Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Catch up

Rainy day here. So time to slow down...and catch up?

I made it down to Kilnsea Wetlands before the deluge to connect with the overdue Little Stint...


Green Sandpiper (2) and Ruff were also new for the year. I bumped into Frank Moffat and John Hewitt. John mentioned that someone had claimed the WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER again but no further news as I write (1pm). This site is starting to produce an impressive list of quality birds and will no doubt continue to do so. AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER and another WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN (juv) recorded in the past two days.

A Little Egret also showed very well...



The past few days locally... A Little Tern wandered North to allow me to add it to my Holmpton year list during a dog walk. I also sneaked a Mistle Thrush sighting from the bus near Patrington. I popped down to the triangle late yesterday afternoon after work to try for the Red-backed Shrike. I made my way along the canal past the developing and highly controversial Visitor Centre...



I could see a group of admirers in the distance but as I had "the Budster" with me I decided to spare them the dubious presence of his company! A grim record shot it is then...

c150 yds through the heat haze at the rear of Rose Cottage
One for the jizz afishionados. 

High on the cuteometer was this pair of young Little Owls on the way home. Great news indeed...


Totals adjusted accordingly.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Carry on regardless!

Loved those films!

Crappy weather on the coast so we're heading for East Leake.

Bit of an issue on the M1...



Hopefully everyone OK! Fortunately North bound.

Rain has stopped and wind easing. A bit of lunch... then BEE-EATERS.

Writing this in Louise's car as we head back to Hull to pick up the V70 after its service. We enjoyed a nice hour watching the birds perform well, if distantly. The crowd was very small allowing for a relaxing experience.

Off to the pub for T so no time to post a pic from the camera. To be honest the images are small scale!!

I can however post a "phonescoped" attempt which came out surprisingly well...even though I say so myself...

c100yds
  
After our meal at the Red Sails I became aware through a text from Gavin Atkinson (cheers pal) of a VERY confiding male Crossbill (P.122) at Skeffling. The bird was still present on arrival. I have to say though...it didn't look well and it's behaviour made me concerned for its future as it was reluctant to fly as vehicles past by. Hope it makes it.


Sunday, 23 July 2017

WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER

A couple of shots of the WRS...

Among the Dunlins


An excellent find by John Hewitt.

A day out tomorrow with the Bee-eaters...and Louise of course!

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Quite a week

Got an hour break, so I've time to complete the weeks activity.

To finish off a fortunate week I popped down to Kilnsea Wetlands yesterday morning to try for the WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER. As I approached the hide I noticed a Birder scanning the site through the blind.

It turned out to be Frank Moffat. He told me he had the bird in his 'scope and would I like to have a peep (sorry). The bird was no more than 30yds away  feeding with c40 Dunlin. I also had a brief view of a Wood Sandpiper. I'd seen him many times over the years but never had a chat. We discussed various topics before we left...including Footy. Nice bloke.

Now then...I "wander" where that ALBATROSS is...

Thursday, 20 July 2017

AMUR FALCON - the full story

Finally stopped...after a trip to Swillington Ings for the magnificent CASPIAN TERN...


Had a great few hours watching this beast of a Tern performing well intermittently over Astley Lake and surrounds. It's ironic how things turn out in Birding...fascinating as well...at least to me! It took me 30 years to add this species to my Yorkshire list and now I've seen two in two years. MUCH better views on this occasion. At one stage it patrolled the lake for a good 10 minutes giving a stunning performance. It exuded power and dexterity as it circled the area.

Some familiar faces were present. It was great to see my old pal Vince from my days in the Valley, particularly at NDC. He told me he'd heard a Corncrake there recently! He was hoping the CT would drift down to Fairburn for a patch tick. At one time it flew south, so I sent him a text. However the bird returned to the lake a short while later. Tony (Dixon) also turned up with a couple of mates...County ticking. I also met a chap from York who I liked and will remain nameless at his request. I liked him because he said nice things about my Blog lol! No seriously, we hit it off and chewed the fat over many things Birding and beyond. He modestly informed me he'd seen BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS and FEA'S PETREL...in Yorkshire. That's two up on me! You know who you are pal. Many thanks for your comments.

....................................................................................

So, back to the other day then, to put some flesh on the bones of one of my better/best days.

