Monday, 23 March 2015

Sparrowhawk spring display

After many hours of looking this spring, I've finally watched a Sparrowhawk (in this case a male), performing a display flight in the fine blue sky we had this afternoon. Circling high over the village, with white under tail covets fanned out and on show, I look forward to seeing if he finds a mate in the coming weeks.

Spring has been frustrating around the village and Orlestone forest so far. We have 19 Yellowhammers still visiting the garden for seed and they are joined by a small handful of Chaffinches and Greenfinches. In a 'good' March we would usually have Siskins, Brambling and Redpolls and many more Chaffinches visiting the feeders and garden, but alas, its not going to happen this year.
Some birds are notable by their absence, in particular, Nuthatches usually very vocal at this time of the year, are absent from the village environs and even in the woods of Orlestone forest. No doubt with a little more warmth and sunshine they will soon reappear.
Speaking of reappearances, despite my announcement that the Little Egrets had departed, there were still 2 birds present on Sunday in fields behind the garden.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Crazy Horses


Middle March, is usually an exciting time for wildlife comings and goings as spring steps forward. So far the 'goings' are the more memorable with the departure of all our wintering Little Egrets. This year, in the muddy horse field behind the garden, their numbers peaked at 6-7 birds a day for a week and now the field looks sadly less interesting without them. The Egrets finally moved on, as the mud began drying-out and the earthworms which they eat burying deeper down out of reach. It's possible the birds are not far away, perhaps to a Kent breeding colony?

Their departure, has left the Pied Horses with just themselves for interest and today some of them were very boisterous chasing, kicking-out and biting each other.

Six Little Egrets photographed on March 1st - sure to back next winter.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Big bird over Shadoxhurst

Hazy blue skies and a little more wind in the air than yesterday, didn't enthuse the local Buzzards to show much on the wing today. So, the star 'bird' must to go to this RAF Hercules which shook the rafters at lunchtime.

Heading west over Shadoxhurst, RAF Hercules.
We usually see Chinooks over Kent.
The Buzzards we're seeing at the moment are in superb condition, just about all are classic 'brown' looking birds.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Lunch time raptors

All day sunshine today and windless air were perfect conditions for our local Buzzards to 'cruise' around their territories. Cycling from Shadoxhurst on a circular route through Cold Blow, Capel road and Bromley Green I saw 4 pairs on the wing in eight miles. Back in the garden, a pair of Kestrels have been showing well, and so too hunting Sparrowhawks, but sadly I've yet to see their dashing display flights so far this spring.

Behind the garden in the muddy field, there are still 2 Little Egrets mostly stood motionless, just a week ago there was a peak of seven. With the field drying and the earth worms retreating deeper into out of reach, the Little Egrets will not be around for much longer this spring. Still there's plenty of other birds, Fieldfares, Redwings and Meadow Pipits are are passing through in varying daily numbers and local Jackdaws are stealing horse hair presumably for lining their nests.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Alicante birding and walking 2015

Last week's family trip to the Alicante area gave just a few occasions to do a little bit of bird watching. Compared to our visit two years ago (same time of the year) there were far fewer commoner migrants making their way north. Just an odd Swallow and Sand Martin and a widespread sprinkling of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs soldiered through. Alicante area has a serious drought situation and the surrounding counrtryside has little replenishment to offer for passage birds moving through - there's little greenery to be seen away from the irrigated Orange Grooves. Walking in the mountains behind Benidorm, the temperature was considerably colder than on the coast, and whilst there were plenty of wild flowers and Almond Blossom to see, I didn't see any insect activity in six hours of walking, leaving me to marvel at the audious travels our spring migrants are presently making.

For those that have some 'real' bird watching time in Alicante, there are some great bird reserves to visit at this time of year, especially El Hondo. Even on our brief visit here, plenty of raptors on the wing even in winter.

For speed and camera fun, my favorite area is La Manga at San Pedro salt pans near Murcia. Here, Flamingos, Avocets, and Stilts can be very confiding. Our visit this year was a little disappointing, with less waders and Slender Billed Gulls around, and the higher water levels on the more accessible viewing areas displaced the birds tmaking them more difficult to photograph. Still, the mixture of exotics such as Greater Flamingos and large variety of waders, gulls and terns is a fantastic spectacle to see, even in February.

View over-looking San Pedro salt pans.

Black Winged Stilts are common and confiding here.

Kentish Plovers were never far away on the salt pans and beaches.

Ready for the breeding season, a Little Egret on the beach.
Juvenile Greater Flamingo.
On my two brief visits the adult birds were just a little too distant for more dramatic images.

Sub adult Booted Eagle
Away from casual birding, we walked in the Crevillente area for one day and also for a day in Quatretondeta, both easy drives from Alicante. Both areas are spectacular with very few visitors - you feel you have the mountains to yourself.

Lewis, high in Crevillente mountains. No sign of the resident Bonelli's Eagles this time.

The 'flash' of water in the background is the El Hondo nature reserve, a 1200 hectare reserve

The limestone peaks of the Quatretondeta mountains.

In February, Gorse is in flower, but the temperaturewas not warm enough for insects.

Els Frares pinnacles at Quatretondeta.

Bird-wise, Choughs on the peaks, Cirl Buntings below, little else in between. Bird of the day was a male Hen Harrier that worked its way through the Almond and Olive trees.