Hooded Grebes - Patagonia - November 2016

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Thursday, 23 November 2017

Seaford Head & Lower Cuckmere 23/11/17

With very few Gulls assembled in Newhaven Harbour this morning I moved over the Harry's Bush, Seaford Head where I scanned the few Gulls that were there (not the hoped for 5000 Great Black-backed Gulls that roosted at Dunge last night) and to my delight a first-winter Caspian Gull was present, but not for long as it flew off five minutes after finding it. It had a yellow colour ring on its right leg so I presume its of a German origin. A couple of argentatus Herring Gulls were also present and a North Thames Great Black-backed Gull was also seen, but too distant for any detail.

Afterwards I quickly checked Harry's Bush and to my surprise there was a very showy Continental Coal Tit in the Tit flock there.





first-winter Caspian Gull in the Lower Cuckmere bearing a German ring 
(not that you can see it on these images). Hopefully the first of many this winter.


Continental Coal Tit in Harry's Bush





Friday, 17 November 2017

Andalusia, Spain  14th Nov - 17th Nov 2017

Another independent Eade tour devoted to finding 4-5 targets in southern Spain. Planning was very easy with regular up to date sightings on eBird for my main targets, and with staff travel flights (return to Seville) and cheap hotels for two out of three nights (slept in car the first night) it worked out costing around £160 for the trip. Key birding sites were navigated too using the app maps.me which is very accurate but a bit misleading when it comes to motorway exits, but enough guessing gets you there. Even better it can run on airplane mode meaning no data is being used on the phone.
Landing early afternoon I quickly picked up my Budget hire car and drove north for 50 minutes to Rio Viar seeing the following highlights:

Hen Harrier - 1 ringtail
Azure-winged Magpie - 75
Hawfinch - 10
Spanish Sparrow - 50
Common Waxbill - 30
Black Vulture - 2

Crag Martin at Rio Viar
despite seeing hundreds of Azure-winged Magpies,
this was the only photo I managed

bridge at Rio Viar
I then headed further north to Guadalcanal where I based myself that night. Birding the cultivations north of here produced a good abundance of farmland birds. The following was seen:
Chough - 2
Iberian Grey Shrike - 2
Iberian Green Woodpecker - 2
Crested Lark - 50
Azure-winged Magpie - 50
Dartford Warbler - 3

Black Vulture near Guadalcanal

sunset at Guadalcanal























































As light faded I grabbed some cheap food and found a suitable lay by, that was until I got woken up by the police knocking on my window at midnight. All was good and despite it being 5 degrees outside I had a reasonable nights kip.
Dawn broke at 7.45am and I again birded the same area as last night seeing plenty of migrants overhead including some surprise Bramblings. My main reason for being here was to see Spanish Imperial Eagle, seemingly a good wintering area. No doubt I had to wait for it to warm up so I drove up to a Mirador surrounded by olive groves which turned out to be a alive with birds. Over the next couple of hours the following was seen:

Firecrest - 2
Rock Bunting - 1
Crested Tit - 3
Short-toed Treecreeper - 1
Ring Ouzel - 3
Woodlark - 4
Griffon Vulture - ca. 150
Black Vulture - 5


Thekla Lark near Guadalcanal - admittedly this was a retrospective id.
When scrolling through these I noticed the dense spotting on the breast
and therefore I considered Thekla rather then a Crested Lark. The
short bill with a slight up-curving to the lower mandible, short clean white
supercilium, obvious white eye-ring, virtually no primary projection and
short crest are all in favour for Thekla, but by no means straightforward.