Having had time to reflect on events I feel I was VERY fortunate to connect with this bird for numerous reasons.
  • Firstly the fact that it re-appeared at all after an absence of 11 days. The 6th of July seems a long time ago now when I realised I couldn't go down to Cornwall, on the eve of my trip to my son's wedding in Italy.
  • The fact that it lingered for the remainder of the day on July 17th.
  • I was sooo lucky with the traffic...or lack of it. To travel from North Yorkshire to Lands End during the day with no significant stoppages was remarkable.
My initial thoughts at Wykeham were negative I have to admit..."not another reported"! (12.32). My location and the distance involved kept me scanning for Honey Buzzards, in vain I might add. As already mentioned the next message containing the word "still" (12.42) changed my outlook. I estimated my route via Sutton Bank then onto the A64 (the rest you know) gave me the best opportunity to make progress SW.

No time for any prep'. Fortunately the tank was full, my phone was fully charged (just as well as yet another "cheapo" car charger let me down), I had a coat and Buddy had his bowl...he didn't get a vote!

I texted Trevor but didn't get a reply immediately so I set off west. My thoughts at this time were to cruise down as far as possible, kip in the car and be ready for dawn. The further I could get the better. I'd heard from John Hewitt the nightmare journey they'd had back, due to the A30 roadworks...c11 hours!

Steady progress was made down the A1 - M18 - M1 and onto the M42. A few speed restriction sections were adhered to...iron will-power. I was heading for Bristol down the M5 and the traffic was still flowing. Hitting this area at around 5pm didn't fill with me hope but I was still going strong...and the bird was still showing!

It then dawned on me (I'm quick like that) that I had an outside chance of making it before dusk!! It would all depend on the traffic around Exeter and the A30 road works? However, I still felt the cards were still stacked against me.

I HAD to make one stop...too much Peps Max. I checked the phone and was pleased to read encouragement and updates from Trevor Charlton, Tony Dixon, Steve Lawton, Haydn Patterson and Phil Jones. A Facebook post from Lee Evans had also mentioned some reliable, experienced Birders who had seen the bird.

Onward!

Onto the A30. Where were the road works? Who knows ...who cares! Turned out they had finished last weekend...some Good Luck. I sailed down to Penzance and it was only 7. I was getting a bit
excited by now! The weather was good and the sun was still well above the horizon. Another update on the pager added a little spice by informing me the bird was now..."distant". I'd keyed the postcode into my phone on Google maps (surprising I know) and it worked a treat in the maze that is West Cornwall. I turned down the minor road to St Buryan. An extremely narrow road with very high walls/hedges. I needed to see a birder now...it was gone 8pm and the light was fading as the cloud thickened.

I turned another bend and there was a red transit with a guy with bins looking into a field. "Any sign"  I tried to say calmly. "I've just had it but it's flown off" was his reply. I thanked him and continued down the lane. More cars and a few birders...encouragingly they were all training there optics in the same direction. I noticed Steve Webb who'd just returned from Peru (to also get a second chance). They were all stood on the wall ...but I couldn't climb up due to my mobility issues! Fortunately being tall I re-arranged the vegetation to find myself looking at my target sat in a bush...


8.15pm
That was rather pleasing I thought to myself...HUZZAH!!!

I enjoyed watching the bird for the next 10 or so minutes while I got my breath back. I counted 10 birders!!? The bird then hopped along the hedge a couple of times...

8.25pm
It was getting dull by now. Nobody else had arrived. I recognised a few local faces including Paul Freestone. Around 8.30 the bird flew from the hedge towards Lassadell House and was lost to view. The group stayed in position but I decided to follow the road towards the house. I could then see a bird on the wire just beyond the house. I alerted the group...

8.45pm
I love this picture...because I took it! lol! No, as I've said before it's not about the "best" picture, I'll never achieve that with my point and shoot. It's about personal memories and this is definitely one to savour! I might be finding a place in my "RUSH BIRDS" top ten for this one. An evocative image of the last time the bird was seen as it left the wire and appeared to fly into the garden of the house...to roost?

Time for McDonald's and Tesco now.

I returned to the lane and settled down for a night in the V70. Just a word on the old girl. She's just topped 100,000 miles and she cruised down the motorways in style giving me as always a smooth comfortable and economical journey. She's in next week for a full service and new cam-belt (overdue). I'm confident she can give me the same again (53 plate). My last one managed 230,000! Tough cars Volvos.

I'd arranged to meet Trevor at dawn. My days of sleeping well in the car are well and truly over. Fortunately the short summer night passed quickly. I was the only car present at 11pm. By 5am the lane was packed and every available spot was taken. Trevor was 2 cars down from mine! I led him to the house and showed him were I'd seen it last. Then we waited.

I had Bud with me so I kept him away from the main groups (not everyone is dog friendly, especially in situations like this). I recognised a lot of familiar faces, many from the north including Dave Hursthouse and John McLoughlin.

