Tuesday, December 20, 2011

postcard from India

One of the joys of India is that wildlife still lives cheek-by-jowl with a huge human population.

Pair of painted sandgrouse near Ranthambore.

Amlidhe, near Ranthambore.

Indian grass mantis (Schizocephala bicornis), never noticed these guys before but they were quite common at Ranthambore this year.

Great thick-knee

Naked-rumped tomb bat, ticking bats has given the cultural days of many tours a whole new focus. We found two species of tomb bat at Fatehpur Sikri this year.

I really unblocked ibisbill as a tour bogey bird this year. One in China was swiftly followed by five on this trip. An amazing total that included two we found inside Corbett.

Hog deer was a great find in Corbett this year, they can be hard to see.

A total of 24 elephants at Corbett this year, including some great close encounters.

Our full day at Corbett will always be remembered for the half hour we spent in the close company of this Pallas' fish eagle.

Monday, December 12, 2011

good cheer

Another long-awaited species fell for me early this morning, when we found two male cheer pheasants at the drive-to site at Vinayak, near Naini Tal. Splendid! We had to drive away from them in the end.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Tiger, tiger...

It took eight nail-biting, bone-rattling jeep rides at Ranthambore to see tiger this year. On our last morning we had a superb encounter with this five-year old tigress. I found it too, poaching it from under the noses of my guides and driver!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Tick!

One of my most-wanted birds in India finally fell today, when we tracked down a pair of white-naped tits at Nahargarh Biological Reserve (just outside Jaipur). Thanks go to my guide Ansar Khan who made all the necessary arrangements for finding this threatened species at short notice.

鳥北京

After my recent tour in China I was lucky enough to be able to spend two days birding with Terry Townshend in the Beijing area. Terry and his wife Libby looked after me splendidly and our birding netted me a number of new birds.

You can read Terry's account of the two days on his blog (Birding Beijing). We kicked off by visiting Terry's local patch (Wild Duck Lake and Yehayu) in the excellent company of Jesper Hornskov. The drive out to this site is rather long and often the traffic is awful but I know now why Terry bothers. These two sites always seem to throw up something special and our visit was no exception.

Chinese grey shrike was one of the new species for me on the day out to Wild Duck Lake.

In the brutal cold we checked a partially frozen Wild Duck Lake first, highlights here included: Daurian partridge (2), great bittern (3), Baikal teal (<10), Chinese grey shrike (4-5), Asian short-toed lark (13), Chinese hill warbler (4), Pallas’ reed bunting (common) and Japanese reed bunting (1). But also ruddy shelduck, Chinese spot-billed duck, gadwall, ferruginous duck (1 late bird), goosander, merlin (1), sparrowhawk, goshawk (1), hen harrier (4), common crane (120), grey-headed woodpecker and vinous-throated parrotbill.

At Yehayu, after negotiating the fence around the site, highlights included a black bittern (1, a great rarity in this part of China and at this late date too), great egret (1), grey heron (1), upland buzzard (3), great bustard (2 flying past), black-headed gull (2), a common kingfisher dying on the ice, Naumann’s thrush (1), chinese penduline tit (heard only) and pine bunting (2). A tolai hare here was nice too. Towards the end of the day we started losing momentum from fatigue and headed for Jesper’s home for an enjoyable evening meal.

The next day we headed out again, this time to the botanical gardens on the outskirts of Beijing. In the garden proper were berry-laden bushes with plenty of light-vented bulbuls and both dusky and Naumann’s thrushes in good numbers. Azure-winged magpies were common and three introduced crested mynas flew over. At least two Chinese grosbeaks perched up nicely for scope views. We checked an area of conifers briefly for Chinese nuthatch and then moved on to tackle the ridge behind the gardens for a few special birds. The ridge walk produced a small group of curious plain laughingthrushes and we heard the Chinese hill warbler.

When we finally got down (after searching in vain along the busy paths for Siberian accentor) and found a pair of very busy Chinese nuthatches storing pine nuts for the winter. A great bird. A good flock of Pallas’ warblers was present here too, we had seen odd individuals during the day and also a handful of red-flanked bluetails. Mammals seen here were red and Père David’s rock squirrels. Another great day out.

