Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Iberian Shrie-e-e-eeeks!

Iberian Grey Shrike, Portugal, November 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Iberian Grey Shrike, Portugal, November 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Iberian Grey Shrike, Portugal, November 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
These meridionalis greys used to be the sedentary regional population of Great Grey Shrike but are now generally treated as a distinct species. The 'curly eyebrow' and grey wash to the breast/underparts can be seen here. They were particularly easy to see in the Alentejo region, where to begin with I would hit my brakes when I saw one perched by the roadside - not so much a shrike as a shrie-e-e-eek! Then I realised that they were perched every 100m or so in prime areas, so would only stop if the light was good and there was nothing behind me ( sorry, Portuguese farmers! ).           
Iberian Grey Shrike, Portugal, November 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Iberian Grey Shrike, Portugal, November 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
And here's a couple of flight shots which don't show the wings & tail very well. I'm off for a walk in the dark now to do some AudMigging ( as opposed to VisMigging ). This morning, there was a 1stWinter Brent Goose by Coronation Corner but not many gulls. Sometimes the Glossy Ibis gets on the estuary and there's been a Short-eared Owl about which I've only seen distantly from the roads. My car is out of action again so I'm reliant on lifts (cheers I Mc ), buses and Shanks's Pony but I'll try my best!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Portugall - STTs. Eh?

Short-toed Treecreeper, Portugal, Oct.2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Short-toed Treecreeper, Portugal, October 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Short-toed Treecreeper, Portugal, October 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Seeing a Treecreeper in Colyton today reminded me I wanted to post these shots of a Short-toed Treecreeper from my Portugal trip. I'm pleased with them because they just about show the features which distinguish it. Above, you can just see the short toe which gives the bird its name, and 2 above the white spots on the primary tips which are diagnostic. The bill is also fairly long and the underparts tinged with brown. It's a species which could turn up in Devon as they're just across the Channel in France. But without trapping, ringing and photographing it you'd be a brave birder to claim one!                                                                                                                                             
Short-toed Treecreeper, Portugal, October 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Short-toed Treecreeper, Portugal, October 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Can I also add that I correctly identified this bird before I looked at the distribution maps and realised that only STTs occur in southern Portugal...Honestly, I swear! ( In certain parts of Europe, different forms occur very close to one another ).                                                                               
Short-toed Treecreeper, Portugal, October 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Colyton Black Redstart 19/11/2015

Black Redstart, Library Pic, ( Copyright TD Wright )
Black Redstart, Library Pic, ( Copyright T D Wright )
A walk around Sidmouth Road Cem. and Colyton Picnic Site today just produced more Fieldfare, Redwing, Blackbird, Mistle & Song Thrush; plus 4 species of tit and 3 of finch, plus a very red-faced male Sparrowhawk, a real corker. As I prepared to put the bins away walking back along Church Street, I got a nice surprise. My first ever Colyton Black Redstart ( at least since I started blogging ), which looked quite like the one in these photos...I think it was a first-winter ( but as I've mentioned on past posts, some authors state that ageing in the field can be tricky with these ). Anyway, it performed well on rooftops including the Town Hall and even my own! I looked from my kitchen window and saw it again, so an indoor tick too I suppose. Now come on Colyton, where's that Crag Martin?

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Portugulling 2015 - Audouin's

Portugal was excellent for gull-watching. They don't get Herring Gulls which means I enjoy them more now I'm home. ( Globally, our argenteus HGs are not that common in fact. We're lucky to have them! ) What they do get is lots of YL,plus LBBG & GBBG in reasonable numbers at certain coastal sites. ( I'm just dealing with large gulls here ). This means that Audouin's's pale grey upperparts make it easy to pick up in the field. At least, where there are some... Quinta do Lago was where I got lucky ( gulling brings a whole new meaning to 50 shades of grey! ) as I stumbled upon 4 birds among the masses of their other large brethren. No first-winters though, a shame as I wanted to see one ( no I'm not a gull fanatic. Really, I'm not.) However, a cracking 2nd Winter accompanied one of the three adult birds. My phonescoped pics are no better than these video clips so I won't post them. I hope they're of some interest to people. Smaller gulls to come...

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Otter + Egret Video ( Copyright T D Wright )

As you may have noticed on my recent Caspian Gull post, I couldn't help being distracted by a Little Egret which was Cormorant-watching, i.e. feeding on fish which were disturbed by a very pro-active fish predator - the Cormorant. It immediately transported me back to Portugal, where I filmed almost exactly the same behaviour. Except that the pro-active predator was an Otter! Here are 3 pieces of vid, one of which captures the moment when the Egret pounces quite nicely. At first, I was just happy to see an otter in broad daylight, as the Axe valley ones have become very nocturnal. I think this shows us one of the reasons why Little Egrets have spread and increased. Their almost Corvid-like cunning suggests intelligence. I wonder if any studies have been done into Egret intelligence? They may not be as smart as crows but I reckon they're more opportunistic than some heron species. Anyway, enjoy the otter/egret 'symbiosis' ( well, the Egret's keeping watch for danger, isn't it? )!

Late November

It's a funny time of year. One feels as though the Autumn migration is over with lots of winter flocks about and the Black Redstarts having brought up the rear of the migrants. But there's always the stragglers to keep things interesting, isn't there? A walk around Colyton today saw lots of Fieldfare and Redwing flying about, then suddenly out of their midst a silhouetted hirundine appeared! With a Crag Martin hanging around in the Midlands recently I wondered if my premonition of finding one here had come true...sadly, it turned to reveal a white rump and underparts so it was 'only' a House Martin. Still, that's a pretty late bird, it can't be one of our Colyton breeders, wonder where it came from? There's life in 2015 yet- the Glossy Ibis was still at Seaton Marshes yesterday and more gulls may arrive with BARNEY blasting them in. Channel coast birding's not bad in November - the sea can often be worth a look. Happy Birding, folks,and yes, the title of this post is a Pavlov's Dog reference!