I was convinced it would show as I believed it had gone into the garden of Lassadell House. Alas it wasn't to be. There were a few unsubstantiated claims but no confirmed sighting. My phone had packed up by now and I'd lost Trevor in the crowd, so at 9.45 I returned to McDonald's for breakfast. The traffic problems in the lane were mounting with tractors and coaches turning up.

I figured I'd wait in Penzance for a while and wait for news as getting a parking spot again would be be er...difficult!

No sign by 11 so I decided to make the long drive home...very contented. THIS IS the very best type of twitch for me. No dithering, no what ifs...just GO!!!

Summary

So my luck at Lands End had finally changed...

2011 - I changed my flight time to Scilly from morning to afternoon to try for the 1w male SCARLET TANAGER at St Levan on Saturday October 22nd. A smart move I thought until the bird decided to leave and fly to Scilly!!!

2013 - A HERMIT THRUSH was at Porthgwarra on October 30th. A MOURNING DOVE was also present on Rum, Inner Hebrides. I decided (foolishly) to wait at Exeter for news on the HT ON November 1st as I had another long drive to Scotland for the MD. The bird was present but by the time I'd driven down from Exeter it had disappeared and so had most of the birders. I spent the next 2 days looking for it in vain. I did get the MD.

2014 - I was in the middle of another wonderful week on Scilly when it turned sour. The one species  I reckoned I'd be in prime position for on Scilly would be YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. It was Thursday October 24th and we were on St Agnes looking at an Ortolan Bunting. The MEGA alert goes off to inform me a YBC had been found at Porthgwarra! No boat Friday when the bird was still present and of course it had disappeared when I turned up on Saturday.

That exorcised a few demons.

So, as you can see I like to think I was due some luck down there.

I have no hesitation in placing this sighting at number 4 in my all-time "RUSH BIRDS" list (see left hand column)...pop pickers!

For what it's worth I feel the bird may still be around the West Cornwall peninsular...

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

CASPIAN TERN

Astley Lake, West Yorkshire

No rest for the wicked...

Better in flight...


Full write-up of last few days to follow...

Monday, 17 July 2017

AMUR FALCON

I decided to go to Wykeham to try for the Honey Buzzards that had showed really well yesterday. I DID get my first sighting here but the birds were VERY high...


Still, better than nothing.

I'd been there over 3 hours but this brief sighting was all I'd had. I was prepared to stay longer but things changed.

MEGA Cornwall AMUR FALCON 1s female reported St Buryan

Reported?

NO!

Another message replacing the word reported with STILL!!!

GO!!!

446 miles. It was now past 1. I took the A64 - A1 - M18 - M1 - M42
M5 - A30.

Updates told me the bird was lingering. Would it wait for me and would the light hold?

My phone Sat Nav worked a treat and I arrived just after 8. The terrain on the Cornish peninsular is a challenge with limited viewing due to high walls and undulating topography.

Fortunately a (very) small group of admirers were present BUT the bird had moved!?

The next 15 minutes weren't great...then...


A change of fortune at last...and a bit of determination. I'll allow myself a small blast on my own trumpet this time!

I've managed to post this from my phone before I grab a few hours kip. I'm still at Buryan with my guard dog. Trevor Charlton is on his way down. I hope to be sharing his celebration in the early hours...


Sunday, 16 July 2017

A couple of extras

Song Thrush belting it out at the front of my house this evening...


My mate Phil had great views of the Kent Bonaparte's Gull recently...


Curlews in the background

Two birds calling high over the garden this afternoon (H.85) were a welcome addition to the year list. I take what I can get on the wader front here!

Day out tomorrow...not sure where yet....

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Mid-Summer Madness?

After a crazy but essential week it's time to take stock...



I have a 6 day window of potential opportunity. Will I get some much needed luck?

At least there are birds possible...

BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS... Germany

The bird has left again recently.

ELEGANT TERN... Northern France

Just across the channel from Kent.

AMUR FALCON... Cornwall

Further rumours of the bird lingering.

I know...super optimistic!!!

Oh...and SWINHOE'S PETREL...Fair Isle

Many twitched this individual in previous summers. I won't be going.

................................

Over the next few days I'll be sorting out stats from my Cyprus and French Pyrenees trips.

I also want to update and synchronize my Spurn list so I can return it to Tim Jones on the spreadsheet he sent me. A new order starts next year. I don't actively chase birds here but I have accumulated a decent total over the past 30 years. RED-EYED VIREO and CLIFF SWALLOW being the most noteworthy. Living close by obviously helps these days but I can't compete with the Kilnsea crew.

I aim to grill Holmpton again this Autumn. It will be tough...but I will persevere...

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Time to reflect

After a whirlwind but very enjoyable few days in Italy we've landed back in Holmpton.

