Saturday, 27 April 2013

Staines Moor - 26 April 2013

After a few days of warm weather, rain was forecast with the wind turning from the North West. There were reports of waders passing through at the local reservoirs so we decided to spend the late afternoon out, just in case we happened across something interesting.

We parked near Staines Moor, and walked the footpath checking the hedgerows for Redstarts and Flycatchers. We were only a few yards from the moor when a reeling Grasshopper Warbler was heard just ahead. Of course, it stopped as we advanced and although we spent a while looking for it, it was only as we set off again that it flew up from just a few feet away to disappear into a pile of dead wood and dried reeds. Although our glimpse lasted only a few seconds the broad tail and streaked body were seen clearly. On continuing on to the open moor area we worked along the river then across the grassy area. We were pleased to see a couple of Wheatear, but on closer inspection found 24 moving in a loose group across the moor  and 6 Whinchat. Continuing over the bridge there were a further 11 Wheatear on that side giving a total of 35. The only other birds seen were two Little Egret, some Linnet and a few Meadow Pipit. It was quite chilly by now and it seemed likely that birds would be staying out of sight, hunkered down in the centre of the bushes, keeping out of the wind. We heard the Gropper again briefly as we returned to the car but just couldn't see it. No Redstarts or flycatchers were anywhere in evidence.

Broadwater GP - 25 April 2013

A visit by a small team of four to Broadwater was the first spring visit to the site. With a large amount of Silver Birch there was potential for a Wood Warbler to be around somewhere, but it was not to be, and this again was very much a Blackap day, with eight being caught, followed by Chiff-chaff, with two caught. A Woodpigeon was the only bird unexpected bird of the morning. The open water just contained the expected water birds and a single Buzzard and Red Kite drifted over.

5 Male Chaffinch

Totals: 12 (1)
Woodpigeon -1
Dunnock - 0 (1)
Blackcap -  8
Chiff-chaff - 2
Chaffinch - 1

In the afternoon I made a visit to Staines Reservoir to take  peak at the Black Terns, bumping into one of my colleagues from the morning. There were 11 present with 10 on the South side and one solitary loner on the North. I picked up one of the Little Gulls but did not persist in hunting down the second. There had been two Dunlin present and managed to pick one up as flew across the south basin.

Local Birding - 24 April 2013

A run around a few local spots for the morning I managed to eek out another female Redstart at Wraysbury GP together with a solitary Wheatear, followed by two low Hobbies taking insects at Stanwell Moor and a Tree Pipit on Staines Moor giving brief snatches of sub-song. A visit to Staines Reservoir was uneventful and a check of the flooded flash at Eton Wick, equally so.

A few Peacocks were on the wing at Wraysbury together with a couple of Commas.



Hilfield Park Reservoir - 23 April 2013

Today for change of location, and as only a couple were doing a midweek session here, I tagged along. We set a long line of nets through the north bank run, and though a bright day with birds still moving through the home counties, things were fairly steady and relatively quite. The majority of birds caught were Blackcaps with one bird, X906020 returning from May 2010, which had been re-trapped in 2011, but not in 2012. The only other species caught was Chiff-chaff, with another 201 re-trap, BYP308.

Total: 8 (3)
Blackcap - 6 (1)
Chiff-chaff - 2 (2)

In the afternoon after D finished work we decided to take a trip along to Little Marlow GP to try and pick up the Wood Warbler. Walking the length of the footpath the bird could not be heard or seen. but just as we got to the end, I heard a brief trill part of the song and managed to pick the bird up just at the end of the path. We managed to miss a flew over Osprey but there was a Oystercatcher on the spit.

Wraysbury - 20 April 2013

We joined 8 other hopefuls from the Runnymede Ringing Group to work the areas that are monitored for CES. There was still a lot of lying water in some areas and wellies were essential to reach some areas.

Some 60 birds were caught with a half and half split between new and retraped birds.

Bird of the day was undoubtedlya female Redstart, aged 4.

 Redstart Female

Red retricies - shimmer equipment

The first Lesser whitethroat and Garden Warbler for the this year were also seen.

