Cape Town birding: Grey-winged Francolin at West Coast National Park

Although we stopped numerous times whenever an interesting bird (or zebra) was spotted during the drive from Cape Town the actual first planned stop was at the Abrahamskraal Hide within the National Park.  The hide overlooks a pool fringed with reeds and scrub and it was from the boardwalk as we walked towards the hide that we enjoyed our second sighting of Southern Black Korhaan.

Abrahamskraal Hide pond, West Coast NP, SA – 14 Aug 16

Although the site is a good location for Black Crake we only encountered the one individual clambering around on a bush at the margin of the pool, and that only showed as we walked back to the vehicle.  Other highlights included African Bush-warbler (Little Rush Warbler), Lesser Swamp Warbler, Little Swift (2 overhead), White-throated Swallow, Cape Shoveler, Cape Weaver (colony), Red Bishop and Yellow Bishop.

Black Crake, Abrahamskraal Pool, West Coast NP, SA – 14 Aug 16

It was as we drove back down the access road to/from the hide that I spotted 2 Grey-backed Francolin beside the track.  It is another endemic to South Africa and the plumage on the neck includes rather smart looking black and white ‘chainmail’ patterning.

Grey-winged Francolin, West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

Grey-winged Francolin, West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

Grey-winged Francolin, West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

The regular vast swaths of flowers we encountered within the National Park were spectacular and apparently the show this year was particularly striking.  At the Seeburg view point we encountered two more Grey-winged Francolin amongst an impressive display of wild flowers.  The third Southern Black Korhaan we spotted was actually on the other side of the road.

Seeburg view point, West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

Grey-winged Francolin, West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

Grey-winged Francolin, West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

Much to Mrs T’s enjoyment we encountered several family groups of Ostrich as we drove through the National Park.

Ostrich and chicks, West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Cape Town birding: Black Harrier and Southern Black (Bustard) Korhaan at West Coast National Park

After a light breakfast local ‘birder’ Brian Vanderwalt of ‘Brian’s Birding and Ecotours’ again picked us up promptly at 06:30 on Sunday 14 Aug 16 as planned for our second ‘birding’ trip of the holiday.  The destination this time was the West Coast National Park located 120km to the north of Cape Town and my very modest ‘life list’ ticked along nicely throughout the day.  During the drive Brian pulled over whenever anything of interest was spotted, and even before we had left the city’s suburbs I had ticked off two new species – African Spoonbill and White-backed Duck (2), as well as a magnificent African Fish-eagle perched on a post in an outer suburb lake.  Several other species of raptor were also encountered during the day with the best being two flyby Black Harriers which are an uncommon endemic species with a ‘vulnerable’ conservation status.

West Coast National Park (typical habitat), SA – 14 Aug 16

Jackal Buzzard, West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

Black-shouldered Kite, West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

Black Harrier, West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

Two other ‘lifers’, both endemics, were also spotted during the drive north – Pied Starling and Southern Black (Bastard) Korhaan, both of which were seen again within the National Park.  We were fortunate enough to enjoy three separate individual sightings of Southern Black (Bustard) Korhaan.  One was conspicuous on a ridge behind the Abrahamsraal Hide and another initially performing a display flight landed within a swath of flowers beside the Seeburg View Point.  However, it was the first sighting beside the track adjacent to a nuclear power plant which provided the closest encounter.  Brian had driven down the track primarily in search of Grey-winged Francolin.  Although we dipped on the Francolin the Southern Black (Bustard) Korhaan was an unexpected bonus.

Southern Black (Bustard) Korhaan, West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

Southern Black (Bustard) Korhaan, South of West Coast National Park, SA – 14 Aug 16

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Cape Town birding: Chukar Partridge at Robben Island

Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 year incarceration, is located seven miles from the South African coast in Table Bay.  The UNESCO World Heritage Site was our destination on Tuesday 16 August 16 and we departed Cape Town on the 0900 ferry from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and included an unexpected ‘life’ tick in the form of Chukar Partridge.  I spotted several individuals of the feral population from the bus as it drove between the points of interest included in the island tour.  However, I had my best encounter during the short walk back to Murray’s Bay Harbour from the Maximum Security Prison.  According to the ‘Birds of Southern Africa’ (I Sinclair, et al.) the first Chukar Partridge were released in 1964 and now number 300.

