Thursday, 23 June 2011

Magical Morocco!!

Since I was a young lad, I have always wanted to visit Africa as it is a continent that I have not yet managed to cover. A combination of the spectacular rich birdlife, fantastic food, stunning landscapes and an overall 'awe' for the place; this was to be the best birding trip I have ever witnessed. Ralph Jones, Eugene McCann and I, headed out to Morocco for 10 days of speedy birding on 18th April - 27th April.

Seeing as though none of us had birdwatched in Morocco before, nearly every species we encountered was new to us and being such a memorable venture, it is going to be tough to describe all parts of the trip so I shall try my best and show you the sites we visited day by day and the species we encountered within. The main aim of this trip was to cover the whole of Northern Morocco around the Atlas Mountains and try to see all the 'main' moroccan species that all birders who visit this area, target.

Throughout the trip we visited all the main sites and picked up all of our desired species along the way, with some of these showing themselves to us like we had never believed possible. Temperatures reached 35 degrees in the Sahara Desert and we even managed to witness a hail and thunderstorm in the Sahara - honest! I added a superb 50 lifers to my lifelist and an overall trip total of around 150 species.

No matter where you travelled in Morocco, camels seemed to be everywhere. Now for the day by day account of our trip with some spectacular birds!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Patching Perfection!

During my birding career I have always been interested in patching, looking for local birds instead of galavanting all over the UK looking for rarities. Never did I think I would have the best morning's patching here in North Wales. On Sunday 10th April, Zac, Hamza and I headed upto the Great Orme in Llandudno for a 5am start.. The Great Orme is widely renowned for its rewards for visible migration but this visit had to be the best patching day ever!

The day before had produced a few decent birds such as Lapland Bunting and typical spring migrants like Tree Pipit and Redstarts, but if that was anything to go by, our morning was exceptional. As you can see from the main picture of this post, condiditons were perfect..

Regulars such as Alan Davies, Marc Buzzard and Robin Sandham were also on the Great Orme during the morning, so if anything was found all would know about it within a few mintues.

Throughout the morning birds seen included:-

350+ Lesser Redpoll
5 Mealy Redpoll
1 Arctic Redpoll
1 Greenland Redpoll
50+ Wheatear
9 Golden Plover
1 Dotterel
2 Crossbill
6 Blackcap
3 Brambling
2 Ring Ouzel
2 Tree Pipit
2 Yellow wagtail
2 Lapland Bunting
1 Short-Eared Owl

Aswell as numerous Redstarts, Whitethroats, Grasshopper Warblers and a few Garden Warblers.

The best bird of the morning and one that I personally found was the first record of Red-Rumped Swallow for the Great Orme and the County of Conwy! This bird was also seen by Zac Hinchcliffe.

A superb morning's patching on the Great Orme and one that I shall never forget! I wonder what other (1st's) I can find in North Wales before I complete my degree?

Mist-netting at Arthurs

After seeing my 1st Purple Heron in the UK, followed by a few days of lectures, I was rather keen to get back out and do some ringing.. On Saturday 9th April along with Zac, Steve and Rachel, we headed over to Arthurs near Caernarfon for a morning's mist-netting session.

This area is our regular mist-netting site, where large numbers of tits are ringed during the winter, however this morning we set ourselves up in a slightly different location in heath/scrub type habitat, with the main aim to catch Willow warblers and Linnets.

Throughout the morning a total of 12 species were caught which included:-

9 Willow warbler
2 Blackcap
2 Chiffchaff
5 Bullfinch
3 Linnet
1 Lesser Redpoll
3 Wren
3 Great tit
2 Blue tit
1 Long-tailed tit
1 Song thrush
1 Goldcrest

Another visit was made later on that day to attempt to catch some more of the Linnets going into their evening roost, however just 2 birds were caught. Also, 5 Willow warbler, Chiffchaff, Song thrush and Goldcrest.

Huge thanks to Steve and Rachel for yet another great ringing session!

Purple Heron on Anglesey!!

Photographed by Zac Hinchcliffe

Since my last post where I stated that 'I shall try to update as soon as I had finished my 2nd year exams', was a rather silly statement as there has been no activity on this blog since that given time. Now that I have a week or so free, this blog will be updated completely with all ventures that have occured over the last few months!

To kick start this update, I shall begin with the twitch that myself and Zac took part in whilst we were back in Bangor on 5th April, over on Anglesey. There had been a few reports of an adult Purple Heron on a small pond at a place called Dwyran. Unfortunately at the time, my week was rather full of lectures, but luckily when I had a day off the bird appeared once more on the pool and as a result, within half an hour of the phonecall from Alan davies; we were both over on Anglesey watching this superb bird feeding around the edges of the pool, alongside Alex Jones. This was a british lifer for us all and was truly well earned, as by the time we had seen the bird well, we were already caked in mud..

Photographed by Zac Hinchcliffe

Great views were had of the bird in flight and as we hadn't yet seen the bird on the ground, we re-twitched the bird a few days later; this time with Mathew Bruce and Hamza Yassin, where superb views of the bird were had feeding around the margins of the small reedy pool.