Sunday, 4 August 2013

Garden Butterflies...

Serious lack of butterflies around this year, not usually that many in the garden but we usually get Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks which I haven't seen any. Also one of the white ones, not sure which. But this morning basking on the stones was a slightly tatty looking Speckled Wood.

One thing I have maintained this year is water for the birds using just an old plastic tray. Probably to do with all the warm dry weather we have been having but it has been used by all sorts of birds for bathing and drinking. This morning there was 2 young Blackbirds, 4 House Sparrows and a Siskin all drinking from it at the same time until one of the Blackbirds decided to dive right in and have a wash.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Elgol / Loch Coruisk, Skye.

A bit late in making a post about this but last weekend (26/07) my friend Luke and I decided to head over to Skye for the weekend to do some exploring and wild camping.

We headed across after work on the Friday evening arriving at around 8.30pm. The plan for the weekend was to get to Loch Coruisk but as it was late we decided to camp on the shores of Loch Slapin and get an early start the next day. The weather on Friday evening was good, fairly mild with a bit of a breeze to keep the midges off. There were some noisy Oystercatchers nearby and a handful of Gannets out on the sea loch. Plenty of sheep too.

Camping on the shore of Loch Slapin.
Woke up on the Saturday morning to the sound of a large flock of sheep moving through aswell as calling Oystercatchers, Common Sandpipers, Curlew and Ringed Plovers. I managed to get a couple of photos of the Ringed Plovers from the campsite where the midges were pretty bad as it was very still and foggy.

Adult Ringed Plover
Juvenile Ringed Plover
After some bacon and a cup of tea seasoned with midges for breakfast we made our way on down to Elgol and it didn't take long for the weather to improve, by now it was a warm and sunny morning. The original plan was to hike to Loch Coruisk and back but we decided to get the early boat into Loch Coruisk then make our way back to Elgol over the next day and a half.

The boat trip over allowed us to see some stunning landscape views and we also passed a small colony of Common Seals enjoy the sun.

The drop off point.
A pair of vocal Ravens welcomed as at the start of Loch Coruisk allowing great views down to 50 metres as they perched on the surrounding rocks. We headed up to the other end of the Loch seeing Common Gulls, Meadow Pipits and Wheatears on the way. At the top of the Loch we stopped for a cup of tea and after about 20mins a Golden Eagle came soaring over the mountain top giving great views through the binoculars. Unfortunately I was a little slow in getting the camera on it.

Loch Coruisk
Heavily cropped Golden Eagle.
We spent the rest of the day hiking back towards Elgol, taking our time whilst appreciating the views and the wildlife. Plenty more Meadow Pipits and Wheatear seen throughout the day as well as loads of butterflies and day flying moths, I just wish I was better at my butterfly ID. Butterflies are getting rarer each year it seems so it was nice just knowing that they were there.

Magpie Moth (Abraxas grossulariata)
We continued on round to Camasunary, a impressive wide open bay where at this point it was full sunshine and 20+ degrees celcius. A short shower of rain brought out the midges again in big numbers but it soon went back to sun and we continued on our way.

Towards the evening and after some pretty hard going kilometres with the sun and full packs on we found a sheltered bay to camp again with fantastic views of the Cuillin Hills in the background. Whilst setting up camp I could hear more Ravens and Luke spotted a Kestrel hovering nearby. A young Wheatear also kept coming and going near to our chosen spot. There were still Gannets out at sea and Oystercatchers on the shore as well as plenty Rock Pipits.

Campsite No.2

On the Sunday morning we woke up to drizzley conditions but we only had a couple kilometres left back to Elgol. We arrived back in Elgol around early lunch time. There is a small burn / river running down into Elgol and I spotted a family of Grey Wagtails, my first of the year actually. We spent the rest of the day having a drive up to Portree and back before heading on home late afternoon.

All in all a fantastic weekend, good weather, plenty of wildlife and some truely awesome landscapes.

Year List Additions:
125. Grey Wagtail

P.S. there is one person who I know used to read this blog, they will know who they are, I hope they are still reading it from time to time.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Quick update (02/08)....

Last week I was at a work lunch at the Storehouse of Foulis which allowed me a chance to see the Common Terns out on the raft.

