Sunday, 25 January 2015

More from Poole

Here's a few more images from Poole, Dorset.
 Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-headed & Mediterranean Gulls et al
Paul Morton (Sound Approach) & TUB

A Rich Poole

Spent a fantastic day last Friday in and around Poole Harbour, Dorset in the company of Paul Morton of the Sound Approach 

The idea was for me to attend a boat trip into the harbour with a bunch of local school kids before being shown the delights of urban Poole for a forthcoming Bird Watching Magazine article. The harbour in the morning was totally mesmerising. It was freezing but the light was amazing and the waters like a mill pond.
 The harbour in the am
 A passing Shag
 An Adult Shag
 A younger bird
On dry land there were a host of interesting species many of which were quite approachable. The urban Spoonbill was particularly surprising.
 Mute Swan
 Spotted Redshank
 Spotted Redshank taking a swim
 A ridiculously close Spoonbill
 Little Egret
Grazing Brent Geese

Friday, 9 January 2015

The Urban Birding Challenge

 TUB & Doug Gochfeld - one of the founders of UBC

There's a great new challenge being put to the world's cities. It's one that got me really excited the moment it came to my attention. The brainchild of my American urban birding buddy Doug Gochfeld and some of his friends, The Urban Birding Challenge is all about getting cities around the world to compete against each other in a Big Year to see as many species as possible.

At least a dozen cities have already signed up for it including New York (Doug's stomping ground), Lima, Toronto and Miami. There are loads more cities on the verge of involvement including the likes of Jerusalem, Singapore, Paris and Beijing. All records of birds will be fed into eBird, the online checklist program who will monitor the grand totals. If cities don't input their lists on eBird then they won't be counted. It's as simple as that. Of course, there needs to be a level playing field. London for example, will not be able to live with Beijing or Nairobi in a straight head-to-head. So, there will be a handicap system put in place that will take into consideration the particular city's official bird list total.

What I love about The Urban Birding Challenge is the fact that it is so easy to get involved. You just go birding and record your list on eBird. Of course, once things start heating up I'm sure that people will be going out as often as possible urban birding to get their city up in the stakes.

I am registered as a supporter and taking the lead with London but if you would like to involve your city simply register your interest at

It's really easy to get involved, you don't need to be an expert and it will be great fun. Plus, The Urban Birding Challenge will be a great way to promote urban birding!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

A bit more from Extremadura

A few more of the birds I've seen during my short break in Extremadura.
 Female Stonechat
 Male Sardinian Warbler
 Black Vulture
 Meadow Pipit
Male Spanish Sparrow

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year from Extremadura, Spain!

I'm hanging out in Extremadura for the first couple of days of the New Year for a bit of rest, relaxation, birding, writing and plotting.

I'd like to wish everyone a peaceful and prosperous 2015 filled with love and lots of urban birds!
 Crested Lark in the forecourt of a petrol station near Merida
 A bunch of Griffons with a solitary Black Vulture
 Female Blackcap
 Male Blackcap
 Zitting Cisticola
Male House Sparrow

Friday, 26 December 2014

Last day at The Scrubs - for this year!

The Scrubs: looking south at The Scrubs
I have to say that 2014 has been a pretty abysmal ornithological year down at The Scrubs. Well, a bit of a lie because we've recorded a couple of great birds with Wryneck and Hawfinch heading the list, plus I glimpsed a possible Waxwing dashing south over the prison this morning. Lists have been a bit of a major problem this year. I've already mentioned it but I'll mention it again - we have very few observers out in our urban field trying to find stuff.

Yesterday, I managed to score our very first Snipe for the year. This bird materialised seconds after I was publicly lamenting the absence of this characterful wader. Another case of The Force in action. If only I was asking for a flock of Sociable Plovers!