I managed to get down to Holderness field to eventually see the Buff-breasted Sandpiper...a Spurn/Patch tick. I bumped into a few of the locals including Richard Boon from the Village. We were joined by John Law who beat us to the first viewing. He kindly put us on the bird from the adjacent pool.

Fortunately the bird fed at the nearest point to the fence we were viewing from. I got a few record shots but I'm too tired to go through them now!

I needed a walk so I returned to the car via Beacon lane. As I was walking up to Driftwood I saw John Hewitt talking to Steve Exley. I informed them the BBS was still present some 15 mins previous. John then kindly invited me up onto his platform for a cuppa.... quite a view! We had a good chat for some 30 mins before I had to leave to pick up the lads from their holiday home.





Monday, 10 July 2017

Robert's Wedding

It's the BIG day.

Had a great evening last night drinking and joking with my two sons. Precious time.

Earlier we'd visited Mount Baldo via the cable car, which gave great views of the Malcesine Castle (the wedding venue) and Lake Garda...


At the top we met my Sister, Eldest son Graeme and his wife Rachel plus my Grandson Daniel...


He's a cutie!

I did manage a quick bird sighting (no bins on such an important occasion) in the form of c5 Alpine Swifts zooming over our heads at very close quarters. I even managed to get Graeme interested..for a few seconds at least!

It's going to be a busy day, so time to get suited and booted...


Friday, 7 July 2017

AMUR FALCON - I was only joking my dear

News broke late last night. Lands End!

Of course I wasn't available... again. Busy day Friday...packing. much prep, pets to boarding, 3 suits to pick up in Manchester for the wedding....

Louise can do all that...no she can't!

I did leave Stockport at 1pm for the M6 car park but news had dried up by then. Just as well really as it took me an hour to do 10 miles. This country's transport system is a disgrace.

Anyway, enough moaning about things turning up when I"m not available...

................................

Off to Lake Garda tomorrow morning to enjoy quality time with family at my youngest son's wedding. One of the things that's definitely more important than birds.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Negative Vibes

(Anti)social media?

I admit to using Facebook and Twitter to glean Birding info and follow Family and friends.

Trouble is... there's SO much negativity. Similar to the general news I guess. I'm a big boy and I can handle the harsh realities but do I want it rammed down my throat when I'm trying to relax?

Bird news is filled with failed breeders, declining populations etc. Another blow in Cyprus just announced.

Well here's some good news... it's called Frampton Marsh where I'm writing this from...

c44 Lapwing of which well over half are youngsters in a binocular view.

Three figure numbers of Black-tailed Godwits

Family parties of Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe.

Summer plumage Ruff in all their finary.

Red-crested Pochard (6)

Spoonbill (2)

Turtle Dove

Find a nice place...and enjoy it!

Monday, 3 July 2017

White-winged Black Tern

Spent some quality time with a quality bird today...






A special day...

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Family

What keeps this crazy globe turning.

My grandsons 2nd birthday today, so it's over to Leeds this afternoon. Then on Friday we leave for Italy and Lake Garda for my younger sons wedding the following Monday (no birding...well maybe just a little).


So, if you still need ELEGANT TERN and/or BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS, be on high alert during this period!!!

....................................

I'll post a few of my better efforts from the Pyrenees before I depart.

....................................

I'm also in the process of updating my Spurn list in line with the forthcoming changes. Don't worry I won't be expressing personal opinions on certain splits/lumps...not this time!

It's been nice looking back on some highlights... particularly RED-EYED VIREO and CLIFF SWALLOW. I DO like my Stateside stuff...

...or maybe today...

MEGA Aberdeens PACIFIC SWIFT NE of Cruden Bay at Longhaven over quarry



Another one to get later.!?

Friday, 30 June 2017

Luck?

Many different groups of people take the time to read my Blog...for which I'm grateful.

The twitching fraternity know the ups and downs of chasing birds. I've had a particularly rough run lately, culminating with being at work on Wednesday. However, no sulking here...maybe just a touch of frustration!

You can have all the money, time, strategy etc etc. The biggest ingredient you need is...

 
LUCK...
 
GOOD LUCK

Thursday, 29 June 2017

BBA - Poor views


Gave it from dawn until 9.30. A couple of lads from Liverpool were present having stayed locally overnight. John Hewitt and his mate Kev joined us.

As you can see visibility was less than optimal, coupled with a sighting flying North past Whitburn Coastal Park, Co Durham early doors.

A double whammy.

With an uncertain forecast (as usual) it seemed a futile exercise to remain.

I feel there is a reasonable chance of a return...BUT can I get there in time..or at all!

I have given up on the ELEGANT TERN...