African Sacred Ibis, Robben Island, South Africa – 16 Aug 16

Chukar Partridge, Robben Island, South Africa – 16 Aug 16

Chukar Partridge, Robben Island, South Africa – 16 Aug 16

Hartlaub’s Gull, Robben Island, South Africa – 16 Aug 16

Cape Fur Seal, Murray’s Bay Harbour, Robben Island, South Africa – 16 Aug 16

Sub-antarctic (Brown) Skua, Table Bay, South Africa – 16 Aug 16

Nelson Mandela’s cell, Robben Island – 16 Aug 16.  (The glass windows are a recent addition and weren’t present during Mandela’s imprisonment).

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Cape Town birding: African Penguins at Boulders Beach

After leaving the Cape Peninsula National Park Brian took us to Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town to visit the colony of African Penguins. Like Cape Point it didn’t disappoint and we arrived to find scores of penguins on show including dozens of well grown chicks in moult.  The penguin colony is a very popular tourist site but it has been sympathetically developed to minimise the impact of the inevitable crowds with the paying public being confined to a boardwalk that meanders through the site.  The penguins didn’t appear to be phased by the admiring crowds at all.

African Penguin, Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town – 11 Aug 16

African Penguin, Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town – 11 Aug 16

African Penguin, Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town – 11 Aug 16

African Penguin, Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town – 11 Aug 16

The days ‘birding’ was also meant to include a visit to the extensive area of lakes at the Stellenbosch Sewage Works on the return to Cape Town.  However, I informed Brian that I was willing to sacrifice that part of the itinerary to enable Mrs T to enjoy the penguins and their often comical behaviour.  Although it resulted in a significantly reduced day list I had, unlike the Cape Peninsula and Boulders Beach, visited the sewage works with Steve back in Sep 14.

African Penguin, Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town – 11 Aug 16

African Penguin, Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town – 11 Aug 16

African Penguin, Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town – 11 Aug 16

African Penguin, Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town – 11 Aug 16

Although not universally treated as a distinct species, Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus was the closest I got to a ‘life’ tick from what was a thoroughly enjoyable day on the Cape Peninsula.

Rock Kestrel, Gelbeek Lodge, West Coast National Park, South Africa – 14 Aug 16

The second outing with Brian three days later was a full on ‘birding’ day during which my very modest ‘Life List’ ticked along nicely.  More importantly Mrs T not only got to see more Ostrich, she got to see Ostrich chicks.

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Cape Town birding: Shy Albatross and Humpback Whales off Cape Point

After the early morning visit to Kirstenbosch Brian took us first to Cape Point followed by the Cape of Good Hope that are located within the Cape Peninsula National Park.  Two Peregrine Falcons were immediately visible overhead on our arrival at the Cape Point car park, and being keen to maximise the opportunity to see wildlife we opted for the footpath rather than the funicular railway to the Old Upper Lighthouse.

Cape Point with the Old Upper Lighthouse visible in the background – 11 Aug 16

I particularly enjoyed our prolonged stay at Cape Point where, continuing down to the furthest observation point along the footpath to the New Lower lighthouse, we witnessed breaching and pectoral fin slapping Humpback Whales, and a single Shy Albatross that was being half-heartedly harassed by two Subantarctic (Brown) Skuas.  Although not the largest species of albatross it still looked impressive as it unfolded its huge wings to take to the air which it did almost effortlessly with just a very short takeoff in the stiff breeze.  The whales and single Shy Albatross were my first since I left the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol Ship back in mid-April 15.  They were also ‘firsts’ for Mrs T but on the ‘birding’ front she was more impressed by the regular Ostrich that we encountered on the peninsula.

Cape Point and the New Lower Lighthouse – 11 Aug 16

Cape Grass-warbler (Grassbird), Cape Point, South Africa – 11 Aug 16

Cape Cormorant colony, Cape Point, South Africa – 11 Aug 16

Humpback Whale (one of at least three), Cape Point, South Africa – 11 Aug 16

A single Ostrich on the beach beside the access road to the Cape of Good Hope showed particularly well and I was obliged to take some photographs of the individual for Mrs T.

Crested Tern, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa – 11 Aug 16

Cape Bunting, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa – 11 Aug 16

Ostrich, Cape of Good Hope, South Africa – 11 Aug 16

Boulders Beach was the next stop where the primary objective of the holiday for Mrs T to see wild penguins was pretty much guaranteed.

