Sunday, 30 November 2014

patch tick

Picked up a long overdue tick for Coed Cefn-fforest this morning. In a large flock of Chaffinch (100+) that were well spread out, I managed to pick up three different Bramblings - an adult male, a first winter male and a female. The whole flock were very flighty, but not surprising as a male Sparrowhawk had just taken one for it's brunch and the remains of a fresh Gos woodpigeon kill - the blood was still liquid - was close by.
A Gos was seen later (the same bird?) over the common. These have been scarce/very shy over the past 18months or so, so good to get a visual.
Not long after I had some fly over Crossbills, heading towards Coed Merthyr Vale.  These follow 6 seen on Friday at Letti Turner.Like the Gos, Crossbills have been thin on the ground for the past 18 months, so perhaps numbers are building again.

Friday, 28 November 2014

It's not all rough out there

Not long back from my summer holiday (?) in Norfolk. Mixed weather, mixed birding, but a nice trip all the same. Totaled 117 species but managed to dip Spot Red'; White-front; Red-necked Grebe, Snow (no surprises there then!) and Lap buntings, Firecrest, Golden Pheasant. No Redpolls of any description either. First bird was a Tawny Owl hooting as I arrived at my first nights digs. Last bird, a quartering Short-eared Owl at Holme BO.
Highlights on Monday was a adult winter Sandwich Tern on the beach at Titchwell, followed a Chinese Water Deer. Then later two Rough Legged Buzzards at Burnham Overy Marsh. Tuesday's highlights from Holkham was the car starting first time, the drake Surf Scoter, another look at one of the Rough-legged Buzzards, a Black-throated Diver and a distant Barn Owl.
Wednesday, saw a change in the weather to almost constant rain for the morning, which saw me under the shelter at Cley beach for several hours seawatch. Highlight, although frustrating, was a distant Tern (the Sandwich from Monday?) that I couldn't get enough on to firm up the id to species level. The only auks that could be id'd were Guillemots, though two heading away from me looked smaller!
Thursday was my last day and back to Titchwell where 2 Black-throated Divers were offshore and a Long-tailed Duck flew past. A male Hen Harrier was seen distantly (but no Marsh Harriers seen at all on the day!). I then drove the short distance to Thornham harbour and the wintering flock of Twite were seen found and some excellent scope views obtained before I walked round to Holme Dunes/Bird Observatory, looking for Snow Buntings - up to 60 had been in the area over the previous couple of days - so surely even I could fine them - Nope! no sign all day (only to find they had moved to Holkham).
A nice break with an avian and a mammal tick and my year list eventually getting over the 200 mark (now up at dizzying heights of 213).

Friday, 21 November 2014

Another Four

 Great Thrush
 Sparkling Violetear
 Red Headed Barbet
Pale Naped Brush Finch

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Llwyn-on and Cwm Cadlan

Thanks go to Mike for confirming that the GND were still at Llwyn-on, so having finished a job early in the afternoon, I nipped over and saw one of them, the other not being in view while I was there.
On my way back, via Cwm Cadlan, I stopped for a while, about a hudred yards short of the cattle grid, near Blaen Cadlan Uchaf farm. There was a male Stonechat in the rough pasture and snipe was heard giving its alarm call, but not seen. In the fields near the farm, there were redwing and fieldfare, while over the moorland beyond, a pair of red kites, then a pair of buzzards. I was on the verge of leaving, when I saw the thrushes go up and saw something moving over the field in front of them, but before I could get the bins on it, it had disappeared. I waited another ten minutes or so and there it was again, much closer: a lovely ring-tail (my first hen harrier of the year), which then went on to give me great views, before working its way up onto the moorland to the north and disappearing over the horizon.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Top Trumph's

Seedsnipe + young

(unfortunately not taken by myself but by another participant on my trip to Ecuador in 2004 Mike Galtry)

Monday, 17 November 2014

A Few More Photos from Ecuador

 Who's a hungry boy then. Crimson Rumped Toucanet,
 Flame Faced Tanagers feeding
 Rufous Bellied Seedsnipe at 4300 metres altitude.
Bronzy Inca

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Tripe Yesterday, Poison Today.

A free afternoon, yesterday, so I walked up to Gwaun Helen, the area of forestry above Cwmbach and Cefnpennar. I had nothing in mind, which was just as well, because apart from four crossbill, a kestrel and the odd raven, I saw next to nothing, as far as birds were concerned.
On a rock face up there, the large, distinctive lichen called Rock Tripe (Lassalia pustulata) was drying out after the overnight rain, showing the difference in appearance of the moist and wet states really well.

Rock Tripe. The dry, pale state at the top,
the moist, green state at the bottom

It is regarded as a survival food and I have tried some, out of curiosity. The texture is somewhere between overcooked omelette and inner tube, while the taste isn't! A true survival food in that you would only eat it if the alternative is never eating anything again.

