Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Well what the chuff - its only like months since I entered owt in my diary. Oh hum! The big problem with setting somert like this up is keeping the damn thing up to date.

So, what 'av I been up to in recent times?

Late February - Graham Catley and Kev du Rose completely gripped me off with emails and digiscope shots of Wallcreepers et al they had seen in early Feb in southern France. Bugger it I thought! So off a group of us went for a crackin' few days birding La Camargue and surrounding environs. Frickin Wallcreepers for brekky on two days, a mega count of 652 Little Bustards (eat ya chuffin heart out!), a pair of displaying Bonelli's Eagles (if ya gonna bother - ya may as well bother good!), Slender-billed Gull, White Stork, Black Kites, Rock Spadgers, Stone-curlews, huge numbers of harriers and buntings and loads of other shit. Bloody fantastic! The whole thing only set us back around £230 each via Ryanair to Montpellier, stayed at Etap hotel in Arles and a hire car.

There's been plenty of it for a change. A semi decent run of passage waders and other birds in the Peterborough area including Temminck's Stint (PBC tick no. 210) found on the Nene Washes (and a second bird seen at Welland Bank Pits on 13 May), a few Bar-tailed Godwits, Whinchat (including three on Farcet Fen) and up to 11 (yes 11!) Turtle Doves in the garden! Can't say I've ever heard of anyone getting anywhere near that sort of number in their garden before (lets face it - how many people get Turts at all in their garden!).

Tree Sparrows continue to reside with me, Chris Hughes (ringer at Ferry Meadows CP and Bainton GP) came along to stick some shiny rings (and red colour rings) on my birds. We caught 13 and we missed at least 9 other birds. Amazing as I had only seen a max of 9 birds in the preceding two weeks! I reckon that I have 4-6 pairs breeding in the immediate area and visiting the garden feeders constantly.

The weekend of the 8/9 May was the local GPOG Bird Race. As defending champs our team (comprising Brian Stone, Katie Fuller, Kev du Rose (replacing Mikey Weedon who was in Canada) and myself) had something to prove, having scooped the GPOG Bird Race Tankard last year with the best ratio to date - 111 species from a total of 118 seen. We didn't let ourselves down. On what turned out to be a hard working cool and damp day we tied first place with 111 species from a total of 119 seen on the day. For a full list of what we saw see Katie's list.

Other local goodies include Long-eared Owls, Spotted Flys, garden full of buntings and stuff, oh - and loads more! Trust me.

But the best bird of the spring was a Hoopoe found by my good mate Brian Stone. I unfortunately missed it cos I was out of the country in . . .

LESBOS, 15 - 29 April - so I didn't really mind!! Hey, lets face it.Twoo weeks in Lesbos, quite probably the best birding anywhere in the Med/southern Europe or two weeks at home (even if it means missing a PBC tick!). This was the third year in a row I have had the pleasure of leading birding holidays for Speyside Wildlife on this fantastic Greek Aegean island which lies just 5 miles off the coast of Turkey. Each of my six weeks on the island have been co-leading with Speyside Wildlife's only staff guide - Mark Newall. Mark is one ofthee sharpest birders I have ever birded with (it helps like if you get paid to be in the field so much I guess!), and apart from being a great birder, he's also ace fun to be with (hey, I'll get people talking about the two of us if I go on any more!).

Lesbos was crackin'. The first week was a little on the cool, wet and windy side, and the old shorts didn't get a look in. The weather tho played a great part in providing top 'vis mig' (visible migration).Thee rain kept things down and in between the showers birds seemed to pop out of every bush at times (and out of the grass, and overhead, and out of the water!). We had a good weeks birding with the group, but Mark and I failed to pick up even a Lesbos tick between us.

On the group change over day though, that all changed (at least for me!). We had about eight hours between dropping one group off at the airport and picking the next one up. We headed out to the Vetara peninsula and had a cracking day's birding. Arriving at the river bridge we walked straight on to two Citrine Wags (Lesbos tick for me, and the first of 9 we would find in the next week - out of a total of 12 seen on the island - not a bad find ration eh). Caspian Tern was also added to my Lesbos list,but I think the best was a single Purple Ronnie (Purp Heron) and a couple of Collared Prats seen flying in off the sea from the headland - great stuff!

The second week was Lesbos at its best. The weather improved and with it the pace of birding gradually picked up as the migrants poured through. Mark and I both managed not only a Lesbos, but a life tick, when the group found a Eastern Bonelli's Warbler at Ipsilou - bloody fantastic! Well chuffed. Not so the next big bird - Little Swift, which I found in a sky full of swifts, swallows and martins - there were bloody hundreds of birds and nothing to give directions from only sky! Unfortunately it belted straight through and this first for the island was seen only by myself.

By the end of the week the place was hoochin' with Temminck's Stints (over 20 seen on our last day in under an hour along the East River), Bee-eaters where everywhere, and numbers of Red-footed Falcons were on the up including a group of 16 by the Kalloni saltpans. Other memories will include the flock of 21 Purple Rons looking for somewhere to land, flocks of marsh terns and bags of shrikes - Lesser, Woodchat, Masked and Red-backed all on the same day - oh, and a Roller! Simply fab, and I've said before, gotta be the best birdin in the Western Pal!

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