The only other observation of note was this morning (02/08) a sound caught my attention up in the sky and when I looked up I saw a Raven "gronking" as it flew over the house, the first I have seen in this area.

Year List Additions:
126. Common Tern

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

A busy weekend (Part.2)...

After Saturday's very successful and enjoyable day over at Beinn Eighe with the BTO it was time to attend the Biodiversity Open Day down at Dundreggan Estate on Sunday (14th) which had been organised by Trees For Life. The day would involve a range of talks, walks and activities on a variety of different topics and was open to anyone who had an interest and again it was free.

Again I headed down with my friend Luke and upon entering the area beside the keepers lodge we were welcomed by Trees For Life staff members and pointed towards the direction of the merchandise tent which was also where we could sign up for the various activities through the day. Unfortunately it wasn't possible to attend them all but picked out the ones we thought would be most interesting.

Free tea / coffee / juice were provided in the morning and throughout the day with various baked goods (also free) and the first event of the day was a walk up to an area of the estate to feed the wild boar which to be honest just sounded like a bit of fun but turned out to be very informative talk from Steve Morris, the operations manager at Dundreggan, on wild boar management on the estate and the effects they have on the natural renegeration of the woodland. Currently using the wild boar is a bit of trial and error but there is much useful information being gained from the project in terms of data and to the woodland itself. Currently they have 7 wild boar in a fenced enclosure of 12 hectares but different areas are used every couple of years to monitor the effects that the animals are having on the vegetation.

Steve Morris talking about wild boar.

After a quick cup of tea and scone in the sun it was time for the wildlife trek with the head stalker at dundreggan. Wildlife was a bit thin on the ground but again the information presented was very good and all aspects of deer management on the estate were discussed although unfortunately when it comes to Trees For Life they seem to attract shall we say a certain type of person with some ridiculous ideas. Present were lot's of Southern English people, hippies, climate change sceptics and some straightforward idiots with some people unfortunately all of the above. But there were also plenty of people with common sense and their heads screwed on so it wasn't all bad.

Talking to us on the walk was also Trees For Life board member Dr David Hetherington who is also an ecologist for the Cairngorms National Park Authority and myself, Luke and David had a very interesting talk on the way back down the hill on Lynx re-introduction in which David has done a lot of research work on and is most likely the leading authority on the subject. As someone who is interested in nature conservation with a background in forest management I would love to see the day but I would say don't hold your breath.

After out trek up to the top of the reserve it was time for lunch and a BBQ was on. Some pretty tasty venison burgers were on the go (£3 this time) and after we finished those we had a look around at some of the stalls with Aigas, Scottish Wildlife Trust and Plantlife present. We also had a look around the tree nursery there and were told about the work Trees For Life had been doing in terms of Aspen propagation and many of the rare montane Willows that are missing from our landscape.

This lead us nicely on to the launch of the Mountain Woodland Project (click for more info) by the executive director of Trees For Life, Alan Watson Featherstone. He explained a bit more about the project, what trees for life were doing and some of the other partners that were involved.

The afternoon session involved a trip to one of new planting schemes on the estate. Two full minibuses made a trip up to the top of the reserve where 400ha of new native woodland had been planted and protected by a deer fence. Scots Pine, Birch, Rowan and some Aspen had been planted as well as Dwarf Birch which was doing extremely well which is confined to mostly above 400 metres above sea level. We exited the minibuses and walked across the site led by Steve Morris again who talked about what they were trying to achieve. After a couple of hours we were back in the minibuses and headed back down to where we started.

All in all in was a pretty good day and I definitely learned a lot of new information. Below are some pictures from the day.

Steve telling us about the planting scheme.
Dwarf Birch (Betula nana) growing well on the reserve.
Northern Eggar (Lasiocampa quercus) caterpillar on B. nana
Oblong-leaved Sundew (Drosera intermedia)
Heath Fragrant-orchid (Gymnadenia borealis) ???

Monday, 15 July 2013

A busy weekend (Part.1)...

Last week was tough at work with temperatures above 20c all week and I was hoping that the good weather would remain as I had a couple of things lined up for the weekend past.

