Friday, 31 July 2009

Hilbre Island

A beautiful day of red sand and bright blue skies on Hilbre today, with many waders in full summer plumage. On the beach at least 40 Ringed Plover, over 80 Dunlin, 40 Curlew and hundreds of Oystercatchers. On the rocks around the island, at least 15 Whimbrel, 40 Turnstones, a few Redshanks and a single Common Sandpiper.

The Sandwich Tern flock has grown to over 200 birds, but no sign of any other terns today.
Highlights of the day were the first returning Wheatears of the autumn, with three on the west side, a single Willow Warbler, and perhaps most unexpected, a family party of six Shags. Shags do occur frequently at Hilbre, but I’ve only ever seen single birds.

After returning to the mainland today, I had a snack in the excellent Sands cafe in West Kirby, and then got my bike out of the car and headed off down the Wirral way cycle / footpath, and made it all the way to Inner Marsh Farm (via the Harp Inn at Little Neston!). By the time I returned to the car at West Kirby, I had covered 23 miles on the bike. En route I saw about 15 Little Egrets (two with my pint at the Harp!), a Green Sandpiper at Inner Marsh Farm and best of all, a Hobby at Parkgate.

Four of the six Shags


Monday, 27 July 2009

Hilbre Island

Heather and Bell Heather


Rock Sea-Lavender

After an absence of a few weeks, I finally got back to Hilbre, keeping alive my ambition of visiting the island at least once in every month this year. In fact this was my 20th visit of 2009 so far.
It was important to slot in a July visit, because I didn't want to miss the flowering of Rock Sea-Lavender, a Hilbre speciality and one of the few places it is found in the World. I though that I might have missed it this year, but fortunately it was still very much in evidence with lots of plants still in flower.
Also around the island are patches of heather, mainly Calluna Vulgaris but also a few patches of Bell Heather Erica cinerea.
From a birding point of view, there is very much an autumnal feel in the air. Waders have begun to build up in numbers, notably 12 Whimbrel around the island, and some spectacularly plumaged Turnstones. What stunning birds they are! The air was full of the sounds of Sandwich terrns, with about 150 on the East Hoyle Bank. A female Peregrine flew over the island and then swooped towards the Oystercatcher flock, causing panic and mayhem.
Meanwhile, on the West Hoyle Bank Grey Seal numbers have risen to about 300 individuals, and butterflies included a couple of Graylings.
The feel of the island now is of a place bracing itself for the onset of autumn gales and the arrival of some good sea birds and hopefully a few decent passerines, now only a few weeks away!
The anticipation is almost unbearable!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Sefton coast

Sand Lizard

Sardinia, 17th - 24th July 2009

The following is a brief trip report to north west Sardinia, July 17th to July 24th 2009.

To sum it up, it was hot! The temperature gauge in the car showed 48 degrees C one day (118F), and that wasn’t a stationary car standing in the sun, that was a car which had been running for an hour with the air conditioning on and all windows open. It was boiling. On another morning I went out at 5:30am and the temperature was already 28 degrees C.

In such conditions breathing was difficult, let alone birding! A 10 minute walk at any time of day left you lathered in sweat, and birding was just impossible after about 8am. I had a go at it though, and even climbed a small hill at midday on one occasion. I didn’t bother with a scope, because that really would have killed me off, and it would have been useless in the heat haze.

So when I talk about the birds I saw, or didn’t see, bear in mind that I wasn’t seeing the place at its best, and it was very tough work. Plus of course, being July, there was no migration and most of the resident species had stopped singing.

Just warming up nicely!

Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard

Scarlet Darter (Broad Scarlet)

Lang's Long-tailed Blue

Long Skimmer

Barbary Partridge

Let’s start with the town birds. We stayed at Alghero, and the common birds around the town were Spotless Starlings, Hooded Crows, Yellow-legged Gulls, Tree Sparrows and Spotted Flycatchers. These were common birds in most coastal towns we stopped in. We also saw a couple of adult Audouins Gulls and a few Shags at Alghero, and Spanish Sparrow and (surprisingly) two Rock Sparrows at Bosa.

I visited Lago di Baratz on three occasions, twice early morning and once in the afternoon. The main species here were Ferruginous Duck (two adults with eight chicks), Red-crested Pochard (4), Hobby (2), Purple Heron (1), Cattle Egret (1), Cetti’s Warbler (2), Firecrest (5), Marsh Harrier (1) and Turtle Dove (2). No sign of Purple Gallinule. It was also swarming with dragonflies, with loads of Lesser Emperors, Scarlet Darters, Long Skimmers and Black-tailed Skimmers, plus damselflies which I didn’t bother with.

