Saturday, September 24, 2005

Lesbos, 24 Sept - 1 Oct

A Speyside Wildlife holiday

For a full trip list of birds, insects etc, click here

Oleander Hawkmoth - a cracker and a tick!

Images | © Steve Dudley
Birds | Leica APO Televid 62| 26xWA or 20xWA | Nikon Coolpix 995
Insects | Nikon Coolpix 995

Sat, 24 Sept 05
Myself and Duncan meet up with the guests at the airport for our week-long bird and wildlife holiday for Speyside Wildlife on the beautiful Aegean island of Lesbos.

We grab a meal in Athens before the short hop over to Mytilini, Lesbos and take the 45 minute drive across to the centre of the island to our hotel at Skala Kallonis – our base for what we hope will be a great weeks bird and wildlife watching.

Sun, 25 Sept 05
We wake to our first Lesbos morning – clear blues skies and a rapidly warming sun. You could quite easily get used to this! Many venture out for a pre-breakfast stroll alongside what in spring are the Kalloni Pools but now are little more than a scrubby sheep field, down to the beach overlooking the Bay of Kalloni.

After a breakfast (some more full than others!), we meet in the car park, and after a brief rundown over the map about where we would be heading during the week, it was in the vans down to West River. We stop to look over a group of roosting Yellow-legged Gulls and find a mixed flock of Ringed and Kentish Plovers running around the marsh. The KPs were looking distinctly paler and longer-legged, almost on tip-toe. Our first ‘real’ find appears right behind us in the form of a stunning male Red-backed Shrike. Scopes are soon in operation, and on closer inspection, the bird has a deformed bill, with the upper mandible much longer than the lower. With it being an adult, it’s survived perfectly well up to now which seems very surprising.

Male Red-backed Shrike- check out that bill

House Sparrows, Corn Bunting and Crested Larks bounce around all around us, and a group of Hooded Crows look on from their telegraph pole viewpoint. At the bridge five Grey Herons stand in a ‘copse’ in an open field. The river is devoid of waterbirds. A handful of juvenile White Wagtails pick around, bobbing, on the mud right in front of us. Whilst Sue is busy ripping the legs off her cut-offs, she is still alert enough to spot a falcon darting in. It dives after a flock of sparrows before pulling up empty footed. ‘Lesser Kestrel’ I pronounce. ‘Look at the pale underwings with neat black tips’ he adds as the bird speeds away. Shucks. Next up are a couple of Yellow Wagtails (almost certainly Blue-headed) and semi-distant Whinchat. A pair of Red-backed Shrikes are found along the fence/hedge line. The female begins to perform, working her way towards us eventually ending up right next to the vans. Fantastic!

Driving towards Inland Lake we disturb a further five female/immature Red-backed Shrikes from roadside fences and bushes. Noticing some Clouded Yellows, I pull up alongside a field full a crop with purplish flowers. The field is alive with butterflies – loads of Clouded Yellows, Common Blues, Meadow Browns, Large Whites – amazing! The olive tree right in front of us crawling too – with Willow Warblers. The warblers are hopping around the tree, flycatching anddropping down in to the field to feed amongst the flowering crop. ‘Hummingbird Hawkmoth!’ shouts Steve. Darting among the butterflies and warblers, moving swiftly from one flower to the next, is this tiny, neat, little hovering machine looking just like a hummingbird as it stops to feed, seemingly frozen in mid-air, at each flower head.

We move onwards. The streams and watercourses that feed the lake are bone dry. We arrive at the lake – the tides out! Parking up we see that the Inland Lake is no more than a puddle at the far end around which a lone White Wagtail picks its way around the puddle edges. A Cetti’s Warbler calls from the tamarisks where a Willow Warbler and Red-backed Shrike search for prey. ‘Alpine Swift!’ I yell. Looking up we see a handful of these large, sickle-winged swifts scythe through the brilliant blue Lesbos autumn sky. ‘Crag Martin!’ shouts Duncan. ‘Red-rumped Swallow!’ I exclaim. There is an aerial soup of swifts and hirundines and folk don’t know what to look at first. Duncan and I talk the group through the key ID features of each of the aerial congeners. The birds are all around us. It’s hard to follow them as they coming whizzing overhead without falling backwards or getting a stiff neck.

The heat is getting close to sizzling and some of us are feeling close to melting. In the puddle that is left of the lake, Striped-necked Terrapins climb on top of each other in the inches-deep muddy puddle. Dozens of darters – Red-veined and Marshland, speed around, males chasing females, copulating pairs, ovipositing couples – the place is alive with them. Duncan spies a raptor over the ridge – our first Sort-toed Eagle of the week. I then find a pair of ovipositing Lesser Emperor dragonflies, the males powder-blue saddle clearly visible. A lone Pond Terrapin waddled through the water and under the bridge.

We head off for lunch but are soon stopped with the sight of a Jay in one of the olive groves. We get good views of this pale Middle Eastern race with a black skullcap. A Spotted Flycatcher sorties from an open branch in pursuit of its prey. ‘Middle Spotted Woodpecker!’ shouts Steve. This red-headed version of a small Great Spotted Woodpecker is on the stumpy trunk of an olive. A few get on to it before it flies across the grove and we frustrating follow it as it jumps from tree to tree and then lost. Damn. Above another aerial broth is forming, but this time we have a fifth hirundine, with a handful of Sand Martins throw in for good measure. Duncan picks up on a high raptor. Then two more. They are too high for bins, so scopes are out and Long-legged Buzzard is confirmed. Steve relocates the Middle Spot and this time we all get better views as it hops from trunk to trunk.

We arrive at the Potamia Valley lunch spot and park in the shade and it it’s only a matter of minutes before most have found a comfy spot and are troughing through our lunch bags. Not even a couple of Locusts can tempt people away from their food. Our tree shade turns to cloudy shade as the sun disappears appear behind a bank of darkening cloud. This is welcome respite from its glare and an immediate turn down of the temperature dial. Phew! As fuel reserves are restored, attention begins to turn back to wildlife – a couple of Common Buzzards circle in the same part of the sky as a Long-legged Buzzard; a singing Cirl Bunting; Southern Emerald Damselflies; butterflies; crickets and grasshoppers; frogs; and a brilliant coloured Balkan Green Lizard chanced on by Duncan. Ceopatra briefly halts our exit, but having watched it settle in a bramble, it can’t be relocated!

Leaving the valley we call in at the irrigation reservoir, but despite looking only half full holds a staggering 75 Little Grebes, a couple of CommonTeal and some Greenshank. Di spots a raptor above the ridge which Duncan is quick to announce as a Goshawk! Fantastic!

We move on to the pine woods of Achladeri. On arrival we hear a strange raptor call. Searching the skies we find two Short-toed Eagles, one carrying a snake the other calling after it – a juvenile begging its parent for food. Wehead in to the wood and are quick to find a Short-toed Treecreeper. Woodland Grayling are on virtually every tree.