Additional sightings from the Cape Peninsula as follows: Alpine Swift / Cape Grass-warbler / Cape Wagtail / Cape Sugarbird / Common Fiscal Shrike / Jackal Buzzard / Malachite Sunbird / Orange-breasted Sunbird / Ostrich / Rock Kestrel.

Cape Point: Cape Gannet / Shy Albatross – 1 / Brown (Subantarctic) Skua – 2 / Hartlaub’s Gull – scores / Cape Grass-warbler / African Sacred Ibis – 21 (in flight) / Cape Cormorant (colony of 100s) / Cape Gannet / Karoo Prinia / Peregrine Falcon – 2.

Cape of Good Hope: Cape Bunting / Cape Gannet / Crested Tern – 100s) / Familiar Chat / Grey-backed Cisticola / White-breasted Cormorant – 2 / probable Spectacle Petrel (several but too distant to be absolutely certain).

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Birding Wales – Garden Ringing Update

I have recently been upgraded to my C ringing permit allowing me to ring birds in my Mid Wales garden. I logged a few weeks ago about my early efforts and at the time was pleased with a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Nuthatch. It’s now been 25 days and although there have been times when I couldn’t ring due to the weather or other commitments, I am very happy with my initial efforts.
A highlight occurred last Saturday when I was talking to my wife’s son, we were talking about what birds I could “possibly” get in the garden. He ventured Sparrowhawk and I said that it was of course a possibility but I had never caught one.
As he was preparing to leave I decided to check the nets and there in the middle pocket was a female Sparrowhawk. So he got a chance to see her before he left and was of course suitably impressed by this fantastic bird. Unbelievably an hour and a half later I came out of my ringing hut/shed and there was another bird in the net. This Sparrowhawk was again a female but slightly smaller winged and lighter. I concluded that they had both recently fledged in a nearby wood and were investigating their new surroundings. My wife took pictures on the Ipad, which I checked but somehow they have disappeared. Here is a Sparrowhawk from March 2015, ringed in Gibraltar.

Sparrowhawk Gib 270315 370

Sparrowhawk, Gibraltar, March 2015

I have now ringed 283 birds which includes 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 3 Nuthatches. Surprisingly I have still only had one Wren and one Blackbird.
The Blackbirds may increase as I know they disperse in the autumn.
Interestingly adult Chaffinches have increased over the last few dates which indicates that they have finished breeding and are moving around to their winter territories.

Totals 110916

I would love a Blackcap.  More to follow.
Mark C

Cape Town birding: Cape Sugarbird and Spotted Eagle-owl at Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens

Although there was a lot Mrs T and I wished to achieve during our stay in Cape Town the only two pre-booked outings were with local ‘birder’ Brian Vanderwalt of ‘Brian’s Birding and Ecotours’.  Fortunately we were lucky with the weather on both occasions and for our tour around the Cape Peninsula on day two it was, like the day of our arrival, glorious wall to wall sunshine. After we had finished a light breakfast we found Brian already waiting for us in the hotel foyer for our 06:30 pickup.  The first port of call of the day was the very picturesque Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens that back onto the slopes of Table Mountain.  It was a location I had managed to visit during my previous visit to Cape Town when I flew out to rejoin HMS PROTECTOR undergoing maintenance alongside in the harbour after Watch Rotation Leave.  This visit again provided great views of the resident Spotted Eagle-owls and a very confiding Cape Sugarbird.  The visit also highlighted the value of having an experienced local ‘birder’ in tow who knew the local bird calls, otherwise I would have been oblivious to an African Bush-warbler (Little Rush Warbler) that eventually appeared from dense vegetation.

African Bush-warbler (Little Rush Warbler), Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens – 11 Aug 16

Cape Francolin (Spurfowl), Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens – 13 Aug 16

Cape Bulbul, Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens – 13 Aug 16

Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens – 11 Aug 16

After Kirstenbosch it was off to pastures new as Brian took us to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope located within the Cape Peninsula National Park.  A single probably recently arrived Alpine Swift on the way was a bonus.

