Saturday, September 29, 2012

Norfolk & Cambs

28th and 29th spent in Norfolk, seeing my friend Sacha and not so many birds.

I did Burhman Overy Dunes on 28th, avoiding the twitchers looking for the Booted Warbler (which had gone) and the Barred Warbler (which was present but was hiding as I passed). Things I did see included one very active Redstart, one Whitethroat, one Garden Warbler,  three Chiffchaffs and a Hobby.  It was hard to dig anything out in the strong breeze - birds were keeping low in the patches of scrub and it took a lot of sitting, waiting and pishing to see what I did.

The 29th was spent flogging Blakeney Point, Sacha's local patch, to seek out any migrants.  We did pretty poorly with 1-2 Wheatears, two Stonechats,  two Song Thrushes and a Garden Warbler. Best was a group of four Spoonbills that went east down the Point early AM.

Good numbers of Pink-footed Geese seen on both days, moving along the coast, and I wonder about the origin of a party of four Barnacle Geese that I saw at Burnham.

Northern Wheatear, Blakeney Pt
My last bit of UK birding on 30th was spent at Fen Drayton RSPB in Cambridgeshire, which seemed to have more warblers than the coast!

Long-tailed Tit, Fen Drayton RSPB

Chiffchaff, Fen Drayton RSPB

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

25th Sept - a "Sibe" in Suffolk!

Went out this morning and things much more promising than yesterday.  I did Minsmere Sluice Bushes and scrapes from 6.15-8.15am. First notable bird was a juv Hobby that headed  north over the reserve as I made my way past South Hide. I also saw it again about 40 minutes later when it flew over East Scrape and put up a few birds, including the Pectoral Sandpiper, which I managed to get a record shot of (see below).


I checked the Public Hide where I failed to relocate the Pec but saw a few waders including a single Red Knot.  As I walked southwards along the beach to the Sluice I had several groups of Barn Swallows heading south, as well as about ten Song Thrushes which were obviously migrants.

The Sluice Bushes looked promising, with early morning sun and a few sheltered areas. Within five minutes I had located a Lesser Whitethroat at the north end of the bushes, whilst about 200 meters further south I entered the bushes and had brief views of a crest spp, and whilst trying to relocate it I glimpsed what I was 99% sure was a Yellow-browed Warbler - which immediately disappeared!  I could not relocate it despite some serious pishing (I momentarily considered playing Collared Owlet to trying and pull it in!!!). I returned to the north end of the Sluice Bushes as I had to leave, but saw the Lesser Whitethroat again and found that it had been joined by an Acro.  Whilst trying to photograph the Acro the Yellow-browed Warbler popped up and called then dived for cover, however it showed a couple more times in response to my pishing, and a female Blackcap showed briefly as well.

Nice to get a Yellow-browed - the first ones should be turning up at home in Bangkok about now!

Reed Warbler

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

24th Sept - Minsmere

Visiting Minsmere and surrounds with my mum for a couple of days, so snuck out pre-breakfast for some migrant action at the Sluice Bushes. After a night of strong ESE wind and rain, with mist forecast for dawn my expectations were rather high.  The Sluice Bushes however were totally devoid of birds  during the time I was there (until 7.30am), perhaps I was just too early?  The biggest interest came in the shape of a lone wader I picked up coming in-off in the company of a small group of Teal
it was a bit smaller than Teal but not much. From below there was obvious demarcation between brown chest and white belly. Upper parts had not obviously strong wing bar. The bird eventually peeled off from the duck and decked, I went to East hide but all I could find was a distant wader (no scope, and only 7x binos)  with apparently orangey legs, so made the assumption it was my bird and it was a ruff...but...I went back a bit later once the light improved and found that my "ruff" was in fact a Redshank, so I actually never saw the original bird on the deck.

