Saturday, 31 December 2016

Last day of the year at Goss Moor and Gluvian

Me and Pete both had a day off for the first time in ages so we decided to have a day out on our local patches before going birding further afield in the new year.

This morning was perfect weather for ringing so we started off on the Goss Moor and although there weren't many birds around a nice variety ended up in the nets during the morning. My favorites being 9 Bullfinches , 1 Willow Tit , 1 Treecreeper, 1 Song Thrush and 1 Reed Bunting . Whilst we also saw a Woodcock and heard a drumming Green Woodpecker.

In the afternoon we headed over to the farmland behind my house in Gluvian and after a slow start this stunning female Sparrowhawk crashed into the net! It was such a surprise to finally see this common yet beautiful bird up close , just check out those fierce looking eyes! We where also delighted to catch 6 Yellowhammers and we saw another Woodcock and a Snipe . It was a nice chilled day when we could have a could chat about the last year and all the fantastic birds we saw in the county , looking forward to the birding in 2017 already!
8 of the 9 Bullfinches where juveniles so it looks like they had a good breeding season in 2016

Female Reed Bunting

Willow Tit - Photo doesn't do it much justice but identified by dull black cap, buffy coloured flanks, pale panel in wings, structure and all dark bill. 

Treecreeper - These stunning little birds seem to have a healthy population on the Goss Moor
Female Sparrowhawk - the strong barring indicates a 1st Winter bird

The last sight most songbirds would want to see!

It's great to know that there is a healthy population of Yellowhammers right by my house, thankfully the local farmer is sympathetic to wildlife 

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Starling roost , Glaucous Gull and Walmsley Sanctuary

I went to see my sister and nephews in Boscastle yesterday to give them their xmas presents so I managed to sneak in a bit of birding before and after...

In the morning I went to Walmsley for a couple of hours... It's looking really good there and I had a nice mixture of birds but nothing that different. Amongst all the ducks, geese and waders were 1 Barnacle Goose,3 Shelduck, 252 Wigeon, 14 Pintail, 158 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Ruff, 2000 Golden Plover, 2 Water Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Kingfisher and 2 Water Rail.

I spent a lovely couple of hours in Boscastle and then went home via Crowdy Lake , to my surprise a 1st Winter Glaucous Gull was amongst the gulls coming in to roost! This is a very scarce bird on Bodmin Moor and it was my first record at Crowdy. I also had 47 Teal, 1 Goldeneye and 1 Kingfisher.

Before it got dark I headed over to Roughtor and watched the amazing Starling roost and mermurations. It really is one of the natural wonders of the world and it's dazzling watching what must be close to a million birds forming amazing shapes as they dance in the sky... Even if you don't have any interest in birds you should go just once to see them just to experience it ! To finish a great a day off I watched a  Short-eared Owl flying over the moorland behind Roughtor .

Bodmin Moor at Sunset


Starling Murmuration

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Padstow gull roost

Just a quick birding fix this evening at Padstow produced :

11 Turnstone
26 Grey Plover
18 Knot
7920 Black-headed Gull
16 Med Gulls ( 2,2,12)
264 Common Gull
1 1st winter Yellow-legged Gull
1 Kingfisher

Happy xmas everyone ! Thanks for reading the blog

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Day 3 Amazing Hula Valley

As we headed further north and into the Hula Valley we made it to Kfar Blum and checked into the Pastoral Hotel. This place was a lot posher than the run down hostels I'm used to staying in and I felt like a king when I learnt that breakfast and dinner was all you can eat! The gardens where full of birds too and this gave me the chance to photograph some new species:

Palestine Sunbird

Yellow-vented Bulbol

Syrian Woodpecker courtesy of Oliver Krauss

Also seen in the gardens where plenty of Bluethroat's, Syrian Woodpecker, Siskin, Sardinian Warbler, 20-30 Laughing Doves and a Peregrine Falcon. In the evening we headed out to Hula Lake and we were joined by local birder and guide Nadav Israeli , Nadav had a great sense of humor and was very passionate about the area he grew up in, as well as being a great birder! Even though it was very windy ( this dry desert wind was a feature of my time in Israel and it was causing the spread of wildfires in many areas) the birding was fantastic as we watched many species congregate in front of us to roost. 400 Glossy Ibis, 30 Cattle Egret, 10 Great white Egret, 50 Pygmy Cormorant, 1 Black-winged Kite, 1 Water Rail, 20,000 Common Crane, 250 Avocet, 70 Spur-winged Lapwing, 170 Armenian Gull, 1 Hoopoe, 1500 Skylark, 1 Fieldfare, 450 White Wagtail and 15 Water Pipit are just a sample of what we saw and counted. At 5:30 am the next morning we returned to Hula Lake and we had the treat of getting closer to the birds by going on a mobile hide tour, which is basically a grandstand that is pulled along by a tractor! Still it was very effective and as the sun came up I watched in awe as an estimated 60,000 Cranes lifted up from the reed beds and headed skywards.
Common Cranes at dawn-Oliver Krauss

Mobile Hide

You could almost touch the Cranes...

