Monday, March 31, 2014

Double Duck - Baikal Teal & American Wigeon

Took the opportunity today to head out into the Cambridge fenlands.  The draw being a mega Baikal Teal and the outside chance of connecting with an American Wigeon.

A first visit to Fen Drayton RSPB reserve and I was mighty impressed with this site.  The reserve is a complex of lakes, all of which look great for birdlife.

The target bird was a fifteen minute walk from the main car park.  En route, a couple of Blackcaps were singing from the scrub and two smart male Bullfinch flew across the guided busway.  On the water, at least three drake Goldeneye were still present with a few females.

From the hide overlooking Moore Lake (pictured above), the drake BAIKAL TEAL showed well in the bay behind the small islands.  A stunning bird, its credentials questionable, but maybe a future armchair tick. A Little Ringed Plover flew onto one of the islands in front of the hide.  At least four Cetti's Warblers were singing around the reserve.

On the walk back, a male Marsh Harrier flew over.

Pushed for time, I headed north to the Ouse Washes and a small village called Pymoor for my second target bird. I didn't really have much idea where the specific location was but having followed the road through the village, to my surprise, it was relatively straight forward.  The distances are vast here, but the drake AMERICAN WIGEON was located feeding amongst the Eurasian Wigeon and showing well in the marsh.

There were plenty of duck with large numbers of Wigeon and Teal with the Shoveler, Gadwall, and Pintail. A female Marsh Harrier caused brief chaos amongst the wildfowl.  A flock of around twenty Fieldfare were chattering away in the field behind the bank.

The marsh opposite Four Balls Farm turned out to be successful despite missing out on Garganey that had been seen earlier on in the day.  A stunning male and female Marsh Harrier were hunting in the vicinity, a single Whooper Swan was seen preening amongst the Mute Swans, a Ruddy Shelduck fed amongst a couple of Common Shelduck, fifteen Ruff flew through, and four Common Snipe flew up from the marsh.

Below is a video clip of the Baikal Teal.

Friday, March 28, 2014


Dull and misty weather conditions this morning for a walk round Walthamstow Marshes that soon lifted into something a little more pleasant.

Bird song was in full chorus with Dunnock and Chiffchaff particularly vocal with a dozen of the latter seen/heard.  An increase in Blackcap numbers was also evident with some vociferous males accompanied by a couple of females with a total of six seen.  A single flyover Meadow Pipit, a female Reed Bunting, and a female Sparrowhawk were noted.  A Sand Martin flew low over the river footbridge by the Ice Centre.

Dunnock - Walthamstow Marshes

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Middlesex Filter Beds was surprisingly quiet this morning albeit for the song of the more common species. Of note a single Chiffchaff, a pair of Tufted Duck, a pair of Gadwall, and an overflying Sparrowhawk were present.

Waterworks NR produced my first Sand Martin of the spring with a single bird flying east.  The Cetti's Warbler was particularly vocal today as were two Blackcap, and two Chiffchaff, one of which had an interesting inflexion to its' last two notes.  On the water, three Little Grebe, a pair of Shoveler, a pair of Tufted Duck, and 15 Teal were noted.

Monday, March 24, 2014

From Stockers to Croxley

First stop Stockers Lake, walking round one half of the reserve in the hope for hirundines returned a fair selection of species including four Goldeneye (1m, 3f), a flyover Little Egret which was probably one of the half a dozen currently resident on site, over 100 Black Headed Gull, three singing Chiffchaff, two high-flying Red Kite, a drake Red-Crested Pochard, a distant soaring Common Buzzard, and a flyover Lapwing.

Heading along the causeway between Bury Lake and Stockers, a male Blackcap was heard singing from woodland adjacent to Bury Lake, and the Cetti's Warbler burst into song among the brush along the shoreline of Stockers Lake.

Wandering up to the Grand Union Canal, the flooded field at Stockers Farm was well and truly flooded and is showing promise for migrant waders.

Stockers Farm

The field held 11 Wigeon, eight Teal, and five Lapwing.  There were two Green Woodpecker and two Mistle Thrush on the field opposite the track.

