Archive for April 2014

19th – 26th April 2014: recent birding and ringing.   Leave a comment

Over the last week I have made several attempts at ringing at both Durlston and Fleets Lane but none have been overly successful, culminating with an attempt at Durlston on the 25th which resulted in the capture of just two retrap Wrens. We did ring our first Common Whitethroat early in the week at Durlston and Mick caught a couple of retrap Whitethraots that we ringed as first years last autumn

 

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Common Whitethroat at Durlston.

 

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Firecrests are usually a bird of late autumn, with very few occurring in spring, so it was pleasing to trap this female on 21st April, especially was in breeding condition, so confirming local breeding.

 

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As I was leaving for Durlston early one morning I saw this Hedgehog on the front lawn. It had rolled into a ball, but I supposed this was in reaction to my presence. Later Margaret called me to say it was obviously sick and she had put it in a box in the conservatory. With no improvement by mid-afternoon I contacted a local animal hospital, who later took it into care.

 

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I had a number of immovable appointments on the 24th, which was a bit frustrating as both a Richard’s Pipit and  a Hoopoe where found near Studland. In the end Margaret and I did get out but not until late evening when we went to a spot near Corfe Castle hoping to hear a Nightingale sing.

 

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Nightingale numbers have declined markedly in recent years with them now absent from several previously reliable locations. However I usually get to hear one or two singing birds each year, either on migration or at a known breeding site, but I seldom see anything more than a brief glimpse. I was very surprised when we arrived at the site on the south slope of the Corfe to Ulwell ridge to find this Nightingale was singing out in the open.

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It was well past 8pm and the light was fading so the image quality isn’t the best, but I think this is the first Nightingale I have ever photographed in the UK, apart that is from the odd bird that we have ringed.

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Sunset over the Corfe ridge.

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On the 25th I spent the morning at Portland Bill. Once again I failed to connect with a large arrival of migrants but with a strong southerly wind the conditions were ideal for seawatching, something that clearly occurred to every other birder in the area.

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Most birders scan the area just to the right of the Pulpit Rock, hoping to get onto east-bound seabirds at the earliest opportunity, they can be tracked until they pass behind the Obelisk. Views to the east of the Obelisk are into the sun and involve birds rapidly disappearing. I stuck it out from 0645 – 1015 but still there were a few good birds that passed soon after I departed.

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A couple of Ravens were in the Bill area.

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Raven numbers have increased considerably in recent years. This may be due to a cessation of direct persecution or finding  alternative sources of food.

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Powerful birds, Ravens will feed on the eggs and young of many birds but the abundance of road killed mammals may form a large part of their diet.

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During the seawatch I saw four Great Skuas but they were always at a fair distance. This dark phase Arctic Skua flew directly overhead but was into the sun before I got my camera on it.

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Manx Shearwaters were moving past the Bill in small numbers.

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It’s not just shearwaters, skuas and terns that can be seen on a spring seawatch. A pair of Gadwall flying by out to sea was an unusual sight. More expected was this flock of twelve Whimbrel moving between their African wintering and Scandinavian/Siberian breeding grounds.

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I had to call into Radipole RSPB reserve on the way back to  look at this bit of ‘modern art ‘that has caused so much controversy. Erected as part of a local art exhibition, it has caused outrage among some local birders, whilst others have suggested that such ‘works of art’ will encourage those who are not committed to conservation to enjoy the beauty of the local wildlife reserves. For an extreme view see Brett Spence’s blog http://bretteeblahblahblah.blogspot.co.uk/ but don’t click if you are offended by strong language!

1st – 6th March 2014 – The Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, part 1: Cancun, Cozumel and Rio Lagartos.   1 comment

Here is another series of photos from Mexico. The Yucatan peninsula part of the trip was sold as a separate tour from El Triunfo, with only Riita from Finland, the tour leader Mark van Beirs and myself taking both parts. This tour was very different from El Triunfo, there we were cut off from the modern word, isolated in the silence of the montane forest, here we were slap bang in the middle of it, something that was accentuated by the Mardi Gras festivals that carried on well into the night. El Triunfo was lovely and cool, Yucatan was hot, El Triunfo required a moderate degree of fitness, hiking up to 10km a day, often uphill with basic accommodation, the Yucatan was perhaps the easiest Birdquest I have ever done, with just short walks from the vehicle on flat terrain and good quality hotels and lodges. I have to say that although the birding in the Yucatan was excellent, overall I enjoyed the El Triunfo part of the trip more.