Need to see something decent, so I'm off for the Sabine's Gull at Nosterfield

Seen somert...


Back home via Kilnsea Wetlands and this stunner...

White-winged Black Tern adult

Horrendous weather again but great to connect. A Spurn (280) and Patch tick. Almost made up for Albert...but not quite...

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

BBA

The BIG 1 returned to Bempton this afternoon. I was working...of course.
any thanks to Tony (Dixon) and Trev Charlton for an early shout.

I have to be honest here and say I wouldn't have gone on the initial "sighting"...(cynic). By the time the bird was confirmed I wouldn't have made it before it departed. My only (small) consolation.

Another "after the Lord Mayor's show" session tomorrow then...

My luck must change soon?

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

French Pyrenees 17 - Review

HOT!!!

In line with the British heat wave the temperatures high in the mountains were well above average. Still better than heavy rain or low cloud for that matter. Still, the scenery was slightly different...and so were the birds!

The area to travel is reasonable. We could reach Gavarnie (the southern most point) from St Savin (our base) in less than an hour. The scenery is simply stunning and thankfully the traffic was VERY light which makes a hell of a difference to the quality of your holiday.

Main Highlights

- Being privileged to see (with help) Lammergeier, Eagle Owl and Golden Eagle nests adults and juveniles. Not bad!

- Finally obtaining crippling views of Rock Sparrow (thanks Charles).

- Seeing a pair of Black Woodpeckers on my final morning.

- Connecting with the Snowfinches at the Col du Toumelet.


If you're looking for big numbers this isn't the place for you. However, if you're looking for iconic species this IS an area to consider. I don't want to repetition...if possible! So, I thought I'd start my summary with a trip list...

Birds
 
Little Egret - seen north of Lourdes on my RS twitch
Snowy Egret - seen north of Lourdes on my RS twitch
White Stork -  seen north of Lourdes on my RS twitch
Black Kite
Red Kite
Lammergeier - Adult and juvenile seen at nest at beginning of Valle d'Ossoue, also seen at Gedre and Cirque du Troumouse.
Egyptian Vulture - pair seen at Pibest,
Griffon Vulture - seen in both higher and lower areas of the Gave Valley
Short-toed Eagle - Charles picked one out at the Luz Eagle Owl site, 2 at Pibeste
Common Buzzard - pair seen above Bareges
Golden Eagle - both adults and juvenile seen around nest at Gavarnie
Booted Eagle
Common Kestrel
Woodpigeon - only one bird seen at Bareges
Collared Dove
Eurasian Eagle-owl - Adult and juvenile seen at Luz nest site
Tawny Owl - juvenile on road at dusk as we returned to St Savin
Common Swift
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
BLACK WOODPECKER - 2 birds seen at Leinz above Bareges on my last morning. LIFER!
Crag Martin - fairly common. Nesting sites in Luz village
House Martin
Swallow
Water Pipit - widespread at higher altitude
Tree Pipit
White Wagtail
Black-bellied Dipper
Wren
Dunnock
European Robin
Black Redstart
Whinchat - only a single bird at Sague
Northern Wheatear - widespread. Great to see singing and displaying
Blackbird - abundant in woodland
Song Thrush - many seen in woodland, nearly all briefly in flight
Mistle Thrush - only a single bird seen above Bareges
Melodious Warbler - family party at Pibeste
Blackcap
Garden Warbler - singing birds on path to the Cirque de Gavarnie
Chiffchaff
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Skylark
Crested Tit - single bird seen on 2 occasions at Leinz above Bareges
Coal Tit
Nuthatch
Common Treecreeper
Red-backed Shrike - Male seen at nest site at beginning of Valle d'Ossoue
European Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Red-billed Chough - only seen at Lac du Gloriettes
Yellow-billed Chough - widespread at high altitude
Carrion Crow
Common Raven
Starling
House Sparrow
ROCK SPARROW - major sighting at Llane. LIFER!
Snowfinch - Seen well eventually at nest site at Col du Tourmalet
Eurasian Serin
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Bullfinch
Yellowhammer - one singing male at Lac du Gloriettes
Rock Bunting - seen well on 2 occasions at beginning of Valle d'Ossoue

65 species

A selection of photos to follow...

Friday, 23 June 2017

ET

...no...not phone home. In the interests of remaining topical I'm writing this during my break on my phone.

I'm afraid yesterday's attempt ended in failure and frustration. Great fun though?!!!

Left home at 3am (Tawny Owl, Barn Owl and 4 Hares on Snakey Lane) and after the joys of the M1, M25 and M3 ( crammed from 6, what a life) I arrived at Sandbanks at 9.15 for the first ferry to Brownsea Island at 10.