I think it was a Pec (there has been one around Minsmere for a while) but can't claim it on those views :o(

Later in the day visited Minsmere again with my mum.  Got to North Hide as an extensive pulse of rain filtered in  on a strong ESE wind. We sat it out for a while, with a few hirundines  providing the only interest, and lots of duck.  Eventually we made a dash for the reserve HQ and hid inside munching chocolate cake and spending lots of money on things I would never buy unless the profit went to conservation.  The rain got heavier, and with not much else to do we drove to Sizewell, Thorpeness and Aldeburgh (for me to case these areas out as I'm not very familiar with Suffolk birding sites). The only birds of note where a large flock of hirundines over a lake in Thorpeness which I grilled before they climbed high and disappeared southwards, but I also picked up a group of about ten Brent Geese heading north off shore at Aldburgh.  The rain cleared and the wind switched SW.  I started getting SMS messages from Sacha in Norfolk saying that a fall was taking place in Norfolk. Let's see if there is anything to come from the switching conditions tomorrow morning in Suffolk... 

Sunday 23rd Sept - Rainham

Arrived in UK Saturday, went to James and Sharons place for immensely enjoyable dinner and bottle of vino, got up pre-dawn Sunday and dipped Baillon's Crake at Rainham RSPB (what a fab reserve!).  Did see a few birds there including Lesser Whitethroat and a few Blackcaps, Reed and Sedge Warbler,  several Yellow-legged Gulls and a group of seven Yellow Wags.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Goreme, day 3

Excellent morning's birding in "Pigeon Valley" with lots and lots of migrant passerines seen including at least 30 Spotted Flycatchers, 50 Blackcaps, 30 Common Redstarts, five Garden Warblers, two Red-backed Shrikes and singles of Icterine Warbler, Common Nightingale, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat.

Other notables seen included five Syrian Woodpeckers, at least four pairs of Western Rock Nuthatch, single Rock Bunting, 30+ European Bee-eaters, two Long-legged Buzzards, a 3cy male Marsh Harrier, two Cetti's Warblers and a single Black Redstart.

Syrian Woodpecker
Spotted Flycatcher
Rock Bunting
Common Redstart
Long-legged Buzzard
juv Euro Bee-eater
juv Red-backed Shrike

Goreme, day 2

Rather a fabulous day today, mostly because it started with a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the amazing landscape that is Cappadoccia.  This was my first balloon ride so I have nothing to compare it to, but I can easily belive the hype that this is one of the best locations in the world for balloning.

Whilst birding and wildlife played second fiddle to the immense and spectacular landscape I was pretty happy to score a couple of pairs of Western Rock Nuthatches from the balloon, as well as a Red Fox.

The afternoon was spent exploring "Pigeon Valley" just outside Goreme where the birding produced a nice world tick in the form of a male Syrian Woodpecker as well as perhaps 20 Spotted Flycatchers, several groups of European Bee-eaters, two female Black Redstarts, five Blackcaps, plus a male Blue Rock-thrush and twenty or so Alpine Swifts around the top of Uchisar Castle.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Goreme, central Turkey

Early AM flight to Kayseri and transfer to the remarkable "fairy chimney" landscape of Cappadoccia around the village (aka developing tourist trap) of Goreme. The only highlight of the drive to Goreme was a group of approximately seven Calandra Larks flying low over the car.

An exploration of the outdoor museum, which includes a series of 200 rock-hewn churches dating back to the 11th century, revealed some avian interest in the form of ochruros Black Redstart, two Rock Buntings, a single Rock Petronia, several pairs of Western Rock Nuthatch, Blackcap, 50+ Alpine Swifts,  brief views of an unidentified lark spp, and several Spotted Flycatchers.

Western Rocker

Rocker Spage

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


Sightseeing and non-birding in Ephesus gave me a very nice male Black-eared Wheatear and a couple of small flocks (each less than 10 birds) European Bee-eaters. A visit to Sirinci village for a long, lazy and excellent lunch produced Steppe Buzzard whilst dining plus a Hobby and 20+ Red-rumped Swallows.

distant Steppe Buzzard

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ephesus, western Turkey

Visit to the remains of Ephesus, a 2,500 year old city on the Aegean coast was rewarded with exceptional views of a Western Rock Nuthatch. Other birding highlights were hard to come by with me failing to string Eurasian Sparrowhawk into Levant, or a male Northern Wheatear into something more interesting.


Istanbul, Turkey 13-16 Sept

Combination of sightseeing and very gentle-paced birding produced Levantine Shearwater as the highlight, with a flock of 10 seen from a ferry crossing the Bosphorus. Other notables included a migrating flock of 30+ European Bee-eaters and a good passage of Red-breasted Flycatchers (the first one I got onto being a nice red bird),  Spotted Flycatchers and Chiffchaff.