On Saturday (13th) it was off to Kinlochewe near to Beinn Eighe NNR again for a day of free upland bird training run by the BTO. The weather stayed good and myself and my friend Luke headed to the village hall where the event was to take place. Overall there was about 20+ people which turned out to be a good mix of birders, people with some interest, hillwalkers and representatives from outdoor activity companies.

The morning starting with introductions from Ben Darvill and Anne Cotton from BTO Scotland then Ben gave an introduction to the day ahead and some background to the BTO. We were then provided with some general techniques for bird identification before having a short coffee break. After the break we got stuck into some upland bird ID which took the form of a presentation and group work. It was then time for a half hour lunch and then it was off out for the afternoon.

Once everyone was ready we headed up into one of the valleys near to Beinn Eighe on foot to put some of the stuff we had taught into practice. For the first part of the walk there seemed to be not much around in terms of upland birds apart from numerous Meadow Pipits when all of a sudden a shout went up for "RING OUZEL". I caught sight of the bird off to the right which then flew up and over the group to the other side of the track before we lost it in the bracken. The bird was very brown and everyone was in a agreement that it was a female. A first for me and bit of a bogie bird that I hadn't had much luck seeing in the last 3 years. We carried on further when another shout went up for "GOLDEN EAGLE" and in fact there were 2, soaring high above one of the ridges but they gave good views through the binoculars and they really were unmistakable due to the sheer size. There day was turning out to be superb as this was another first for me even after 25 years in the Highlands. But it was to get even better. An employee from SNH had come out with the group and she pointed out an eyrie belonging to the eagle pair about 300m away high on top of one of the crags. This thing was huge, easily 10 foot across and when someone got a scope on it there was in fact a juvenile bird perched out on the edge. 3 Golden eagles with 10 minutes when before I hadn't seen one ever. Further up the track we enjoyed the rare Azure Hawker dragonfliess near to the stream, another first for me. The group was split into two smaller groups and Luke and I were catching up to the lead group as they had stopped after hearing what they thought was the call of a Peregrine and were trying to locate it. Turns out it was 2 Merlin and they burst out of nowhere and we spent a good 10 mins enjoying an aerial chase between the two of them as they almost grappled in the air. More knowledgeable people in the group agreed that they were 2 young birds.

We then made our way back to the village hall in Kinlochewe where Ben and Anne talked about Birdtrack recording and gave more information about the What's Up? project which is encouraging people to record more of their bird sightings in upland areas where data is currently lacking. There was also some more details on the mountain transect survey which is a more formal approach to recording above 750m. So please click the link and get involved if you can, especially if you enjoy hillwalking.

So in all in all the day turned out to be very beneficial in the morning, some superb birding in the afternoon and best of all it was all free. Thank you very much to BTO Scotland, Ben and Anne for putting on the day.

Year List Additions:
122. Ring Ouzel (Lifer)
123. Golden Eagle (Mega-lifer)
124. Merlin

Saturday, 6 July 2013


Great views of an Osprey that flew over at tree height across the road between Monadh Mor turn off and Tore roundabout yesterday.

Year List Additions:
121. Osprey

Monday, 1 July 2013


Yesterday (29th) myself and my friend Luke hiked up to the top of the Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve near to Loch Maree. Good day out, weather was reasonable but wildlife was almost non-existant. At the reserve itself all that was seen was several meadow pipits and a robin in the Pine woods, pretty disappointing.

Half way up.
Top of the reserve.
View from the top.
Today (30th) I carried out a rather late WeBS survey. It was dry but extremely windy which didn't make things easy. As usual at Loch Achilty nothing much happening at all just 2 Mallard and plenty of flies and midges. At Loch Kinellan the windy conditions had got even worse and at first glance there didn't seem to be much on loch andi n the end just a handful of the usual suspects.

This time last year whilst completing the WeBS count also I came across a pair of Whinchat at the Western side of the loch and I was hoping they would return again this year. I made my way over to where I saw them last year but things weren't easy with the wind. I stuck it out for half an hour and then finally about 50m away a bird flew out of the rushes and onto a low fence post. It was a male Whinchat and he tried to sing before being blown off his perch and flew into the scrub where I wasn't able to pick it up again. Walking back in between the gusts of wind I picked up a song that I hadn't in quite a while. It was a Sedge Warbler perched on the side of a willow also trying to sing in the wind.

