Saturday, 22 July 2017

White Rumped Swifts bring to a Close....

Just to round off this short break to Tarifa with a few pics to close out with. Stunning views are afforded from various view points looking accross the straits to Morrocco. Black eared Wheatears allowed some nice close up prolonged views (below).

Black Kites are always nice to see,

Collared Pratincoles are always a personal favourite and seeing the juvenile below, real up close was an opportunity not to be missed to round off a few clicks. 

An afternoon on Gib took me back some 22 years, when I last visited this rock at the entrance to the Med and evoked some fond memories of my first over-sea's trip with Stuart in which we travelled from Malaga-Ronda-Monfague-Donana-Gib-Malaga (a great trip).

A Melodious Warbler was a nice surprise to see in the hand just prior to release as we bumped in to one of the Milgres staff undertaking ringing at one of the constant effort sites. Woodchats are always good to see as well as Beeaters, Hoopoe's and Pallid Swifts.

White rumped Swifts showed very well at a key site location Simon & Niki have for this much sought after species. Two of these performed well with Red rumped Swallow & House Martins.

The Hosts, Simon & Niki

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Griffon Vultures - (Upclose & Very Personal)

As planned, a lot of time this trip was spent searching for Vultures, Griffons in particular, in the hope of "lucking in" to a Ruppell's. This consisted of visting a roosting site location, a secret valley, where one morning we felt we were "in" as there was large numbers of Griffon's flying in overhead, in squadron like formation, landing and perching up in a dead tree, even the local farmer stated he suspected there was a carcass nearby but we never found the carcass nor did the Vultures indicate that they had found it either. This show also included Booted and Short toed Eagles low overhead, Black Kites inqisitively lingering overhead of which I deleted the photos before protecting them, "what a melt"

However, one morning whilst having a local traditional breakfast, which consisted of fresh Orange Juice, Coffee, Tomatoe-Toast, and a very large Brandy, Simon received news of a carcass with Vultures appearing, luckily we were only walking distance away from the site so after necking Breakfast we headed off. Here are some images taken from this feeding frenzy, where power and ascertiveness seems to be the rule of tumb amongst the amassing Vultures.

Simon T, Niki W, Fran, Cath and myself all watched on with amazement the spectacle of Vultures piling in on top of each other with lumps of flesh being carried away, and an almost rugby scrum like feeding behaviour was witnessed by us all. 

I hope some of these photos and the small video footage provide yourselves an idea of what we witnessed and the carnage that takes place at such feeding forays.

Above shows a Griffon fleeing the scene with its cache, below shows a colour ringed Griffon, which was nice to see as this was my second colour ringed (A5U) Vulture,

Above image shows an incomming Griffon with landing gear down ready to join the feeding frenzy below. The two images below show Griffon's taken in flight at various locations during the previous days.

Video above shows an insight to the feeding frenzy and the video below shows an adult bird with a young bird at the nest site.

Whilst spending an evening at a roost site, watching and scanning the incoming Vultures an Egyptian Vulture appeared and Simon advised me that there had only been a single bird of late and he was disapointed that the "pair" were not as such any more but "fortune favours the brave" and we were rewarded staying on site at the roost until gone 22.30hrs with another 2 Egyptian Vultures bringing the tally to 3 birds, then we noticed that one individual was wearing a satelitte tracker, as per the image below. This was nice to see and we could clearly see that the bird was sporting a colour ring but unfortuantley it was just to far to be able to read the code at such distance.

I have seen many Vultures at many sites but nothing allowed such good views or photographic opportunities as this trip, Ok, so we got lucky with a fresh carcass but you make your own luck and we put in the time on this trip. 

If you do fancy some "up close & personal" time and or photographic opportunites with Vultures then I can't think of any other better choice than to join a day or 3 with the Inglorious Bustards team, higly recomended Simon, Niki & Russett at:

Monday, 10 July 2017

Lesser Kestrel's - Tarifa, Spain.

All images within this post were taken at the Guzman Fort, Tarifa, Spain, July 2017. Above shows an adult male Lesser Kestrel returning with an Egyptian Cricket for the young. This was apart of a week long trip to catch up with Simon  T and Niki W of Inglorious Bustrards.

Specialised bird photography tours are very much popular and the in-thing of the moment, there are several companies that offer Lesser Kestrel photography sessions/tours with purpose built hides over-looking the nesting areas of these smart little falcons, and that is good and allows up close and personal photos with an insight to the private lives of the Lesser Kestrels but this site location allows all of that and more without having to remain in a hide.

Inglorious Bustards have absolutely nailed this site and all by being on foot and in the fresh air. If Lesser Kestrels are something you wish to see well and or photograph them then join a day's photography tour with the Inglorious Bustards team and have fun clicking at these and some of the other specialised species of the surrounding area. Even though people say nothing os guaranteed, one thing is guaranteed and that is you will have a great day.

