Harpy Eagle - Guyana - March 2017

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Sunday, 31 December 2017

New Years Eve 2017

With working from the off in 2018 I made the most of a truly grim day and visited Tide Mills, Lower Cuckmere, Newhaven Harbour, and with news of an adult Bewick's Swan from Andrew, the Ouse Valley.

Tide Mills produced 8 Purple Sandpipers and 62 Dunlin roosting along Mill Creak. The Lower Cuckmere produced yet another Caspian Gull, this one being a smart second-winter, and is my 15th Caspian Gull this winter period.

Andrew a few days ago found an adult Bewick's Swan in the Ouse Valley and kindly told me it was still present today, and despite being distant was a welcome sight not far from home. Newhaven Harbour didn't produce anything of interest as the light faded, but of course the long-staying Great Northern Diver was still present.

Happy New Year!!

second-winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere - I had superb flight views, even 
seeing the white mirror in P10, but I just couldn't capture it with the phone.

My final sunset of 2017, at the very scenic Newhaven Harbour........

Friday, 29 December 2017

Newhaven Harbour 29/12/17

Very little to speak about of late. During the week an Avocet flew into the harbour but soon went off west. This evening a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull briefly stopped by in the late afternoon gloom, that to me looked initially like a Caspian as it was picked up flying in from the east, but upon landing I wasn't entirely convinced, and then it was kindly pointed out to me by Josh and Laurence that it was in fact a Yellow-legged. 

A perfect evening down at Rodmell Brooks with Dad last night produced only two Little Owls by the car park, 3 Chiffchaffs and a few cool Starling flocks doing their thing before flying into roost. Another Little Owl was seen at Piddinghoe on the way home.

I managed to dig out another Norwegian Great Black-backed Gull (JK306) during the week, ringed as a juv. in June on the southern shores of Norway. I think my fifth Norwegian GBBG of this winter period, plus five from north France, and a LBBG from the North Thames Ringing Group.

first-winter Yellow-legged Gull at Newhaven Harbour

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Local Stuff - more Gulls I'm afraid 24/12/17

I started Christmas Eve at Newhaven Harbour where a first-winter Caspian Gull was seen for a short time on the beach before flying out to sea. As the tide came in the Great Northern Diver appeared and showed well. Afterwards I checked the Cuckmere and viewed from Harry's Bush the largest Gull flock seemed to be north of Exeat bridge, so I made my way around and through the bins I could see a third-winter Caspian Gull in the group. Despite other flocks about I couldn't find anything else. 

To get away from the Gulls, I walked up to Charleston Bottom and was very pleased to see the two Hawfinches that Nick Pope found here a few weeks ago. One male showed off its conk of a bill rather well.

On Wednesday morning I was in Madrid with work and my usual area I look at produced a handful of Crested Larks, a Short-toed Treecreeper and a Hawfinch being the highlights.

On Monday with Dad we visited West Rise Marsh and found at least two Water Pipits and a good candidate for a Scandinavian Rock Pipit, and at Princes Park the Slavonian Grebe was still present.

Happy Christmas!!

these first two images with my proper camera but still of very bad quality. 
First-winter Caspian Gull centre shot.

When I first set eyes on it I suspected some sort of hybrid influence, however
getting the scope on it a full suit of features materialised, with just the coverts
being slightly suspect, although in flight looked good. 

This advanced third-winter Caspian Gull in the Cuckmere was more 
straight-forward. I did consider a fourth-winter but with no mirror on P9
and some black in the tail and brown around the carpel I was happy with a 
third-winter. Not seen in these images but it revealed a white tip to P5 with a 
solid black sub-terminal band.

superb Hawfinch at Charleston Bottom

Charleston Bottom - the Hawfinches liking the tall trees on the left

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Cuckmere, Arlington & Newhaven Harbour 17/12/17

Well if you like Gulls and awful photos associated with them, then carry on. A really good day for Gulls locally with two different Iceland Gulls, six different Caspian Gulls and the usual Yellow-legged Gulls. I spent most of the day with Paula who is now recovering from 'Gullphobia'.