Kinellan Scrape was very busy with plenty of the usual suspects many of which had young in tow. On the path around the scrape the orchids have come through since my last visit adding a nice bit of colour.

Northern Marsh hybrid Orchid

Year List Additions:
119. Whinchat
120. Sedge Warbler

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Update (27/06/13)...

Blog has been a bit quiet lately, busy with work and on days off weather hasn't been great. Getting out and about though with the new job and getting to see lots of nice and some new places. On Tuesday I had quite a long day as I had to visit a couple sites near Strontian down past Fort William. Beautiful area with some stunning scenery. It also meant having to get the ferry for the short crossing over and as we were going across I saw a Black Guillemot in the harbour which was nice.

Visiting a site near to Tomatin yesterday and a saw a Redstart which flew across the road with that unmistakable flash of fiery orange. Always seems to happen, see a new bird then start to see them all the time, well not quite but you know what I mean.

Hopefully get out this weekend if the weather isn't too bad, last weekend was heavy rain for two days so fingers crossed.

Year List Additions:
118. Black Guillemot

Corrieshalloch Gorge on road to Ullapool

Near to Strontian.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Update (11/06/2013)...

Just a quick update, saw my first Common Whitethroat of the year today whilst out on site visit for work just South of Inverness. The bird was singing from some windblown pine trees at the forest edge. On the same site there were also plenty of Orange-tip butterflies which was nice to see and on returning to the car a Weasel ran across the road in front of me. Enjoying the good weather we have had the past week but it looks set to go downhill this weekend.

Year List Additions:
117. Common Whitethroat

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Glen Strathfarrar (09/06/13)...

Had some great weather the past few days and Saturday was no exception. My friend Luke and I took a trip to Glen Strathfarrar a place neither of us had been before. Beautiful place with some stunning scenery. Highlights included plenty of Tree Pipits in the forest, a family of Dipper on the river, Wheatears on the moorland and another Cuckoo seen being chased by Meadow Pipits. A further highlight was a lone Common Scoter on the Loch at the top of the valley.

Year List Additions:
115. Dipper
116. Tree Pipit

Large Red Damselfly
Moth caught in a Sundew

Monday, 3 June 2013

Spotfly (03/06/13)...

I took a walk down to the local Conon River this afternoon. I took a walk down the river at similar time of the year last year and I found a pair of Spotted Flycatchers near to the start of the walk which was a nice surprise (see HERE). So I went down this afternoon again to see if they had come back again this year.

The weather today was very still and mild so there definately plenty of flys for catching. I made my way along the path and soon came to the large Larch tree that had previously fallen over where I saw them last year. I hung around for about 20 mins but I didn't see anything. I carried on with my walk for maybe 2 miles and then doubled back. Whilst walking I saw plenty of common woodland birds plus a juvenile Yellowhammer, Red Kits and Common Sandpiper. Also plenty of Swallows over the river itself.

On the way back walking through an area of shadier woodland made up of alder and chock full of bluebells something caught my eye up in the canopy. It was a Spotted Flycatcher "flycatching" from a branch. I only stayed for a minute or two though before I lost sight of it. Brief but good to see they are present in the woodland at least.

Close to the end of my walk and back at the big Larch again I checked one last time just in case and after a minute or two another Spotted Flycatcher appeared sitting exactly where I saw one of the pair I saw last year. So two Spotflys seen in two locations roughly 1.5km apart. Success.

Year List Additions:
114. Spotted Flycatcher

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Bogbuie Wood (01/06/13)...

The blog has been very quiet of late. The last month or so has been one of the hardest I have experienced in many years. After returning from Poland, I have been finishing off my degree which is now very close to complete, had extensive problems to do with my car (don't ask!), seeking employment, had an operation that has put me out action for the last week or so and recently some difficult personal stuff going. So when it came to getting out there I just haven't had the time, the transport, the motivation or all of the above and I have that feeling of missing most of the Spring action although the season has been late this year and it's not too late to see some stuff going on.

My birding consisted mostly of things seen around the house which has included up to 9 Swifts screaming around the housing estate and the first young of the year in the garden which has consisted of Blackbirds and Blue Tits. Not overly exciting but still a welcome sight nonetheless.