Sightings from the Botanic Gardens as follows: African Bush-warbler (1) / Cape Batis / Cape Bulbul / Cape Canary / Cape Francolin / Cape Robin-chat / Cape Sugarbird (1) / Cape White-eye / Common Chaffinch / Egyptian Goose / Forest Canary / Hadeda Ibis / Karoo Prinia / Malachite Sunbird / Olive Thrush / Red-winged Starling / Sombre Greenbul / Southern Double-collared Sunbird / Spotted Eagle-owl (3) / White-necked Raven (2) / African Olive-pigeon / African Sacred Ibis / Cape Wagtail / Speckled Pigeon / Red-eyed Dove / Pied Crow / Common Starling

Spotted Eagle Owl, Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens – 11 Aug 16

Cape Sugarbird (with pollen on its forehead), Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens – 13 Aug 16

Additional species from subsequent visit two days later: Cape Turtle Dove and Helmeted Guineafowl.  Plus Cape Sugarbird (2) and Spotted Eagle-owl (2) seen again.

Cape Sugarbird, Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens – 11 Aug 16

Additional species from previous visit on 11 Sep 14: African Dusky Flycatcher / Lemon Dove / Neddicky (Piping Cisticola) / Southern Boubou / Speckled Mousebird / Yellow-billed Kite / Orange-breasted Sunbird.  Plus Cape Sugarbird (several) and Spotted Eagle-owl (2) were also seen.

Southern Boubou, Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens – 11 Sep 14

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Hamerkop at Karoo Private Game Reserve in South Africa

Mrs T and I recently enjoyed nine days in Cape Town, South Africa.  I had been there before during my time on HMS PROTECTOR (the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol Ship), however, despite the prolonged period alongside for maintenance it was pretty much all work and no play being an engineer.  As the ship departed and passed the spectacle of a repeatedly breaching Southern Right Whale, just outside the breakwater beside several anchored merchant ships, I knew I’d return to visit the places I had wished to but simply hadn’t had time to.

Our holiday included two pre-arranged outings with local birder Brian Vanderwalt of ‘Brian’s Birding and Ecotours’.  The first was to and around the Cape Peninsula and the second a drive north to the West Coast National Park.  Although my ‘life’ list ticked along nicely on that second trip, the best sighting for me during our time in South Africa was of a self found Hamerkop on our penultimate day.  Although it isn’t an endemic and the species is ‘locally abundant’ in South Africa and Madagascar it is a strange looking bird that taxonomically is in a family (Scopidae) all on its own.

Hamerkop, Karoo Private Game Reserve, South Africa – 17 Aug 16

 

For our last full day in South Africa we opted to go on a ‘day safari’ to the Karoo Private Game Reserve located to the NE of the city.  The reserve covers an extensive area of Lower Karoo and Upper Karoo habitat, and although it isn’t a completely natural ecosystem with the seven strong pride of lions being confined to a hillside enclosure, it was still a very enjoyable day and well worth the 05:15 rise.  However, given the option I would have preferred a greater amount of time bouncing around the reserve in the four-by-four enjoying the wildlife and less time lounging around within the rather plush facilities of the lodge.  After all it was Africa I wanted to experience not luxury.  Consequently, after lunch I wandered off outside to observe the birds and it was then that I encountered the Hamerkop.  The single bird first appeared from behind the vegetation lining the far side of a presumably man made pond and then, as I took some record shots, it flew across the water and landed on the near shore directly in front of me.

Hamerkop, Karoo Private Game Reserve, South Africa – 17 Aug 16

Hamerkop, Karoo Private Game Reserve, South Africa – 17 Aug 16

Hamerkop, Karoo Private Game Reserve, South Africa – 17 Aug 16

Hamerkop, Karoo Private Game Reserve, South Africa – 17 Aug 16

 

For me it was a champagne moment and Hamerkop was the last addition to my South African Bird List.

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Red Squirrel and Robber Fly at Formby. Anthony Gormley Sculptures at Crosby.

After an hour or so watching the Sanderlings flying down the beach, I walked back through the dunes towards the Red Squirrel reserve in the coastal Pines. The squirrels were not as confiding as I hoped for, but that maybe down to the fact that several coach parties of school children were visiting and the decibel level was somewhat raised. That said the kids seemed to be enjoying themselves. Still one decent shot for the collection and it is somewhere I should and will visit more often.

