News

Redstarts in my garden
18th August 2011
This spring, in my garden, a pair of Redstarts have successfully raised two young in a very thick, old hedge containing a large variety of wild trees and shrubs. This hedge, going by traditional calculations (one hundred years for every established species of tree) is around four hundred years old. It serves as a perfect habitat for both nesting birds in the spring, and roosting birds all year round. The Redstarts were always shy but did show from time to time allowing me to get some shots without disturbing them too much. However, the adults have now totally disappeared and the two juveniles are painfully shy and have retreated to the rear of the hedge. They will be leaving soon and I will be sorry to see them go, but I hope they will return next year because they certainly brightened up the garden.
Please see UK Birds.
Black Redstarts Return
05th July 2011
The Black Redstarts that successfully bred in the west of the county last year had returned sometime in May this year. I went to the location yesterday, half expecting to see evidence of more breeding success. However, there is massive disturbance at the location this year and right in the middle of the breeding season. I hope this won't affect them too much.
Please see UK birds.
Peregrine Falcon
01st July 2011
Incredibly powerful, yet stunningly beautiful, the Peregrine Falcon is the iconic predator of our skies, one cannot fail to be impressed by these aerial hunters. This time of the year the juveniles are flying around playing with each other and making clumsy attempts at hunting, still not yet adept, they are totally dependent on their parents for food.
However, day by day they are getting stronger and faster and very soon they will be catching their own prey. I have been watching this family of birds for some time in a remote location and I finally had an opportunity to photograph one of the juveniles. Taken from a discreet distance this handsome bird was quite relaxed as it stretched and flapped its wings while sitting on a cliff edge.
What an absolutely stunning bird they are!
Please see latest images.
Cuckoo at long last
20th June 2011
I thought I was going to be without a Cuckoo shot this year and It's not through want of trying. Time is going on and the further into this month you go the less they call and the harder they are to find. I was very pleased indeed to hear a female calling, something I don't hear very often and I located her sitting on a power line, then swooping down to catch insects from the field below. She pitched on some dead branches once or twice, so I waited quietly and she came in again and sat there for a short while allowing me to get some half decent shots. She is quite rufous around the neck and I think she's gorgeous!
Please see latest images.
Young Swallows
07th June 2011
While cooking dinner tonight we heard a commotion on the roof outside and we could see three young Swallows waiting to be fed. Every time the adults flew over them they opened their gapes wide and flapped their wings. I leaned over the roof and waited for the adults to pass. All the birds were oblivious to me and I was able to photograph these incredibly cute little birds. Please see latest images Juv birds.
Dangerous times for Fledgelings
05th June 2011
With the number of young birds increasing daily, their activity has attracted the attention of the local 'Bad Boys'. Every day they are watching and waiting for any opportunity.
Please see Carrion Crows in Owls, Corvids and Doves.
Juvenile Birds
02nd June 2011
This week our fledgling woodpeckers have become more confident, interacting with the adults and generally making a racket. Two birds have definitely fledged, there may be more. There are also young Robins, Dunnocks, Great Tits in the garden and a pair of Bullfinches and Blackcaps are collecting insects and appear to be feeding young. Fingers crossed. Please see latest images.
Highs and Lows
27th May 2011
I knew that Woodpeckers predated small birds but I'd never seen evidence of it until a Grt Spotted Woodpecker tried to hack his way into one of our garden's nest boxes containing a Blue Tit family. He made the hole bigger to get at the chicks but I managed to patch the hole up and the adults started feeding the young again. However, the Woodpecker must have returned because the nest box has now been abandoned. It was a great shame to lose them at such a late stage. The following day there were young Woodpeckers in the garden. You win some and you lose some!
On a lighter note, I went up to the Elan Valley today and it was lovely to see the area alive with Redstarts, one of my favourite summer migrants, the male is stunning. Please see latest images.
Middle Spotted Woodpecker Lesvos
13th May 2011
A pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers chose to build their nest on an extremely busy road junction in the middle of a village. These birds are normally quite shy but the traffic didn't seem to bother them. We parked up and watched them for several minutes, took a few shots and then left them to it, I hope they were successful in raising their young.