Today (01/06) I decided to go for a walk to try and clear my head. The weather was dry and mild and I was headed to Bogbuie Wood on the Black Isle to see if I could see a bird that would be a first for me if successful.

I parked up at the entrance to the forest not far from the aerial mast at Mount Eagle and headed West along the main forest road. Shortly after exiting the car near to the first clearfelled area there was plenty to see. 2 young Bullfinches, Goldfinch, Wren, Robin, Chaffinch and Blackbird. Ten minutes walk up the very long, straight road and I started to hear Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff and shortly after I saw a Willow Warbler in funnily enough a mature Willow tree.

I was now starting to get closer to the area which I wanted to check out based on information kindly provided by Kevin over at the Highland & Moray Bird forum. As I walked further a long the road and seeing a handful of Roe Deer a clearfell appeared on my right hand side. I stopped a couple times and scanned the area. Something caught my eye over the far side of the clearfell. It took off from a tree and flew low to the ground and seemed to land just out of view. My first thought was Sparrowhawk. But this was not a predator, it was a parasite, confirmed when it was chased off by two smaller birds. It was of course a Cuckoo, the second I have seen this year having never seen one before that. It landed on top of a tall tree called a couple times and headed off away from me into the forest. Great to see but not what I had come for.

I carried on a couple hundred metres before coming to a gate to my right and a track leading off from the main forest road. I then headed down this track to the far corner of the clearfell where a group of tall, skinny Scots Pine still remained. When I got to this area it was time to slow down and keep my eyes and ears open. I didn't have much hope because I never seem to have much luck when I come to somewhere for a specific bird.

It didn't take long before I saw a flash of fiery orange fly across the track in front of me and up into the tall pines. I stopped and tried to locate the bird hoping it was not another Robin (although they are also nice to see). I picked up a bit of movement up in one of the Pines, locked my binoculars onto it and there it was, my first ever Common Redstart and a stunning male to boot. It was particularly nice to see such a bird relatively close to my home too. The bird was favouring the Pines and was fairly mobile but seemed fairly happy to stick around so I did too. I quickly found a comfortable tree stump and for the next half an hour enjoyed great views of this impressive bird. I did manage to get a couple record shots which can be seen below. It's amazing how getting out there into the forest, walking in the sun and seeing a few birds can do to improve your mood even if it makes you slightly happier for an hour or so.

Year List Additions:
113. Common Redstart (Lifer)

Male Common Redstart (Phoenicurus ochrurus)

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Update (18/05/2013)...

First Swift of the year flying above the house this evening. Just one so far but hopefully numbers will start to build now. Nice to know they are coming back again.

Year List Additions:
112. Swift

Friday, 17 May 2013

Update (17/05/2013)...

Just a quick update. Plenty of House Martin now present around Dingwall especially near to the Dingwall Business park. Took a short walk through a small area of Scots Pine woodland up at the heights but didn't see too much. A couple of Buzzards soaring over the hilltop and plenty Willow Warbler heard. There was also a female Stonechat sitting on the gorse near to where I parked the car.

Year List Additions:
111. House Martin

Monday, 13 May 2013

WeBS Survey (12/05/2013)...

It is that time of the month again when WeBS surveys need to be completed. A couple of updates first.

The male Blackcap has continued to visit the garden occassionally feeding mostly on the crumbs underneath the suet cake and fatball feeders.

On Friday (10/05) I had the chance to go for a walk around Haldon Forest Park near to Exeter in Devon. The weather wasn't great, overcast and very windy, so no butterflies seen. It wasn't very productive on the bird front either with very little seen at all which was quite disappointing, but it wasn't the sole purpose of the trip down so it's not too bad.

Today (12/05) it was time to complete my WeBS survey counts and it was a very welcome break from sitting in front of the computer working on coursework for half a day. My friend Luke came with me again and we started off at Loch Kinellan first. The usual species were on the Loch itself but there were some migrants present now that were not on my last visit. Plenty of Swallows flying over the loch and plenty of Willow Warblers were seen and heard. Buzzard and Red Kite were both seen over the adjacent farmland.

We then checked Kinellan Scrape which was absolutely buzzing with hirundines. So many Swallows over the water with a good number of Sand Martins also. There were also some of both species sitting on a nearby fenceline which allowed us good stationary views. Mute Swans were on their nest in the middle of pond and Mallards with ducklings were hiding out in the reedbeds. Also saw my first UK Chiffchaff of the year and a pair of Blackcap in the roadside hedges.