Later on in the week the youngsters were all off of the nest and sitting in dead tree's surrounding the fort and so it was great to witness this. I reckon a spring trip could be in order.....

Inglorious Bustards Website: Inglorious Bustards

More on other species and the rest of the trip to follow.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Elegant Tern Pagham Harbour.

After hearing and reading about the Elegant Tern at Pagham Harbour and how the views seemed to be difficult and distant at times I decided to wait for an evening visit for the best light and also for an evening to coincide with a falling tide in the hope that the Elegant Tern would appear on to the the feshly exposed mud to preen and bathe in the shallow water. 

Well, I arrived at 18:00hrs and was met with "oh it just flew back in on the island" 2 long hours later and nearly ready to leave the Tern was located preening on the island but partly obscured, then it decided to have a fly around, then it went back to the island, deep in the cover but luckily shortly re-appearing and landing on the mud " thats more like it" as it preened, stretched and postured with wings drooped head and neck stretched and some slight head twisting, so then it flew around the area and then done a final fly-by heading off in to the distance "job done" so at 20.30hrs I headed home. 

This was a nice evening out and seeing plenty of Sandwich, Little and Common Terns with Med Gulls and Peregrines made for a nice added selection. 

This reminded me of when Elsie was up on the Farnes and the Sooty Tern on the Skerries all adding to the summer months and so now another Least Tern in a colony would be appreciatley received as I never saw the Rye Harbour bird.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Honey Buzzards on Forest

Finally that time of year is here, Mid May and time to get on Forest and start looking for that summer migrant Raptor - The Honey Buzzard

I arrived on site at Location 6 at 07.45 and at 08.10 a white male lifted out circling low over the wood before pickig up a thermal and drifted off. At 10.55 the same individual reapeared and dropped in below before reaprearing and then began gaining height before going in to a roll as if from 2 on a clock and rolling down and up as if to 11  on a clock and began wing clapping, each peak reached was followed by an explosive show of 2 bouts of wing clapping, this was repeated 11 times ! "Game On and the season has begun".

This show was by the white male (above) with damage to to the central tail feathers and worn primaries and a rather unique brown neck that joins the blue/grey hood. I have also seen this individual wing clapping with prey visible held in the talons this season. 

Several visits passed without any sighting of a female and I was some-what slightly concerned by this as I have always seen two birds together at any of the locations during previous years, very early in the season. The continued wing clapping also added to my concern.

One morning I set up at location 6 and was hoping for some activity to give some evidence that birds were on territory, at just before 09.30 a barred male came in over my head from behind me, flew away from me, half circled allowing a good view of the underwing, underparts before dropping behind a block of trees not to be seen again, This is the only barred male I have seen this season and I do not seem to see many barred males on forest these days, maybe this is the bird that has been showing at Acres.

By 11.00 I decided to move to look over a different wood at location 7. The hours passed slowly and I was starting to feel a little negative of this site when at 16.20 a male Honey Buzzard came in quick and low in strong light due to angle of the sun and dropped in to the wood in front. Twenty minutes later a bird began lifting out in front and as I observed the bird in the scope I realised that this was a female Honey Buzzard ! "Result! thats better" the female, a rather large individual continued to lift, circling and lifting each time on a thermal gaining height and coming closer each time in my direction, at one point the wing tips were edge to edge within the scope. She lingered in the area on and off for around 10 minutes before going on a direct line and lost to view. That was it, great stuff and 8 hours of seeing no evidence of territory behaviour had finally paid off with an in, a change over and an out. 

Over the course of the following weeks the activity had gone pretty quiet with lift outs at the start of the day being path of the course, however one visit the male lifted out as if panicked returning back to the wood and then up again of which the two of us (MD) were puzzled why this was happening and then there was the answer, an intruding female below, this is not the resident female of this site but a visiting bird. The individual below had caused some difference of opinions to it's sex and some believed this to be a dark male, in the end to save any more debate I sent the photo to several people of which one was Dick F who agreed that this was a female. 

A few vsists later I was sat again at location 7 by 07.30 and the female came in to view at 09.40 dropping in on a direct line in to the wood. Some 15 minutes later male above lifted out and circled, thermalled and then began wing clapping, This went on for 12 times the highest count I have had in a single wing-clapping session during the spring "this is a beautiful and truly amazing spectacle to be privalidged to witness, definatley the highlight of Forest birding in the summer season". As I watched, enjoying this show I wondered why this was happening and presumed that maybe the visiting female from the previous week was closeby when a second Honey Buzzard enterred the scope view and began mirroring the flight of the male above but this was not the presumed female but another white male, a pristine individual, with no damage or wear to any feathers, two white male Honey Buzzards in the same view in the scope copying and mirroring the other's flight. I just enjoyed this moment until both birds went off in different directions.  I suspect that this is the male from location 6 and that this male at location 7 was the first bird within this area and so was on the lookout from a female from this site as I think that maybe some birds came in late this May and that supports the continued show of wing clapping from this male.