So huge thanks to Terry and Libby, I sat on my flight to Delhi absolutely exhausted after 48 hours non-stop socialising and birding - a great stay in Beijing.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Postcard from Yangxian and Xian

Sympetrum infuscatum was still on the wing just south of Foping town. Other Odonates went unidentified sadly, next year I will take a net!

Our China trip ended with a short journey south to see crested ibis, something of a conservation success story this species. It has bounced back from a population of just four adults in 1981 to a still wobbly but infinitely preferable 500 or so.

The drive south took us along a wide river valley south of Foping town, here we caught up with spectacular Daurian redstart.

Another eagerly awaited species at this site was ibisbill, no problems finding one on this trip.

A riverside walk outside Yangxian gave us plenty of new birds, not just showy birds like this crested kingfisher but also a chance to look at rosy and blakistonii water pipit. One of the better birds here was a pair of long-billed plover.

Our main target here of course was the crested ibis, we never got great photographic opportunities sadly. The lack of light, a shortage of time and the wariness of many individuals conspired against us.

The tour ended with a mad dash around the Terracotta Army site just outside Xian. It was good but after an hour some of us slipped away to bird the grounds and came away with this male Hodgson's redstart added to our life-lists. I have been after this one for some time, so it was a nice way to end the tour.

Giant panda!

Giant panda is perhaps the most iconic mammal in the world and this month I got a chance to spend eight, sometimes gruelling, days searching for them in the Foping reserve in the Qinling Mountains of central China. The terrain was appalling, steep valley sides covered in dense bamboo made for some excellent exercise and not a little swearing. We lost four days to rain and low cloud but the other four days netted us two panda sightings.

The first came on our first day in the field and was a rather distant 'birder's' view, binoculars and close observation required. The animal was above us on a bamboo-covered hillside and slowly ate it's way into view before eventually running out of food and moving off out of sight. Nice because it was behaving naturally and the view was long but also frustrating because it was partially obscured and at long-range.

So another sighting was much desired and after a great deal of personal exertion on our third day tracking and huge and expert effort from our local team we had a brief but close encounter with a young, radio-collared male. I made an effort to record this on video (see below). Next year the tour includes an extension to see red panda, it just gets better! Roll on next year!

Postcard from Foping

Just completed an enjoyable and successful giant panda tour at Foping (China). China was amazing and I cannot wait to return. We saw two giant pandas, so stay-tuned for a panda video in a later post.

One of the mammal highlights of the start of the tour was a close encounter with a group of golden snub-nosed monkeys at a feeding station near the access gate to the panda reserve.

Despite the late date, a few butterflies were still flying in the Qinling Mountains, including this common beak (Libythea lepita).

The area around our chilly accommodation block at Sanguanmiao research station was great birding in the mornings before we headed out and on rainy days when panda tracking was not possible. We definitely developed a patch mentality about these orchards and clearings and enjoyed finding birds like this Asian barred owlet and a handful of late migrants like olive-backed pipit, Pallas' warbler and little bunting.

The Foping forest is in great shape and white-backed woodpeckers occurred at a density I have never experienced before. We got used to daily sightings of this special woodpecker.

Another mammal highlight was a morning devoted to climbing up a valley to see the enormous red-and-white flying squirrel. Our trackers 'encouraged' them to fly down the valley for us. Awesome.

Rufous-breasted accentor was a common inhabitant of the abandoned and overgrown fields on the edges of the nearby village.

An eagerly awaited tick for me was grey-headed bullfinch, we saw small flocks daily in open areas.

Chinese babax was also a bird I was looking forward to and they proved to be common around the research station.

Monday, November 7, 2011

a walk in the woods

A flock of 60+ waxwing in the Lindab carpark at Förslöv kicked off the day. The men from Glimminge found a pygmy owl at Killeröd yesterday, which prompted a long morning walk around the area. No sign of the owl, but a lot of agitation amongst the local tits and goldcrests when they were played the 'bicycle-pump' call. Highlights included a total of 29 two-barred crossbills and at least five crested tits.

In the afternoon I suddenly found out that there had been a Siberian chiffchaff at Öllövsstrand yesterday, so off I went late in the day for a fruitless search of the coastal scrub. Vasaltheden produced the only good bird of the afternoon, a 1K peregrine flying past south.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mid-morning wanderings

Nipped out for two hours mid-morning after a lazy start to the day. The garden had 14 waxwings and then I was off to Klarningen. Plenty of geese reported here yesterday but no sign today. The teal flock is dwindling (146) and just one wigeon remains. The place has a winter feel about it already, which is not helped by the brooding presence of two rough-legged buzzards and a ringtail hen harrier.

