Saturday, 20 October 2007

Wishmoor Bottom,Berks & Pagham Harbour,West Sussex. 20th October 2007.

Great Grey Shrike.
Mediterranean Gull.
Pomarine Skua.
Little Egret.
Little Stint.
Curlew Sandpiper.

A late planned visit to Pagham Harbour was quickly aranged on Friday evening with one of my bird race team members Roy Rose, we discussed the local sightings and he informed me that he'd already dropped in to Wishmoor Bottom near Camberley to see the Great Grey Shrike that had been showing well since the 14th of October.I made a quick decision that we could probably drop in at Wishmoor on our way to Pagham and with Roy knowing the birds location hopefully we could get good views and be on our way.

On arrival at Wishmoor Roy led the way to where he had seen the Shrike on a previous visit, the sun was shining and with clear blue skies it felt more like spring than Autumn. We made our way from the car and within a few minutes we heard a Goldcrest calling from the conifers alongside the path, then came Coal Tit shortly followed by Stonechat. We arrived at the spot and after a couple of minutes searching we spotted the Great Grey Shrike perched on a small branch, we managed to get a bit closer and had very good views of the bird in fantastic light, a number of other birders where visible dotted around the landscape all looking for the Shrike. It then flew around us and we turned to walk towards where it had headed, Roy's famous last words~Watch out for that ditch!, to which I didn't disappoint~What ditch! Oh that ditch!, down I went disappearing in to the ditch below. After I hauled myself out of the ditch we caught up with the Shrike again which then began to chase a Stonechat across the heath, they both made haste across the heathland with the Shrike trying in vain to catch it's quarry, darting this way and that the Stonechat finally shook the Shrike of it's tail and headed off across in to the gorse. A Meadow Pipit showed well in a bush in front of us as did another gorse specialist!.

Next stop was Selsey Bill, West Sussex, along the seafront a party of a dozen Turnstones scurried along the waters edge, a couple of Pied Wagtails flew over, 2 Linnets were perched on a house roof with a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a single Med Gull was amongst a group of Black-headed and Herring Gulls on the water close to the beach. We made our way to the Lifeboat house and soon spotted a number of Gannets fishing offshore, Greater Black-backed, Lesser Black-backed, Herring and Black-headed Gulls all present. Back in the car and off to Church Norton.

At Church Norton 12 Curlew were feeding in the fields before the Church and on arrival at the church car park we were alerted that a Pomarine Skua was present in the harbour. We arrived to find the Skua still sat on the ground and although it was fairly distant we still had good views. Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Little Egret, Wigeon, Teal, Pintail all present around the harbour and after watching the Pomarine Skua fly off towards Selsey we headed towards the beach. At the beach the usual Turnstones were busy searching the along the incoming tide and out at sea 2 Red-breasted Mergansers drifted past towards Selsey followed by a small group of 7/8 Common Scoter.

We drove back to the Pagham Nuture Reserve and met up with the warden who we'd earlier met watching the Skua, he told us that a Little Stint was on the Ferry Pool so we headed off in search of it. It was still present and fed along the edge of the pool with 2 Avocet nearby. A quick look by the sluice before we headed home proved successful with a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper feeding in the mud.

Added To My Year List.

205. Great Grey Shrike (Wishmoor Bottom, Berks)
206. Gannet
207. Pomarine Skua (Church Norton, West Sussex)*
208. Common Scoter

Added To My Life List.

296. Pomarine Skua

Thursday, 11 October 2007

Buff-bellied Pipit - Farmoor Reservoir, Oxon. 9th October 2007.

