmalm's owl in Småland. A highlight of the year.

My encounter with the hawk owl at Vist in January was a definite highlight of 2009.

Spring was in full flow on my return from Saint Lucia and first up was a successful twitch into Halland for a glorious male surf scoter. The black scoter just a bit south, may or may not have been present on the same day, we could not find it.

A trip down the south end in early May produced corn bunting and serin for the Swedish list. Nearer to home, Sandön produced a run of white-winged tern sightings, in what was a bumper year for this species. Nearby at Rönnen, a routine look-see, saw us jamming in on a nice marsh sandpiper. May unfortunately was more notable for it's dips (great egret, spoonbill and dotterel) but finished with an excellent singing male Blyth's reed warbler in Halland.

Spent most of the autumn on the patch where I should have been but could not resist the great grey owl nearby in Halland in early October. Just sneaked it in before it died. November saw successful twitches for a late red-footed falcon, the much-debated and contentious [citrine] wagtail, a definite barred warbler and a superb two-barred crossbill. The off-patch year ended as it began with a successful attempt to see the regular wintering gyr falcon, now in its fifth winter here.

Overseas highlights
Feb/March saw the first trip of the year, a successful tour of Gujarat and Kanha National Park in Madhya Pradesh (India). Highlights of this excellent itinerary included tiger, Asiatic lion, wild ass, Sykes' nightjar, the harrier roost at Velavadar, great birding at Kanha (including this lesser adjutant) and a handful of new dragonflies.

A surprise trip to St Lucia in March/April produced at least 30 lifers and some other great birds. Surprisingly pleasant to be this side of the Atlantic again and to be able to enjoy American shorebirds and migrants. The star bird though was the long-staying vagrant Eurasian spoonbill!

A difficult trip to Poland in September, delivered some stunning landforms, including this intact floodplain view at Biebzra.

Last trip of the year was Namibia, another great trip with Orlando Haraseb and a fantastic group of people to share it with. Stunning views of leopard and cheetah were the real take-home memories. But the country is just phenomenal and delivers fantastic wildlife every day.

2010?
Well a packed programme should see me abroad on a regular basis in 2010, so I may get a few new birds. On the patch 'Most Wanted' list includes: garganey, black grouse (possibly just one remaining from the former breeding population, seen twice this year but not by me), black tern, Caspian tern, bluethroat, firecrest, penduline tit, two-barred crossbill and ortolan bunting. No doubt there will be a surprise or two and a repeat Cory's shearwater would be nice.

The site to watch on-patch in 2010 will certainly be Klarningen, this wetland is sure to be very productive in its first couple of years and I look forward to spring eagerly.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

15 minutes of fame - 30/12/09

The article on me in the local paper came out today and bizarrely I was recognised in the supermarket on a number of occasions as a result of it! Mrs B is struggling to come to terms with her WAG status. The basis of the article is that I have recorded more birds in BK this year than anyone else - which may or may not be true...

After shopping in the morning, took Numbers 1 & 2 out for a walk at Ripagården. They enjoyed the ice, skidding and sliding about and exploring the coast. We found a huge number of starling (35), a flyby mistle thrush (1) and the plantation had a splendid black woodpecker and my first bullfinch (a male) for the site. Bonus! Raptors were obvious with single kestrel, sparrowhawk and red kite during the session. On the way home drove back via Salomonhög, where we saw six grey partridge and, more exciting for the kids, a man walking a skittish llama on a lead.

The empty reedbed at Ripagården on a gorgeous sunny day (-5 degrees).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Birding - 29/12/09

Another dusting of snow overnight and then more in the morning. Klarningen remains a frozen waste land, good only for things with hooked bills. I'll keep going until I get a great grey shrike I reckon.

Rather improbably I had an interview with the local newspaper this afternoon. I arranged to meet the journalist and photographer at Båstad, allowing the kids a play on the swings and allowing me to check a site which I have cruelly neglected of late. This proved to be a good idea as the sea was crowded with birds and it was hard to concentrate on the interview. Afterwards got to work trying to count all the various sea-duck, the biggest headache was a large mixed raft of tufted duck (140), scaup (70) and coot (90). In recent winters you might have got two coot at this site if you were lucky... Other birds noted included great crested grebe (6), whooper swan (26), common scoter (270), velvet scoter (10), long-tailed duck (6) and starling (12). One of the big headaches of having such a long length of coastline in BK is never quite knowing where the concentrations of sea-duck are at any one time. I need a micro-lite!

