Monday, 8 March 2010

Birds on the journey

Heres the exact number of birds seen while on the way to Dover, across the ferry, then through France and Spain (Lifers in Caps).
1.Great crested grebe
4.Little egret
5.Grey heron
6.Mute Swan
7.Canada goose
9.Red kite
13.Common Buzzard
14.Common Kestrel
19.Black headed gull
20.Lesser black backed gull
21.Great black backed gull
22.Herring gull
23.Yellow legged gull
24.Rock dove
25.Stock dove
27.Collared Dove
28.Crag martin
30.Green woodpecker
31.Meadow pipit
32.Grey wagtail
33. Pied wagtail ( and White )
37.Black redstart
40.Song thrush
41.Mistle thrush
42.Sardinian warbler
46.Long tailed tit
47.Blue tit
48.Coal tit
49.Great tit
56.House sparrow
All in all a pretty crap total! But I was pleased with the lifers I got anyway ;)

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The big move ( part 3 )

When Mum and Dad came back from the supermarket I informed them of the Pied flycatchers I had seen a few minutes previously. They were obviously happy seeing me this excited and I really wanted to show them how cool they were but unfortunately we really didnt have enough time to relocate the flycatchers. It was about time to get on the move...
The next few days whizzed past without many stops and hardly any raptors being seen from the car window - Kessys, Sprawks and Common buzzards. We were nearing the end of France and I was pretty pleased with what lifers I had seen ( Pied fly being a bogey ). Soon we would be crossing the border into Spain and into Unknown territory for me, Northern Spain to be exact: A pretty good birding destination!!

We spent our last day in France, walking around a Beautiful old town ( whose name I cant remember, as usual... ), eating loads of pastries like Chocolate Croissants at the numerous cafes inside it and taking lots of pictures of the truly lovely looking Architecture and surrounding country side scenery. A non birding experience I know but still good fun ( God, I sound obsessive! ). My parents had a great time as well, which they definately deserved after all the long driving Dad did ( while Mum kept him on course with the map ). After the break there, we set off again for the final few hours journey to the border. After a while the scenery changed from fields and sparse woodland to towering mountains with thick woodland and rocky crags perfect for my main target bird: Griffon Vulture. We arrived at the border very fast and quickly ( after sorting out passports and stuff... ) and finally crossed into Northern Spain. Within 30 minutes of driving in Spain a Red kite flew over! only my second one ever ( my first was a flyover bird in Yorkshire ). What a fantastic bird so early I thought, Maybe this was a sign of things to come, a good omen in fact! Several hours in we began to steadly climb some mountains which we had to pass through. The light was beginning to fade so we would soon have to stop for safety purposes ( Sleep, plus Dad was not massively comfortable driving in the dark on the opposite side of the road, let alone doing it the mountains... ). According to our map a local town called ( if I remember correctly ) Lukenberry was coming up where we could stop...

I remember starting to nod off when I heard Mum say "What are those birds up there Taylor?"I opened my eyes and looked at the window "Where abouts?" I said, "Up there, above us, flying around the mountain, theres lots of them" Mum replied. I looked out again and craned my neck so I could see directly above us. I let out a gasp of surprise as my eyes locked onto them. Sillhouetted in the setting sun was the umistakeable shapes of my target birds! SH"T! GRIFFON VULTURES!!! I shouted out ( I couldnt help myself this time, honestly ). There was no where on the way down the road to pull in and all in all it was too brief a view but I was still ecstatic. There and then I knew I would never get bored of seeing Griffon vultures no matter how many times I did, they were just fantastic to me and definately one of the most brilliant birds Id ever seen.

We finally entered Lukenberry about 5 mins later and I noted happily that the mountain directly behind the town was where the vultures were. We quickly found a pub with free acommodation, booked in for a night and decided to take a look around the quaint little town. Lukenberry in itself was a beautiful location, the buildings looked more like they belonged somewhere in a country such as Austria or Switzerland and not typically spanish, Maybe it was due to the fact that we were still kinda high up and it was colder than any bits of Spain I had been to ( It looked as if they got snow quite annualy in fact ). I got yet another surprise when a lovely Black redstart dropped down from a church roof and landed pretty close to us, allowing me to get a good look at this little black and red wonder. I had seen them the previous year in southern Spain while on holiday so this one wasnt a lifer but It was still awesome. Leaving the redstart ( who had been joined by a party Pied wagtails ) we headed back to the bar to have some dinner and to get some sleep.

