Friday, 31 July 2015

Too busy!

Just a quick one to apologies for the lack of posts. A combination of poor internet access and charging around I'm afraid...

Got to go...

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Snowy Plover

Managed to re-find this S.E.Arizona rarity at Lake Cochise, Willcox this afternoon. Spent a VERY enjoyable 3 hours honing my American wader ID. Superb!

Also seen...
American Avocet
Black-necked Stilt
Long-billed Dowitcher
Spotted Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Long-billed Curlew
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Baird's Sandpiper
Long-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Phalarope

Not forgetting this wonderful Eastern Meadowlark...

Friday, 24 July 2015


I've been to all three major areas now as I approach half-time! I've met some very interesting and friendly usual over here.

The Birding, scenery and sunsets are stunning. I'm deep in planning mode at the moment but I'll try and post a few pics soon. The tales will have to wait I'm afraid. Got to go...Birding!

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Striking the balance?

Time for a breather!

Internet issues and another long day yesterday in the Chiricahua Mountains at the eastern end of the area, close to the New Mexico border meant posting was not possible. As I'm sure you can understand the priority is to be "out there" rather than in here!

To do my BIG DAY justice I've decided to save that particular yarn until I return. I like surprises. The trip so far as exceeded my expectations...and that's not easy to do! Some wonderful birds seen, interesting mammals and fantastic scenery. The high plains here are 4,000ft plus!! The sunsets are breathtaking.

Birds...I've had great views of some of the rare hummingbirds including Violet-crowned at the Paton's feeders in Patagonia...

 and Blue-throated at the Southwestern research Station in the Chiricahuas...

Pleased to have picked this out in the bushes.

Still on a high after Sunday. Down Mexico way today...

Monday, 20 July 2015

A day out in S.E.Arizona

Just woke up after my 19 hour day with Richard.

I'd thought long and hard over the past few weeks as to whether or not to hire a guide for my target birds? Yesterday certainly confirmed I'd made the right decision!!!

Re-visiting many spots after 10 years was magical, especially California Gulch. I intend to do a comprehensive write up of this memorable day...but NOT now! A Slooooooooooooow day will be had today. It's Louise's day

It was certainly a day to remember. Hope you'll enjoy reading about it?

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Plain-capped Starthroat - YES!

I've learnt to my cost over the years NOT to delay when trying for key birds so first stop this morning was Santa Rita lodge feeders to try for the PCS.

The weather obviously hadn't heard of my plans as the heavens opened just as we arrived at the feeders. An extremely pleasant lady in the gift shop made us some coffee as we waited for things to improve. During our chat she said the "star" bird often came to the feeder right outside the shop window. She had only just finished her sentence when there it was, albeit briefly, not 12 feet away!!

ABA 669

Note: Bubo shows 668. This is because they haven't added Hawaiian Petrel yet which is countable.

Despite waiting another couple of hours I didn't see it again and therefore didn't manage a photo. I will return. In between showers we did manage to see some great stuff coming to the various feeders.

White-winged Dove
Arizona Woodpecker
Black-headed Grosbeak
Magnificent Hummingbird
Broad-billed Hummingbird
Things to do after lunch to prepare for tomorrow's BIG day with Richard. The weather didn't improve but I had an enjoyable hour on the approach road to Madera late afternoon. The overcast conditions made rooting around the Cacti surprisingly pleasant. I was hoping for a Gambel's Quail...I got lucky...

I also puzzled over a few Sparrows? I need more practice!

Dawn till dusk tomorrow so no post. I'll hopefully have good news regarding "the Flycatcher" and my "night birds" to report on Monday. Wish me luck...

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Great start!

We found Encato Park easily after leaving our Airport Best Western. It only took 20 minutes. We pulled up in the main car park and I sorted my gear out. I could hear "the Lovebirds" as soon as I opened the car door!

After a short scan I picked one out...

Rosy-faced Lovebird (ABA 669)

It was already getting toasty but I was chuffed to grab this image of the bird against the dark background. Introduced I know BUT...countable...and cute!

I tolerated around 30 minutes more before the temperature said it was time to leave!

A few more...

They spent a lot of time hidden in the trees...but I found these two watching me...

The rest of the day was spent making our way south towards Green Valley, our base for the holiday. We stopped off on the way at the amazing Saguaro National Park home to the largest Cactus in America.

That's not a Cactus...THIS is a Cactus!!!

A truly unique experience as we drove the loop through these giants. I even managed to get a pic of classic desert bird in the form of a Cactus Wren Took a few snaps before diving back to the a/c!