Rock Bunting at Guadalcanal Mirador

Sardinian Warbler at Guadalcanal

Black Vulture over Guadalcanal

Sunrise at Guadalcanal

view from Guadalcanal Mirador




































With no Eagle and wanting to carry on I headed SE for two hours (Black-shouldered Kite being the highlight) where I ended up in the middle of nowhere near to Lantejuela birding various cultivated fields and a small birding park, the former supposedly supporting a very large flock of Calandra Lark, but despite much driving around I couldn't find any, but plenty of farmland birds however. Walking through one of the fields produced lots of Crimson Speckled Moths and a couple of Red-veined Darters. The park held some waterfowl but nothing special up until dark where I then drove further south to Olvera for my attack at the mountains the next day. Highlights for the afternoon/evening were:

Stone Curlew - 7
Black-winged Stilt - 4
Greater Flamingo - 4

one of many Crimson Speckled Moths near Lantejuela

Black-shouldered Kite


Stone Curlew near Lantejuela

my first hotel after sleeping in the car last night.























































Due to the very cool temperatures in the early hours I didn't leave my hotel until it got light, and with a 45 min drive to the pass above Grazalema, this gave the area time to warm up. The area around Grazalema was very good and I finally clocked my first target, a Black Wheatear, whilst plenty of other bits were on offer:

BLACK WHEATEAR - 3
Blue Rock Thrush - 2
Rock Bunting - 1
Woodlark - 4
Firecrest - 2
Crested Tit - 2
Redwing - 1


a welcome trip lifer - Black Wheatear at Grazalema Pass

Grazalema Pass - the Wheatear slope above the treeline

looking west from the pass




















































I then had a 2 hour drive to the SE section of the Donana National Park which turned out to be a bit of a dive, but I made the most of it and soon found my second target, a group of White-headed Ducks. Really pleased with this I carried on searching more pools around the area and found some more, plus the following:

WHITE-HEADED DUCK - 12
Red-crested Pochard - 2
Western Swamphen - 1
Booted Eagle - 3
Avocet - 1
Black-necked Grebe - 1
Night Heron - 6


White-headed Ducks being another welcome lifer

Griffon Vultures over Donana NP

the grim pool that held the trio of White-headed Ducks



















With now time to spare, I plucked on heading around the other side of the park (frustratingly having to go via Seville as no other route option) where I came across around 150 White Storks catching the thermals which saw me driving at 130kph whilst looking up at the Storks through my binoculars. I eventually made it to El Rocio and birded the main lagoon there until dark. I revised eBird and through this found the line of trees a certain Eagle roosts at, and there it was, a superb adult Spanish Imperial Eagle. Despite being distant, a very nice view of this beast and another welcome tick for the day. The lagoon also played host to thousands of Greylag Geese coming into roost that created a lovely sight. Totals for El Rocio are as follows:

Greylag Geese - 15000
SPANISH IMPERIAL EAGLE - 1 adult
Marsh Harrier - 2
Zitting Cisticola - 5
Common Waxbill - 30
Azure-winged Magpie - 40
Black-winged Stilt - 20
Black-tailed Godwit - 50

Spanish Imperial Eagle at Donana NP......obviously


Greylag Geese coming into their roost
I stayed the night in El Rocio and woke up early to scan the small reedbed on the north side of the main body of water. The Eagle was still in the same tree and I got some lovely views of a male Bluethroat. A few other bits about but time ran out and I was soon driving to Seville Airport where maps.me App took me through the centre of Seville that was thankfully quiet, but very scenic.
Totals for the morning are:

Cetti's Warbler - 5
Bluethroat - 2
Spanish Imperial Eagle - 1
Golden Plover - 20
........plus lots of common waterfowl.

Cattle Egrets leaving their roost at El Rocio

Spotless Starlings at El Rocio


sunrise at El Rocio



















































The trip ended on 100 species of bird including three lifers as listed below.

