Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Costa Rica - Cano Palma Biological Station My Home for a while!

My destination was Cano Palma Biological Station which is situated along the canals leading up to Tortuguera. The station is run by The Canadian Organisation for Tropical Education and Rainforest Conservation and specialises in monitoring and protecting four species of turtles that breed on the Caribbean Coast. The organisation also run a community outreach project and conduct bird census in the area.
The grounds of the base are lively with a range of bird species including Keel Billed and Chestnut Mandibled Toucans. Montezuma Oropendola are a regular sight moving around in groups in the tree tops.
The only way to get around in the area is by boat and the base has its own boat yard which has a superb crows-nest in which you can observe the passing wildlife. Kingfishers regularly patrol the channels with Amazon, Green and Ringed making the notebook.
The boat yard is heavily guarded by two Cayman who are well fed with leftovers that are beyond their consumption date.  If you are fortunate to get past the Cayman a troop of Squirrel Monkeys is the bases next line of defence.
The first couple of days have flown by with turtle nest monitoring training and early morning walks along the beaches checking the status of nests. There are also scatterings of shorebirds, Spotted Sandpiper and Whimbrel amongst the early migrants stopping to feed along the coastline. Brown Pelican and the occasional Magnificent Frigatebird grace the skies. A Black Hawk gave good views today. I look forward to catching some of these species on camera during my stay.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Costa Rica - Hotel Bougainvillea - Before the Heavens opened!

A hooting owl had me up at ridiculous o clock this morning. I guess it was always going to be a bit of a needle in a haystack finding it but I guess this hotel must be used to this kind of extreme behaviour!
The early morning added a few more species to my list. It was quite pleasant without being too humid. I started with a quick walk round where I chased a couple of Hoffman’s Woodpecker across the gardens.
I literally bumped into Rufous-collared Sparrow that was feeding on the borders near the path edge. The bird didn’t seem bothered at all looking up and then carried on feeding.
I then headed for the tower to bag some Wrens. Plain Wren was a busy but noisy soul but I eventually managed some pictures.
Greyish Saltator was far more obliging with good views as it commuted between small bushes and a fruit tray strategically placed in amongst the shrubs.
A Squirrel Cuckoo emerged from the tree line to pose for a couple of shots before disappearing over the far wall.
The gardens have a few resident pairs of Variegated Squirrels who were busy gathering a harvest not that I imagine food is ever in short supply in these gardens. That was a good cue to go and tuck in to the early morning meal which left me feeling like Baloo from the jungle book! A good walk was required to work it off the gardens providing the perfect answer.

As the temperature rose the movement of Hirundines increased. The test this morning was to identify the Swifts that started out as dots in the sky but thankfully came closer to feed on the insects that were still low over the garden. White Collared Swift and a new species Vaux’s Swift was the product of my patience.
The Vultures were the next to appear circling on the warm thermals. Most were Black with the odd Turkey appearing. Then a raptor that caught me totally off guard camera settings all wrong but I managed to partially rescue the situation. I am still contemplating the id as the torso is not clear.

During lunch the heavens opened giving me a good opportunity to catch up on the photos and naturally the blog! What will the afternoon bring apart from rain!

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Costa Rica - Hotel Bougainvillea wets the appetite!

Having got up at stupid o clock and made the journey to Gatwick in good time, the eleven hour flight was the next hurdle to negotiate. This was a day flight so I had plenty of time to read up on the birds of Costa Rica. Having gone crossed eyed and watched a couple of films the British Airways flight landed early in San Jose.

Next stop was Hotel Bougainvillea which was straight forward enough. There was no time to waste so a quick freshen up and I was out trawling the gardens for the birds.
My favourite bird of the afternoon was a pair of Blue-crowned Motmot that popped up onto the wall below the viewing tower. This species was not new but as with many species here will be a first photo as I did not have an SLR when last out in this area.
There were a few hummers buzzing about the gardens and after several attempts a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird was caught in the lens.
One species that made their presence felt was a pair of Rufous-naped Wren who were very territorial chasing Robins across the enclosed section of the gardens.
Other species seen included Greyish Saltator, Great Kiskadee, White Winged Dove and Clay-coloured Robin which took the opportunity to have a bath between showers. In the skies were Blue and White Swallow in small groups as the clouds closed in.

