Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Train tick

Streaking south on the train to Copenhagen this afternoon, I was surprised to see a peregrine perched by the tracks between Landskrona and Lund.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Quick blast

Today was supposed to be about me spending most of a sunny day in the field but something cropped up (an emergency visa application...) and I only ended up getting 1.5 hours for my troubles. Birding the patch has been cursed by weather and other problems so far this year. Despite the short time I did bag three year-ticks so all was not lost.

Kicked off at Hemmeslövsstrand where I finally connected with a flock of 40 scaup just offshore, also here 35 tufted duck, 55 common scoter and best of all a Halland black guillemot (much scarcer up this end of BK). Moving quickly on to Kattvik, the stretch between the harbour and Yttre Kattvik produced more black guillemot (2), three coot, a single guillemot and red-necked grebe and 8 great crested grebes. No sign of the large number of grebes reported over the weekend though.

Lastly drove over to Ripagården and had time to count ten coot and not find a jack snipe before the phone rang and I started running about like a headless chicken for the rest of the day...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday walk

Did the Killeröd loop walk with the family today, predictably quiet but finally connected with long-tailed tit (9) for the year - a flock feeding in larch. Also here one jay and a couple of goldcrests.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Quiet day

Slotted in two short sessions around the various goings-on today. Had an hour at Klarningen in the morning. It has refrozen but produced a splendid hunting rough-legged buzzard and better yet a fly-by white-tailed eagle (my first in Halland!). There were a lot of geese flying about but this could have been because of the presence of the eagle.

In the afternoon, the kids and I headed out up onto the ridge making our way to Älemossen. On the way we picked up a great grey shrike at Finsbo, I tried to explain it's lifestyle but it was still pronounced 'sweet' and 'cute'. We ended the day searching for owls at dusk.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pea-souper

Lots of fog today so spent little time in the field. Did get 45 minutes in Båstad hoping for the scaup reported yesterday but the sea is icing up again and there were no scaup or scoters, just three long-tailed ducks. Other birds noted included 24 mute swan, 8 whoopers and a coot.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blue skies

The return of the cold weather brought the sun back out for the first time in ten days so out I went to enjoy it. Checked out some off-patch sites in the morning. Sandön was first, pretty quiet here but a male smew gave a nice flyby (year-tick), a white-tailed eagle (2K) flew in and 12 velvet scoter headed west. I never see enough smew in a year...

Rönnen was also quiet but ten curlew were new in and there were two more white-tailed eagles perched up and looking naughty. No sign of the gyr so I moved on to Farhult. Here another male smew flew past (surely the same one?) and there were three more curlew here. A cruise around for long-eared owls failed to produce the goods.

Last stop of the morning was a quick look at Lönhult for the merlin. There has been a regular bird here all winter, which I caught up with last month. There was a raptor perched distantly in the field on arrival, it looked good but then flew - a sparrowhawk. A single lapwing and a flock of 45 goldfinch were good - the latter another year-tick.

In the afternoon driving in the village produced four more lapwing - they really are moving early this year. Three wood pigeon in the garden were new in and proof of more movement. At the end of the day I managed an hour at Ranarpsstrand but had to settle for four wigeon, rather quiet to say the least.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Last day of thaw

The ten-day thaw has put lots of water on the fields and roads. This flooded former beet field at Öllövsstrand attracted a big flock of mallard along with whooper swans and the first Canada geese in BK this year (maybe). Good to see wildfowl looking relaxed but the weather is set to go sub-zero again from tonight for at least the next ten days...

A game of two halves today with sort session in the morning and afternoon. Checked out Axeltorpsravinen in the morning picking up a dipper year-tick, as well as siskin (2) and treecreeper (heard). Driving over the top to Klarningen I had my first grey heron of the year at Tvehöga - there are few on the coast at the moment and this bird was feeding in a very small stream. My first look at Klarningen for 2011 was predictably quiet - two mute swans were feeding in the large amount of ice-free water and a black woodpecker called from the riverside trees. A quick look at Eskilstorpsstrand rounded off the morning but the foggy conditions were not ideal and I left with just 23 tufted duck in the notebook. Still no scaup for me this year.