Continuing the walk along the Ebury Way, a Goldcrest sang from Ivy amongst the alder, a Kingfisher called from somewhere along the river, and a couple of Great Spotted Woodpeckers were flighty within the woodland.

Lastly, Croxley Common Moor, that held two Green Woodpeckers, a Kestrel, a loafing Red Kite, and a Sparrowhawk causing mayhem amongst the Woodpigeon.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


A cool but pleasant morning.  First a walk on my circuit round the horse paddocks produced four singing Chiffchaff, two singing Blackcap, and a flock of 20+ Linnet in the front paddocks.

Waterworks NR hosted the continuing Cetti's Warbler that sang on my arrival, with a final count of 23 Teal, two Shoveler, two Gadwall, five Little Grebe, Reed Bunting, singing Chiffchaff, a flyover Jackdaw, and two Grey Heron.

Ring-Necked Parakeets at Waterworks NR

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Patchwatch - Wheatears

Cool and clear this morning but the wind was brisk and biting.  There was plenty of rain last night so I was hoping for some grounded migrants this morning.

Heading straight over to the horse paddocks at Walthamstow Marshes, three Northern Wheatear were present that included two fine males best viewed from the path that runs adjacent to the relief channel.

My first of the spring but I'm sure there will be many more passing through these parts as migration really gets into full swing.

Also around the horse paddocks were two singing male Blackcap with one seen well amongst the bushes next to the tarmac path, three singing Chiffchaff, and a single flyover Meadow Pipit.

Waterworks NR produced the singing Cetti's Warbler along with 19 Teal, two Gadwall (pair), six Pochard (5 drake), four Tufted Duck (3 drake), two Little Grebe, singing Chiffchaff, singing Blackcap, six flyover Shelduck, a single Grey Wagtail, a male Sparrowhawk, and a Kestrel.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


A reasonable selection of birdlife this morning despite the cool and drizzly conditions this morning that was soon to clear.  A single Fieldfare and three Redwing were busily feeding in the front paddocks at Walthamstow Marshes whilst four different Chiffchaff were singing away along the main path that runs past the horse paddocks.  A Blackcap was also heard in full song.

The grey conditions conceded to a bit of blue sky making it feel very pleasant.  Waterworks NR looked great again this morning and despite the modest amounts of open water at this site, there were plenty on duck still present.  The Cetti's Warbler called infrequently from Bay 16, and there were counts of 18 Teal, four Shoveler, two Pochard (pair), two Tufted Duck (pair), two Gadwall (pair), five Little Grebe, two singing Chiffchaff, a singing Song Thrush, three flyover Grey Wagtail, and a Redwing.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Prospecting Kingfishers

A cool cloudy morning in East London and the hope for some early migrants.

Walthamstow Marshes was quiet with nothing present on the horse paddocks apart from a singing Chiffchaff and three Redwing near to the Lea Bridge Road.

The Waterworks NR looked great this morning.  Two flyover Shelduck headed west and the water bodies on the reserve held a total of 14 Teal, six Pochard (four males), seven Little Grebe, seven Shoveler, and a single Reed Bunting.  A typically explosive Cetti's Warbler was my first for the reserve and good views of this usually skulking reed dwelling species were enjoyed from the reed bed by the Sand Martin nest 'cylinder' from Bay 16.  A single Meadow Pipit called and flew briefly over the old Pitch and Putt site.

Moving onto Middlesex Filter Beds and having observed a pair of Kingfisher on my previous visit, I was surprised to see the pair again sitting low amongst the foliage along the relief channel.  This time, the male bird was prospecting over potential real estate, busily excavating a burrow in the soft mud against the bank.

Very surprising, probably speculative, I think the site is far too disturbed for this to be considered a viable nest site but I will definitely be checking this again.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Loch Flemington - American Coot

This was a safe twitch.  Well, as safe as a twitch can be.  The distance between home and bird posed the real challenge, how to plan a trip in the shortest amount of time possible whilst minimising the possibility of the bird deciding 'to do one'.