There is seven hours time difference and I am feeling the effects of this and the journey. I will be up early to find some more species during a full days birding in the amazing gardens to the Hotel!
Looking forward to tomorrow already!

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Beddington Farm - Waders amidst a purple patch!!

Having heard via the BFBG jungle drums that the Cattle Egret had flown over to the tip and Pete Alfrey was not going to get to the Farm until 1930hrs. I made my way back over to the Farm at a leisurely pace to act as an extra pair of eyes for the search which could be an extensive one.
On arrival the bird was not visible so I took a walk around the E side of the lake to see an Egret resting in a small island inlet. A few photos later and a view through a scope and the Cattle Egret was back in the game! Pete was not far away so the evenings aim was also to be fulfilled.

Devilbirder was the last key-holder in attendance that evening. A conversation between the three of us ensued as the bird was observed commuting between the tern raft and Elands Island where it was last seen going to roost.

This morning the bird was not re located by Frank on dawn patrol. I took a walk around the lakes and a visit to 100 Acre where the Wood Sandpiper was still in its favourite corner! The Farm has hit a purple patch with a first, and the third Surrey record of this species!
A flock of Greenshank were the highlight of the tour. They were clearly looking to land on the North Lake which was still high and unable to accommodate such a group.
Pete had a Wheatear on the mound wrapping up the mornings migrants!

Monday, 14 August 2017

Beddington Farm - MEGA First Farm Record Cattle Egret!

Today I set off with Mark to collect a counter/cabinet for the Sutton Utd Club Shop and all was going well until we made it back onto the A3 and the dreaded call from Dodge flashed up on my phone. At this time of year that can only mean one thing! My immediate reaction on calling him was “What have you got?” The Professor had looked at the Egrets on the island and a Cattle Egret popped its head up!

This was a major deal! The first record for Beddington Farmlands! Blimey will it stick around long enough for me to get there! I did warn Mark that I might be a bit on edge as he drove back to SUFC. A dash to the car and another lightening speed journey and once again I was sprinting over Mile Road bridge to the gates.

The bird was quite content feeding on insects showing for small periods of time and then took a short flight around the front of the island before landing behind a Little Egret!
There seems to be a pattern developing here fortunately I had increased my training in preparation for my trip to Costa Rica but I think I would prefer to be there and not have the rush! Tomorrow I will be at the Farm so it should be a quiet day!

Another SVC and Beddington tick that's two in a week Woo Hoo!! Thanks Prof for keeping everyone on their toes!!

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Beddington Farm - Wood Sandpiper still present!

I was at the Farm at reasonable o clock this morning to carry out the monthly BTO WeBS waterfowl and wader survey. I must confess to a slight lie in after a late return from an away day to watch Sutton Utd beat the National League favourites Tranmere Rovers!

The water levels on the lakes are still high with plenty of algae covering parts of the lake. A keen eye was needed to count the Little Grebe and other ducks that take advantage of this windfall of food. A Common Sandpiper and a couple of Little Egret that were partially hidden in the scrub on the main island were the hi-lights.
100 Acre was to produce the bird of the day. A Wood Sandpiper that is turning out to be somewhat of a long staying bird in this area. This bird was loosely associating with Green Sandpiper who were very skittish leaving the former behind in the NE corner of Jim’s bed.

I have a busy week ahead getting my kit together for my forthcoming trip but hope to spend some time walking / banding at the Farm.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Beddington Farm - Sabine's Gull on the lakes!

Life has been a bit hectic of late with the new football season getting underway. Sutton Utd has a new Club shop which needed help to fit out in readiness for the opening game which was live on BT Sport. The weather was looking good today but I noticed a shift in the arrival of the rain and decided to have a lie in having travelled to Eastleigh last night for the game. This was a big mistake on the birding front, but the eagle eyed Pete Alfrey was on duty at the Farm with Tank and Frank.
The inevitable happened as news broke of an adult Sabine’s Gull on the North lake. Not only was this a Beddington tick having missed the other three records due to my incessant urge to travel at the wrong times of the year it was also a Surrey Vice County tick!

The drive to the Farm I liken to one of those computer games where to survive you have to dodge the obstacles that are thrown in front of you and increase in pace the more skilful you become! I did not break the land speed record but must have been close to it. I sprinted over Mile Road bridge arriving at the South Lake slightly soaked as the rain intensity was increasing.
Frank and Philip had their scopes on the bird and bingo a Beddington blocker had finally been bagged! As time went on more birders arrived to twitch the bird and I retreated to the hide.

