30 April 2010

REGUA - my neotropical patch

In 2006, after two years of planning, Rachel and I quit our jobs, packed up our stuff, let out the house and set off on a trip around South America. We saw a lot of amazing wildlife, but one of the highlights was three months volunteering at REGUA (Reserva Ecológica de Guapiaçu) - an NGO protecting a large area of Atlantic Forest in south-east Brazil. We took on the task of developing the Reserve's tourism, set up to generate funds for their conservation work, and during our stay we fell in love with the place and made some life-long friends. Since our trip we've continued our work for REGUA, which has included building the website and representing REGUA at the Birdfair. REGUA is now becoming a top birding destination and we like to think we have helped put REGUA on the birding map. All income generated goes towards protecting the habitat the birds depend on and so tourism here helps conserve this highly threatened biome.

The Atlantic Forest is of the world's top five biodiversity hotspots and dripping with endemics! Over the last few years I've got to know the birds well and adopted REGUA as my foreign patch. Each year we try to return to see how the Reserve is developing and tomorrow we fly out for a three week trip. This time we'll be spending two weeks at REGUA before embarking on a mini tour to Caraça and I'm hoping to write the occassional post, internet access allowing. To find out more about birding in the Atlantic Forest and REGUA visit http://www.regua.org/.

Rachel and I in 2006 with Adilei (left) - one of REGUA's bird guides

25 April 2010

A few more year ticks

I didn't have much opportunity for birding this weekend, but a walk today along the Cuckmere Valley and up on the South Downs near Alfriston in East Sussex produced my first Common Whitethroats and Sedge Warbler of the year, lots of Blackcaps and about 20 Swallows.

21 April 2010

3rd watch from Tower 42

Clear skies and light northerlies over London produced a rather quiet day at Tower 42 today. Personal highlights were 3 Common Buzzard north over, including a spectacular show put on by two birds being harassed by a local Peregrine. Other birds seen include a Common Swift (my first of the year) and up to 4 local Peregrine including a bird perched on St. Paul's Cathedral. Joining us on the roof today was a film crew from BBC Natural World, making a film about wildlife in the capital.

For more on the day's watch, including other birds seen, see Tower 42 Bird Study Group and Non-stop Birding.

18 April 2010

Migration picks up

A noticable increase in movement today. A morning visit to Thomas Cleeve Wood on the edge of Dartmoor produced an early singing male Wood Warbler, a male Pied Flycatcher, a Tawny Owl (flushed by a dog walker), up to 9 Marsh Tits (top photo) and loads of Siskins. Back in Budleigh Salterton (via a tea room of course), we were chilling in Jaffa's garden when we looked up to find 2 male Wheatear sitting on the chimney! A surreal sight, the birds spent a good half hour preening before dropping down to feed in the park in front of Jaffa's house!

Another look at the sea at Brandy Head in the evening produced a trickle of Swallows moving north, 27 Manx Shearwaters heading west, 20+ Common Scoter, 1 Guillemot and a flock of 25 Pale-bellied Brent Geese flying in and landing on the sea. Spent a bit of time trying to photograph birds in flight - difficult!

For more on the weekend's birding see Cream Tea Birding.

17 April 2010

All quiet on the south-western front

Down in Devon this weekend catching up with good friends Jaffa and Helen. An early morning jaunt around the Otter Estuary in a light south-easterly proved rather unproductive. Plenty of Swallows, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were about and a Sedge Warbler was heard, but there was no sense of movement. The resident Whimbrel (Will.i.am) was seen and a male Red-breasted Merganser showed down to just a few metres on the river (photo below). Moving on to East Budleigh Common 2 female Wheatears and a Dartford Warbler were seen, but it wasn't long before we called it a day and headed to the legendary Lawn Bakery for a Maple and Pecan Slice and an Iced Chelsea. 26 Common Scoter and a Guillemot offshore and 1 Peregrine from Brandy Head this evening was a nice end to the day.