A quick look at Petersberg revealed that the tufted duck flock has swollen to 60 but there was little else to excite.

Last stop of the day was Malen, where predictably the kingfisher zoomed past. The shoreline vegetation had a handful of redpoll and a crested tit called in the background. Out at sea the surf scoter pursued it's solo career but a huge tonnage of sea-duck are drifting south towards it and I fear it may get harder to see. The seaducks north of here included 150 eider and perhaps 170 scaup but they were too far for an accurate count/identification.

Spent the afternoon in the garden but it was peaceful, just a few redpolls over.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

kingfisher - 223

Nipped down early to Båstad this morning. It was sunny and bright on top of the hill, but as I descended into town the fog thickened up really well and visibility was very poor. Despite this I headed for the harbour, but before I got there a kingfisher loomed out of the fog. It tried to land on my head and then, realising it's error, beetled off east. Year-tick, at last! Probably the last one too, unless something great happens this week. So after ten whole minutes in the field I headed home.

In the afternoon we lunched at Dagshög under a blue sky - just 92 golden plover over and a goshawk through on the way back to the car. Mrs B dropped me at the bottom of Sinarpsdalen on the way back to chase Martin Ekenberg's pygmy owl but all I got was a decent walk home. Highlights of the trek were a very vocal great grey shrike and a single hawfinch.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Swedish tick in BK!

Kicked off predictably with a morning walk around Gröthögarna. Gave the Norra Ängalag area a good going over after yesterday and was rewarded with three two-barred crossbills - this species is on the move again here in Sweden and popping up at coastal locations. Also here was yesterday's adult peregrine perched on nearby rocks and offering a much nicer view. The walk round to Ripagården was quiet, but the area around the harbour produced a grey wagtail (over), at least one crested tit and a flock of 15 redpoll. The walk back was uneventful too, but small flocks of waxwing were flycatching from the tops of bushes and bullfinches called from the juniper scrub.

As I drove home a text message came through that Olof Jönsson (of Corvo 2009 fame and Swedish birding royal) had found a 1K Richard's pipit at Torekov! Back at home though the team were far from prepared to hit the field and the next 20 minutes strained matrimonial relations somewhat. But with a BBQ packed and the kids dressed we headed off and arrived to find a small gallery enjoying the bird. Sadly it was not in very good shape, limping heavily with a damaged right leg. Great to see it though and despite it's injury it was feeding strongly on the swarms of flies, brought out by the sun and mild temperature. Nice BK tick and great to be able to watch it for 20 minutes before heading south for a grilled sausage with the team.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

"Virusheadf@ckgyrdippallas's?" sort of day

Team Benstead has been struck down by a cold virus sadly this week and this is certainly impairing my meagre birding abilities, as the story of today will demonstrate...

Having dropped off Ma B at the train station for her return to Blighty, I ran some errands and then headed for nearby Klarningen. Just as I made the turn off the main road the phone went, an SMS stating that an adult gyr falcon had been seen an hour before on Tjällran. I reversed back onto the road and within twenty minutes was at Norra Ängalag quizzing a falcon sitting facing me on the distant island. No way of knowing if this was the same bird but I doubt it, because it was a peregrine! The poor light and longish range were not ideal for being sure though and I gave this bird a thorough going over just to make sure I had got it right. A quick video through the scope and I was happy. Well, actually pretty unhappy as gyr is one of my most-wanted BK birds.

During this process I had occasionally heard a strange nasal 'tchuee' call from nearby. Checking the bushes produced a departing goldcrest flock but the calls stopped and I went on with my falcon. I got home, checked things through, put on Calls of Eastern Vagrants in the background and my heart sank when the CD got to Pallas's warbler... Pretty inexcusable. You snooze, you lose. I got back in the car and headed back but a good walk around the area in the gathering dusk failed to turn up the goldcrest flock, just a single wheatear.

Thanks go to Thomas Svanberg for translating the gyr falcon BMS alarm onto the local SMS network which at least got me close to some birds today!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Flaming November

Another dawn arrival at Båstad harbour failed to produce a kingfisher yet again. The waxwings all gathered in one tree briefly, allowing a count of 330 to be made, a big flock for round here. The surf scoter made it onto my November list too, how long is it going to stay?