Glossy Ibis

It was spine tingling watching so many birds at such close quarters and it felt like being on a Safari ( except for the lack of animals! Some Coypu and a beast of a Wild Boar being the only ones seen ). 200 Shoveler, 3 Greater Flamingo, 600 Glossy Ibis, 5 Spoonbill, 10 Night Heron, 300 White Pelicans, 300 Pygmy Cormorants, countless waders including 200 Ruff, Little Stints and several Marsh Sandpipers, 100 Laughing Doves, 20 White-throated Kingfishers and a ghostly Barn Owl added to the spectacle. As the sun got higher many raptors started to move around and we enjoyed ridiculously close encounters with several Eagles ( 10 Greater Spotted Eagles and 5 Eastern Imperial Eagles) , as well as 15 Kestrel, 2 Black winged Kite, 40 Black Kite, 15 Marsh Harrier , 4 Common Buzzard and 2 Long-legged Buzzard it was raptor heaven!
Great Spotted Eagle

Eastern Imperial Eagle

It was only 9am and there was plenty more birding to do as we drove towards Lehavot Habashan Fishponds. Typically full of birds and another great site with my personal highlights being 30 Black Stork, 4 Long legged Buzzard and a rarity for Israel ! A Little Bustard expertly found by Nadav. Another fishpond further up the road added 5 Ferrugnious Duck, 5 Little ringed Plover and I was happy to find a Temmicks Stint and a 1st Winter Black headed Wagtail for the group.

Half an hour later we found ourselves very close to the Lebanon border and in the higher altitudes of Tzfat Safed we saw many new species ( which
 distracted me from the thought of minefields and the militant group Hezbollah which operate across the border). A Southern Grey Shrike ( Aucheriwas a welcome lifer and amongst the many other passerines we enjoyed 6 Blackcap, 4 Black Redstart, 4 Common Redstart, 2 Bluethroat, 30 Brambling and 6 Hawfinch.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Recent Ringing

After speaking to Bob and reading about his Israel adventures I have been jealous and emotional about his new lifers and the great time he had! Rather than carry on feeling blue and envious I decided to recap on my recent adventures and no longer feel quite so bad ;-).

Its been a busy few weeks and I don't feel like my feet have touched the ground however I have managed to grab a few hours ringing here and there. My main focus has continued to be my Garden and the Goss Moor but I did manage a little trip to Devon today to catch up with my trainers and collect some rings. This of course ended up with a little trapping session and tutorial! 

Garden Update

The Garden has seen a steady flow of birds visiting the feeders which are predominantly made up of House Sparrow, Gold Finch and Starlings. I have managed to process several more of each and the Starlings are now ending up in the net a little more frequently due to wintering birds bolstering the local population. I am also seeing a few more Blackbird turn up, again due to wintering individuals seeking easy pickings from the local garden food larders. 


I was delighted to catch and process this Greenfinch, not only the first I ringed in the Garden but the first I had even seen at the new house! Worrying that their population seems to have taken such a hit locally in recent years. I do hope they bounce back and that this decline isn't detrimental! 

Goss Moor Update

The Goss hasn't thrown up a huge number of birds but there has been plenty of variety and some little gems amongst them. This started with a little afternoon session on an open Gorse patch of the Moor. I wasn't to hopeful of anything spectacular as all I managed to process in the first hour was 10 Wren! 
( I did not know they moved to this type of habitat to over winter)! I also caught an interesting Blackbird that was large winged and had a several characteristics that some might suggests are evident that it is of foreign origin. As the afternoon progressed so did the species that I processed and I was happy to add several Meadow Pipit, a Linnet and a handful of Reed Bunting to my totals.


Large "continental" Blackbird


Reed Bunting

My largest catch of late was made up of a winter flock of Tits and Gold Crests and 54 birds were processed in a 3 hour session. A day after on a different part of the Moor I had nowhere near the same number of birds but arguably more quality in the form of an adult Marsh Tit and another sublime female Firecrest, both fantastic records for December. 

Adult Marsh Tit

Female Firecrest 
Some great ringing results that are making the winter months a pleasure. Long may it continue in this manner!

