Monday, 21 April 2014

A Wednesday at RSPB Middleton

So Wednesday saw us introduce our good friends Tim and Wendy who we met in Sri Lanka to Middleton Lakes we met up at midday had a coffee and a catch up at the Craft Centre then set off around the Wetlands walk.

On arrival we were told by the volunteers that there was a Glossy Ibis about and showing well, bonus!! A potential first. We set off from the Car Park, unluckily there was nothing on the feeders as they were be re-stocked, so no birds just an RSPB Volunteers backside! Plenty of Herons in the Heronry though.

As we walked through to the reserve we picked up a Chiffchaff although it just wouldn't stay still for a photo, (the same happened on the way back) We decided to walk anti-clockwise around the Wetlands, where very quickly we hear our first Cuckoo of the year, but sadly not seen! We saw plenty of people about all looking for the Ibis which was proving elusive. We stopped for lunch at the picnic bench by the river hoping to see a Kingfisher, but also a no show! After lunch we went to the hide or should I say 'look out', still no sign of the Ibis. Did pick up some Ringed Plover and of course Great Crested Grebe:

Some Redshank were showing as well as Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Cormorant and Mute Swan. As we were leaving a chap entered who said the Ibis was now showing back along the way we had come, so we went and had a look and there it was our first ever Glossy Ibis a good distance away but showing well. Unluckily for photography it was straight into the Sun, so the photos are very silhouettey!

So that brings our UK bird list up to 204! Feeling very chuffed we carried on with our walk and found a Mediterranean Gull amongst some unhappy BHGs, another year first:
We followed this with another year first a camera shy Blackcap.
So another grand day out, made all the better when shared with friends!

Just one final photo that I liked though of a blue tit on the rushes:

South Stacks, Angelsey

So last Sunday we set out from Jo's and headed abroad into Wales and overseas to Anglesey and even further overseas to Holy Island and South Stacks RSPB. The weather though was very dull and windy, which was a shame but at least it wasn't raining. We went to the RSPB tower first and had a chat with the volunteers only to learn that the thousands of Guillemots and Razorbills that had been there the day before had all gone out to sea! Leaving just the Kittiwakes and Fulmars behind, mind you both of those were firsts for the year. The screen in the visitor centre was showing a Chough nest hidden in the cliffs so hopes were high of seeing some around and we weren't disappointed, though the dull weather didn't help with any photos , but for the record:
The next good find was a peregrine, one of pair also nesting on the cliffs:
The Greater Black-backed Gulls were displaying well:
We wandered around a while and came across Swallow, Skylark, Wheatear and Stonechat all adding to our tally for the year:

So we will have to wait until one of our other trips for our Auk fix for the year. We left South Stacks and decided to call in to another RSPB reserve on the island, Valley Wetlands right next to RAF Valley, by now the weather was glorious, all be it, still a tad windy. This was our first visit and what a lovely place, although of course the majority of the winter waterfowl had long departed.

There were plenty of House Martin about, another year first, plus some Pochard:
 Tufted Duck:
 Great Crested Grebes:
 and Greylag
All in all a great day ended by a lovely walk plus a some aircraft too!

River Weaver, Winsford

Last weekend we headed up to Winsford to stay at Tina's Sisters for a few days, we went for a couple of walks along the river Weaver and a longer walk around the Sandiway Lakes nearby. Followed by a day out to South Stacks on Anglesey.

Jo's Garden and the river resulted in a good number of garden and woodland birds, Finches, Tits, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch and Pheasant whilst the river walks added Heron (quite a large Heronry near her house), Cormorant, Great Crested Grebe, plus the usual Black-headed Gulls and other water fowl:

 On one of the walks through the woods we discovered a pair of Buzzards nesting, great to see
A big surprise though was when I nearly trod on a grass snake on the riverside path, it then slithered into the river, just about managed to get this as it swam away:

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Upton Warren Last Week

Since I have 'retired' I don't seem to have time to keep the blog up to date! We are to busy doing things! So this is another catch up attempt, starting with a trip to Upton, recently mainly to see the Avocets.

