Monday, February 20, 2012

struggling

Leaving half the team ill in bed, Number 2 and I headed out in the afternoon to check out a few birds reported recently. First stop was Axeltorps ravine where it took an hour to locate one of the dippers (a year-tick). We lay in the snow and watched it swimming about, which was great.

Next stop was a walk into the game-cover crop grown near Eskilstorpsdammar, Olofsson had some larks here yesterday but we could not scare any up. A noticeable thaw was evident since out last visit three days ago. The finch flock has dwindled to just 60+ chaffinches and a few brambling and tree sparrow. Three stock doves flew by whilst we worked and we could see a ringtail hen harrier hunting over at Klarningen.

It was Klarningen that was our last port of call, chilly here in a brisk southerly wind and we saw little in the short time we were here. A buzzard migrated north and a flock of 55 starlings whizzed past north too.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

migration?

Things are moving and the snow is melting. Took the team to Grytskären for an hour this morning and we were greeted with a big flock of 50 starlings and nearly 100 fieldfare. Searching through the duck on the sea failed to produce a smew but did turn up 300 goldeneye. A subadult white-tailed eagle sat on a tall floe out in the frozen sea.

On the way home a quick look at the 'big field' at Ljungbyholm produced a flock of 35 Canada geese and a passing red kite.

Stuck at home in the afternoon finishing the last rarity descriptions for 2011... Meanwhile Olofsson was getting stuck into the fields near Eskilstorpsdammar and finding a small flock of woodlark and skylark. Birds are coming back and just as the thermometer creeps up above zero. How do they know?

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Three meadow pipits!

Just appalling weather today, it is always a shock when the rain comes after a prolonged cold spell and it rained all day today. Mrs B and I headed out in the afternoon to Farhult. No sign of the long-eared owls at the roost but they were probably tucked away in the depths of the spruce. The number of pellets here was unbelievable. A walk along the beach produced just three meadow pipits! We were soaked.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Walking with the pink monkey

Took Number 2 on the walk out to Eskilstorps dammar this morning, chasing Jens' birds again. This time reed bunting was on the menu, a difficult winter bird here usually found in big finch flocks as it proved today. I was also hoping for a stock dove, this area seems to throw up winter records and it did today too!

The walk out on treacherous black-ice was fun for all and Number 2 soon warmed to the task in hand. We found the flock of finches, mainly chaffinch, quite quickly and picked out a nice male reed bunting when they flushed up into trees on the side of the field. A flock of spooked woodpigeon also produced the distinctive shape of a stock dove. Job done.

We walked on to the pools though and were rewarded with a nice half an hour with a great grey shrike, that sallied out from small trees and fenceposts nearby. Over the rank grassland area my first BK kestrel of the year hovered briefly. A productive session but over too quickly as we had to move onto mundane domestic chores...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

garden

Lunchtime looking out into the garden produced a nice crop of good birds. A hawfinch appeared briefly at the feeders. Then an adult white-tailed eagle flew through, escorted by a hooded crow and tailed by a red kite.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

thrush

I seem to be off the pace this year and chasing other people's birds, this song thrush (a great February find) was spotted by others yesterday at Ripagården.

Spent a day in the field today. Kicked off at Ripagården for a look around. The song thrush reported yesterday was still feeding on the seaweed bank by the harbour and whilst I watched it I heard skylark migrating north overhead! Also a male hen harrier past.

Torekov was amazing, the brisk northerly and the mild conditions conspiring to break up the sea-ice and send it streaming south through the sound. The noise of the ice-laden rollers breaking on the reef was like a passing jet. Bird-wise the highlight was the pile of seaweed, which was busy with four redwing, seven fieldfare and ten starling, as well as the usual dozen meadow pipits. No sign of any rock pipits today. Out on Vinga a lone white-tailed eagle looked out over the mess of ice.

In the afternoon I tried walking the Killeröd loop for birds but it was rather tiring in the snow and I saw no birds. I did hear common and two-barred crossbill though. A drive around to Hålehallstugan produced my first-ever February great grey shrike, a confiding and rather satisfying bird. Also here a pair of bullfinch and a single female common crossbill. A good day out, the BK year-list finally creeping over the ton.

Finally a February great grey shrike for the boy. I found this one from the car at Hålehallstugan at the end of the day. Always excellent.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

White out

Went to see BK's long-staying rare again today. He is sporting a new ring and is apparently in good shape, despite the weather.

