Monday, 27 August 2012

Monday 27th August 2012 - The rest of August

Since coming back from Tenerife at the beginning of August, I've been out every weekend, flogging the patches and looking for that golden nugget. Needless to say, its been tough going again, and following on from a quiet July, its been a truly quiet summer all round. Things started to pick up a little towards the end of the month, but it was still low on the quality stuff. At the moment, getting a patch year tick signifies in a good day!
Saturday 11th August 2012 - Arrived back from Tenerife on the Friday, and following a slight pause to the proceedings in order to find which case had my bins and scope in, we were out in Staffs again. A visit to Branston Pits saw an adult Yellow-legged Gull as the highlight on an otherwise quiet visit. This being a patch year tick. Not many waders around, just two Green Sands and fourteen Curlew.

Adult YLG at Branston - 11/8/2012 

We called in at Blithfield on the way home to see the Ruddy Shelduck. That just about sums up the day.

Distant shot of Ruddy Shelduck in Tad 11/8/2012

Saturday 18th August 2012 - Something to go for at last in the shape of a fine flock of 24 Black Terns at Blithfield. We also found two Black-tailed Godwits in Tad Bay. One was much larger than the other. I did a bit of research and my book suggested Icelandic birds did show a size difference between the sexes. We also saw five Wigeon and the two Black Swans.

Three of the Black Terns north of the causeway 18/8/2012

On to Branston Pits next, and not a bad visit with ten Black-tailed Godwits, two Ruff, two Common Sandpipers, fifteen Curlew and sixteen Green Sandpipers.

Shoveler at BGP's 18/8/2012

One of the Black-tailed Godwits at BGP's 18/8/2012

Saturday 25th August 2012 - The final weekend of the month got off to a good start with a fly over Little Egret at Westport. Having been stuck on 99 for the year at Westport since 29th June, it was nice to finally get my 100th species of the year in the bag. I can relax now but I don't think I'll be adding too many more to that total. After a visit to Berryhill, we wandered down to Branston as per usual. Highlights were a Spotted Flycatcher, sixteen Blackwits, fifteen Curlew, a Hobby and twelve Green Sandpipers.

Peacocks were showing well on the buddleia again at Branston 25/8/2012

The Spotted Fly at Branston 25/8/2012

And that was August. Not the best August in recent times. Roll on for the annual Autumnal fun and games.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Clayheads on Tour 2012 - Tenerife (Part 2 - Erjos and The Whales)

Due to the fact that it didn't really get light until 07-15hrs, we were a little restricted this holiday with how much birding we did. We were back early on from our day out on the 7th August, and so we popped out in the afternoon sun to the famous Erjos Pools. Fortunately, the was a little bit of cloud cover, so the heat wasn't that intense. Its true what it says in most reports - it is not an easy place to find, but on our second attempt, we found the narrow track down.

Erjos Pools - quite dry!

We soon added Tenerife Moorhen and Tenerife Coot to our lists, but then we spotted a pigeon at the back. Eventually it came down to drink, and we realised it was a Bolle's Pigeon. As we stood, we realised there were more roosting, and we were soon watching eight Bolle's - a most unexpected bonus. The area was also full of Linnets and Atlantic Canary.

Bolle's at Erjos

Atlantic Canary

One other interesting trip we did was a whale watching trip out of Los Gigantes. A most enjoyable trip on an almost flat sea saw at least 15 Pilot Whales at extremely close quarters, some even swimming under the boat. One member of the party likened it to being in a wildlife programme. As we came back closer to shore, we saw four White-sided Dolphins.

Short-finned Pilot Whales

Atlantic White-sided Dolphins.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Clayheads on Tour 2012 - Tenerife (Part 1 - August 5th 2012)

For this years summer holiday, we headed to Tenerife, an island I'd visited in 1990, but not for birding purposes.Having already visited Madeira and Fuerteventura, we'd already seen some of the Macaronesian endemics, but there were still plenty of ticks for us to see. Our hotel, the excellent Barcelo Santiago in Puerto Santiago was on the north west coast, handily placed for all the sites we wanted to visit.

We set ourselves an ambition target to see all the Tenerife endemic in one day. We chose August 5th, which just happened to be my birthday as well. My main concerns were with the pigeons. I had directions for the LAUREL PIGEON site at Mirador de la Grimona, and had one site for BOLLE'S, but if we failed at any site, I had no back up plan, and no other days planned for birding. The pressure was on.

We woke up when it was still dark and went for our special early breakfast - consisting of bread, a bit of German cheese and ham. Spoilt for choice, I managed to find a small tub of honey instead, and managed to spread it on one half of a slice of bread. A nice breakfast for my birthday! (Actually this breakfast lasted me all day and I didn't eat again till 7 o'clock at night!)

First stop was at Mirador de la Grimona on the north coast. We arrived at 07-45hrs, not quite first light, and soon parked up on the hard shoulder in between the 1st and 2nd tunnels (heading west). Within a matter of moments, a Laurel Pigeon flew out from the cliffs, landed and perched on the cliff face. It then flew back across, and again fed in the open. Not a bad start to the day at all. We soon had our second tick of the day, the very abundant Canary Islands Chiffchaff. We saw the Laurel Pigeon four times in flight as we sat there. There were many Plains Swifts overhead, plus three insularum Buzzard. As we drove off, we passed the layby between the 2nd and 3rd tunnels. We had parked in the wrong place!

Laurel Pigeon at Mirador de la Grimona

Mirador de la Grimona (or just before in between the wrong tunnels)

Next stop was for the BOLLE'S PIGEON and we chose Chanajiga, also on the north side of the Teide NP. It was quite a drive up, but we stopped several times and saw Berthelot's Pipits, Canary, teneriffae Blue Tit and the first of many canariensis Kestrel. We eventually arrived at Chanajiga at 10-20hrs - far later than I had hoped for. We parked up and started walking along the track. The notes I had read suggested walking along for at least a kilometre and more, stopping at the various viewpoints. As we reach the end of the carpark, there was a huge forested slope in front of us.

First available viewpoint of the slope at Chanajiga

We stood and waited. Again, within moments of us stopping a pigeon flew across the path. It was a Bolle's Pigeon. We stayed for about an hour, seeing birds in flight on five occasions, and the last time we had two birds fly across. Again, every bush seemed to have a Canary Island Chiffchaff in it. There were teneriffae Blue Tit, superbus Robin and our first canariensis/tintillon Chaffinch.

So, three ticks in the bag, including the two tricky Pigeon sp, and the best tick yet to come. We started to climb up the slopes of Mount Teide, and we past a picnic site. I thought the name sounded familiar so we called in. It was La Caldera, and I remembered the name as it was one of the few sites that both Chaffinch sp were present. Our first stop produced a few Tenerife Goldcrests, and then by the picnic tables, we watched a superb male Blue Chaffinch. Our task was almost complete.

Original artwork by Phil Jones - Blue Chaffinch

We only had one more bird to catch up with - the canariensis Great Spotted Woodpecker. We drove past the very impressive Mount Teide with its incredible scenery and headed for La Lajas picnic site. On the way, we saw vast areas that had been burnt in the recent fires.

We arrived at La Lajas mid afternoon, and there were still a few picnic tables in use. We saw about 15 Blue Chaffinches in total, but only two were decent male birds. Getting close views was difficult. Canaries and Blue Tits were also present, and then the canariensis Great Spotted Woodpecker flew into view. Job done - all the endemics seen on one day.

La Lajas


Blue Chaffinch

Canary Great Spotted Woodpecker