In the afternoon I decided to try for redshank at Segelstorpsstrand but skunked out. Did find a nice flooded field at Öllövsstrand though which had whooper swan (16), Canada goose (13) and mallard (200), as well as one grey heron. Looking south I could see a large falcon on Grytskären and so motored south to confirm that it was a peregrine. One day I will get a gyr...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Foggy

No birding over the weekend, just a short walk along the beach between Hemmeslövsstrand and Eskilstorpsstrand on a rainy Saturday that netted 33 tufted duck - whooo!

Today I spent the morning in the field, more fog and rain and mushy underfoot. Went off patch to look at Farhult. No sign of the reported oystercatcher, but two curlew were year-ticks. Also here my first Canada geese (30) of the year, a nice adult white-tailed eagle and a calling bearded tit.

Rönnen next hoping for the gyr falcon but had to settle for two more white-tailed eagles, the best birds were three lapwing. The first sign of a thaw and they come back - too early in my opinion!

Last stop of the day was Vejbystrand, just metres off-patch this time and still hosting a female pintail amongst a sizeable flock of mallard, teal (9) and wigeon (60). Also here four starlings - another year-tick. The year-list stands at 79 - hard work this year.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Counting ducks

Snow overnight meant plenty of tracks to look at. I think this was a pine marten dragging something. I followed it for ages to a lone juniper but could not get it out! Also mink, stoat and fox tracks seen during the day.

Across the sound to Hallands Väderö from Påarps mal (Torekov).

Time to do the mid-winter wildfowl count again. There were so few birds around I managed to do both my count sectors in one day for the first time - Dagshög to Hovs Hallar - 12km occasionally through drifts and on thinly covered black ice. Good exercise. Predictably as there were few birds of any kind, there was little of interest although I did manage four white-tailed eagles (three on Hallands Väderö, a rough-legged buzzard (Torekov still), a peregrine (perched on Tjällran), twelve black guillemots off Torekov and the grey wagtail at the sewage works (Torekov). More notable were the absentees; again no shags but also no grey herons or water pipits and just one rock pipit and three wigeon in the whole stretch. Tough times.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Goldcrest!

Spent an hour walking a snowy Killeröd loop this afternoon. No birds seen and just three goldcrests heard! Still it was a year-tick...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Back in the field

Back from a long weekend in the UK, it was time to hit BK this morning after yet another overnight snowfall. It has thawed a little whilst I have been away but conditions remain harsh. Checked out the sewage works at Torekov, scene of a recent water pipit (scarce this winter). No joy with the pipit but did scare up three rock pipits and finally connected with the long-staying grey wagtail. A small flock of fieldfare here provided my third year-tick of the day. Walking up to Torekov from here failed to produce any shags but did produce two teal and more fieldfare.

Checked Båstad next and added more year-ticks in the shape of two immaculate male long-tailed ducks, and single great crested grebe and red-throated diver. Three coot have taken up residence just outside the frozen harbour. Last stop of the day was a quick look for the dipper along the Stensån, no luck here either but did get a large flock of woodpigeons (30) and heard my first black woodpecker of the year.

The year-list no stands at just 70 species, hard going this year.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

2010 review

It has been very hard to sit down and write a review of a year which started with the death of our lovely youngest daughter Nelly. Team B is still dealing with this huge loss but we are doing well. Spending time in the field looking at nature has always been important to me at difficult times like this and despite the loss (or perhaps even because of it) 2010 produced a crop of great birds. Sometimes when a good bird appeared in my scope to lift me from some dark mood, it was hard not to attribute it to the spirit of Nelly looking over me.