Little Grebe - singles seen on most water bodies
Black-necked Grebe - single bird on Lagunas de Martin Miguel, S.d.Barrameda
Cormorant - small groups around water bodies
Greylag Goose - thousands at El Rocio, Donana NP
Gadwall - small numbers at El Rocio, Donana NP
Teal - common in Donana NP
Mallard - seen on most water bodies
Pintail - small numbers at El Rocio
Shoveler - seen on most water bodies
Wigeon - small numbers at El Rocio, Donana NP
WHITE-HEADED DUCK - 3 on pool along Camino Collarado, Sanlucar de Barrameda and 12 on Laguna del Tarelo, Donana NP.
Pochard - 1fem on pool along Camino Collarado, S.d. Barrameda
Red-crested Pochard - 2 fem on pool along Camino Collarado, S.d.Barrameda
Greater Flamingo - 6 (4 juvs) at La Laguna, Lantejuela
Grey Heron - small numbers on most water bodies
Cattle Egret - small flocks regular in southern areas.
Night Heron - 6 at Laguna del Turelo, Donana NP.
White Stork - ca. 150 thermalling above Jerez
Moorhen - common around water bodies
Coot - common in Donana NP
Western Swamphen - single bird seen very well on pool along Camino Collarado, S.d.Barrameda
SPANISH IMPERIAL EAGLE- 1 adult at El Rocio
Griffon Vulture - commonest raptor
Black Vulture - only small numbers around Guadalcanal
Red Kite - common throughout
Common Buzzard - widespread but rarely encountered
Hen Harrier - 1 ringtail on route to Rio Viar
Marsh Harrier - a couple at El Rocio
Sparrowhawk - 1 at Guadalcanal Mirador
Black-shouldered Kite - only in the southern parts often at roadsides
Booted Eagle - only a couple seen at Sanlucar de Barrande
Red-legged Partridge - common around cultivated areas
Golden Plover - small group at Donana NP
Stone Curlew - a party of 6 near Lantejuela
Lapwing - common in cultivated areas
Common Snipe - single figures at El Rocio
Black-winged Stilt - a couple at Lantejuela and many at El Rocio
Avocet - only one seen at Lagunas de Martin Miguel, S.d.Barramede
Black-tailed Godwit - ca. 50 at El Rocio
Common Sandpiper - 2 at Laguna del Tarelo, Donana NP
Green Sandpiper - a couple in Donana NP
Yellow-legged Gull - only small numbers in Donana NP
Black-headed Gull - very few in most areas visited
Woodpigeon - common
Feral Pigeon - common
Collared Dove - common
Great Spotted Woodpecker - a couple at Grazalema and one in Donana NP
Iberian Green Woodpecker - 2 north of Guadalcanal
Crested Lark - common throughout
Thekla Lark - 1 retrospectively identified just north of Guadalcanal
Skylark - small numbers at various places
Woodlark - only at higher elevations at Guadalcanal and Grazalema
Crag Martin - common at high elevations plus at Rio Viar bridge
House Martin - 1 at El Rocio
Meadow Pipit - common in most areas
White Wagtail - very common
BLACK WHEATEAR - 3 at Grazalema Pass
Stonechat - small numbers in most areas
Black Redstart - common
Song Thrush - common at all higher elevations
Mistle Thrush - single figures north of Guadalcanal
Redwing - 1 at Grazalema Pass
Ring Ouzel - 3 at Guadalcanal Mirador
Blackbird - rarely seen at higher elevations in most places
Blue Rock Thrush - a pair seen at Grazalema
Robin - common at higher elevations
Bluethroat - 2 (incl 1 male) in reedbed at El Rocio
Zitting Cisticola - common in lowlands
Cetti's Warbler - common at El Rocio
Sardinian Warbler - everywhere
Dartford Warbler - north of Guadalcanal and Grazalema Pass
Blackcap - seen frequently in olive groves, mainly at higher elevations
Chiffchaff - common around Donana NP
Firecrest - small numbers at higher elevations in pine trees
Crested Tit - a couple at Guadalcanal Mirador in olive groves and Grazalema Pass
Great Tit - small numbers at Guadalcanal
Blue Tit - small numbers at Guadalcanal
Long-tailed Tit - one flock encountered at Rio Viar
Short-toed Treecreeper - 1 at Guadalcanal Mirador
Azure-winged Magpie - surprisingly common except in higher elevations
Magpie - in most areas
Chough - a pair seen north of Guadalcanal
Raven - a few pairs around Guadalcanal
Jay - a pair seen at Grazalema Pass
Iberian Grey Shrike - a couple north of Guadalcanal and 1 at Donana NP
Spotless Starling - those looked at were all this species and were very common
House Sparrow - common
Spanish Sparrow - only two large flocks encountered, one at Rio Viar and one at Lantejuela
Siskin - a few encounters mainly at higher elevations
Serin - common
Goldfinch - common
Greenfinch - only seen at Rio Viar
Hawfinch - good numbers approaching Rio Viar
Chaffinch - common
Brambling - 3 over Guadalcanal
Linnet - common
Common Waxbill - surprisingly common around water bodies
Rock Bunting - 1 at Guadalcanal Mirador, 1 at Grazalema Pass
Corn Bunting - very common in cultivated areas