Totals: 30 (31)

Dunnock - 2 (6)
Robin - 2 (2)
Redstart - 1
Blackbird - 0 (2)
Song Thrush - 2
Sedge Warbler - 2 (3)
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Whitethroat - 6 (6)
Blackcap - 3 (2)
Chiff-chaff - 1 (5)
Willow Warbler - 3 (2)
Long-tailed Tit - 3
Blue Tit - 1
Great Tit - 0 (3)
Lesser Redpoll - 1
Reed Bunting - 3


Friday, 26 April 2013

Local Birding 15 - 19 April 2013

Upon returning from the warmer eastern Med, it was back back to the realities of birding around Heathrow. On the 15th a morning visit to Stanwell and Staines Moors produced a few summer visitors, with Staines Moor producing a singing Grasshopper Warbler that fell silent upon trying to track down the bramble clump it was singing from, along with a single Whinchat. In the afternoon, as there appeared to be a few Ring Ouzels passing through the Central counites of the SE, with D we headed to Linkey Down, Aston Rowant NNR to check out this regular spring Ouzel passage to be rewarded by the presence of two males and the usual numerous low passes by a number of Red Kites.

On the 16th I made another visit to Stanwell and Staines Moors revealed a female Redstart on Staines Moor and a male Redstrat together with a Cuckoo at Stanwell Moor. Afterwards a quick visit to Staines Reservoir produced 32 Arctic Terns on the north basin.

On the 18th a walk around Queen Mother Resservoir was uneventful and a visit to Stoke Common afterwards was equally uneventful, though a pair of madarin flying across the common were the first I have seen at the site.

The 19th borught a repeat of the Staines/Stanwell Moor and Staines reservoir circuit which part from the Black-necked Grebe still on Staines Reservoir, there were two Redtsarts at Stanwell Moor, a male and female.

A Fox that look aparently asleep on Staines Moor, had actually died curled up.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Cyprus 2013 (29 March - 14 April) - Part Two

Day Eight - 5 April

Another early start for a morning ringing at Kouklia.

Net erected amongst Tamarisk and fennel plants.

Conditions grew increasing difficult as the wind freshened and changed direction.We did quite well for Cetti's Warbler, got a further two Great Reed Warblers, another Olivaceous and Subalpine Warbler, three Whitethroats, two Chiffchaffs,  a Woodchat Shrike, Reed Warbler and our only Nightingale of the trip.

Cetti's Warbler




5 Male Woodchat

Woodchat showing retained feathers

There were a few migrants through as we worked the site and Red-rumped Swallow (5), Alpine Swift (2), Bee-eater (2), Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (1), Wryneck (1), Ruppell's Warbler (1), Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper ( 1) were recorded during the morning.

Dogs often wander through, are usually well behaved, and seem to be looking for someone to feed them and be friendly. 

 Ringing Totals: 17 (1)

Nightingale - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 2 (1)
Reed Warbler - 1
Great Reed Warbler - 2
Sedge Warbler - 1
Olivaceous Warbler - 1
Subalpine Warbler - 1
Blackcap -1
Whitethroat -3
Chiffchaff -2
Great Tit -1
Woodchat Shrike - 1

Moving on after the session the Fish Farm pond still held a Black-winged Stilt with single Grey and Purple Herons, Little Egret, male Citrine Wagtail, common Sandpiper and two Green Sandpipers.

At Xeros Potamas in addition to the usual water birds, Whinchats, a male Collared Flycatcher, a Subalpine Warbler, a Ortolan Bunting, a Hoopoe, a Red-throated Pipit,a Wryneck, a Ruppell's male Warbler and a Turtle Dove were present.

There was more evidence of birds on the move with 3 Collared Pratincole at Mandria in addition to a couple of Turtle Doves and numerous Short-toed Larks.

Collared Pratincole at Lark corner.

We took the road  into the foothills to Adonis Baths  - advertised as 'road good for all cars' although we would disagree having encountered rock and soil slips onto the road, severe water run off and steep gradients. We were hoping to find an alternative ringing site and the fact that many drivers (less confident or competent than Chris) would turn back, coupled with a different habitat and protection from prevailing winds seemed to make this area ideal. While traversing the road we came across circa 15 Ortolans, 2 Woodchat Shrikes and single Whinchat, Whitethroat and Eastern Bonelli's Warbler. This would certainly be worth a go!