On my return from Turkey I sifted through the hundreds of email I'd received and was amazed to see a Buff-bellied Pipit had been found at Farmoor reservoir, Oxon, this is an extremely rare visitor to this country and to have one turn up in Oxfordshire is a fantastic county record.I had never seen one before and decided that a visit to Farmoor was a must. Well I got a shock when I woke up, the weather was terrible and then rain just didn't look like it was going to ease up, It's one thing waking up to Eagles soaring outside your Villa in the hot dry Autumn weather of Southwest Turkey and another waking up to a cold wet English Autumn day!. I decided to brave the weather as the Buff-bellied is an unmissable species to see, who knows when another would turn up.
The M40 was a nightmare and visibility was terrible but I made it all the same despite a number of numbskulls driving along the motorway with no lights on, but that's another story. At Farmoor I made my way into the Thames Water gatehouse and was told that for a small donation that all birders could drive round to the far side of the reservoir were the Pipit was, I duly obliged and coughed up a quid, anything to save me getting wet on the walk across the causeway was a bonus.
The Buff-bellied Pipit was still present along with 50 or so excited birdwatchers, it was on the causeway at the Pinkhill side of the reservoir along with a couple of Rock Pipits. It was still raining but that certainly wasn't going to put anybody off watching this rare American species. It continued feeding along the waters edge on the F1 reservoir before flying up on to the causeway, this caused a quick shuffle of places and soon everybody was back on it again before it dropped down from the causeway and out of sight on the F2 side. This behaviour carried on and off for 10 minutes or so with a least one Rock Pipit in close attendance. As the rain started to ease off the Buff-bellied Pipit took flight and flew out across F1 before turning back towards the causeway and settling down behind us, another quick shuffle around and we watched as it stood by the waters edge. It showed extremely well with views of around 20ft and most of us got fantastic views, it continued up and down the waters edge for 3 or 4 minutes before taking flight and heading northwards over the F1 reservoir, it continued out across the water and then turned West and finally landed on the west side of F1 by the number 3 marker. I decided to leave as I was rather wet now and felt that the bird was going to get a lot more onlookers and probably needed a bit of privacy. At 8am on the 10th October the Buff-bellied Pipit flew off Northwest with 3 Rock Pipits and was not located again.

Photos can bee seen in the log book page on Nic Hallams excellent website

Added To My Year List.

203. Buff-bellied Pipit
204. Rock Pipit

Added To My Life List.

295. Buff-bellied Pipit

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Kalkan, Turkey. 1st - 8th October 2007.

Red-backed Shrike.
Eastern Rock Nuthatch.
Blue Rock Thrush.
Yellow-vented Bulbul.

Kalkan in Southwest Turkey is situated on the Mediterranean sea so when the offer of a weeks family holiday came along I jumped at the chance.

The first morning I made my way to the rooftop to scan the surrounding area, we were situated just outside Kalkan at kisla(pronounced kishla) with mountains on most sides and the harbour and sea on the other.It didn't take long for me to hear a bird calling from nearby, the song was very reminiscent of the last few notes of the Wood Warbler, I could hear the spinning coin call trailing off at the end of the song and I searched frantically to find who's it was. I finally found a Eastern Rock Nuthatch perched on the villa roof across the road, this was a first for me and I was delighted to see something so quick, little did I know that at least 3 Eastern Rock Nuthatches would be present around our villa all week and on one afternoon all 3 were perched above me on a telephone wire calling. As I was watching a small group of Swallows flying over the mountains towards me I heard another bird calling, I continued to watch the Swallows to see if a Red-rumped Swallow was amongst them when a Thrush sized bird flew past me and caught my attention, I quickly watched where it went and then returned to view the Swallows. As they flew past I scanned each one to see what species they were, they were all Barn Swallows and they continued down towards the edge of the sea and over the next hill. I then began looking for the bird that flew past me and it took a few moments before the bird started calling from a nearby rooftop, I grabbed my scope and zoomed in to find a male Blue Rock Thrush singing, another first for me and I was delighted after finding this very pretty member of the Thrush family. Again this was a species that was seen everyday around Kisla. From my rooftop observatory I could see all around the local countryside and out across the sea and towards Kalkan and whilst trying to locate the calling Rock Nuthatches again I came across a Shrike perched in the top of a Olive bush, closer inspection showed that it was a juvenile Red-backed Shrike and again this was a bird that could often be seen nearby and was often located through it's alarm call when one of the many local cats wandered through the Olive trees. As I watched the Red-backed Shrike I noticed a slightly larger juvenile Shrike in the bushes behind and after it joined in with it's alarm call I realised that this was a Woodchat Shrike, a quick check through my Collins bird guide to make sure and everything checked out confirming my sighting. So in the space of about an hour I had seen 3 new species for my life list. Mid-morning I noticed a flock of birds flying along the mountains above Kisla and watching them I soon realised that they were Crag Martins, they continued to fly along the mountainside before passing over the mountain and out of sight. Early afternoon I was scanning the masses of Olive trees that surround the area when I noticed a Warbler flitting through a bush at a nearby villa, it disappeared from view and I waited in the hope it would show itself and it's identity. It didn't take long for it to work it's way back up the bush and in to sight again, it perched at the top of the bush and flicked it's tail downwards repeatedly as it dropped back down the bush, it showed a olive/grey plumage with short primary projection and a long narrow bill, a short pale supercilium finishing at the rear of the eye and a pale eye ring, all major features of the Olivaceous Warbler.This was another first for me and I watched it for sometime before a passing motorbike flushed it and it disappeared towards another villa along the seafront. I continued to look for it but with no luck so I started scanning back at the beginning of the Olive trees and soon found another Warbler, this Warbler was much larger than the Olivaceuos and soon showed to be an Olive Tree Warbler. The day continued with a fall of Warblers and a few Swallows passing through. Late afternoon and the mountains above Kisla came alive, first came a single Short-toed Eagle followed by 2 Booted Eagles, a Common Buzzard and 2 Long-legged Buzzards, they continued circling for well over 10 minutes before they were joined by a pair of Lanner Falcons and a single Saker Falcon, the raptor display continued and each minute seemed to draw more birds in, 2 Sparrowhawks joined the melee followed by a Common Kestrel, 2 Peregrine Falcons and another Buzzard species. Above them 3 large Eagles circled but were too high too identify and remained so throughout the time I watched, below another Peregrine had joined the circling raptors along with a pair of Elenora's Falcons and another Lanner.This continued for over an hour and I counted at least 30 birds of prey circling over the mountains, they slowly dispersed dropping down behind the mountains and out of view except for 2 Elenora's falcons that slowly passed over the villa and eastwards towards the mountains followed by a Lanner and a Peregrine.I wondered if one of the many mountain goats had perished drawing the raptors in.

