Friday, 28 May 2010

White-tailed Lapwing, Seaforth Docks, Lancashire

May 28, 2010:
The White-tailed Lapwing which arrived at the Seaforth Docks Nature Reserve near Liverpool yesterday created considerable interest. This is only the seventh record for Britain and probably only the fifth actual bird. The last one was seen at Caerlaverock in 2007 before later moving to Leighton Moss for a short while. They nest in south central Asia, after which some migrate south to the Middle East and north-east Africa. This one was therefore a very long way from home.

Within the docks area security is strictly applied and only those with special permits are allowed inside the perimeter. The fortunate ones there today must have had exceptional views as the bird spent most of the morning at the edge of the lake, often within 20 metres of the main hide.

[Long range photo of the hide and the fortunate photographers. The bird sometimes fed amongst the stones directly under the hide]

Otherwise, the only viewpoint was from outside the 10 ft high metal perimeter fence which runs alongside the marine lake. From there the bird was at a distance of at least 250 metres with the shimmering haze over the water not helping viewing. Seen from this angle it was mostly obscured behind vegetation. However, in almost a regular ritual, it would emerge and move across the front of the hide, feeding all the time. Then after a couple of minutes it would retrace it steps and be hidden again for a while before re-emerging to repeat the process.

[View from the fence. The bird was on the far shore of the lake and often directly in front of the hide (centre far distance, beyond the tern rafts)]

Although viewed at a long distance its fawn coloured back and long pale legs could still be seen. When occupying a photogenic position in front of the hide, the clatter of the camera shutters could be heard even from outside the fence, so that the bird would scurry away again out of sight.

[Apologies! Photographs were spoilt by the great distance and the heat haze distortion over the water. However, the bird can just be made out dead centre in both photos. In the lower photo it was feeding on the small shingle spit (pale object between the two small boulders)]

Watchers arrived from far and wide and took up what they considered to be optimimum positions on the sand bank outside. None of the viewpoints could be described as very satisfactory, though.

[Groups of watchers outside the fence]

For excellent close photos taken yesterday by Bill Aspin from the hide, see:

PS: BirdGuides reported the bird absent early the following morning (29th). One, however, had turned up near Haarlem (Netherlands), could it be the same bird?

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Whinchat and other birds, Asprokremnos area, Cyprus

May 5-10, 2010:
Other interesting birds here included the Whinchat, another passage migrant:

the Chukar, a secretive, resident partridge-like bird:

and this (probable?) Corn Bunting, another resident:

Many other birds were seen on this visit but there was not always the chance to get close. This series of Cyprus bird photographs for Spring 2010 is now concluded so it's back to U.K. birds for a while!

Sardinian Warbler and Cyprus Warbler, Asprokremnos scrub, Cyprus

May 7, 2010:
Cyprus Warblers, as the name suggests, are endemic to the island but the related and much more widespread Sardinian Warbler (photo below) is also very frequent. Many Cyprus Warblers leave in winter, only returning in Spring, but the winter-visiting Sardinian Warbler is there much of the time and there are fears that it may be ousting the endemic bird.

Both species like to nest in low bushes amongst the scrub, the Cyprus Warbler being mainly restricted to species of Genista. Both are restless birds but will sometimes perch prominently if curious of human presence. However, the Cyprus Warbler (below) preferred to skulk in the bushes. Both warblers possess a distinctive red eye.

Wood Sandpipers, Asprokremnos pool, Cyprus

May 9, 2010:
As the water level fell on the pool through evaporation and run off, an area of vegetation was exposed. The Moorhen fed widely over it and even the Little Crake ventured away from its reed bed sanctuary.

As dusk was falling two Wood Sandpipers in full summer plumage flew in. Once settled they fed avidly and apparently without concern. Presumably they were newly arrived passage migrants making use of a rest and a stop-over.

Squacco Heron, Asprokremnos and Fassouri, Cyprus

May 8 & 9, 2010:
Squacco Herons are quite common passage migrants in Cyprus often remaining for several weeks at pools and wetlands on the south coast of the island.

Sometimes they are accompanied by other species of heron as well as by Cattle and Little egrets. (Photographed below with a Black-crested Night Heron at Asprokremnos).

Their delicate pale pink-buff plumage with darker stripes made them difficult to see in the drying-out reed beds at Asprokremnos but at those at Fassouri which were much wetter (bottom) or when perched in trees, they were far more obvious.

Several birds were seen at both at Fassouri and at Asprokremnos.

Golden Oriole, Nikokleia, Cyprus

May 8, 2010:
For several days there had been reports of Golden Orioles in the area with three seen by Gerrit near the hotel early one morning. However, they were very mobile never staying in one place for long and so difficult to photograph. The opportunity came one evening when watching from a high vantage point over an orange grove. A bird approached and settled in a tree about 40 metres away but was partly obscured by the leaves. When it changed position slightly there was just time for a couple of shots before it flew off disturbed by a dog barking in the village nearby.

