Wednesday, 18 May 2016

A week in Majorca

If you want your life and year lists quickly boosted I recommend a week in Majorca in late April or early May. Not only do you get stunning birds but the temperatures are seriously warmer than they are in Ireland. We stayed for a week in Porte Pollensa within easy reach of the Bocquer Valley which we visited five times. We were a ten minute stroll from La Gola in the centre of the town and a 50 minute bus ride from S'Albufera which must be one of the most stunning reserves on the planet. We were also a ten minute bus ride from L'Albuferata and Can Curasso but due to family matters we failed to get there.

The Boquer Valley is a breeding area for birds and also a short cut for migrants, so anything can and does turn up there. We did a dawn chorus, a full walk from end to end and three evening walks in the lower part.The lower farmed part of the valley has a wide range of smaller birds while the more deserted upper reaches are good for raptors. All in all a pleasant way to spend an hour in the late evening.

Climbing up

Looking back to Porta Pollensa

Evening stroll

Northern end at the Med

Side of the valley - scan the ridges!!
Over the 5 visits we had an impressive list consisting of red kite, booted eagle, eleanora's falcon (life), yellow-legged gull, woodpigeon, hoopoe, crag martin, stonechat, blackbird, blue rock thrush, sardinian warbler, spotted flycatcher, pied flycatcher, willow warbler, balearic warbler (life),  goldcrest, great tit, woodchat shrike,  raven, house sparrow, serin, greenfinch, goldfinch, cirl bunting, corn bunting and linnet. 

We arranged for half a day at S'Albufera not realising how big it is. It would take a full day to do it justice and as there is a lot of walking hiring a couple of bikes would get you round quicker. We intended to get to San Bosc as well but had no chance once we realised how vast the place is. If you look at a map we only scratched the surface around the information centre. A massive thunderstorm forced us to sit in a hide for the best part of an hour so we lost a bit more time there as we had to close the shutters to keep the rain and hail out. Despite this we had an impressive list of 42 species. The highlights were two life ticks in marbled duck and red-knobbed coot, good views of purple swamphen and stone curlew which I have seen briefly before, and a long list of year ticks or birds I had not seen for a while: little bittern, cattle egret, purple heron, glossy ibis, marsh harrier, avocet, black-winged stilt, kentish plover, common sandpiper, hoopoe, nightingale singing, cetti's warbler, reed warbler, and raven. 
A lot wetter than it looks

Black-winged stilt

This one missed us
Purple swamphens
Little egret

Lonely purple swamphen
A fifth life tick was provided by Audouin's gulls which were seen every day on the beach at Porta Pollensa. that spent time crusing along looking for scraps left by tourists and were even seen fighting over an apple!

Audouin's gull
2016 list   
136 Audouin's gull  (L)                                152 Purple swamphen
137 Yellow-legged gull                                153 Avocet
138 Hoopoe                                                 154 Black-winged stilt
139 Sardinian warbler                                 155 Stone curlew
140 Spotted flycatcher                                156 Kentish plover
141 Pied flycatcher                                      157 Nightingale
142 Serin                                                      158 Cetti's warbler
143 Cirl bunting                                           159 Reed warbler
144 Woodchat shrike                                   160 Red kite
145 Corn bunting                                         161 Booted eagle
146 Marbled duck (L)                                  162 Eleanora's falcon (L)
147 Little bittern                                         163 Balearic warbler (L)
148 Cattle egret                                           164 Crag martin
149 Purple heron                                          165 Blue rock thrush
150 Glossy ibis
151 Red-knobbed coot (L)

The total for the week was 64 species which we can do in a day around Strangford, but given the family constraints we did pretty well, and it will be a long time before I manage 5 life ticks and 25 year ticks in Europe in a week!

Obviously no changes to the patch lists but the visit to Majorca put patch listing on the back burner for a week. Hopefully I will be out in the next day or two to add the odd tick - WOW tomorrow, then a visit to Bolton and then back to the NDCP..

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Should have waited

Should have waited until I had been to WOW today to update the blog as there is a whole new post as a result of 4 hours this morning. There was a good selection of birds as it was a high tide and the weather was good.  I managed 36 species and others added another 6 that I missed. Highlights included over 100 common terns, 6 arctic terns, 4 sandwich terns, 15 barwits, 12 knot, 12 dunlin, 2 redshank, 260+ blackwit, 2 common sandpiper, 1 whimbrel,  mediterranean gull, 6 swift, 1 ruff with white head feathers and a melanistic black headed gull. Several of the birds were over at the observation room and gave good views.There was one shoveler, two wigeon and no teal. The 40+ total was the result of lingering winter waders, passage waders, newly arrived migrants and resident breeders. There were at least another 2 or 3 residents not observed by anyone eg blackbird, dunnock and blue tit. I think 50 in a day is possible at this time of year.

Common sandpiper

and again

Melanistic black-headed gull
Colour ringed godwit

The godwit was ringed in February 2015 on the River Axe in Devon and was seen at WOW in April and May 2015. It was seen here in late April and again today. It is possible that this bird has been to Iceland and back  last summer. Has it wintered here, on the Axe or somewhere else ? Wherever it wintered it was missed until April 2016 when it appeared back here. Not just birding, engaged in scientific research and adding to the sum of human knowledge.

WOW patch list:    
74 Common sandpiper
75 Arctic tern
76 Swift
77 House martin
West Bangor patch list:
61 Swallow
62 House martin 
63 Swift

2016 list 
135 Arctic tern

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

.......and still they come!

Not a bad couple of weeks as spring migrants continue to appear in the skies above West Bangor and Belfast WOW. The terns were not there last week but have arrived this week. Interesting birds included two oil affected black-headed gulls, a vey mottled ruff and a dunlin. The ruff fooled me as I thought at first it was a spotted redshank, but Chris sorted that one out! The gulls were capable of flight and doing a lot of preening so it was feared that they may not survive. Seeing as we have over 1000 of them that seems ok, but they are amber listed so maybe not so good.

Mottled ruff

Posy dunlin

Oiled gull

I also had a pleasant walk along the Ulster Way from the Somme Centre to Helen's Bay - 6.5 miles,  and saw my first swift of the year as well as lots of pretty flowers. There were no stunning birds but lots of the expected species and masses of singing blackcaps and wrens.
Open beech forest


Lesser celandine

Wood sorrell?

WOW patch list:    
70 swallow
71 Iceland gull
72 Ringed plover
73 Common tern

West Bangor patch list:
61 Swallow
62 House martin

2016 list 
132 Ruff
133Iceland gull
134 Swift