Saturday, 25 May 2013

Clayheads on Tour May 2013 - Two weeks in Turkey

Myself & Mrs PJ spent the holiday based in Ovacik which is located in the hills above the well known resort of Olu Deniz in SW Turkey. We had previously visited the area back in the early 90's but in July so the birding had been hard work which is certainly not the case in May as there were birds everywhere. Walks around the fields, hills & coniferous woodland surrounding the hotel produced Masked Shrikes, which were viewable from the hotel.

Masked Shrike

Kruper's Nuthatches, I must seen at least 20 birds, at various locations around the area, back in 1994 I only saw one!

Krupers Nuthatch

Ruppells Warblers were also easy to find

Other local birds included Syrian Woodpeckers, Short toed Eagles, Olivaceous Warblers, Woodchat Shrikes, Scops Owls, Alpine Swifts, Red-rumped Swallows etc... One morning I had a Levant Sparrowhawk over the hotel which was a bonus.

Syrian Woodpecker

There are also plenty of Tortoises knocking about, these retail at about £250 back home I tell you I could hardly get my case closed when we left !!!

At the abandoned village of Kaya which is just down the road there are breeding Rollers, Rock Nuthatches and Black eared Wheatears.


Black-eared Wheatear

Rock Nuthatch

The area I had most been looking forward to visiting was Seki which is the mountains about a 90 minute drive from the resort and it certainly didn't disappoint. I got there early morning ( In fact I was up at Nick o'clock ) I parked the car in a promising looking area just before the village and got out to have a scan around - bloody hell !!! the first bird I saw was a cracking male White-throated Robin singing from the top of a bush, then another and another, there was an Isabelline wheatear sat on a rock, Black-headed Buntings singing from the wires a Cretzschmar's Bunting on the wall not to mention all the other usual suspects. A bit further on I found a female Eastern Orphean Warbler and a Rock Bunting and Rock Thrush.

White-throated Robin

I carried on birding for the next hour or so adding Rock Sparrow, Bee-eaters plus many Nightingales and more WT Robins but the star bird was still missing. I drove higher on the Seki - Elmali road. I must admit I was starting to get a little concerned and was planning a return visit later in the week but just as I reached the very top I flushed a flock of Finches at the side of the road, I quickly turned the car around and drove slowly back to the spot. The birds had started to drop back in, there were Linnets, Goldfinches, Serins and Bird of the Holiday - 10 Red-fronted Serins - fantastic, I got really close to the flock and had brilliant views from the car window I also managed to get a few decent pics I drove back to the coast with a big cheesy grin on my face.

Red-fronted Serins
Some extra photo's -

Black-eared Wheatear

Isabelline Wheatear


atricapillus Jay

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Saturday 20th May - Margate Cemetery, Kent

There are two certainties in life. Firstly, if you go to bed early, then you get up early. On the otherhand, if you go to bed late, then you get up late.

I've always been an early riser, and always like to get down to Westport before the heaving masses, and I usually arrive at just after 06:00hrs, even on weekends. Its the only way to chance upon a wader, if one is present, before it gets flushed.

This Saturday, we planned a day in Staffs, hoping that the good spell of birds found during the week would continue. We arranged to meet CJW at Westport at 06:30hrs. I have to admit that I did get up slightly earlier than usual, and at 05:30hrs, I checked my phone for any messages that had come through after I had gone to bed. I was in for quite a shock.

Its not everyday that a  DUSKY THRUSH is found, but one on the mainland, and present for three days was quite a surprise. I briefly did a bit of research behind the story, and tried to phone GAS and CJW to get away as soon as possible. GAS was already up, but it took CJW until 06:05hrs to ring me back. In the meantime, PLo had rang me to say the DUSKY THRUSH was already showing again. I offered him a lift as unfortunately we had a spare seat in the car due to PJ still being in Turkey. I had my second shock of the day when I found out PLo was already in Kent. I realised that some people stay up later than me, and had obviously gone down in the early hours while the rest of the Clayheads were snoozing away!

We managed to leave Stoke at about 06:20hrs, and we had an easy journey down to Kent with no hold ups en route. It was strange to be travelling down with news coming through all the time and not being on site at first light like we normally do. We arrived in Margate (like a poorman's run down Blackpool with a huge set of 1960's high rise flats on the front. Last time I saw flats like these were in Hungary!).