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Our first night was in Cancun, Mexico’s answer to Torremolinos. Fortunately we didn’t have to visit the front, packed with European and American grockles soaking up the sun. A short wander around the hotel grounds produced this Velasquez’s Woodpecker, a recent split from Golden-fronted. Bizarely it chose to drum on the metal covering of a street lamp, which certainly amplified the sound!

 

IMG_0018 Plain Chachalaca

Most members of the Cradids, the Family that includes Guans, Currasows and Chachalacas, are elusive forest denizens. This Plain Chachalaca stood in full view outside the hotel.

 

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Later that morning we drove south to catch the ferry to Cozumel Island. However, although we had allowed lots of time to catch the ferry we encountered huge queues (pre-booking is not available), we later found out this was because of the Mardi Gras festival that was taking place on the island that weekend. There was very little in way of shade, food or drink available whilst we spent four hours queuing in the baking sun (and what little shade was available was already taken by the local Iguanas).

 

IMG_0048 YB Sapsucker

Even bird photography was hard to perform.  I was almost arrested by some ‘jobsworth’ who insisted that photography was not allowed when I tried to get pics of this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Give a man a cap and a clip board and they become a little tyrant (or should that be tyrannulet?). Note the holes that the Sapsucker has drilled in the back, they will return to each in turn and literally sap-suck.

IMG_0073 Cozumel sunset

By the time we had got to Cozumel and checked into our hotel the sun was already setting.

 

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Of course we were expected to get into the party mood. Here tour participant Audrey photographs tour leader Mark.

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During both our evenings on Cozumel there was a huge procession of floats right past our hotel. Most of the guys on the tour considered this float to be the best, but whether that was because it was advertising beer or because of the beautiful models that accompanied it is open to debate!

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We spent the following day searching the scrub for Cozumel’s two endemics. There were once considered to be four, but Cozumel Thrasher is probably extinct (perhaps from the double whammy of a severe hurricane in 1988 and the accidental introduction of Boa Constrictors) and Cozumel Wren has been re-lumped with House Wren. The other two, Cozumel Emerald and  Cozumel Vireo were easy to see, as were the only Black Catbirds of the trip. The highlight however was the pair of elusive Ruddy Crakes seen the following evening under the light of the New Moon. Incidently the ghostly glow of the majority of the Moon’s surface is caused by Earthshine,  sunlight reflected off the daylight side of the Earth onto the dark side of the Moon and then back to the dark side of  the Earth. This precise alignment  can only  occur near the New Moon.

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On Monday morning we got up very early to catch the ferry back to Cancun. In the event we didn’t need to get there quite that early (0400) but the last thing we wanted was another major delay. We arrived on the mainland about 0800 and drove to the hotel we used on ther first night for breakfast. Then followed the long drive to Rio Lagartos on the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula where we checked into our hotel which overlooked the lagoon.

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The following species were common and could be seen on the lagoon immediately in front of the hotel: Black Skimmer

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Brown Pelican

 

IMG_0677 Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull

 

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Royal Tern

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Magnificent Frigatebirds were constantly overhead. This is an immature bird.

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A highlight of our time at Rio Lagartos was a boat trip on the lagoon. We were able to get close to a number of species roosting on various sandbars, such as these American White Pelicans .

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Willet, a widespread shorebird from North America and the only long-distant migrant shorebird occurring on the Atlantic coast that hasn’t been recorded in the UK (although there has been a record from Norway).

IMG_0462 Caspian tern

The largest tern in the world, Caspian Terns are as big as Herring Gull. Small numbers were seen around the lagoon.