Wednesday started out with a mist forming over the mountain tops, it was still very hot but as the day continued a strong breeze began to blow across the mountains and towards Kalkan and by lunchtime the tops of the mountains were disappearing under blankets of mist. Late morning brought another small flock of Swallows this time including 3 Red-rumped Swallows, they circled above Kisla and then headed off in a south-west direction, moments later a single Alpine Swift paddled it's way across the sky and headed off over Kalkan. As the day continued the sky turned greyer and greyer and I was sure a storm was on it's way. Mid-afternoon brought the first sighting of a Little Gull as it flew around the harbour at Kalkan and was soon followed by 3 Larger Gulls that remained on the waters surface on the far side of the bay. They remained out of viewable sight until later in the afternoon when they then flew closer into the bay and were identified as Audouin's Gulls, minutes later they were joined by 2 Yellow-legged Gulls.A few more small groups of Swallows passed over and it seemed as if they were on the run from something that was perhaps soon to hit this part of Turkey. A walk round Kisla late afternoon brought good views of a Blue Rock Thrush as it sang from a rooftop, a Blackbird called, Common Kestrel flew over and a dead Willow Warbler was found. Walking back from the seafront my girlfriend Louise noticed a strange looking bird sat next to a swimming pool in the garden of a villa, of course by the time I looked it had flown off. We continued back towards our villa when we got to a villa called the secret garden, it was here that the strange bird revealed itself as it sat on a telephone wire in front of us, it was joined by 2 others and they began to chatter noisily and again I noticed a cat nearby which was probably making them very uneasy. I got a good look at these birds as they continued their noisy conversation and noted that under a long tail was a yellow vent, as one turned I noticed a near black head with a white eye ring, it didn't take long to work out that they were Spectacled/Yellow-vented Bulbuls, another species that was seen on most days around the Kisla area. We carried on along the track and I spotted a small greyish Shrike perched in a tree, it showed a small white patch in the wings and a long narrow tail, it didn't hang around long a flew into another tree further up the hillside, another quick check of my Collins Bird Guide later revealed it was a juvenile Masked Shrike. A large Warbler that could only be a Great Reed Warbler was found preening by the side of the track, it had a long primary projection with a reddish/brown plumage and a long thick bill, as it preened through it's tail feathers it was clear to see that it had a large and slightly rounded tail. Plenty of House Sparrows about and they seem to be doing quite well there, they were seen and heard every day in most areas, at night large flocks roosted in the centre of Kalkan in a number of trees and could often be heard chirping whilst we ate in the rooftop restaurants.