Day Nine - 6 April

At this time of year, Cyprus gets Coptic winds that blow from the South.We knew that the forecast indicated sustained strong winds over the next few days so we did Kouklia again while we had the chance. Conditions weren't the best but we managed 17 birds. We were please to get a couple of Wrynecks and second Woodchat Shrike and Fan-tailed Warbler. We noted than numbers of Blackcap were right down on previous years. Lesser Whitethroat also were much more difficult to see.

Two Wrynecks - note variation in brown colouring of wings.

Lesser Fiery Copper at Kouklia

On approaching one of the nets at around 10am, Chris saw the broad body of a Blunt-nosed Viper heading into a clump of vegetation. We know that drying river beds are a favoured habitat for these highly venomous snakes, described as ' the bad boy of the island’s snakes; the only potentially lethal snake in Cyprus. That said, despite an average of twenty attacks on humans each year, no one has died from its bite for nearly fifteen years'. These snakes remain still while waiting for small birds and we are very aware of the risks and strong boots and special care when setting nets and taking in pegs is most important.

 Ringing Totals: 16 (1)

Wryneck - 2
Cetti's Warbler - 0 (1)
Reed Warbler - 1
Great Reed Warbler - 2
Sedge Warbler -2
Fan-tailed Warbler - 1
Sardinian Warbler - 2
Blackcap -1
Whitethroat -1
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Chiffchaff -1
Woodchat Shrike - 1
Spanish Sparrow - 1

High winds on the Med form foaming waves.

We continued with trips to Xeros Potamas, Anarita Park, Aspro Dam and Kouklia Fish Farm pond.

Xeros Potamas was unremarkable although a Marsh Sandpiper was now present. Little Stints were at circa 15.

Orange groves  along the Xeros Potamas track

Heavily laden Olive tree

Anarita Park was the best we had seen it this year with 8 Lesser Kestrel, circa 25 Ortolan Bunting, a female Sparrowhawk, 7 Whinchat, 2 Whitethroat, 15 Tawny Pipit and singles of Woodchat Shrike, Black-eared Wheatear, Cyprus Wheatear, Red-rumped Swallow, Isabelline Wheatear, Wheatear, Montagu Harrier (male) and Little Owl.

Little Owl at Anarita Park

We accessed the back of Aspro Dam by driving from Nata ford, down a road ( that had become the course of a stream) then driving along part of the river bed and up onto the road beyond the part that had collapsed. Our reward for the effort - a look at some very promising pools that held absolutely nothing and around the reservoir Grey Heron (5), Little Egret (2), Squacco Heron (1) and Roller (1).

Roller at Aspro Dam

We ended up at the Fish farms where having seen the Spotted Crke, and there being noone else about, we used a two panel net to try our luck. We'd hope for Wagtails and caught two. There was also a House Sparrow and Common Sandpiper.

White Wagtail 

  Black-headed Wagtail

Ringing Totals: 4

Common Sandpiper - 1
White Wagtail - 1
Black-headed Wagtail - 1
House Sparrow - 1

Day Ten - 7 April

On a very windy day we decided to try out the Akrotiri area in the absence of any real numbers of migrants. There were a few additions to the earlier visit. At Phassouri we had Ruff (1), Water Pipit (2) and Snipe (4) but all other species had already been seen the previous time. Akrotiri Gravel Pits held 10 Whinchat and 4 Woodchats. Three Sandwich terns went by on the sea. A Greater Sand Plover was found on the rocks off the beach. Other sightings were limited to an Isabelline Wheatear, Red-rumped Swallow, Wheatear and Buzzard.

Ladies Mile provided opportunities to view good numbers of Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Little-ringed Plover, Ruff and a single Marsh Sandpiper. At Akrotiri Salt Lake Greater Flamingoes were present and 2 Curlew Sandpipers were feeding on Zakaki Marsh outflow. A Spectacled Warbler was picking its way through thelow lying, saline tolerant plants. Moving on to Bishop's Pool, we again dipped on the White-breasted Kingfisher and saw even less than the time before although there were a couple of Garganey and Chris photographed an unusual Skipper.

Vigil for the White-breasted Kingfisher

Millet Skipper 

By 2pm we had exhausted all likely locaties (and taken time out for a drink and snack) so, on receiving a call about a Broad-billed Sandpiper, set off back to Mandria.We saw it, and the 6 Greater Sand Plover that accompanied it, rather taking the shine off our single found earlier in the day. We also had a Woodchat Shrike, Montagu's Harrier female and 2 Wheatears at the locale.

