Sunday, 22 April 2018

Getting back into the patch

It hasn't taken long to wash away any post-Spain blues, with Spring in full swing in the South Yare Valley there is much to see and enjoy. The sun shone on the 16th and the first Butterflies emerged from hibernation, a pair of Brimstone in Claxton along with Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell at neighbouring Langley. Always a red letter day when the first Butterfly of the year is sighted, and I look forward to a Summer in search of more.

Amongst the mist and murk that the 12th bought, I recorded the first returning Warblers at Church Marsh. Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Blackcap were all welcome new for the year, and to be honest some have probably been around since earlier in the month. With Lesser Celandine and Grape Hyacinth in flower, it was beginning to feel like Spring, but the season was having to make every effort to please amidst misty cold conditions.

It was really this weekend gone that Spring could finally breathe, with temperatures today reaching almost 25 Degrees C. Although Saturday was a little cooler, upon opening the Moth trap 2 Cuckoo sang from the marshes to the north and south. Orange Tip and a likely Holly Blue were in the garden, the first of the emergence after the hibernators have made their play. A dusk visit to Claxton Marshes ended with a nice pint of Trawlorboys and a loud and agonisingly close Grasshopper Warbler. He was still there this morning, giving it hell and out of sight again. Whitethroat was another new for the year, the nettle-creeper also in full song whilst giving his new territory the once over. Tremendous views of Barn Owl at both Claxton and Langley marshes, hopefully both males doting on the incubating female someplace.

I had a couple of hours to spend with Rose this morning, so before the park we went to Rockland Broad. An Arctic Tern had been reported, but I settled for a pair of Common. A Reed Warbler pushed me closer to a full house of returning Warblers and of note were 2 singing Cettis, a species that has been wiped out on the coast after The Beast.

Mothing has not been prolific (around 25 species for the year) but I was thrilled with first a Pine Beauty this morning, and then almost embarrassed to pull out a Purple Thorn. Both new for the garden and me, properly spoiled today. EDIT- Purple Thorn a second for the garden, thanks to Moysie for reminding me!

Sighting of the Spring so far goes to Debs, who had 3 Crane south over Claxton on the 20th, and as if that wasn't enough to make me wince, a Peregrine hunting the field out the back too.


Purple Thorn 

 
 Sunset over Claxton looking towards Rockland

Rockland Broad- Common Terns

Saturday, 14 April 2018

A casual trip report- Southern Spain, Cadiz Province, April 2018

Back from a lovely week in Southern Spain, staying on the edge of delightful small town Prado del Rey in Cadiz Province. We flew with EasyJe, hired a car (essential) with Europcar, and stayed in the charming Casa Rural La Jaima, further details here: https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/VacationRentalReview-g608975-d5441033-LA_JAIMA_casa_rural-Prado_del_Rey_Sierra_de_Grazalema_Natural_Park_Province_of_Cadiz_A.html

At this point, I would like to thank John Cantelo for providing me with a PDF of his latest guide to Birding Cadiz Province. John was extremely helpful and is the go-to guy for any questions about birding in this region.

I intend to add a few photos, but currently the camera charger is out of view......

With this being a family holiday with no intention to travel too far (and alpine walking a challenge for a 1 year old) I spent a lot of time birding from the doorstep. Olive groves, scrub and lightly grazed hillsides made for a beautiful outlook and were home to a range of bird species. Serin, Corn Bunting, Linnet and Goldfinch were the regulars of the 33 species encountered. On warm days, Raptor watching was superb. A maximum count of 80 Griffon Vultures latched onto thermals and soared high above the villa. Booted Eagle was regular overhead, and singles of Black Kite, Short-toed Eagle and Lesser Kestrel all made it onto the house list. Bee Eater were often bubbling away overhead, and Sardinian Warbler was a common bird. The song of Nightingale was a constant companion, although typically I never laid eyes on one the whole week through. Wryneck (locally scarce), Woodchat Shrike, Spotless Starling, Melodious Warbler and Iberian Green Woodpecker were just some of the local highlights. What a pleasure it was to breakfast, then take a gentle stroll around the site and pick up these species and more. As the days passed, more was revealed- a Cattle Egret commute in the evening clocked in around 8pm, the maximum count being 64 heading north. 2 Pallid Swift passed through on the 6th, and on the final day a female Pied Flycatcher turned up on passage. Whilst I enjoyed this side of the locality, Rose enjoyed seeing the Donkey, Horse, Sheep and Chickens that were all a part of the small holding here. The location was safe, rustic and our hosts were excellent. I cannot recommend this enough as a base to bird from- but beware you may end up staying put, viewing large kettles of Raptors with the mountains as a backdrop, beer in hand.

We visited El Bosque twice, enjoying excellent tapas at La Duende and some good birds in and around the botanical gardens, well signposted to the north of the small centre. Western Bonelli's Warbler and Iberian Chiffchaff were easy here, the Bonelli's in particular a real treat to watch fly catching, zipping about in the pines. Other common species here included Crested Tit, Sardinian Warbler, Blackcap, Nightingale and Woodchat Shrike. Although my Butterfly list for the trip was a little disappointing, I did see the wonderful Spanish Festoon.

Alpine birding was more challenging with family in tow, but the driving was great and the climb from El Bosque to Grazalema and beyond is not to be missed. There are various places to stop and walk if you wish, and the best spot we found was west of Grazalema at El Torreon. Here, a pair of displaying Short-toed Eagle (including the male hovering) was just immense. Bonelli's Eagle and Griffon Vulture were also observed well, and a flock of 13 Bee Eater passed through. A little further on, I came across a singing Alpine Accentor, and a Cleopatra Butterfly. I am sure Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting and Black-eared Wheatear are do-able with more time in the area.

So, in conclusion- a little hard to return home! 13 avian lifers, and 2 new Butterflies. The wealth of birds on our doorstep was just a pleasure to be around, and is in stark contrast to the number of species encountered in open countryside here in the UK. I enjoyed seeing species that rarely make landfall in the UK, and therefore feel more prepared if I should be lucky enough to encounter any of the above on the coast in October.

However, it is time to walk the trails and tracks across the marshes and footpaths here once again and although dreary at the moment I am looking forward to Spring arriving in northern Europe having seen the effect in the med. 2 Swallow were seen on wires yesterday, the first for the year on the patch. Before leaving for Spain, I went to see the Felthorpe Redpoll massive (2 Arctic in there for me, but I am sure everyone has had enough of reading about Redpoll ID and my two-pence-worth is not worth that!) and lucked in with 4 Spoonbill seen across the river at Buckenham. With warmer weather forecast this next week, what about an Alpine Swift on the patch?