Monday, 29 May 2017

A New Colony + A Colour Ringed Red Footed Falcon.

A visit to another Red Footed Falcon colony was in order and this particular colony had a larger number of birds. This site was a small wooded copse in an area of vast open steppe like farmland. I decided to use this opportunity to try and upskill my rather poor flight photography skills here as I realised I didn't have any flight shots of Red Foots this trip.

As is always the case, I'm constantly on the lookout for colour-rings and so having two induviduals wearing the usual colour coded alphernumeric plastics was appreciated. 

At one point all the Red Foots, Kestrels and Rooks took to the sky forming a rather large ball, and then there was a rather large White tailed Eagle passing by overhead. I then took a walk to a small pool where the Red Foots gather to feed pre-dusk and as I walked through the area a local farmer was doing his thing with his cattle. A really nice spot this and worthy of more time than I was able to give it but my first colour riged Red Foots were nice.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Ural Owl's - Carpathian Montane Forest Region.

Another species I had seen previously in Kazakhstan was Ural Owl but again this was a long time back and pre camera days so to be able to see this species again and hope to be able to photograph them was an opportunity not to be missed.

As we walked down and along the track in the photo above anticipation was high hoping that this particular Ural Owl at ths site would show well, a Black Woodpecker flew through and Wood Warblers sang close by. As we appraoched the site we walked slowly looking for the feamle, of whch she soon appeared glarring at us with eyes fixed on our every movement, of which was minimal just enough to align the camera.

The female above was a rather dark individual and even though it was great to watch and study this individual through the scope and click away the light was not great due to the angle. A Middle Spotted Woodpecker appeared from a nest hole in a nearby tree and then the Ural Owl flew through the area we were standing at and landed on a tree behind us allowing the video footage below. 

Collared Flycatchers sang close by and we then left this individual to do her thing and went off to look at the singing Wood Warblers nearby.

Ural Owl number two was a site we visited that same evening at another area some miles away from the first site, as we walked in slowly we loacted this beautiful female perched up watching us through a gap which was just big enough to get a couple of shots, as you can see this is a rather pale individual but beautiful,gentile  and soft looking. I really enjoyed watching photographing this particular bird as Collared Flycatchers appeared from nest holes close by and the sound of the river flowing in the distance. 

This was to be the last stop of the day but what a day, the first day in the Carpathian montane range. Two Ural Owl's, Displaying Lesser Spotted Eagles whilst carrying a lizard! with Honey Buzzards in the same view, singing Collared Flycatchers & Wood Warblers, Saker on the nest+more.

The following morning we headed out and Eastern Imperial Eagles glided by as we walked to a Saker site, where both adult birds were present at the nest, the female sitting with the male preening and watching over the surrounding area while perched close to the nest on a pylon. Savi's, Moustached and Great Reed Warblers blaired out from a small patch of reed bed next to us and Marsh Harriers quartered low close by.  

Then it was time to visit Ural Owl site number 3: This was another nice wood and again Collared Flycatchers continued to show well as we walked in. On arrival we realised that the female was off the nest as we could see the reflection of a chick in the mirror of the nest above, a short scan showed this, the 3rd female also sitting up watching us through a gap in the leaves, this individual appeared to be darker than Ural Owl 2 yesterday but again a rather smart looking bird.

After leaving the 3rd Ural Owl it was time for an espresso break and then on to the same raptor site again, which was a wooded valley on the mountain ridge line. Within ten minutes a Lesser Spotted Eagle lifted out, thermaled and then glided passed us disaprearing to re-appear fifteen minutes later carrying a lizard back to the nest site, a pair of Short toed Eagles theramlled from the wood, a HoneyBuzzard lifted out, an Eastern Imperial flew along the ridge line, a White tailed Eagle flew directly overhead, a Black Stork passed overhead and Common Buzzards and a single Osprey all added to the mix within the hour we spent at this site. 

tt was then time to visit Ural Owl site number 4. 

The sun had grown hot and the sky had turned blue, we walked through the wood and the nest site was empty, disapointment set in but we hoped the fledged chick would be nearby. And sure enough we could hear a call of an adult, we walked throgh and come to an opening where a single dead leafless tree held a stunnig female Ural Owl just sat there, out in the open in full view, with the sun behind us spot-lighting this individual. 

A scramble to get some shots before she took flight was not needed as she sat there un-concerned by our presence as in the photo above and below. She took flight around 15 minutes later and flew in to the edge of the wood where she seemed interested in some Blackbird activity. It was at this moment when we  turned around and were about to leave we stumbled upon the chick the second image down. 

So as i took this video footage below we sat there enjoyng the peace and quiet of the forest and I was pleased with seeing these four different Ural Owls, only another 116 nest boxes to check!