Klarningen was the next stop and rather routine it was until too I heard a sandpiper flying in from the north. WTF! It was a wood sandpiper and dropped in on the main pool, strutted about a bit, had a wash and then headed south. A really late record and my first in BK since early September! The weather is unseasonally mild and there are going to be plenty of late records to be had I think. The two ringtail hen harriers were still on site and other highlights included three shoveler (my first in November) and a little grebe.

Picking up Ma B and the kids we headed out for lengthy tour of BK. First stop was Axelstorps Ravine. No sign of any dippers here in a quick look. Lunched at Kattvik harbour where a solitary red-necked grebe bobbed about and then headed Gröthögarna where we had a great walk. Highlights here included my first November wheatear, 35 waxwing, a showy great grey shrike and a late flying female Aeshna mixta. Last stop of the day under a weak sun was a quick look at Torekov, the rocks south of the harbour had just two shags and then it was time for home.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bloody kingfishers

A big flock of 300+ waxwing at Båstad was a great start to the day.

Hit Båstad at dawn today hoping for a kingfisher year-tick but the little bugger is proving incredibly difficult. It has been reported daily for about a week, but it must be hiding up under the wooden walkways or flying in occasionally from the Stensån because I cannot find it. Frustrating.

But a thorough going over of the harbour did produce some good birds; the surf scoter and little auk remain entertaining numerous visitors, also here a huge and noisy flock of 300+ waxwing, a black redstart, and late chiffchaff and blackcap.

Rough-legged buzzard at Klarningen. Klarningen is the only reliable site for this species in the winter in BK.

Klarningen was pretty quiet, the flock of teal (180) also contained a few wigeon (5) and shoveler (3). Two ringtail hen harriers hunted over the wetand and a rough-legged buzzard hovered out the back. On the way home I dropped into Petersberg for a quick look and was surprised to find 47 tufted duck in residence and the flock included a single female scaup (my first freshwater one in BK). Two little grebe here too. Six hawfinch passed over high, calling that high-pitched "tsrrii" flight-call that is often a giveaway to their presence overhead.

In the afternoon we all headed out to look at Farhult and Sandön. Farhult was quiet, no geese here just 9 Slavonian grebes and a lonely shelduck of note. Driving round to Sandön via Stureholm produced a single great grey shrike and again no geese. However when we got to Sandön we found plenty of geese. At least 1000 barnacles and 500 greylag but the only other species I could find were white-fronted geese (about 44).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Black

Mmmm - waxy goodness. Waxwings are definitely starting to move now, this one was in a flock of 25-30 in Båstad this afternoon.

Morning birding around Gröthögarna for me this morning. Slightly foggy start but it burned off quickly leaving me scratching about for birds. A few goldcrest flocks provided some excitement. All the highlights came at Ripagården; black woodpecker (1) and black redstart (1), although Dalen had two wheatears again and Norra Ängalag a massive total of 12 collared doves!

In the afternoon we all went for a walk around the harbour at Båstad. The surf scoter seems to be making itself at home, together with a female scaup, just offshore. Really rather obliging. Likewise the little auk has made itself comfortable. New birds today though were at least 25 waxwing, another black redstart and a single chiffchaff.

A quick look at Klarningen on the way home failed ot produce anything noteworthy.

The little auk remains in Båstad harbour and together with the surf scoter has drawn crowds of depressed dippers heading home from Kullen and the no-show of the isabelline wheatear this morning.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Hard work

As Mrs B will tell you I do love a bird with a sense of porpoise.

A mild, calm, perpetually grey day. I was out all day getting some walking in ahead of an upcoming panda thrash in China. I hope I will be fit enough, bamboo always grows on such steep slopes... and pandas only grow on bamboo!

Effectively covered the stretch of coast between Vejbystrand and Glimming plantering today. That's a lot of mileage and with minimal return today sadly. Highlights were the long-staying 1K great skua (still happily married to his porpoise corpse) at Stora Hultstrand, nine twite at the same location, two redshank, a wheatear and a Lapland bunting at Ranarpsstrand and a curlew at Segelstorpsstrand. At the turning point at Glimminge I bagged a chiffchaff. Still plenty of invertebrates about and a good show of late migrants, but nothing to compare with the isabelline wheatear on nearby Kullaberg.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jack!