The following day we all agreed for my last proper birding on the journey that we would all go back up the Griffon mountain and spend a few hours up there watching out for em if we could find a pull in. We set off very early in the morning and unfortunately I noted the conditions were not great for raptor watching, it very was misty.... But we did ( after a long search ) find a pull in. Quite a good viewing point just a tiny bit below the road we had came down when we had seen the vultures. We were positioned In a good place I thought, so now it was just crucial to wait for the mist to clear and to hope the Griffs would show themselves. Half an hour later the mist had cleared but there was no sign yet. Another 10 mins went by and I was beginning to doubt they were going to show... but I was wrong! one after the other they finally appeared over the side of the mountain and began their slow rise on the thermals. I watched in amazement as more and more appeared. At one point I was hurridly getting the scope set up to get a better look when Dad shouted "Taylor, above you!" I couldnt believe my eyes when I looked up! a Griffon vulture had appeared and flown only a few feet above my head giving me the best views imaginable!! I was gobsmaked! Watching the Griffs I also spotted two Red kites, a Kessy and a big group of Ravens. After about two hours more of watching this spectacle Mum gave the go ahead that it was about time to leave. I took one more quick look through my scope at the soaring birds then packed it up and walked back to car.

That was as predicted my last proper birding of the journey, Although in the car we managed to see plenty more Griffon vultures and Red kites on the way down. We had made good time by the time we got to Altea where I was going to be based and would be living in from now on.... Altea is located in southern Spain and is quite a touristy town to be honested (although I have found some good bird related places next to it recently ;) ) Its one of those towns typical of the Costa Blanca with long beaches and numerous Cafes and Restaurants, none the less it is beautiful in my opinion and I am very lucky to be living here. All in all I didnt see loads but it was well worth it for the couple of lifers I got and the fantastic places I visited on the way! :)

Next up: my latest birding exploits around Spain and accounts of what ive found at the beginning of 2010. Plus: a full list of what birds I saw on the journey through France and Spain....

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Friday, 22 January 2010

The big move ( part 2 )

After departing the ferry and taking a brief look around the Docks we decided to get on our way. We had alot of ground to cover that was sure but I was really looking forward to the chance to stop and "bird" some of France!

For the first 2 days we didnt really have the time to stop ( the plan was to make decent headway over the first few days and then to slow down a bit ) but I was more than happy to watch from the car at Raptors passing by. The first few hours were a tad uneventful with a small spattering of Common Buzzards by the roadside along with a few Kestrels and then the odd Sprawk. But passing a beautiful old french town deep in a hilly gorge with trees bordering either side, I noticed a large dark bird of prey gliding past. It was unmistakable, no other raptor I had seen (except for Red kite) really bore a resemblance to this fantastic specimen. It was definately a Black kite... and in all its glory!

( I forgot to add I nearly made Dad and Mum have a heart attack by shouting out "F**K!! LOOK BLACK KITE!!!" at the top of my lungs while rapidly adding "PULL OVER! PULL OVER!!!" Which was a tad stupid of me, I sometimes wonder what people at School would think of me being this excited by a bird! lol. )

that was the first lifer of the trip and a pretty cool one at that. To be honest though the amount of birds I had seen wasnt great but I was happy, my aim of the journey was to tick of a few quality and tricky birds, not to get a big number of species. We travelled another day without stops (except for lunch and toilet breaks) and stayed in some ( allright ) cheap hostel for the night while I scanned through my field guide and looked out for Raptors and other birds. I managed to see Grey heron, Coot, Moorhen, Kingfisher, Grey wagtail, Blue tit, Great tit, Greenfinch and Goldfinch around the hostels grounds which wasnt a bad tally I guess...

My Mum agreed that night, now that we had made some decent mileage I would be able to stop and have a look around where I wanted tommorow ( aslong as it was on route). So the next day I kept an eye out for any reserve signs that we could stop at. About lunchtime we passed through a large pine forest claimed as a protected area so I asked my parents if I could have a look around.

We pulled into the first place we could find to stop: a tiny village located deep in the woods with ( conveniantly ) a small supermarket located in the middle where I could get some drinks and food. After a quick lunch of cheese and ham sandwiches we set off on a stony path that winded in and out of the trees and ran along a beautiful riverbank. I took a few photos whilst on the walk but sadly, for some strange reason most of the birds were very shy and I hardly saw anything. The only birds seen were Blue and Great tits, Green woodpecker, Kingfisher, Grey wagtail and Pied wagtail...

