Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Birthday Mrs B!

Dawn saw me stumbling around in the garden, a lesser whitethroat was rattling away on territory. Before breakfast I nipped out to Öllövsstrand which had a good selection of the migrants that are readily available at the moment, including my first patch thrush nightingale and a singing whitethroat.

The rest of the very wet morning was spent walking the beech woods at Dömestorp with the family celebrating Mrs B's birthday, hard to see or hear anything in the rain so we stuck slugs onto Number 1's face. Very fetching. We ate our picnic in the car on the beach at Mellbystrand but remained undisturbed by birds.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Cuckoo!

More nesting at Klarningen, this lapwing clutch just survived the recent management at the site.

Dawn saw me on the beach at Eskilstorpsstrand at the start of a day spent birding in Halland. No sign of any red-throated diver concentrations yet north of the patch from Eskilstorpsstrand. But the session here produced some good birds; long-tailed duck (2), red-necked grebe (16), osprey (1 - at last!) and greenshank (1).

Drove the short distance over to Klarningen next. Here it was evident that a few migrants had fallen out in the overnight rain. The riverside trees held a mixed warbler flock, mostly Phylloscs, but including one blackcap and my first whitethroat of the year (beating last year's date by one day). My first cuckoo of the year sang nearby, another early bird. The trees near the small pool had a couple of song thrushes, which soon headed off north. The wetland was rather quiet, although the usually inconspicuous pair of little ringed plovers were up and displaying madly. Viewing across the river to Eskilstorpsdammar produced greenshank (1), green sandpiper (1) and wood sandpiper (3).

Picked up breakfast and the kids, and gave Mrs B the day off. The kids and I headed up to Älemossen first. En route we picked up a big flock of 150 fieldfare at Bjäred. Älemossen is always worth walking. Best bird was a high hen harrier (female) going north like a good 'un. Tree pipits, redstarts and my first pied flycatchers all appeared as we tramped the woods and heathland. A pair of bullfinch distracted us as we tracked moose through the vegetation, we failed to find a moose here but got lucky driving to our next site, with four by the road north of Snapparp.

A mangy moose, one of four females/young that we bumped into by the roadside at Snapparp en route to Trönninge ängar. The kids were stoked - a lifer for them.

As it was still raining we headed north off-patch to the only hide for miles around - at Trönninge ängar. Whilst we ate I had time to check out what was on the pools. Some good birds including; white-fronted goose (1), pochard (male), little grebe (heard), little gull (2K), grey-headed wagtail (male) and my first sedge and reed warbler of the year (both heard only).

On the way home we stopped at Tönnersa for the kids to have a well-earned paddle and play. They were soon wading about in the sea and we had a great time mucking about. Not much time for birds here but I could not avoid the summer-plumage black-throated diver that flew down the river and landed on the sea nearby. Smart birds.

A single 2K little gull was found amongst the throng of black-headeds at Trönninge ängar. I always like seeing these diminutive larids.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Walking the kids again

Did the coastal section between Dagshög and Torekov sewage farm this afternoon with the team. Fairly quiet day, although redstart, willow warbler and lesser whitethroat have obviously arrived in force. Barnacle geese are on the move too with a flock of 100 north and ten resting at Påarps Mal (incredibly a patch year-tick). A few waders about with a total of four whimbrel, one greenshank and my first patch common sandpiper of the year. Back-tracking on my own to pick up the car, had a splendid female merlin charging along north and a single male whinchat in the juniper. A quiet session.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

More spring birding

Out the door early again for a pre-breakfast session in the mist at Ripagården. On the way picked up a pair of grey partridge in the village. Ripagården was rather quiet, two house martins were my first of the year. Few migrants around but did get several singing lesser whitethroats and two greenshank and a whimbrel were nice.