Patch highlights
2010 was book-ended by harsh winter weather. Despite this spring kicked off early with the first ringed plovers and lapwings arriving by the end of February. March brought early records of crane, woodlark, song thrush and wheatear for me, but the easy highlight was Håkan's male king eider at Grytskären. My second and a species I still need to find for myself in BK.

Things really got going in May and the good birds just kept coming. A singing great reed warbler at Torekov got Ekenberg into the field the next day and he found us a superb male collared flycatcher nearby. Bluethroats arrived the next day, a much-wanted BK tick for me. A migrating white stork over Klarningen on the 14th rounded off the month in BK. It had been just as good if not better offpatch though (see later).

Collared flycatcher, a superb male found by Martin Ekenberg at Torekov whilst twitching a great reed warbler that I found the day before. Bird of the year in BK and only the second record.

Another May highlight was a good drop-out of singing male bluethroats. Found my first BK bird on the 11th and followed-up with four on Gröthögarna a few days later.

Summer saw me volunteering to do eight squares in BK for the Skåne dragonfly atlas and a fair amount of time was spent swinging the net and sinking into bogs. Birds during this period included a flyby great egret (another BK tick) at Gröthögarna in June and I actually saw a quail. August saw return passage that produced my first BK garganey and black tern. A late ortolan in mid September was likewise new for me and two red-throated pipits in the month were good. One of my most enjoyable finds came in October with the brief showing of a red-footed falcon at Torekov. A westerly gale in October produced most of the seabirds that I had missed earlier on but I finished the year missing Manx shearwater and Sabine's gull. Winter brought good flocks of mealy redpolls this year and I spent hours looking at them which produced a few good Arctic redpolls and plenty of question marks.

One of the dragonfly highlights in BK this year was my first Swedish Gomphus vulgatissimus at Klarningen.

This October IK red-foot was perhaps my most enjoyable find of the year. Picked up hunting over Torekov golfcourse and relocated at Perstorp close to the site of my hawk owl in 2009. A powerful set of powerlines. Roller next please.

I finished the year on 219, one short of my 2009 total. 2010 was not without its birds that 'got away' in BK and I had fleeting probable encounters with great snipe, aquatic warbler and American golden plover. Hope to convert these another day...

Offpatch highlights
Offpatch the year started with the regular gyr falcon at Lönhult on a New Year's day-out with Terry Townshend. Shortly afterwards a trip to Småland produced my first Swedish black grouse and a fine pine grosbeak.

Again May was superb. Dotterel dropped out along with bluethroat, but there were no suitable fields in BK as usual. Instead I found myself watching a flock of dotterel just 800 metres from the BK boundary. Whilst here my first Swedish Montagu's harrier flew through. Both would have been BK ticks! Finding good birds started to become the norm with a marsh sandpiper on the 9th and a pectoral sandpiper on the 11th. Twitching produced my first Savi's warbler in Sweden at Farhult on the 17th.

My birthday treat in May was finding a superb adult summer plumage marsh sandpiper at Sandön.

Two days later I completed a nice wader double by finding this pectoral sandpiper at Hasslarps dammar. Mid May was confirmed as a glorious personal purple patch. Epic stuff.

A family holiday to Gotland in May produced a treasure trove of new birds.

A trip to Gotland with Team Benstead produced a huge number of great birds including yellow-billed diver, Caspian tern corncrake, penduline tit and greenish warbler. Birding Copenhagen's Terry Townshend was packing his bags for China so we went on a very successful farewell roadtrip to Öland in mid June. We started the trip at Ravlunda, the heath and surrounding woodland here were fantastic, coughing up bee-eater, tawny pipit, firecrest, golden oriole and Montagu's harrier. Öland produced great views of barred warbler and fantastic birding as usual. On the way home we picked up a river warbler at Kalmar. Back in NW Skåne the end of June produced Terek sandpiper and green-winged teal at Rönnen.

