Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Morocco, December 2016


With holiday time being at a premium now that I have a 'proper' job, I took advantage of the christmas break to escape to Morocco for five days.
A few hours after landing, following one of the most pleasantly hassle free taxi/bus/taxi-bus journeys of my travelling career I was skittering along the icy streets of the village of Imlil, halfway up the High Atlas Mountains, and after a 5am start on Christmas Day hauled myself to the top of Jebel Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa. At 4167m there obviously wasn't a lot of life up here, but Alpine Accentors and Barbary Ground Squirrels were eking out a living from scraps of biscuits flicked respectfully their way by climbers impressed by their tenacity.
Barbary Ground Squirrel

Alpine Accentor 

Back down in Imlil, birds were really quite abundant. Feeding flocks rifled through the Walnut trees and terraced fields, though the high peaks ringing the village forbade the presence of that most crucial of photographic ingredients: sunlight. 
My target bird here was Levaillant's Woodpecker, and with just a few minutes left on my last walk before departure I was convinced I had dipped, despite hearing almost constant calls echoing around the village. Watching a flock of Serin jingling their way across a small valley, I noticed a flash of red as they alighted in the crown of a large Walnut, a woodpecker sitting silent and still, doing its best to avoid the clutches of my world list.
African Blue Tit

African Chaffinch

Levaillant's Woodpecker
I spent a night in the town of Tahanout on my way back to Marrakech for my flight home. A scan of Google Earth had shown an area of olive groves and scrubby farmland a short walk from a passable hotel and I hoped to catch a a few lowland specialties here. Sure enough, a short walk started with a Black-winged Kite mobbing a Long-legged Buzzard over the olive groves, which were fair heaving with wintering Blackcaps and Blackbirds, and Common Bulbuls and House Buntings scabbing food from nearby houses. Some dry fields further out produced my priority species of Moussier's Redstart, one male enjoying a quiet subsong, while Thekla Larks showed no such restraint and were belting out their best from every field.
Black-winged Kite

Southern Grey Shrike


Moussier's Redstart (male)

Moussier's Redstart (female)

Thekla Lark
A few shots from the mountains, an absolutely stunning trek in the snow. 




Sunday, April 17, 2016

Mallorca 11-15th April

Alpine Accentor 
Audouin's Gull

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Lesser Spotted Eagle

Bonelli's Warbler

Balearic Warbler

Balearic Warbler

Little Bittern

Marbled Ducks

Moltoni's Warbler

Moustached Warbler

Moustached Warbler

Purple Heron

Serin

Sardinian Warbler

Whiskered Terns

Monday, February 08, 2016

January 2016


Despite the best efforts of a near constant Westerly gale, i'm still at WWT Steart Marshes for the winter, mostly busy with monitoring the wintering waders and wildfowl. I've been back over to the Avalon Marshes a few times for a bit of guiding, seeing all the usual specialities we would expect and  finishing with the Starling roosts, no time for any photos there though. Photography has been difficult at Steart too, mostly just because the weather has been so awful, though I have managed some pleasing shots on the occasional nice day. The highlight of the winter though has been finding a couple of rare ducks while doing my surveys, an American Wigeon and a Green-winged Teal, record 'phonescoped' photos below:
For the first time, I've entered Patchwork Challenge, an initiative to encourage birders to work their local patches as hard as they can, and hopefully see and find more birds! I think i've started well, with 94 species so far on the WWT Steart Marshes site. It's difficult to have a target in mind, but 150 species and a finish in the upper regions (top 10 maybe) of the Estuarine minileague would be nice. Its a super reserve and I give it a very close working over twice a week so i'm hoping to see plenty more in the rest of my time working there.

Curlew



American Wigeon


Barn Owl
Green-winged Teal
Black-tailed Godwit


Dunlin

Dunlin


Dunlin


Redshank
Marsh Harrier


Merlin


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Island Hopping in The Caribbean

Back in December I spent 2 weeks on board the MS Serenissima working as a zodiac driver and naturalist guide on a cruise run by Noble Caledonia. This was a little different from my cruises around the UK and Iceland earlier in the year, but no less enjoyable. The weather was perfect as you would expect, a welcome break from a miserable British winter, and the island chain of the Lesser Antilles is a stunning destination. Opportunities for birding were limited, we spent more time doing such pleasant things as snorkelling, sampling the products of various plantation/distilleries, and touring old forts and museums and such like.
Of course I did manage to see a few nice bits and bobs, and our ship was almost constantly accompanied by some fantastic seabirds. Heres a few photos I grabbed between rum punches:
Antillean Crested Hummingbird
Antillean Crested Hummingbird
Brown Booby

Black-faced Grassquit
Blue-headed Hummingbird

Blue-headed Hummingbird

Bananaquit

Carib Grackle

Flying fish sp.

Grey Kingbird

Lesser Antillean Bullfinch

Lesser Antillean Flycatcher

lizard sp.

Least Sandpiper

Mangrove Cuckoo

Magnificent Frigatebird

Pearly-eyed Thrasher

Purple-throated Carib

Purple-throated Carib

Red-billed Tropicbird

Red-billed Tropicbird

Red-footed Booby

Royal Tern

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin

Semi-palmated Sandpiper

White-cheeked Pintail

Wilsons Plover

Yellow-crowned Night Heron