Twice we visited the town of Bosa, about 50km south of Alghero. This is the best area in Sardinia for Griffon Vulture, and although we didn’t find them easy, we did see four birds about 5km north of Bosa. Also here, Lesser Kestrel (2), Peregrine, Buzzard and Crag Martins.

However the place I enjoyed best was the nature reserve around Mount Timidone, Porto Conte, not far from Cape Caccia. I “discovered” the place late one afternoon, only to find that it was about to close for the day, which was probably a good idea given the intense heat. However a brief discussion with the woman on reception revealed that it would open again at 8am the following morning.

So next day we were there just as it opened, at 8am. We drove slowly down a track, looking into a field, hoping for Barbary Partridge, when suddenly a Wild Boar shot past! I drove up to a gate, and four of them legged it right past us and into the woods! It was always a major ambition of mine to see these animals in Europe, and I just couldn’t believe how lucky we had been, and after so many misses previously in the Coto Donana.

We decided to eat our breakfast here, in the car, in the hope that the boar might reappear, but they never did. However we did see two Fallow Deer, and at last, Barbary Partridge, my only lifer of the holiday. Just like buses, once I’d seen one, suddenly there were three family parties in view at the same time!

We moved into the main part of the reserve, and saw Marmora’s Warbler (2), Blue Rock Thrush (1), Griffon Vulture (1), Alpine Swift (100), Pallid Swift (100) and Crag Martin (2). Also here, many Corsican Heath butterflies, lots of Tyrrhenian Wall Lizards and a single Pygmy Algeroides.

Finally we did the touristy thing and visited the Caves of Neptune at Cape Caccia, where there were lots of Alpine Swifts, and a few Rock Doves.

So in the end it was an enjoyable holiday. I find it difficult to get new species in Europe these days, so to come away with Barbary Partridge and to have the added bonus of Wild Boar was very pleasing. I guess that if you’re going to go birding at the end of July in the Mediterranean, you have to be realistic!

Corsican Heath

One more photo from Sardinia.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Durham - Red Kite and Dipper added to the Year List

I was in County Durham today for work. A very beautiful part of the UK, I also managed to pick up two year ticks, Red Kite near Stanley (203) and Dipper on the River Tees at Barnard Castle (204). Not bad for a day at work. The photo is of the River Tees at Barnard Castle. There's a Dipper on there somewhere......

Saturday, 11 July 2009


Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny, despite the dire forecast of rain. I arrived at the Large Heath site in Cumbria at 8am, and already it was warm, and butterflies were on the wing. I counted at least 40 Large Heaths.

The other star of the day was a moth, Manchester Treble-bar, which was all over the site. I estmated at least 100 individuals, probably a lot more. Birds seen included a singing Tree Pipit and a male Stonenchat.

Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, I only managed one photo with my camera (Manchester Treble-bar), and the other photos were taken on my mobile phone. The Bog Asphodel has come out well, but the Large Heath is only just recognisable!

Manchester Treble-bar

Bog Asphodel

Large Heath

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Gronant, North Wales

Little Terns - Gronant is the largest colony in Wales with 110 pairs this year.

Little Tern - Year 202

Red-veined Darter

Red-veined Darter

Six-spot Burnet Moth

Small Skipper

Pyramidal Orchid

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Mountain Ringlet, Honister Pass

Lots of Mountain Ringlets flying today, but only in the brief preiods of sunshine. When it was cloudy, they all just disappeared!

The habitat of Mountain Ringlet. Thousands of people walk this way every year, just for the view and aren't even aware of the existance of Mountain Ringlet, so it seems a shame to ignore the view. From the left, the mountains are Pillar, Haystacks and High Crag.

Ospreys, Bassenthwaite, Cumbria

We had excellent views of two birds, one next to the nest and in flight, the other sat on a post in the lake. You can see the nest in the bottom right of the photo, with an adult sitting to the right of it. The lake in the background is Derwentwater. There are three chicks in the nest, almost ready to fly.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Queens Park, St Helens

A few moths from my backyard, on a hot and humid night.

Blackneck - the first for my yard and about the 20th record for St Helens.

Dingy Shell - 2nd for my yard and about the 8th record for St Helens.

Swallowtail - Relatively common and widespread throughout St Helens. Single brooded, flying in late June and July. On blackthorn, hawthorn, goat willow and black currant.

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