Searching for our quarry, Krüper’s Nuthatch, we hear a strange call coming form the pine tops. Is it a Krüps? Is it another bird? Hey, there are loads of them. They’re locusts! These are the striating males trying to attract females. Noisy buggers! A get a brief sighting of a Middle Spotted Woodpecker before we get a glimpse of our first Krüper’s Nuthatch. It gives us the run-around and not everyone has seen it when it seems to disappear. It reappears, with a second bird, and with some repositioning and scopes ready, we all get great views of this dapper little tit-sized nuthatch. What a corker!

We walk back down to the vans enjoying the red- and blue-winged grasshoppers fleeing our stomping feet. Nearing the vans Duncan points out a singing Woodlark. We stop and search for it and Duncan spies it high in the sky above a nearby wooded slope. It wanders around ‘lu-luing’ over the trees before parachuting down in to the forest. A Cirl Bunting sings from the nearby pines, and not for the first time, we can’t find him!

We head back west calling in at the Kalloni Saltpans, the two great piles of salt on their southern edge gleaming white in the afternoon sun. The obvious bird, is of course, Greater Flamingo. How can we miss the ‘the big pink’ ones! Feeding with a small group of Avocets is a winter-plumaged Black-tailed Godwit. A Goshawk goes over and four Little Ringed Plovers land on the moat by Duncan’s van – just feet away!

We return to the hotel via East River. As we cross the ford, Steve’s van spot two Kingfishers flying downstream, but we aren’t able to relocate them. Shucks.

We return to the hotel tired after our first fantastic days birding in the sun and heat of Lesbos. Some of us take a dip in the very inviting hotel pool, whilst others relax on the pool terrace with a long, cold drink (or two!), before a sumptuous meal of local fare. What a nice way to round off a great day.

Mon, 26 Sept

Eggar sp

After a slightly earlier breakfast, we head west for migrant hunting around Sigri. We stop at the ‘bandstand’ above Sigri to admire the view and within a few minutes I find a male Blue Rock Thrush on the rocks above us. Whilst enjoying this new bird for the trip, I line up the next bird in the form of a Rock Nuthatch. Attention soon turns to this ‘chisel-billed’ large nuthatch as it bounces around the rocks looking for a tasty morsel. The Blue Rock Thrush gets a few more glances before the nuthatch starts to show off by singing its head off from the top of a rock. ‘Look at me! Look at me!’ its shouting suggests Sue, then a chorus of ‘and I can fly!’ from half of the group as it throws itself off the rock. A Common Kestrel appears above us and both the rock thrush and nuthatch take cover. The ‘Rockhatch’ relocates to our side of the road and after a while starts to alarm and look up. ‘What’s that about?’ asks Duncan. ‘Raptor!’ I shout ‘right above us’. Sure enough, the Rockhatch has spotted the female Marsh Harrier lazily flapping over us.

Spotted Flycatcher

Driving down to the town the resident flock of Jackdaws is circling overhead as if to greet us to this magical part of the island. Our first stop along the fields has John shouting ‘Kingfisher!’ and pointing to the little bay beside us. On the wire fence was a gleaming turquoise-blue kingfisher, back on to us with a large fish in its bill. It drops to the rocks below the fence and quite literally bashes the life out of the fish before gulping it down. It turns to show its bright orange unders before flying off to another fence line. Birds are zipping about all around us. Corn Buntings ‘plipping’, sparrows ‘churping’, Yellow Wagtails ‘seeping’ and Tree Pipits ‘peezing’ – the place is alive with birds. Our first Red-backed Shrike of the day is followed by brilliant views of our second female Marsh Harrier. The light is fantastic, and the detail on the harrier superb. Its sunis beginning to kick in as it sits high in the cloudless blue sky. A female Sparrowhawk is mobbed tirelessly by a flock of Hooded Crows and Jackdaws. Willow Warblers seem to be in every bush and along the roadside fences, amongst which we manage find a couple of Chiffchaffs. A Spotted Flycatcher performs brilliantly before we find two different Lesser Whitethroats. Clouded Yellows and a couple of Swallowtails add further colour the scene before a Tawny Pipit is seen briefly and a Short-toed Eagle is enjoyed as it ‘wind’ hovers above a ridge.

A brief stop at the beach does not bring the sought after shearwaters but a lone juvenile Dunlin and a fantastic stick-like grasshopper found by Sue and John. Further along the track we find where all the Yellow Wagtails have been heading off to – a recently cut grass field which is crawling with wagtails. All but two are ‘yellow’ wagtail subspecies, almost certainly Blue-headed, and the other two are all dark-headed – Black-headed Wagtail.

Acrida ungarica - a whacky stick-insect like grasshopper

We park at the ford ‘up pebble’ from the beach and find two Common Swifts slicing through the sky above us. We take a wander up the shady track to view the fields. A tractor is ploughing a field with more yellow wagtails feeding in the freshly turned earth. A Long-legged Buzzard appears above us but flaps purposely away.

Walking further up the lane we kick up countless Meadow Brown and various Grayling butterflies. At the top field we scan the skies for raptors but find only a distant Short-toed Eagle. Willow Warblers and a Spotted Flycatcher bounce around the fig trees which are covered in ‘bursting’ figs. The air is sweet with the smell of over-ripe figs. We stop for lunch overlooking the fields in the shade of some almond trees. ‘Eleanora’s Falcon!’ I shout. A dark-phase bird sweeps past along the hillside and away from us. Damn! Continually searching the skies for the falcon, Duncan finds two circling Peregrines which everyone gets to see.

Lunch over we head for the Petrified Forest. We decide not to walk the 23km trail! Instead we view some of the petrified trees from the car park with our bins! A Rock Nuthatch starts calling and gives crippling views. ‘They probably come to food in the cafe’ comments Duncan. ‘Yeh, just hold out your hand and they will come and crack your nuts’ says Steve to a hilarious response when he realises what he just said!

We go exploring the northern coast around Gavathas, first checking the Kombos area where we stop to view a lush green area. Duncan finds a stunningly large dark butterfly with great creamy bands across its wings gliding around below us. A look in the book confirms it as Great Banded Grayling – a ‘does what it says on the tin’ sort of species. Further down we come to the mouth of the River Voulgaris where Duncan spies a Coot skulking in the reedy edge and we see a handful Cory’s Shearwaters wheeling by in the distance. A little further along the dusty we find another pair of Rockhatches as they are now constantly referred to. We get out to enjoy them and find a male Blue Rock Thrush and distantly some of us see a White Stork wheeling around the sky. We make one more stop to look for non-existent Sombre Tits (Sombreros) before navigating the maze of streets through Skalochlori and Skala Kallonis bound. Our last port of call is back to Inland Lake but we are all shocked to find it is noting more than a patch of wet mud. All of yesterdays water has evaporated. No water, no birds or dragonflies, so we head back to the hotel or pool, showers, bar and snoozing before dinner!