Managed a bit of birding during the morning with a trip to Klarningen first. A walk of the stubble fields whilst I waited for the fog to burn off, produced just a handfull of skylark and four elusive twite. The sun did come out and I moved to the tower. Best bird here was a feeding jack snipe that bobbed off eventually into the grass and away. Otherwise 145 teal remain and just four wigeon. The area was being hunted by a hen harrier (1K) and two rough-legged buzzards.

Moving onto Malen, I was hoping for a kingfisher, they have been scarce this year in BK but recently birds have been reported from this location. I still need it for the year so will have to track them down. No luck today, but did see the 1K surf scoter again and also had the little auk (again).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Grey day

The news of a chestnut-eared bunting and a possible Siberian thrush in Uppland must have given every Swedish birder a boost yesterday, these easterlies are delivering but will it deliver in BK?

I headed out for a three hour walk around the Gröthögarna circuit and it was very quiet. Thrushes were much in evidence though, fieldfares overhead and a slight fall of robins and blackbirds apparent. Otherwise vis mig was poor. Two wheatears on the weed at Dalen were nice late birds. I encountered the occasional small group of tits and goldcrests in the junipers but camping with them failed to produce any glory. The plantation at Ripagården was deathly quiet. The big surprise of the morning was a water rail, flushed from the base of a stone wall at Dalen, where it was attempting to hide. A definite new-in migrant then!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Disturbed

All the wildfowl on the rev flushed up this afternoon to greet this young white-tailed eagle.

Been busy the last few days but got out for three hours this afternoon and headed for Torekov. The easterly winds are driving the sea as low as I have ever seen it and there was plenty of habitat to comb through at the rev. I gave it a good go but could not find the recently reported purple sandpiper, but did get a single grey plover and a redshank. The latter my first in BK for six weeks, they seem to be scarce everywhere in Sweden at the moment. Two small flocks of brent geese went south during my watch, totalling 15 birds, it is turning into a good autumn for this species. Also three gannets milling about. I left after a sub-adult white-tailed eagle repeatedly buzzed the rev driving everything away. I think it had its eyes on a dead eider near my position, so I walked off to check the rather quiet woodland inland and left it to it.

Last stop of the day was Påarps Mal where the shoreline produced another redshank and the rocky offshore outcrops at least two shags. Then all the birds were put up again, this time by a hovercraft...

All the wildfowl around Påarps Mal flushed up again, expecting the eagle I was equally surprised by one of the Swedish Army's transport hovercraft heading south.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

221!

My BK year-list hit 221 today, my best ever total and still a few birds to play for. Kicked off at first light with a circuit of Gröthögarna and Ripagården. Nice sunny day with first easterly winds here for some time, and forecast to go on through the week! Could be interesting.

Plenty of in-off finch action on the headland this morning with high flocks coming in from the west and just carrying on east overhead. At least thirty crossbill in amongst the commoner species and a low Lapland bunting called a few times overhead but did not appear to drop in. Bullfinches have started to appear in small numbers with at least eight during the walk. Gannets milled about offshore.

Ripagården produced the best birds in some ways with two grey wagtails, a great grey shrike and my first waxwings of the autumn (25 streaking south).

Picking up the team we all walked to the sea down Sinarpsdalen. I was hoping to make contact with the 1K golden eagle I saw sneaking along Hallandåsen and probably into BK two days ago. Just before lunch I got text telling me there was one offshore on Hallands Väderö. Well at least we knew which direction it would come from if it came our way! We had lunch at a suitable vantage point and blow me if the bird did not turn up flying in from the west just as we were packing up; a nice clean 1K bird and my first in BK since December 2007! It was also 221 for the year! Following close behind it was a rough-legged buzzard.

This young golden eagle was a most welcome addition to the BK year-list. In my first year here I saw two birds and since then nothing, so long overdue for a re-appearance.

Båstad harbour continues to host a little auk.

Walking on into Båstad we enjoyed another quick look at the surf scoter and took in the harbour little auk before taking the bus home. Great day in the field.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

More twitching!