Levantine (Yelkouan) Shearwaters - not the dark vent and dark bar on  underwing

Alpine Swift

The other "joy" of birding the Bosphorus has been practicing my non-existent large gull ID skills, and all I've seen so far have been Yellow-leggeds, though Caspian and Armenian Gulls are possible.

The big gap so far has been raptor passage - I've not managed to get to any of the various watch points, but will have a couple of other visits to the city in the coming weeks so hope to get a chance to try then.

Over and above the birding I must say that Istanbul is a fab place! This is my first trip to Turkey but I get the feeling it won't be by last.

juv Yellow-legged
juv Yellow-legged
juv Yellow-legged
juv Yellow-legged Gull

2nd winter Yellow-legged Gull

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Suan Rot Fai this morning produced similar common migrants to yesterday, with four Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, one Eastern Crowned Warbler, one Arctic Warbler, two Brown Shrikes, several Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and one Common Kingfisher. Interesting resident species included Ashy Woodswallow and a Little Cormorant (both uncommon in the park).

Monday, September 10, 2012

More Yellow-rumps

A quick session in Suan Rot Fai before work this morning, in the company of Graham produced one Brown Shrike, a couple of snatches of what sounded like the autumn's first Asian Brown Flycatcher (though can't be sure), at least four Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, one Arctic Warbler, one unidentified Phyllosc (seen badly), several Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, one or two Common Kingfishers and a juvenile Night Heron.

Whale-less whale-watching

Myself, Scilly birder Graham Gordon and a bunch of my colleagues spent yesterday bobbing about in the Gulf of Thailand in a failed attempt to catch up with a group of Bryde's Whales that have recently been seen in the northwest corner of the Gulf.  Frustratingly we were told that a group of eight whales had been seen two days before our trip, but we had to make do with views of three different groups of Irrawaddy Dolphins and a nice selection of coastal bird life including Crested, Little, White-winged Black, Whiskered and Common Terns, Little, Indian and Great Cormorants, Whimbrel and Osprey.

Common Tern
Common Tern
White-winged Black Tern
adult Crested Tern
adult Crested Tern
adult Whiskered Tern

Saturday, September 8, 2012


adult Red-necked stint
Morning visit to Khok Kham with Graham Gordon provided a good selection of waders including three Great Knot, c200 Red-necked Stint, a juvenile Little Stint side-by side with a juv RNS, c30 Long-toed Stint including one juvenile, c400 Lesser Sandplovers, 30+ Broad-billed Sandpipers (including several juveniles), a single Bar-tailed Godwit in the company of ten or so Blackwits, two Terek Sandpipers, c.20 Whimbrel, at least seven Ruddy Turnstones, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Greenshank, Common and Wood Sandpipers, Pacific Golden Plover and LRP.

Adult Broad-billed Sandpiper
a poor shot of a very fine juv Long-toed Stint

Thursday, September 6, 2012

House caller

It's a very rainy morning here in Bangkok. Not one of our typical wet season days when it gets to late afternoon, the wind picks up and we have a tropical downpour for an hour. No, today is one of those few days each year when I feel like I live back in England - continuous, soaking rain and low cloud. These days usually happen in September and October (the end of the wet season) and so this weather can be good at forcing down diurnal migrants. As such I was pleased but not too surprised to hear this Blue-tailed Bee-eater calling outside our bedroom window whilst I was eating my breakfast. The bird moved between the rooftops making hunting sallies and then during a brief hiatus in the rain headed on its way south.

Monday, September 3, 2012

2nd September 2012

Yellow-rumped Flycatcher

 I had my first two Arctic Warblers of the autumn today at Suan Rot Fai, nice to see them back but given that Arctic has been split into three species and at least two have probably occured in Thailand - nominate borealis and examinandus (Kamchatka Leaf Warbler), I need to start looking at these things more carefully.  P. examinandus is apparently "quite a bit yellower on the throat and supercilium and greener above, but almost identical on measurements and wing formula" (PDR pers comm.).

Also seen this morning were one male and 1-2 female-type Yellow-rumped Flycatchers, one Blue-tailed Bee-eater and two Common Kingfishers.

Brown-throated Sunbird