Monday, October 26, 2015

This year's holiday.........

Having missed out on a holiday last year I was determined to make an effort this year and Teresa and myself decided on a 13 night "Canaries Cruise" from Southampton from 27.Sept to 10.Oct taking in The Azores, Madeira, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Tenerife and Lisbon before returning to Southampton.
We had done a similar cruise about four years ago and I'd thoroughly enjoyed it as the time at sea had given me plenty of time for seawatching, this particular cruise appealed as it offered six and a half days at sea.
The first couple of days sailing to The Azores gave me plenty of scope for seawatching but being the only passenger out of a total of 2,850 with an interest in seabirds and cetaceans does have it's drawbacks and I probably missed a hundred times more then I saw.......

Plenty of Cory's and lesser numbers of Great Shearwaters and the odd skua but everything was always a little distant from the ship, I did get a few Pom Skuas with one really close but unfortunately couldn't manage any photos.
We had a Whale and Dolphin Watching trip booked at our first stop at Ponta Delgada on the Azores but due to a heavy swell we were given early notice that it had been cancelled, this was a major disappointment as the Azores is one of the best places in the world for whale watching.
A hurried rearrangement got me on a similar trip out of our second stop which was Madeira, this was on a RIB which Teresa would have struggled to cope with so I did the excursion on my own.
It was reasonably calm on the day and we soon came across a nice group of Atlantic Spotted Dolphins which were a cetacean "tick" for me and they came in really close to the inflatable allowing great views and photo opportunities........

The boat trip out of Funchal also gave me the chance of getting closer to some Cory's Shearwaters and Arctic Terns within the port.....

Friend and fellow "togger" Peter Morgan had taken a land holiday on Lanzarote back in August and had enjoyed a great morning out in the company of local bird guide Carmen Ernest Portella picking up some of the local speciality species.
Peter provided her contact details and I e-mailed Carmen prior to our departure and arranged a full day out with Carmen picking me up at the port entrance at just after 8.00am, after a short drive we were soon making our way along the volcanic desert tracks in search of Houbara Bustard, Cream-coloured Courser, Trumpeter Finch and Berthelot's Pipit the first three being "lifers" if I was able to connect !!

Great Grey Shrikes ssp "koenigi" were plentiful as were Trumpeter Finch and Berthelot's Pipits although the only close finch was a juvenile, a couple of Hoopoes were also seen and a small group of Cattle Egrets mingled with a herd of goats.
A couple of groups of Barbary Partridge were seen but we struggled for Houbara Bustards until late in the day when several were seen although always making their way away from us........

If only the rest of the birds were as approachable as Stone Curlew which were really confiding as well as being plentiful if only easy to see when they moved, one field checked late in the day must have held at least 20 birds........

Try as we may we were struggling to see the one bird that I really wanted which was Cream-coloured Courser and we used the last couple of hours of late afternoon trying our hardest, I have to commend Carmen for her endeavour, we drove track after track but to no avail, on this occasion the bird eluded us, still there's always next time on a return trip to Lanzarote and another day out with Carmen.
Our cruise ended with two days at sea on our final leg from our last port of call Lisbon back to Southampton skirting the Bay of Biscay and many of the same seabirds were seen along with good numbers of Common Dolphins and the occasional distant rorqual whale blow.....

A wonderful holiday on a great ship, we met some fabulous people and my day out birding on Lanzarote brought me three "lifers" in Houbara Bustard, Trumpeter Finch and Barbary Partridge, curse those bloody Cream-coloured Coursers !!!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Black Tern : Fendrod Lake : Swansea

A bit of a late post to say the least but as I'd taken some photos I thought I'd post a few shots of the juvenile Black Tern that turned up at the lake on the enterprise park over the August Bank Holiday weekend, called in on the Monday on our way home from the caravan......

Sunday, July 26, 2015

"A nice weekend".........

My weekend started on Friday evening when straight after work I popped down to the Ogmore Estuary in an attempt to catch up with and photograph the Wood Sandpiper found earlier in the day by Paul Roberts.
I was greeted on arrival by fellow "Maestegi" Simon Murray who informed me that the bird was still on the west bank of the river opposite Portobello House, it was in the company of three stunning Black-tailed Godwits still sporting summer plumage and although a little distant I managed a few reasonable "record" shots.......

