Thursday, 28 March 2013

Red-necked Grebe at Siblyback Reservoir, Cornwall

A Red-necked Grebe has been present since Saturday 23rd March at the unlikely inland location of Siblyback Reservoir.  I saw it well today with Nigel Climpson and Sid Cole.  It seemed to be feeding on a wide circuit mainly from the dam end and the shallower water just to the south of the dam.  Twice it came to within 25 metres of us as it continued on its steady circuit.  Red-necked Grebes are chiefly found in the sheltered, coastal bays between the Helford River and St Austell Bay.  Inland records are unusual, but very welcome of course as this is the first opportunity I have had to see one at close quarters.  Considering the very dull plumage, presumably this is a non breeding adult.

On returning to the car, I also found a male Ring Ouzel (image below).

Male Ring Ouzel found on the west side of the dam on the sloping fields (with sheep grazing in).

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Drake Common Scoter on Swanpool, Falmouth

A drake Common Scoter has been present on Swanpool for the last couple days.  Whilst the species is fairly common around the Cornish coast, most sightings are half a mile away and usually distant.  When I heard of a drake on Swanpool I decided to take a closer look this morning.  I couldn't believe how tame and curious this bird is!  It followed me round the pool.  I had to take the converter off and backtrack to the normal 5 metres close focus for the 600mm lens.  I've never seen any scoter this close, not even at Slimbridge.  This male was a little stunner and well worth the visit.  I was also lucky with the light this morning, varying from sunshine to overcast, hence the differing colours in the images.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Birding on Boa Vista, Cape Verde - part 2 desert birds

This post is the second installment of some of the birds seen on Boa Vista, one of the main islands of Cape Verde.  Desert birding features prominently here.  Whilst the number of species is typically limited on a remote island, the quality makes up for the paucity of birds.  I connected with everything possible on this island.  (To see other species such as Alexanders Swift, Razo Lark and Cape Verde Warbler, you have to visit another two islands).  Cream-coloured Coursers were reasonably common in suitable semi-arable / desert habitat.  On one occasion I found a group of 12 birds feeding together.

Hoopoe Larks were common with breeding pairs and singing males within earshot of the hotel.  Within a couple hundred metres of the hotel there were many birds easily encountered.  Bar-tailed Larks were also common.  Singing males could be heard either side of the hotel but the flat area to the west seemed to be preferred.  The miniture serin-sized Black-capped Sparrow Larks were uncommon and restricted to some old arable "farmland" about one mile north of the hotel.  These inquisitive little larks have a distinctive song and flight display.  A displaying male attracts several females as they watch in awe!

Spectacled Warblers were common and had already gone past courtship and display rituals. Males and females were attending to young in the nest.  Iago Sparrow was surprisingly scarce.  I only saw one pair.  In contrast, there were hundreds of Spanish Sparrows.

Osprey was common and I saw several near the coast.  I managed to see one Cape Verde Peregrine and luckily got a few shots as well.  This is apparently quite a rare bird here. A pair of Alexanders Kestrel were breeding in the hotel grounds.  I also saw a second year male Marsh Harrier.

Black-capped Sparrow Lark - an intriguing little lark, fairly localised in suitable habitat

Adult Hoopoe Lark - a common bird.

Juv Hoopoe Lark, just fledged.

Bar-tailed Lark.

Male Iago Sparrow, one of only two seen all trip.

Male Spectacled Warbler - a common bird.
Adult Cream-coloured Courser

Cream-coloured Courser - part of a flock of 12 birds.

Cape Verde Peregrine - the only sighting.

Osprey - breeds on the island and fairly common.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Lapland Buntings at Rosenannon, Cornwall

Up to 100 Lapland Buntings have been logged at Rosenannon Downs this winter - quite an impressive count.  Today though I counted about 37 birds flying around the moor.    This number in itself is still a respectable count, though  "Lapbunts" seem to be on the increase in Cornwall.  In 2011, a massive 150+ birds were found at Port Isaac in early March. This was a Cornwall record number. 20 plus were also at the Lizard Point in January 2012.  A smaller flock of 15 birds associating with five Snow Buntings have wintered at Treen Common this year.  Historically, there has always been a handful of records annually, mostly from North Cornwall but not in such high numbers as we are finding now.