Meeting up for dinner Duncan and I present the group with best of last nights moth catch. A Shuttle-shaped Dart is followed by a Vine’s Rustic and some fort of Egger species (very faded). But then I pull out his hand to show them the cream of the catch – a stunning Oleander Hawkmoth! Wow! What an amazing creature. Its big, its green and pink – it’s awesome! The group are more than a little impressed. And with that we head in to the restaurant to enjoy a sumptuous meal of local cuisine (and strawberry ice cream!). Cheers!

Oleander Hawkmoth

Tues, 27 Sept
After a leisurely breakfast, we head east, out past Achladeri in to the pinewoods. Near Vasilika, we stop by a large area of reedbed which was once an open lake. Our forest walk produces very little in way of passerines and brief and unsatisfactory views of Honey-buzzard over a distant ridge is no consolation. It’s a good sign though, as the day is heating up fast and raptors are obviously beginning to move.

We move on down the east side of the Gulf of Kalloni to the Polichnitos Saltpans. As we are getting out of the vans a small raptor appears over the pans – a male Goshawk! We get fantastic views as it gets harried by a Hooded Crow, but even whilst being mobbed, the Gos still attempts to take a rising Crested Lark! With the sun behind us, the light on the pans is outstanding. We scan the pans and immediately pick up both White and Black Stork. Great stuff! The place is pink with Flamingos who are interspersed with Grey Herons, Great White Egrets and Little Egrets. A handful of Redshank and Greenshank wade beneath the forest of legs! Three Pintail fly past and go down on a pan out of view before two Slender-billed Gills are picked up among the roosting Black-headed Gulls. Next up is a flock of Little Stints whizzing around the pans and four Grey Plover fly in flashing their black armpits. We move on and find the Grey Plovers feeding in among a flock of Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank and Greenshank. Three of the Black Storks take flight and begin to circle right above us! They gain height, continually circling and looking for new thermal lifts to take them to migrating altitude. Above them appear three more Black Storks – wow! That makes a grand total of 11 birds! Duncan then finds some Sandwich Terns roosting on post among the gulls and four Dunlin speed past us. We move further along and find a shallow pan with around 60 Little Stints feeding busily with their sewing machine action. Among them are a sprinkling of Dunlin, taller, bigger, longer-billed and much slower, deeper-probing feeding action. The Sandwich Tern count hits ten and the male and two female Pintail are at last found on one of the pans.

It’s searingly hot, by far the hottest day of the week. We head back to the vans and take the short drive to the coastal village of Skamnioudi where we are allowed to have our lunch in the shade a taverna overlooking the little harbour of brightly coloured boats. Our hosts oblige us by pulling several tables together in return for us buying cold drinks – deal! We have a nice leisurely lunch with banter turning from birds, to Greek dogs, films and much more. Whilst talking about James Bond movies, Sean Connery becomes our topic and Duncan does a cracking impersonation of the great Scot, but with a birding twist – ‘So Shortie. You say you’re an eagle. Then show us your toes’. At which point I lift my sandled foot and wiggle my piggies! Not for the first time the group is in fits of laughter.

After lunch we return to the saltpans and attempt to view the pans from the seaward side but apart from the searing heat, the birds are too flighty so we retreat. We take the dusty tracks-cum-roads through the olive groves to the coastal village of Skala Vasilikon, and then the beach track towards Achladeri. The wind is getting up and is nothing other than the odd Yellow-legged Gulls on or over the white-horsed sea. We pull up by a sheltered harbour where there are a number of gulls. ‘Adult Med Gull’ I shout. We get great views of this white-winged gull before it flies and settles on the sea with five others!

We arrive in Napi Valley and begin searching an area of hanging oak woodland. A Middle Spotted Woodpecker laughs at us from his hiding place. Chaffinches, Goldfinche, Blue and Great Tits. Then a few Willow Warblers. But not asniff of a Sombrero. I beckon everyone to me and point to a rock with legs – a tortoise! I explain that I found it when I heard it scraping its shell on the rocks! A calling woodpecker attracts our attention so we leave the tortoise alone. I then pick up the first of several Wood Warblers we see here. We retreat to the vans to move on when a Black Stork wings by and drops in to the opposite hillside, almost certainly a safe place for the night. We are reading to leave when Duncan picks up on a couple of Sombreros on the other side of the road. We get scopes on to them and enjoy great views of out much sought after quarry. The two Sombreros vie for our attention with two very showy Rock Nuthatches. The first of two male Goshawks moves past heading south, then a Lesser Kestrel. ‘Wood Nuthatch!’ exclaims Duncan as he sees a nuthatch head in to the canopy of a large oak. We can’t relocate it until I find a Wood Nuthatch on the trunk of a nearby oak some time later. This is one of only two sites on the island that I know for this species, and only the third time he has managed to see all three of the islands nuthatch species in the same week!

The sun sinks behind the kill behind us and indicates it is time to head back to the hotel. We arrive back with plenty of time for people to have a swim, enjoy a drink or a book before we gather for dinner. Pre-dinner entertainment again comes in the form of a few potted goodies from the pervious nights moth-trapping including a fine Praying Manitis and a green form of the stick insect-like grasshopper we saw at Faneromeni yesterday.

Acrida ungarica - a green version this time

Wed, 28 Sept
We wake to another blue, cloudless day. The sun is already high and fast warming the cool of the early morning. After our eggs and bacon breakfast, we head out to the mouth of East River. Yellow-legged and Black-headed Gulls line the bar. Sue spots a Kingfisher distantly, but its distinctive shape, even in silhouette, is easily identifiable. We more along and find the ford is being remade, so it’s the long way round along a dry river. Duncan’s van get brief views of an Olivaceous Warbler and bump in to an active area containing a couple of male Blackcap and a Lesser Whitethroat. A little further down we come to a halt when Steve hears and sees a Red-throated Pipit flying up from near his lead van. The pipit lands on a support wire of a telegraph pole and although not close, the rosy face and thick breast streaking is easy to see. It evens gives out a second ‘speeeee’ whilst sat there.