The bird left it's roost at dawn, returned once and was now missing. Around 15 birders made the journey. The hide was a decent size so everyone got a decent view. The breeding islands were VERY close, so all we needed now was "the bird".

Late morning...a message...

Seen flying over Sandbanks terminal  (where we had sailed from) towards the island.

Everyone in full focus now. Then a shout..."I've got it!". No-one else did. A difficult moment.

Around 1 the claimant from the terminal arrived. A brief account was given.

We had to leave at 5. Another report at 4 from "Poole Harbour".

I gave it till 6.30 and headed home arriving back just after mid-night.

Seeing is believing...


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Landed

Back in Costa del Bury. It seems we've brought the heat with us. No complaints though, I just think of the cold, dark winters!!!

Took my Mother out for a nice meal to the brilliant Pack Horse last night. Great to visit a proper pub.

I'd arranged to try for the ELEGANT TERN tomorrow with Tony Dixon...and maybe Phil Jones but as I write...no news.

I'll try to do a summary of my trip as soon as time allows...

Update: ET has been seen this evening on Brownsea Island (Dorset) webcam. Do you think anyone would mind if I took it as an armchair tick?! Just kidding...leaving at 3.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 9. Pic Noir

On site at 6.30...


...but no evidence by 10.45. I did see my first Woodpigeon of the trip though! I also saw a Treecreeper sp briefly and another Crested Tit.

10.50 (I was flagging a bit by now)...I heard one! I drove round to the area I thought it was coming from... nothing. I gave it 15 minutes then drove back to my original site. As I was doing this I saw a black shape darting through the trees. It had to be? It was, in fact TWO together!! They flew behind the car. I got out as one landed some 70yds away up the steep slope.


I could just see it clinging to the tree. By the time I'd lifted my camera it had flown off. I saw them both again through the trees before they disappeared down the slope. I didn't see them again.

Well pleased with what I got. You can always wish for more...like full frame pics. SEEING the bird is paramount, especially when it's a LIFER. I was especially chuffed to find them away from a nest and without a tape.

I returned​ to St Savin to pick Louise up and we headed for Bilbao.

I'll put some meat on the bones of the trip when I get back.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 8. No Creeper

The morning was spent at Plateau Sauge, a wonderful alpine meadow overlooking Gavarnie and Gedre...


A few Griffon Vultures were seen distantly but not much else. On the way back down to Gedre I did manage to fluke a Whinchat, which perched on a fencepost briefly.

The afternoon was spent at Col du Soulor. It was another attempt at finding Wallcreeper...and alas, another failure! I tried hard though. You can only scan rock faces for so long...


A last thrash in the morning as I try for my life BLACK WOODPECKER while Louise has a lie-in...

Pyrenees 17 - Day 7. Golden Day

Saturday wasn't busy at all...like every day here! Even with a cycle race?

We returned to the Valle d'Ossoue at a more relaxed time of 10. Yet another beautiful day (we've been very lucky with the weather). Much more Lammergeier action today including views of the youngster in the nest... should fly anytime now. I also had great views of Rock Bunting but no Thrush still.

I bumped into Flavien (a friend of Charles), one of the wardens for the area. Nice chap who told me some interesting stuff ( more later). During our natter he mentioned a spot to view the Golden Eagle nest...ears pricked!

After a picnic lunch we took on the trek...and it was SOME trek. We climbed high above the town on the east side. It was far steeper than anticipated... quite warm as  next 3 hours recowell. We made it though... eventually!

We spent the next three hours recovering. The youngster was seen clearly for extended periods and we had one brief pass from the parents.

It was time to go at 6.30. Yes, it happened. Both adults appeared circling the nest several times...magic!

Very lucky...


Friday, 16 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 6. Gavarnie area

Managed to sneak a few words down waiting in vain for a Lammergeier to show...

Early start at 6. After a slight scare we were having croissants and coffee in Gavarnie at 7.30. Then it was back to the Valle d'Ossoue. I managed​ another view of the Red-backed Shrike but no sign of any Lammergeier's as the cliff was shrouded in mist. So we decided to try and climb above it and headed for Gavarnie Ski Station. This was my No 1 site for Rock Thrush. I gave it 2hrs plus on the switch backs but not a sniff. Disappointing.
      After lunch (crepes and ice cream) it was time for a Golden Eagle stake out while Louise visited the village shops. Nothing in over an hour. After she re-joined me we sat in the shade by the church and scanned the crags.
            Then... there one was, carrying prey. It was hugging the slope but the powerful jizz was apparent...and the huge frame.
             Unfortunately the camera wouldn't play at first (rather disappointing) costing me a better image. In fact I thought I'd blown it completely as it disappeared into the trees before I could get "on it". VERY fortunately​ it took off again some 15mins later allowing me to get a record shot. It's many years since I've seen this species, so this was another special moment.
              We spent the last couple of hours back at the Lammergeier site which was now bathed in sunshine (a wonderful 20c today with a cool breeze). No show but I did see my first Rock Bunting of the trip.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 4/5. High and Low Country

