Sunday, June 9, 2019

Flamborough / Bempton Cliffs

This part of East Yorkshire is absolutely spectacular.  The rugged cliff faces that stretch out from Flambrough Head up to Bempton and beyond provide the stage for a dramatic and breath-taking seabird spectacle.

The viewpoints overlooking the cliffs give the public grandstand views across the cliff-face, the home to thousands of seabirds.

Incredible numbers of KittwakeRazorbillGuillemot and Gannet swirling around this epic landscape.


The trip started at midday Saturday, a spontaneous decision to head away and by five, we arrived at the Lighthouse car park at Flamborough.  I made tracks immediately to connect with the male Black-headed Bunting that sat out in the open on a gloomy afternoon, preening, roosting, before making a dash to the top of the hedge-line where it paused briefly before disappearing into the adjacent field.

I then disappeared as the weather was closing in.  Heading back to the car park where the female Subalpine Warbler wasn't as elusive as suggested, feeding in a Sycamore close to the path.

Subalpine Warbler twitch

It started to rain heavily so we retreated to return the next day to a bright and sunny day to views as the one captured below.



We walked round the headland via South Landing before heading back for a stop at Bempton Cliffs. 

Wow - what a place!  Absolute magic - I was blown away.



So many birds, lulled me into believing that we live in a fertile and prosperous land rich in bio-diversity.  Sad to think that these creatures are under massive pressure due to our unrelenting destructive activities at the expense of the scene I was witnessing.  Why would we destroy this?  It's inconceivable that we as a race are so profligate when it comes to the protection of the natural world.

Our Planet - I will fight to the end to ensure that we protect it.

For now, I was so chilled, so happy watching this lot.









Interesting 'bridled' Guillemot


There were plenty of Painted Lady butterflies along the cliff-top with at least 25 seen along the path.


Sad to see this deceased Mole by the roadside at Flamborough.


Sunday, June 2, 2019

Minsmere

A quiet day at Minsmere is when you rack up 87 species and also get to observe a variety of other interest things.

East Scrape

A long day but ultimately worth every mile endured along the arduous route to the reserve.

The first stop was the Island Mere hide where a couple of Otter sightings on the far side of the water were typically brief.

One of the Savi's Warbler made a couple of attempts to wind up a sustained reel but failed miserably.  Not very vocal and therefore no chance of grabbing a chance sighting.

Four flyby sightings of Bittern during the course of the day that were particularly active presumably now feeding young.

Watching the aerial Marsh Harrier glide over the vast reedbed, a Hobby feeding over the woodland, Bearded Tit dashing low over the reeds, and listening to the cacophony of Black-headed Gull and Mediterranean Gull on the East Scrape are all part of the sensory experience.



On both the East and South Scrapes, a number of Kittiwake were assembled in large groups. First time I had seen so many resting on the reserve.


I have no idea if this is a good year for Little Tern but there were at least 30 on the South Scrape, congregated together on one of the bunds while frequently chasing away marauding Herring Gull. 


There weren't many waders on the scrape as you would expect at this time of year.  Just two Ringed Plover, two Oystercatcher, and three Common Redshank seen today.


A few Swallow passed through the reserve on feeding sorties.


A few stalks of Southern Marsh Orchid were present along the path-edge close to the Wildlife Lookout hide.



Nothing better than finishing the day at the Eel's Foot pub just down the road from the reserve.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Bialowieza

It's a well trodden path but it doesn't make it any less magical.  Bialowieza.  Probably renowned for its' primeval forest but the area in general holds plenty of interest.  Just park the car and walk.

Having employed the services of a guide on a previous trip, I decided to go it alone this time.  The result was simple.  Plenty of time staring at Woodpecker-less trees and definitely no Owls.  That was ok though.  It was to be expected.  The forest spans just over 3000 square kilometeres.  That's a lot of ground to cover and that's a lot of trees.


I appreciate that the (mis)management of the reserve has its critics, there are problems for sure, but the habitat is nothing like what we see in the UK.  Well not on this scale anyway.  Let's hope it remains this way.

The forest speeds away at an astonishing rate where a short walk can easily turn into a serious hike.  The meandering trails hold the promise of an interesting something at every junction.


The meadows are full of wild flowers that cover vast areas where invertebrates, birds, and mammals abound.  Agriculture appears less intensified, what appear to be healthy numbers of farmland and meadow dwelling birds such as Yellowhammer, Skylark, Corncrake indicate a fertile environment on more than one level.