Since saying earlier this week that I could pretty much take or leave twitching, I have mostly been taking it! This morning I had breakfast with the team and then the phone went. Martin Ekenberg had flushed a Lapland bunting from the fields south of Klarningen. I have been trying to find a Lapland bunting here all autumn so off I went. It was in the weedy stubble field that really attracts birds and I found it pretty quickly, along with a handful of linnet, reed bunting and skylark. I flushed it, it showed nicely in flight, called a few times and then was suddenly jumped by a great grey shrike. Wild evasive tactics on the part of the bunting worked eventually but my heart was in my mouth for a few seconds. Needless to say the the bird did not land anywhere close after that. A quick look over the wetland from the south produced the lingering 1K peregrine and it was joined in the air briefly by a hen harrier. Nice 45 minutes.

In the afternoon we all went down to Båstad to look again at the juvenile surf scoter. There it floated, hardly changed position since yesterday, ten gannets fed behind it out in the bay. A walk up to Hemmeslövsstrand produced little of note, although we found a surprising number of 1K black-headed gull wings and a few dead auks.

The winds are going east for the first time in ages, it looks good for a BK yellow-browed warbler, but where to look?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Surf's up

Another morning birding with the ever-patient Number 2 today. We checked out Kattvik quickly to see if seabirds were moving, they were despite an obviously diminishing westerly. In 45 minutes here we clocked up 18 gannets, three fulmar (including my first blue in Sweden) and a single great skua. Leaving the black redstart to his favourite bank of weed we headed down the track to Yttre Kattvik, hoping for more. Well here it started to quieten down but not before we had scored 34 more gannets and a 1K pomarine skua. Kittiwakes were in very small numbers throughout with just three recorded all morning. My first snow bunting of the autumn flew west just offshore and overhead three crossbills went west too, they sounded different and were probably parrots but I am wary these days about separating them on call.

With time pressing on we headed for an hour at Klarningen. Fairly quiet here, though plenty of wildfowl remain, teal (178), wigeon (35) and shoveler (17). A rough-legged buzzard has taken up residence and the access track had 73 golden plover.

Well, I thought that was the end of my birding for the day until Håkan J rang me in Ängelholm with the news of a surf scoter at Båstad at 1530 and so I dashed to the car. On the way I picked up a 1K golden eagle just 750 metres outside the border to BK whilst crossing Hallandåsen... One for tomorrow, I still need it for the year. Arriving at Båstad I was put on the right track by Peder and Klaas and we quickly got our first views of the bird before moving much closer. This was undoubtedly the same 1K female photographed migrating south off Halland two days ago. I think the observer did not realise what he had until he looked at his images that night! For it to have run out of steam in the classic storm shelter location at Båstad was magic. The views were fantastic, a light swell and the bird no more than 100 metres away. This is my first juvenile in the WP so really exciting stuff and a BK tick to boot (perhaps the second record, the last one a flyby male in 2002). Surf scoter brings my BK year-list to a record equalling 220, can I get more?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seawatching for owls

The great skua parade continues. Fifteen great skuas past today. I should have got some great shots of birds coming along the beach but I duffed it up!

Off to to the sea at Ripagården for me today for a six-hour seawatching session that was full of birds and exciting moments, but failed to deliver anything heavy-weight sadly. Winds are on the light side and SW but veered west during the day. Huge numbers of gannets on the move today, I logged 222! In amongst these seabirds I teased out three fulmars (all late in the session), a massive 15 great skuas, one little gull and three little auks. The other big movers today were kittiwakes (52). Eider were moving too with 99 past and I also had two long-tailed ducks heading south.

Raptor migration provided a little entertainment too with hen harrier (1), goshawk (1), sparrowhawk (4), merlin (1) and last but not least my third BK short-eared owl and my first in-off. Fantastic stuff.

Winds continue to blow but from the NW in the morning, so I know where I will be!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

interrupit mare vigilo

With the wind blowing strong from the SW again this morning it was back to seawatching. Mrs B was in for root canal work at the dentist though, so I dodged about a bit between taxi and husbandly duties grabbing three short session and some decent birds.

First stop with Mrs B was a half hour session at Kattvik. This totally persuaded me that seabirds were moving with gannet (20) and kittiwake (2) past. But it was better for late waders with the common sandpiper still in residence and a greenshank over south calling. The black redstart was still hopping about on the bank of seaweed here too.

