Sunday, 23 August 2015

Clayheads on Tour - A week on Lefkas

Taking advantage of the ailing Greek economy, myself & Mrs PJ decided on a cheap week in the sun as there are some cracking deals to be had at the moment especially in Greece. 
There would be no new birds on offer in Greece, there rarely are, but its very nice all the same and 100% better than being at work !! Our Studio was in the quiet resort of Ligia, habitat nearby mainly consisted of Olive groves and fields and there was also a partially dried up stream down the road which attracted a few bits & bobs.
Birds seen during a week of 'very' casual Birding included most of the usual suspects - Bee Eaters, Sardinian Warblers, Red rumped Swallows, Alpine Swifts, Little Owls etc..

Red-rumped Swallow

The stream produced Little Egrets, Common Sandpipers, a very confiding Greenshank, Black headed Wagtail and a Kingfisher 
The Butterfles & Dragonflies are always worth a look, there were varoius Dragonflies along the stream most of which I struggled to get close to and photograph but I did manage a decent pic of a Red veined Darter, and a Southern Gatekeeper was a tick for me.
Southern Gatekeeper
Red-veined Darter
We had a pleasant day on a boat trip visiting the remote islands of Kalamos & Kastos and once again as I have on previous visits to the smaller Greek islands I scanned the beaches & caves looking for Monk Seals. There are supposedly still a few of them around these Ionian island but once again I dipped out, the closet I got was seeing one their favourite caves, they were, of course, out for the day.
Monk Seal Cave


 Phil Jones August 2015

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Bee-eaters, Black Stork and other big birds August 2015

It had been a steady plod through July, but August started off with news that Bee-eaters had bred in Cumbria this year and the RSPB had set up a watchpoint. Having not seen Bee-eaters in Britain since the breeding pair in Co. Durham in 2002, it was an easy trip to make up north. We had to wait nearly two hours for one to show, and it wasn't really that cold, just a little bit dull.

The first Saturday for visiting and there was quite a crowd
Both nesting sites were opposite, but only one was partly viewable
Just the one Bee-eater was on show while we were there
On the way back home we popped into Arnside Knot for a short butterfly session. We did fairly well, seeing Northern Brown Argus, Scotch Argus and a few Dark Green Fritillaries, but I managed to miss a HIGH BROWN FRIT that Grizzly Adams photographed whilst I was further up the slope. 

Most of the DGF were quite faded
A Northern Brown Argus
Can see for miles from the top
Following a few days break on the south coast, I continued my holiday with a trip to Spurn on August 5th. Not only was this day my birthday, but it also coincided with a Black Stork being present there. At first, only the top of its head was visible, and that only came up when a Short-eared Owl flew near to it. Eventually it took flight, and then landed again out of view in the ditch.

Stunning views at first of the Black Stork - this was one of its better showings
This Short-eared Owl showed well while we waited

On the way home, we popped in to see the Sabine's Gull at Pennington Flash. It was showing rather well at the time we visited.

Sabine's Gull at Pennington Flash, Gtr Manchester
On Friday 7th August, my last day of my holiday, I dropped the family off at the Trafford Centre and headed off for another visit to Arnside Knott. Despite there being no wind and more sun than my visit a few days previously, the difference in butterfly numbers was quite amazing. There were loads of Scotch Argus out, but hardly any D G Frit were left. I met two butterflyers at the top with camera and casually asked what they had seen. It was only a High Brown Fritillary showing rather well on some flowers. 

The all important underwing shot
Saturday 8th August started off at Westport as usual. It was quite a lousy visit and at the end we stood by the visitor centre waiting for the SABINE'S GULL from Pennington Flash to drop in (it had flown off but did return later). I then spotted a tern sp being chased by a BHG. I quickly searched my internal library, checked the dark mantle and put out the news that there was a juv BLACK TERN at Westport. I woke CJW up, and PLo soon arrived. After all, it's not a bird we have everyday down at Westport. It was PLo who questionned the dark mantle, and after checking his very useful Collins app, also commented on the startling white rump. One thing that drives you on to make almost daily patch visits in the hope of finding something decent. It doesn't happen very often but on this occasion I totally foooked up. All because I got the two mantle colours the wrong way round. I thought WWBT had a pale mantle. Oh well, a site first as well. Congrats to PLo and CJW for questionning what they saw. And when the 2015 report comes out, it's their initials that will appear first.

Two photos by Dave K. Very useful for him to be on site, looking at his pics to sort the ID

The rest of the day was spent at Pennington Flash again, and then onto Preston where we dipped the long staying RING-BILLED GULL. We did see this gull though, chilling or just down on his knees?

On Sunday 9th August, following our visit to Westport, I followed CJW up to Chatterley Whitfield to see the Red-footed Falcon again (like we did on most days). It was at the top at first, then flew down to the bottom bit where it showed extremely well. And there was just the two of us there to enjoy it. As I drove off I glanced back at it and it was still sat there. We didn't realised this would be the last time we saw it. It flew off at mid day, eventually relocating in Lincolnshire. Such a relief, but at least we all managed to succesfully get this bird to leave Stoke under it's own steam.

And finally, a visit to Blithfield on Monday 10th August saw a Blithe Bay tick with another Common Crane for Blithfield.

Crane at Blithfield in Blithe Bay

Sunday, 9 August 2015

July 2015

I've been having too much fun recently and the blog has started to slip behind. So here is what happened in July.

On Saturday July 4th, we paid a visit to Burton Mere Wetlands and then on to Anglesey, basically just to do a bit of birding. We managed to miss the ROSEATE TERNS at Cemlyn, but we saw a few bits and bobs.

juv Little Egret at BMW
On Friday July 9th, we had our first county tick of the year; the much predicted Red-footed Falcon finally landed in Stoke-on-Trent of all places. News filtered out during the previous evening of one being photographed. I left the house at 05:00hrs but decided it was too cool for a Red-foot to be flying so I went to Westport instead. PJ, on the otherhand, popped up before work and found a cracking 1st summer male sat in a field. I was unable to pay a visit until 18:00hrs due to work. It was still present and showing nicely. And it stayed for a few more days. And things started to happen and things went out of control. And it slowly took over our birding lives. I've been asked why I haven't done a blog on the RFF yet. Maybe one day I will. I will tell the whole truth and tell you all of some of the goings on we witnessed. But until then, here one picture for you.

Our good friend the RFF
I paid another visit to Fermyn Wood this year following last years excellent visit. Only a couple of hours of sun, but the Purple Emperors did show well again.

Purple Emperor almost wing two purple wings
A routine visit to Westport on Monday 13th July became un-routine when I checked a bird flying away from me and over the lake. I was faced with the bizarre sight of an Avocet flying around the lake, all at 06:00hrs in the morning. I enjoy making phone calls at the time of day, and CJW was soon down in his slippers and dressing gown. My second, the 4th record for the lake and a lake self found tick for me.

Avocet at Westport. Both pics phone-binned
Due to a request from GAS, we did some birding in Staffordshire on July 18th, and we ended up finding a 5th record for the county. The day started off well, with Red-footed Falcon and Hobby in the bag before 07:00hrs. We sat and rested at Blithfield in the Tad Bay hide sifting through the waders before heading onto Branston. And there we found our 5th record for Staffordshire.
Lesser Marsh Grasshopper - first record for the square and 5th for the county

And so ends a quite bizarre month of July. 

Who are you staring at buster?