Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Some Spring Action

Early Caterpillar ... a welcome sight for the Stonechat I'm sure.

Lot of birds in full song even though it is still very chilly. Several Chiffchaffs making their presence known after surviving the winter in the bay.

Lesser Celandine

Water Pipit

Imagine the hybrid result?
A diving sea goose ....



"Who said it was chilly?"

Love these birds!

Black Redstart

Rusty Reed Bunting

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Spring ... almost?

A shock to the system and not just for me.

An amazing flock of 200+ Reed Buntings and 50+ Yellowhammers were taking advantage of the Pheasant cover/crop near Druridge.

Fantastic how these little birds survive such a harsh winter.

Ballan Wrasse
Washed up on the beach at Chev.

Some interesting Geese at Cresswell today including this Tundra Bean Goose

The thaw has resulted in the burn at Chevington taking a more direct route to the sea. Water levels are very high at Druridge Pools but the Cresswell area has been well managed and it will not be long before the Avocets are back?

Saturday, 3 March 2018


Fuerteventura (Canary Islands)
20th-27th February 2018

A break from the chilly North East was planned to include lots of casual, slow-paced birding. As the 20th Feb, drew closer news kept arriving of more and more birders reporting from the island with details of several rarities.

Yellow-legged Gull

Berthelot's Pipit

Day 1 The flight to Fuerteventura was ahead of schedule and waiting for the transfer coach my very first bird of the trip was Berthelot’s Pipit feeding on the kerbside. As with all trips I find myself snapping birds just in case I don’t see another. So with some suitably rubbish pictures taken I enjoyed the coach ride to my hotel in Costa Calma (a more Northern base would have been preferable). Bags dumped, Camera and Binoculars around the neck I investigated the ‘green zone’ This wide belt of Palms, Australian Pines and various shrubs running through the centre of Costa Calma would become a regular pre breakfast and/or pre dinner stroll. Song Thrush, Goldfinch, Blackcap and Chiffchaff were very common. Carrion Crow (2) and Starling (6) were unexpected.

Barbary Ground Squirrel

Day 2 Little Bunting (2) gave brief views in the green zone before I picked up my car for the week. I booked a 3-door Fiesta but got an Automatic 5-door SEAT Leon.  No hidden price hikes and very good service from CICAR. (Only problem I had with car was when key fob wouldn’t open the doors, expletives rolling off the tongue until I realised I was trying to open it with my own car keys! LOL.) My plan for the rest of the day was to head as far South as possible and slowly work my way back North. The roads on Fuerteventura are very good. Once at Morro Jable the road turns to a track but a very good one. I was soon at the area around Puerto de La Cruz and headed towards Punta Pesebre. Hoopoe Larks had been reported here earlier in the month but a short (1 hour) search proved the task of locating them would be impossible (the downside of being anti-social). However having seen Hoopoe Larks in the Middle East I wasn’t too disappointed, very little sea-watching action however was. Driving back to Morro Jable and the Monk Parakeets put on a good show along with equally tame Berthelot’s Pipit and Barbary Ground Squirrels. The reedbed in the lighthouse reserve looked promising but offered little. A few coastal stops were disappointing with the beach areas now at maximum disturbance with ‘holidaymakers’. A quick visit to La Pared to get my bearings for a future visit proved highly successful with Cream-coloured Courser (6) located on the plain very quickly and at the village itself LRP, Common Sand, Dragonflies and Trumpeter Finches. Final bird of the day was a Cormorant heading inland at Costa Calma (maybe to roost in trees). 