On the way home we dropped into Klarningen and a quick scan revealed only raptors - hen harrier (1), buzzard (2) and kestrel (1).

Monday, December 28, 2009

Birding with Terry and Mikael

Terry and Mikael at Farhult, it is always a novelty for me to spend time in the field with people over five years old.

Terry came up again nice and early for a day out of Copenhagen. We met up at the train station at Ängelholm in the rain and headed for Rönnen, hoping for the gyr falcon. At first light we found a goshawk along the road in to the site. No joy with the big falcon sadly but we did meet Mikael Olofsson (bonus!). All three of us scanned about, finding a peregrine and three white-tailed eagles. Offshore three long-tailed ducks bobbed about.

Taking Mikael along with us, we next headed to Farhult. Plenty of birds offshore here. A big raft of tufted duck (170) and goldeneye (250), included a few scaup (6+) and pochard (5). At least seven Slavonian grebes here too and way offshore the male smew. As we watched another (or the same) goshawk (1K) flew in front of us, lightly mobbed by a hooded crow. It ended up down the far end, perched on a fence-post and as the rain had finally stopped, hung its wings down to dry. Also here another white-tailed eagle for the tally. The reedbed was alive with calls of water rail (2), bearded tit and reed bunting.

Dragging Mikael with us yet again we headed inland to look for golden eagles. Lönhult produced a rough-legged buzzard. But Mikael's knowledge of the back-roads here soon produced the goods when Terry spotted a fine sub-adult golden eagle flying along at Tursköp. Also here two more white-tailed eagles (easily my best ever day for these in NW Skåne) and another rough-legged buzzard.

White-tailed eagle high-jinks.

Love 'em! I have not got tired of seeing these guys yet.

After our successful inland mission we returned to the coast at Sandön - fairly quiet with Slavonian grebe (1), oystercatcher (11), and smew (redhead). Dropping Mikael off again at Rönnen we had time for another quick but unsuccessful scan for the gyr. It was not to be our day with this unreliable bird.

Our last few sites were on-patch. We headed to Torekov rev for purple sandpipers (9 - my first this month) and nearby had two shags on offshore rocks. A great end to the day [although when we got back we discovered that the gyr had been seen really well inland at Lönhult during the day, can't win 'em all!].

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dipping off-patch

Ed puts on a brave face for his third pine grosbeak dip, we arrived 20 minutes too late for the morning showing and the bird remained out of sight for the rest of the day.

Ed, Kirsty and I headed north to Vaggeryd (Småland) hoping to twitch a female pine grosbeak, but it was not to be. We left kind of late and it cost us the bird unfortunately. Arriving at 1050 we were greeted with the news that the bird had been missing for 20 minutes. We never re-located it. Plenty of fruiting rowans here though so we stuck it out until 1500. Some great birds in the neighbourhood though including redwing (10), long-tailed tit (10), brambling (10), redpoll (2) and bullfinch (15). Best of all though was my first waxwings of the season, with a flock of 8 briefly and then 25 flying over later.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Birding - 26/12/09

With Kirsty ill in bed, Ed and I spent most of the day birding in a couple of short sessions. First up was a trip with all the family to Vejbystrand; at home we had not realised that a vicious westerly was blowing but it was more than obvious on arrival. So whilst the kids played we sheltered behind a restaurant and did a little seawatch. Highlights included flyby peregrine (1), black-throated diver (1), guillemot (2) and way over towards Kullen we could see three foraging gannets. The beach had a single redshank and was still holding teal (10) and wigeon (50).

Packing the kids off home we headed next to Kattvik to pick up anything storm-blown. We got lucky with a superb little auk, just offshore. Also here we had Slavonian grebe (1), red-necked grebe (1), coot (1), common scoter (110 - loafing offshore), eider (45 - ditto), guillemot (3) and razorbill (1). Unusual to see sea-duck feeding here.

After lunch we headed out again to look for great grey shrikes and we found two eventually between Grevie and Älemossen. Also two mistle thrushes on the route. Our last stop of the day was a quick look at a frozen Klarningen. A load of crows went up in a panic and Ed picked up a hunting goshawk chasing down a jackdaw. Superb! Just as the jackdaw looked a goner, a gang of hooded crows attacked the goshawk and it broke off the chase. Honour amongst thieves? Great end to a surprisingly good day.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Dipper!