Formby Beach 2, 22 July 2016

Formby Beach, 22 July 2016

Robber Fly 1a, Formby Dunes, 22 July 2016

Robber Fly, Formby Dunes, 22 July 2016

Gatekeepers 1, Formby Dunes, 22 July 2016

Gatekeepers, Formby Dunes, 22 July 2016

Red Squirrel 1, Freshfield, Formby, 22 July 2016

Red Squirrel, Freshfield, Formby, 22 July 2016

It is also only a few miles away from ‘Another Place’ the sculptures by Anthony Gormley on Crosby Beach. Well worth a visit in its own right. The pictures below taken on a previous visit.

078

Another Place by Anthony Gormley, Crosby Beach, 20 Aug 2008

084

Another Place by Anthony Gormley, Crosby Beach, 20 Aug 2008

094

Another Place by Anthony Gormley, Crosby Beach, 20 Aug 2008

Steve C

 

Sanderling along Formby Beach

Last month the wife and I were up in the Southport area to visit family. On the morning of the 22nd Jo was out in Southport with her mum so I took the opportunity to visit the dunes at Formby, primarily to see the Red Squirrels there, (more on that later), but as the sun was shining I decided to walk out onto the beach for an hour or so to see if any waders were on the move as it was late July. I was not disappointed and saw several medium sized flocks of Sanderlings flying from the direction of Southport to the north along the beach heading towards Liverpool a few miles to the south. As you can see from the images below, the majority of the birds were clearly still in their breeding plumage. They will soon moult into their more usually seen pale grey and white winter plumage.

Sanderling 1, Formby Beach, 22 July 2016

Sanderlings, Formby Beach, 22 July 2016

Sanderling 1a, Formby Beach, 22 July 2016

Tighter crop of image above

Sanderling 2, Formby Beach, 22 July 2016

Sanderlings, Formby Beach, 22 July 2016

Sanderling 3, Formby Beach, 22 July 2016

Sanderlings, Formby Beach, 22 July 2016

Sanderling 4, Formby Beach, 22 July 2016

Sanderlings, Formby Beach, 22 July 2016

Sanderling 4a, Formby Beach, 22 July 2016

Tighter crop of image above

Steve C

Birding Wales – Garden Ringing

Of late my blog entries have been rarer than an Australian Gold medal winner or an honest politician. This was mainly due to a concerted effort to advance as a bird ringer and gain my C permit. I am glad to say that this was achieved when a few weeks ago I attended the Chew Valley Ringing Station (CVRS) ringing course. This involved ringers being assessed for their A and C permits and those just trying to gain more experience.
It went well and at the end I was told the good news that I had been recommended for an upgrade to a C permit. This means that I can ring by myself but still come under the watchful eye of my trainer, Roger Dickey,

My initial aim was just to ring in my Mid Wales Garden. I know I get plenty of birds, my weekly bird feed bill tells me so. After raising the relevant paperwork and badgering Roger, my permit arrived and I ordered all of the required equipment and rings to commence ringing. The invoice remains securely hidden away from Mrs C and the goods arrived promptly a couple of days later. I was nervous about erecting the nets but finally plucked up the courage and placed two 9 metre nets the length of the garden. As I was erecting the first one a juvenile Blue Tit flew into it and I was off.

That was eight days ago and since then I have caught 149 birds. I have had a few highlights. My first Nuthatch was good as I had seen them a few times in the garden but a real surprise was a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Great Spotted Woodpecker 3 210816

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mid Wales 21st Aug 2016

A few days of the expected species until today when a few corkers popped up. Firstly a juvenile Stonechat still in its juv plumage appeared and this was followed shortly after by a juv Meadow Pipit.

Juvenile Stonechat, Mid Wales 25th Aug 2016

Juvenile Stonechat, Mid Wales, 25th Aug 2016

A few hours later and I heard the “clack” of a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the garden and sure enough there it was low in the net. This time it was an adult female. Nearly my last bird of the day was a Jay, another bird I hadn’t ever seen or around the garden.

I will post every now and then about my garden ringing and hopefully I will get some unusual visitors to tell you about. If nothing else it will show just how many birds rely on the food we put out. My fat balls are taking a real hammering at the moment. Below is a breakdown of what I have had so far.

Totals 250816

Good ringing
Mark C.