Trumpeter Finch

Spectacled Warbler

Black-winged Stilt


Day 3 Pre-breakfast and the ‘green zone’ produced one of the biggest surprises. I found the Little Buntings (2) in exactly the same spot but feeding on the ground and with them a Quail. I have never had such fantastic views (heard hundreds). A twitch! Dwarf Bittern had been recorded almost daily throughout the month at Barranco de Rio Cabras. The location had me wondering about access so I contacted Andrew Kinghorn via Twitter (as he had been the previous week). His knowledge was invaluable and much appreciated. He sent me google maps for the Bittern, Tristram’s Warbler and his trip report. The Dwarf Bittern played hard to get but the site was full of interesting birds. Canary Islands Stonechat (only two males seen all week), Black-winged Stilts, Green Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail and Buzzard. Then my first of three Egyptian Vultures did a fly past. Having walked the Barranco three times, scrambled cliff faces along goat tracks without success I finally spotted a couple of birders. The German guy and his Austrian girlfriend were going to sit for the next few hours and wait patiently.  After some 20 minutes of conversation I decided to do one last walk along the cliff top (I’m not known for my patience). I only moved 50m along and I spotted the Dwarf Bittern. Frantic shouting and waving and the couple came to join me. It took a long time to get them on to the bird but eventually we all enjoyed good views. One of the things we discussed was the term ‘confiding’ and I explained what it meant. After our experience we decided it was not ‘confiding’. This may have been due to 4 off road bikers travelling along the river bed when I first arrived. I was very happy as this was a new bird for me. A visit to Barranco de La Torre failed to reveal any Tristram’s Warblers but Sardinian Warblers and Trumpeter Finches were numerous. Offshore from Salinas Del Carmen feeding Sandwich Terns and Cory’s Shearwaters were a bonus.

Look Closely!

Dwarf Bittern

Canary Islands Chat

Sardinian Warbler


Day 4 Visited La Pared early but no sign of Coursers or Bustards. A 4WD vehicle would give you a better chance here. Some of the tracks in Gosney’s guide are no longer accessible. I arrived at the wet area beneath the Golf Course at 09:30 and on cue 2 Black-bellied Sandgrouse flew to the cliff top. Over the next 20 minutes 20+ joined them but none ventured down to the water. This is a very reliable spot but not good for getting close. I left realising (just sitting in the car) I was stopping them from drinking. A quick drive over the plains and a short walk (2 hours) gave me my first Lesser Short-toed Larks and regular groups of Sandgrouse returning from their drinking site. I was by now thinking Houbara Bustards where mythical birds (I never believed Coursers existed until this week. I failed to see them in the Middle East, on two trips to the Gambia and the one on Jersey way back eluded me when I was there.) I have tried numerous well known sites this week but none of them were as described and auto-hide birding wasn’t possible. So the most reliable site has to be Tindaya Plain I decide late on this visit and the time of day wasn’t ideal but I felt if it failed I would revisit the next morning. I headed through the village and found some really promising looking tracks. Also two cars with birders gave me hope. I stopped to scan the area and found myself very close to a Stone Curlew. They are magnificent birds and my day was now on a high. Driving slowly along various tracks this looked brilliant. After a while I decided an early return tomorrow was a good idea and on my last scan from the car … the unmistakeable profile of a Bustard. A very quick snap (it was miles away) and slowly I got out of the car to put the scope on it. The heat haze was a big problem then it started heading closer and closer snaps and video were taken. It eventually crossed the track I was standing on! None of the classic photos everyone seems to achieve but stunning views through the scope. After it walked out of sight I headed along the track to find two Cream-coloured Coursers crossing the road in front of me. As I left the village a Cattle Egret landed on the road beside the car. Hey what, Houbara Bustard does exist!

Lesser Short-toed Lark

Cerocala scapulosa

Cattle Egret

Spanish Sparrow

Great Grey Shrike

Corn Bunting

African Blue Tit


Spotted Crake

Day 5 Armed with the info from (AK) I headed back to Rio de La Torre (I was in the totally wrong place last time.) Lots of singing birds mainly Sardinian Warbler, Spectacled  Warbler and very surprising Lesser Whitethroats. I may have heard Tristram’s but definitely didn’t see one. Again this was a situation where more ears and eyes were needed. As this wasn’t meant to be a twitching trip I am happy to leave that one for now. I then embarked on a long, round trip of the North West. Corn Bunting near Antigua, Blue Tit at Bentacuria and a walk to Embalse de Las Penitas from Vega de Rio Palma provided more surprises. Here there were some wet patches and 2m tall reed patches. Plenty of Dragonflies, Spanish Sparrows and Sardinian Warblers. Then on the way back  a rail/crake called and I glimpsed some movement in the reeds. Unfortunately it headed away, so I waited in the hope it would return. After just a few minutes a Spotted Crake walked right past me, stunning views. Then as I walked away a frog called but I couldn’t tell where it was. Then I reached the next reed patch and a frog called again. Several walkers stopped to listen and I searched along the edge for the frog but no luck and it went quiet again. The next day a group of birders at Los Molinos asked if I had heard about the Baillon’s Crake at Las Penitas. They had been there and heard 1 possibly 2 birds and had seen Spotted Crake … PENNY DROPS!! That frog call was a Baillon’s Crake. Aaaagh! An afternoon walk in the ‘green zone’ and I met the German couple and they had had no success with buntings. I took them to see both the Little Bunting and the Quail which had moved less than 10m in the last 3 days.