Golden Orioles are mainly passage migrants in Cyprus but have been known to nest occasionally in the Troodos range. When perched in orange trees they can easily be confused with the bright orange fruits.

Nikokleia village with the Oriole orange grove in the middle distance right of centre.

Another bird was seen and heard singing near the Avagas gorge, Akamas.

Turtle Dove, Asprokremnos pool, Cyprus

May 9, 2010:
Another evening visitor to the pool was a Turtle Dove. It was extremely nervous waiting hidden in the trees for a long time before finally gaining courage to descend to the pool's edge to drink. Unfortunately before it could do so something must have disturbed it for it hurriedly flew off, not to return on this occasion.

It was a beautifully plumaged bird and it is a great shame if this is why unscrupulous local 'hunters' target them. For this reason its wariness was fully justified.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Little Crake, Asprokremnos pool, Cyprus

May 9 , 2010:
Here the Little Crake was very secretive and usually stayed well-hidden in the reed-bed. It was mainly active in the evening coming out at dusk to feed along the margins of the pool. In the failing light, photography was difficult.

It is a very small bird not much larger than a House Sparrow and its size can be appreciated when seen next to the Moorhen.

Although the pool is only small there was a surprisingly large number of Moorhen present with more than ten seen together at one time.

The pool dries out quickly in the heat and water is run off as well but this is periodically replenished from the dam. It provides a haven for water-birds such as the crake in what is otherwise a very dry area.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Spotted Sandpiper, Stocks Reservoir, Lancashire

May 18, 2010:
This extreme local rarity apparently arrived at the reservoir two days ago but wasn't identified as such until yesterday. This morning it was visible for a while along the shore-line to the right of the first hide where it spent much of its time feeding. Quite often it was difficult to pick out amongst the stones on the shore. At least three Common Sandpipers were nearby and one of them was quickly chased away by the Spotted when it came too close.

It made occasional short flights, once to the spit on the opposite shore but soon came back to its original place. The yellowish legs, orange-red bill with a black tip, prominent white eye-stripe and heavily spotted breast confirmed it as a summer-plumaged adult. It was a difficult subject to photograph being small, distant and mobile but it was satisfying to have a record at least. This is only the fourth occurrence of the bird in Lancashire and the first since 1987.

More Cyprus photos are too follow.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Barn Swallows at Nikokleia, Cyprus

May 4-11, 2010:
At the very friendly country inn at Nikokleia the management permits other residents as well as humans. The building’s main entrance is open throughout daylight hours and is shaded from the heat by a vine-covered patio.

Through gaps in the vine tendrils (lower part of photo, above) and then through the ever-open door, Swallows fly constantly to and from their nests inside the building. Everything is clean and tidy but as a precaution against accidents paper-filled baskets are suspended below the nests in the hotel’s dining-room. For some nests the birds even have to fly through one room to reach a second one.

As darkness descends, the parent birds come inside to roost. One of a pair will sit on the nest, the other cling to the rough stone wall or settle down on a picture rail. The door then closes for the night with all the birds inside but by daylight it is open again and, for the birds, its back to business as usual.

In the enclosed courtyard round the back other swallows are nesting, one pair’s nest is just above head-height directly over the main door. Here the male spends much time on watch, perched on a convenient wall lamp by the nest or even on the door hinge. Other curious Swallows entering the courtyard are quickly chased off.

Migrating here for the summer months from Africa, they must have a considerable affection for the place. There are several nests at the inn with birds seemingly constantly in the air.

Glossy Ibis, Fassouri reed beds, Cyprus

May 9, 2010:
As it was now early May the reed-bed area at Fassouri was rapidly drying out and birds were feeding on the adjacent moist pasture rather than at the pool margins.

Two Glossy Ibises were accompanied there by three Squacco Herons and four Cattle Egrets. The Ibises were possibly newly arrived and were hungrily searching for food without pause.

Whenever the strong light caught their plumage at a favourable angle the iridescent sheen of the feathers could be seen. Mostly the birds walked over the marsh but occasionally they would fly a short distance to a new feeding area.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Crested Lark, Asprokremnos wadi area, Cyprus

May 10, 2010:
The old river bed from the dam southwards to the sea comprises a very dry, wadi-like area with burnt stony grassland and scattered scrub. Crested Larks are frequent here. There must be many nests in these open areas although the birds are surprisingly well-camouflaged amongst the parched grasses.

One parent bird was particularly active collecting insects whilst another emitted warning notes to its young. After a few short minutes, it was thought prudent to retire.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Cattle Egrets, Fassouri reed beds, Cyprus

May 9, 2010:
By this date the main pool at Fassouri had completely dried out and was covered by low vegetation making its precise position difficult to locate. However much of the surrounding pasture was still moist and grazed by cattle whose presence had attracted four Cattle Egrets.

One bird took a keen interest in a particular animal, carefully picking flies off its coat.

Others roamed more freely and fed on insects in the damp grassland. All the birds were in fine summer plumage.