My Beddington Farm total stands at 186 and Surrey Vice County total at 230 species subject to acceptance by the records committee!
Needless to say I will be on my travels again and the rain is probably only considered a light shower where I will be staying! I am certain to miss a good bird or two but this gull was one I never thought I would catch up with at the Farm. Woo Hoo!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Beddington Farm - Warblers and an Oik!

The mornings are beginning to draw in which is a good thing if you are banding because the start times are not as stupid as stupid o clock! Rain was forecast for later in the day therefore there was a chance of something else turning up beforehand.
The day manning the nets turned out to be a good one with two new species to add to my own worksheet. The first was a Garden Warbler which is an annual occurrence at the Farm but generally does not linger for any length of time. It was great to be able to examine this species in the hand. The plain appearance of this bird distinguishes it from other warblers.
There was also a movement of Sedge Warbler today with most journeys being interrupted in the margins of the lakes. Juvenile and adult birds were processed.
My first net Goldfinch found a net along the edge of the South Lake. A splendid male bird was temporarily detained and processed.

Shorebird of the day was an Oystercatcher which was initially picked up by Frank over the South Lake. The bird flew a small loop over the North Lake before flying over the mound and out of sight. It was a shame this bird did not stay but I guess it was put off by the number of gulls on the lakes. Tank took a walk around the site but could not re-locate the Oik! Common and Green Sandpiper made up the shorebirds numbers for the day.

I’m back at the Farm tomorrow morning to check the nest boxes with Derek Coleman. Rumour has it the Tree Sparrows have had another brood!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Beddington Farm - Garganey Grounded by Storm!

Today’s visit to the Farm was two fold one to complete a WeBS count the other with a feint expectation of what the storm might have dropped in. Every corner of the site would be covered. After yesterdays torrential rain the ground was always going to be on the soggy side and difficult in parts to traverse but my objective was clear.

The focus today was on ducks and shorebirds so without wasting any time I started at the North lake. It did not take long to spy a Garganey in front on the main island. The bird was roosting on the water behind the raft.
The next challenge was to get some pictures of the bird. The path along to Eland’s Island was clear so I took a short walk along the lakes perimeter and then waited for the bird to stir. Some thirty minutes later and the bird was contently feeding on the green algae.

A group from the Croydon RSPB was on site this morning and the Garganey was the perfect start to their day. The group observed a Peregrine that had taken a disliking to a Kestrel that was hunting over the South Lake and a short pursuit ensued but lunch was not served as a result!

The rest of the morning was also productive with Common Sandpiper, Little Ringed Plover, Green Sandpiper and Lapwing making up the species of shorebird. The ducks were represented by single figures of Gadwall, Teal, and Shoveler. Mallard and Tufted completed the species list.
A Little Egret had snuck onto the North Lake by the time the group had made it to the top of the landfill.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Beddington Farm - A First in the nets!

Banding days at the Farm have been busy of late with numerous juvenile birds dispersing. Cetti’s Warbler is one species that has flourished with the change in lakeside habitat. To think that over five years ago this species was considered a MEGA at the Farm. Today we had four birds in the nets which indicate a healthy population.
The lack of eye stripe one of the features of a juvenile bird.

The first record was on 100 Acre on April 5th 2002. My first sighting of this species was on October 10th 2009. This at the time was the 2nd record found by John Allan by the hide on the North Lake.

Today the weather suggested the day would be more productive than it turned out but there was a steady flow of birds with the best saved until last.
Just as Frank, Mike and I were beginning to close up for the day a juvenile Magpie landed in a net on the South Lake. Magpies are common birds in England so what was the big deal. This bird was a first in the nets for Beddington Farm. The bird was processed by Frank and released.

What a great end to the morning!

REF: The Birds of Beddington Farmlands by Alfrey,Milne, Coleman and the BFBG. Beddintgon Farmlands Bird and Wildlife Report 2012.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Hertfordshire - The Doves having a Laugh!