 

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Although not rare, I was pleased to get good looks at first winter American Herring Gulls. A recent split from its European counterpart first-winters can be identified by the all dark tail. There was debate whether the American species should have been given a different English name that didn’t use the word ‘herring”. To suppress any further dissent it was agreed that from this point onwards all American Herring Gulls would be known as ‘George’

 

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Great Egret, another New World form that should be split from its Old World counterpart. In the breeding season the bare part colouration and display differs quite markedly and there are differences in vocalisations; see http://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/01/can-old-world-and-new-world-great-egrets-be-distinguished-by-call/

IMG_0280 Am Flamingos

One excellent birding area that we visited several times was the salinas or salt pans. Here hundreds of American Flamingos could be found along with large numbers of shorebirds.

 

IMG_0263 Am Flamingos

A recent split from Old World Greater Flamingo, American Flamingos are the brightest of all the six species. As flamingos would be incapable of flying the Atlantic, Old World and New World forms must have been separated for tens of millions of years and on this basis alone, must have evolved enough differences to be treated as separate species.

IMG_0782 Wilson's Plover

A real treat was the discovery of this Wilson’s (or Thick-billed) Plover at dusk.  A specialised feeder on crabs, this species is only found from Delaware southwards on the Atlantic coast and in the Caribbean.

IMG_0737 Hud Whimbrel

The American form of Whimbrel, known as Hudsonian Whimbrel has been recently split by the BOU on the basis of its all dark rump and a few other plumage features, however vocalisations seem identical and the split has not been followed by the IOC or other world checklists.

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Many shorebirds (aka waders) could be seen on the salinas, including large numbers of ‘peeps’ as the Americans call the smallest sandpipers. Here two very similar species can be seen, Least Sandpiper at the back and Semi-palmated Sandpiper in the foreground. A third species, Western Sandpiper was also present, and this is even more like a Semi-P than  Western Sand is.

 

IMG_0571  BB Heron

Scrubby areas around small freshwater pools also held some great birds such as this prehistoric looking Boat-billed Heron.

20th April 2014 – Lytchett Bay   2 comments

The exact moment that I uploaded my last post I received a text from local birder Ian Ballam to say that he had seen a Little RInged Plovers and three Yellow Wagtails at Lytchett Bay. As both are scarce migrants down the Bay I hurried down in the hope they would still be there. As I am in blogging mode I thought a short post script would be in order.

The Little Ringed Plover was on view but it was into the sun and quite distant but the Yellow Wagtails were showing well on what has been nicknamed ‘Folly Pond’, which didn’t seem so much of a folly now.

 

 

 

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Also around the pond were a large number of Swallows and House Martins, the Swallow in the picture below was preening on an overhead wire.

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Posted April 20, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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9th – 20th April 2014: Spring migrants return, plus a ‘flash-mob’ in the shopping arcade.   Leave a comment

 

 

As spring gathers pace we have resumed our ringing program at Durlston Country Park was well as continuing to ring at Fleets Lane in Poole. Migration has been slow so far this year, although as usual in spring Portland Bill has seen seen some large falls of migrants. Peak numbers out of three or four visits to Durlston have been between 30 and 40 birds ringed per session and numbers have been much lower at Fleets Lane.

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Another spectacular Durlston dawn.

 

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This male Green Woodpecker was an unusual catch at Durlston.

 

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One of the delights of spring is seeing the return of the sub-Saharan migrants like Sedge Warbler ……..

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….. Lesser Whitethroat and ….

 

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….. this beautiful male Common Redstart

 

 

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On the 15th I gave a talk to the Bournemouth Natural Sciences Society on the subject of ‘What Came First The Archaeopteryx Or The Egg’ The talk started with a section on the evolution of birds from feathered dinosaurs before I went rapidly through the various groups of birds extant today, describing their origins and explaining how they got to be where they are today. This, the cover of the forthcoming ‘Illustrated Checklist Of The Birds Of The World’ nicely demonstrates, the current best fit for entire bird family tree (with the exception of the Passerines which will be in a the second volume) and represented the baseline for my talk. Unfortunately the slide show didn’t go without a hitch, many of my slides had white lettered captions on  a black background. For some reason when I showed the slides in Bournemouth, the white text projected black and the captions disappeared!

