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.