We move on to the Kalloni Saltpans. As we turn in to the western road on the pans, I spot a large bird high in the sky through the blurred corner of the windscreen. As I slow down to a stop, I ask Sue what it is. Before she can answer I lean across to view through her open passenger side window. ‘PELICAN!’ I scream grabbing my radio. ‘Pelican! Pelican!’ I yell to Duncan as I jettisons from the van. ‘Pelican!’ I continue to yell just in case anyone on the island hasn’t yet heard. Eight more bodies scramble from the vans. Coming over from the Kalloni direction is a barn door of a bird, gliding downwards towards us. It flaps its 2.5m wings unbelievably serenely for such a huge bird. It continues to cruise towards us, then turns effortlessly in a full circle over us. It’s an amazing sight. Huge, long, broad, parallel sided, deeply fingered wings which are dark on the primaries and secondaries, with speckling through the underwing coverts. A huge off-white body. And huge, long, thick bill and throat sack. A juvenile White Pelican right over our heads! It glides down towards the saltpans. It heads towards the east side, where on circling downwards it begins to flush everything, including the Flamingos. With a low approach over the water, it swings down its legs, its wings are turned so the underwing is facing forwards, and it lurches to a halt on one of the bunds between two pans. It must be three quarters of a mile away and it is enormous! In an act of pure happiness, Duncan and I dance the ‘Pelican Polka’ along the road!

In a state of shock-cum-elation, we scrabble back aboard the vans and razz round to the east side of the pans. We are soon out of the vans and heading down the east track, much to the amusement of a group of German tourists who have stopped for a Flamingo break. We stop. Scan. ‘Got it!’ announces Duncan. Scopes are up and on it. Fantastic! What a huge hay stack of thing it is. It is sat up, neck outstretched looking from side to side. It’s obviously sussed that the water level of the pans is only ankle deep on the Flamingos and not deep enough for fishing!


It continues to look around then suddenly launches itself off the bank. Its huge wings scoop up meters if air beneath them, and with each flap it seems to take a jump upwards. It’s airborne once again. How can such an enormous, clumsy looking thing like this be such a supreme and agile flyer? It begins to circle and gain height. It rises higher and higher. None of us can take our eyes off it, it is such an amazing spectacle. It eventually gets to a good height before turning and heads off west – back from whence it came.

Good bye Mr White Pelican. Thank you for making our day!

But the day is not over by any means. The pans are alive with masses of pink Flamingos, Great White and Little Egrets, Grey Herons and seven Black Storks. Wonderful stuff! The pan in front of us holds a flock of feeding shanks – Common Redshank, Greenshank and single Spotted Redshank, while the pan next door to it has a group of roosting Avocets. While we enjoy the waders, two Ortolans fly over calling. We walk a little further down the track when two birds fly up from a grassy field on to a fence. Tawny Pipits! And what cracking views. The two birds sit up for a minute or so in brilliant light so that all their features can be clearly seen.

A thin layer of cloud has formed which just takes the edge off the blazing sun, so it is just right on the comfort level. Scanning the skyline above the hills four Ravens are seen before I pick up a falcon swooping over one of the wooded hilltops. Large, long-winged, dark and with swooping, looping flight it is clearly an Eleanora’s Falcon, and what’s more, there’s two of them! Although distant, the shape, movement and jizz is very obvious. Behind us one of the Black Storks lifts off the pans, circles and heads off. Duncan then hones in on a buzzard. He watches and watches as it nears. ‘Honey-buzzard’ he pronounces. We pick the bird up, and again, although distant, its shape, with long, slightly drooped wings, and behaviour, are very different to the Common and Long-legged Buzzards we’ve been seeing up until now. Di then finds a Sparrowhawk sparring with a Raven before I pick up an incoming Osprey. And it keeps coming, and coming, until it flies right over our heads! Wow – what a fantastic sight. The bird drifts over the pans prospecting the water below. It turns in to the wind, holds still momentarily before altering its wing shape which sweeps it around and off again over the pan. The sun is right behind us and couldn’t be better for viewing the pans and the light on the Osprey as it drifts back and forth is fantastic.

Attention turns to the group of storks, egrets and herons all standing together on or by one of the bunds. They remind us of the groups of old men we see sitting outside the tavernas in the town and village centres we have been driving through!

We begin to head back to the vans and a small flock of Ortolans flies over, frustratingly going straight on. Whinchat and Red-backed Shrike are seen, and the couple of Tawny Pipits continue to show on and off. We come across a small muddy island which holds a flock of small waders – Kentish Plover, Dunlin and Little Stints. Duncan then finds three Teal on one of the pans when a flock of 14 Pintail wing in.

We head back to the hotel for lunch. Some have a swim in the pool (adding Crag Martin and Barn Swallow to the pool list) whilst others enjoy a cold drink and the insects on the hotel gardens flowers – Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Swallowtail, Painted Lady and Cardinal butterflies. We enjoy an al fresco lunch of spaghetti nepoleana, bread and cheese – nice, light and refreshing.



After our long and relaxing lunch, we head off up Napi Valley. We stop just south of the village of Napi itself and follow a track in to the hills. Long-legged and Common Buzzards wheel around over the hill tops. A Black Stork arrives in on the scene, circling over one of the wooded slopes, gains height and drifts off south. A couple of Ravens appear over us, circling together. A male Goshawk appears among them. One of the Ravens takes umbrage and starts on the Goshawk. Wrong move! Before the Raven knows it, the roles are reversed and the male Gos hammers the Raven in to submission and a hasty retreat across the valley.

Walking on down the track, a large, green, praying mantis with a bulbous abdomen (Iris oratoria) stops us in out tracks. A few of us take some snaps as more Long-legged and Common Buzzards appear and a couple of Sparrowhawks whiz through to the south. Standing watching for Sombre Tit, Middle Spotted Woodpeckers chatter around us. We then hear a dull thud from the trees on the other side of the dry river bed. There it is again. And again. ‘It sounds like a pair of mating Tortoises’ says Duncan. It does alright!

Iris oratoria - fatty!

A male Blue Rock Thrush appears on a crag above us. Although distant it glows blue in the bright sun. Another Goshawk drifts over – our fifth of the day! Two Short-toed Eagles then come over nice and low for us to enjoy, and as we follow them, we see them go past another Goshawk! The calling woodpeckers fail to give themselves up to us and a Lesser Whitethroat appears briefly. A female Peregrine begins to put on a one woman show for us. She circles around, wheels, loops and stoops! Whoopee! A Short-toed Eagle appears above us and puts on a wind-hovering show of its own. We all get stunning scope views of this fantastic eagle as it holds itself near motionless in the sky. A Common Buzzard joins in the show so we now have the female Peregrine, Short-toed eagle and Common Buzzard wheeling around above us.

Short-toed Eagle - so Shortie . . .

‘Sombre Tit!’ I shout. ‘On top of the olive tree’. All our attention is switched from the three raptors to what turns out to be two Sombreros flitting around the trees in front of us. They perform brilliantly flitting from tree to tree and seeming to find plenty of food. We watched them holding insect prey in their feet and hacking at them as if they were nuts! We enjoy watch the two Sombreros feeding alongside two Great Tits for five minutes or so. Time is getting on so we decide to call it a day. We turn to walk back to the vans, and on taking a couple of steps I suddenly shout ‘Quail! Quail!’ pointing to a bird coming from up from my feet and gives great flight views as it flees along the road, over a hedge and gone. Wow! What an incredible way to end the day!