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Israel day 2 - Journey to the Hula Valley

I was a bit fuzzy from the wedding when I woke up and dashed for the train to get back to the airport but I was so excited to meet up with the group and start birding! By 7:30 am the group had made their way to the airport and we met our guide for the next few days , Jonathan Meyrav who is the tourist and one of the country's top birders. I was surprised at how far people had traveled to experience the Hula Valley bird festival as I met people from Switzerland, Germany, America, Canada, Australia, Italy, Israel and of course the U.K. Everybody seemed very friendly and I struck an instant friendship with Lars , a crazy German guy with a great sense of humor , likes a beer and is a really good birder, my kind of guy! As we left the airport I saw my first bird of the trip and my first lifer; this handsome Common Myna:
Common Myna

As we headed north towards the Hula Valley Jonathan commentated on the different towns and landscapes we passed en route, describing their importance to Israel or regaling us with any historical facts. It was clear he was very knowledgeable and passionate about his country and learning about the culture and history of Israel throughout the trip made the week for me to be honest. Still it was about time we did some birding and my first taster for what to come was a quick stop at Gan Shmuel fishponds. The locals are very keen on fish farming in Israel  and this habitat has become very important throughout the country to migrating water birds needing to stop and drink or feed. There is some conflict as the fish eating birds such as Pelicans eat the farmers profits but thanks to the work of the SPNI there seems to be a balance were the farmers tolerate the birds. The amount of birds using these small ponds were incredible! I wasn't sure were to look first, 10 White-throated Kingfisher, 5 Common Kingfisher and 20 Pied Kingfisher had lined themselves up on the fishing nets enjoying their meals. Raptors circled overhead : 2 Kestrel, 10 Black Kite, 3 Marsh Harrier, 4 Common Buzzard, 2 Long-legged Buzzard and 2 majestic Great Spotted Eagle. Whilst amongst the many waders, pipits and wagtails included my first ever Citrine Wagtail, 5 Wood Sandpipers and 20 Spur winged Lapwing. For such a small place there also seemed to be an incredible amount and variety of Herons. 10 Black Storks, 200 Glossy Ibis, 5 Cattle Egret, 25 Grey Heron, 15 Great Egret, 30 Little Egret, 50 White Pelicans , 1 Squacco Heron and 2 Night Herons joined the 80 Pygmy Cormorants in feeding on the many fish in these ponds. If that wasn't enough the bushes and trees were also alive with birds and I heard and saw 3 Penduline Tits, 2 Graceful Prinia, 5 Bluethroats, 1 Caspian Stonechat ,2 Red- throated Pipits and 2 Water Pipits.

Pied Kingfisher ( courtesy of Oliver Krauss )

I could have stayed here all day but we needed to head north, still I was to learn that even though this was amazing for birds, it was going to get even better....
Great Spotted Eagle ( and Hooded Crow)

White Pelican's

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Israel day 1 - lots of travelling and a wedding!

I have been back from Israel for nearly a week now and it already seems an eternity, it's been tough adjusting back to the gloomy freezing weather back here in Cornwall and I wish I was still in the Negev Desert or the Hula Valley.... still maybe writing about my adventure will be good therapy!

Day One

It was a very early start as I drove to Luton airport from home ( at 2:30am!) but it was an easy drive... when I arrived at Luton the plane was on time and without a hitch I was on my way to the Middle East and I remember being so excited about my journey! Also slightly unnerved about how straightforward things had been and what would happen to me in Israel ....

A typically tedious 5 hours later I sleepily looked out of the window and saw the bright lights of Tel Aviv, a very large city! I began to wonder how easy it would be to find my way to the hostel I was staying in but it all felt like one big adventure so I wasn't too bothered, anything was better than being cramped up in the plane for any longer. The heat hit me as I stepped off the plane and headed for security , who asked me plenty of questions and closely checked my scope ( which I'm sure they thought was a bazooka! ) and cameras before giving me a permit and letting me through. I headed for the train station and felt slightly overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of this intriguing country....

Somehow I winged it on the train and got off at the right place and I even found the street my hostel room was in ! However it was a rough part of the city and as I trundled along with my bags looking for the right building I felt like the locals must have been wondering what the hell I was doing in their neighbourhood! I took a chance on a building ( no street numbers ) that looked like a block of flats and the passcode I typed in worked! It was a big relief to find my room in the night ( which wasn't a hostel , just a random flat ) and I got ready to go and find some food in the city...