This morning I found myself in the upper reaches of Cwm Cadlan, hoping for hen harrier, maybe, but having a pretty lean time of it, bird-wise. Just after Martin had passed my car (I saw you slowing down to admire it), I heard a wader of some sort, calling, but I couldn't identify the call, neither could I locate the bird.
I wondered whether to check Garw Nant for shrike or check the res, but had an urge to go to Llyn Fach instead, so not knowing that there were GND on Llwyn-on, I headed for there. Parking by the entrance to Tower forest, I checked the sallows below for Cobalt Crust and finding some on a dead sallow twig.
I walked in, along the main forest ride, which is being improved in readiness for the lorries that will be bringing in the sections of the wind turbines. Some bullfinches were calling in the sallows closer to Tower colliery and a charm of around twenty goldfinches flew out of conifers. Little else was seen, apart from a couple of woodcock and a flock of fourteen crossbills, in the spruce trees, on the morains, below Llyn Fach.
Checking the seed heads of the purple moorgrass, as I walked in and at Llyn Fach, I found quite a lot of the fruiting bodies of the deadly fungus Ergot (Claviceps purpurea). I have also seen it in the seed heads of Cock's-foot grass, but it is when it grows in the seed heads of cereal crops that it gets ground up with the flour and eaten by humans, leading to a potentially deadly form of poisoning, called ergotism.

According to Roger Phillips' 'Mushrooms', it is deadly poisonous, with symptoms including burning pains and gangrene in the limbs, or hallucinations and psychosis, usually leading to death.

Just as I was leaving lovely Llyn Fach, the rain started and I had a wet hour's walk back to the car.

Just for Starters Antpittas not Antipasti

Just a few photos to start from the trip to Ecuador for Mike and myself.  Yellow Bellied, Giant, Ochre Breasted, Chestnut Crowned, White Bellied and Tawny Antpittas.

Dive, dive dive....

A trip up to Llwyn Onn this morning showed the 2 Great Northern Divers, found on Friday, were still around. A Little Grebe and a Tufted Duck were the only other birds of note. Fungi were much in evidence with plenty of Fly Argic's (Is it just me, or are they more common this year?) along with several new species for myself (easily done as my list is not that long) which looked to include False Chanterelle, Wrinkled Club and Butter Waxcap, plus a couple of un i'd species.

Butter Waxcap
False Chanterelle
Wrinkled Club


Yesterday, a day out to watch Wales at the Millennium Stadium, was notable for a single, small bat, probably a Pipistrelle, flying around the stadium, disturbed from where ever it was roosting by the noise surrounding the teams coming onto the pitch

Monday, 10 November 2014


With a reasonable chance of suitable weather, I decided to attempt November’s raven count this morning and as things turned out, apart from a shower and some hill fog, it proved to be okay.
Things didn’t go entirely to plan, however, as on parking the car, on Mynydd Aberdar and getting my stuff together, prior to walking down the parish road to the counting spot, I found that the dreaded birders’ nightmare had come true and I had left my bins in the house. Debating whether to give up and go home, I decided that as I was there, I might as well give it a try and if it failed for lack of the bins, I could hopefully try again.
As it was going to be naked eye only, I opted for a spot, a little higher up the road than I usually use, so that the ravens would pass right over me, the danger being that if they took a route further to the S.West, they might be lost against the darkness of the valley.
As I walked away from the car, at 06:10, I heard a raven almost overhead, but the sky was too dark for me to see it, so I counted it as one, though there may have been others with it and immediately after, I heard another calling, with just the hint of a response from an accompanying bird, so three confirmed.
At the chosen counting spot, I waited in silence for twenty minutes, before the next birds started flying over, thankful for the delay, which allowed the sky to lighten enough for me to see them. By 06:55, my total had reached 77, then a shower began and hill fog lowered onto the hill top. For around 15 minutes, while it rained and remained foggy, not a single raven flew out and I wondered whether they were all out, but as soon as the rain stopped and fog lifted, there was a mass exodus of around 50 birds, followed by several smaller groups, so that by 07:30, when it all finished, the total was 202, which is the second highest for November.
All through the count, I could hear redwings calling overhead and also fieldfares, which I at first thought were also overhead, but soon realised were calling from within the bracken on the hill slope around me. As the daylight increased, I could see them flying out of the bracken in small groups and heading off. I have seen this behaviour before, while counting the ravens from the old count point up on the moorland above.

I saw only one woodcock flying in to roost, but my attention was fixed to the sky and any low flying woodcock, hugging the ground would have been missed.
The count successfully completed, despite the lack of bins, U packed up and got away quickly, afraid that I might see something interesting in the distance that I would need the bins to identify. 

Sunday, 9 November 2014

November WeBS

Today's WeBS count didn't produce anything as exiting as a Mute Swan - I missed Mike's post that 2 had been in Merthyr a couple of weeks ago - dam, that would have been a county tick - but it looks like the Water Rail found last winter has returned for this winter. Mallard numbers were surprisingly a bit on the low side at just 34 - well over 60 a couple of months ago.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Shrike and Spindle

A first visit for a while round Coed Cefn Fforest produced little, but a small flock of a dozen Redwing being the highlight.

I followed that with a trip up to Garwnant. The GG Shrike showed reasonably well, albeit distantly. No sign of the Lesser 'pecker seen yesterday, but at least 1 Willow Tit in the tit flock near the visitor centre.

On the road just down from the centre I noticed the fruits of a Spindle.