Hoopoe Videos

I couldn't believe how many Hoopoes I saw in the Algarve. In Greece, they were quite difficult to see, but in Portugal they were everywhere. I saw them from the car, stumbled across them while looking for other species - I literally saw them every day. But to watch them from the comfort of my apartment was really amazing. I first video-ed one which was helpfully sheltering under a bush during one of the rainy mornings. But the other clip is better, with the bird feeding on reddish 'leatherjackets', which I think may have been the pupae of the cicadas but I'm not sure. Anyhow, it's a nice bit of Birding Porn to enjoy!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Caspian & Yellow-legged Gulls

Caspian Gull 1stWinter, Coronation Corner, Axmouth 14/11/15 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Yellow-legged Gull? Axmouth 14/11/15 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Well it turned into an extraordinary Saturday afternoon, didn't it? I got a text from Steve Waite that this 1stWinter Casp was right by CorrieCorner so changed my destination to there. While I drove down, another message told me a 2ndWinter was up by Tower Hide! We watched that from CorCor but I now wish I'd gone for the Tower having seen Ian's pics from there. Still, it was great to get good views of the nearer 1stW and of possibly 2 adult YL Gulls. Perhaps I'm talking rot but the above photographed YL looks a bit like a Caspish hybrid to me. It's got yellow legs and a dark enough mantle 'n' scaps, but its head 'n' bill just aren't beastly enough. Having seen lots of YL Gulls in Portugal recently, and many in my previous visits to Greece, I'd say that it's unusual to get one without a chunky head 'n' neck and a very robust bill. Plus, the stance of this bird is not too horizontal, is it? Almost like the upright stance of a Caspian. Maybe I should've spent more time watching it but there were too many birds to look at, what with GC Grebe, Goosander and a Cormorant being followed by a Little Egret as it hunted ( more about that next time!). Good going Steve, you got us all out birding on a terrible wet & windy day...

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Hiddensee Gulls

Black Redstart, Seaton, Devon ( Library Picture - Copyright T D Wright )
Nice to see a BlackRed at Axmouth Yacht Club today, even though I've seen loads of them in Portugal recently. They really are exquisite. Anyway, I've been catching up on everyone else's blogs and was interested to see Steve Waite's green-ringed gull which at first seemed a Caspian then became unsatisfactory on closer examination. It reminds me of the type of gull I often look at and wonder about, then decide that it's not definite enough and give up on. One such gull was the 'Hiddensee Gull' which I took some phonescoped video of on 20th October 2013 from Tower Hide. It had a green ring XTDN so after I'd given up trying to i.d. it I sent the details off and thought the ringers would tell me what it was. Well, the letter made me laugh ( I wasn't internetting then) as it described the species as 'Herring Gull (Group) (Larus argentatus/cachinnans/michahellis)' when it was ringed on 7th June 2013 as a nestling. This had been at Reddern in Germany, North of Dresden and close to the Polish border. It had been seen in France in September too. For me, this was more evidence that, one day, all these 'splits' will be 'lumped' once again. By that, I mean that Yellow-legged and Caspian will be regional variants of Herring once again, just as they used to be, and these yellow-legged omissus birds still are. Redpolls might go the same way too, eh? It's all interesting stuff though, so make your own minds up. Here's that ancient video (above) anyway.                                        

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Balcony That Kept On Giving

Short-toed Treecreeper, Portugal, October 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Hoopoe, Portugal, October 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Shall I Take A Dip? ( Copyright T D Wright )
Let's Do It! ( Copyright T D Wright )
Portuguese Tree-of-Lifers, Nov. 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
This was the view from my balcony.  Yes, that's right- a whacking great pine tree blotted out the Sun! To some people, this would be a negative development but to a birder, well, it turns your balcony into your own private Canopy Hide! Complete with hot drinks too. I thought about calling it 'The Crest Hide'  as I could watch Firecrest, Crested Tit and the stunning Hoopoes complete with their crests on display. Add to this the Blue-wingers, Collared Doves, Jays, Short-toed Treecreeper, Serin, Robin, Sardinian Warblers and Chiffchaffs ( small birds showed nicely in that line of bushes on top of the wall ) and I'd built up quite a nice garden triplist. I hadn't even been for a walkabout yet, never mind drive anywhere! The Yellow-legged Gulls were omnipresent in the area too and dropped in to gobble my kitchen scraps if the other opportunists didn't get there first. Some Canopy Hide pics and videos on next post.                                                                                                             

Monday, 9 November 2015

An Iberian Expedition

Azure-winged Magpie, Portugal, October 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
Azure-winged Magpie, Portugal, October 2015 ( Copyright T D Wright )
So where's he been? Well, I left it a little late in the year but I finally paid my first-ever visit to the Iberian peninsula, in a place where these 'Blue-winged Maggies' were ridiculously common. I took these photos from my apartment balcony- but more of that later! I'm back in Devon now and it's great to see large numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares about. Apparently there's a Caspian Gull on the estuary today too, so plenty of interest still on Patch. Just a week ago it was 'continental' Song Thrushes and Audouin's Gulls. More Portuguese posts to come!