We had a small detour around Margate due to being given the wrong postcode, but we soon found the cemetery and a street full of parked cars. The crowd was easy to find too, but the 1w female Dusky Thrush was sitting deep inside a tree when we arrived, and it took us an eternity to find it in our scope. The boys around us though we very kind in letting us look through their scopes.

It did move occasionally, showing in full view, but then again it disappeared for quite lengthy spells. The problem was that with the crowd surrounding the tree, the Dusky Thrush couldn't drop down to feed. Eventually, we did have some good views, although we were looking through branches again, hence the greenish hue on all the photo's. We also had several Ring-necked Parakeets flying overhead aswell.

1w female Dusky Thrush at Margate Kent. The first twitchable one since 1959.

We were extremely satisfied with how the morning had gone and on the way out we paid a visit to the toilets near the entrance. Now, its not very often that you get a photo of the inside of a toilet on a Clayhead blog, but there's always a first for everything. Way down in deepest darkest Kent, in a toilet block in a cemetery, I found......

.........a toilet manufactured by Twyfords at Cliffe Vale - the old factory is visible from my house! Sorry for the quality of the photo but I wasn't going to flash in there was I.  

Its recently been said that most twitchers just stand and watch one bird and then drive home again. Thats not true on a Clayhead twitch and we always make the most of our day in whatever area we visit. There were a few birds still to see along the North Kent coast. First stop was at Reculver just along the coast. The sun was out now and there were even sunbathers out by the Reculver Towers. We were soon watching a female Montagu's Harrier quartering over one of the fields. There was also a RED-BACKED SHRIKE in the area, but we were told it was a two mile walk, and so we gave it a miss.

The final bird of the day was the Cattle Egret at Shorne Marshes. We soon found Shorne Marshes on the map and armed with our sat nav we set off. All was going well until we arrived at a railway line with a crossing. We parked up, heard a Nightingale singing but then found the gate we needed to walk through had been welded shut! We consulted our maps again, tried and failed to access the RSPB website but eventually decided to try Canal Road which looked as though it also went onto Shorne Marshes. In the end, we walked about two miles along a cycle way and found the Cattle Egret feeding with cattle. As for it being an RSPB site, we didn't see a single RSPB sign anywhere until we got back on the dual carriageway to go home.

Chris enjoyed his day so much in North Kent, I asked him how many ice-creams he'd eaten..

So having seen quite a decent selection of birds in Kent, we headed for home. We'd read a few mumblings on Twitter whilst in the cemetery about the Dusky Thush being a possible hybrid, and it did take a small bit of gloss off the day. Once home, trial by Birdforum started, with various birders casting doubt over the purity of the thrush. You try not to read them or worry about them, but when Martin Garner of Birding Frontiers starts asking questions, then you start sweating. However, during Sunday afternoon, we finally received the news that made us go "Duskytastic"

Monday, 20 May 2013

Early May 2013

May is traditionally an excellent month for birding, and one I particularly look forward to. Its been a hectic month so far, and here is a brief round up.

Its been a better year for Grasshopper Warblers this year.

There was a nice surprise at Westport on the 7th May with this Whooper Swan that dropped in for a short time.

May is always a good month for wader passage in Staffs, and this year its been quite productive so far. On the 11th May, a large passage of Dunlin occured through the county during a very showery afternoon. I managed to find a Sanderling in one flock.

On the 12th May during the duck count at Westport, Karl found a stonking summer plumaged Black-necked Grebe that stayed all day. We knew we were due one soon as we only usually go 2-3 years in between sightings. The last one was in 2011, coincidently also on the 12th May.

The Westport Black-necked Grebe stayed just for the day - like every other Westport record! Pics by Dave Kelsall

A Wood Sandpiper showed well at Doxey from the tin Hide on 13th May.

Another after work dash was made on 15th May. There had been a large passage of waders through the Midlands, and Belvide had had a particularly good day. Star attraction was a summer plumaged Purple Sandpiper, but we also saw four Sanderling, a Black Tern and two Garganey. 

The Purple Sandpiper at Belvide

And to finish a fine week in Staffordshire, a Temminck's Stint was at Branston GP's on the 17th May, meaning another after work trip.