Monday, 27 February 2017

Paris & Back (June/July 2014)

This was a short family break to Euro Disney by coach from Aberdare. So it was four am in the morning at Aberdare bus station and it was tipping down with rain and there were no birds anywhere to be seen or heard.

At Cardiff West Service, I saw my first birds of the trip: a Pied Wagtail. There was a roost in a tree in the car park with around fifty birds.

Other species seen at the services were House Sparrow, Carrion Crow, Gold Finch, Blackcap, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Wood Pigeon, Jackdaw, Magpie and three Mallard’s flying over.
The next bird was not seen until we were almost at the Severn Bridge: a Common Buzzard.

Once over the bridge, thing were very slow with only twelve species (Starling, Rook, 6 Grey Heron, Mute Swan, Great Created Grebe with young, Black Headed Gull, Collard Dove, Wren, Stock Dove, Blue Tit, House Martin, Feral Pigeon) seen and that was with a stop at a services station in Surrey called Cobham services and on to Dover. 

One highlight was a pond at Cobham Services near the petrol station, which had no birds but there were dragonflies on the pond and I got my first Black Tailed Skimmer of the year. There were seven in total and there were also Damselfly which were Common Blue and Blue Tailed Damselfly. 

We arrived at Dover for our ferry ride over to Calais and a change of habitat. Once on deck, I started to see new birds almost straight away. The most common were Gannets; there were seventy in total and only three juvenile. We also saw twenty five Kittiwakes, mostly on the French side of the channel, and one common Tern, hundreds of Black headed Gulls, two Sandwich Terns, three  Mediterranean Gulls and two summer plumages birds which were cracking in the sunlight.

Once docked and on our way, the first Kestrel of the trip showed up and the only Sparrow Hawk of the trip was seen being chased by House martin. There was very little else different apart from a White Wagtail and a Great Tit.  There seemed to be miles of field and not a lot else.
Once at Euro Disney, we checked-in and I had a quick walk around the grounds of the Newport Beach Club.  There were a couple of Mute Swans, Black Headed Gulls and Mallards on the lake, with lots of carp in the water.

In Downtown Disney, there was a fairly large Starling roost on the side of a small lake. There must have been a thousand birds in total and it was great to see. Over the next two days, I walked the grounds of the hotel twice a day and saw lots of the same birds over again.  The birds were more or less the same as the in the UK.

Robins were very scarce; I only saw one in two days. Blackbirds and Blue Tits were common and breeding. Great Tit and Long Tailed Tit were seen to be breeding as well. I had four species of finch, which were Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Linnet, which were scarcer and I only saw them in one place. I also saw Wren, blackbird, Carrion Crow, Magpie, White Wagtail, House Sparrow, Dunnock, Collard Dove, Feral Pigeon, Goldcrest , Great Spotted Woodpecker with one chick, one Short toed Tree creeper, Swift, House Martin, Swallow. I had four species of Warblers; Blackcap, Chiffchaff , White Throat seen and heard around the park and Reed Warbler seen in a small reed bed, feeding  young. 

There were two Cormorants and Grey Herons on the lake. Also present on some of the smaller ponds were a single Moorhen and three Coots. I had three different types of Gull: black headed gulls on the lake in small numbers and Herring Gull and Lesser black Backed Gulls flying over.

The hotel grounds were mixed woodland and lakes with three mute swans and about a dozen mallards. There were small waterways and one area was over grown and had a lot of scrub and a small reed bed. I think at different times of the year it could be very good for birdwatching and a break from the park.

I found mammals very scarce; I only saw two rabbits and a wood mouse which was feeding on pizza in Downtown Disney in the evening. I thought I would have seen Grey Squirrel on the grounds but no sign. There was also no sign of any dragonflies or damselflies. I saw two Butterflies, which were small white and Red admiral.

The weather was not very good; there were showers one moment and sun spells in the next. So maybe more stable weather would have resulted in more butterflies and dragonflies as the area looked good for them.

The trip back across France was a bit better as the weather had gotten better and I had some different birds for my French trip list, which were Lapwing, Rook, Jackdaw, Common Buzzard and a very pale white bird. I also had a Harrier species which was displaying, which I think could have been a Marsh Harrier.

Back at the Calais ferry port and back aboard the ferry for my final crossing, birds in the harbour were pretty much the same as my earlier cross. There were hundreds of Black Headed Gulls and a first summer Mediterranean Gull and the best surprise was a first summer Little Gull, which was feeding in the harbour and sixteen Common Tern and six Cormorants.