After I had booked my return flight to Inverness, anxiety set in.  Six days still to go before departure, this long-stayer couldn't possibly leave the idyllic surroundings of the Scottish Highlands?  These highly charged perturbations I surmise are the emotions that drive adrenaline fuelled twitchers round the country chasing rare birds.  I'm sure the bird itself has something to do with it.

The bird was still present when I boarded the easyJet flight from Luton Airport.  A foggy morning but no delays, an hour and ten minutes later and ahead of schedule, the shoreline of the Moray Firth emerged from beneath the cloud as we started the final approach into Dalcross, and I started to twitch.

Trouble-free and expeditious, I picked up the hire car and headed towards Loch Flemington, a mere two miles from the airport and well signposted.  Finding the layby with the white stones, and skillfully avoiding the Mute Swan that greeted my arrival, I scanned the loch, but no Coot.

Well actually, it only took five minutes to connect with the AMERICAN COOT as it emerged from vegetation viewed from the right of the layby.  An interesting bird, a relief to see it, it looked much different to our Coot with evident two-tone colouration, its' neck appearing darker than the body, the black band visible on the bill, and white undertail observed when the bird had alighted onto one of the islands.  Also present on the loch were around 15 Goldeneye including 8 drakes, and 21 Oystercatcher.

Having spent just over an hour with the bird, and mindful that I should maximise my twenty-four hour stay here, I headed up to Burghead in search of seabirds.  This was a beautiful spot.  The weather was fair, light winds and high cloud.  The sea looked peaceful, as did the village that it cohabits.  Scanning just offshore produced what I had hoped; nine drake Long-Tailed Duck dressed in their winter finery, a pair of Red-Breasted Merganser, six flyover Siskin, a raft of around 50 Common Scoter, three Goldeneye including two displaying drakes, around ten Common Eider, and large flocks of Bar-Tailed Godwit flirting against the low-tide.  A wonderful place.

Moving onto Findhorn Bay, I was once again taken aback by the beauty of the landscape.  Parking the car just shy of the village, I followed the path that skirted the bay toward the beach.  Along the way, six Long-Tailed Duck were gliding their way along the channels, with a drake Red-Breasted Merganser, a pair of Goldeneye, six Wigeon, around 40 Pintail, and numerous Redshank occupying the exposed muddy areas.

The highlight however was the beach area, and at low tide, the sand stretched out as if in reverence to the sovereign skies.

The night was spent in Nairn at the Waverley Hotel.  With a few hours left before the lunchtime flight back to Luton, a repeat visit was made back to our American Coot.

A great 24 hours, it felt I had been away longer.

Below are video highlights of the trip featuring the American Coot of course, and other sightings including Long Tailed Duck, Red Breasted Merganser, and Goldeneye.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lea Valley Walk

It still feels like winter.  With the first true summer migrants now starting to trickle through, there are still plenty of our winter visitors around waiting for the appropriate moment to disappear back to their breeding grounds.

Catching the train from Hackney Downs and alighting at Cheshunt, I decided to explore an area of the Lea Valley that is renowned for delivering good birding throughout the year.  Today didn't disappoint.

Heading from the station, I navigated the paths along the western side routing past Cheshunt Lake and up towards Holyfield Lake.  There were plenty of Redwings looking fidgety and flighty with up to 60 observed on my rounds with a couple seen singing from lofty positions among the treetops.  En route, four Bullfinches (two pairs) with the males looking mighty fine, two Chiffchaff in song, and two flyover Siskin were seen at various points.  On Holyfield Lake, around 120 Wigeon were still present.

Heading down towards Fishers Green and the Bittern Watchpoint, a Muntjac Deer fed along the path edge totally oblivious to my presence, that was until I caught its' attention.

Muntjac Deer south of Holyfield Lake

Meandering round the water courses, the path eventually led to the Fishers Green Car Park from where I headed straight to the Bittern Watchpoint.  From the hide, a very obliging Water Rail spent time commuting across one of the channels that had been cut though the reed bed busily feeding.  A single refrain from a Cetti's Warbler within the depths of the reedbed, and a female Reed Bunting were also noted.