It was then on to Loch Achility where nothing was seen on the water but we did flush a pair of Common Sandpiper from the loch side as we drove around.

Once finished the WeBS we then decided to take a drive further up Strathconon with Red Kite, Buzzard, Mistle Thrush, Red-legged Partridge and plenty of Swallows seen as we made our way up to Loch Beannacharain. The weather also stayed dry which was a bonus. On the loch side was another Common Sandpiper and a Pied Wagtail. On the far side of the Loch was a Cormorant which I didn't expect to see up there. Then came the bird of the day. Luke heard a cuckoo calling just up the road and it was quickly located on a telephone wire 100 or so metres away. We made our way up the road then across the hillside tracking the bird as it moved around getting some great views but unfortunately always just too far away for a decent photo. I have heard cuckoo in various locations before but had never actually seen one. It was being mobbed my Meadow Pipits constantly and Willow Warbler was also heard at the top of the valley.

Very distant Cuckoo

Year List Additions:
107. Sand Martin
108. Chiffchaff
109. Common Sandpiper
110. Red-legged Partridge
111. Cuckoo (Lifer)

Friday, 3 May 2013

Another garden tick (03/05/13)...

This year has been quite productive so far for new birds in the garden. To be honest it's been a strange Spring season all round and it still doesn't feel as if it's actually properly started yet. This morning I had a another new bird for the garden in the form of a male Blackcap which is also my first in the UK this year. It is still hanging about as I write this and has entered the garden a couple times to feed on the fatballs. Maybe it's a sign of the odd season and lack of insect availability at the moment as it is still only 6c here today.

Year List Addition:
106. Blackcap

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Update (02/05)...

First UK Swallow seen this year flying over the house and over to the farmland across the road.

Year List Addition:
105. Swallow

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Update 01/05 - 100th Post.

I have been back from Poland for a couple days now. Things look a bit more green than before I left a couple weeks ago. A Willow Warbler came into the garden yesterday and has been hanging around in the Rowans behind the garden singing it's heart out.

This is also my 100th post on the blog. I do enjoy writing it, mostly for myself to help me keep a record of my adventures  but it seems there is a few other people who also read it which is nice to know. Hopefully there will be 100 more posts!

Year List Addition:
104. Willow Warbler

Krakow, Southern Poland 14/04 - 28/04 (2013)

On Sunday (28th) I returned to the UK after spending two intense weeks in Krakow, Poland. The purpose of the two weeks was to attend an international conference focusing on socio-economic challenge in European forestry. Plenty of fun had and we met many of the students we got to know from our time in Finland. The weather was warm, really warm, especially to anything I have felt for the last 8 months. It was 20C + for the whole two weeks with perhaps only 20 mins of rain one evening. Birding however was frustratingly limited as most days were spent inside listening to lectures and presentations. We did however have a day or two off and some evenings too.

After arriving on Sunday (14/04) morning we dropped off our stuff at the University accomodation and headed into the old town part of the city to look around. Surrounding the old town is the Planty park, a belt of broadleaved parkland. Plenty of common woodland / parkland birds to be seen including Wood Pigeon, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Rook, Jackdaw and 1000's of feral pigeons. Return to the accomodation I heard my first Chiffchaff singing in the trees outside my bedroom window.

On Tuesday evening we took a wander through the city to the River Vistula that runs through the centre of the city. The banks were very busy and covered in people so we walked further along in the hope that it would become a bit quieter. Species present included Mute Swan, Black-headed Gull, Mallard and Tufted Duck. Also plenty of fieldfare around the city and also some Starlings.

The next couple of days were I didn't have the chance to get out much but there were plenty of Blue Tit, Magpie, Blackbird, Rook, Pheasant, Mallard, Wood Pigeons and Starling around the campus and the Chiffchaff was a regular sight and sound from the accomodation.