I returned to Ogmore on Saturday morning bumping into Matt Hunter and Jeff Lack hoping that the bird was still there and maybe crossing over to the east bank of the river but unfortunately it seemed to remain faithful to the far bank so I decided to move on to Kenfig NNR resisting the temptation to pop to Goldcliff for the Temminck's Stint found early on the morning.
The Great White Egret was perched up in it's regular tree on the west side of the pool but after I had been in the south pool hide for about 45 mins it flew down to the open area just to the right of the hide.
It didn't stay in the open for very long and strolled into the reeds only showing occasionally........

I'd enjoyed a nice couple of hours at Kenfig also seeing a Hobby briefly over the pool and a female/juvenile type Marsh Harrier distantly hunting over the dunes to the north-east of the pool and the GWE flying back to it's regular perch was my cue to move on.
There was still plenty of time to go to Goldcliff and I managed to drag fellow "togger" Richard Smith away from watching the Tour de France, after meeting up at Junc 34 we soon arrived at Goldcliff where the Temminck's Stint was showing well but distantly from the first hide.
We moved back and fore between the first hide and the next viewing platform but still couldn't get the bird as near as we had hoped for, never the less it was a "Welsh" tick for both of us and I managed a couple of photos albeit very much of the "record" type......

There were several other nice waders on the pools including a Curlew Sandpiper, a couple of Spotted Redshanks, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Little Ringed and Ringed Plovers as well as good numbers of Dunlin and Lapwing.
It was also great to bump into fellow "Boxers" Dan and Geth as we walked back to the car, glad you still can't resist the temptation of a rarity lads !!
We decided to finish off the day with Richard showing me Magor Marsh where I had not been before for my first attempt at photographing the resident Water Voles.
We parked up in the small car park and viewed the reen from the small bridge and didn't have to wait too long for a couple to feed on an apple on one of the floating feeding platforms, I managed a few shots and will definitely return and spend some time there in the hope of getting some more natural looking photographs.

An enjoyable day out and I'm glad that I made the most of Saturday as today has been the total washout forecast.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Great White Egret : Kenfig NNR

Yesterday was my third visit to Kenfig Pool in an attempt to get some quality photos of the Great White Egret that turned up at the pool on Friday 3rd July.
I'd made two previous visits the first a week ago on Sunday 5th July and the second after work on Thursday 9th July but only managed some flight shots a few of which I was pleased with but most being too distant, frustratingly the bird just wouldn't land near the south pool hide on both occasions.
An early start yesterday saw me arrive at the hide at 6.30am to be greeted by Steve Hinton and Alan Hughes, Steve had already been there an hour and Alan had arrived just before I did.
The bird was outside the hide when I arrived, I had seen it descend as I walked down, but it only stayed briefly allowing me a few shots before it flew off into the trees on the west side.
We waited a few hours before the bird eventually flew over to us and landed, it spent some time in front of the hide but was always obscured by the reeds before flying off again.
Steve Howcroft had arrived as well in the meantime and managed a couple of nice "digi-scoped" images.
Alan had left by now and at about 12.30pm Steve decided to call it a day and I walked up to the car with him looking back to see the bird perched up in the west shore trees.
Having seen some of the shots obtained by my fellow "toggers" and friends Rob Mitchell and Richard Smith (it's bloody competitive this bird photography) I was determined to "nail" the bird.
So after a few sandwiches and a listen to the Cardiff test match in the car I made a return to the hide, yet again the bird was out in front but skulking in the reeds.
A little while later Cliff Woodhead and Colin Harvey arrived and after about 45 minutes the bird returned again and this time gave amazing views and a photographic opportunity you can only dream of as it paraded around in the open as close as 30' from the hide doing everything a Great White Egret would do !!
I finally got the opportunity I had wanted and I think I eventually "nailed it".............

The bird fished continually and seemed very adept at being able to take two fish at a time on occasions.....