Took Ed and the family out for a short walk to work off some of the excesses of Christmas before lunch. We walked down the Axeltorpsravinen trail in the rain and slush. The kids made a lot of noise but despite this we eventually found a nice, obliging black-bellied dipper, sitting in the river. Also here elk (moose) and badger tracks in the snow and a single sparrowhawk. There could have been other birds but the kids made so much racket we could not hear ourselves think and went back for lunch and an afternoon under the duvets watching TV.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Gyr

Ed and I were up bright and early for an 0830 start at Rönnen this morning. It paid off and we muddled ourselves to good views of the over-wintering gyr falcon. A large falcon was located immediately on arrival sitting huddled up on the island in the distance, but we wrote it off as a peregrine! When a buzzard landed nearby though, it became apparent that the bird was in fact a gyr and when the bird flew into better light onto a dune top, it was bloody obvious. Why is learning, littered with these painful lessons?

We still cannot believe how dark the bird looked on first view, compared with a better-lit view later on at the same range. So we got there in the end and the flight views as the bird left the site at 0905 secured the lifer for Ed. It was probably the same falcon we saw yesterday evening at the same spot (which we erroneously identified as a peregrine) but there you go...

Other birds here included scaup (5 female-types), velvet scoter (male), Slavonian grebe (2), gannet (1), two superb adult white-tailed eagles, hen harrier (male) and two common crossbills. After so much excitement it was perhaps a little unfair to return to the car to find the starter motor had chosen Christmas Eve to depart this world and we were temporarily stranded. We did get home in time for our Christmas feed and pressies though. Happy Christmas and a Great 2010 to all reading this.

Journey's end today - the car at the doctor's again with electrical problems.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sledging and birding - 23/12/09

Lots of snow overnight but warmer today. Plenty of redwings about in the garden this morning, with a flock of 20 overhead at one point. Took Ed and Kirsty and the kids out sledging at Salomonhög in the morning to get out of Mrs B's way whilst she cooked the Christmas ham. Mmmm...Christmas ham. A few redwing over here too. The thaw today did not help with the construction of our 'Ray Mears' snow shelter, the roof will have to wait for sub-zero temperatures.

In the afternoon Ed and I headed out to deliver a ham to the in-laws and took the opportunity to slide past Sandön and Rönnen. Amazingly we failed to turn up a white-tailed eagle! Sandön was icy and relatively bird-free, although we did hear a few bearded tits and a single frozen-looking dunlin was picking about. Rönnen was next and we hoped to find a gyr falcon coming into roost but it was not to be. We did get two Slavonian grebes though (really scarce at the moment). On the way home we had more redwing (20) and a goshawk (1) at Södra Utmarken.

Is the gyr falcon roosting at Rönnen? Tomorrow morning we hope to find out.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Kidding - 22/12/09

Whilst Mrs B, Ed and Kirsty took a day-trip to Denmark (on a Christmas booze- and cheese-run), I was left holding the babies. The garden had at least 30 brambling and 20 redwing were in the neighbourhood too.

We had to get out though and took a drive down to Torekov and had a walk at the rev for an hour. En route a goshawk slipped across the road at Flytermossen. Not so cold today but with occasional snow showers, so the kids lasted longer out on the ice. This allowed me time to enjoy the occasional passing flock of brambling (at least 200 past during the session). Birds of note included my first black guillemot of the month (always scarce in winter but even more so this winter for some reason), two male goosander, as well as the usual long-tailed duck (1), velvet scoter (4) and goldeneye (65) and redshank (1).

Driving home over the golf course we had a hunting hen harrier (ringtail), a starling and flushed a roadside snipe. At Västra Karup there was a good flock of 200+ brambling feeding under beeches just outside the village. Tough times in Bjäre and no end in sight to this harsh winter weather. The good news is the pine grosbeaks are on the move and may just get this far south this winter, they might even bring some waxwings with them. No doubt it will be when I am in Borneo in January...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Feeder watch - 21/12/09

Spent the day indoors, looking after the kids, baking biscuits and hoovering; meanwhile Mrs B whizzed about doing 101 Christmas things in the car. The feeders in the garden were packed out as usual. House and tree sparrows dominating, but with the occasional brambling, greenfinch, chaffinch and yellowhammer too. A great spotted woodpecker joined the fray briefly and a sparrowhawk whacked through the garden unsuccessfully. The rowan is looking rather depleted but is still attracting finches and thrushes, including at least 5 redwing.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Birding - 20/12/09

The garden had at least 15 brambling this morning and three redwing were feeding in the rowan. Dropped the family at the swimming pool in Laholm in the morning and went for an hour long walk at Påarp, well off-patch this and rather quiet today! A single redwing being the only bird of note. Back at Laholm, an excellent red kite flew over.