 

 

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Like all teenagers, Kara is growing up fast. On the 10th she joined a school friend and her family on a holiday to the Canaries. She called in the night before to show off her new party dress.

 

PM BW stilts

The 12th was a very busy day. I was up at 0500 to go ringing at Fleets Lane, Margaret had some former work colleagues from her days in Southampton round for lunch and in the evening we visited my old friend and former ringing trainer, Trevor Squire at his house in north Dorset. We were just about to leave for Trevor’s when we heard that Paul Morton had found a pair of Black-winged Stilts at Swineham. A mad dash ensued and although I only saw them from a distance, the views were acceptable; and we got to Trevor and Sheila’s in time for dinner as well! Photo by Paul Morton.

 

 

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After an early start on the 12th and a very enjoyable, but late evening at Trevor and Sheila’s, we were slow to get going on the 13th. We opted for a short walk from Langton Matravers to the coast at Dancing Ledge. On arrival we found that due to erosion during the winter storm, the footpath was closed.

 

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However it didn’t take much of a detour to get us to the scenic spot.

 

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Good number of Early Spider Orchids were in bloom.

 

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For the first time in decades Puffins failed to arrive at Portland Bill in March. There had been a mass mortality along the coasts of Biscay and to a lesser extent along the English south coast as a result of the winter storms and we feared the local breeding population had been wiped out. We  also failed to see any at Dorset’s only other site, Dancing Ledge, but fortunately a couple were seen on my next visit to Portland on the 15th.  This photo was taken in Shetland in 2012 and previously posted on the blog in this small format.

 

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The only bird that came close enough to be photographed was this obliging Rock Pipit.

 

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Rock Pipit, Dancing Ledge.

 

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On the 15th I visited Portland. There were very few grounded migrants but seawatching was pretty good with Hobby, Merlin, Common Scoter, two species of Diver and as mentioned above, Puffins seen. Seawatching at Portland Bill. Out of the wind and out of the sun.

 

 

 

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A Whimbrel was the only migrant to come close enough to be photographed. unfortunately is was just disappearing around the Obelisk when I pressed the shutter.

 

 

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After an early visit to Durlston on the 17th I joined former colleagues for a post-work curry and drinks at Wetherspoons in Poole. Some like Dave,  (on the left) are still stuck in the lab but Tash on the right has made a bid for freedom and now works as a primary school teacher.

 

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On the 19th we put on a ringing demonstration at Arne RSPB reserve as part of their ‘meet the wildlife day’. On the same day in 2013 they invited two RSPB employees with ringing permits from elsewhere and the ringed over 100 birds during the day. This year we put on the demo and caught just nine! The reason was the dreadfully cold April in 2013 delayed the onset of the breeding season but this year birds have left the vicinity of the feeding station early for their various breeding sites.

 

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I had to leave the demo at Arne in the capable hands of Shaun, Carol and others and hurry back to Poole in Bank Holiday traffic conditions to see Margaret’s choir perform a ‘flash-mob’ in the Dolphin shopping arcade. The choir suddenly appeared out of nowhere and gave a good rendition of Handel’s ‘Hallelujah Chorus’ from the Messiah. They drew a large appreciative crowd but unfortunately it was over far too quickly and most drifted away wishing there had been more.

 

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Margaret and Christine (bottom right) singing as part of the Barclay House Choir  ‘flash-mob’. Christine came round for dinner about a week ago. She is currently studying for a teacher’s qualification in Bognor and regaled us with tales of the activities of her fellow students, activities that she clearly disapproves of !

 

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This morning (Easter Sunday) I set off early for Portland Bill. There was a strong wind, it was quite cold and in spite of clouding over during the night there were few migrants about. However I was delighted when a Serin was found feeding close to the Bird Observatory patio with some Goldfinches.

 

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View initially were quite brief but later it returned to the same area and gave better views. Although common on the near continent, Serins are scarce in the UK with most records coming from southern watch points like Portland. My last decent view of one in the UK was in spring 2000, again at Portland.