 The crossing was very similar and there were twenty-one Kittiwakes. There were twenty-eight Gannets, a lot less this time and mostly in the Dover area. There were also two Fulmar, two more Common Tern being chased by a lesser Black Backed Gull until they dropped their fish. The three med gulls were in the same area as the earlier trip.

The highlight of the crossing was twenty-five Common Scoter, flying fairly close to the English side of the channel, going west and a single Harbour Porpoise.  The trip from Dover to Aberdare was very poor and the only new birds were a Kingfisher and Greylag Goose. I thought I would have had Rose ringed Parakeet or Red Kite on the way home. The only mammals seen from the bus was red Fox and Rabbit.

After sixteen hours on the road, boy was I glad to be home.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Hirwaun ponds

Fair sized owl pellet found two weeks ago, any thoughts on which owl it might be. The site was very quiet and the only thing of note was a possible woodcock and unusually no Common Snipe or Jack Snipe .

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Pine bunting

As promised, a photo of the Pine Bunting from Sunday (that bears an uncanny similarity to the photo of the same bird that appears on Birdguides review of the week)

Monday, 20 February 2017

Bye eck, t'at wus a gran day out

With me on coaching duty in Leeds for yhe first part of next week, I decided to head to midlands (if you are from Scotand, every where in engerland is South) and twitch the Pine Bunting that has been wintering just south of York.

The trip started well, with a Barn Owl on  a roadside tree along the M50.

A short stop just before York for a coffee and to check my directions, meant I pulled into Dummington about 8:30, with no wrong turns, or missed junctions (who needs satnav?).  On arriving at yhe site of yesterdays sightings, I met a local birder who informed me he'd just been watching it about 3-4 minutes earlier. Great, hopefully this won't take long, I thought. Plenty of Yellowhammers were flitting in and out of the stubble field and adjacent hedgerows, but no sign of their Sibe cousin. Tree Sparrows and Stock Doves were added to the year list as i scanned the feeding and resting buntings.

2 hrs later and still nothing. 3 others arrived and we decied to split up as the flock was now slight closer to the othrr end of the field. Myself and another bloke, who had seen it briefly yesterday evening, headed to through the village to the other side of the field. On arrival, the flock had all but dissapeared. After about 15 mins we decided to head over the the field where it had first been found. On arrival we noted a togger wandering round the stubble field, whilst a number of finches and buntings flited along the headgerow. We slowly made our way along the edge of the stubble field (the farmer had given permission for birders to enter this field when the bird was found).

There were good numbers of Yellowhammers in the stubble but they were difficult to get onto whencthey were on the ground. Suddenly a paler bird flew across and dropped into the stubble. We both saw it and we were both convinced that it was the Pine Bunt'. It didn't take long for it to fly into the hedge, where it showed well. Panic ensued as i could not get my scope onto it and before i could regain a fix, it flew off into the hedge further along. This time it sat right on the outer edge of the hedge giving great scope views (photo to follow).

Following the success, I decided to head over to the RSPB reserve at Fairburn Ings. This was a reserve I'd wanted to visit for a while, but hadn't realised it was so close to Leeds. I enjoyed a wander round this wetland reserve, with a couple ofckey targets in mind. A pair of Smew had been in residence this winter, and 3 White-fronted Geese were also on site. Both species were found, though both were a bit distant. More distant were two Grey Partridge, feeding under a distant hedge. Willow tits were heard and eventually seen.

Finally, driving into Leeds I picked up 3 Red Kites, my first of the year.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Burnt Gorse

Does anyone know for any gorse in Cynon, that burnt last year?