It popped up on top of this Saguaro...which was fitting...

Pic came out well from that distance in the heat...

As we approached Tucson a Roadrunner...ran across the road! Louise pulled over , the bird was in view and power! Gutted. By the time I'd changed batteries it had moved on. All I got was this...

Honesty is the best policy!

More tomorrow hopefully...

Friday, 17 July 2015

Safe landing!

Arrived safe and sound after a terrific flight on a Jumbo from Heathrow.

First target this morning (8 hour time difference) being the Rosy-faced Lovebird in downtown Phoenix, an introduced but now self-sustaining addition to the ABA list. Shouldn't be too difficult to find?

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

And we're OFF!

Working tomorrow then over to Mother's for a kip before flying to Phoenix on Thursday lunchtime for EIGHTEEN marvelous days in S.E.Arizona's birding Mecca. I remember the long dark winter. THIS is what got me through it!

I've hired a guide for a day on Sunday to help with my main targets...


I don't normally do this as I like to "find 'em myself". On this occasion though I feel I need some local expertise in the form of Richard Fray...a Brit! I feel it will be money well spent as you can see from his website which is packed with great information.

As already mentioned I dipped on the first three in 2005 so I have unfinished business. Richard can hopefully pinpoint these birds for me and stop me getting lost or even worse stuck on one of the many dodgy roads! California Gulch where the Nightjar is located is a nightmare spot unless your familiar with it.

I love this area with it's three distinct "Sky Island" mountain ranges. Giving much needed respite from the desert heat. They are teaming with great birds and the start of the rains in the form of afternoon thunderstorms kicks a lot of them off singing again... a second Spring!

Anyway, enough for now, I've got some packing to do. I hope to post trip highlights at fairly regular intervals. So...stay tuned!

Sunday, 12 July 2015


The second morning started early with a return visit to the Garbadito refuge. The boss was left to have a leisurely morning...minus flies! On the way I stopped to look for the Red-backed Shrike, it wasn't present but I found a nice Cirl Bunting...

...and a Mistle Thrush!

I took the path and found the "cliff with the cleft". I was in where were the WALLCREEPERS?

Red-billed Choughs played on the cliff face. Black Redstarts hopped around the scree. No sign in 2 hours. Then there it was distant but distinctive. I only got one ten second view but a view I got. It was always going to be a tough challenge to get a decent pic...I failed. At least I'd seen one.

After picking her up I decided to try the Candanchu Ski resort north of Jaca. I'd have preferred to go to Riglos for Black Wheatear, Rock Thrush etc but the Sunday crowds would have been a nightmare so we headed for the cooler tops (it was 38c).

The hoped for specials never materialised but it was a beautiful spot (one of many). I thought i might have seen some flocks of Alpine Chough but no. The Ski Lifts open in July apparently so we were just to early. We were pretty high though!

A fine male Serin was in full song...

Returning to our place we were treated to an amazing show of raptors in the lower Hecho Valley. At least 30 Red Kites,10 Black Kites and 2 Booted Eagles and a Buzzard...

Not bad!

After all the "fun" in Barcelona I had a specific plan for our last day (Monday). Focus on one site, give it time and relax! The site I'd chosen was a good drive from our place. We left at 9 and arrived in the area around 11. The village I'd chosen was called Revilla. I'd gone for it rather than the better known Escuian simply because of eBird which showed greater numbers of this bird at the former.

When we reached Revilla (which was difficult to say the least) we parked next to the information board which unfortunately informed us it was another 45 minute walk to the viewpoint! None of the info' I'd looked at had mentioned this. It was nearly midday now and the temp was touching 40c!! This course of action was not an option. It was also VERY disappointing after nearly 3 hours.

What to do?

Try Escuain! Trouble was it was on the other side of an enormous gorge. Still, nothing else for it and off we went again. Worth mentioning here how understanding Louise is, putting up with these logistical hiccups!

It took us a good hour to work our way round to Escuian. Again, information about the site was limited, so I wasn't sure about the layout of the site. We parked our car by a stream and had lunch. Escuain basically consisted of around half a dozen old derelict buildings BUT luckily one seemed to have been renovated? It turned out to be a Visitor Centre for the bird I was hoping to see!