A place to eat wasn't easy to find in this part of Tel Aviv , no streetlights, all the signs in hebrew or arabic and no people! Looking like you are lost in a foreign city at night on your own isn't the best idea and I asked the first person I saw, an excitable Arab! Who didn't know what a ' restauarant' was and began pointing in many directions ( including the sky I think!) as to were I should go. I carried on and asked to doormen outside what looked like a bar , again ' food? Restaurant? ' I asked , to which they look really confused and ushered me into the building! Phew it was a nightclub... there was beer! At least I could have a beer! I asked for a Tuborg at the bar, the bartender looked at me strangely, walked to his boss, pointed at me , they chatted more, he nodded his head, I got a beer! Could this night get any more random... ( well yes quite a bit more!) . I guessed you paid at the end as he didn't ask for money so I had a wonder around the place, enjoying the local music , the people dancing and some sort of local ceremony , another person then gave me a big plate of food with chips and burgers, wow I loved this place! The music was getting louder and the d.j was playing good english music so I had a dance with the random Israeli people and got another beer, I asked to pay and the guy said ' you are at a Jewish wedding!' , it now all made sense! The free food ,drinks and all the ceremonies and dancing!

For the next couple of hours ( and despite some puzzling looks from people!) The beers flowed , the locals were smoking something and  the dancing continued ! I had a piece of wedding cake and I even signed the book on my way out! ' Hi I'm the random english guy who crashed your wedding, thanks for the free food! I hope you have a great life together! '. I staggered back to my room and passed out hoping I would wake up at 5am as I had to meet the group I was travelling with at 6;30am back at the airport! It had already been a holiday to remember and I hadn't been in Israel for more than a few hours....

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Goss Goldies and more from the Garden

A day spent at home with my loved ones proved beneficial on Sunday as it meant that I could sneak the nets up in the garden again. I was once again rewarded with a new species, this time in the form of a Firecrest! Quite bizarre really as it isn't your typical Firecrest habitat, being suburban with only small amounts of cover.

1st Year Female Firecrest
1st Year Female Firecrest Tail Pattern
Whilst the tail tips do look broad I believe this was due to wear as you can see the remains of the Rachis. Notice T3 which did not seem as worn in the hand appears much more pointed.
Central Alula Pattern
I have also read that the central Alula feather can sometimes help with ageing. I did find this feature difficult and it did not help me much whilst the bird was in the hand. I guess it would be easier if you had a varied selection of ages at one time for comparison.

I also had a few more Goldfinch and Chaffinch which are always a pleasure in the hand and am forever hopeful one will bare another ringers mark, A couple more Starlings made for noisy dealings and got the curtains twitching on the neighbours houses! The last bird to be processed for the day was a cracking Male House Sparrow. I think these are one of the most beautiful birds that grace our shores and always take a minute to admire them.

Should such a stunning creature be allowed to make such horrible noises? 

A truly handsome chap!

Yesterday morning was also most enjoyable. I headed to my local site Goss Moor to try my luck and see what was about. I had all nets up just before dawn and the Redwing Latvian love song on for first light. This proved successful and were my first for the Autumn (late on parade as usual)! I enjoyed re-acquainting myself with this species and am hopeful for a few more before the new year.

My first for the Autumn

Lovely wedge shapes on this juveniles tertials 

Example of pointier juvenile tail shape
Example of more rounded tail tips as found on an adult 

I also netted some Bullfinch and again try and take sometime to admire them prior to release.

Always a pleasure picking Old greater coverts on this species.

Two male Reed Buntings made their way into a net, both showing signs of a white collar and some feather wear so that the black beneath was prominent. 

I always feel that they are very regal whilst in the hand

Reed Bunting wing pattern

Reed Bunting tail pattern

A male Blackbird added to the Thrush variety and as with Bullfinch I enjoyed having a break trying to find old greater coverts as in some of the more challenging species!

Lots of wing contrast making ageing oh so easy!

A small number of Chiffchaff were processed including the individual below with a wing length of 64 mm. I am not hugely knowledgeable with Chiffchaff family groups so would be interested in peoples opinion of race. 


Another Treecreeper also made an appearance and I have caught more than I could ever imagine on this site. Long may this continue as I think they are superb little fellows.

As much as all the above was lovely the stars of the show were the Goldcrest! I managed a good number during my morning and enjoyed studying them for variety. I noticed that several seem to show greyer heads that is a sign that they have potentially come from eastern countries. lets hope one or two of them get controlled on their way home next year. 

A grey headed (eastern?) Female Goldcrest
Hopefully some of this puzzle will be answered in the near future as I did manage to capture one with a British ring! Fingers crossed it is from further afield than Devon. I will update you when I have the details returned to me. 

Fingers crossed it is from somewhere good!
So my final totals for the morning were:

Goldcrest x 13 (1 x control and 1 x retrap)
Wren x 2
Chiffchaff x 3
Treecreeper x 1
Long-tailed Tit x 2 (5 retraps)
Great Tit x 4
Blue Tit x 3
Chaffinch x 1
Bullfinch x 5
Reed bunting x 2
Blackbird x 1
Redwing x 8