Drove back the long way through Mellbystrand and Skummeslövstrand. Stopped near some fruiting trees at the latter site and had at least 6 more redwing and a small flock of redpoll (7). Last stop of the day was Eskilstorpstrand where we slid about on the sea-ice. Just a few more redwing, a calling dunnock and five whooper swans south here. Back at home at least 20 redwing roosted near the garden at dusk. A quiet day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Birding - 19/12/09

We all went out for a short walk along the beach at Hemmeslövstrand this morning. The kids enjoyed playing on the frozen edge of the sea but did not last long due to the intense cold. I just had time to score a few good birds including; scaup (15), goosander (5), redwing (7) and at least ten common crossbill. Back in the car we did a tour of Klarningen (just one rough-legged buzzard) and a few sites on the Hallandåsen (nothing of note except at least one redwing at Axeltorpsravinen).

Frosted reeds at Klarningen.

Back at home the feeders had pulled in this goldfinch, a feeder tick!

Mrs B kindly suggested I nip out for the last hour of light and this paid off handsomely. I headed for Glimminge plantering and after chatting with one of Glimminge's resident birders (Kent Sjöström), kicked about to great effect. Booted up a jack snipe and three snipe from the foreshore. The former flew a short distance, landed but realised straight away that it was in full view (just as I was thinking about a photograph) and immediately flew to an offshore islet. Rats! Other good birds during the session were sparrowhawk (my first this month), a superb male hen harrier, curlew (3) and redshank (1). Great end to the day.

Kullen from Glimminge plantering at dusk.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Birding - 18/12/09

Some bramblings joined the greedy tree sparrows at our feeders this morning. Other irregular visitors today included a couple of yellowhammers (which only come into the village in the snow). I used a Panasonic Lumix DMC-F27 with a dirty window filter to capture this image.

Woke up to another sub-zero day. The garden had a nice flock of ten brambling, some feeding in the rowan (which still has berries) and others using the feeder. Headed out to bird the Torekov area for a few hours. En route had the first of many redwing (45) at Västra Karup, twelve starling at Glimminge and three fantastic red kite at Slättaröd - the latter rather thin on the ground at the moment. Stopped in the shelter belt on the road that leads to Dagshög in the middle of a massive flock of thrushes feeding on berries. At least 550 fieldfare, 125 redwing and one mistle thrush. Also parrot crossbill and brambling heard here.

Finally got to Påarps Mal, and had a quick look for the water pipit. No sign of any pipits here, just 20 more redwing and a single adult shag. The nearby sewage works had more pipits (meadow and rock) but again no sign of a water. A goosander (female) and single teal floated about. The shoreline had a single starling poking about and the calls of several male pheasants spurred a grey partridge into 'song'.

It had to be the rev before lunch and there was a bit happening here. The highlight was a single redhead smew - a site tick - which eventually flew south with a purpose. Other duck offshore included velvet scoter (4), long-tailed duck (1), goldeneye (65) and eider (45). Working the shoreline produced at least five redshank and three dunlin, but no sign of any purple sandpipers. The woods produced a few fieldfare and another 26 redwing. The golf course had two majestic mistle thrushes bouncing about. Driving home had to stop again near some fruiting trees at Lugnet; eight starlings and 12 redwing. Still no waxwing; will they come?

Mmmm! Nice! I guess this is the work of a goshawk. Found down the lane where I have flushed one a couple of time this autumn/winter. Whatever did it, accessed the brain from the back, hacking straight through the skull. Brutal.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Birding - 17/12/09

Minus 7 and an evil NE wind, meant my eyes were watering most of the time. Winter at last, two hats, a balaclava and a face-mask!

Tried the stretch of coast between Lervik and Vistorps hamn this morning. Pretty quiet and no sign of the shorelark sadly. Quite a few greylag and Canada geese on the move and at least 20 whooper swans south in small groups too. Small gangs of meadow pipits looked vulnerable scraping about in the snow. Ranarpstrand produced the bulk of the good birds with goosander (male - always hardest to see on-patch in December for some reason), redshank (4), redwing (7), brambling (1), goldfinch (4) and siskin (81).