14 April 2010

World Land Trust Chelsea Flower Show exhibit launch

Rachel and I attended the launch of the World Land Trust's RHS Chelsea Flower Show exhibit Saving the Atlantic Rainforest at the Linnean Society of London this evening. The UN has declared 2010 the International Year of Biodiversity and as part of this campaign, and in celebration of their 21st birthday, the WLT is highlighting the plight of the Atlantic Forest of South America at this years Chelsea Flower Show.

The Atlantic Forest is one of the world's top biodiversity hotspots with extremely high levels of endemism, but it is also one of the most threatened ecosystems with only 7% remaining. The WLT will be recreating the Atlantic Forest on their stand to raise awareness of the forest and the threats it faces.

It was great to catch up with friends and meet new people. Sir Ghillean Prance, a leading authority on the Atlantic Forest, complimented us for our work on the REGUA website (very high praise indeed) and later gave an excellent speech on the importance of conserving the Atlantic Forest. We'll be helping out at the show at the end of May. If you want to come along, the stand will be located in the Lifelong Learning section. Click here for tickets. To find out more about the World Land Trust click here.

10 April 2010

Migrant shortage

A Reed Warbler (heard only) and an increase in Sand Martins (21+) were the only new arrivals at the London Wetland Centre today. No Swallow influx, Yellow Wag or Common Whitethroat yet. 1 Little Ringed Plover is still on the wader scrape along with 8 Redshank and wildfowl have more or less cleared out with only 32 Teal, 12 Shoveler, 13 Gadwall, 18 Pochard and 119 Tufted Duck remaining. Others seen include 2 Cetti's Warblers (photo), 9 Common Snipe and 1 Peregrine over.

9 April 2010

Swift fodder

An hour at Staines Reservoirs this evening was fairly productive with 2 Oystercatcher, 2 Redshank and 2 Shelduck on the North Basin, a Great Northern Diver and 4 summer plumage Black-necked Grebes on the South Basin, and 22 Goldeneye, 23 Wigeon, 1 Pochard, 2 Teal, 70 Tufted Duck and around 300 Black-headed Gulls. Unfortunately there was no sign of the pair of Garganey. With no wind to keep them at bay, the notorious flies were out in force (photo). Although they are non-biting they are still a right pain, but when the Swifts arrive they are gonna love em! Earlier today I went for a run in Richmond Park and had a Common Buzzard over east.

7 April 2010

Ultimate skywatching

Took part in the first Tower 42 Bird Study Group migration watch in London today. Conditions were far from ideal with north-westerly winds, rain and poor visibility, which meant there was nothing in the way of visible migration going on. The breathtaking views across central London from the roof went a long way towards making up for the lack of birds (photos below), but I can't wait to get back up there in better weather to see what passes over (or under).

For more on today see Peter Alfrey's Birding Notebook and the Tower 42 Bird Study Group blog.

4 April 2010


1 Little Ringed Plover on the wader scrape (finally), 1 House Martin, 4 Sand Martin and 7 Redshank seen today in a quick look at the London Wetland Centre. At least 1 pair of Lapwing are on eggs now as well.

3 April 2010

Hello hirundines!

With light southerlies today and migrants turning up everywhere, I was hoping for something a little more interesting at Barnes this afternoon. An Osprey perhaps? Okay, just a Wheatear would be nice! I had to settle for 2 House Martins and a Barn Swallow over, which were my first of the year, but not much else. I missed a Little Ringed Plover yet again, but had 4+ Sand Martins, 8 Redshank, 5 Chiffchaff and 3 Common Snipe and the summer plumage Water Pipit was still on the Main Lake. 9 Wigeon, 24 Gadwall, 19 Pochard, 49 Shoveler and 30 Teal are still hanging on, but Tufted Duck numbers remain fairly high with 145 present. Also had extremely close views of 2 Water Voles - presumably some of the reintroduced animals.

Just found out that an Osprey and 2 Curlew flew over Beddington Farmlands today - damn! Click here for some excellent vis-mig shots.