A walk along the Narewka River from the village is a good start.  A singing male Common Rosefinch sang its' little heart out from a telegraph wire.


An Icterine Warbler was close by and was equally vocal.  This species has a lovely song.

A Common Snipe sat on top of a Lamp-post.  It's the kind of thing that happens round here.  A couple of Lesser Spotted Eagle were seen soaring over the woodland.


While the route didn't exactly run alongside the river, it was never far away and would eventually lead back onto the banks.


Great Reed Warbler cronked from a small reed-bed, and a Savi's Warbler was reeling away nearby.  There were Thrush Nightingale exhalting their most astonishing chorus of shrieks and whistles.  The 'machine-gun' style rattle is truly incredible.

The 'Palace' Park is an absolute must visit.  It always hosts great birds.


 A wander round yielded fluting Golden Oriole high up in the canopy, Hawfinch that were reasonably common around the reserve. and Fieldfare hopping around in the woodland.  Common Rosefinch were present around the tarmac paths, where a couple of Icterine Warbler sang from the alder.  Great Reed Warbler are present in the reeds that skirt the ponds there.  There were family groups of Willow Tit in the woodland.

Icterine Warbler
My favourite bird of the park were the Collared Flycatcher.  There were at least three singing males there and I spent a bit of time watching them fly circuits round the woodland.  Such stunning birds.  They were rarely still, constantly flitting about, some seen displaying while listening to their delicate song.



Wandering round the woodland, I managed to find the nest of a Middle Spotted Woodpecker.


A trip to Kosy Most is around a 50 minute drive from Bialowieza.  It is a good place for woodpeckers and for Hazel Hen, species that I have caught up with here in the past there.  This time wasn't so fruitful, but the walk was pleasant and there were some interesting sightings.


The woodland was generally quiet but for a few singing Wood Warbler, their beautiful cascading melodies echoing from within the pines.


At the end of the path is a Bison watchpoint.  Not the best time to spot them, but a male Red-backed Shrike sat close to the hide.



Two extremely vocal Corncrake were inconspicuous within the wild flower meadow.  It still perplexes me how they can get so close whilst remaining incognito.  A really smart male Barred Warbler presumably had a nearby nest-site as it flew through singing and then sounding off its contact calls.  Two Honey Buzzard flew over the woodland.


Heading further along the tracks, the now regular Great Reed Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler were vocalising but there was very little in the woodland.  This was apart from a singing Red-breasted Flycatcher that I tracked down as a first summer male.

A slow retreat out of the Bialowieza area the following day it poured with rain but was surprisingly warm and humid.   I took my time stopping frequently along the way.  I stood high up on a platform listening to the chorus of birdsong.  The monotonous mechanical trill of a River Warbler, the cronking Great Reed Warbler, reeling Grasshopper Warbler, the distant echo of a Cuckoo, the weezing of the ubiquitous Yellowhammer, and the melancholic refrain of a Rosefinch.  There wasn't a soul in sight.  It was all so perfect.




Heading onto the 'Zebra Zubra' boardwalk yielded very little apart from singing Golden Oriole and a calling Black Woodpecker, neither of which were seen.

Slightly further along was another pull-in, not somewhere I had been before, but another boardwalk there was really picturesque.


The woodland held a singing 1st summer male Pied Flycatcher, a singing Red-breasted Flycatcher, and a singing Spotted Flycatcher which took me my surprise.  Never heard such a vocal Spotfly before.

I headed away, but not before one last visit to a new site.  It was two hours away but en route to Warsaw.  I had prior knowledge that this was a private area but with the agreement of the landowner, permission could be granted.  Driving through some violent thunderstorms, the rain was torrential.  Google Maps had directed me through some inexplicably awful roads of profound disrepair.  This coupled with the weather made it a nerve rendering experience.  Poland knows how to do a storm!

Having negotiated my way onto the site, I wandered over to some dwellings where a guy was tending to his vehicle.  A quick word and a lot of sign language and he was on the phone to the landowner.  I wasn't allowed in.  He asked me where I was from.  He saw that I was keen to explore the area.

He gave me an hour.

What a place.  Apparantly it's a protected area and brilliant during migration.  I could see why.  Shallow fishing pools that looked great for migrant waders and waterbirds.



Whilst these had all passed through, there were at least four booming Bittern, four Marsh Harrier, six Black Tern, two visible Whooper Swan with a number heard calling from the reed bed, and a supporting cast of Warblers and common wildfowl.  I was so grateful for being allowed access.





Bittern

It was the culmination of another great trip to Poland and the food was great too.