The Lower Cuckmere held the bulk of Caspian Gulls with a minimum of five whilst I was present (singles of first and second winters, an adult and two third-winters) around midday, but birds were flying off every now and then, (perhaps to Arlington) and then returning again, in fact the second-winter landed on the meanders at one point. Probably of more excitement to me was a drake Pochard on the meanders, this being only my second record in the Cuckmere.

Whilst at my parents and with Paula not being able to look at another Gull for the rest of the day, I rushed off to Arlington Reservoir as Andrew Whitcomb had found an Iceland Gull, and to my delight it appeared to be in a third-winter plumage, a plumage tick! 

Then as light faded Paula abandoned me again as I went to Newhaven Harbour for my final bit of Gull action, where a juvenile Iceland Gull (found earlier on my Les Bird) was present, and then a first-winter Caspian Gull joined the large assemblage of Gulls. At least 520 Herring Gulls were also on the beach, with a few argentatus mixed in.

first-winter Caspian Gull - presumably the same bird as Richard's 1w 
yesterday, though I'm not entirely convinced yet.

second-winter Caspian Gull

third-winter Caspian Gull

adult Caspian Gull - presumably Richard's bird from yesterday

third-winter Iceland Gull at Arlington. Completely the wrong camera settings 
for the bottom image but I managed to tweak it so it looks slightly less like
an Ivory Gull.
juv. Iceland Gull at Newhaven Harbour

first-winter Caspian Gull at Newhaven Harbour

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Lower Cuckmere Caspos 7th & 11th December

Two visits in five days in grim conditions but seemingly productive conditions produced a total of five Caspian Gulls (three on the 7th and two on the 11th) and two Yellow-legged Gulls. As per usual my phone-scoping photography isn't ideal. Dungeness are getting decent numbers currently so no doubt more will turn up the in the coming weeks.

The 7th December produced a second-winter and third-winter that are shown below, and an adult.

a very smart third-winter Caspian Gull taken in the pooring rain

second-winter Caspian Gull taken in the same conditions.
This was the only photo I managed of this very long-winged individual. 

The 11th produced two third-winters as pictured below, at times standing next to each other.

a lovely pose but quality is poor, yet looking lovely through the scope.
This bird was extremely long-legged and had some obvious streaking on the nape.

both birds together, sort of......the bird on the right pictured above and below.

a lucky shot showing the black in the receding tail band, large white mirror on P10,
solid black subterminal band on P5, long grey tongues reaching into the black primaries
but not as much as the adults. 
(two third-winter Caspian Gulls)

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Fuerteventura - 8th & 9th December 2017

With constant positive news and some lovely photos coming out of the Dwarf Bittern on Fuerteventura, my interest in seeing this bird was becoming more and more intense. I am in no means a Western Palearctic lister, nor do I keep a list of this region, however having been to Africa five times and still yet to get even a sniff of a Dwarf Bittern, I felt it was a good decision in trying to see this bird. With staff travel flights at £37 return I needed no more pushing, and Friday morning I set off to LGW for an early on time departure bound for the Canaries.

I felt I only needed one night having been here back in 2014 and finding everything I needed to, but it turns out I only needed the one night regardless if I had visited before or not.

Dwarf Bittern on Fuerteventura - 5th record for the Western Palearctic region
Upon landing I quickly got my hire car and it was only a 15 minute drive to the Barranco de Rio Cabras, and after a bit of confusion I found some parked cars seemingly abandoned in the middle of the desert like landscape. Once on site, I was pleased to see Gordon Beck further up the Barranco, and also to then realise I was standing next to the WP's highest lister, Ernie Davies. Initially there was no sign of the Bittern, but with such pristine looking habitat I was sure a dip wasn't imminent. Some good birds including Egyptian Vultures, Trumpeter Finches, Hoopoes, White Storks, Fuerteventura Stonechats & Fuerteventura Blue Tits kept the spirits high.