19th – 28th February 2014 – El Triunfo National Park, Chiapas, Mexico   Leave a comment

When I returned from Mexico I uploaded a short summery of the trip to my blog. Having now edited all the pictures I am now uploading a batch from the first part of the trip: El Triunfo National Park in the state of Chiapas.

Photos of the two key birds of the area, the Horned Guan and Resplendant Quetzal, have already been uploaded in March.

IMG_0008 Sumidero Canyon

Our tour started at the scenic Sumidero Canyon near to the state capital of Tuxtla Gutierrez. In the afternoon we drove to Galtnango, a small town within striking distance of El Triunfo.

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On route we picked up a number of widespread birds for the trip list, including some distant, gulls, herons and pelicans on this reservoir.

IMG_0061 Laughing Falcon

The following morning we drove to the base of the trail that leads up the Atlantic slope of El Triunfo, seeing many good birds, including this Laughing Falcon on route.

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About midday started the long climb to the park HQ, it was a 12km hike and a 730 m climb, pretty tiring but not too bad at a slow birding pace. With the exception of the park buildings, this was the last view we were to have of human habitation or activity for the next week.

 

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All our luggage and food went up on horseback.

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We were very lucky to get such good views of this Singing Quail.

 

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Our excellent local guides, Amy and Jorge and the El Triunfo HQ. We were able to stay in dormitory accommodation for our four nights here.

 

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Each morning the rising sun illuminated overnight mist in the clearing.

 

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Usually walking the trails was quite easy, but there were some obstacles!

 

IMG_0142 WF Quail-dove

Extraordinarily shy, we had given up hope of seeing White-faced Quail-dove until one was found visiting the compost heap at the back of the kitchen, but it still took a couple of hours of patient observation before it put in an appearance.

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Emerald Toucanet has been split into five species, the nominate form in Mexico keeps the original English name.

 

IMG_0189 Fulvous Owl

We had great views of the endemic and very localised Fulvous Owl at night but struggled to get decent photos. Fortunately we came across this obliging individual in the daytime a few days later.

 

 

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Trees draped in moss and bromeliads (air plants) typify these cool mountain forests.

 

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After three full days on the Atlantic side of the park we said goodbye at dawn and climbed another 150m to the Continental Divide and started our decent of the Pacific slope …

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… where we were immediately plunged into dense cloud and so missed out on views of the distant Pacific Ocean.

 

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A male Gartered Trogon

 

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Eventually we dropped below the cloud. The slopes are not deforested by locals but by the regular landslides that occur on these precipitous ridges.

 

 

IMG_0198 Tody Motmot

The diminutive Tody Motmot is a rare inhabitant of the Pacific slope. Other great birds included the little known Cabanis Tanager, Long-tailed Manakin and …

 

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… this Yellow-winged Tanager caught having an early morning stretch

 

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On the Pacific slope we had to camp at three different sites on consecutive nights. On the left is Bob Higbie from North Carolina who has been visiting Mexico since the early sixties. Mark van Beirs (right) was the tour leader and Birdquest managing director Mark Beaman (standing) came along to document the 10,000 species for the Birdquest life list.

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On the last morning we left the camp, crossed the river and walked along fairly open ground to our transport. we were back in ‘civilisation’. Much of the rest of the day was spent birding in open habitat and farmland scrub as we made our way back to Tuxtla Guttierez.

 

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Several Grey Hawks were seen over the open areas.

 

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Giant Wrens lived up to their name

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The exquisite Rosita’s (or Rose-bellied) Bunting was a life bird for me but it didn’t pose well for photos.

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Female Orange-breasted Buntings were pretty enough ….


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… but the males were just mind blowing!

After an excellent days birding we over-nighted in Tuxtla before heading to the airport, most of the group flew home, but Mark van Beirs, Riita and myself flew to Mexico City and then on to Cancun for the second part of our trip – the Yucatan peninsula.

