Category: Dave’s Birding Blog

The hottest summer on record

The news today confirmed what we all knew already in that the summer has been the hottest overall in England on record. It’s certainly ben a very sunny one with my PV installation hitting record figures through May and June though late July and August have been a little more ‘normal’. This weather has my garden plants in at right tizzy. Many have done well but a lot of the ‘early autumn’ flowers are already starting to go over which may not be good for the insects.

Female Ghost Moth

Moth records have certainly been a but topsy-turvy – generally a poor summer but I’ve had a couple of really odd records of salt marsh species which have turned up in my garden trap – how bizarre! Butterflies have been good in the garden with a Painted Lady rather regular.

Painted Lady

I’ve also tried my hand at hoverfly identification – a minefield but something to pass fine summer days once the moth trap is empty and no birds around.

Eristalis pertinax

Local birding has been a little frustrating of late but, nevertheless, I’ve seen some good birds on Rishton Reservoir which, once again, has dropped very low due to a leak in the canal somewhere along our section. This has revealed some lovely mud but had unintended consequences on the pair of Great Crested Grebes that nested on the small res. They produced two young but as the water level dropped, the patch of after available to them diminished and eventually the parents left the youngsters to it. Amazingly one of them managed to find the culvert under the railway track and swam to safety. The other must have perished.

Juvenile Avocet

The mud on the west back attracted in a few waders but nothing like as many as last year. A juvenile Avocet was most unexpected though perhaps a long overdue visitor considering their range expansion. There’s been very few hirundines around this year but a good number of gulls have been loafing on the waters edge. A couple of weeks ago there were at least 500 LBBG’s and in amongst them was what I think must have been a juvenile Caspian Gull but it was missing one feature that would have clinched it.

Possible juvenile Caspian Gull

The same day a juvenile Kittiwake dropped in and in the preceding week I’d had up to two little Egrets! So imagine my surprise this-morning when I got down there in heavy drizzle to see a Great White Egret wading through the water. Unfortunately it didn’t hang around but I managed a few images to record the event.

Great White Egret – Rishton Reservoir

Bulgaria May 2018, part 2

After a good breakfast and a local meander down the lane where I had Whinchat, Woodchat and Stonechat as well as eh regular goodies, we packed some butties for lunch and headed for the Burgas wetlands. First port of call was just off the main road overlooking the shallow Burgas Lake that was covered in birds. Great rafts of Great White Pelicans with a few Dalmatians dotted in amongst them gorged themselves in one corner of the lake along with gulls and terns. Pygmy Cormorants were in amongst the Greater Cormorants and Great Crested Grebes fringed the lakeside. There were A few ducks, notably Garganey and Pochard and raptors overhead.

Great White Pelican

Dalmatian Pelican

Pygmy Cormorant

Flight of Great White Pelicans

After an hour or so, the Pelicans started to move off and so we did too to a lake on the south side of Burgas where we had great views of Suqacco Heron and trip firsts such as Glossy Ibis, Gull-billed Tern and Great Reed Warbler.
At the salt pans back in Burgas there were lots of waders but all a little distant. Curlew Sandpipers and Little Stints made up the bulk of the migrants with Terns and Avocets abundant. A couple of Slender-billed Gulls were here too.
Then it was a little further north for lunch whilst enjoying reed-bed birds such as Penduline Tits though access to the main reed beds was not possible and it was very warm!

Cuckoo

Crested Lark

The afternoon was spent a the reservoir near Poroy where we enjoyed around 25 Whiskered Terns feeding along with Ruddy Sheduck, Wood Sandpipers, Black-winged Stilts, White-tailed Eagle and al three ‘regular’ woodpeckers in the nearby woodland.

Whiskered Tern

Whiskered Tern

Ruddy Shelduck

A final look at the marshes on the way back gave us a few more waders and a host of Little Gulls and then it was back to Burgas to our Hotel for the night. After lunch we took a stroll round the block to hear, and eventually see, a Scop’s Owl.
We headed north on Thursday through the eastern Balkan Mountains with stops at several places en-route to Varna where we picked up Eastern Bonellli’s Warbler, Semi-collared Flycatcher, Barred Warbler, Wood Warbler, four Woodpeckers plus Wryneck as well as Hoopoes and Bee-eaters galore. The Flycatchers were around a nest-box scheme where around 40/200 boxes were occupied. We had excellent prolonged views of males singing (some trying to find a mate, others defending the territory they had).

Eastern Bonelli’s Warbler

Cirl Bunting

Syrian Woodpecker

Semi-collared Flycatcher in habitat

After Ice-creams in Varna we headed for Cape Kaliakra to get some more special birds. The place was alive with Pied Wheatears and birds on the sea included the Mediterranean subspecies of Shag, around 700 Yelkouan Shearwaters, a few Black-necked Grebes and Black-throated Divers and an Arctic Skua chasing terns for good measure. We also got Alpine Swifts here.