Thursday and the storm I was expecting was finally on us, the wind was blowing fiercely from an eastwards direction and soon bought a downpour with it. The Audoiuns and yellow-legged Gulls were still in the bay and I spotted 3 Rock Doves perched on the side of a mountain near Kalkan, a dead warbler was found on the main road and I'm still unsure of it's species, Sedge or Moustached Warbler. The rain continued throughout the day and a huge lightning storm soon brought power cuts throughout the region, we then were informed that it hadn't rained in Kalkan since the end of April. Grey Wagtail, Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Barn Swallow, Collared Dove were all seen early morning around Kisla.

By Friday the storm had passed and the skies were blue again, the Gulls had left the bay and the local Rock Nuthatches were close-by feeding amongst the Olive trees on the hillside next to the villa, one seemed to favour the villa rooftop opposite and again gave good views. A Blue Rock Thrush perched at the top of a villa roof down the road from us and called for over 10 minutes before flying off to another of it's favoured perching points by the seafront. A Yellow Vented Bulbul could be heard calling from nearby and briefly showed as it flew passed the villa. Early afternoon a Golden Eagle appeared above the eastern mountainside and was soon joined by another, they began soaring above the mountains gaining height as they did so and continued this for 35 minutes or so before being lost to sight. A Northern Goshawk passed over the hillside and glided over the Olive trees heading north-east and an hour later a juvenile Spotted Eagle drifted over the mountains and carried on west, with the sun shinning on the bird the prominent rows of white spots along the upperwing were very clear. Late afternoon a small Kestrel believed to be a Lesser Kestrel flew from the mountains on the south side of the bay and headed north towards the Kalkan region and a group of 40+ Crag Martins flew along the mountainside near Kisla. 3 Eagles were seen but were too high to identify.

A road trip to Kas brought sightings of a White Wagtail at the harbour, my first trip sighting of a Great Tit on a restaurant roof, good numbers of House Sparrow and Collared Dove, an eastern race Jay sat in a tree near the centre of Kas.2 Gulls were seen flying over the sea on the road back to Kalkan and were presumed Yellow-legged Gulls and a small group of Rock Sparrows were seen on the hillside next to the road.

On the final day a 2 hour drive back to Dalaman produced a number of birds that weren't seen in the Kalkan area.Before we left Kisla a Hummingbird Hawk-Moth was seen feeding from flowers near the villa, they seem to be quite common here as a number of them were seen most days. As we approached Xanthos a Crested Lark flew in of front of the bus and landed on the side of the road raising it's crest as it came to rest and further down the road the first Hooded Crows were seen flying across local farmland and again later near Dalaman.

Added To My Year List.

174. Eastern Rock Nuthatch
175. Blue Rock Thrush
176. Red-backed Shrike
177. Woodchat Shrike
178. Crag Martin
179. Olivaceous Warbler
180. Olive-tree Warbler
181. Short-toed Eagle
182. Booted Eagle
183. Long-legged buzzard
184. Lanner Falcon
185. Saker Falcon
186. Peregrine Falcon
187. Eleonora's Falcon
188. Red-rumped Swallow
189. Alpine Swift
190. Little Gull
191. Audouin's Gull
192. Yellow-vented Bulbul
193. Great Reed Warbler
194. Rock Dove
195. Masked Shrike
196. Golden Eagle
197. Northern Goshawk
198. Spotted Eagle
199. Lesser Kestrel
200. Rock Sparrow
201. Crested Lark
202. Hooded Crow

Added To My Life List.

272. Eastern Rock Nuthatch
273. Blue Rock Thrush
274. Woodchat Shrike
275. Crag Martin
276. Olivaceous Warbler
277. Olive-tree Warbler
278. Short-toed Eagle
279. Booted Eagle
280. Long-legged Buzzard
281. Lanner Falcon
282. Saker Falcon
283. Eleonora's Falcon
284. Red-rumped Swallow
285. Audouin's Gull
286. Yellow-vented Bulbul
287. Great Reed Warbler
288. Rock Dove
289. Masked Shrike
290. Spotted Eagle
291. Lesser Kestrel
292. Rock Sparrow
293. Crested Lark
294. Hooded Crow