Had just half an hour in the field this morning, before the fog and snow sent me scuttling home. Spent my time watching the eastern black redstart at Rålehamn, it was feeding together with a number of pipits, a wren, and some robins and blackbirds. These birds have excavated a number of tunnels into the bank of seaweed and seem to be thriving. Checked Torekov rev briefly on the way home, it was completely iced up.

A casual glance along the beach at Rålehamn revealed no birds, but closer inspection showed that they were all under the seaweed in small feeding tunnels!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

jack!

A very cold dawn greeted me this morning, so I stayed in bed! In the afternoon the team headed out for a walk on Skalderviken, plenty of people skating about on the thick sea-ice, it really looks like the bay might ice-over completely.

Our walk between Vejbystrand and Stora Hultsstrand produced a handful of teal, about 45 starling, three meadow pipits and best of all a jack snipe that flushed from between my legs as I crossed a small stream. Always nice to get one on the year-list.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Scratching about with Number 2

Spent three hours in the morning birding with Number 2, it was cold and we did not see a great deal. We went to feed the ducks at Båstad first, the ducks were wary but our efforts pulled in all the gulls in the area. No white-wingers or the much lusted-after Med gull sadly. Laholmsbukten has completely frozen over - a first in my experience and testimony to the very cold conditions of the last few weeks. A collared dove flew by here, my first of the year!

We also checked out the mouth of the Stensån where a big flock of roosting Canada geese (1000+) slowly headed inland to feed. Also 22 whooper swan here.

Driving over to Torekov to warm up we checked the rev. Here a large flock of goldeneye, included on closer inspection a variety of other ducks. Most exciting was a male pochard, always a surprisingly scarce bird in BK, this was only my tenth record in five years. Also here two long-tailed ducks and a dozen scaup (my first Torekov birds). A quick check of Svarteskär and the sewage works produced a blank and then we drove home to make biscuits.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Shrike hunting

Had a good look for great grey shrikes on the top today with no luck. Dropped in on Klarningen for half an hour too. A nice male hen harrier was new here, plus the usual ringtail and a rough-legged buzzard. Otherwise rather quiet with just 14 starling although a flock of 20+ meadow pipits was perhaps an indication that spring is actually around the corner. Easy to believe as we bask in the relative warmth of just sub-zero.

In the afternoon a trip into town netted another hen harrier and rough-legged buzzard around the airport.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

So long Gordon - 28/07/61 to 6/02/2012

Gordon Allison died in his sleep on 6th February after a day in the field, I only just found out and I cannot stop crying. You will be missed Gordo!

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft star-shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.

Gordon birding the Royal Mile at Budongo in the trademark baggy shorts. I first met Gordon whilst working for the RSPB, but it was on a trip to Uganda in 2004 that I really got to know him. He was a great travel companion, good birder and had a wicked sense of humour, but above all he was a lovely guy.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

peeeeeeegmy!

Today's star bird, a cracking male pygmy owl, whistled in for great views. I have heard two birds in BK before without converting them but this one surrendered nicely.

After mucking out the house yesterday I reckoned that I deserved a day in the field! Kicked off by looking at the 'big field' at Ljungbyholm, which had a nice adult peregrine sitting in the middle of it. Storahultsstrand was quiet, plenty of ice offshore and the sea was holding a good-sized flock of goldeneye (200+). Nearby on Grytskären an adult white-tailed eagle was making a nuisance of itself and another (or the same) adult peregrine was in attendance too.

Walking Ranarpsstrand produced a handful of meadow and rock pipits and five starling. Slim pickings.

After lunch I decided to try and bag a few easy year-ticks by going for a walk in the woods between Killeröd and Önnarp. This worked well, two hour's of walking in the snow produced the desired sackful of year-ticks, including a nice pair of singing common crossbills, calling nutcracker, crested tit and at least five willow tits. The best though came at the end when a male pygmy owl burst into song nearby and a hectic chase through the woods eventually produced good views before I had to go for the school-run. Sweet.

Monday, February 6, 2012

frog porn

I am still wading through amphibian images from Tanzania and hope to post a selection of photographs when I get done. Until then here is a member of the viridiflavus superspecies - Hyperolius reesi. What a cracker! Endemic to eastern slopes of Udzungwa Mountains and adjacent areas of the Kilombero Valley.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Garden eagle

Had a white-tailed eagle over the garden this afternoon. Too cold to spend much time outside but we did get down to Rammsjöstrand for some ice-skating and another white-tailed flew low overhead at one point. Plenty about at the moment then.

Postcard from Tanzania

Any trip to a new country is always going to produce some new birds, first up in the hotel garden in Dar was the stunning Zanzibar bishop and this was followed by another 35 ticks during the tour. Many were on my 'most-wanted' list and not a bad return for a trip that was primarily focussed on mammals and plants.

