Monday, 22 May 2017

Birder's Diary prepared for the Sunday Independent

The weather has again been unsettled and changeable with heavy rain over the weekend (19th/20th)followed by soaring temperatures. A change of weather brings a change of birds and on Sunday a stunning Bee-eater was found at Connor Downs.  It stayed long enough for several local birders to see it. New discoveries included an Iberian Chiffchaff at Prussia Cove.  This once rare warbler is now annual in Cornwall and can be found with experience by listening for its distinctive song. A stunning Bee-eater pleased many local birders on Sunday evening at Connor Downs.  The adult Purple Heron remained faithful to its favourite ponds on the Tresillian River at Probus.

Away from Cornwall, I paid a visit to the famous RSPB Ham Wall in Somerset on Sunday.  This stunning site never fails to impress and each visit seems to improve on the last.  Great views were had of Marsh Harriers passing food kills, 20+ Hobby's hawking dragonflies, Great Crested Grebes feeding young, Cattle Egrets and Great White Egrets feeding in the ponds, pairs of Gadwalls and Pochards chasing each other around the marshes, Bitterns flying around and booming and Cetti's Warblers feeding young.  It's all very reminiscent of a marsh in the Mediterranean.

Looking forward, the end of May and June can always bring the unexpected.  Whilst the local birds are settled in to their nesting and raising young, non breeding wanderers and extreme rarities can turn up.  Another recent phenomenon is the annual Red Kite movement in west Cornwall and the Lizard area.  All eyes will be in the sky looking out for this impressive raptor in the next couple weeks.

Male Marsh Harrier at Ham Wall Somerset

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Birder's Update early May

The last two weeks has seen unsettled weather with temperatures ranging from 17 degrees to as low as 7 degrees.  Wind direction has varied from south easterly to north westerly and has been gale force at times.  Birders always keep a close eye on the weather as it influences what can potentially be found. 

Spring migration peaks in mid May and thereafter falls away quickly. The period has produced  a good number of rarities though many have been seen by single observers only. New discoveries all have a distinct Mediterranean flavour and have included an adult Purple Heron near Probus, White Stork at Tregoss, Kentish Plover at Sennen Beach, flyover Bee Eaters at St Levan, Red-rumped Swallow at Marazion Marsh,  Alpine Swift and Red-throated Pipit at Pendeen, several Serins, five Woodchat Shrikes and perhaps up to ten Hoopoes this Spring.  In terms of national status, Montagu's Harrier, the rarest of all UK breeding raptors, a juvenile (ringtail) was seen at Coombe on 14th May.

Wader passage has been light compared to past years but fair numbers of Sanderlings, Dunlins, Ringed Plovers and Turnstones have been seen at typical coastal sites. Purple Sandpipers have peaked at 42 birds at Battery Rocks, Penzance. Most of them are now in full summer breeding plumage. By June they will all be on territory in the high Arctic.

Away from Cornwall, an Eastern Subalpine Warbler and potential first record for Devon was found on Sunday at Dawlish Warren.  


Adult Purple Sandpiper, Penzance.
note: This is an article specially prepared for the Sunday Independent newspaper.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Greater White-fronted Goose at Par beach pool

A Greater White-fronted Goose was found at Par on Friday 17th March, in the fields to the east of the bay.  I saw it with Royston Wilkins on Sunday 19th feeding on the grass at the edge of Par beach pool.  It gave stunning views. 
This individual has been identified as the more unusual European albifrons form, rather than the flavirostris race which comes from Greenland. Back in the 60's when a flock of white fronts over wintered at Walmsley Sanctuary, these were assigned to the albifrons race. Sadly this flock has now disappeared and we only now get occasional sightings in the county. Albifrons can be identified by the orange legs and pink bill, and less black belly markings than flavirostris. 
 




Thursday, 16 March 2017

Iceland Gulls at Hayle and St Gothians today

Today was a gull day starting with the first winter Bonaparte's Gull at Helston.  I wanted to get a decent flight shot but failed. And when a Hawk jet took off from Culdrose, that ended my hopes. I went to Hayle and was shown a juv Iceland Gull by John Thomas. I then found another one close by only to be flushed by three Buzzards. 
Luck seemed to be changing though.  I ventured over to St Gothians and found a second year Iceland.  I better not say 2nd winter now as the gull police will shoot me down. This bird was sporting a pale iris, grey mantle and losing quite a lot of the coffee brown colours of a juv. I moved on from the island area and found a Little Ringed Plover at the western end of the reserve.  It soon flushed and spent a lot of the time flying around calling.  There was also a decent fall of a dozen Pied Wags.