Rönnen produced a great double in the last week of June (a magical week here), this Terek sandpiper was just a few hundred metres from a green-winged teal. Both were Swedish ticks for me.

Autumn was quiet offpatch, although finding four red-necked phalaropes at Rönnen in August was good. Just ten metres offpatch at Vejbystrand I found my first Swedish shorelark in October. October offpatch was dominated though by a splendid trip with Team Benstead to Öland. Aside from the mind-blowing black-throated accentor pictured below we also saw red pahalarope, dusky warbler and steppe eagle. The year-ended with the desperate dipping of a japonicus buff-bellied pipit, my first Mediterranean gull of the year was scant consolation.

I could not resist a weekend on Öland with the team in October, timed to perfection we arrived for the last day of the black-throated accentor's stay. Siberian next?

Overseas highlights

An enjoyable but very wet trip to Sabah in January produced some great amphibians moments. Although not a novel species the huge breeding gathering of jade tree frogs at Poring was an impressive spectacle.

Hard on the heels of Sabah came a trip to central India. This savannah nightjar was one of several nightjar species recorded during the trip. Nightbirds featured in a solo extension to see forest owlet at the end of the trip.

A trip to Jordan in April, came at a difficult time but visiting the incomparable Petra was fantastic. Good birds here too with great views of Sinai rosefinch.

Jordan produced some great birds. The highlight being five Hume's owl at Dana and Little Petra.

A day on the Elbe may not have produced the wanted dragonfly species but was surprisingly good for birds. Nice to see black kites and we also had great views of European beaver.

LinkAnother highlight of our summer holiday on the continent was finding this white-spotted bluethroat youngster in the saltmarshes of the Île de Ré. Other birds here included Scop's owl and the category C sacred ibises.

An autumn bulb trip to Georgia in September produced some great migrating raptor moments, such as regular lesser spotted eagles. It also allowed me to finally catch up with one of my WP nemesis species - Caucasian black grouse.

2011?
High on the 'most wanted' list for BK remain spotted crake, Mediterranean gull, Caspian tern, firecrest and two-barred crossbill. Will any of these fall in 2011? Klarningen tipped last year to produce the goods finally looks like it is holding water and should start to live up to its inevitable promise. It should be exciting.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Busy day

Today demonstrated the richness of the Swedish avifauna when compared to the UK nicely. After a deep snowfall overnight I was out sorting out the paths and clearing the car early in the morning. Overhead 8 bullfinches and a hawfinch and my first raven of the year.

Driving Ma B to the railway station through the drifts we had a hunting sparrowhawk and then discovered that the train was cancelled and headed down the E6 to Ängelholm. An adult white-tailed eagle flew low over the motorway in front of us. In Ängelholm we had a hunting goshawk by the railway station and then it was back to shovelling snow in the afternoon (one waxwing over). A great bag of birds without getting the bins out.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bunting hunting

Nipped out for a morning in falling snow looking for the Lapland buntings amongst the flock of 350 yellowhammers at Vråen (near Ripagården). The flock was pretty obliging and allowed a close approach, occasionally sections of the flock flew up into the hedgeline to be sorted. It did not take long before my scope was on a Lapland bunting but getting an idea of whether more than one was present was more problematic. Occasionally a sparrowhawk whipped through and shuffled the deck. Other birds present here included the rough-legged buzzard, a handful of chaffinch and brambling, about 50 redpoll and three reed bunting. Nipped down to the sea to find it clear of ice (wind direction change?) and harbouring a flock of 18 coot.

Next stop was Torekov rev as I dashed around to try and make the most of what was left of the morning. The rev produced a single black guillemot, optimistically in breeding plumage. The harbour had a flyby white-tailed eagle (2K?) and my first wigeon (4) of the year but no shags. A look at the sewage works for the grey wagtail once again failed but the rough-legged buzzard was still present and seven teal flew out of the works, where no doubt the wagtail was holed up laughing at me.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Gyr!