Strange I thought as we walked back to the car, It was quite hot and it was midday so that could of contributed to it. But little did i know I was in for a great surprise. Mum and Dad decided to do a bit more shopping at the supermarket while I relunctantly sat in the car but After about 5 mins I noticed a few birds flitting in and out of some trees on the side of the road in front of the carpark so I clambered out of the car to take a look. I walked up quietly to the trees with my bins and Camera and sat down. Tons and tons of Chiffchaffs were flitting in and out ( giving brilliant views ) but suddenly after a few seconds a single black and white bird dropped down onto a branch on of the closest trees to me...

"SUGAR, PIED FLYCATCHER!!" I nearly shouted out to myself. ( Thank god I didnt ) this was the second lifer of the trip and a fantastic bird that was very close up ( a few metres away ), also a bogey bird in fact!! After 10 mins of shooting off shots with my camera to catch the magic moment another one turned up, settled down and started flycatching right in front of me!!

To be continued... ( photos following before next written post )

Monday, 18 January 2010

The big move ( part 1 )

Its taken me a while to write this due to internet problems, tennis taking up time and generally getting settled in a new country... but I have finally managed to get it started so here we go!!

As you probs already know Me, my Mum and Dad had been planning to move to southern Spain for the past year or so, to try and get my fledgling (excuse the bird pun ) tennis career off to a good start. But aswell as the tennis I was looking forward to the birds I could see on the way. You see, we were not going to take the easy route of JUST flying on a Plane and thus missing on the wonderful wildlife, instead we were going to drive ( and have a few stops on the way!).

After packing up my gear and a few luxury items ( video games, you know..) we set off for Dover. Driving ( not me, my Dad by the way ) I didnt see much except for the occasional Buzzard, kessy and at one point a field full of lapwings. We ended up arriving quite late in Dover so we decided to sleep the night in a Travelodge positioned right next to the port and catch the ferry in the morning.

I remember getting up about 5.00 in the morning, feeling a tad groggy and wondering where I was but the tiredness soon wore off as it all came back and Excitement soon settled in its place. I was hoping for Shearwaters, Skuas and Gannets on the way over the English channel and maybe... if I was really lucky.... some marine life like Whales or dolphins.

We boarded the ferry about 7.00 and walked up to the above deck where you could only just see out of the windows due to the foggyness, I spent about 15 mins looking for someway I could get out on to a open deck where I could get a better look. After finally finding one I admired the white cliffs of Dover in the sunshine as the misty haze receded and took a few photos, even last night in the pitch black from far away you could fainly see them, as if they glowed in the darkness.

But onto the birds, after half an hour looking I hadnt seen much except for a few gulls like Black headed, Herring and Black backed varietys. The ferry was well out to sea now but I still had lots of time so I waited. A few Gannets finally came into view cruising quite near to the boat but not diving, although they were not doing their trademark feeding stunt they were still breathtaking birds and I had only seen them a few times before.

5o minutes had passed and I was absolutely freezing. No other seabirds had turned up but what could I expect, there were no winds and it was sunny, not ideal seawatching weather! It was still very cold after another 10 mins so I decided to walk back down into the interior of the boat to meet my parents and warm up. As we began to pull into dock in Calais, France, a group of Cormorants flew lazily past. I hadnt seen much aboard the boat but it didnt really matter, I could ( and would ) get another chance to seawatch in the coming weeks.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Its been awhile..

Well to say I have been busy over the past few months is a bit of an understatement: I have travelled all the way through France, Northern and Southern Spain ( taking in a few Decent birds along the way ), started training with a Pro tennis coach and moved into a seaside flat In Altea, Spain ( where I have been staying with my Uncle while my parents worked in the UK ).

But im back now in the UK for a week and a bit ( for my 15th) and can finally give this blog the attention it deserves, such as writing up the report for our travel through Spain and france and giving it a few new features and a fresh lick of paint...

So watch this space! the next post coming up involves Griffon vultures, Pied flys and those always lovely Black redstarts ( just dont expect barrel loads of birds ;).

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Other shots from Radipole, Lodmoor and Portland....

Me at Portland ( excuse the hat please ). Bloody hot day it was aswell.
Some Canada geese flying in to Lodmoor...
Some so - so shots of the ( not so wild anymore ) Hooded merganser at Radipole lake, Displaying to the Tufties with its weird bubbly call.

The Little owl was showing well at the quarry near the Obs at Portland....
Highlights of the days included: Hobbies at Lodmoor, Curlew sandpipers and Cetti warblers at Radipole and meeting a very nice birder I knew off Birdforum...