Wednesday - Today we headed for the Cirque du Troumouse area. We stopped at Gedre and I scanned the enormous cliff to the west. I was soon looking at a distant Lammergeier patrolling the ridge. We moved on to the picturesque Lac du Gloriettes. My targets here were Rock Thrush and Wallcreeper (very optimistically). Neither were seen but the walk was lovely amongst superb scenery. I did add Yellowhammer and Red-billed Chough to my lists.

Then it was on to the Cirque. We stopped off at Haus for a much needed cool drink…and a Magnum! We then started the ascent to the Cirque. The scenery as always was spectacular. My dream then came true as I spotted a Lammergeier patrolling the nearby slopes. This time it was close…real close! The beast then landed on a rock some 200yds away. As I was setting my scope to show Louise it unfortunately took off…but fortunately flew right towards us and over our heads!!!

A truly memorable moment, especially after my lack of success on my previous visit. The close pass was what I was after...and boy did I get it!

Thursday - A mercifully cooler day today...only 21c. A blanket of cloud covered the Gave valley so it was time to bird low. It was also time to try to put to bed one of my nemesis species...Rock Sparrow. Locally common...but not where I've been! Charles once again had some great info' on a site just north of Lourdes. I was up at 5.45 and on site by just after 7. Excellent directions had me walking towards the correct spot soon after. A bird landed on a wire, I lifted my bins...ROCK SPARROW!!!
Thanks Charles!

I spent the next hour obtaining some pics and just enjoying the success. It was good to study the species in detail and FINALLY catch up with it. I was going to head further north to try for Black-shouldered Kite but the weather closed in so I returned to St Savin to pick Louise up.

We tried a couple of spots locally but as soon as we gained any height the weather predictably deteriorated. It was time for Pibeste. This is an area just north of Argeles-Gazost. As we left the town I looked to my left and c50 Griffon Vultures were circling low over a wood! Some even landed in the trees...quite a spectacle. Also present were at least 15 Black Kites and 5 Red. With further help from Charles we eventually found another site by a dis-used quarry. Within 10 minutes I was enjoying extended views of a family of Melodious Warblers. I couldn't locate the hope for Bonelli's however. Our final stop was at the north end of Agios Vidalos. We pulled into a large car park by a visitor centre. In the next 30 minutes I enjoyed views of Egyptian Vulture (2), Short-toed Eagle (2), Booted Eagle (2) plus more Black Kites, Red Kites and Griffons.

Tomorrow we head for a big day out around Gavarnie. There won't be a report as I'll be er...knackered! Also you'll have noticed the lack of pics. Again due to internet speed...or lack of it, I've decided to leave it until I get home when I'll do a summary of sightings and sites. I'll also post a detailed trip list which may help you or someone you know if/when you visit this area in the future.

HP 66

Trip 55

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 3. EAGLE OWL

A slow start today (June 13th) as I was writing up days one and 2! Louise enjoyed the patio at the hotel while I slaved it out on the laptop in the room...with the fan on of course!

After lunch we headed for Leinz which is just east of Bareges. I had reliable information from Charles that this was my best shot at connecting with my LIFE BLACK WOODPECKER. t was another HOT one, way above average for the time of year (31c). Yes, we are in the mountains!? This obviously affected this Northern Europeans movements somewhat. The good news was I found the right spot but alas not the right bird. I DID see a Crested Tit though, which was a miracle under the circumstances.

It was now 4pm and we had to return to Luz as I had a very important date with Charles. He'd kindly said he'd show me the EAGLE OWL nest site despite only having limited time between appointments for his daughter. Many, many thanks pal. After connecting we made the short trip south along the gorge to the site. He gave me excellent directions to the correct area of the cliff. After he was sure I was looking in the right place he said his goodbyes and left me to scan.

Just before 6pm a large dark brown shape flew in from the left and landed...


What a moment...truly memorable...and quite exciting!!! Another "right up there" moment in my Birding life.

It got better as a youngster then emerged from the undergrowth...


Not an award winner but you should be able to make out the adult with prey and the youngster behind...just!.

The cliff was in deep shade but it was still 28c. I reckon the distance was around 400yds across the gorge. I texted Charles the good news and thanked him again. Within 10 minutes he was back! "I couldn't resist!" were his words. He obviously couldn't stop long but a she left for the second time he said he'd give me a shout if the adult was showing from further down the road. It was...