Delivering Mrs B to her doom I spent the next hour-and-a-half sitting at Båstad, enjoying the best seawatching of the day. Plenty of gannets here too with 67 logged west, just one kittiwake though. A superb close flock of 100+ scaup swept past - the Laholmsbuktens wintering flock doing a flyby. Not one but three sooty shearwaters appeared, one flying close by for a season's best view. Other highlights included; Slavonian grebe (1), great skua (3), little gull (1K) and little auk (1). Then it was time to pick up a barely human Mrs B and go get some lunch.

In the afternoon I managed two-and-a-half hours at Ripagården, where it was more of the same really with Slavonian grebe (1), gannet (49), nine great skuas (huge) and two more little auks. Not a bad session but no year-ticks for me.

Late on Number 2 and I headed up the hill off-patch at Tockarp for some walking, bumping into yet another great grey shrike.

More seawatching tomorrow...

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gröthögarna circuit

Great grey shrikes are a daily occurrence at the moment. This one was patrolling the shoreline at Dalen today.

Had a three hour walk around Gröthögarna and Ripagården this morning. A light southerly breeze kept me company. Visible migrants were finchy and thrushy today with two goldfinch, five twite and one redpoll competing in the sky with a good number of redwing and a few fieldfare. One mistle thrush was amongst the many thrushes gorging on berries on the headland. A 1k peregrine tabbing south may well have been migrating too. One of the best birds of the walk was yet another great grey shrike, it will be a record month for this species for me no doubt.

Ripagården produced another 1K wheatear, a fresh-plumaged and strikingly rufous bird. A good look in the plantation produced just goldcrests and the usual suspects (including at least one crested tit). The walk back was enlivened by bumping into a female lesser spotted woodpecker, a real surprise.

Getting late for northern wheatear now and every one I glimpse raises my hopes of a rare wheatear. Desert wheatear in Halland today...

Lesser spotted woodpecker - a new bird for me on Gröthögarna.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Patch work

I do not need much inspiration to work my patch hard, but yesterday's events underlined the great pleasure of finding your own rarities. Rolf's well-deserved and splendid dowitcher here in NW Skåne was eclipsed by the news back home in Norfolk of Rob Martin's equally well-deserved and simply awesome rufous-tailed robin. Read Rob's account on the punkbirder website. Magic stuff.

That said, I put some time in today and nothing amazing materialised just some nice birds. Kicked off at Klarningen at first light. The pools held 11 whooper swans, which moved on fairly quickly once the sun got going. The greylag goose flock pulled down a single white-fronted goose during the hour I spent going through the wildfowl. Fifteen shoveler remain and the teal flock numbered 250 this morning. The great grey shrike remains and was chasing fieldfares today, it seems particularly pugnacious this one. I spent another hour tramping about in the stubble, hoping for something good but had to settle for linnets and skylarks, before heading for Eskilstorppstrand. Nice flattish sea here but nothing offshore and little overhead action either. Looking north into Skummeslövsstrand produced more in the way of seaduck including 17 scaup and one long-tailed duck.

In the afternoon we al went for a walk along the shore between Ranarpsstrand and Segelstorpsstrand. A peregrine was sitting out on Grytskären and the foreshore had a small number of twite, my first of the autumn. Offshore at least five Slavonian grebes, keeping company with a brace of red-neckeds. The sunny weather produced a red admiral sighting, going south. Best bird here though was my latest BK wheatear, a very rusty 1K individual that was not from round here. Segelstorpsstrand had another Slavonian grebe and the gardens produced two chiffchaffs.

On the way home we stopped briefly at Ljungbyholm for 350 golden plover and a great grey shrike.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Not much birding but a Swedish tick!

I have a very ambivalent attitude to twitching these days. I can pretty much take it or leave it, but today we had planned a trip to walk at Farhult in the afternoon, not knowing it was shortly to be hosting a MEGA. En route to pick up Mrs B from work we learnt of the long-billed dowitcher and drove round to the Jonstorp side of the bay to view it. UK readers might be surprised to discover that this was a first long-billed dowitcher for NW Skåne and only the 20th record for Sweden. Feeding alongside the 112 on the way were two nice white storks.

The dowitcher was close and behaved well, although it was a little sleepy. Great bird. Also here; Slavonian grebe (8), little grebe (1), pintail (10), gadwall (2), scaup (1), long-tailed duck (2) and at least 14 grey plovers.