El Triunfo had been a truly excellent place to go birding, great birds, great scenery and great company. The hiking and camping was quite tiring but it was a price well worth paying for such an excellent trip

 

Posted April 16, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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April 6th – Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in Bournemouth   Leave a comment

 

Over the last few years I been to a number of musical concerts, some like Muse (seen in London), Jessie J and Labyrinth (seen at the IOW) have been relatively modern bands but others like Crosby, Stills and Nash, Steeeleye Span and Leonard Cohen harp back to the days of my youth. Having greatly enjoyed these ‘blasts from the pasts’ it was with some anticipation that we attended a concert by Motown legend Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and  Manchester soul band, The Foundations at Bournemouth Pavilion on Sunday – however we came away rather disappointed.

Martha Reeves’ backing band was excellent but the three singers were often out of time, were unable to harmonise and totally failed to connect with the audience. I wasn’t the only one who felt let down, at least a quarter of the audience walked out, but I refused to leave until I had heard them do ‘Dancing in the Street’ as a finale. Some of the numbers were done well, but some were just dreadful.

The support act, The Foundations, were much better. Only the singer Clem Curtis remains from the original lie-up of the 60’s soul band  He might be 74 but he can still belt out some great numbers. The only downside was the drums, the base drum produced a wooden thump that not only drowned the rest of the drum kit but at times drowned out the entire band. However they were well appreciated with most of the ‘rather mature’ audience getting up to dance, especially during the numerous encores.

This does raise the question of whether it is worthwhile going to see musicians and former stars who might now be in their late sixties or seventies. Sure it’s a great nostalgia trip but that is of little value if the music is crap. However I feel that this indifferent concert an exception.  Crosby, Stills and Nash could harmonise just like they did at Woodstock, Steeleye Span interpreted British folk songs with the same flair that they did when I first saw them in 1969 and Leonard Cohen, now over 80, was much, much better than when I saw him in the early seventies.

With concerts by blues legend John Mayall and Rick Wakeman’s ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ already booked for later this year I certainly hope that this concert was the exception that proves the rule.

 

 

 

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Martha Reeves and the Vandellas at the Bournemouth Pavilion.

 

 

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Martha and the Vandellas in 1964 – the sound track to my early teens!

 

The Foundations in the late sixties. Only singer Clem Curtis remains in the current line up. I was a big fan of Motown and Soul up to about 1968 when thanks to the influence of my old friend Nigel, I switched my allegiance to ‘progressive rock’ and got into Jimi Hendrix, the Nice and Pink Floyd.

 

28th March – 5th April – birding, Webs, ringing and a ringer’s conference   2 comments

Here’s a summary of the last nine days or so’s activities.

A lot of time has been spent recently in preparing for my talk ‘What came first, the Archaeopteryx or the egg?’ which was a look at bird evolution and how birds got to be where they are today. I gave the talk to the Dorset Bird Club AGM of the 28th of March and it was well received. I will be giving the talk again next week to another organisation and hope to report on it here after that.

The following day Ewan and I visted Portland. There were a few early migrants like Wheatears and Chiffchaffs but the general feeling was that the spring migration hadn’t really got underway yet. We had distant views of the regular Iceland Gull but the best bird was a winter adult Little Gull that showed well at Ferrybridge.

 

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I took what I thought was an excellent series of photos of the Little Gull only to find that I had left the memory card in my laptop and I was ‘shooting blanks’. Here is a very similar bird taken from www.of birds and pies blogspot

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On the Saturday evening we went along to a social do in Ferndown organised by a local South African group. We shared an excellent selection of home cooked food and ended up playing Scrabble all evening – doesn’t sound too exciting, but was good fun. Since Margaret and I have been together over the past seven years, I have of course, met many South Africans and contra to the Spitting Image sketch, most have been very nice indeed! However I do get irritated when a small minority (and I emphasise it is a small minority) pigeonhole you and lecture about how much better things were when the white man was in charge. Fortunately for almost all, apartheid ended twenty years ago, its time for them to get over it and move on!

 

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Continuing the South African theme, Janis, Amber, Kara, John and Anita came over to our place for Mother’s Day. Janis (L) and Anita (R) cooked us an excellent meal ….

 

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….. meanwhile John helped Kara with her gymnastics in the garden

 

IMG_1267 Holes Bay

I nearly missed the last Wetland Bird Survey (Webs) of this winter period on later that day, but fortunately one of the counters put out news of a Red-breasted Goose from his count area and I realised I should have already been at Holes Bay!