Had a few hours in the field with the team today and elected to search for the regular wintering gyr falcon south of the patch. We headed for Farhult first, picking up seven grey partridges scratching about in the snow at Ranarp in BK on the way. Farhult was ice-bound and gyr-free but we did get close looks at two rough-legged buzzards.

Our next stop at Rönnen produced the goods within minutes of arrival, a superb adult gyr resting on the west end of the island. We drank it in and then it flew a short distance west (mega!) and landed on the ice out at sea. Nice encounter! We left it there to go to Sandön to find people twitching a gyr falcon... Are there two, or had it flown round to Sandön, or was it a late reaction to an earlier report? We could not stay to find out sadly and moved on with our non-birding chores.

The adult gyr on the sea-ice off Häljaröds hamn today. My digi-photography is appalling as usual. This was my best encounter with this bird at Rönnen by far. The underparts are always a good tell for this species when perched, like a peregrine whose bars have slumped downwards collecting at the flanks. Superb!

The bridge may be dismantled but the sea-ice is thick enough to allow access onto Sandön. Grytskären next and then Hallands Väderö!

Monday, January 3, 2011

What do you think?

Have a look at these two images. The first is a peregrine identified yesterday perched on the navigation marker on Vinga, between Hallands Väderö and the mainland and probably 1800m metres from Torekov hamn where I took the picture.

The second picture is of a large falcon taken way back in winter 2009. I stared at this bird for a long time wondering if it was a gyr before other birders arrived and persuaded me it was a peregrine... I have waited patiently since then to get another falcon perched in the same spot for comparison. I think the second falcon has a good goshawk-like jizz in this shot, longer tail and thicker tail-base. Size-wise it is slightly bigger than the peregrine in the first photo but looks like it might weigh much more. Anyone care to comment?


Garden tick and more birding with the kids

Checked the feeders this morning to find a coal tit skulking at the back of the garden (number 99 on the garden list), also 8 bullfinches (a garden record).

Stensåns mynning today, the small area of open water contained 17 tufted duck and a male common scoter. It is starting to look Arctic. Basking seals have been absent lately as most of the inshore rocks have been iced up, but now they are starting to haul out onto the ice floes... [Note the typically flamboyant colouration of the winter-plumage Swedes.]

After breakfast we went for a walk to look for the dipper recently reported along the Stensån. No luck with the dipper (we dipped...), but we did find a few new birds for the year including a nice tawny owl that the kids actually looked at!! Also here siskin (1, very scarce at the moment) and a woodpigeon (likewise).

After a spot of lunch we headed to Vråen to look for the bunting flock, they were way off feeding at the back and I did not inflict bunting hunting on the kids after their long walk in the morning. Instead we enjoyed the raptors that have been hanging around this site. Plenty here today with goshawk (adult), rough-legged buzzard (1), red kite (1) and kestrel (1) all being new for 2011. Two rooks here were the first of the year too.

Last stop of the day was at Torekov. A brief stop here produced at least one purple sandpiper and a distant peregrine out on Vinga.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011 begins

It was blowing so hard yesterday I delayed my start to the birding year. The garden produced an excellent hawfinch though.

Looking north from Finsbo. Ice is creeping slowly out into Laholmsbukten, making seaducks hard to find.

This morning I headed out to look at the Halland part of BK, knowing full well that the good bits of the patch would be well-covered by year-listing non-residents today. Kicked off at Hemmeslövsstrand, at the outfall of the river there was a patch of open water with a few wildfowl including five tufted duck. Offshore just nine eider and 15 velvet scoter, as well as over 50 goldeneye. The garden feeders here had crested tit and marsh tit.

Next stop was Eskilstorp, which produced three collared dove and then I walked into to Eskilstorpsdammar hoping for a finch and bunting flock. Sadly just 15 chaffinch here and a waxwing heard. Driving back over the ridge produced a single sparrowhawk and very few other birds. A slow start to the year year predictably but plenty to go for still.