Saturday, 17 May 2014

A Quiet Morning Around the Patch

Starting at Wraik Hill I could hear a nightingale before getting out of the car but on the walk around it was fairly quiet, just four blackcaps singing away plus one chiffchaff, a couple of chaffinches, wren and robin. Insect life was depleted with only a couple of speckled woods and one ichneumon fly seen which posed briefly for a picture.

 Ichneumon fly Netalia testaceus

Moving over to Pye Alley Lane I caught up with yellowhammer, long-tailed tits, skylark, two linnets and a cuckoo.

Distant shot taken from the car.

Further on at the Mt. Pleasant corner a cetti's was calling plus a sedge warbler and whitethroat but couldn't hear any reed warblers. The barn owl seems to have gone on 'walk about', too much dumping outside his house I think but  another nightingale was present! Other birds were 4 goldfinches, 2 swallows, a few lapwings and swan on the levels plus the male stonechat carrying food and an egret and coot on the main drain.

On the seafront the tide was still out but no waders to be seen just a couple of shelducks flying past and a few gulls. At The Sportsman beach huts no wheatears just half a dozen linnets. Walking back next to the main reedbed I could only hear 5 or 6 reed warblers and still no beardies, there used to be loads a few years ago!!

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Back on Home Ground

After getting back from Lesbos I came down with a serious case of man flu, caught on the plane no doubt and I still have it but yesterday I made a start on the home patch after a break of 3 weeks. Starting a Wraik Hill all seemed very quiet but I was happy to note the two nightingales were still present but not much else just a couple of speckled woods, a few wrens and tits. 

Moving along to Mt. Pleasant corner two cetti's could be heard and a pair of stonechats were out in the field but hardly any song from reed or sedge warblers. Further along SS Lane another cetti's was in song and a coot was feeding in the main dyke. At the back of the levels 4 lapwings took to the air when a marsh harrier made an appearance and a good number of swallows were hawking over the fields.  Down on the seafront I stopped at the pumping station seeing 2 common terns perched on the end of the outfall and a short walk into the plots revealed hardly anything.

At the Sportsman beach two wheatears were seen plus 8 linnets and a mipit. On the main reedbed a few reed and sedge warblers were in song plus a couple of reed buntings but all seemed rather quiet.

A few swallows were tracking along the coast plus a small party of house martins and later two marsh harriers were displaying to one another.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Two weeks in Lesbos

The almost annual pilgrimage to Lesbos started on the 19th of April, nice and early to catch the migrants but the expected movement didn't materialise.  For a start, it was cold the whole two weeks, about 15 degs although in the sun it was hot but very windy, a lot of rain and storms.  The channel around the saltpans was almost empty of birds apart from the usual stilts although there were birds in the wet fields eg. short-toed larks and red-throated pipits. It was several days before I caught up with any marsh terns with only one whiskered tern but c.30 gull-billed terns made up for it somewhat. However, I still recorded 156 bird species without any real effort, it was a holiday as well. I am not going to give a day by day account as its too much work so I'll  just put in some photos with captions.

 A view of the East River mouth good for terns plus two slender-billed gulls

 A couple of stone curlews were attempting to nest on the E.River.

 Little Crakes on the E.River

 Marsh harriers were common plus a few Monty's and two pallids

 Black stork, usually plentiful but only a handful seen

 Swallowtail, quite numerous

 Common Sandpipers were few

 Black-winged stilts numerous

 Crested  larks and corn buntings everywhere

The black-headed yellow wagtail

 Ruppell's Warbler - only one seen, a crowd of over one hundred one day, like a major twitch. Plenty of Dutch, German, French and even Italian groups present, Lesbos becoming a victim of it own success!  

Scops Owl - several around even in the hotel grounds.

 The long-eared owls nested at Papiana school again raising two chicks

 Blue-headed wagtails common

Huge flocks of Spanish sparrows near Sigri

Within a day or so black-headed buntings started to arrive.

 Black-winged stilts were regular around the saltpans.

Olivaceous warbler, singing in every bush!

A visit to the Kruiper's nuthatch site always produced short-toed treecreepers

 There were four around the car park plus a two Kruipers, no need to go to the 'official' site, saw them all without getting out of the car!

 Serins were common in the coniferous woods

One of the storms near the saltpans - duvets were still needed at night!

Plenty of wild flowers across the island

 A typical landscape on the west side of the island

 A visit to the Ipsilou monastery perched on a lofty mount revealed several cinerous buntings.

Cretzschmar's bunting, another visitor to the higher rocky scarps

 At the western tip of the island, Sigri is always a magnet to migrants and one visit revealed c.80 birds hawking over one area.

Other birds here were, rufous bushchat, icterine and wood warbler, lots of spotflies, collared and pied flycatchers, red-backed, masked and woodchat shrikes etc..

 A view from behind Molyvos

 Spur-winged plover is a regular migrant to the pans most years.

Unsure of this butterfly.

 Woodlark, quite common in the higher areas

Sub-alpine warbler- very common, seen all over the island.

Lesbos is a great place to visit, never the same each year and that goes for the weather as well, can be cold and very hot. By mid May migration is over and the hordes of birders are gone but there is still plenty of birds to see plus any overshoots that are probably not recorded later on. I remember on a late visit seeing c.40 rose-coloured starlings so who knows what may turn up.