Driving slowly home the way I had come my route was blocked by drifting snow, luckily plenty of options so back-tracked and successfully tried another route. As I drove past the blocked road again five minutes later a plough was already sorting it out, the authorities are certainly on top of this snowy weather this year.

Back at home the area around the garden was hosting a flock of thrushes - 30 fieldfare and at least 9 redwing.

Ranarpstrand in the snow.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

to the sledges!

Snow - this could stay a while with no above zero temperatures forecast for the next five days. Still no sign of any waxwings!

Snow always brightens up a winters day. We have lost nearly 11 hours of daylight since mid-summer!

More snow overnight, a white Christmas looks like a possibility... Managed a half hour walk around the village in the morning. Redwing and brambling calling overhead in the half-light of dawn, no doubt on their way south. On the walk had a cracking male green woodpecker and a single marsh tit.

Birding was abandoned in the afternoon in favour of sledging...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ten minutes birding - 15/12/09

Busy decorating the house ahead of the Christmas visit by Norfolk royalty (Ed and Kirsty). It snowed all morning and looked fantastic, but by the time we got out in the afternoon, it was raining and blowing hard from the west.

Ten minutes at Torekov sewage works, produced the target grey wagtail (1), as well as 25 meadow pipits and a single teal.

The garden during the day had a couple of calling redwing, still plenty about and not a sniff of a waxwing this far south yet.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Not much birding - 14/12/09

Frozen and dusted with snow, Klarningen is going to be quiet for a while. To the sea...

No time for birding today. But did get five minutes at both Klarningen and Hasslarps dammar during a busy day with the kids. Klarningen was completely frozen over - winter is definitely here now! Only birds of note were two rough-legged buzzards and the usual ringtail hen harrier.

Hasslarps dammar was deathly, still some open water here in the deep pits but no wildfowl to speak of. Only birds noted were a brace of goldfinch and a calling dunnock.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Birding - 13/12/09

The over-wintering gyr falcon has finally started to settle in the Rönnen area at last, so we thought we would give it a go this morning. This bird was first seen in January 2005 and has returned every winter ever since. It seems to roost at Rönnen but can be absent or out of view for lengthy periods during the day. We arrived too late this morning and had to make do with great views of offshore Slavonian grebes (3), red-necked grebe (1) and black-throated diver (1).

Next we tried our luck at Sandön. A big flock of 70 dunlin and two oystercatcher were all we had time for. The phone went, it was a message from Martin Åkesson (thanks again) across the border, someone had reported some shorelark on the patch at Lervik. I never get these calls when I am actually on the patch... So off we went round the bay to Lervik, finding three of the shorelark pretty quickly (only my second patch record, be nice if they stick around). Nearby Grytskaren had just two curlew of note.

Dropping off the family I headed to Ripagården alone, this time chasing another bird, reported yesterday by Leif Dehlin - a black redstart. This also surrendered quickly, feeding on rocks below the harbour wall. Nice one - only my second patch record too and like shorelark still to be added to my self-found list. Also here an amazing total of 6 little grebes and a single redshank.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Birding - 12/12/09

Spent the morning scavenging for firewood with the family. This included a bit of time at Petersberg, where we heard single reed bunting and redwing.

In the afternoon I took Numbers 1 & 2 down to Stora Hultstrand. The rev here was full of waders with curlew (2), dunlin (34) and lapwing (52). A flock of 52 lapwing in December is just insane. This seems to be one of the few spots on the patch holding teal this winter, at least 30 present here this afternoon. As the sun dipped we headed for a final short look at Grytskaren. Another brace of curlew here (possibly the same) and a goshawk (another big female but too brief to age, same bird as yesterday?).

Friday, December 11, 2009

Patch winter magic - 11/12/09

After wrangling Numbers 1 & 2 to the UK and back alone this week, Mrs B decided that I deserved a day in the field, and what a great day it was. Kicked off at Klarningen. Wildfowl present in good numbers again. This time geese took centre stage with over 200 greylag and 160 Canada geese floating about. Duck numbers were much lower than last time with just mallard (9) and wigeon (7). Inevitably parking at the usual spot flushed everything off and as the geese flew I noticed a few smaller 'grey' geese in amongst the greylag. They did not go far, quickly dropping into a field on the other side of the E6 and just on patch. I gave chase and found myself looking at a large gathering of geese and at least 17 whooper swans. Working through the goose flock eventually revealed 6 rossicus bean geese and 7 white-fronted geese. Superb! Both these species are scarce on patch. At least 400 Canada geese and 300 greylag geese in this flock too.