Day Eleven - 8 April

Our last chance to ring for a few days as the wind would become much too strong. We got another 18 at Kouklia and it seemed that there would be no new species for the day. But a flycatcher that caught our eye due to its conspicuousness, being the only bird of that family seen in the river valley since we began ringing, and to our astonishment, it had crossed the river and ended up, head down in the second panel of our 60ft net just 5 minutes later.

5F Collared Flycatcher

Ringing Totals: 17 (1)

Wryneck - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1 (1)
Great Reed Warbler -3
Olivaceous Warbler - 2
Sedge Warbler -1
Sardinian Warbler - 2
Blackcap -3
Collared Flycatcher - 1
Great Tit - 1
Spanish Sparrow - 2

Once finished, we trawled the lower pools at Xeros Potamas for any new migrant species but found nothing new.

Day Twelve - 9 April

The day began with with a run up towards Adonis Baths Waterfall and a more detailed reccie to identify suitable places to site nets. The foothills seemed to be holding more birds than the coastal areas and Roller (1), Wryneck (1), Whitethroat (1), Masked Shrike (1), Cuckoo (1), Black-eared Wheatear (1), Whinchat (2) and Ortolan Bunting (3) were seen.

Carob Trees

 Two out of three Ortolans present
By late morning we had moved on to Mandria where a Shag was present in addition to the birds feeding in and around the fields. We broke off from birding then to have a meal with some friends, in Cyprus to guide a tour group, then were joined by them for a quick outing to the Xeros Potamas pools. While gaining access by a different route to accommodate their lower clearance, 2WD, hire car Chris hastily brought our vehicle to a halt than began gesturing enthusiastically in the direction of some Orange trees where a splendid, bright yellow, male Golden Oriole could be seen resting quietly at the very top of the tree. At the pools, Little Ringed Plover  were running about the river margins as usual with the other regular river course users and we were pleased to be able to show our friend one remaining Blue-cheeked Bee-eater on the wires, during which time it was noticed that Turtle Dove numbers had risen to 7. Then 8 Spoonbill flew past, along the beach, going from left to right and as if that wasn't enough in our 15 minute frenzy, 3 Night Heron then flew from the coast towards us.After it was time for our friends to go, we stopped off at the road bridge at Achielia on our way to the apartment and saw a Spotted Crake and a spectacular display put on by circa 200 Swallows preparing to come in to roost. 

Grey clouds gather ominously as the day draws to a close.

Day Thirteen - 10 April

Paphos Headland was the destination, and for all the remarks about excessive thinning of vegetation we felt that the areas furthest inland were probably easier to bird now and still offerred sufficient cover. The real problem was the removal of low bushes around the dig site, forcing any migrant to push on more swiftly than they had used to.

Paphos  Headland

The main dig site at Paphos Headland

Never gets a mention but almost always present - Hooded Crow

If there's a medium sized  brownish bird in the road, air 
or on a post its most likely a Crested Lark

There were few birds on land Whinchat (2), Wheatear (3), Tawny Pipit (2), Red-throated Pipit (4) but a flock of circa 30 Garganey went by on the sea as did 9 Scopoli's Shearwater and a Gull-billed Tern.

Mandria was particularly good for raptors that day. We saw the reported Red-footed Falcon (male) althought it was flushed of soon after by an insensitive, over enthusiastic idiot with a camera. Also Pallid Harrier (female), Montagu's Harrier (female), Marsh Harrier and Lesser Kestrel (1). More Garganey went by ( circa 30 again- travelling in the same direction as the first group) and a group of 7 Gull-billed Terns than cut away from the beach inland and evaded most of the binocular users.

Lesser Kestrel


A visit to the XP pools caused concern as the muddy pool where we hoped to ring should conditions improve, was being staked out by some rather reckless photographers who'd taked their vehicle down a rather steep slope. There were some newly in birds includingCattle Egret (1), Squacco Heron (1) and Gull-billed Tern (3) but we left the photographers to it and went instead to the Fish Farm pond to view the Spotted Crake and watch Swallows and Wagtails. A mixed group of Spoonbill (c25) and Little Egret (c10) were seen distantly out to sea.