To see an adult and a youngster in broad daylight plus a food pass, was something very special indeed.

I'll be back...

HP LIFE 60

TRIP 49


Pyrenees 17 - Day 2. Valle d'Ossoue and Cirque du Gavarnie

Earlier start today as we headed way up to the far south of the valley. We arrived at the famed and very beautiful Valle d'Ossoue around 9.30. It was already hot (24c). I've convinced Louise to do an earlier start later but today was just a recce. I had some excellent information off Charles regarding a LAMMERGEIER nest site and I just wanted to see if I could locate it and get some decent views.

As we found the spot to park I could see a large crucifix shape drifting along the ridge!!!
After finishing fingers and thumbs mode I managed to grab a single record shot...


Not the best I know but it was way up and the heat haze was significant. At least I'd seen one. It eventually drifted off up the Valley and then landed in the nest hole...therefore confirming the site...which was handy! I gave it another 3 hours while Louise read her novel but it didn't re-appear. I did see another great bird though. I noticed something shoot out of a gorse bush near to where we were parked. It looked "interesting". However, I couldn't relocate it in a 30 minute search. Then I saw it again albeit distantly...

A superb male Red-backed Shrike
The weather was again very kind so I suggested to my new wife that we did the walk to the Cirque du Gavarnie. This is no pleasant stroll I can assure you, Especially at 28c but you do daft things on holiday...don't you?

The scenery, as you can imagine is spectacular...


No significant sightings were made on the ascent which was hardly surprising in the circumstances but we had a testing walk and a much needed drink at the Hotel. On the way down though I saw a bird that I hadn't seen well for quite some time...a Garden Warbler! I picked up the superb song and after a roasting scramble I managed a photo through the vegetation...


By the tme we reached the car park we were all in. We found a nice Pizza place and enjoyed the evening view, which wasn't at all bad...


Haute-Pyrenees LIFE 58

Trip 45

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 1. Col du Tourmalet

OK. I'm up and running!

Briefly...the wedding day (Thursday) was great but we over-indulged a tad and the recovery time for both of us isn't what it used to be...

For the record...

Mr and Mrs Whitehead in front of the Whitehead Clock Tower, Bury 8/6/2017
Friday morning and early afternoon was spent recovering at "the Mothers". We flew to Bilbao from Manchester arriving at 10pm. A taxi to our Hotel saw it sorted for 11.

Breakfast at 8 and car picked up at 9 (pleasantly uneventful), we were heading for France. After a bit of fun negotiating San Sebastian we arrived in France early afternoon and cruised into the Haute-Pyrennes region for an evening meal in Argeles-Gazost. Then onto St Savin for an early night.

Friday morning I opened the shutters at dawn to this rather nice view...

Looking North up the Gave Valley
Anyway...what about the birds?

An early morning stroll around the Village proved surprisingly fruitful...and quite a relief to connect with some excellent woodland species...

However, my first sighting wasn't avain...

Red Squirrel
Jay, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Bullfinch, Great Spotted (tried hard to string a Middle) and Green Woodpecker. I also had great views of a Red Kite...


It was also great to see so many Swifts zooming around the village.

After breakfast we headed for Luz and the Col du Tourmalet (famous for the Tour de France). The weather was superb on the tops.

Typical birds seen here included...

Wheatear...



Water Pipit...




Black Redstart...


My main target for the day was to get decent views of SNOWFINCH. I'd seen them eons ago in their finest, when on a school ski trip in the Alps in the early 1990's! I missed them when we came in August 15 as they'd departed their breeding areas. I felt I had a good chance to connect today. What I didn't want was views around picnic tables or cafes, which they are inclined to frequent!

As always I had some information regarding best sites so I headed for the eastern car park at the CdT. I'd been reliably informed that the SF nested in the ski lift supports! After around 45 minutes I hadn't had a sighting. We had lunch and enjoyed the stupendous view...


...and one of the locals having a scratch...


Then I saw one in flight, showing the extensive white on the wings. Once it landed though...it vanished!?  I then noticed a drainage pipe...


I'd seen Black Redstart and Linnet drinking and bathing there, so I decided to see if the star turn would appear. Eventually, it did...


As you can see, a well camouflaged bird, very difficult to pick out against the terrain. It only stayed for a few seconds but this time I was on the ball and managed this pic.

A few Ravens and YB Choughs drifted over but no raptors? I then picked up another SF high on the grass bank...


Later in the afternoon I got my closest pic from the car...


Really pleasing to spend some quality time with this species. A good start.