The species breeds in Arctic Europe, Greenland and Canada.  It is highly migratory and is one of the few passerines which routinely migrates back and forth across the Atlantic.

Some males today were showing signs of breeding plumage and one bird seemed to be practicing courtship display.  The three images below were taken this morning:

Female Lapland Bunting

Male Lapland Bunting skulking

Male Lapland Bunting at Rosenannon

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Birding on Boa Vista, Cape Verde - waders

My wife and I visited the island of Boa Vista in the Cape Verde islands at the end of February and returned on the 12th March.  This is the second visit to the archipelago but to a different part.  We concentrated on the south east corner of the island and stayed at the Riu Touareg Hotel.  Unbelievably, this brand new hotel is located less than a couple miles from Currel Velho island, which hosts the last remaining pair of Magnificent Frgatebirds in the Western Palearctic.  In addition, three or four pairs of Red-billed Tropicbird and about 100 pairs of Brown Booby breed here as well.  Add to that reports of Masked Booby present on the island and this location suddenly looks very attractive for a winter break combined with some respectable birding.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a very sizable "lake" no more than 500 yards east of the hotel.  This is in effect the hotel sewerage treatment pond of some couple acres in size.  There were no smells or signs of the solid stuff, but just well treated water continually seaping in to the desert.  It was a magnet for waders and I was told by a local birder that this site was now the premier wader site on the island.  I counted at least 17 species of wader here, some species in good numbers.  Migration was clearly under way with 51 Curlew Sandpipers on the 10th March, some approaching summer plumage.  I was also suprised to find two Lesser Yellowlegs and an American Golden Plover (though the latter had already been found by two Belgian birders). I also missed a Temminck's Stint found by a Danish birder.  A flock of 60 Black-winged Stilts along with at least 131 Cattle Egrets added to the scene.  The place can only get better as the hotel was only opened last autumn.

Photography was not especially easy with a D SLR and 300mm lens plus TC.  The longish distance of waders here would probably suit digiscoping better.   The high temperatures (Av 30 degs) also limited birding to the early morning and later afternoon.  The heat haze was never easy to contend with.

Birding with the 'scope though was stunning and to have a reserve looking like RSPB Titchwell all to yourself was bliss. The first installment of images will concentrate on waders.

Part of a large roosting flock of Curlew Sandpipers, Sanderling and Ruff

American Golden Plover - presumably over-wintering at the site.

American Golden Plover showing the dusky underwing

Pair of Lesser Yellowlegs

Displaying Black-winged Stilts - up to 60 were present.

Adult Wood Sandpiper

Little Stint feeding by hovering over the water. More will follow on this unusual feeding technique.

Cattle Egret roost - part of a flock of 131 birds.

Cream-coloured Coursers - part of a group of 12 birds seen about a mile north of the hotel. A Hoopoe Lark and Bar-tailed Lark are also shown.

Holiday details: Flight from Gatwick, six hours, direct. Hotel Riu Touareg, Boa Vista. Organised through Thompsons First Choice. Transfer to hotel included.  No requirement to hire a vehicle as most birds within walking distance of hotel. Requirements: stamina, fitness, dark sunny's, gallons of water and an understanding wife.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Trip report from Boa Vista, Cape Verde to follow soon

A trip report on a visit to the island of Boa Vista in Cape Verde will follow in the next few days.  Hence the three week gap in any blog posts recently.  For now, I have posted below a couple images as a taster!

Adult Brown Booby - I saw more boobies this month than I can remember...

Hoopoe Lark - delightfully common in most habitats on the island

Adult Wood Sandpiper - seen daily on the hotel sewerage works settlement pond - my favourite location!