A quick stop at Sandön on the way out against a tide of speeding birders produced a white-tailed eagle and two white-fronted geese.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Quiet morning

Had a poke around Kattvik this morning to see if anything was still stuck in the bay. A kittiwake drifted past when I got there but nothing else appeared. A late common sandpiper and a young grey wagtail were the notable species here. Sadly there were a few dead seabirds dumped alongside some damaged herring on the breakwater. Two guillemots, two razorbill and a lovely 1K red-throated diver.

Damaged herring and dead birds presumably discarded by fisherman at Kattvik after the storm, this haul included a 1K red-throated diver, two razorbill and two guillemots. I hate mono-fil netting!

Another shot of the diver.

After Kattvik I checked out Torekov rev (just 64 wigeon of note) and then walked the woods hoping hoping for a yellow-browed warbler. Just one flock located and all it contained were goldcrests and the usual suspects.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

to the sea again

Kittiwakes passage seemed to slow up today but I still logged 65 through Yttre Kattvik in two hours.

More seawatching for me this morning. I arrived fashionably late yet again at Yttre Kattvik to find no parking space in the carpark and the news that I had missed a Sabine's gull and the entire gallery had missed another great northern diver, reported at sites either side as it went west. That's seawatching! Settled down quickly and enjoyed a two-hour spell that produced; fulmar (6), sooty shearwater (1), gannet (38), knot (1), pomarine skua (1K), great skua (6), kittiwake (65) and one little auk. But still no Leach's petrels or red phalaropes, so when a significant contingent departed for Båstad mid-morning I went too and this paid off handsomely.

This time a move to Båstad was inspired and we were quickly watching a close red phalarope, followed by my first Sabine's gull of the day, this little 1K beauty.

The first hour at Båstad was incredible. Arriving we were straight on to a red phalarope just off the pier. A 1K Sabine's gull followed quickly and then the first of two Leach's petrels. Great stuff. Also here seven brent geese (west), a scaup west, three little gulls and a close little auk.

At least seven fulmar through today, including this scruffy individual at Båstad.

During the morning someone told me that a Sabine's gull had been reported on a ploughed field east of Båstad. With a sinking feeling I presumed that it was on the fields along the access track to Klarningen [and this did indeed turn out to be the case]. So when Båstad had produced the goods I nipped up to see if the Sabine's gull was still there. It had gone, but the site's first little gull (an adult) had taken it's place. A quick look at the wetland revealed nothing untoward.

Last stop of the day was a quick 40 minutes at Eskilstorpsstrand, this proved to be inspired as I shared the beach with a fantastic 1K Sabine's gull that shuttled up and down the beach.

More signs of the windy weather and it's impact on birds at Eskilstorpsstrand; this razorbill was looking peeky and apparently there was a dead little auk further along the beach.

Sabine's gull number 2 was cruising up and down Eskilstorpsstrand and was very good value.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Rats!

Today's signature bird was undoubtedly the great skua, it was hard not to find at least one out in the bay at any point during the session.

Had a great sea-watching session today but I missed two good birds, one a BK tick, so it was a bitter-sweet experience. I spent five hours at Yttre Kattvik, arriving to find a quality team had already assembled and recorded a great northern diver. Not much I could do about that.

One of two Arctic terns sneaking past under the radar at Yttre Kattvik today.

Loads of birds going past, with the flavours of the day being great skua (12+,but uncountable really), kittiwake (241, BK year-tick...) and razorbill (49). Last week's favourite the gannet could only muster 38 individuals today. Other highlights included two Slavonian grebes, four fulmar, three sooty shearwaters (BK year-tick), a rough-legged buzzard in-off, two Arctic skuas, a little gull and five little auks (another BK year-tick). Without a doubt though the best bird was a really close adult Sabine's gull, sauntering past with a gang of kittiwakes. Adults are very scarce in Sweden and this one was very late. Terns were typically scarce with just one Sandwich and two Arctics past. Other non-seabird notables were a great grey shrike and a grey wagtail.

With just 1.5 hours remaining and with no sign of a Leach's petrel I decided to head to Båstad and try there. This was my downfall, had I stayed I would have been the proud owner of a second-hand Cory's shearwater... Gutting. But Båstad is good for close views of things and in the hour here I got great views of five great skuas, a frisky flyby little auk and also a tired-looking little auk which motored into the harbour and back out again. A single barn swallow enjoyed the late afternoon sun.

Seven little auk during the day were my first of the year. Always charming.