Cory’s in the Canaries and Manx’s in Madeira

We headed north from the Cape Verde area and we were soon in the vicinity of the Canary Islands. The first bird of note was a single Red-billed Tropicbird which Tony initially picked up on the surface. As the ship approached it took off and circled the ship once before flying off into the distance. One of the expected species around the Canary Islands is Cory’s Shearwater and we were not disappointed, as first we came across a trickle of birds and eventually bumped into a couple of large feeding flocks containing 100’s of birds. Cory’s Shearwater breed in decent numbers (I believe around 20-30,000 pairs) around the Canaries, they especially like the high inaccessible cliffs that the islands offer. I always enjoy my interactions with Cory’s Shearwaters. The main reason being that generally when you come across the birds, a small number will always give the ship a fly by (resulting in better images – hopefully) even though they are not an habitual ship follower.

Red-billed Tropicbird 1a, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

Red-billed Tropicbird, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

Cory's Shearwater 1a, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

Cory’s Shearwater, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

Cory's Shearwater 2aa, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

Cory’s Shearwater, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

Cory's Shearwater 4z, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

Cory’s Shearwater, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

Cory's Shearwater 3a, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

Cory’s Shearwater, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

Cory's Shearwater 5, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

Feeding Flock of Cory’s Shearwaters, Canary Islands, 17 Apr 2015

A day or so later and we were stationed off Funchal, Madeira waiting for the boat transfer. Cory’s Shearwaters were again evident. This was expected as the Madeira Archipelago holds the highest number of breeding pairs in the Atlantic. We also came across decent numbers of Manx Shearwaters, another local breeding species as well as small numbers of Macronesian Shearwaters. Unfortunately the latter were not too keen on coming overly close to the camera. There’s always next time.

Manx Shearwater 1, Madeira, 18 Apr 2015

Manx Shearwater, Madeira, 18 Apr 2015

Manx Shearwater 2a, Madeira, 18 Apr 2015

Manx Shearwater, Madeira, 18 Apr 2015

Atlantic Sunrise, 19 Apr 2015

Atlantic Sunrise, 19 Apr 2015. That’s the last shot from my time on the Protector.

Steve C

 

Cape Verde Shearwater, Bulwer’s and Fea’s Petrels in the Central Atlantic Ocean

Forgive me, but again, I’m skipping into the past a bit here. Back to April of last year to be precise, when Protector was making passage north from Rio de Janeiro to Plymouth. The time taken was approximately 3 weeks and we had no stops, but in the course of the passage we did pass reasonably close to the Cape Verde Islands and the Canary Islands. We also met up with a boat near Madeira to drop some personnel (including Tinders) off for a flight home. I’ll cove the Canaries and Madeira in a future post. To be fair birds were pretty few and far between for much of the passage, with peaks as you would expect as we neared some of the breeding islands. The first image is of a Bulwer’s petrel. One of three seen in the tropics. I never find these petrels over obliging and true to form the heavily cropped image below was the closest any of the three came. I am sticking my head out with the next species and saying Arctic Terns. I should be better on Tern id and maybe one day I will be ! These birds just had the gizz for Arctic and after looking in the guides that is the species I will plump for. As always please feel free to slap me down if I have it wrong. The lower image is a little easier on the id scale. This bird being one of ten Brown Boobies seen near Cape Verde.

Bulwer's Petrel 1a, Central Atlantic, 11 Apr 2015

Bulwer’s Petrel, Central Atlantic, 11 Apr 2015

Arctic Terns 2, Central Atlantic, 12 Apr 2015

Arctic Terns, Central Atlantic, 12 Apr 2015

Brown Booby 2, Cape Verde Islands, 13 Apr 2015

Brown Booby, Cape Verde Islands, 13 Apr 2015

I am reasonably happy with the identification of the Cape Verde Shearwater, a bird I have seen a couple of times, but again not overly close. It appears darker than Cory’s and has a slimmer darker bill, coupled with duskier underparts. The suns position could have been better but you can’t have everything.

Cape Verde Shearwater 1, Cape Verde Islands, 13 Apr 2015

Cape Verde Shearwater, Cape Verde Islands, 13 Apr 2015

Cape Verde Shearwater 2, Cape Verde Islands, 13 Apr 2015

Cape Verde Shearwater, Cape Verde Islands, 13 Apr 2015

Cape Verde Shearwater 3a, Cape Verde Islands, 13 Apr 2015

Cape Verde Shearwater, Cape Verde Islands, 13 Apr 2015

The distant Fea’s Petrel below was seen the day after we left the vicinity of the Cape Verde Islands. Followed on the 16th by a Leach’s  Storm Petrel, we had seen a steady trickle of this species over the last few days numbering around 30 birds in total, including 8 birds on this day. On the same day we had the unmistakable shape of a Pomarine Skua. Always a great bird to see passing the ship.

