Thursday 30 May 2013

Mediterranean Gull

Is there a finer sight than an adult Mediterranean Gull against a rich blue sky with bright sunlight glowing through its primary tips? This was one of two vocal birds that flew over me in Norfolk at the weekend.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Barn Owl

This Barn Owl comes and sits in my father's Norfolk garden most mornings and evenings. It's pretty wary for really good shots and tends to turn up when the light is going, but I was still reasonably happy with the above.

Monday 20 May 2013

Dusky Thrush in Kent

The Dusky Thrush at Margate - a similar pose to the first image I saw on opening Steve Tomlinson's email!

Despite a call on the BirdGuides hotline from Kent birder Steve Tomlinson at around 22:00 on Friday evening describing a strange thrush that he'd seen in Margate cemetery, I must admit that I still had a bit of a shock when he emailed over a bunch of shots apparently depicting female Dusky Thrush - what was worse that it had apparently been present since Wednesday! Following a couple of follow-up phone calls (including to Will at RBA), we decided to run with the news at around 23:00 and the rest is history.

Needless to say, the bird was still present the next morning although I was again working on the news. Alan T kindly agreed to take over at 12:30 and I met Kit Day shortly after at the utterly offensive Lakeside Retail Park in Thurrock. Ninety minutes later, we were watching the thrush and, although it was pretty elusive at times, it eventually showed well late afternoon as the crowds dispersed.

There's been quite a bit of discussion about the purity of this bird, though it's really hard to find any sort of quality literature and photographs of Dusky Thrushes in general (let alone second calendar-year females), but this one has quite a bit of rufous in the flanks while this one is a dead ringer for the Kent bird. The plot is thickened by the fact that at least one Chinese birder seems to think it is an integrade - not with Naumann's, but perhaps with Black-throated Thrush! Must admit I never realised these Asian thrushes couldn't keep the the snake in the basket, so to speak.

Friday 17 May 2013

Brown Bears in Abruzzo

After drawing a blank during the pleasant weather conditions of the Saturday, we eventually scored distant views of three Marsican Brown Bears (female and cub and addition singleton) in the rain early on the Sunday of our Italy trip over the Bank Holiday. The bears were on show more or less constantly for the 45 minutes we watched them up to 07:00. Brilliant!

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Pekin at introduced Robins in Tuscany

The Red-billed Leiothrix (or Pekin Robin to aviculturists) is something you'd normally expect to see on the Indian Subcontinent but, thanks to a helping hand from man, this stunning species has colonized a handful of spots in Spain, France and Italy where it is eagerly sought by tick-hungry Western Palearctic birders such as myself. Here are a few shots of some of the several Leiothrix we saw along the River Serchio near Lucca, Tuscany on Sunday 5th May:

Cat C species aren't to everyone's taste, and some of the targets on our Italian trip (Northern Bobwhite, Sacred Ibis and Vinous-throated Parrotbill) will certainly raise a few eyebrows among those who like their wildlife a little more 'natural'. We only had shit views of the bobwhites and the ibises were admittedly rather unpleasant, but the parrotbills were pretty characterful!

Believe it or not, we did see some real birds too (not photographed; too wary!) that included several Rock Partridges plus nice Med stuff like Collared Flycatchers, Red-backed Shrikes, Wrynecks, Golden Orioles and so on - I hope to produce a full trip report in the coming days/weeks which will detail all the sites you need to fill your boots with non-native goodness.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Israel Trip Report, March 2013

Below is a copy of my Israel trip report for March 2013. As with my Moroccan article, you can read, download or share the document at your will. Hope it comes in handy!

Wednesday 1 May 2013

Eastern Subalpine Warbler, Suffolk

I've had a busy weekend, moving house over both days and playing cricket with James' team on Sunday afternoon (63 runs in my first innings for five years). Photos emerged of a Subalpine Warbler at Landguard on Friday evening that clearly depicted it to be of the Eastern race (albistriata) - not a split but a new form for me in the UK. Surprise news after a clear night saw the bird still there on the Saturday morning and so I sneaked away from packing/unpacking boxes in time to arrive in Felixstowe early evening. Enjoyed great views to just a few metres (bird often too close to focus on with my 400mm) with Marc, Kev et al over the following hour or so; what a stunning creature - a nice adult by the looks of things. The bird was restless and I never really managed the glorious shots I had envisaged taking as I made my way to the site, but some decent results nevertheless.

Even managed to get home at a reasonable hour to get on with further packing before retiring to bed. Off to Italy this weekend coming, hoping for some Brown Bear/Rock Partridge/Cat C action. Hopefully have some decent shots to post...