Thurs, 29 Sept

Egyptian Grasshopper - in the moth trap!

We breakfast just half an hour earlier this morning so we can get an earlier start to head out west. Talk soon turns to how we are going to match yesterday’s thrills.

It’s hardly a flying start when we reach Liminos Monastery and find the hillside very quiet. Even the hoped for captive collection of Turkey, Ostrich and Rhea fail to show! Is it going to be one of those days?

We next stop at the Grand Canyon. Again quiet. A couple of Crag Martins drift along the valley. Middle Spotted Woodpeckers appear to be calling from all directions but none show themselves – not even in flight! We have to make do with a couple of Spotted Flycatchers, Willow Warblers, tits and a singing Robin. A Long-legged Buzzard puts in an appearance just as we are leaving.

We arrive at Ipsilou. The lower, rocky slopes hold only a couple of Rock Nuthatches and not a sniff of the expected Rock Sparrow. We reach the trees and can hear Cirl Bunting but cannot see it. There are Willow Warblers all over the place, brobbing from tree to tree. But they all need checking just in case. A Painted Lady joins the many more usual butterflies along the roadside. ‘Levant’s Sparrowhawk!’ I yell . Everyone gets on to the small accipiter above us. It is very pale below, finely barred with a subtle peachy wash to its breast, short wings with a pointed hand, and importantly, the wingtip is edged dark and appear black tipped. No sooner as we see it and it’s gone, disappeared over the hilltop. Duncan and I are elated as it’s a lifer for both of us, and maintains my record of a lifer on every trip I have lead to Lesbos. We hang around in hope it may return but it doesn’t. We continue checking the many movements in the bushes and trees, sifting our way through the Willow Warblers. Sue and I see something flit across a clearing. It’s out of view, but Steve can just see a quivering tail. ‘Redstart’ I announce. The bird initially plays hard to see, but then flits across the road in n the front of us and settles out in the open. Fantastic. What more there are two. A couple of Sparrowhawks appear below us, circling together as they rise up the valley. We are looking down on them which is very novel as you often don’t get such a view. As they reach eyelevel, a third bird joins them and the three of them wheel around, gaining height and drifting off southward. Duncan then catches a shadow moving across the hillside. Looking up he finds a juvenile Hobby sweeping through the sky. It whizzes back and forth over the tree-covered slope, twisting every now and then as it obviously catches an insect. The young falcon gives brilliant views and every detail of its underparts is clear to see – heavily streaked underparts, black and white face, lack of red trousers, and the distinctive shape, especially when it pulls its wings back and slices, scythe-like through the Lesbos sky.

We reach the top to find Norman has seen three Rock Sparrows whilst he has been waiting for us. We take a walk up to the monastery getting brief views of Cirl and Corn Buntings and a Wood Warbler. At the top we watch the sheltered side of the hill which is basking in sunlight. Willow Warblers and tits are everywhere. Eventually we find a couple of Sombre Tits, a female Blackcap and a Lesser Whitethroat. A Middle Spotted Woodpecker flies past and lands in an almond tree. It hides. It then flies to an oak tree where we get good views before it flies up in to the sparsely leaved branches of another tree and we at last get cracking views of this all too elusive woodpecker with its blazing red head. We enjoy a visit to inside the monastery and the chapel before heading back down for lunch. Lunch on Ipsilou – there can’t many lunch views to rival this! After lunch (and the pesky cats) we walk back down the hill weith very little else to show for it.

We head on south, through Errosos where we stop briefly at some freshwater pools. Amazingly they are dead! With so little fresh water about we expected the pools to be a magnet and teeming with birds. House Sparrows, a Little Grebe, a really big Marsh Frog and some Red-veined Darters is all we get. A Blue Rock Thrush on a crag overlooking us is a bonus.

We turn south at Mesopotos and then a rough track to Chroussou. A couple of Long-legged Buzzards and a Red-backed Shrike bode well. As we along the track the place is leaping with Willow Warblers, the odd Spotted Flycatcher and Red-backed Shrike. This is excellent. I then spot a couple of Chukars flying along the track ahead of us. We edge closer. Steve tells his van to check the rocky slope to our right. ‘Here it is!’ announces Mary. Bingo! One of the two Chukars walking through the rocks by the vans which everyone gets good views of before it takes flight. The second bird flies down the side of the vans as we pull away. We continue along the track picking up more warblers, flycatchers and shrikes. We round a bend to overlook a green and lush valley below us. This is a little oasis in the barren landscape which surrounds us. As we drive through there are even more warblers, a mixed flock of Hooded Crows and Jackdaws and loads, and loads of sparrows – but not a single Spanish anywhere. We move on down to the beach where two large signs informs us that we are not allowed to bathe nude or camp. Damn! We make use of the toilet block (a first!) and the surrounds and find Northern Wheatear, Whinchat and Blue Rock Thrush. I turn to rescan the peaceful looking sea which has failed so far to deliver even a Yellow-legged Gull. ‘Cory’s Shearwater!’ I shout. ‘Just offshore flying right!’. Wow! It is so close it’s unbelievable. Its wheeling around low over the surface, and the occasional plunge tells us it is actively feeding. All available scopes are erected and soon on it and everyone enjoys mega views of what is usually a very difficult species to see, let alone this well! It continues to wheel around, showing off its dark-edged, white underwings, white body, greyish hood and mantle and darker browner wings and its large size, lazy flight of glides and occasional deep wingbeats are very noticeable. These are the best land views I have ever had and more than make up for the distant views of the other day. Whoopee! What a bird!

Time is pressing on, so after a brief look back around the lush fields and views of a Tawny Pipit and more Red-backed Shrikes, we head eastwards and meander our way back to the hotel arriving back in plenty of time for folk to have a swim or long, slow drink before another traditional Greek dinner.

Fri, 30 Sept
Guess what? Yes, it’s another fine, blue sky of a start to the day, but, distinctly cooler and this is reflected in the moth trap catch, the highlight of which is a couple of Praying Mantids (Ameles discolour) and a Lang’s Short-tailed Blue butterfly! The Tree Frog which had set up station in the trap is no where to be seen.

Tree Frog - looking very content in the moth trap. I wonder how many moths he has chomped his way thorugh?

After breakfast we head north, first checking the Scops copse (renamed ‘cops copse since it was home to a police radar trap!) for any sign of owls, large or small, but nothing. We arrive at the Kalloni ‘bandstand’ to the sound of a singing Rockhatch. A Blue Rock Thrush puts in a brief appearance before Duncan finds a Goshawk circling over the nearby wooded slopes. One bird turns into two birds, and two in to three! A Chukar suddenly breaks cover from halfway up the slope next to us but only a couple of us see it. A Cirl Bunting begins to sing and as per usual it flies off. Sue suggests a new end-of-week category of ‘Bugger of the Week’ and Cirl Binting has it! Not one has so far played ball despite hearing them all over the place.