Please see Latest Images Lesvos.
Little Owl Lesvos
12th May 2011
Little Owls are reported as being numerous on the island but we only saw two. This obliging bird sat on a post at the side of the track near a remote farm.
Please see Latest Images Lesvos.
Egrets, Herons, Glossy Ibis & Little Bittern Lesvos
12th May 2011
Along many of the channels and rivers of Lesvos various Herons and Egrets can be found, some more easily than others. Squacco Herons are abundant and easily seen, as are Great White Egrets and Glossy Ibis. Purple Herons are very shy and unapproachable. Little Bitterns are shy, but can be found with patience and are more approachable. The most difficult to find and observe is the Night Heron. Photographing Squacco Herons and Glossy Ibis was relatively easy, the Purple Heron was shot from a distance, across a river. Getting the image of the Great White Egret took patience for the right reflection. We were lucky to come across 2 Little Bitterns quietly sitting in a tree, posing nicely, but the most satisfying was the Night Heron which we accidentally found roosting in a pine tree by the side of a river.
Please see Latest Images Lesvos.
Black Headed Buntings & Spanish Sparrows Lesvos
12th May 2011
Early one morning we travelled over to the far west of the Island to Sigri and Faneromeni area. Birds were in surprisingly short supply but we came across a blaze of colour and noise - a mixed flock of about 150 Black Headed Buntings and Spanish Sparrows were feeding in a roadside field. There is a plant which resembles a giant Fennell which grows up to 8 feet tall and the Black Headed Buntings seemed to like perching on it.
Please see Latest Images Lesvos.
Cetti's Warbler Lesvos
12th May 2011
The explosive sound of the enigmatic Cetti's Warbler can be heard all over Lesvos and unfortunately they are just as difficult to see there as they are in the UK. Every day I waited for a bird to show after an explosion of noise, but no luck. Then one evening we were standing on the bank of a river, when out of the blue, a Cetti's flew into a small bush right beside us, less than three feet away. We were astounded that this extremely secretive little bird was being so confiding. If that wasn't enough it proceeded to give an astonishing display, in every possible position imaginable, and all from this one little bush. I took a whole raft of shots, while trying at the same time, to enjoy the spectacle. It was as if it was giving us our own personal show, there was no one else around which certainly made it feel that way. Then just as quickly it flew away and disappeared, it was something that will stay with us for a very long time and I must admit to feeling very privileged indeed for some time afterwards.
Please see Latest Images Lesvos.
Ruppell's Warbler Lesvos
10th May 2011
Kavaki, Just north of Petra, is a well known historical nesting site for these beautiful warblers. It is a habitat of low scrub which also can attract other warblers such as Subalpine, Orphean and Barred, all of which were present when we visited on a beautiful sunny morning. I noticed that a male Ruppell's Warbler was using a particular bush top to sing from but there were too many people around on this visit to get a photograph. I didn't mention this bird's behaviour to anyone for fear of disturbance. When we returned early another morning there was a crowd of Dutch birders watching a Barred Warbler which was distant, so with no chance of a photograph, I decided to make my way down to the Ruppell's Warbler bush I had noticed on my first visit. I set up my gear and within 5 minutes he was at the top of the bush, giving spectacular close views, I couldn't believe my luck! but a little bit of planning sometimes gives great results.
Please see Latest Images - Lesvos Birds
Kruper's Nuthatch Lesvos
10th May 2011
Our first target bird was Kruper's Nuthatch and we arrived very early morning at the historical nesting area of Achladeri pinewoods to avoid the birding tour companies which seem to invade this area as the day goes on. This strategy paid off because we had the woods to ourselves for some time. Nightingales were singing everywhere - the best alarm clocks in the world. Immediately, a pair of Kruper's appeared and flew very close to us, feeding on the ground within twenty feet and flying to and from their nesting stump. This species is found throughout the Lesvos pinewoods and we were able to locate another pair later that day in a different location. Please see Latest Images - Lesvos
Lesvos Birding Spring 2011
08th May 2011
Just arrived back from a two week birding break with my wife, Susan, on the island of Lesvos. Spring migration arrived late in the Aegean this year, cold windy weather holding the birds back. A full trip report will be added in due course. I will also be adding small blogs for some individual species. There were many other birds seen and some images will be in Latest Images Lesvos later.