I was up at stupid o clock this morning to take a relatively short journey to Hertfordshire for the Laughing Dove which has been present at Sandon for around a week.
This species is a breeding resident in Africa and was a regular feature during my birding adventures in Southern Africa (South Africa, Botswana and Namibia). I also recorded birds in Tanzania whilst following the Wildebeest and zebra migration through the Serengeti.
They also breed in the Middle East and around India. Laughing Dove has been introduced to Perth and established itself in Western Australia, and originally introduced to the Middle East (inc: Turkey, Israel).
This Dove is small and is a striking mix of pink through the head with cinnamon through the mantle and breast with grey blue forewings. The breast has a diagnostic black speckled necklace which with its plain cinnamon back distinguishes it from Turtle dove.
They are not considered a migratory species but in the words of some information sites can turn up anywhere. They have adapted to gardens and city centres and can be quite tame. It is highly likely it has escaped from a collection but birding does turn up anomalies every once in a while.
I enjoyed my time viewing the bird. I was the only one there for a good hour as I wandered around this peaceful English Village. I hope the residents (who were very birder friendly) are successful in thwarting the proposed wedding venue to be situated in the village!

At least I nailed some pictures which is more than can be said for the Marsh Sandpiper earlier in the week!
Ref: IBC Bird Collection, Wikipedia, Sasol Birds of Southern Africa, Helm Birds of East Africa.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Beddington Farm - Shorebirds on the Move!

This morning I headed over to the Farm to see if the rain had dropped any new shorebirds in. I bumped into Pete Alfrey as I was parking up and a plan to meet up on 100 Acre was hatched. The water levels had risen quite considerably making 100 Acre the most likely area for new arrivals.

I met Pete at the gates and the search began. This was going to be a careful investigation with all likely beds to be covered. The species that became the bookies favourite was Black-tailed Godwit with Pete particularly on the look-out for young Yellow-legged Gull that move at this time of the year.
It did not take long to find a juvenile Yellow-legged on Jim’s bed. I must confess I would probably of overlooked this bird but eagle eyed Pinpoint was on it straight away. There were a few shorebirds on the small pit which included an adult and a juvenile Little Ringed Plover which were surprisingly quite approachable as they scurried about on the mud.
Green Sandpiper was also present with a final tally of eight birds in this area. This species numbers tend to build up at this time of the year as birds stay to moult before moving on. Numbers in the past have reached the late forties and of course with that there is a chance of a Wood Sandpiper as well.
With 100 Acre completely covered we moved on to the Lakes where a Common Sandpiper was busily feeding away on one of the few places that still had some exposed mud.
The bookies favourite did not come in on this occasion but I wonder if that was down to the rise in water levels. A bit of gull training which was an un-expected bonus for the morning. See for more gen on gull identification. Cheers Pete!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Beddington Farm - Regular as a Red Kite!

Red Kite is a regular occurrence at The Farm these days. To think that only ten years ago this was a difficult species to see with only a handful of sightings a year. These sightings would also be high fly-overs with little opportunity to get good views of the birds moult pattern.

This species is primarily a scavenger feeding on carrion but will also take live prey and even fish. The landfill still contains food waste despite local councils implementing a collection service. I have noticed in the last few years that Kites are looking to feed on the landfill swooping very low over the site in search of a meal.
Very few birds are successful due to the eagle eyed Corvids that perch and patrol the site. This morning as Mike, Frank and I were ringing one bird attempted to land on the landfill then turned its attentions to us circling over the hide as we were processing our highest tally of birds in the nets  so far this year (61 new and 5+ re-traps).

This species has in the past has been heavily persecuted which led to a committee being set up in 1903 to protect nest sites. In the 1980’s the Kite was one of three species that was globally threatened residing in the UK.

Introduction programmes saw the first successful breeding records in Buckinghamshire and North Scotland in 1992. 1994 saw the first wild chicks being reared. This species is now established in the East Midlands, Central Scotland, Leeds, Derwent Valley, Dumfries and Scotland. Populations in the South are thriving with feeding programmes in place.

Many birds are wing tagged and any sightings should be reported to the BTO.  

Ref: RSPB, Raptors of Europe and Middle East by Forsman.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Beddington Farm - In the Mix!