Sunset from the Fish Farm

Day Fourteen - 11 April

The day dawned and was calm enough for ringing so, for a change - and because the site was less exposed, we set out for Adonis Bath Waterfalls. The road was rather rough so it took a while to get there, even though it was a shorter distance than that to the usual ringing site. The nets went in quite well, without any need for pruning and we waited to see what we'd get. A couple of Great Spotted Cuckoos were around for most of the morning - but somehow neither managed to find the nets.We caught Whitethroat, Sardinian Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Ortolan and Goldfinch. Tree Pipit made up one third of the catch and the first and last birds out of the nets were Wryneck.

First Wryneck

Male Ortolan Bunting

Lesser Whitethroat - just didn't want to leave

Goldfinch - 6M

One of five Tree Pipits of the day

The last bird of the session

Other birds seen were a Roller, Pied Flycatcher and the two Great Spotted Cuckoos.

Ringing Totals: 15

Wryneck - 2
Tree Pipit - 5
Sardinian Warbler - 2
Whitethroat -2
Lesser Whitethroat - 1
Goldfinch - 1
Ortolan Bunting - 2

Once finished we made for Timi Forest, known to be good for flycatchers and found two Pied Flycatchers and a male Collared Flycatcher. We also glimpsed a Nightingale and there were two Purple Heron overhead.

At the Xeros Potamas pools, the male Little Crake was seen under the mimosa trees . Threre was still a good range of waders and with better weather conditions, three nets were set on the muddy pool.
We got 12 birds that evening although three (Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Wryneck) were incidental to the waders. It was great to see Little Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper in the hand again and to get experience of  Little Stint. for the first time. The best bird was a Marsh Sandpiper and the date  being our wedding anniversary, I (Denise) insisted that Chris process it. Happy Anniversery Chris! It'll be years before I catch up on that one, if ever.

Little Stint

Little Ringed Plover

Common Sandpiper

Marsh Sandpiper

Ringing Totals: 12

Little Ringed Plover - 3  
Little Stint - 3
Marsh Sandpiper - 1
Common Sandpiper - 2
Wryneck - 1
Cetti's Warbler - 1
Sedge Warbler -1

Day Fifteen - 12 April

Our final try at Kouklia brought no new species but did at least indicate that a few more Blackcaps were on the move. For the first time since we'd been there, Alpine Swifts (15) were passing through overhead and there seemed to be more activity in general, We  recaught a Gret Reed warbler that had laid down an extra 2.6g of fat in just four days.

Ortolan Bunting

Great Reed Warbler


Throughout our time at Kouklia we have spent time trying to keep the low set nets clear of debris. This plant is known a Fleabane because, apparently it discourages fleas and lice. I wouldn't know about that but its tough and prickly and ringers definitely don't like it!

Ringing Totals:16 (2)

Cetti's Warbler -1
Great Reed Warbler - 0(1)
Sedge Warbler - 2
Sardinian Warbler -2 (1)
Blackcap - 5
Olivaceous Warbler - 1
Great Tit -1
Spanish Sparrow - 1
Ortolan Bunting - 1

We had a last whizz around as our flight on Saturday was in the morning leaving no time for birding on the way to the airport. It was nice to see Hoopoe, Roller, Lesser Kestrel (4) and Red-rumped Swallow (2) again at Anarita and there was a new influx of Wheatear (12) at Mandria. No short-toed Larks today butwe did get a Tawny Pipit, Hoopoe (3), and a Marsh Harrier. We again caught up with the Red-footed Falcon that had become increasingly mobile since we'd first seen it not long after it first came in.

Oleander blooms

Xeros Potomas was positively buzzing with activity. A Pallid Harrier female went through, disturbing the waders which included a highly coloured Curlew Sandpiper. We recorded Great Snipe, Willow Warbler, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (2), Turtle Dove (4), Little Crake (female) and Quail.

Great Snipe

Our final visit was to the Fish Farm pool at Kouklia. We saw Wood Sandpiper (3), Common Sandpiper (3), Black-winged Stilt (1), Ruff (1) and Great Reed Warbler. We had the place to ourselves so erected a net, just on the off chance. We didn't get any Swallows but did get a couple of Common Sandpipers including the one from earlier.

Ringing Totals: 1(1)

Common Sandpiper - 1 (1)

Day Sixteen - 13 April

We had to be at Larnaca Airport by 9.15am so left just after 7am. While standing in the checking in line a call came through - White-breasted Kingfisher at Efzouza on wires. Bugger!