All images on Lesvos were taken with a Canon 300mm F4.0 prime lens.
Cinereous Bunting Lesvos
01st May 2011
This second iconic bird of Lesvos proved to be more difficult to photograph because it breeds on remote boulder strewn slopes on the western side of the Island. We drove through the mountain village of Agra into Cinereous Bunting country. We stopped near a prominent rock on the roadside only because there was a small pull-in nearby. We could hear Cretzchmar's Bunting singing and also saw five Blue Rock Thrushes flying on the slopes below us. On this first visit we heard Cinereous Buntings and saw them about 100 yds away. While our backs were turned a bird landed on the rock 20 ft away, I was so surprised that I completely missed the shot, much to my dismay. We drove on to Ipsilou Monastery and saw other birds but only distantly. We thought our chance had gone. We visited the rock again but had no luck whatsoever with the Bunting, however, we did see Bonnelli's Eagle, Short Toed Eagle and Long Legged Buzzard there. The following week we decided to give it one more try, the day was quiet and we were about to leave when suddenly a Cinereous Bunting landed right in front of us on top of the rock. My hands were shaking but I made sure that I took advantage of this very rare opportunity.
Please see Latest Images Lesvos.
Grasshopper Warblers
18th April 2011
There are quite a number of these birds coming in at the moment, with reports from various areas. Watching these birds can be frustrating as most of them creep around in low vegetation, then fly up onto a concealed perch to produce a 'Reel' then disappear again. They can remain concealed and just reel away for hours on end which is very frustrating.
I went down to Llangors lake where one has been present for a couple of days to try my luck. I could hear its reeling so I sat down by a nearby tree and waited and waited.
I thought I could hear it's song right in front of me but it can be very deceiving and in fact the bird was some ten yards away. Finally the bird perched in the next tree away from me and I was able to get some quick shots through the foliage before it disappeared again.
Please see Gallery.
Early morning on the river Usk
08th April 2011
At the moment the river is quite low so I decided to try to photograph some Dippers I had seen the previous week at a traditional nesting site that I have watched for a number of years. So I was up again at 4.00 a.m. scrambling down the river bank by torchlight and was undercover by day break. The Dippers were active almost immediately, but unfortunately, there was a heavy mist which did not clear until about 8.30 a.m. You have to be concealed early so that you don't disturb them at their nest site. Once the light improved they were moving around my hide with confidence, sometimes sitting right outside, which allowed me to witness their courtship display. The male postured and posed in front of the female bird but she was unimpressed and turned away every time, obviously the time is not right yet! However, it was a privilege to witness their courtship.
Two Grey Wagtails were also active in the same area and I am confident they will be breeding there also.
On a sadder note, there was no evidence of Kingfishers, who, I fear, perished in last year's harsh winter weather; they were always active along this stretch of the river in the past.
The Dippers flew out of sight, right down the river, on a number of occasions. I waited for such an opportunity to pack up quickly and leave with no disturbance to the birds.
Please see photos in Gallery.
Migration
04th April 2011
Migration is building up with a pace, Llangors lake is alive with Swallows and Sand Martins, 5 Yellow Wagtails are also there. Northern Wheatears are starting to establish territory on the higher ground, such an elegant bird in early spring. Chiffchaffs are singing everywhere, G S Woodpeckers drumming can be heard throughout the woodlands and I saw an early Male Pied Flycatcher today. Cuckoos have already made the south coast of Britain and we should be hearing the male calling quite soon, can't wait, one of my all time favourite birds.
On another topic a flock of thirty plus Siskins have been around my garden for the last two days, eating Sunflower seeds like they are going out of fashion. Lovely to hear them calling and singing to each other. Also, a female Brambling, the first Brambling recorded by me in my garden in sixteen years!
Please see Gallery.