We stop briefly at ‘Tracey Island’ near Petra. So called after the Thunderbirds like café/bar building near the lay-by. A couple of Lesser Whitethroats is all we can rustle up from the scrub so it’s off to Molivos to enjoy the view across to Turkey from the castle. Duncan picks up a broad-winged raptor over the sea and with scopes we manage to ID as Marsh Harrier. There are Willow Warblers leaping all over the place and a Goshawk (the fifth of the day) wings by and disappears in to cover behind the castle. We nip down in the town where most of us enjoy a spot of retail therapy and find a great little shop which sells Lesvos wine, olive oils and other locally made foods. It satisfies all our needs, including John’s week-long craving for a Mars Bar!

We nip down to the irrigation reservoir near the town but our stop is short as we find only a handful of Little Grebes, Yellow-legged Gulls and White Wagtail. At Eftalou, Duncan’s van get brief view of a Kingfisher, and on the accent of the start of the north coast track, my van get great views of a Balkan Green Lizard as it runs across the track, and brief flight views of a Chukar. We lunch in the shade of some oak trees with a great view across to Turkey. I spy a Little Owl in a crevice of a nearby farm building. A dark phase Marsh Harrier wings over, fresh from Turkey and powering off to the south. Cardinal and Swallowtail butterflies flit and glide all around us. Di spots an incoming raptor. Duncan and I get our scopes on to it. It’s coming head on and is very difficult to tell what it is. I spot another bird just above it. They both flap lazily and glide on flat wings. Thoughts of more Marsh Harriers are dismissed. Buteo buzzards are also dismissed when Duncan and I get the first plumage features. They are Honey Buzzards! They continue to wing towards us and almost over us giving great views of their long, cuckoo-like heads, finely barred underparts and long tails. Fantastic! At last we get good views of some Honey Bees making up for the distant views we’ve had so far.

With no more raptors on the move and lunch finishes, we head off eastwards. We pull up at an inconspicuous spot. I jump out of my van and walk straight in to the surf. ‘Coming in?’ I ask the others. ‘It’s lovely and warm’. And the reason it is so warm is that just here there are hot springs below shoreline. Most of the other follow and can’t believe how hot the pebbles and coarse sand gets. ‘Aagghh!’ exclaims John. ‘That’s seriously hot!’. Di is sat down on the beach stripping off her shoes and socks and notices that her backside is soon heating up!

Paddling - well it just has to be done!

Paddling over we take a quick look at the steaming muddy puddle nearby where several powder-blue Southern Skimmers are zipping around. One male keeps a constant watch over an ovipositing female, chasing off all other males.

We move on to Skala Sikaminias where we take a nice break out our favourite taverna with its resident Scarlet Mackaw. Ice creams, coffees and the off glass of wine are quaffed whilst watching life in this sleepy little harbour village slowly go by.

Returning southwards the Napi valley is unusually quiet and the only real excitement is when Duncan disturbs a Cat Snake but none of the others get to see it. Shame.

We check the Kallonu Saltpans, in particular the adjacent fields for Stone-curlews. The fields here are traditional gathering points for migrating birds, but so far this week they have been Stonie free. On field is chocked full of Corn Bunting which fly off ‘plipping’ as we enter. From here we scan the pans. An Osprey wings around, occasionally hovering, looking for its evening meal. We head over to West River where we check more areas for Stone-curlews, but still no joy. A couple of Northern Wheatears bob around the dry river area. Duncan picks up a young female Peregrine on the deck. She’s enjoying tucking to something she has recently caught, but we can’t make out what it is. She’s a large bird and we all get good views as she fills her crop before making off.

We arrive back at the hotel in time for many to enjoy there evening swim and for us all to begin to pack. We leave tomorrow, but not after another sumptuous evening meal and drink together, and not after a last morning of birding to enjoy!

Sat, 1 Oct
We wake to a distinctly cooler morning with cloud to the south-west threatening to flood the pale blue sky.

After breakfast we head out to West River to check again for any overnight arriving Stone-curlews. Still not joy. We arrive at inland lake to find two Green Sandpipers bobbing around the muddy puddle. They flee ‘whittering’ as they tower over the nearby scrub. A couple of Cetti’s warbler belt out their distinctive song bursts including what sounds like a young bird which is a little on the hoarse side. Di spots a male Cirl Bunting sat above us, right out in the open on a dead tree top. On our last morning, the bird that has eluded us all week, has given itself up, surely in the hope to lose its ‘Bugger of the Week’ tag!

We take the track through towards Dalia getting more great views of Rock Nuthatch. I spot a Middle Spotted Woodpecker in an olive. It flies. It lands in a fig tree. I edge my van forward and bingo! There it is. We’ve had some good views already this week, but John and Rosemary have missed the best views, but this betters the lot. It’s a cracker, sat out in the top of the fig tree before moving to the top of a telegraph pole and posing a little more! Wonderful stuff.

We arrive at the saltpans and enjoy a fantastic final hour and a half in the field. We again see Osprey and there had been a significant increase in the number of Common Redshank which must now number over 100 from only a couple of dozen early in the week. This is a good sign and might mean there are more waders new in. And there are! First up is a juvenile Black-winged Stilt which poses nicely and close to the track. Duncan then finds a few Grey Plovers sat up on one of the bunds before I spot a flock of six Curlew Sandpipers flying around distantly over the pans. There is also a large flock of Dunlin and Little Stints winging around but always settling out of slight.

Black Storks and Flamingos

But it’s not all waders. I pick up a juvenile Hobby right over us before picking up three Serins flitting from fenceline to field. Scopes are soon on them and we get great views of these streaky little finches. Next up is another Peregrine cruises over the pans before kicking into gear and slicing through the air after a Redshank. It misses. The first of the mornings five Black Storks passes over southwards. I pick up on another falcon. ‘Eleanora’s!’ I shout. Great stuff – our best views of the week of this enigmatic falcon as this light phase birds flaps lazily over occasionally jinking to take an insect, maybe a high-flying dragonfly, as hirundines are few and far between in recent days.

A Curlew flies in and another or the same juvvy Hobby appears over us hawking for insects. The distinctive ‘zit, zit, zit’ calls of a Zitting Cisticola. This is the nearest we get to this elusive warbler. Duncan and I explain that this is the only cisticola to be found in Europe of this African family, and it is often called Fan-tailed Warbler.

