28 April 2012

Long-tailed Potoo article published

My article on the new diagnostic identification feature for Long-tailed Potoo that I discovered in 2010 at REGUA in Brazil's Atlantic Forest has now been published. Check out A new identification feature for Long-tailed Potoo Nyctibius aethereus in the latest issue of Neotropical Birding - the magazine of the Neotropical Bird Club.

If you're interested in Neotropical birds and are not already a member then it is well worth joining the Neotropical Bird Club. They are helping to promote birding and conservation in Latin America and their annual journal Cotinga and bi-annual magazine Neotropical Birding are both excellent, and more than justify the £21 joining fee!

A couple more year ticks

Haven't had a chance to get out birding this week but still had a couple of noteworthy sightings. 2 Hobby on 23rd circling low north over my office in Weybridge high street in the rain, and 6 Common Swift north today over my garden in Worcester Park were both my first of the year.

22 April 2012

First London Wild Bird Watch

With a low pressure still sitting over the UK I simply couldn't muster the enthusiasm for the moor today, so instead it was off to the London Wetland Centre for the first London Wild Bird Watch - basically a smaller version of the Birdfair. Managed to meet some interesting people and caught Simon King's talk about the Peregrines breeding on Charing Cross Hospital nearby (check out the live cam here). Also tried out the new Swarovski EL 32 Swarovision bins, which are awesome, even with my other half yelling "put them down now" in my ear! It will be interesting to see how the London Wild Bird Watch develops and it could even be worth having a REGUA stand here in the future.

A quick look at the reserve produced a couple of year ticks in the form of 2 Common Tern and a Reed Warbler (heard), along with 2-3 Little Ringed Plover, 1 female Northern Wheatear, 12+ Sand Martin, 1-2 Swallow, 7 Redshank, 2 Common Snipe, 3 Cetti's Warbler (heard), just a single Blackcap and 1 Sparrowhawk. The wader scrape has plenty of muddy edges and looks really good for migrant waders at the moment. On route a probable Red Kite was seen briefly from the car drifting west over the A3 at Robin Hood roundabout.

The wader scrape at the London Wetland Centre

Simon King talking about the Charing Cross Hospital Peregrines

17 April 2012

Neotropical Birding REGUA article now online

The highly threatened Atlantic Forest of South America has some of highest levels of endemism on the planet, with around 200 endemic bird species. REGUA, a large reserve two hours from Rio de Janeiro, is one of the best places to find them, and to date 462 species have been recorded on the reserve, including 118 Atlantic Forest endemics and 62 Brazilian endemics. Specialities include Shrike-like Cotinga, Russet-winged Spadebill, Salvadori's Antwren, Black-legged Dacnis, the enormous Giant Snipe and the secretive Masked Duck.

Last year I wrote an article about REGUA's speciality birds for the Neotropical Bird Club's Neotropical Birding magazine, and this is now available online. To download a copy click here.

Giant Snipe Gallinago undulata, REGUA, November 2008. The world's largest
snipe, these largely nocturnal birds are 20% bigger than Eurasian Woodcock
Scolopax rusticola! Although not restricted to the Atlantic Forest they are a
notoriously difficult species to see and most often encountered when flushed, but
at REGUA you can get up close and personal with these incredible birds.

15 April 2012

Northerly winds slow migration

Very quiet on the moor today with little evidence of movement in strong north-easterlies. The male Common Redstart found yesterday was still around, ranging widely around the hawthorns and anthills in the north-west corner. Unfortunately it was very flighty and not at all co-operative for photos (as you can see from the cracking shots below).

The male Common Redstart occasionally ventured out onto the anthills in the
north-west corner, but always kept its distance.

The male Common Redstart doing what it does best - flying off.

10+ Northern Wheatears (8 males, including 1 Greenland type, and 2 females including a possible Greenland bird - below) also in the north-west corner were a little more approachable (as you can also see below).

Male Northern Wheatear on it's obligatory anthill.

Above and below: Female Northern Wheatear. This bird is quite dark, rich buff
above and below, and long winged (8 primary tips visible) - oenanthe
or leucorhoa?

2 House Martin over N and a female Common Whitethroat were my first of the year. Best of the rest was 1 Little Owl (patch tick) along the hedgerow in the north-west corner early morning, 1-2 Common Buzzard over, 1 Little Egret along the Colne, large numbers of Linnet and Meadow Pipit and quite a lot of Robins. Also a Red Fox. On Stanwell Moor 1 Swallow, 6 Blackcap (5H), 2 Willow Warbler (1H), 5 Chiffchaff (2H) and 2 Shelduck was about it.