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I was in luck as it was such a low tide that the waders and wildfowl were still present in spite of the fact I was 30 minutes late, but by this time of the year most birds have moved north to their breeding grounds and I only saw small numbers.

 

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On the 31st a few of us had a ringing session at Fleets Lane. A few newly arrived Blackcaps were the highlight. On a previous session on the 25th we retrapped this Chiffchaff, I have since found that it was ringed at the same site on 19th April 2013, so it is either a local breeder returning to area (although we haven’t trapped it in between) or a migrant pausing on migration at Fleets Lane in consecutive years. Also interesting is its very dull colour , quite like a Siberian Chiffchaff but lacking the green cast to the primary fringes.

 

IMG_1287 Fen Drayton

Although I was out early ringing with the others on the 31st my mind was really on a rare duck in Cambridgeshire. Not wishing to spoil the Mother’s Day celebrations the day before I had delayed the twitch until the Monday. With confirmation that it was still there coming about 0900 ,I left after the ringing session for the long drive to Fen Drayton just NW of Cambridge.

 

 

IMG_1272 Baikal Teal

Fen Drayton is an excellent wetland reserve but one I had never visited it before. Neither had I seen it’s star attraction, a Baikal Teal before (at least in the UK). A rare vagrant from north-east Siberia, it had probably wintered to the south after westward vagrancy last autumn and was now heading back towards the breeding grounds.

 

IMG_1284 Baikal Teal

There were those who were dismissing this bird as an escape from captivity, so it was satisfying that a few days later it was rediscovered at the Ouse Washes to the north before disappearing completely – it was clearly on its way to Siberia! It was a long seven-hour drive to Cambridgeshire and back in the same day, but well worth it.

 


IMG_0001-Swineham

Much of the week has been spent catching up on editing photos, making notes on previous foreign trips and preparing for future ones, but Margaret and I spent a couple of hours at Swineham near Wareham on the 4th seeing a drake Scaup and other wildfowl, a few Sand Martins and both Hen and Marsh Harrier. Note the cloud of midges in the top left of the photo, summer is on its way!

 

IMG_0002-Swineham

In spite of the midges,we stayed until sunset. Originally permission was given for gravel extraction at Swineham on the condition that the site went into conservation management once work was complete. However it went into private ownership and access has been severely curtailed, with willows deliberately planted to prevent viewing of the pits from the public footpath. The conservation organisations should have got in there first, it would make a first class reserve both birders and for educating the public about conservation. This is in stark contrast to the site I was to visit the following day.

 

 

 


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Unlike the sunny evening yesterday, the 5th April was foggy with intermittent drizzle. Five Stour Ringing Group members went to Seaton on the Axe Estuary in East Devon for a ringing conference. After the conference we were given a guided tour of the nearby reserve. Here a dedicated group of local conservationists and ringers along with a very switched on local council have turned a number of fields alongside the estuary into a purpose built reserve and education centre. We were amazed at the attention to detail and forethought and although we didn’t see too many birds in the awful conditions .we were delighted to have seen the place. I have been there before, if you want to see pictures under nice sunny condition then look for a blog entry in October 2012.

 

P4050263-SW-Ringers-confere

Of course the reason for our going to Seaton as to attend the South-west ringers conference. Six talks were given during the day on Manx Shearwaters on Lundy, the Black-tailed Godwit colour ringing project, the Shelduck study on the Axe estuary, Pied Flycatchers on Dartmoor and the activities of the West Cornwall ringing group. One of the most entertaining talks was from Matt Prior (above) on how single-handedly he has managed to create a huge population of the threatened Tree Sparrow by a combination of a nest box scheme and feeding stations.

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Conferences like this give the opportunity to meet other ringers and exchange ideas as browsing the various stands and exhibits. After hearing from these six speakers what others had achieved in their spare time, our delegation felt like complete amateurs and on the way back there was much discussion what we could or should be doing back home in Dorset.

 


Posted April 8, 2014 by gryllosblog in Uncategorized

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