I went in and there was a lady in obvious ranger uniform. Looked promising, except she couldn't speak English! I know someone who can though. After a few minutes it became clear that the bird was fed on Tuesday's and Friday's and the feeding station was 90 minutes walk!! It was turning out to be a great day? She also told us there was a short circular walk from the building. This didn't raise my hopes as I'd taken many a short circular walk from visitors centres in the past. Generally they're a waste of time, especially in this heat. Still, it's the only shot I had so I left Louise under the trees with the stray cats to read and set off.

I hadn't gone 20 yards when I heard a very high pitched call...I just managed to grab a record shot before it flew off...

Citril Finch
You can make out the grey neck and yellow/green forehead. Things were looking up...maybe? The path took me through some trees which gave merciful shade but didn't give much hope of a sighting! I then noticed a sign saying Mirador (viewpoint). One of the few Spanish words I know! This was what I saw...

The relief was tangible. At least I had a shot. There turned out to be 3 different viewpoints all relatively close together. Louise joined me and I shuttled between the vantage points. I soon picked up some Griffon's...

I reckon there were at least 50 birds in the Gorge. I then picked up a pair of Egyptian Vultures...I just managed to catch one as it sped across...

Great birds but I'd seen them previously. They weren't what I was hoping to see. I'd had a couple of distant sightings of my target in the Upper Hecho Valley but I was hoping for better views. last, there it was.


First, very high...

A very distinctive jizz. A huge bird. The wings being narrow, pointed and more parallel than Griffon with a long wedge shaped tail. It then thankfully descended into the Gorge...

It was as hot as anytime during our visit and it did affect the pictures. I'm reasonably pleased with what I managed to get however.

I was treated to a magical 15 minutes with a world class species. Just one...but one was enough. Again no apologies for posting a series of images...

You can see the beard on this one...

Back into the Gorge...

...and finally right over my head!

This made all the effort worthwhile. A brilliant encounter with a magnificent bird. The trip hadn't gone to plan...but it was better than being at work!

I would definitely visit the Pyrenees again. It's a beautiful area. Maybe the French side again next time?

Thursday, 9 July 2015

PYRENEES - a review (1)

I wanted to try and post a review before we leave for Arizona. I also want to say that I hope you don't think I'm being flash with two trips in a few weeks. This trip was arranged last minute to celebrate receiving compensation for my hip operation. Richly deserved, even if I say so myself!

Anyway...the Pyrenees. I'd visited the French side in the 90's when my lads were young. We stayed at Luz-Saint-Sauveur with Eurocamp. I had a tremendous slice of luck as a fellow Birder had left detailed directions from the Port de Boucharo to a family of Wallcreepers!! I had amazing views of 5 birds feeding on a scree slope. I also saw 7 Alpine Accentors by the car park plus 2 Snowfinch. A fabulous day!

I toyed with the idea of re-visiting this site but decided another 4 hour journey was just not fair to Louise. Besides I wanted to see birds in Spain on this trip.

Our first couple of days in Barcelona were frankly disastrous. We arrived on Thursday lunchtime as planned and picked up our hire car. Next stop...our Best Western Motel handily named the aeropuerto. Could we find it? NO is the answer. I had even printed Google maps. It was situated in the middle of a large industrial area and it took us over 2 hours to eventually find it. It was only 2 miles from the airport!!

Friday morning we drove into Barcelona with the intention of taking the sightseeing bus. Unfortunately we had a problem with the car which wasted more hours. It was also 40+C which didn't help.

We decided Barcelona didn't like us and when we received our new rental...we headed for the hills!

Saturday morning started with a walk from the Garbadito refuge in search of Wallcreeper. This site is generally recognised as the best site for this species in the Pyrenees. It's also one of the best spots for flies...which didn't go down too well with Louise. We decided to abandon ship on this one, although the first bird I saw as we left the car was this fine (over-exposed) Red-backed Shrike...

The very bright light was a mixed blessing throughout the trip.

The afternoon was spent further up the Hecho Valley and included some time at the Boca del Infierno. No Wallcreeper, despite extensive searching but some amazing scenery!

Magnificent Griffon Vultures were regularly seen. Both in the air...

...and at rest...

Love seeing them from above...

Then I had what was definitely my best moment so far. Not difficult actually as the first half of the trip had been...well...quiet.

We'd driven south down the Hecho Valley and turned west at Hecho with the intention of making our way up to the border to search for high altitude species. After an hour of winding roads I decided to abandon yet another plan and head south down the A1602. We'd driven around 20 minutes down this road when we saw a large lay by. We decided to stop for lunch. It turned out to be a major gorge called the Fosez de Fago with spectacular scenery. There were interpretation boards with plenty of info'...some in English.