Pied Wheatear

Our hotel for the night was just south of Lake Durankulak and so early the following morning we headed to the area passing innumerable Red-backed Shrikes on the way. There had been a thunderstorm overnight and suspected that this was a ‘fall’ of migrants. As we arrived, a White-tailed Eagle arose from its roost. The reed bed was alive with bird song – the loud grating song of Great Reed Warblers filled the air and soon the cacophony was joined by a reeling Savi’s Warbler. Ferruginous Ducks were in the pools and Lesser Grey Shrikes in the surrounding vegetation. The omnipresent Orioles gave us some splendid view before Mark found a pair of Paddyfield Warblers which we enjoyed. Montague’s and Marsh Harriers quartered the reedbeds.

Paddyfield Warbler
Great Reed Warbler
Red-backed Shrike

With all the target birds in the bag as it were, we headed back for breakfast and check-out before heading to Kavarna where we had great views of singing Marsh Warblers despite the nearby traffic and road-works.

Calandra Lark
Marsh Warbler

The it was off to do some steppe birding – yet more Red-backed Shrikes – we estimated 2-300 along a 5km stretch of track – as well as our first Calandra and Short-toed Larks. Alpine Swifts buzzed overhead nad we eventually found a Long-legged Buzzard with better views of a second bird later in the day. We even jammed in on a second male Levant Sparrowhawk as it was mobbed by corvids.
Finally, we finished off at a couple of Bee-eater colonies as a relaxing conclusion to our four days in Bulgaria before having our final dinner together and then getting dropped off at the airport.
All-in-all, a splendid trip with 166 species recorded and 12 new for myself. I’d heartily recommend Neophron Tours and Bulgaria as a destination for some great wildlife. And I’ve not even mentioned the flowers and Butterflies we saw!!!

Eastern Bulgaria May 2018 Part 1

I can’t believe it’s six months since my last blog entry. I suppose the travelling we’ve been doing has been with family and football so not all that many birds to write about; well apart from the Snowy Owls at Montrose in Chicago at Christmas, the divers off the coast of Cornwall in February and a visit to Ham Wall en route. OK so I’ve done a bit of birding but spring has been slow this year no more exemplified by the lack of moths in the moth trap.
Oh, and I’ve produced a book on the Pug Moths of the north-west of England (not authored by me I must add!) which has done rather well I’m glad to say.
There have been some excellent local birds recently – Marshside has had a bit of a purple patch recently with Glossy Ibis, Spoonbill, Snow Goose, Temminck’s Stint and a host of migrants. Rishton Reservoir on the other hand has been very quiet apart from the Glaucous Gull that was semi-regular in January. The leak in the dam wall seems to have been fixed and the water levels have remained high – good for the grebes hopefully!
Anyway, the football season is over (and we’re promoted :)), most migrants are in now and breeding is in full swing and bird-report writing needs to start. But before all that was a mini-trip to Bulgaria organised at the turn of the year with John Wright, Steve Flynn, Bill Aspin and Mark and Margaret Breaks.

The team photographing a Herman’s Tortoise

The flights from Manchester to Burgas were rather restricting – the 11pm flight actually left at 1am on Tuesday 15th May so around 7am we were met by Dimiter Georgiev, our guide and driver for four days of full on birdin’.
Starting off a little late wasn’t too much of a problem as we sped past the enticing Burgas wetlands (that was to be saved for tomorrow) towards the eastern Strandzha woodlands. The area was a mixture of oak woodlands and pastoral farming with all the associated fauna and flora. Birds were everywhere and in good numbers, probably because invertebrate life was also abundant – I can’t remember when the windscreen on my car at home was caked in insect road-kill, but our transport was.

The ubiquitous Corn Bunting

We searched a prime patch of woodland – and after a quiet start, we started to rack up the birds. As well as commoner birds, we got good views of Short-toed Treecreeper, Ortolan, Masked Shrike and Olive-tree Warbler as well as several raptors: Short-toed and Lesser Spotted Eagle, Honey Buzzards and Hobby. Sombre Tits were being rather difficult but we diud get some good, if brief, views. In the background we could hear Golden Orioles and Nightingales wherever we went and in the more open areas, Corn Buntings and Red-backed Shrikes were incredibly common. Dimiter said that there were one million pairs of the latter in Bulgaria – I can honestly believe that in the country the size of England but an eighth of the population.

Fritillary – lots of several species seen thoughout

Everywhere we went, the adornment of Spring flowers and the associated Lepidoptera added another dimension to our enjoyment of the country. The next stop was a more open area as we neared the Sakar Hills, having seen Booed Eagle and Black and White Storks on the way. Here we had a marvellous Eastern Imperial Eagle, displaying Isabelline Shrike, Black-headed Buntings (all over the place), Black-headed Wagtails, Tawny Pipit and Syrian Woodpecker.

Imperial Eagle here

Lunch was spent semi-outdoors with nesting swallows as company before we birded other areas for Masked Shrike (as well as Woodchat) and a rather splendid Eastern Orphean Warbler. We headed for an area near the Greek/Turkish border where one of the special target birds, Levant Sparrowhawk showed well along with Rollers, Bee-eaters, Orioles, Lesser Grey Shrike, Rosy Starlings and other really excellent birds.

Roller

Spot the Rosy Starling

Black-headed Bunting

Our rural retreat for the night was the nicest place we stayed at and we were the only guests. The food was good and the rooms comfortable. Add that to having Lesser Spotted Eagle and Montague’s Harrier from the surrounding roads and the hedgerows supporting more Orioles, Nightingales, Buntings and Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, what’s not to like!