As we return to the vans, two more Black Storks appear overhead and give a great display if synchronised circling. Duncan picks up on a couple of raptors over the nearby hill. It’s our daily Goshawk and a Common Buzzard. Above them we find two more Black Storks wheeling around. I spy another dot. I struggle to focus on it. It’s moving quite fast. Then I get it. It’s a dragonfly and not a distant raptor! Oops! A Tree Pipit zips around calling its buzzy ‘peez’ note. The Osprey reappears to bid us farewell and round off a cracking last morning on this superb Aegean island. With four new species added to the weeks tally, we finish off on a great 110 species of bird, and a host of mammals, amphibians, lizards and insects.

Lunch on the pool terrace - very nice!

We enjoy a relaxed lunch on the hotel’s pool terrace. We undergo our usual end of week formalities. The lovely village of Skala Sikiminias claims place of the trip ahead of the north coast, Napi valley, Sigri, Ipsilou and the West River. Magic moments are rarely shared by more than one person and this week is no exception, but Wednesday’s hovering Short-toed Eagle in Napi valley gets two votes (Di and John) with Duncan’s and Steve’s ‘Pelican Polka’ (Sue), yesterday’s north coast Little Owl (Cath), circling Black Storks (Rosemary), the Sigri Kingfisher (Mary), the White Pelican (Duncan) and the Levant Sparrowhawk (me) all getting a vote each. So down to species of the trip, and Rock Nuthatch sweeps the boards with a staggering five votes, with Black Stork (2), Kingfisher and Alpine Swifts getting mention. And bugger of the week, well, we all know what that was!

We make our way to the airport as the greying clouds begin to burst. Our flight to Athens and onward flight to Heathrow go without incident and before we know it, we are collecting our bags and bidding one another farewell with great memories of a great trip.

For a full trip list of birds, insects etc, click here

Images | © Steve Dudley
Birds | Leica APO Televid 62| 26xWA or 20xWA | Nikon Coolpix 995
Insects | Nikon Coolpix 995

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Moorhen 1 Tree Pipit 1

The most autumnal morning by far - dank and misty. As I chomped on my cereal at my desk, I was surprised to see a Moorhen wander in to the garden, pick around the lawn and then wander off, across the drove and into the misty field opposite. Only the second Moorhen to venture in/through my pond-free garden.

As a stepped outside my second surprise of the morning came in the form of a TREE PIPIT which flew up from under the fruit trees! What a fantastic garden tick (no. 113 - Click here for full up-to-date garden list). Unfortunately, although I retreated back in to the porch and enjoyed views of it partially hidden in one of the trees, my neighbour appeared with his two dogs and off it shot calling as it flew down the line of elms by the house. I followed, but no sign in my two walks down the tree line, or since in the garden. Shame - Treepits are fab birds to watch creep around feeding, bobbing their back end around. The camera was set up just in case it does creep back in – but it didn’t.

Standing in the garden, and through the clearing mist I could hear the autumn tinkling of several more Robins than normal, a couple of Skylarks in subsong sounding quite mournful, the constant seep-seep of Meadow Pipits bouncing round the stubble fields, the distinctive chatter of Tree Sparrows among the chirping and squawking of the sparrow and starling roost in the neighbours leylandii hedge, and the rasping call of a single Grey Partridge. Just one of those mornings when its almost joyous to be alive! Then the neighbouring farmyard machinery started up and drowned out all but the noisiest of calls!

Around the fen my great start to the day continued with -

Merlin, 1 fem/imm fem (same bird as recent days)
Peregrine, 1 tatty ad male (same bird as recently on Blackbush)
Marsh Harrier, 1 1st summer male (new bird)
Yellow Wag, 2
Reed Warbler, 2
Common Whitethroat, 1
Meadow Pipits, c.70+ - well up on recent days
Swallow, 30+ through to south
Blackbird, 15 - well up on recent days
Song Thrush, 5 - could all be local birds popping out of the woodwork, but only been recording 1-2 in recent weeks
Tawny Owl, being mobbed by many birds inc Great Spotted Woodpecker
Dunnocks, 4 calling from a single sugar beet field (last weeks observation of Dunnocks in beet fields wasn't a one off then!)

What a great morning!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Autumn moths

Lunar Underwing - new for the garden. 20 September

With autumn has come clearer, cooler nights and the number of moths caught has plummeted to only only 24 individuals of six species last night. But still some new moths for the garden being caught.

Frosted Orange - new for the garden. 14 September

Image | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

Merlin 1 Mipit 0

Just had some great Merlin action from the house.

I was in the garden and heard a Meadow Pipit alarming and turned to see a fem/imm fem Merlin skimming across the adjacent stubble field, singling out a single Mipit from a small flock and then twisting and turning as it pursued and eventually hunted it down. Great stuff! The eventual kill was only about 70 yards away, and unusually I could hear the Mipit calling when the Merlin was stood on it (I've seen many kills and have never before heard a caught bird calling when caught). It didn't call for long though as the Merlin seemed pretty keen to get on with its snack!

It looked happy where it was so I dashed indoors for my scope and camera but she had gone by the time I returned. Oh hum. Can't have everything!

This bird is unusually dark on the upperparts and I presume it is the same bird I had on 11 Sept on Blackbush when from back on sat on a hay bale (the bird, not me) I initially mistook it for a young Hobby.

Monday, September 19, 2005


I can't work out whether Farcet Fen farmers are now making breakfast cereals or bricks for the local Fenland giants!

The wildlife side (and there is invariably a wildlife side to most things on this great fen) is that on a breezy day hundreds of Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters feed on the leaward, sunny sides of these modern-day haystacks, while dozens of Swallows sweep backwards and forwards hovering up the flies the dragons miss!

Image | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

UK Collared Dove 500 Club

I had a count of 212 Collared Doves (in two flocks) on Blackbush yesterday, and noticing an increase on the fen here this evening, I did a quick whiz round my fave ;-) Collared Dove sites and came up with the following totals -

Farcet Fen - 307 (7 flocks)
Farcet village - 11 (one flock)
Blackbush - 247 (two flocks)

Total - 565!

So, application accepted Mr Toadsnatcher.

All the flocks, apart from the Farcet village birds, were feeding in wheat stubble. I note in CBC Checklist 2000 that the largest ever flock in the county is 485 in Cambridge in 1997 - so none of these match that, but the total obviously does. I just wonder how many more of the bleeders are out there.

What an amazing story the Collared Dove is, a British bird for only 50 years. Little Egret is the nearest many of us have experienced in our own lifetime, but it will obviously never quite match the CD!


Imagine my delight when returning from the post office I find this dead Yankee Tree-rat on the drove. You've heard the saying - the only good tree-rat is a dead tree-rat (well you have now). Surely my luck can't be that good - it can't be the one from my garden this morning? And nope - it isn't. One of these critters out on the fen is just unfortunate, two is plague! There must be more on the way. The nearby suburbia of fenland towns must be overrun with them and they are on the move! No, I can't take it - invasion of the tree-rat! Slap! Phew - nearly lost it there. Lets look forward to seeing a few more like this one eh.