Water Rail from Bittern Watchpoint - Fishers Green

There were plenty of boisterous Black-headed Gulls on Seventy Acres Lake with a large number now in summer plumage.  A single Common Gull was also present.

Heading west alongside the relief channel, a Kingfisher darted past down river and onto one of the adjacent lakes.

My bird of the day however, was the drake Goosander seen swimming nervously on the relief channel. The bird was seen at close range through the thickets from the main path, roseate flanks obvious contrasting with the white made this bird look supreme.  Really stunning!

A close second place (I wish there was a photo finish!) was duly taken by the drake Smew on Hooks Marsh associating with Tufted Ducks close to the western end, reasonably distant, but good views nonetheless  Again, a truly stunning bird and to have seen both of these rare winter visitors today was without doubt a real treat.

Monday, March 10, 2014


A bit of a surprise visit by a pair of Kingfisher today at the Middlesex Filter Beds.  Having visited this particular site over the last couple of years, Kingfisher sightings have been limited to around half a dozen although they are regularly seen further down-river.  Having had one flash past me, it was then joined by a second bird.  They carried out a courtship display, flying round in circles before flying off.  This was after the female sat low down against the bank having a jolly good preen.  Hopefully this is a precursor to successful breeding somewhere locally along the River Lea.

Female Kingfisher - Middlesex Filter Beds 10/03/14

In addition, there were two Chiffchaff of which one was singing, and three Grey Wagtails on site.  I had a fruitless search for the Firecrest which was reported later on in the day.

Earlier at Walthamstow Marshes, there were two Fieldfare and a single Redwing along with Song and Mistle Thrush on the Front Paddocks of the Riding Centre.  A further five Redwing flew over the Marsh with a Reed Bunting heard in flight, and a fly-through Kestrel.  Three Grey Wagtail passing overhead were probably the same three birds seen later on the Filter Beds.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pafos, Cyprus - 1st to 8th March 2014

Highlights from a surprisingly fruitful week-long trip to Pafos, Cyprus.  This was a classic non-birding trip, ie. pack your bins and hope that something interesting turns up.  Due to ill health, the main aim was to rehabilitate and so all the sightings were made around the locality.

Staying at the four star Kefalos Beach Village conveniently located between the Archealogical Park and the harbour provided the perfect opportunity to explore the headland.

2nd March

Dull and overcast, discovering later that this was due to a threatening sandstorm further inland.  Next to the hotel was a bare patch of land, a set-aside safeguarded for future development perhaps but for the time being, an area that produced some early migrants.  

Desert Wheatear

This stunning male DESERT WHEATEAR (a lifer) was the first bird seen on the trip having been brought down by the storm.  To have this by the hotel was a real surprise as was the supporting cast of a couple of Northern Wheatear, a Little Ringed Plover, a calling 'Yellow Wagtail', at least ten White Wagtail, and six Crested Lark.  A walk along the coastal path that links the Tomb of the Kings and the Harbour was to become my morning routine.  Due to the inland storm, there was more quality in the form of a Short-Eared Owl that flew in off the sea being mobbed by Hooded Crows, my first ever ISABELLINE WHEATEAR, three singing Corn Bunting, a single Zitting Cisticola, Little Egret, Sardinian Warbler, Black Redstart, Hoopoe, and Common Stonechat that were abundant along the path.


3rd March

By the hotel, two Northern Wheatear (male and female), at least ten Spanish Sparrow, and two Black Redstart were noted  Two House Martin flew through.

The coastal walk produced my first GREATER SAND PLOVER with two adults, one in winter and one in summer plumage.  The birds were hidden within the rocks so there was much satisfaction in finding them.