In the afternoon Mrs B and I hit Hasslarps dammar, still grey and rather cool here and we failed to find anything of great import. There was a large number of hirundines in though, barn swallow (80) dominated but a few house (10) and sand martin (5) present too. Other notable birds included barnacle goose (6), gadwall (pair), pintail (male), shoveler (6), avocet (2), ruff (20), redshank (6), green sandpiper (1), wood sandpiper (2), common sandpiper (1) and at least seven blue-headed wagtails.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Dawn patrol - 26/04/10

This is from yesterday, when we all stopped at Greviebackar to enjoy the spring show of pasque flowers.

Another early start saw me at Petersberg at 0530 hoping for an early Acro. Had to make do with a showy water rail, two displaying redpoll and a flyover green sandpiper. Klarningen next for grey partridge (pair), moorhen (pair and year-tick), wood sandpiper (3, ditto) and a superb pair of whinchat (another year-tick). With garganey just over the BK boundary, it was time for the first visit of the year to Skottorps våtmark. Had a good look around this time and found the garganey (pair), as well as whooper swan (1), goosander (2), ruff (1), redshank (1), wood sandpiper (3) and common sandpiper (2). It is a cracking site and hopefully in the future Klarningen will be as good.

In the afternoon we all went for a walk around Glimminge and Vasaltheden. Glimminge was rather quiet, although seven shoveler were nice and the woods were full of recently arrived migrants singing away. Vasaltheden had the best birds though with two more shoveler, whimbrel (1, year-tick), greenshank (1) and my first lesser whitethroat of the year.

Ringed plover clutch at Vasaltheden today. These guys have a chance, most of Klarningen has been harrowed (!) since my last visit which must have destroyed plenty of lapwing and skylark nests.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Birding - 25/04/10

Nipped out before breakfast this morning, walking the short stretch between Grytskaren and Ranarpsstrand. Grytskaren still holds a number of eider but numbers have dropped way off since the king eider. Two little terns were nice to see and four black guillemots looked like local breeders. A single great crested grebe served as a reminder that the big numbers present over the late winter have moved on.

Ranarpsstrand was good with sandwich tern (1), common tern (2) and Arctic tern (1), all welcome and somewhat overdue year-ticks. A greenshank was also new for the year as was a black-throated diver which flew high along the shoreline as I left the site.

Checked out Slottet near Killeröd for lesser spotted woodpecker on the way home but dipped again, only hearing great spotted drumming.

In the afternoon Mrs B and I nipped out to bird Sandön and Rönnen. At Sandön water levels were low but there were few birds (although there was some disturbance from fishermen). Waders included: greenshank (16), redshank (4), avocet (6) and snipe (1). Overhead a pair of little tern and a male marsh harrier.

Rönnen was better with the unmistakeable sub-song of an unseen thrush nightingale in the brambles by the KOF shed - an early bird. Waders included ruff (1), avocet (17) and redshank (5). Offshore at least 350 common scoter were notable and a single twite flew in calling and perched briefly before dropping onto the edge of the pool and out of sight.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Walking the kids

The kids loved this day-active hedgehog, because the nights are so short in the summer we are used to seeing them out early in the evening but this mid-morning individual was a little unusual.

Decided to give the kids a big walk today, so we drove down to Båstad and walked back from the coast up Sinarpsdalen, about 8 km and they were still running about when we got home! Båstad was worth a quick look with a nice summer-plumaged Slavonian grebe, at least ten red-necked grebes and small numbers of common and velvet scoter. A cool NW wind soon drove us inland. Sinarpsdalen was quiet although single singing tree pipit and willow warbler were year-ticks. Other notables included a flyover green sandpiper and a brief hawfinch.

I went back for the car later and checked out Klarningen for an hour. Viewing is difficult here in the afternoon but I decided to stick it out for an hour to see what was moving. This paid off with first a female merlin and then a superb male, as well as a nice male marsh harrier (both year-ticks). Ten lesser black-backed gulls was a good number and out on the newly-sown fields a lemon-yellow flava yellow wagtail was not difficult to spot amongst the feeding white wagtails.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Home, sweet home

After four weeks away it was fantastic to get back out on the patch this morning. The weather was equally enthusiastic with a brisk westerly whipping in some spiteful little wet squalls in the first few hours after dawn. Nice!