Monday, 13 February 2017

Sunday Morning

After a heavy night on the pop, the thought of going back to Wern Ddu with Phil to try for the Red Flanked Bluetail made me get out of bed. Failing for the second time though was not good and the woods looked like a scene for the Deliverance and I was waiting for the Banjos to start playing in the background. It was freezing but it was great to see some familiar faces and do some catching up. I saw two birds more than last time but still no joy with the Bluetail and as the saying goes third time lucky. Mad to think it showed an hour after we left.
Next stop was the bay and Dudley Street but nowhere to park so we moved onto Cossie. On looking through the gulls I spotted F 168, we saw him a couple of weeks ago, a Herring Gull from 2015 and I also found two Black Headed Gulls with rings on but I could not make out the numbers. I was talking too a Alexander Hagge and he had the same two on the Taff Estuary and could not read them. He said they were from Lithuania and could get no more ID on them, it seems a good chance they were the same birds, someone else said he could make out EX70 on mine so who knows, always next time. It was great to see the adult med gull was still present, it was blending in well with the Black Headed Gulls and a first for the year. Last stop was the near Cogan Woods for Marsh Tit which we picked up fairly easy and so ending another Sundays birding.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

What do you class as to foggy to bird

I got up yesterday and the fog did not seem that bad and I thought I would have a look for the Little Egret before work. When I got to Tir Founder Fields the fog was pretty bad and I could see a white bird in the distance but on looking closer it was the young Swan, I could hear a Kingfisher calling fairly close but I could not see the little so and so. Being one who hates to give up  I carried on around, I could hear Teal and found a single drake and a cormorant popped is head out of the river and boy did he jump but as hard has I tried I had no luck, there could have been 40 little Egrets and I would have still  missed them. Today I went there this evening and fed the swan but no sign of the Egret. As I was walking back out at about 4.45 pm, I looked in the drainage ditch on the right by the new house and there he was, was fishing and doing the old thing with his foot where they stamp and fish rush forward and it was nice to finish the  day on a high. I also had a late message from my daughter of her friends father last saturday who had a baby white heron when walking over to Adsa and looks like the Little Egret has been present longer than we think .
I also took this bad  record shoot just in case certain member thinks I am stringing and it's a white carrier bag and if I would pmsl .

Early Morning Stroll to Site A

Martin Bevan and myself decided this morning to have our annual climb (thinking about it I missed last year) up to Site A to look for Red Grouse  Weather was looking good, quite clear, no wind and plenty of coffee and healthy food in the rucksacks so we were raring to go!!!

As we hit the first conifer block Martin heard Crossbills calling and three were duly found just sitting on top of a tree. Not much else of note apart from 3 Bullfinches were seen on the walk up to the stile.

Over the stile and onto the open mountain the ground became boggy, more so after all the rain we have had and the weather started to close in with visibility getting worse. We decided to keep going but if the conditions got any worse we would turn around straight away. Martin said that in the mist it is easy to get disorientated and lose your way which I replied, Martin you do not need mist to do that!!!

The weather cleared for awhile, a very cold north wind came up, the ground became more icy and has we got to the site the mist was back. Luckily for us we heard a Grouse calling and Martin somehow picked one up through the mist on the ground and then two flew up. We looked at each other and said job done, they are still here let's get off here as quick as possible. Working our way down the mist cleared and the temperature went up a few degrees. I decided to slip on the mud and go a**e over tip. Martin was quite put out because I was not covered in mud saying that if he had done that he would have been plastered. A quick stop for coffee and pizza and it was back to the car picking up five more Crossbills on the way.

We then called into Llwyn Onn reservoir which was dead on the water however between the middle car park and the hide Martin heard a single note and a Willow Tit duly popped out right in front of us.

Next stop was Brecon for a quick look for Waxwings, a quick walk and drive around produced a negative result.

Then it was over to Llangorse where again it was very quiet although we picked up another year tick in Goldeneye, over twenty. We decided to go over to Talybont to try for Marsh Tit but just has we were getting in the car flocks of wildfowl started to appear from our right. Groups of Teal, Wigeon, Goosander, Goldeneye and Lapwing just kept coming and all of a sudden the lake was what we had expected to see.

We finally got to Talybont reservoir after a diversion around the village itself, no Marsh Tit but on the water 2 Goosanders and at least 16 Little Grebes, 10 in one group.