Fea's Petrel 1a, Central Eastern Atlantic, 14 Apr 2015

Fea’s Petrel, Central Eastern Atlantic, 14 Apr 2015

Fea's Petrel 2a, Central Eastern Atlantic, 14 Apr 2015

Fea’s Petrel, Central Eastern Atlantic, 14 Apr 2015

Leach's Storm Petrel 1, Central Eastern Atlantic, 16 Apr 2015,

Leach’s Storm Petrel, Central Eastern Atlantic, 16 Apr 2015

Pomarine Skua 1, Central Eastern Atlantic, 16 Apr 2015,

Pomarine Skua, Central Eastern Atlantic, 16 Apr 2015

Steve C

Spotted Flycatcher along Fareham Creek

Unfortunately I haven’t had much time to go ‘birding’ of late, in part due to my priority being to make the most of the opportunity I have this year to run a moth trap at my work on Portsdown Hill.  The 40W Actinic Heath Trap has produced some great records including a probable first for Hampshire – tbc.  However, for my first day of leave yesterday I took a stroll along Fareham Creek to Wicor.  The highlight was my first autumn migrant of the year in the form of a Spotted Flycatcher that showed brilliantly perched high up on a dead branch of a riverside tree.  I opted to just admire it through the binoculars not expecting it to remain static for so long but I did eventually get my camera out and managed a single burst of three shots before it flew off.

Spotted Flycatcher, Fareham -5 Aug 16

A single Common Gull on the mudflats nearby was also noteworthy.

Good birding,

Tony T   BSc (Hons) GeoSci (Open)

Yellowhammers and Fieldfares at Olden: Norway

Just a quick round up of the other ’land’ birds seen during the Azura cruises. A visit to Olden in July 16 was a first visit to this small village. The wife and I made the trip up to the Briksdaal Glacier, about 15 miles away. The journey on the coach gave us some spectacular scenery and the river side walk up to the glacier was also very rewarding. To be more accurate the Briksdaal Glacier is just one of what I believe are 16 arms of the Jostedalbreen Glacier. All forming part of the Jostedalbreen National Park. The walk up takes about an hour at a gentle pace with lots of waterfalls and rapids to see en route, plus plenty of flora if not enough fauna. I did hear Blackcap, Willow warbler and Wren in the adjacent woodlands but saw none of them. That said it is another site that is well worth a visit if you are in the area. The walk back down is much easier with the bonus of big eats and coffee in the local café.

Briksdaal 8

Briksdaal Glacier, July 2016

Briksdaal 6a

Briksdaal Glacier, July 2016

IMG_0857

Briksdaal Glacier, July 2016

Briksdaal 5

Orchid, Briksdaal, July 2016

When we returned to the ship, Jo went back on-board for a chill out session, but with two hours to sailing I went for a walk along the river that runs out of the glacier into the Fjord where the ship was moored. On a small lake I did see a number of Red-breasted Mergansers but they were too distant for even a record shot. Both House and Sand Martins were hunting near the river and barn Swallows hawked over the adjacent fields. I heard a number of yellowhammers singing but did not get overly near one until the heavens had opened. Still the bird did not seem overly bothered and continued in good voice. A few hundred metres down the road I had another singing bird and below in the field were a number of Fieldfares and White wagtails.

Yellowhammer 1, Olden, 6 July 2016

Yellowhammer, Olden, 6 July 2016

Yellowhammer 2a, Olden, 6 July 2016

Yellowhammer, Olden, 6 July 2016

Fieldfare 1a, Olden, 6 July 2016

Fieldfare, Olden, 6 July 2016

White Wagtail 1, Geiranger, 7 July 2016

White Wagtail, Geiranger, 7 July 2016

The last image is of a Barn Swallow that I managed to capture in a local park in Stavanger. Once again Jo and I had enjoyed pretty much a full day wandering around the town sightseeing and with an hour left before sailing I nipped up to a local park I saw when we entered. I heard Nuthatch and Greenfinch, but it was the swallow feeding alongside the wood edge that I was happiest with. Probably the best shot I have taken of the species in flight.

Barn Swallow 1a, Stavanger, 8 July 2016

Barn Swallow, Stavanger, 8 July 2016

Steve C