Friday, 22 January 2010
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
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.