After we'd eaten I left Louise to read her novel and had a wonder down the (thankfully) shaded road. Plenty of Griffon's in evidence. I wondered if there might be something else?

There was! I'd just walked through a small, cool tunnel when I noticed a large shadow on the road. I looked out over the gorge and saw this beauty...

Egyptian Vulture
It was a major boost to see this bird as I'd not seen any target birds (Griffon's are fabulous but easily seen) so far and I was getting withdrawal symptoms. This bird certainly made up for this. I watched it circling the Gorge for a good 15 minutes. Magic!

A couple more...

My best ever views by far of this species. Well pleased.

Part 2 Sunday.

Monday, 6 July 2015

The BIG trip is looming - SOUTH EAST ARIZONA

We leave on the 16th for 17 days.

After a crazy Spring (that's the last time I'll say that) I've been left VERY short of planning time. No matter. This trip is all about relaxation and enjoyment. I do have some target birds (surprise , surprise) and I do intend to try hard to add these birds to my ABA list in my quest for 700.

RED CROSSBILL - my nemesis

I will also chase new birds that turn up within this time window BUT it will be done reasonably leisurely? Last time I went

I also intend to post highlights on here from time to time to give a flavour of the birds of the region. It really is a top area for birds.

A few more thoughts on the LITTLE BITTERN saga. Reflecting on the twists and turns of the last few days it occurred to me how important these remaining gems are as I advance in years. Trying to connect with this very elusive bird which was a good 2 hours away and fit in the necessaries was a BIG challenge. There are so many variables and it's not for the faint hearted. Good fun though and ultimately VERY satisfying.

Missing birds whilst out of the country is disappointing but obviously unavoidable...unless of course I stay here all year...which isn't going to happen. I'm increasing my chances these days by not going abroad during April/May and September /October. I did so in the past because the birding in the States is sensational during the migration periods.

However I've decided to prioritise my British/Yorkshire lists as much as possible with this strategy. I still feel I can add to my ABA total by visiting the States during other months as I'm doing next week.

Better start fine tuning the plan...

Saturday, 4 July 2015

LITTLE BITTERN - Third time lucky

FINALLY added LITTLE BITTERN to my County list this morning. I arrived for my third attempt at 4.45am. The gates were still locked. I was second on the grid with a lengthening queue behind me. A young lady duly arrived on time at 5 to let us in with a smile.

It was obviously important to get a seat in the hide, especially as I'd driven through torrential rain to get here. I took up a now familiar pose in the hide and we waited...and waited...and waited. More potential admirers were arriving all the time and the hide was busting at the seams by 5.30.

Then just after 6 the cry went out. "There it is flying right!" Now...most sightings had come from the area between the Reedbed Hide and screen, so that's were I initially looked. I couldn't pick it up. Another cry..."It's going past the wind pump" Where's that?

"It's going down now"

Oh dear...yours truly had missed it! The only thing worse than dipping is not seeing it when it shows.

Many smiles and congratulations throughout the hide. Unfortunately I couldn't share the joy.

A real sickener.

At least I now knew the area where it had landed (he said optimistically).

Then at 6.30...I got it! It took off again and flew left back in the direction it came from and landed in a bush for all to see...

A record dot!
Lets just call it a "realistic view"

The bird was obviously distant but the flight views were good. Later in the morning my pal Haydn had better views as it flew to the reeds in front of the "Bus Stop" viewing area. I was very satisfied with my views...considering!!!

A MASSIVE Yorkshire tick.

This Spring has been crazy for "good birds", both locally and nationally in what has been a poor Spring for migrants? Maybe that's why!

Called at Beacon Ponds on the way home for a peep (sorry) at the White-rumped Sand' (P.113, S.90) through Adam Hutt's scope. Cheers pal.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Catch up

Landed back at Holmpton at midnight Tuesday after a whirlwind mini-break to Northern Spain. It's going to take some time to do a write up but I intend to post the highlights asap. Barcelona didn't work out to well to be honest BUT the Pyrenees were just fabulous...despite the unusually hot (even for Spain) temperatures. The scenery, never mind the birds, was simply sensational. Much greener than I anticipated with the south facing slopes.

Enough for now.

LITTLE BITTERN at Old Moor concentrating the thoughts at the moment. A BIG Yorkshire tick! I tried for 3 hours last night after work but no luck. Couldn't make it this morning with an early shift and wimped out tonight. It showed at 7.05 in flight but I wouldn't have made it. I'm going to have a go in the morning...