And isn't it about time we saw tree-rat on the a few pub menus? There are some great recipes.

Image | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

A not so welcome visitor

American Tree-rat - one of the scourges of the British countryside

Hot on the heels of the Little Owl comes only my second ever tree rat in the garden. Yes, we even get them in the middle of the fens! The first was two autumns ago and it thankfully stayed for only a day before moving down the drove for another couple of days before disappearing altogether (yippee!). Let’s hope this one follows suit!

forget culling Ruddy Ducks, these introduced blighters do untold damage to our natural wildlife as they predate the nests of many songbird species, drive out our native Red Squirrel and cause major damage to trees. But, I guess we are stuck with them since I would dread to think of the cost of trying to eradicate these sods.

Leica APO Televid 62 with 26xWA | Nikon Coolpix 995 |
© Steve Dudley

A little surprise

Whilst on the phone this morning I was looking out at the feeders and wondered what all the commotion was as the tits were bouncing around and all the sparrows and finches had scarpered. I then noticed a small lump in one of the trees. A Little Owl!

With with up to five pairs breeding on the whole of Farcet Fen Fen I am used to birds arund the house and have recently seen and heard them in the evenings from the garden. But this is the first bird I've seen venture in to the garden. Possibly drawn in by all the feeding birds? And then wondered where they had all buggered off to once he had pitched up next to the feeders!It eventually saw sens and moved in one of the more covered apple trees and the birds resumed their elevenses.

I've long held the belief that with the advent of email, and the reduced amount of phone calls most of us make/receive, those of us with garden views are missing out. How? Well, we spend much more time looking at a computer screen using email, and when I use the phone, I usually stop looking at the screen and watch the garden whilst I am on the phone. The result is that when I am on the phone I often see something of note and the person on the other end gets a range of expletives as I shout about Little Owl, Spar, Peregrine, Merlin, Hobby etc!

Leica APO Televid 62 with 26xWA | Nikon Coolpix 995 |
© Steve Dudley

Have a banana

Comma (top) and Red Admiral on bananas

Waste not , want not - any over-ripe fruit goes in to the garden for the birds, insects, slugs and snails to enjoy. Over-ripe bananas are hung under one of my hebes and usually attract a few moths at night, and during the day, loads of flies and the occasional butterfly. The nack is to puncture each banana, either by stabbing it in several places or to make a shallow cut down the length of it (or both!).

Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Another day, another Osprey!

Well, well, well. What a fantastic raptor day. Five Red Kites, five Common Buzzards, four Sparrowhawks and a couple of Kestrels all seen high heading southish during the afternoon. This was in addition to the usual four Marsh Harriers, two Hobbies, two Sparrowhawks and seven Kestrels around the fen!

This evening though took the biscuit. Pottering around the front garden (filling feeders, setting moths traps etc) at 1905h, an Osprey (yes, two in two days!) flapped lazily past not much above roof height. I followed on foot to watch it head towards the irrigation res, circle then break southwards again. It made it to Bevill's Leam where it turned westwards, flew for a few hundred yards then turned and retraced its steps. It had that classic hunched, head down shape of a hunting bird. It nearly reached Tebitt's Bridge before it turned westwards again and after a few hundred yards, bvroke off south and started to gain a little height. A couple of crows gave it a bit of stick, but it was already an a direct southerly line and soon out of their 'care zone'. I watched it for about another five minutes as it slowly moved down towards Ramsey St Mary's and was lost to view. It possibly went on to Woodwalton Fen, or other woodland block, for the night.

Arriving back home at 1950h I had an answerphone message from Don Gardner to tell me that Matt Webb had just an Osprey low over Ferry Meadows shortly before 1855h heading my way! I might not have got the call at the time, but at least I did see the bird!

Another coincidence is that in 2003 I had an Osprey at Prior’s Fen and the following day another Osprey over the house. Yesterday I had an Osprey at PF and today one over the house. What a double-double! The 2003 Prior’s Fen bird headed off strongly north-westwards, so I telephoned Will Bowell who managed to get to Deeping Lakes and see it 25 mins later! So my tip is if you see an Osprey going over, ring someone you know who is in the direction the bird is flying!

The Hummingbird Hawk-moth around one of the gardens as I was hot-footing it after the Osprey barely got a second glance!

What a day!

Monday, September 05, 2005

An Osprey day

Walking in to Prior's Fen this evening I was partly miffed at disturbing a perched Osprey from a tree, but justifiably chuffed at finding one non-the-less! It flapped lazily away, circled the pits a couple of times before heading off eastwards. My second local Osprey of the year following one in spring at Orton Brick Pit.

The pits themselves proved entertaining with four Little Egberts, Dunlin, Greenshank, Common Sand and Ringed Plover.

On the way back I racked up a couple of Buzzards, a Whinchat and a Wheatear. Well worth the effort!

Friday, September 02, 2005

White Stork

White Stork near Newborough

I rarely seem to digiscope in anger these days and after initial distant views of this stork I was passing by early afternoon so nipped in to find it right by the roadside and was pretty pleased with these shots in the haze.

When it started feeding it walked gingerly on through the stubble and on one occasion patting a row of cut stems with its foot no doubt attempting to pursuade a few beetles to run out.

Leica APO Televid 77 with 20xWA | Nikon Coolpix 995 |
© Steve Dudley

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Webb's Wainscot and other recent moths

Webb's Wainscot - caught 30 August

Mothing has been relatively slow in recent days and I've had little or no time to spend photographing and posting stuff!

The Webb's Wainscot is a real prize locally being only the 6th record for Hunts (first record only as recently as 2000) of this nationally scarce species, was obviously a an addition to my square and a tick for me! From a local perspective, The Natural Stone spotted that it was about as rare as his Bedstraw Hawkmoth! Still know which I would prefer tho Bri ;-)

Webb's Wainscot

And it just doesn't make sense how you catch some of these rarities. This Webb's Wainscot was caught by opening the back door and it flying in to the house! Not a moth trap in sight!

Bulrush, Webb's and Common Wainscots

White-spotted Pinion

On 12 August I caught another goodie in the form of this White-spotted Pinion. Hunts is a stronghold for this near-Red Data species but the nearest it gets to me is about 10 miles ot the south of me near Upwood.

Other recent good-lookers include

Copper Underwing - new for the garden

Burnished Brass - a stunner, one of my faves, and surely one of George Lucas's inspirations for one of his Star Wars characters!

Centre-barred Sallow - new for the garden

Double-striped Pug - new for the garden


Lime-speck Pug - just a cracking example

Orange Swift

Rosy Rustic - new for the garden

Sallow Kitten - now thats what I call a looker!

Small Square-spot

Red Underwing - 2-3 present around the house and this one taken to roosting by the office window

For a full list of Toadsnatcher's garden moths click here

All images | Nikon Coolpix 995 | © Steve Dudley