Monday, 28 December 2015

Storks over my head

A late afternoon walk along the Roman Bridge under ladened skies produced a low flying Stork.

Marsh Harrier on my Mérida patch

Yesterday, I discovered a Marsh Harrier harrassing the local Black-headed Gulls and Coots whilst I stood on the Roman Bridge.
 Marsh Harrier - a probable 1st year female?
It was always just a little too distant for decent photography but I managed to rattle off a few record shots. This bird had clearly buffy forewings and head perhaps more what that a typical female would show.

It's not the first Marsh Harrier that I have seen from the bridge because I had one in mid-October this year when I was co-leading a tour at the time. No doubt they are regular visitors.
 Red Kite 
I also saw a couple Red Kite - a typical winter visiting raptor to the region.
Female Stonechat
Finally, couldn't resist snapping a Stonechat. They are such photogenic little birds!

Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas from Extremadura, Spain

 Purple Swamphen
 Common Kingfisher
 Eurasian Spoonbill
 Common Crane
Christmas moon

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Pied Wagtail in Mérida

Whilst birding from the Roman Bridge I came across a Pied Wagtail feeding around a floating island of debris vegetation.
Then two things struck me. The first I always thought that Pied Wagtails were predominantly found in the British Isles to be replaced in mainland Europe by White Wagtails. So to be confronted by a lone Pied in southern Spain was quite a surprise.
The key identifying feature is the black rump. White Wagtails have a grey rump. The thing that confused me was the rather pale grey mantle and the sharp demarcation between the black nape and grey mantle.

Some of my more learned colleagues have suggested that it may be a hybrid - a thought that also had crossed my mind.
Later however, I came across another Pied Wagtail on a lawn within the Roman Theatre ruins in the city. It looked like a blatant Pied to me - perhaps supporting the notion that they are very scarce winter visitors.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Bat Patch - Mérida, Extremadura

 The Roman Bridge at dawn (Russell F Spencer)
Every day I seem to be seeing additions to my growing Mérida list. But I wasn't expecting to see a bat hunting in broad daylight
 Probable Noctule Bat
It was flying around the top of a riparian tree chasing after insects with extreme agility. It had the body size of a House Martin with longer wings.
 Common Crane
Whilst marvelling at the bat a group of cranes flew over plus I caught a glimpse of rapidly passing Crag Martin.
 Red Kite
A couple of Red Kites decided to appear with one choosing to dive-bomb some nearby feral cats. One of the moggies pelted up a tree!
 Red Kite over Mérida
Iberian Grey Shrike
There was plenty of calling eminating from the trees with most of the sounds coming from the throats of the abundant Serins. Many of the males were in full display mode replete with their Greenfinch- like slow flappy display flight.

I also glanced at an Iberian Grey Shrike, a bird (the same bird?) that I noticed equally briefly last week.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Urban birding Mérida, Extremadura, Spain

  The view north from The Roman Bridge
For the next few weeks I have switched location from Wormwood Scrubs, West London to Mérida, the principle city of Extremadura, Spain. It's all about recharging batteries before wading back into the fray in 2016. So, seeing as I am staying in this ancient city why not study the birdlife to be found within its confines.
Male Stonechat
Currently, I have identified two potential local patches. The first is the environs around the Guadiana River that courses through the city and in particular, birding from the pedestrianised Roman bridge, literally 10 minutes walk from where I'm staying. Known simply as The Roman Bridge it straddles the Guadiana River in the heart of the city and at 790 metres, is the longest surviving Roman bridge in the world. 

The habitats along the banks of the river includes roadbeds, scrub and waterside woodland. Within the river are a couple of wooded islands that are good for roosting egrets and herons. I'm familiar with the Roman Bridge and some of the riverside habitat having had led tours in the area etc for the past six years.
Female Chaffinch
White Stork with Cormorants and Jackdaw on a pebble spit
White Stork
White Stork circling
The same White Stork being mobbed by Jackdaws
A pair of Purple Swamphen: the local speciality bird
The other place I identified as a place to watch over is an area of brownfield land just five minutes to the west of where I am based. I have only noticed Crested Larks and sparrows there but it would interesting to see what I find there over the next few weeks.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Serbia - The Final Countdown

Long-eared Owls congregated outside the church in Kikinda
What a fantastic trip to Northern Serbia!

Everyone on the tour had an amazing time so roll on next year!

In the meantime, here's the list of species that we saw and heard.

Pygmy Cormorant
Great Egret
Grey Heron
Mute Swan
White-fronted Goose
Greylag Goose
White-tailed Eagle
Marsh Harrier
Hen Harrier
Common Crane
Black-headed Gull
Caspian Gull
Feral Pigeon
Wood Pigeon
Collared Dove
Barn Owl
Long-eared Owl
Short-eared Owl
Little Owl
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Syrian Woodpecker
Crested Lark
Meadow Pipit
White Wagtail
Black Redstart
Great Tit
Blue Tit
((Coal Tit))
Long-tailed Tit
Short-toed Treecreeper
Great Grey Shrike
Hooded Crow
House Sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Reed Bunting
Corn Bunting

67 species



Wild Cat - 2 seen separately but in the same general area. One was an immature female the other an adult male.
Roe Deer 

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Serbia Winter Owl Tour 2015 Day 3

 Yet more owls today watched by a very appreciative group.

 We also saw another Wild Cat, this time an adult male.
 Plus at sunset we watched nearly 20,000 Common Crane and c15,000 White-fronted Goose come to roost. What a sight!

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Serbia Winter Owl Tour 2015 - Day 2

Today was a largely grey day with a few spots of rain but that did nothing to dampen spirits. Along with a showy Great Grey Shrike we saw Great Egret, Pygmy Cormorant, Short-toed Treecreeper, Hen and Marsh  Harriers, White-tailed Eagle plus the obligatory Long-eared Owls.

Short-eared Owl
We also got lucky finding three Short-eared Owls amongst a LEO roost. They were readily identifiable by their larger size, longer narrower wings and by their habit of spiralling upwards before returning to their perch. LEO's when disturbed tend to fly low and direct into a nearby tree.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Serbia Winter Owl Tour 2015 - Day 1

My long awaited Serbia Winter Owl Trip is underway and day one was absolutely awesome. Today was spent in the Rusanda area as well as the owl capital of the world - Kikinda. 

Of course, Long-eared Owls were the order of the day!

 However, by far the biggest surprise of the day was a young female Wild Cat seen by chance along the roadside on the way to Kikinda. It was hiding in a ditch trying to conceal itself from a shepherd and his dogs that were a mere hundred yards away in the next field.

I managed to grab a couple of shots before it slunk away. It was my first ever Wild Cat and totally unexpected!
 Wild Cat

 The group with Milan Ružić, my guide (2nd on left)
Here's to more owls tomorrow!