Kicked off at Klarningen where water-levels have dropped considerably since my last visit. The wind pump has yet to be connected up and I suspect that some former field drains still need disabling... But, maybe it has just not rained much or the site is being managed low for some reason? A few noteworthy birds here; crane (at least three calling early on from Eskilstorpsdammar but they slipped away unseen somehow), little ringed plover (1), redshank (2 pairs), green sandpiper (3) and my first chiffchaff at the site.

Torekov next, Flytermossen produced a calling water rail, and two barn swallows here were a hint of spring. The rev was quiet, just one purple sandpiper briefly (no doubt more were hunkered down in the rocks) and a splendid little tern (my earliest date on the patch). Just had time for a quick look at Ripagården, the westerly wind did not seem to be producing much in the way of passage but I was not concentrating too hard. Did see red-throated diver (2), little tern (2 south) and razorbill (2). On land things were quiet with blackcap (2) and brambling (heard) being the best of it.

Ten minutes at Hålehallstugan on the way back from the shops produced the bird of the day, a stonking ring ouzel.

A quick session at Hålehallstugan in the afternoon produced a big flock of thrushes by the pond (which had three vocal red-necked grebe). At least one ring ouzel present, as well as mistle thrush and song thrush.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"ere Iceland, we said send the cash!"

Management at Buckenham Marshes (now RSPB) has changed hugely since I worked here in the 1980s. The site is much much wetter now and supports many more pairs of waders. Lapwing seemed thin on the ground though during a recent visit.

Just had a slightly longer than anticipated stop-over in the UK. Did not get out birding much but got the distinct impression that migrants are rather slow to return this spring. Norfolk always seems a bit birdless after Sweden though, and I cannot believe how little we have seen whilst driving about. The pick of a few sessions here came yesterday with a trip to Buckenham Marshes, on the Yare. The easy highlight were four black-tailed godwits, looking at home and a splendid endorsement for the management of the site. Also avocet (10) and redshank (6 pairs). Wildfowl included shoveler (8 pairs), gadwall (7 pairs), teal (4 pairs) and wigeon (15). Sedge warblers were singing from the trackside reeds.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

LED Lenser X21 - the review

Regular readers will remember that I purchased a LED Lenser x21 in September and that I promised a review after using it in the field. Well this lamp has impressed me on my last three trips. It has several advantages over my old rig (a 500,000 candlepower spot with rechargeable gel battery):
  • a focusable beam, the spot is tight and useful for mammals and birds, but critically for me the broad beam produces a lovely flat, white light that is ideal for searching out frogs and other night creatures.
  • long battery life - this torch will go all night and I reckon you get about 30 hours from one set of batteries before it starts to wane. My old rig lasted 1.5 hours...
  • white light is better for viewing wildlife, you can see more, especially at range.
  • my big query at the outset was is this torch robust enough to survive my lifestyle. Well early indications are that it is. Solid German engineering and design...
There are some disadvantages though:
  • it only takes high quality alkaline (non-rechargeable) batteries. These can be hard to buy in some countries and it is not a green option...
  • the on-off button is not recessed but proud of the casing, meaning that 'negligent discharges' are a problem. 1000 lumens into your own face or someone else's is not good for your night vision! I lost a few 'pinned down' frogs when I accidently switched off the torch during photography. One of the features of the rest of the Lenser range is the recessed on-off switch at the butt end of the torch. Shame we did not get this feature on the X21.
I have shown it to a few birders on my travels and all have been impressed. Despite the cost I think it is a must-have bit of kit. Get ready to have your bag searched at the airport though.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Odonata - Jordan

Not a great deal of wetland habitat encountered in Jordan, so a small Odonata tally of just 8 species after two weeks, mostly consisting (as usual) of Libellulids. The only damselfly recorded was Platycnemis dealbata, pictured here, although one other species eluded me at the Zarqa River. The bird observatory at Aqaba was another good site and produced sight records of Pantala flavescens, Anax parthenope and Anax imperator.