Nice to see Eskilstorps pools full of water for a change, after the dry spring we had this year. This is a government-funded wetland creation scheme, shame about the powerlines but it looks fantastic for dragonflies. Did not get here this year in the summer, but hopefully next year the kids will all be up to the walk in, vehicular access not being possible sadly.

The star bird at Eskilstorp pools today was this excellent great grey shrike.

Management on the farm at Eskilstorp includes plenty of game cover crops, this one is supporting a large flock of tree sparrows and yellowhammers at the moment.

One of the exciting features of Eskilstorp pools is the neighbouring tall wet grassland. Multiple-ownership and a lack of drainage have meant that it has effectively been abandoned. The high water level seems to be naturally preventing scrubbing over, it has not been grazed for over ten years and is good for grasshopper warbler in spring. If corncrake ever turns up on patch it will be here.

Decided to walk in to Eskilstorp pools next and this proved to be a great idea. I was greeted by a variety of raptors; a hen harrier (ringtail) slipped away feinting at a perched rough-legged buzzard as it did so, a kestrel sat about and there may well have been a light passage of buzzards south. Best of all though was a superb great grey shrike scoped sitting up on a birch, later I watched it butchering a bird in an apple tree surrounded by hungry blackbirds! From the reeds the lone call of a reed bunting emanated, they really are staying late this year.

Next wetland in the chain is the pit at Petersberg, this little site often produces a surprise and today it was a great brace of redhead smew. Also here were 40+ tufted duck and 25 mallard.

Last stop of the day was for a few of the sites around Torekov. The rev was quiet with very few species; highlights included grey heron (15), mallard (243), wigeon (44), goldeneye (35), redshank (3) and snow bunting (8). No sign of any purple sandpipers again. Påarps Mal was the last stop of the day. Walking down past the house, I flushed a huge 1K female goshawk, which doubled back and showed well in flight. They really are monsters. Also here a black woodpecker calling away. Not surprisingly, considering the close proximity of a goshawk, there was nothing smaller than a mute swan down at the coast. A single pipit flushed south and may well have been a water pipit...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Norfolk impressions - 09/12/09

Just finished our two days in the UK. The long-staying brown shrike at Staines disappeared just before we arrived, which took the pressure off on the twitching front [sadly I got this wrong and the bird was actually still present, a big day would have netted Pacific diver too I suspect... too busy though really, c'est la vie]. Today I drove up to Salthouse to pick up some new field-guides for trips in 2010 and saw a few birds in passing but had no time for a proper session up the coast.

A big flock of brent geese were in the fields near Kelling. From Cley Visitor Centre I also just had time to notice several wintering ruff feeding out on the reserve. Heady stuff for a southern Sweden based birder. Otherwise I noticed the abundance of pied wagtails, dunnocks, starlings and song thrushes - all scarce for me at this stage of the winter back home. Overall though the overwhelming impression is of the lack of birds in the wider countryside in the UK compared to Sweden. Island Britain is in big trouble and no doubt points the way that mainland Europe will ultimately go too. More than a little depressing.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Birding - 07/12/09

Eskilstorpsstrand - the view south to Båstad.

Eskilstorpsstrand forms part of the shoreline of Laholmsbukten (a bay), which is shallow and full of bivalves. It supports good numbers of scoter, eider and scaup in the winter and spring.

Just me and the kids this morning. Hallandsåsen was fog-bound, so we headed north to the sun at the beach at Eskilstorpstrand. Plenty happening here this morning; the highlight being a flighty flock of 250 scaup (a good total for the site), presumably just arrived. The sea was mirror-calm and the number of scoter stretching off north was big, at least 200 velvets off Eskilstorpstrand alone, together with at least 50 commons. Other birds of note included 2 Slavonian grebes and a common crossbill south.

On the way home we dropped in on Klarningen. West of the access track and just south of Eskilstorps pools, I spotted three Bewick's swans flying in to join a 20-strong flock of foraging whooper swans. The Bewick's eventually walked into view for confirmation on the deck. A year-tick and only my second record on the patch! As we watched them a ringtail hen harrier flew past.