Monday, 13 November 2017

Tide Mills 13/11/17

A change was due and having not seen a Purple Sandpiper for a while I felt Tide Mills was a reasonable choice. There were 5 Purple Sandpipers on East Pier, 2 Black Redstarts feeding together by the factories, a Brambling and Redpoll flew over and a redhead Goosander flew in off the sea and landed in Mill Creak, stayed for around twenty minutes and then flew off strongly east.

Also recently I've found a few Great Black-backed Gulls bearing colour rings and have had some bits of information back, with the most interesting being an adult bird seen last week that was ringed in 2008 in southern Norway as a juvenile, and being last seen in 2010 in northern France.

redhead Goosander at Tide Mills - taken with my phone through my bins hence the awful quality
this 2nd winter Great Black-backed Gull (JC383) was ringed in southern Norway on 04/07/2016 and was last recorded on 18/04/2017 further east along the same coastline, having been to northern France for the winter in between.






Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Newhaven Harbour & Cuckmere Haven 7/11/17

I started down at Newhaven Harbour where I found three colour-ringed Great Black-backed Gulls and after a bit of patience I managed to get the codes. Other then this nothing happening. A seawatch at Splash Point wasn't too bad after and I ended the morning going through three different Gull flocks in the Cuckmere where I could only find two adult Yellow-legged Gulls. Walking around the area didn't produce anything else of note.

Splash Point 09:30-10:00 

Little Gull - 1 1st winter
Red-throated Diver - 1
Common Scoter - 1
Guillemot - 10
Kittiwake - 20
Fulmar - 1


two different Yellow-legged Gulls at Exceat

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Sherwood Rough, Arundel 5/11/17

Having luckily found some Hawfinches on the patch this autumn, I didn't feel too bad in going to a recent hot-spot for this species and trying to see some there. Me and Paula set out about 10am and spent four hours around the Sherwood Rough area of what is I presume the Rewell Wood complex. In total I had 10 sightings of varying sized groups and counted 56 Hawfinch in total, the majority or if not all being different due to the rate of sightings. A very impressive haul of one of my favourite species. After a cracking carvery at The White Swan in Arundel, a quick look at Swanbourne Lake produced two Mandarin Ducks.

 the first of 56 Hawfinch seen
 Red Kite

Fallow Deer
 only two Hawfinches in this image
very impressive in flight

Monday, 30 October 2017

Seaford Head & Cuckmere Haven 30/10/17

My last day before a week of earlies was superb weather wise, and with regards to the birds it was ok. Due to the clear and biting cold conditions early on there was a good selection of stuff moving over. Upon arrival Fieldfare and Redwings dominated, and then Bramblings started to get going that soon turned to be a personal record count at this site. Very little else was grounded however with the long staying Treecreeper being the highlight.

Afterwards the Cuckmere and Haven Brow loop produced a few bits that are locally noteworthy.

Seaford Head

Fieldfare - 10 W
Redwing - 40 W
Brambling - 28 W
Snipe - 2 W
Corn Bunting - 1 W
Redpoll - 75 E
Siskin - 20 E
Bullfinch - 1h
House Martin - 1
Swallow - 1
Treecreeper - 1
Firecrest - 1

Cuckmere Haven

Shoveler - 1
Water Rail - 1
Redshank - 23
Dunlin - 4
Brambling - 1
Swallow - 4


some of the Bramblings from this morning. Annually I struggle to get over ten in a day in October, so today was exceptional. Its been a good month for Finches here but little in the way of anything else.
Shoveler mixed in with the Wigeon and Teal on the river
aircraft sp. over the Cuckmere