The widespread Orthetrum chrysostigma at the Zarqa River.

Another widespread species, Crocothemis erythraea, again at the Zarqa River.

The beautiful Trithemis annulata, scarce along the Zarqa River.

Perhaps the best of the lot, I do not see Trithemis arteriosa very often. It was only seen around the swimming pool at our accommodation near Wadi Rum.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Seeing Hume's owl around Petra (Jordan)

Mike Edgecombe took this distant image of one of a total of four Hume's owls we saw around Little Petra in just one hour. I was the lighting director as usual...

Having just seen six birds in just three night sessions, I think it is safe to say that seeing Hume's owl in Jordan is much easier than in neighbouring Israel. I saw my first bird without a tape by just wandering along the road below Dana village (down into Wadi Dana) at night. It was just 300 metres from the village. Our best encounters however were in the wadis around Little Petra - on the Wadi Araba road 15 minutes from Wadi Musa (Petra). We made contact with a bedouin guide called Faleh ("Far-lay") who can be reached on his mobile (0779142906). Whilst it would be easy to find the owls on your own, it is better to have a local guide with you if you are creating a disturbance at night near people's livestock, tents and womenfolk. Faleh knows several nearby territories and with his help you will soon find owls if you use playback.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Well met!

A big cultural day today for the team, the incredible Nabatean ruins at Petra being the focus of our attention. Although I enjoyed the ruins, I kept an eye out for Sinai rosefinches and eventually found a pair a short way up the trail to the monastery. My first male!

Incredibly down at the restaurant I bumped into Mike (and Ginny) Edgecombe, they were travelling with John and Jane Gregory. Amazingly the last time I had seen this birding duo together had been at a similar chance meeting at Angkor Wat in Cambodia! The upshot of all this was that we arranged to go owling together in the evening. Two nights ago at Dana village I had been lucky enough to see my first Hume's owl and Mike was green with envy. Could we see some more?

Mike and John Gregory picked me up and we headed down to Little Petra. A side wadi drew my attention and we wandered down it. John played the 'tape', we got an immediate response and before long they were happily watching their lifer Hume's owl. The responding bird was a female and before long the deeper song of the male was heard and he eventually flew in to join the female in the defense of their territory. We spent a good ten minutes watching these birds and Mike got some reasonable images, the best of which I will post when he sends it.

Although they reacted positively to a new owl, I could not get Mike and John to appreciate the splendour of Bufo viridis. Birders!

Before too long the local bedouin arrived and we negotiated a price to be guided to another territory hoping for closer views. A nearby wadi produced another pair, but the views were more distant and the birds drifted off relatively quickly. Still four Hume's owls in an hour was a great result and we returned happily to a bar in Wadi Musa to celebrate. A good day.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Postcard from Jordan

The focus of the first four days of the tour is a lot of black iris twitching. There is a swarm of black iris species and we have spent time chasing down three of them.

It is nearly 20 years since I was last in the Middle East. The birding has been slow in the north-west - too much hunting I suspect. Good to catch up with a variety of wheatears though and tomorrow we head south to the Dead Sea and beyond and we should start seeing some desert birds.

Not many wetland habitats encountered so far. A few stops at the Zarqa River have produced large numbers of Platycnemis dealbata though - a new damselfly for me.

Orchids have been on the menu too, violet limodore (pictured here) is a widespread parasitic species that I always enjoy seeing.

In the absence of dragonflies I am spending plenty of time looking at reptiles. This Ptyodactylus gecko is one of several new species for me.

Birding - 27/03/10

A quick stop at Klarningen in appalling weather, any wind-driven rain is appalling I guess though after four months without. A few birds available though including whooper swan (20), teal (40), wigeon (10), curlew (2), snipe (1), green sandpiper (1) and oystercatcher (2). Dropped in on Brandsvig as well en route south and although there was plenty of water it was very quiet, just one rough-legged buzzard. In Malmö four barnacle geese grazing the roadside in the centre (near the railway station!) were the first of the month.