This morning I pulled some Lapwing out of the bag to make it 83 for the year - our smallest annual total in 11 years. I also noted some interesting behavior between a male Great Spotted Woodpecker and a few Rose-ringed Parakeets that were unfortunate enough to be sharing the same tree as him. I watched as the woodpecker made repeated physical attacks against parakeets that came too close, chasing them clean out of the tree. He would return again to the branch from whence he came, tap it a few times before launching yet another attack against another hapless parakeet. Despite possessing a formidable looking beak, the parakeets turned tail and seriously scarpered.
Our 1st Lawings of the year
I titled this blog 'the last' because as from Sunday I will be seeing out 2014 from the hopefully sunnier and warmer climes of Southern Spain.

Watch this space!

Friday, 19 December 2014

Birding the Tagus and the Alentejo

Portugal is one of my favourite birding destinations and for European urban birding, Lisbon takes some beating. Over the four days of my Lisbon Tourism sponsored trip I spent the time birding the delights of the expansive Tagus Estuary and the wonderful Alentejo Region which spans the landscape between Lisbon to the north and the Algarve to the south.
 Views around the Tagus
 My guide was my old friend Joao Jara and I was also in the company of nature writer and dragoneer (dragonfly enthusiast) David Chandler. As well as exploring the Tagus we also spend a brief day taking a look at the varied habitats in the Alentejo from the gently cork oak wooded hills to the expensive steppes of Castro Verde.
 Black-winged Kite
 Little Owl
Despite the lack of sunshine and occasional spot of rain we saw a load of good birds including a very obliging female Merlin in the Tagus.
 A male Hen Harrier against the backdrop of suburban Lisbon
By far my favourite area for birding was the Tagus. Despite its close proximity to the city it was absolutely stuffed with birds and is a very important wintering/refueling area. In excess of 5,000 flamingos and 7,000 Teal share this food rich habitat with many thousands of waders and other waterbirds.

This is truly a fantastic urban birding venue.

Lisbon & the Alentejo Region 11-14 December 2014

Cattle Egret
Little Egret
Great Egret
Grey Heron
White Stork – Seems that quite a few overwintered. Some already standing on their nests.
Glossy Ibis – c2,000 on the Tagus.
Greater Flamingo – c1,500 on the Tagus.
Teal - At least 7,000 in theTagus.
Garganey – 4 separate birds found (2 males & 2 females) amongst 5,000 Teal in the Tagus.
Osprey – a couple seen carrying fish in the Tagus.
Iberian Imperial Eagle – c5 seen in Castro Verde.
Booted Eagle – 1 briefly in the Alentejo.
Bonelli’s Eagle – 1 1st calendar year bird watched in the open sitting in a tree in the Tagus.
Red Kite
Marsh Harrier
Hen Harrier 
Black-winged Kite
Merlin - A couple seen.
Red-legged Partridge
Purple Swamphen - A couple seen in the Tagus.
Common Crane
Great Bustard
Little Bustard
Black-winged Stilt
Ringed Plover
Kentish Plover
Grey Plover
Golden Plover
Little Stint
Green Sandpiper
Common Sandpiper
Spotted Redshank
Black-tailed Godwit
Bar-tailed Godwit
Black-headed Gull
Mediterranean Gull
Yellow-legged Gull
Great Black-back
Lesser Black-back
Black-bellied Sandgrouse - c50 all told.
Feral Pigeon
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Short-eared Owl - 9 together in the Tagus.
Little Owl
Great Spotted Woodpecker (heard)
Crested Lark
Thekla Lark - a coupled noted near Mertola, Alentejo.
Calandra Lark
Crag Martin
Meadow Pipit
White Wagtail
Black Redstart
Song Thrush
Sardinian Warbler
Zitting Cisticola
Cetti’s Warbler (heard)
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Blue Tit
Iberian Grey Shrike
Azure-winged Magpie
Jackdaw - only 1 noticed in the Alentajo.
Carrion Crow
Common Starling
Spotless Starling
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Reed Bunting
Corn Bunting

110 species