Iceland Gull at St Gothians
Record shot of Bonaparte's Gull at Helston


Purple Sandpiper at Penzance

Monday, 13 March 2017

Bonaparte's Gull at Helston boating lake

Some images of the very confiding Bonaparte's Gull at the popular boating lake. As at Sunday 12th March it has been present for 8 days. Found by Tony Blunden, this is approximately the 42nd record for Cornwall.  A third of all Cornish records occur in March and April, so this bird fits the pattern nicely.  There are also a couple others in other parts of the UK and Ireland.




Monday, 27 February 2017

Costa Rica sightings update

We were delighted to find a pair of Elegant Trogons near the hotel.  I glimpsed what I thought was a female at the start of the trip so had an idea they were here. After some perseverance, we got lucky when a male flew across the road. It joined a female. This species seems very shy and too keen to hide away.  I managed one half decent record shot though.

Ad male Elegant Trogon


 

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Costa Rica sightings update for the last few days

The last few days has been busy with ticks found every day.  A visit to the Rincon Rain Forest was well worth it with many great speciality birds seen.  Better still there was no rain as the cloud was well above the volcano. Perfect, though humidity is still very high. Top birds were Long-tailed Manikin, the Jurassic looking Crested Guan and Great Curassow, the intriguingly named Masked Tityra, several hummers including the stunning Blue-throated Goldentail, Lesser Greenlet, male Kentucky Warbler (a first for me) and perhaps the best of all was a Keel-billed Toucan.  Today we also found a pair of Pale-billed Woodpeckers and Boat-billed Kiskadee.  Sadly I couldn't get images of them all as tropical rainforest birding is tricky, let alone papping.

Coppery-headed Emerald

Green Violetear visiting a nectar feeder

Green-crowned Brilliant

Male Streak-backed Oriole



Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Costa Rica sightings update

There are daily surprises here at Guanacaste, Costa Rica.  Ticks seem to come regularly.  Today we found the endemic Dark Pewee, some way out of its normal range as well, so I was well pleased with that. We also found Stripe-headed Sparrow and Scrub Euphonia, a brand new bird family for us. We had good views of the normally shy Mangrove Cuckoo and eye level views of Cinnamon Hummingbird.  A pair of Pacific Screech Owls are giving lovely views roosting in a tree on the beach!

Cinnamon Hummingbird

Dark Pewee

Stripe-headed Sparrow.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Costa Rica sightings

We visited the Monteverde rain forest with the intention of seeing some hummingbirds and tropical specialities. We saw plenty of the former though sadly missed the quetzal.  New birds continue on a daily basis plus many familiar North American species wintering here turn up regularly.  There are plenty of Yellow Warblers wintering here and we had some stunning views of a group of four Prothonotary Warblers.  The Black and White Warbler seems to turn up everywhere.  The bright green parrots take some sorting but I reckon we have seen about five species. We saw the endemic Sooty Thrush in the rain forest but the hummers stand out as something special.  Of the hummingbirds, we have seen Violet Sabrewing, White-necked Jacobin, Plain-capped Starthroat, Cinnamon, Ruby-throated, Green Violetear, Violet-headed, Steely-vented and a couple more still to id correctly.

Violet Sabrewing at Monteverde Rain Forest

Friday, 17 February 2017

Costa Rica sightings today

Today was a Trogon day with great views of the stunning Black-headed Trogon and also our first Elegant Trogan, albeit a slightly drab female.  Patsy also found the intriguingly named Northern Beardless Tyrannulet. Other goodies included one of my favourite Nearctic warblers: Prothonotary Warbler, a stunning male of course.  We also got to grips today with some hummingbirds. They are really difficult but we managed to id Cinnamon, Ruby-throated, Steely-vented and Plain-capped Starthroat.  We also found a Mangrove Cuckoo, which I was pleased with as we missed this species in Florida.
Photography is not the easiest as usually these birds are deep in forest canopy and the scene is quite dark. The first shot was taken with 3200 ISO.


Black-headed Trogon