We decided just to go to the flashes and see what we could see, with as I said the Avocets being the main goal, so here's our first Avocet snaps of the year:

Then for the spring aaaah factor a mallard with 13 ducklings:

The Little Ringed Plovers never came close enough for a really good photo, but this will do for now:
There were plenty of Shelduck about:

Disappointingly there were no other waders about, apart from a very distant Curlew that eventually flew off, we were hoping at least for some Sandpipers or even Redshank, but we had to make do with a Pied Wagtail instead:

So not a big list for the briefish visit, but the main objective of the Avocets was achieved, so home time, then as we walked back we made another year first, a Willow Warbler singing his head off:

So a lovely couple of hours all in all!

Thursday, 10 April 2014


We have recently returned from a weeks holiday in Morocco. Now this wasn't a birding holiday but inevitably we came across a few in our travels and added 15 new species to our birds list.

We flew from Brum to Marrakech and headed out via a pre-arranged taxi to a small village called Ouirgane at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains where we had a wonderful hotel booked (Chez Momo) for 3 nights. I have to say the weather at this point was awful, we only landed at the second attempt in Marrakech and it didn't improve as we headed into the mountains. Ouirgane is at 3000ft and it was cold and wet!!

On the way though we passed through the town of Asni, which is a White Stork nest site and they duly obliged, but we didn't stop because of the Weather and we knew we would have better opportunities. Even though we had the whole of the first afternoon at Ouirgane we didn't venture out, as it was torrential.

Day 2 started with House Buntings at breakfast, these are delightful little Dunnock like birds that spend lots of time indoors scavenging off the tables:

After breakfast with the sun shining we headed out to explore the village, we soon saw lots of Common Bulbul, so our 3rd new species without trying:

We met up with a local guide who showed us around and explained a lot of the workings of the local community and the Berber people who live in the southern half of Morocco. They are a really friendly people, we stopped in a local coffee shop to avoid a sudden downpour, where I paid 25 Dirham, just a few pence less than £2 for 4 excellent small but very strong coffees! Once the rain had eased we set out again and ascended up the hillside back towards our digs. Again we picked up a couple of species, our first European Bee-eaters and a Serin:

It was a really interesting few hours. So back to the hotel for a well earned rest before dinner.

Our 3rd day saw us book a taxi for the day to take us up onto the mountains and the famous Tizz N Test pass with it's spectacular views. We told the driver about our interest in Birds so he did keep a look out for us but on the winding and narrow roads it was pretty difficult to spot things. He did find a nice spot where there was a lot of small bird activity, but nothing much out of the ordinary, Goldfinch, African Blue Tit, Blackbird and then we spotted this lovely Sardinian Warbler:

A bit further we stopped for some views and picked up A Lesser Kestrel and Chaffinch, I have to say although they are listed as the same species as 'our' Chaffinch, they seemed a lot greener on the back than we have, it confused us for a while.

We stopped again at the restored Tin Mal Mosque, which played home to Feral Pigeon and Sparrows. We eventually arrived at the pass and the views were amazing, the photos just dont do it justice:

We stopped here for an amazing lunch, a Berber Omelette, you have to have one! Whilst there we were entertained by a Booted Eagle:

Bonelli's Eagle:

Rock Bunting:

and a female Mouselli's Redstart:

On the way back we made one stop when we spotted this Kestrel:

although whilst we were stopped we picked up Bee-eaters, Pallid Swift, House Martin and Swallows, as we drove of though we saw 2 species of Wheatear, Mourning and one other which we couldn't identify as I never got chance to get a photo of either.

The next day saw us head back to Marrakech for 4 nights, this time we did stop at Asni for some Stork action:

We stayed at the gorgeous Riad Alwachma in the Medina of Marrakech, this had a great roof terrace where we had breakfast most days (except when it rained!)  From here we saw House Buntings and Common Bulbul, Booted Eagle, White Stork and Swifts, not bad whilst having breakfast!
As you would expect for a city birds are a bit more scarce, apart from the obligatory Pigeons and in Morocco; House Buntings. The exception though are the Storks, one of our cultural visits to the El Badi Palace was brilliant, this is where the Storks nest in the town and give some great views: