Sunday, 26 January 2014

Sharm el Sheikh

Myself and Deb decided to try a different location for a holiday this year so we tried Sharm el Sheikh basing ourselves at the Royal Albatros Moderna, after a five hour flight we were soon out of the airport and on our way to our hotel only 20 minutes away arriving around 8.30pm. The porters took care of our luggage and we were shown to our room, we freshened up and went for dinner in one of the six restaurants had a few "Pharaoh lagers" and headed for bed. I was up at first light and after a few wrong turns (the hotel complex is huge) managed to get to the beach just as the sun was coming up, I found this was the best time to visit as by 8.30 the beach started to get busy with sun worshipers and the birds would move off elsewhere. First birds seen were Kentish and Ringed Plovers followed by Grey Plover, Greenshank, Hooded Crows, Caspian Terns, Sooty Gulls, three flyover Rock Martins, Little and Cattle Egrets, Laughing Doves and a Kestrel, after two hours birding I joined Deb for breakfast and firmly settled into holiday mode! Opposite our hotel was a semi finished building with a few pools dotted around which contained a good selection of waders, I visited there most evenings (much to the amusement of the security guards at the hotel entrance) just as the sun was going down, birds seen were, Spur winged Plovers, Redshank, Greenshank, Ringed Plover, Curlew Sandpiper, Cattle Egret, Kestrel, Rock Martins, Hooded Crows, Bluethroat, Stonechat and a juv Steppe Buzzard. The pools more or less had the same birds all week but the beach area which contained the longest jetties I've ever seen had different birds most days which included, White eyed Gulls, Sooty Gulls, Caspian Terns, Pied and Common Kingfisher, Reef Egret, Mangrove Heron, House Crows, Brown necked Ravens and Greater Sandplovers, the fish viewed from the jetty were incredible I can understand why this place is a snorkelers/divers paradise. I did a little homework before coming to Egypt and via facebook managed to get in touch with a Dutch birder Marjo Glerum who has lived there since 1999 and arranged for her to pick me up from my hotel at 6.00am and take me to "Sharm Pools" the posh name for the sewage works which was a 25 minute drive away, also joining us for the day was John from Preston (didn't get your last name,sorry). We arrived at the pools for sunrise and the first birds seen were 150+ White Storks then as we scanned the pools we picked up Little and Temminck's Stints, Common and Green Sandpipers, Pallid and Common Swifts, Black winged Stilts, Kentish and Ringed Plovers, Cattle Egrets and a pair of Black necked Grebes along with commoner species. I scoped a distant blob on the mountain and picked out an adult Eastern Imperial Eagle what a cracking bird later in the day there were also three juvs in amongst the numerous Black Kites but the highlight were the Sandgrouse. They started to arrive at about 8.30 the noise was incredible,first in were the Crowned Sandgrouse quickly followed by a flock of 100+ birds which contained both Spotted and Crowned Sandgrouse, they gave excellent views as they came in to drink, driving from the pools Marjo picked out a 2cy Steppe Eagle and on the drive home I managed to pick out two Hooded Wheatears and a single White Crowned, we stopped off at the golf course on the way back to the hotel but the only birds seen were Black Kites. The only other place visited was Nabq Reserve but this was quite disappointing, previous trip reports had said this was a good place for larks, pipits, wheatears etc but the only birds noted were Stonechat and a Kestrel there was some compensation on the walk back however in the form of a Fan tailed Raven. Sharm el Sheikh is a great place to visit not just for birdwatching,the people are friendly, the hotel was one of the best I have stayed in, the food was incredible and the whole complex was spotlessly clean, myself and Deb are already looking to return later in the year this time for two weeks when I'll venture a little further afield to St.Katherines monastery etc John the Preston birder had an incredible 31 Sinai Rosefinch! In total I saw 55 species with 12 lifers not too bad considering it wasn't a birding trip if you really put the effort in I have no doubt 100+  species is achievable, the only downside of the trip was going up a notch on my belt I'm missing the four o'clock doughnuts already!

Friday, 24 January 2014

SEWBReC's 10th Anniversary Joint Recorders' Forum

This year marks the SEWBReC's tenth anniversary and to mark this, they are holding a joint Glamorgan/Gwent recorders' forum and tenth anniversary celebration on Saturday 22nd February, at the Soar Centre, in Pen-y-Graig, Rhondda. There will be a full range of talks on various aspects of great Welsh wildlife and there will be free lunch and a celebratory cake.
Booking is required

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Florida Butterflies

The first butterfly was Cloudless Sulphur and then Gulf Fritillary, White Peacock, next Long Tailed Skipper, next Gulf Fritillary again, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, next Viceroy and last of all Little Wood Satyr. The butterflies were hard work they wouldn't stay still.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Props from Aliens

 This first  photo was taken over Robertstown. The second was taken up Cwm Cadlan and looks like Frog spawn and last of all taken up Dare Valley Country Park. Any ideas anwser on a post card.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Lost Footwear

 I went up Cwn Cadlan looking for Jack Snipe, found 1 Common Snipe and two Ravens and very little else. On walking back to the car I found this pair of shoes and I thought of Mike staight away. Has he lost them or if not they would go well with that purple dress . So Mike I left them at Llwyn Onn res at lost property. I know you will thank me later cheers.

Footwear malfunctions......

The plan today was to do my WeBS, then walk over the ridge up to Merthyr, and it started well. Despite the heavy fog first thing my WeBS, around Parc Taf Bargoed, pulled in 20 Little Grebe (highest number this winter), and single redhead Goosander The Canada Geese and the other 4 Goosanders from last Monday where no where to be seen. The star of this mornings show was a single Water Rail, my first at this site, right at the top of the site, near the climbing centre.

The bad news was that my boot was rubbing on my left heel and a quick look while walking round, showed that my heel was rubbed raw and was bleeding. So back home, plasters on, and decide on a new plan as I didn't think my feet would take the 8 - 16 mile yomp round the Taf Bargoed valley (depending on the time I had thought of getting the train back down.). As thew Thayer's Gull had been seen again yesterday. I decided on another try for this high Arctic North American spp.

Arriving at the car park just about 11am, I made my way out to the beach. Only one birder could be seen (turned out to be Alex Bevan), over by the causeway to Burry Homs. I walked out to the waters edge to keep the sun behing me and view the gulls further back on the island. After about 10mins I picked the Thayer's up as it briefly landed on the rocks. At this point Alex was no where to be seen. 5 mins later the gull reappeared, and stood on the rock for a couple of minutes before taking off.

During this time I noticed that when the occasional wave washed over my feet, the left foot was getting wet. An inspection of the boot showed the slow was coming away from the rest of the boot, and they are only about 6 weeks old! Back to the shop with these tomorrow!

Not long afterwards I was joined by a few birders, inc Alex, and the gull was soon relocated flying around towards the rear of the island. In flight it was far more distinctive than at rest. from below it most closely resembled a 1st winger Glauc' or Iceland, looking very pale, particularly the underwings. A dark edge to the outer prim's, however was quite distinctive. From above, it looked more like a washed out Herring gull and the two tone, outer primaries gave a darker outer hand than would be seen in a Glauc', or Iceland. We then made our way onto to the Island where the gull gave great views as it constantly flew around, at times right at eye level. After about an hour I departed.

 Also distinctive, as can be seen in this record shot, the gull spent most of the time flying around with it's feet hanging down - not sure if that a useful pointer to identification, but it could be useful for locating the gull in flight in poorer light.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

WeBS news

Working Sunday so early WeBS:
  • Pontsticill reservoir Friday 17th with AK; adult winter plumage iceland in amongst c2000 herring gull. Bird also seen on thursday but it's not the same bird as seen on Peacocks roof on the 11th, which was a breeding plumage adult.
  • Rhaslas pool Saturday; torrential rain, did a lap and flushed a water pipit on west point, good view of white outer tail feathers as it flew a few yards to next patch of rush. Detoured so bird probably still present, also, WN22, TU16, GN10, PO1 & HG70.
  • Talybont & Pentwyn; both reservoirs had low numbers, high water levels and rough conditions not helping.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Bush Bashing

Last Sunday I had a couple hours in the valley trying to top up my valley year list. So first light I was at Tir Founder Fields in search of Jack Snipe but had no joy, but there were lots of Common Snipe twenty four in total and I also had 50 Mallard, 7 Teal, 2 Water Rail. I also had a walk along the old canel in Cwmbach looking for the recent reported  Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but there was no sign of the mythical bird. The next stop was Cefnpennar to check out a couple of sites for Great Grey Shrike and Crossbill. When I got there things were looking a little bit foggy with light wind. I decided to go any way what a big mistake,  I found as I went up through the forest the fog got thicker and the wind picked up and to make things worst there was a mountain bike rally in the forest. I found that out when I went around a bend and met about forty guys on mountain bikes coming out of the fog and not one of them had a blooddy bell. So time to get out of there and have a quick brew with Phil. The next stop was to check out Phil's Chaffinch flock, they were looking pretty good with about forty birds in the flock, but sadly no Brambling. The last stop was Peace Park and there were 16 Teal, 2 Water Rail, 2 Coot, 1 Little Grebe. This site was looking good and they have started to do some work on site with a new gate and a path around the field by the lake. I got home with no new birds for my list and I went out my back  garden and I had about fifty Canada Geese flying towards Merthyr so I finally got a new bird for my list. I had five minutes spare yesterday so I went to Nant Meol Reservoir for a look. It was a bit disappointing with only Cormorants on the res. There were twelve in total and thats the highest number I have seen in the valley, there were two juvs and ten adults. One of the adults was showing signs of being the continental or the p.c sinensis race and what a cracking looking bird.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Has the bubble burst?

