Thursday, February 18, 2010

A new chapter

I'm not a big fan of announcing my future plans, mainly because I seem to have an uncanny ability of jinxing even the best laid plans. However, I think it's just about getting close enough to the occasion to be able to announce this one... keeping my fingers crossed that things go as planned! On Monday I'll be leaving Liverpool, driving south to Portsmouth, getting on a ferry and arriving in Bilbao on Wednesday morning. From there I'll be driving east, hopefully doing some birding on the way, before arriving on the Catalan coast. So, all pretty normal so far. The twist is that I won't be coming back to the UK until June...
I'm lucky enough to be staying on one of the Natural Parcs out there, helping with the spring migration ringing campaign. The whole campaign runs for 90 days, from the start of March to the end of May. Hopefully it should throw up some good birds - species like Collared Flycatcher and Iberian Chiffchaff are both possible, with something a little rarer being a distinct possibility. Of course, I'll still be doing plenty of birding while I'm out there - the area around the ringing site should offer a host of species, the Pyrenees are not all that far away, the coast is (quite literally) on my doorstep and the area around where I'll be living is one of the best in Spain for species such as Pallid Harrier, Great Snipe, Red-throated Pipit and Little Crake.
The downside is that internet access will be limited. How limited, I won't know until I'm out there. My accommodation certainly won't have internet access but I'm sure I can find a net café or wifi point somewhere. Whether that is in a convenient enough location to get online frequently enough to keep things updated, I don't know. I'm going to try and keep the blog updated as often as I can, though it may very well be a couple of pictures and not a lot of text. If you follow the little Twitter thing on the right-hand-side (or indeed if you follow me on Twitter), that might occasionally be updated via text - but since I'll be limited in the number of texts I can send each month, don't expect hourly updates!
Finally, if anyone does need to contact me while I'm away, I will have my phone with me and will be able to receive texts as usual... please don't take offence if you don't get a reply back! I won't, though, be making or taking phonecalls... Hopefully I'll know soon enough about internet access and hopefully that will allow me to stay in e-mail contact, though again it might take me several days/weeks/months to reply to you...
Fingers crossed I'll be back online shortly and with plenty of pictures of interesting birds to show but, if I'm not, I guess I'll see you sometime in June!

Monday, February 15, 2010

End of January/into Februrary

As you've probably noticed, there hasn't been much posted on here for a while now. I've been busy with various things, the main one of which I'll explain in another blog post later. In chronological order, here's a brief overview of what I've been up to over the last few weeks:

22nd Jan
Female Red-crested Pochard still at Frodsham.

Also c.80 Black-tailed Godwits and 3 Ruff.
And... finally managed to catch up with the Water Pipit on Nº 4.

Water Pipits are like buses... you wait years for one, then two come along at once! Or is the second one a littoralis rock bus? Argh!

Closer to home, the 11 Grey Partridges are still in the usual field in the usual spot.

27th Jan
The morning was spent watching gulls at Moore - 3 Med Gulls and an Iceland Gull were the highlights.

Ad Med Gull & ad Iceland Gull.

30th Jan
A day out with Alex Jones, first stop Hale where a Corn Bunting was singing on wires.

Next stop Moore. An adult Med Gull was on the Birdchwood pool. Also of interest was a Herring Gull that had originally been ringed as a 2nd winter in December 2007 at Gloucester landfill site; it spent the next two winters in Gloucester and our sightings represents the first report of this bird away from the Gloucester area. Thanks to Peter Stewart for the info.

At Marton Mere, two Long-eared Owls were showing in the usual spot and several Woodcocks rocketed out of the scrub as dusk approached.

2nd Feb
Back at Moore in the rain. A female Brambling was briefly at the feeding station.

6th Feb
Out with Alex again, starting off at Tatton Park where two redhead Smew were swimming around at the far end of the lake.

Also there were two drake Ruddy Ducks and a fair sized flock of Goldeneye.

Fun ageing Goldeneye:

Then it was up to North Yorkshire where, after a long wait, the female Black-throated Thrush showed briefly but well.

8th & 9th Feb
A couple of days spent down in the Natural History Museum at Tring. Most of the time was spent doing top secret stuff for a top secret paper (probably not as exciting as you think, and no, not Storm Petrels). I was like a kid in a sweet shop and had to resist the temptation to go routing through all the draws! I couldn't help but to take a peep at a few things though, including these:

Two different WP-breeding taxa, neither of which is Zino's...

16th & 17th Feb
Tuesday afternoon started at Llandullas and ended at Conwy RSPB. Highlights were a few distant Velvet Scoters, a couple of Red-breasted Mergs, some Red-throated Divers, and not a lot else!
Wednesday, Alex and myself headed to Clocaenog Forest to have a look for the Great Grey Shrike there. It could very well have been there but with visibility down to about 20 foot, we didn't have much chance of seeing it! A small flock of Common Crossbills (Glip, by the sound of things) were around the picnic site car park.
Next up was Pensarn where there was a crowd of birders but no Surf Scoters... A fair few Velvet Scoters (15+) were showing well offshore and a flock of 8 Twite were buzzing up and down the shoreline. We headed off to check the scoter flock further east along the coast off Kinmel Bay; plenty of Common Scoters there but we couldn't find anything in with them.
Continuing west, we headed to Shotwick fields where the flock of Whooper & Bewick's Swans was showing well.

Ol' yellow legs

At Inner Marsh Farm a ringtail Hen Harrier was quartering the back of the pools and the Egyptian Goose of dubious origins eventually showed itself as it flew off and away from us. A small flock of Pink-footed Geese were over by the boating lake and a Fox was stuffing itself with Canada Goose, accompanied by two Raven.

Down on Burton Marsh there were another two ringtail Hen Harriers hunting far out on the marsh, plus a Short-eared Owl, and at least one Peregrine.