Greater Sand Plover

A trip to the Archaeological Park for the ruins and mosaics also held a good number of birds.  At least six Northern Wheatear (four males) and five Black Redstart were present, with a skulking Reed Warbler in the scrub, a dozen Spanish Sparrow, and a first summer male Eastern Black Eared Wheatear that appeared amongst the ruin.  A Greater Short-Toed Lark fed alongside the resident Crested Lark.  Along the foreshore a Common Sandpiper, and an Isabelline Wheatear were probably new in.

First summer male Eastern Black-Eared Wheatear

Greater Short-Toed Lark

Isabelline Wheatear

4th March

Settling down now into a routine, the morning walk produced a Hoopoe at the patch, with a single Meadow Pipit, four Skylark, two Black Redstart, a female Nothern Wheatear, and a male Sardinian Warbler.

A tourist trip to St. Pauls Pillar, there was an impressive number of around 40 Chiffchaff all busy feeding in a small area of woodland.  There were no other warblers with them, but two Black Redstart were present.

Christian Basilica

5th March

The morning started with four female Northern Wheatear on the Tomb of the Kings site viewed from the the coast path where there were three Black Redstart, two Sardinian Warbler, and two Meadow Pipit.

A walk in the opposite direction towards the Harbour returned a migrant Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper on the rocky headland.

Petra-tou-Romeiu or Aphrodite's Rock as it is more ubiquitously known is an impressive site, most notably for the views across the bay illuminated by the choleric aquamarine sea, with waves crashing against the rocky outcrop.  The rock itself is a triumph for marketing tourism.  It's just a rock.  Controversial.

A nature trail winds its way up the hill behind the rock and is worth a visit for the views across the bay.  Continue on, and that path will eventually terminate back onto the main coastal road where a short walk will lead all foot-weary tourists to a rather lovely restaurant with tables overlooking the sea.

The trail held a decent selection of birds, with a Long-Legged Buzzard, and a Common Buzzard observed soaring over the tops, with at least six Sardinian Warbler, three singing Blackcap, a single Willow Warbler, singing Cetti's Warbler, and three Black Redstart.

6th March

A trip to the Tomb of the Kings was worth the visit for both archeological ruins and for birdlife. There were plenty of incoming migrants with a total of six Northern Wheatear (1m, 5f), two Black Redstart, around ten Meadow Pipits, a smart male Subalpine Warbler, a Hoopoe, and two Corn Bunting.

7th March

A dedicated birding day took us to Mandria.  This quiet coastal town is a reliable site for migrants and with the assistance of a couple of English birders, kindly offered us a lift to the beach area where we started our walk.  The birding was great, first connecting with another stunning male Desert Wheatear followed closely by an Isabelline Wheatear.  Great to get them both in the same view.

The scrubby area by the beach produced some interesting birds with three Northern Wheatear (1m, 2f), my first ever RED-THROATED PIPIT with three birds together including a nice summer male, a single Woodlark, a Greater Short-Toed Lark, 12 Black-Headed Wagtail, and a 'Blue' Headed Wagtail of the form dombrowskii.

Black Headed Wagtail

8th March

The date of the return journey home, but not without one last walk round the Headland.  It turned out to be the best morning for birds of the entire trip.

A female Northern Wheatear, a Common Sandpiper, female Black Redstart, and Grey Wagtail were noted first thing by the hotel.

Walking down towards the harbour and my second sighting of Greater Sand Plover on the rocks was complimented by a single Black Headed Wagtail.

The Archaeological Park was gold this particular morning.  Barely inside a Reed Warbler. my second male Subalpine Warbler, and a Common Whitethroat were active amongst the scrub.

Northern Wheatear were new in with at least five seen (4m, 1f), as was an Isabelline Wheatear.  In amongst the ruins, two Tawny Pipit were busy feeding.

Tawny Pipit

Black Redstart were particularly obliging as was the Great Spotted Cuckoo that sat atop a bush for a short time which was a bird I was keen to catch up with.

Black Redstart

Great Spotted Cuckoo

Later on in the walk, a flock of five Woodlark and a Blue Rock Thrush were seen.

Contact Cyprus Bird Tours with any sightings whilst in the country