14 April 2012

Red Kite over the garden

The second Red Kite for my garden (Cromwell Road, Worcester Park) headed high over east at 12:20 today, being mobbed briefly by what looked very much like a Hobby but I can't be certain. Unfortunately this one didn't hang around for a photo. So are these kites migrants or wandering reintroduced birds? Certainly, Red Kite is very regular at Staines Moor nowadays and the Chilterns are not too far away, although I've yet to notice a wing tagged bird. Great to see all the same.

13 April 2012

Blackcaps and silver wings

Low pressures continue to sit over western Europe which appears to be holding up large scale arrivals of some of our common summer migrants (except on Portland that is), but with light north-easterlies and clear skies overnight and then cloud forecast this morning, I felt uncharacteristically optimistic that something good could be on the moor. With Common Redstarts seemingly at every London patch and 40 reported at Portland yesterday, I was quietly hoping for one at Staines Moor this morning. Well, lets just say there's a reason why I'm not often optimistic.

The walk out through Stanwell Moor at dawn in non-forecast sunny conditions produced a decent number of passage warblers dominated by Blackcaps, with 16 Blackcap (1H), 2 Willow Warbler, 9 Chiffchaff and my first Sedge Warbler of the year heard singing but unfortunately remaining out of sight. It seems Common Whitethroats are quite late this year (check out the BirdTrack chart here) but the first must surely arrive here any day now.

A freezing mist closed in soon after reaching Staines Moor, but a further 12 Blackcap (4H), 6 Willow Warbler (4H) and 11 Chiffchaff (6H) were found, and once the mist cleared the male Ring Ouzel showed very well (7th day) and 10 Northern Wheatear (7 males, 3 females) were revealed hopping around the anthills at the north end. Overhead, 2 Swallow flew N, 1 Red Kite S and up to 6 Common Buzzard (including a displaying bird).

Other bits seen include c100 Linnet (including a feeding flock of 45 birds), 1 Little Egret along the Colne, 2 Redshank, 7 Lapwing, 7 Reed Bunting, 1 Goldcrest, good numbers of singing Skylark and Meadow Pipit and a Red Fox with rabbit kill. Also on Stanwell Moor, 2 Shelduck, 2 Lapwing 1 Kingfisher and a Reed Bunting.

9 April 2012

A few more migrants

A quick visit to the Otter Estuary yesterday (8 April) produced 1 Little Ringed Plover on the scrape, 1 Northern Wheatear by the cricket pitch, lots of Chiffchaff, several Blackcap, as well as 2 Cetti's Warbler, 1 Redshank and a Sparrowhawk. Also 3 Sandwich Tern flew west offshore. Strong south-westerlies and rain today severely hindered birding on land, but a very brief look at the sea produced c27 Manx Shearwater heading west and a pair Gadwall on the Otter.

Little Ringed Plover on the scrape at the Otter Estuary, 8 April 2012.

7 April 2012

Purple Heron, Otter Estuary, Devon: 7 April

Back to the Otter Estuary early this morning and after a while the adult Purple Heron finally gave itself up, walking along the edge of the same ditch (where it presumably spent the night) and also flying around a bit, although remaining a little distant for decent DSLR shots. Late morning onwards seems best.

5 Willow Warbler, c20 Chiffchaff, several Blackcap (3 seen) and 2 Northern Wheatear constituted the summer migrants and 1 female Yellowhammer dropped in briefly (a good local record). Other birds seen include 5 Cetti's Warbler (3 actually showing themselves), 1 Little Egret and lots of Blackbirds, some obviously feeding chicks. An afternoon along the coastpath from Budleigh Salterton towards Exmouth produced another 20 Chiffchaff and 4 Blackcap.

Female Blackbird, Otter Estuary, Devon, 7 April 2012. Blackbirds and Song
Thrushes are now feeding young.

6 April 2012

What a ditch!

Spent much of the day fighting with the Good Friday traffic on the A303, but a Red Kite north over near Andover provided some compensation and 3 Swallow near Honiton were my first of the year. We finally arrived in Budleigh Salterton in Devon to visit good friends Jaffa and Helen, exhausted, hungry and thirsty. Without even stopping for a glass of water we headed straight out to the Otter Estuary to look for the Purple Heron, where we ended up staring at a ditch for three hours while waiting for bloody thing to show itself. Eventually I managed a cracking view of it's head for all of three seconds and that was it. Things were pretty quiet but birds actually seen while hanging around include several Chiffchaff, 1 Blackcap, 4 Little Egret, 1 Sparrowhawk, 16 Shelduck, 10 Teal and 7 Wigeon.