Friday, 3 February 2017

windy morning at Porthcawl

After spending Thursday stuck in the house waiting for phones calls and the thought of Friday being wet and windy I felt I had to get out and see the sea. So I did my usual thing, got a loaf of bread and a big box of custard doughnuts and headed to Salt Lake Car Park in Porthcawl. When I got there were no gulls in the car park, it was high tide and I thought this is strange. I walked along the harbour wall and found about a dozen Turnstones and a rock pipit and I also checked around the lighthouse and apart from big waves it was quiet. So I returned to the car and found the Gulls where back. I found some Black headed Gulls and about a dozen or so came close with the bigger Herring Gulls keeping their distance. I found the only ringed bird was the practically resident Herring Gull SO32. There was only one Lesser Black Backed Gull present and that was it.
So next was Plan B and I checked the shelter at Iron Gate point, had a look over the sea and the same thing lots of Turnstone, I counted 35, a Common Gull and loads of people taking photos of the wave but no sign of any Med Gulls. My next stop was Rest Bay car park where there were about 150 Black Headed Gulls and about 30 Common Gulls but still no Med Gulls, last stop was Kenfig Pool. I was going to have a quick look for the Bittern but when I got in the hide and saw the water level and decided it was way too high. The pool was fairly busy and I counted 50 Pochard and also present were Gadwall, Tufted Duck, Mallard, 6 Teal, 1 Shoveler, Wigeon, Canada Goose, 1 mute swan, 6 Cormorant, lots of Herring Gulls, 12 Black Headed Gulls, 2 Great Greater Black Backed Gulls. Common Gull I found about 6 and I also found this one with it's upper mandible missing and makes you wonder how will he survive. Well thats my yearly trip to the sea over and it's back to the hillls for me .

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Day Trip

I have been planning a trip to London and Hyde Park in particular for about 6 months and possibly going up on the Mega Bus. When I looked online at the prices I was amazed how cheap it was, I got it for free going up and three pounds to come back and I thought this is too good to pass up. So I looked online and I found a fairly good blog called Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park Birds. It was a pretty good site, I found out there was four pairs of Little Owls in the park and the guy who runs the blog give a map of two of the nest sites and I thought it would be worth a go on the day. Well the day arrived and the forecast was wet at first and then it changed and gave rain later. I got to Cardiff in good time and as I sitting in the bus stop and watched the world go by there were lots of  people coming out  of the clubs and piling into their taxis and when all this was going a Blackbird and Song Thrush were in full song and a little bit later a Robin joined in. Under the streetlights were a couple of Herring Gulls cleaning up and all before 4.30 am. When the bus turned up I was glad to get on and get my head down for a couple of hours. When I woke up I was near Reading and I had my first Roe Deer of the year, there were four of them  in total and it was funny to get my first Red Kite of the year in England, it was the only one I saw. Has I got to the outskirts of London I so my first Ring Necked Parakeets of the trip there were about half dozen. As I went into London I was thinking maybe it was not such a good idea as it was all built up.  When I got out of the station and I followed my map and I found Hyde Park fairly easily. I saw a lot more Parakeets before I got into the park. In the park itself there was a fun run going on and there was people everywhere. I needed time to wake up so I sat in a rose garden for a much needed coffee and some Apple and Blackcurrant pies and they went down a treat. I could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling in the distant and for a second I could have been back up Cwm Cadlan and not in the middle of London and all these people. I spotted the woodpecker and so the birding begun. Birdlife was pretty good on the serpentine which had a thin layer of ice, there were loads of Black Headed Gulls, a couple of Common Gulls and Herring Gulls and very small numbers of Lesser Black Backed Gulls. I had read one of them kills feral pigeons by drowning them and it does it on a regular basis and I was gutted not to witness it .        
I found a lot birds came to feed out of the  hand and I had  Blue Tits, Great Tits and Robins and it was great fun feeding them.
The Parakeets were brilliant and I could hear them calling everywhere, it was great to watch them looking for nest sites and feeding them by hand was a great pleasure, they were very gentle and I never got bitten once. I had about half dozen waiting to be fed, they were competing with the feral pigeons and I found the pigeons where winning. I was amazed by the amount  of people who had not seen a parakeet before and they live there.

I was checking  the gulls for rings and  I found this one and it's from Berkshire and rung in 2015 in a place called Hosehill Lake .
 There were a couple Grey Herons around the lake and I never  knew they would eat bread and I found both birds did it. The juvenile had a very badly injured leg and he could not put weight on it. It makes you think how will he manage but he seemed to be feeding ok and time will tell .

Wildfowl present were Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Egyptian Geese, Canada Geese, Greylag, Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen and Great Crested Grebe.

 I also found these two  smart greylag x canada hybrids . .

I checked both Little Owl nest sites but had no luck with them. I also met two Americans and they were looking for them to but they were having  tree ID problems and were so happy for me to show them the Lime tree where the nest site was. All to soon it was time to head back to the hills, I saw 42 species for the day. I will after to go back and try for the owls another day .  .