I have been keeping an eye on the Farm of late but have not been staking the place out as I would during migration. In the last day there has been steady rain which can always drop something in on the lakes. This morning I took a walk around the lakes and 100 Acre with a couple of House Martin and c50 Swift.
The Little Ringed Plover were on the South Lake along with a Redshank which had sought temporary sanctuary in between the mizzle. The largest of the Canada Goose flocks still has three Greylag in tow.
I had been ringing / banding with David Campbell on 100 Acre last Sunday producing out best return of birds thus far with 22 new birds being processed. Many of these birds were juveniles including Starling, Great Tit, Robin and Blackbird.
Last week I checked the nest-boxes with Derek Coleman and processed five, FL Tree Sparrow provided the second successful brood of this species this season.

During quieter periods I have been checking the sacrificial crops and lake edges for butterflies. I recorded a personal new Beddington record in Marbled White which have proved difficult to photograph but I am persisting and hope to complete the challenge before they move on.
On the mound Skippers, Meadow Brown and Green Veined White are present. The odd Brimstone is seen passing over the hill.
Small and Large White are seen along the path but are generally tricky to photograph.
Peacock and Red Admiral are far more obliging the latter claiming a nest box as a resting point.
Southern Damselfly (?) are also present on the mound stretching themselves out as they bask in the sun.
Small Tortoiseshell has been numerous on 100 Acre with c50 counted whilst checking the beds.

I don’t profess to be an expert of Butterflies and the like but they are a good distraction until migration starts to gain pace again!

Saturday, 17 June 2017

West Sussex - Pagham Harbour - Better to Go Late Than Never!

An Elegant Tern has been present for over a week at Church Norton, Pagham Harbour, West Sussex and I had not gone to see which I cannot explain. The traffic put me off after seeing the Red Footed Falcon at Frensham.

I obviously had an improved mindset this morning because I was up and out early.. ish and making my way down to Pagham. The bird had been seen therefore there was a good chance I would add this species to my life list.
The journey was kind to me and I arrived just in time to secure a spot in the Church Norton car-park. A short walk later and I joined the line of twitchers who had their scopes trained on the bird. This was probably one of the easier twitches I had gone on. The only difficulty I had was securing photos of the bird!
There has been talk of a possible hybrid. This species has hybridized with Sandwich Tern in France in the past. There is also a population of Lesser Crested tern in the Southern Mediterranean. There are plenty of good pictures on the Bird alert websites to scrutinize.  I understand a DNA sample has been taken so the identity of the species should be conclusive!

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Frensham - Scramble Scramble!! Falcon on the Ridge!!

There was no time to breathe this morning as my slumber was broken by my phone going crazeee next to me! A Red Footed Falcon had been found at Frensham by Sean Peters. Surrey Ed had obviously realized Koje was still in cuckoo land and was trying his upmost to raise the dead!!

Breakfast consisted of a swig of Piriton and the Kojemobile was off and running albeit on a minimal fuel. The journey down was straight forward enough with my trustee SATNAV. Lings ridge is about a ten minute walk from the Frensham Great Pond Carpark but you have to traverse the sand before you negotiate the hill.
Having arrived at the top I saw Dave Carlsson and Stevie Mc without his side kick on this occasion! I had just missed the bird which had been showing well but I was confident it would still be in the area.  I set down on the ridge and began scanning the area. There were a few scattered trees on the heathland. The bird had been favouring the larger dead trees.

It was just a game of patience from then onwards and this paid off as the bird flew over the ridge to the other side perching up on top of a small tree. I spoke to Sean who pointed out this was the first twitchable Surrey Vice County (SVC) bird! This brings my SVC list to a respectable 229 (considering I have lived abroad for parts). Woo Hoo!!

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Beddington Farm - Storm brings in a Little Gull!

As the birding calendar enters into the doldrums a good storm is required to stir things up a bit. A stupid o clock start had me walking in on the tail end of the storm. This made the task of surveying a little bit tricky with many birds staying low in cover to avoid the howling wind.
I met up with Derek Coleman and we walked a familiar route around the environs on the North Lake. As we entered the middle gate Derek saw a small gull near the water outlet. “Oh what’s that?” he exclaimed. The gull was a juvenile type Little Gull which had likely been driven down by the storm. Glen in the mean time had also picked up the gull from near the hide.
The bird was reasonably close so the camera was put into action as the bird took a short flight to another spot on the lake. The bird was still present when I left the site at around 0900hrs.
The Farm has a pair of very territorial Mute Swan on each of the North and South lakes and both pairs have been successful with one cygnet being reared on the North Lake and four on the South.
The cygnets are naturally heavily guarded but I managed some shots from a good distance away.