On Thursday and Friday a two day field trip had been planned to the Krynica-Zdrój area in Southern Poland near to the Carpathian Mountains and I was hopeful of seeing some interesting things. Thursday started off well with a Black Redstart singing from the canteen roof, a lifer for me. The 2 hour bus journey was fairly productive with plenty of Jays seen in the various park areas as we drove through the city and collared doves. As we moved out of the city I saw White Stork a few times (another lifer), Lapwing, more Black Redstarts, Hooded Crows, White Wagtail and my first Swallows of the year on the many powerlines at the roadsides.

Whilst I was in the Krynica-Zdrój more Black Redstarts, Grey Wagtail, Greenfinch, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Common Buzzard, Chaffinch, Fieldfare, Blackcap and many other common species. A surprise for me on the Friday morning was a group of c40 Waxwings in the trees at the research centre's accomodation. I have now seen Waxwings in three different countries in the space of 6 months. Whilst visiting a tree nursery in the middle of the forest I saw an eagle as I excited the bus. It flew over us and landed in a tree about 200m away for a few seconds before flying off, unfortunately I didn't see it long enough for a confident ID.

After the trip I was looking forward to the weekend as we had the whole of the Sunday as free time and I had planned to go to Las Wolski forest. Las Wolski is a large area of mainly broadleaved forest on the Western edge of the city which is also known for it's variety of woodpeckers and other woodland birds. Myself and my friend Luke made the trip which took only 40 minutes on a couple of buses. In the middle of the forest is the zoo so it is well sign posted and easy to get to.

Map of Las Wolski Forest
The weather was perfect, it wasn't too busy and we just enjoyed the woodland, exploring an enjoying the sights and sounds. Straight away I could hear several Chiffchaffs and there were plenty of Tree Sparrows and Chaffinch around the carpark. There was also a lot of noise coming from the tropical birds within the zoo. We headed off into the forest on the yellow trail and the woodland was stunning and consisted of mature Oaks, Beech, Birch and Silver Fir. There were so many birds singing it was hard to concentrate on just one and there were many songs that I did not recognise (my bird call ID isn't great anyway) A few hundred metres in and there were confiding Eurasian Jays, Blackbird, Robin, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a stunning male Collared Flycatcher!

Eurasian Jay
Great Spotted Woodpecker

Male Collared Flycatcher

As we moved through the woodland we saw Blue Tits, Nuthatch, more Great Spotted Woodpecker and both male and female Collared Flycatchers. I also had a close encounter with a Wood Warbler just a few metres away.

The wood was full of butterflys and I managed to see Comma, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock in high numbers. We then found a spot to sit down and have a bit of lunch. Again more Collared Flycatchers, a pair of Common Buzzards overhead and then to top it all off a pair of Middle Spotted Woodpeckers!

Comma Butterfly
Middle-spotted Woodpecker
As we headed back along the way we came I also saw a pair of Pied Flycatchers and a few Roe Deer. Definately one the best woodlands I have visited always something to see and it was rich with wildlife. We then killed a couple hours before the bus turned up by heading into the zoo. Some animals that I hadn't actually seen in other zoos before which was interesting but sadly some of the conditions weren't great. All in all though a superb day, even managed to get sunburnt as it was so hot.

The next few days were very busy and intense again so I was again restricted to what I could see on campus which included nothing I hadn't seen already apart from a Blackcap that I saw in the trees from my bedroom window. On Thursday however it was time for group work and the weather was so nice that we sat on the benches outside. Whilst discussing forest stakeholders I heard a now quite familiar sound in the tree above my head, more Waxwings, 17 this time! On Thursday night (25/04) a dinner had been organised in the old town and when we got there I could hear and see that the Swifts had made it back and were flying around many of the old buildings and into crevices in the walls.

The conference finished on the Friday and our flight wasn't til Sunday which meant we also had Saturday to ourselves, I couldn't resist so I went back to Las Wolski on my own this time. I decided to explore another area this time and took the blue trail. What a difference a week makes. On the first visit barely any of the trees were in leaf and now everything was green! I didn't see anything new but still had an enjoyable walk and had good views of similar species to last time.

So overall I managed 41 confirmed species and 6 lifers which include:
  • Black Redstart
  • White Stork
  • Collared Flycatcher
  • Pied Flycatcher
  • Middle Spotted Woodpecker
  • Wood Warbler
If anyone is visiting Krakow and would like some more information, please feel free to ask and I will try and help.