Kentish Plover

Little Stint

Desert Woodlouse?

Black Redstart

Day 6 Los Molinos holds a large amount of water and was great for Spoonbills (4), Teal, Garganey (1), Coot and Greenshank. Another Egyptian Vulture fly by. Coastal visits turned up a smart Black Redstart and a Garden Warbler was new for the ‘green zone’. The beach pools at Hotel Melia Gorriones (south of Costa Calma) were heavily disturbed by ‘holdaymakers’ but I still managed several Kentish Plovers and a Little Stint ID from photos later. A late walk in the ‘green zone’ and finally I found 1+ Olive-backed Pipit. Feeding on the ground they quickly flew into the trees and out of sight. I had heard that 3 Little Buntings had been seen earlier and when I saw 5 birds feeding on the ground I expected to see 3 Little Buntings and a couple of Olive-backed Pipits, To my surprise they were all Little Buntings (5). Seawatching from the balcony I had a nice passage of Cory’s Shearwaters, Gannets and Sandwich Terns (beats the cold cliff top watches in Northumberland).

Stone Curlew

Barbary Partridge

Houbara Bustard

Cream-coloured Courser

 Day 7  My last visit and the Olive-backed Pipits were still in the same area but also still very elusive. Finally on approaching the airport my last new bird of the trip Plain Swift (4) feeding over the south end of the airport. I arrived back at Newcastle to grim weather but lots of good birding memories.


Little Bunting

Laughing Dove

Common Sandpiper

Broad Scarlet

Delta dimidiatipenne


1 Berthelot's Pipit Anthus berthelotti
2 Kestrel Falco tinninculus
3 Collared Dove (Eurasian) Streptopelia decocto
4 Collared Dove (African) Streptopelia roseogrisea
5 Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahellis
6 Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis
7 Starling Sturnus vulgaris
8 Chaffinch Fringlla coelebs
9 Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis
10 Linnet Carduelis canabina
11 Song Thrush Turdus philomelos
12 Carrion Crow Corvus corone
13 Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla
14 Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita
15 Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
16 Swallow Hirundo rustica
17 Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus
18 Raven Corvus corax
19 Little Bunting Emberiza pusilla
20 Robin Erithacus rubcula
21 Rock Dove Columba livia
22 Little Egret Egretta garzetta
23 Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus
24 Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius
25 Snipe Gallinago gallinago
26 Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos
27 Ruddy Shelduck Tadorna ferruginea
28 Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor
29 White Wagtail Motacilla alba
30 Great Grey Shrike Lanius excubitor
31 Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo
32 Quail Coturnix coturnix
33 Dwarf Bittern Ixobrychus sturmii
34 Egyptian Vulture Neophron perenopterus
35 Canary Island Chat Saxicola dacotiae
36 Black-winged Stilt Himatopus himantopus
37 Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus
38 Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea
39 Buzzard Butteo butteo
40 Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala
41 Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis
42 Cory's Shearwater Calonectris diomedea borealis
43 Redshank Tringa totanus
44 Hoopoe Upupa epops
45 Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
46 Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara
47 Black-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles orientalis
48 Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens
49 Gannet Morus bassanus
50 Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
51 Common Tern Sterna hirundo
52 Lesser Whitethoat Sylvia curruca
53 Corn Bunting Emberiza calandra
54 African Blue Tit Cyanistes teneriffae (ssp ultramarinus)
55 Spotted Crake Porzana porzana 
56 Grey Heron Ardea cinerea
57 Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus
58 Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros
59 Stone Curlew Burhinus oedicnemus
60 Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata
61 Tufted Duck Aytha fuligula
62 Teal Anas crecca
63 Garganey Anas querquedula
64 Spoonbill Plataea leucorodia
65 Coot Fulica atra
66 Greenshank Tringa nebularia
67 Garden Warbler Sylvia borin
68 Olive-backed Pipit Anthus hodgsoni
69 Plain Swift Apus unicolor
70 Little Stint Calidris minuta
  Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla
  Monk Parakeet Myiopsitta monachus
  Red-vented Bulbul  
  Feral Pigeon  
  Wasp Delta dimidiatipenne
  Broad Scarlet Crocothemis erythraea
  Emperor Sp?  
  Moth Cerocala scapulosa
  Barbary Ground Squirrel