Primates stole the show in the Udzungwa Mountains though during the first week, with great views of the endemic Udzungwa red colobus on the trail up to the Sanje Falls.

Only discovered in 1979, the Sanje mangabey was an easy highlight of our time in the Udzungwas. We spent a pleasant hour with a habituated troupe in the park.

Angolan black-and-white colobuses are much more widespread but just a little bit more spectacular. They always look like they are auditioning for Boney M.

The undoubted stand-out site during the tour was Kitulo NP. Our two days here was packed with great plants and the birding was excellent. We failed to find a blue swallow this year but had a great encounter with a Denham's bustard.

Upland grassland at Kitulo. Packed with flowers and exciting birding and dragonflying too.

Vuma Hills tented camp at Mikumi put on a show after dark with some excellent habituated mammals. The small-eared galagos were especially tame...

Mikumi was great birding and provided ample savannah mammal moments too. Black-bellied bustards were common here and we had a few surprises too, the range maps in Stevenson and Fanshawe not being very good for this park...

Saturday, February 4, 2012

minus 13

Bloody freezing it was. Did another two-and-a-half hours in the field this morning. Kicking off at Torekov, where the most exciting thing was a sighting of Olof 'Corvo' Jönsson. No sign of any purple sandpipers here, they really are playing hard to get for me this year. A wander around Flytermossen hoping for reedbed stuff was also unsuccessful, although I did hear a lesser spotted woodpecker nearby, a long overdue addition to my Torekov list.

Likewise a quick look at Ripagården was unspectacular, just nine meadow pipits to get excited about.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Eagles

Number 2 and I had a very chilly couple of hours in the field after helping a friend put up some plasterboard this morning. First stop was Kattvik where the Iceland gull and the chiffchaff gave themselves up quickly. The windchill was horrendous and the chiffchaff was pecking at the ground in the lee of the seawall. Surely it's days are numbered?

A quick walk around a slightly more sheltered Båstad produced very little, a flock of 100 brambling fed under some trees and then we checked Klarningen. Two white-tailed eagles sat up in the trees here and a rough-legged buzzard was present too. A flock of 100 starlings was a good-sized flock for the time of year.

The best bird of the day though came as we drove into town. At Ängeltofta we had excellent close views of a 2K golden eagle, complete with an entourage of crows as it flew towards BK. It flushed several skylarks as it went by, an added bonus year-tick.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Notogomphus zernyi!

Going through the mass of images taken during a two-week Greentours trip to Tanzania has already produced dividends. I was excited when Angela, one of the clients, showed me a digital image of a gomphid she had just snapped near Kitulo National Park. I kept a cool head and a thorough search of the available streamside bushes eventually produced this superb little gomphid.

I had a feeling it would be good and sure enough KD Dijkstra identified it yesterday as Notogomphus zernyi, a species he has never seen photographed and appears to be known from just a handful of specimens. Exciting stuff and well done Angela!

The eastern arc mountains of Tanzania are about as exciting as it gets if you are into finding new stuff. Under-surveyed and crammed full of endemics. Notogomphus zernyi though is actually quite widespread, just poorly known and perhaps rather scarce.

Another image of this individual can be found on the Africa Dragonfly photo database.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Back in time for BK MEGA

Despite very cold temperatures overnight, this eastern black redstart made it onto my BK list this morning. This race has an excellent chance of being split I reckon. Last autumn produced a bumper crop of this subspecies, with seven here in Sweden (if you include this individual) and the UK had it's first record too.

Tanzania was great but it caused not a little alarm when I realised just before I got home that BK was hosting a huge bird - Sweden's seventh eastern (phoenicuroides) black redstart! I need not have worried though as this morning it was behaving impeccably at Rålehamn to a small but appreciative audience. I checked out Torekov afterwards hoping for purple sandpipers, but came away empty-handed. Just white-tailed eagle (1) over on Hallands Väderö, two oystercatchers, a flyby black guillemot and a 2K shag.

Kattvik was devoid of gulls and I could not find the over-wintering chiffchaff. Last stop was Båstad where I watched with a certain amount of horror as an adult white-tailed eagle dispatched a male eider over 15 long minutes. The eagle kept harrying the eider, hooking a talon into it's head or neck whenever it could, until the blood loss and continual diving ensured an unpleasant drowning... At least 44 whooper swans sheltering here and the sea is starting to freeze already!

This white-tailed eagle killed a male eider at Båstad this morning. Killing the bird over 15 minutes and then waiting patiently for the corpse to drift into the shore.