It might be tempting fate, but it looks like the recent run of ticks, for myself, has dried up. A solo trip down the Gower to try to catch up with the Thayer's and Kumlien's Gulls drew a blank. An adult Iceland Gull provided some compensation for an 8 hr stint. Gull numbers, however, appeared lower than the reports 1000+ from last weekend, so looks like it may have departed. There is however, a veritable feast on the beaches with thousands of shellfish washed up after the recent storms, keeping the couple of hundred gulls well fed.

Saturday, 11 January 2014


Rhaslas this a.m. singles of greenshank and dunlin (greenshank first noted on the 19th August and then on 11/18 visits since, max 4 on the 23/08/16, sp using pool, stream to the north and ex railway landfill). mipit numbers building c35 the last two days, wheatear still on passage with 10 using tip with another 2 around pool.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Martin Bell Travel Agency

Book with Martin at your own peril.
After the debacle of the trip to Norfolk with Mike and Rob where he booked the hotel room a day early leaving the boys with nowhere to stay he has surpassed himself on booking flights for our trip to Canada in May. Accommodation booked from 8 May to 18 May, airport car park booking for the same dates and Martin books the flights from 8 May to 19 May.  Mind you in his favour it gives us an extra days birding. Just hope the boys wives understand.

Monday, 6 January 2014

Great start to the New Year

A great trip to Nottinghamshire for the fourteen Parrot Crossbills in Sherwood Forest and then a small detour to Chasewater in Staffordshire for Caspian Gull. It was a surprise to have a mostly dry day and it was a good start to the New Year. Also it was nice to go somewhere I have never been before with good companions, snacks and Phil "the puddle" Hill. The drive home is the closest I have come to being in a car on a pelagic. What a great driver.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Late news from Rhaslas

From Saturday 4th; short-eared owl foraging parallel to railway cutting at 13:00 hours, my first for this winter. Sophie, the cardiff uni student has been finding lots of fresh pellets lately but, just like me, no owls. Wigeon[24], goosander[9] and tufted[6] were the best of the rest. Also; great northern diver still at llwyn-onn, meadow pipit flock[c50] along bogey road west.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Another Good Canadian Site

Link Here.

Tad wet

 The first shot is of the flood defences of the new houses over Tir Fields.Next shot is the footpath by Ynys and the next shots of the footpath across  Tir Founder fields .Next This weather sames to suit the yellow brain fungus and it same to be doing very well. Last shot Dare valley Country park , Tufted Duck are starting to go up and still no Pochard .

Blaencanaid Ravens

The weather prevented me from counting the ravens on New Years day, as planned, so I took advantage of the improved weather and did it yesterday morning instead.
A heavy shower delayed me getting to the place from which I count them, but I was in place by 07:10 and while waiting for them to start appearing over the horizon I heard geese and dimly saw a tight flock of what I presume were Canadas flying through the pass between Abernant and Heolgerrig, no doubt heading for Cyfarthfa park. As the sky brightened and time was getting on towards 07:30, I wondered whether any ravens would show or whether the wind damage to the roost and the recent bad weather had caused them to move elsewhere. Excitement came in the shape of a woodcock which hurtled past on its way to roost. At last, at 07:30, the first ravens appeared and from then on to the end at 08:15, they came in small groups and pairs, some loitering to display and perform aerobatics before heading off towards Bryn Pica tip.
The final total was 113, which was a reasonable total for January, as can be seen in this chart.

The apparent zero counts represent the absence of a count not of birds.
I have now been counting this roost monthly for long enough for a nice population profile to show in a monthly averages chart.

As well as the ravens, geese and woodcock, I also had Wren, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting and Buzzard, all firsts for the year.

Sad News

I found the Baikal Teal this morning at Tir Founder Field and sadly it had passed away. It was a drake so it must have been the bird you saw up north.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

a slow start to the new year

After a bit of a wash out on New Years Day - just 15 spp and a soaking, I made the most of the drier weather with a visit to Llwyn Onn - Mike's Great Northern Diver still showing well, munching through the Signal Crayfish population - before wandering round the Merthyr side of Garwnant - a ringtail Hen Harrier being the highlight. I then headed down to Fforest Ganol to catch up with the Hawfinches - up to 13 showed well, - then a wander round Edwardsville Woods, for Brambling.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Some more Florida shots

First shot is of a Cooter which was walking around a wood and nowhere near water. Next shot is of waders at Twin Oaks Ranch which are Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs and a smaller wader which I think is Least Sandpiper. Next shot is a Northern Harrier. The next shot is a track which I think is Bob Cat and the next is Eastern Cottentail. Next photo is Gray Catbird and last of all is Eastern Bluebird. Phil your book on Mammals of North America is priceless already.