Egyptian Vulture

White Stork
the 'car park' in the distance

After a short time I located the Dwarf Bittern by accidentally flushing it from a small pool, and the five of us after initially only getting flight views, found the bird by a dam where it remained for a good few hours, at times showing very nicely as it hunted along the Barranco. Not only this, a Barbary Falcon flying over was an added bonus, as was the fantastic supporting cast of islands goodies.

initial tantalising views of the Dwarf Bittern

Dwarf Bittern

Berthelot's Pipit - a common sight around The Canaries

Barranco de Rio Cabras
With fantastic views and with the bird moving down the channel I decided to leave, and now it being late afternoon I thought this would be the best time to see a Houbara Bustard, and so I set off to a site I saw some a few years just north of Antigua at km 18. Despite the windy conditions, driving around this small site eventually yielded a single Bustard. Again really nice views.

Houbara Bustard
With time now getting on I set off for the hotel just south of the airport where I may have drank a bit too much, and this resulted in a slightly later start then originally planned the next day, however this still meant I was the only birder on site back at the Dwarf Bittern. With no disturbance in the Barranco today, some good birds were seen with two each of Spoonbill and White Stork, Spectacled Warblers, Ruddy Shelducks, more Fuerteventura Stonechats and Blue Tits, Trumpeter Finches and plenty of Berthelot's Pipits. It took me about an hour to locate the Bittern, this time it flew in from further down channel and landed nearby to me where it showed very well for a few minutes before flying further up the Barranco. I wasn't too fussed about going in search again so I left the site, but soon came to an abrupt halt as in front of me a Cream Coloured Courser ran across the road, and instead of running off to the distance, it just stayed put allowing such a close approach. 

Trumpeter Finches

male Fuerteventura Stonechat

Dwarf Bittern - just beats the Courser below

Cream Coloured Courser - couldn't have asked for better views
I was very satisfied with the mornings birding here and therefore I wanted to try and complete the 'Fuerteventura collection', and so headed to Los Molinos for Black-bellied Sandgrouse where eventually two were spotted flying around, only being picked up by their calls as I was trying to dose off in the car. Also in the goat pens here was a small flock of Lesser Short-toed Larks and more Trumpeter Finches.

Lesser Short-toed Lark
With the Sandgrouse in the bag I wanted to visit the valley a few km south of Betancuria at Vega de Rio Palmas which can be a good site for wintering migrants. What I wasn't expecting were two new Dragonfly species, these being Scarlet Darter and The Epaulet Skimmer. Birds were plentiful here with Ring Ouzels being very conspicuous, my only Sardinian Warblers of the trip and a complete surprise in the form of a Laughing Dove. I could have stayed in this dry riverbed all afternoon but sadly I had to get to the airport for my flight home. A staggeringly good trip cleaning up on all targets.

The Epaulet Skimmer

Scarlet Darter

My personal highlights from the two days:

Dwarf Bittern - 1 adult
Fuerteventura Blue Tit - common at Barranco de Rio Cabras & Vega de Rio Palmas
Fuerteventura Stonechat - common at Barranco de Rio Cabras
Trumpeter Finch - common 
Egyptian Vulture - at least 6 birds around Barranco de Rio Cabras
Berthelot's Pipit - common
Cream Coloured Courser - 2 seen on flat land above Barranco de Rio Cabras
Houbara Bustard - single bird west of FV-20 at km 18 north of Antigua
Ruddy Shelduck - most inland water sources held this species
Barbary Falcon - single bird at Barranco de Rio Cabras
Spoonbill - 2 flying east at Barranco de Rio Cabras
Lesser Short-toed Lark - flock of 9 at Los Molinos
White Stork - pair at Barranco de Rio Cabras
Black-bellied Sandgrouse - pair at Los Molinos
Sardinian Warbler - common at Vega de Rio Palmas
Ring Ouzel - common at Vega de Rio Palmas
Laughing Dove - single bird at Vega de Rio Palmas
Spectacled Warbler - common
Southern Grey Shrike - common

Barbary Ground Squirrel 
Scarlet Darter
The Epaulet Skimmer