Klarningen was surprising, there were wildfowl! At least 130 mallards, three wigeon and best of all three pochard. The latter are scarce on the patch. Also here we had single lapwing and skylark. Driving home we had three brambling at Ehrenstorp and a starling at Atteköp. Great session.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Car trouble - 06/12/09

Had the car all packed this morning, three kids, Mrs B and a huge picnic for a day on the coast. Tried to start the car but nothing but smoke, before it caught fire we decided to switch off and get it towed to the garage. Hire car arrived before dark but by then I was knee-deep in DIY... Only birds of note a flock of 45 redwing over the house at midday.

Off to England tomorrow, hoping for the brown shrike near Heathrow. News from the Stockholm area is quite encouraging - isabelline wheatear! Definitely still worth working hard on the patch then when I get back...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Birding - 05/12/09

Had just an hour and a half to bird in the morning and headed for Farhult for a quick session. Plenty of birds here; from the reedbeds the calls of water rail, bearded tit and reed bunting were heard. Out in the bay a huge gathering of 150+ goldeneyes was impressive, and dragged in with them was one fantastic close-in male smew. I do not see enough of these little gems, one of the surprises of living here, I thought I would see more. Other notables out in the bay included at least six Slavonian grebes, single red-necked and great crested grebes, two shelducks and 14 whooper swans.

On the way home stopped very briefly at Sandön and Södra Utmarken. The former site had another reed bunting, seven barnacle geese and a single oystercatcher. The latter had an impressive gathering of thrushes, which I did not have time to get to grips with, but included mistle (12), redwing (40) and fieldfare (30), the true numbers could well have been higher.

Bits and bobs - 4/12/09

No time for birding today, even I have to spend a little time in the office sometimes! Did see a few things in passing though. The village scored with seven migrating whooper swans, a small flock of fifteen siskin (scarce in December here, although seemingly abundant this year) and a flock of 45 lapwing south.

Driving past the roadside pond at Karstorp, had a single moorhen at dusk, another often difficult bird to find in the winter on patch...

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Birding - 03/12/09

Had a busy day today but managed to squeeze in two good little sessions. Kicked off at Klarningen for just over an hour in the morning on my own. The place was full of water, iced over and the fence partially completed, but no sign of the contractors. I meant to take a photo but...

Not unsurprisingly considering the mild, wet November we have just had the highlights at Klarningen were a bunch of birds that are normally scarce in December. These included; lapwing (3), skylark (6 - my first in December), starling (1), siskin (69), goldfinch (15) and reed bunting (2 - on neighbouring Eskilstorps pools). A flock of 100 fieldfare was good to see, the waxwing cannot be far behind.

Took Number 1 to the dentist in Båstad next and afterwards we had lunch by the harbour and went for a short walk. On arrival a red kite was circling out at sea, vaguely reminscent of a frigatebird... Sixteen barnacle geese flew past during lunch and whooper swans (7) were on the move too. Offshore we managed great crested grebe (4), long-tailed duck (4), goldeneye (35) and velvet scoter (1). But still no sign of any scaup.

Back at home 12 whoopers flew over the garden, as Sweden ices up we will have many more of these overhead in the next month.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Birding - 02/12/09

'Turneresque' stuff this evening.

Took Numbers 1 & 2 out for a freezing walk around Torekov in the afternoon. We kicked off at the rev, no sign here of the two purple sandpipers, but they could easily have been resting up somewhere out of sight. Offshore a big raft of 53 goldeneye was notable. A few wildfowl were on the move with whooper swan (5) and greylag goose (20) south during the hour we were here. Other birds of note were teal (1), redshank (7) and snow bunting (1).

Checked out the rocks by the harbour next and found one resting adult shag and 14 snoozing grey herons. We had two more shag offshore at our last stop, Påarps Mal, as well as Slavonian grebe (1), red-necked grebe (1), long-tailed duck (1) and lapwing (1). The bushes around the house here had goldcrest (2), chaffinch (5) and six mistle thrushes flew by south.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Birding - 01/12/09

Took the kids down to the beach at Glimminge in the afternoon. With the start of December the cold weather has arrived and things were surprisingly quiet. Highlights here were Slavonian grebe (4), redshank (1) and two snow buntings north. Checked Ranarpstrand on the way home but things were even quieter here - just one redshank of note.

Back at home eight redwing flew over south, my first December redwing in Sweden. Crazy weather this year, it looks like things are getting colder though and waxwings may appear!