Sunday 31 May 2015

Return from Africa

Karen and I returned earlier today from a brilliant trip to Botswana and Zambia - awesome safari moments in Botswana and then a couple of days on the Zambezi in Zambia where we headed to Victoria Falls (and African Finfoot). I'd only ever been as far south in Africa as Mauritania in the west and Ethiopia in the east, so the whole experience for me was all pretty new. To be honest, I'm not quite sure why it has taken me this long to visit. For once, the birds actually played second fiddle
Leopard - one of three sightings (of four animals)
Anyway, we had three nights at Machaba Camp near the Kwai River and Chobe National Park; this being a 'dry camp' where large game was encountered frequently (with the highlights being 4 leopards, 7 Lions and 2 Cheetahs as well as a pack of African Wild Dogs, Hyenas, Zebras, Elephants, Hippos, Giraffes, Crocodiles, Red Lechwe, Tsessebes, Impalas, Waterbucks and Warthogs) and the birding was pretty good too - Kori Bustard and Wattled Cranes the most memorable.
A young male Lion - seven seen in total; a group of three lionesses and four young males
African Wild Dog - a pack of seven of these endangered animals seen
Two Cheetahs - the first in the area for a couple of years and only present for an evening
Spotted Hyena - a young animal at its den
After this, we spent a couple of nights at Xigera Camp in the Okavango Delta where most of the activities were water based; by using either motor boats or Makoros (paddle boats) it was possible to get close to loads of the wildlife with the undoubted highlight being a showy Pel's Fishing Owl as well as some nice Angolan Reed Frogs and loads of kingfishers and bee-eaters too.
Pel's Fishing Owl
Angolan Reed Frog
African Fish Eagle
The last base was over the border in Zambia at the lovely Islands of Siankaba where as well as doing the usual tourist thing and visiting Victoria Falls, the Zambezi and its backwaters produced further highlights including African Finfoot. There'll be more blog posts to follow, time allowing... and I'll make sure there are more birds in the next post!
African sunset (with Red Lechwe in the foreground)

Sunday 17 May 2015

A quiet May weekend

Spring birding is always hit and miss, particularly if like me you're largely confined to weekends. Most people look outside and smile when it's sunny, but what that sun usually means in the context of my local birding is no birds. And that was the case at Crossness yesterday, where it felt like mid-June as opposed to mid-May with swifts buzzing about and the Common Terns well and truly settled in to nesting at Barking Bay. The annual build up of non-breeding gulls in Rotherhithe continued apace with about 200 Herring Gulls present yesterday, and with 3 NTGG rings there was at least something to get me going...
Two ringed Herring Gulls Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe 16th May 2015 - the 2nd-summer (left) K9HT was last here on 22nd June 2014 (having been ringed at Rainham in November 2013) while the 1st-summer (right) was ringed at Pitsea in September 2014 and has been about in Rotherhithe since 4th May 2015.
Today, I mixed it up a little and Karen and I headed out of London for the day. We walked around Rye Harbour, East Sussex which is always nice - not many birds but plenty of birders rather surprisingly. There were a couple of first-summer Spoonbills present on the flood north of Ternery Pool, with one of them ringed, while other highlights included a Cuckoo sallying from fence posts, a couple of Wheatears and a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwits. Little Terns were about in small numbers, and there were a fair few Common and Sandwich Terns, but I was left a bit cold by the lack of Mediterranean Gulls compared to a handful of years ago - just a handful seen today.

We then went to Dungeness, as much to satisfy Karen's request for a Dover Sole sandwich from The Fish Shack as my gull fix. Mid May's not exactly the best time for huge numbers, so three ringed birds (two Danish Great Black-backed and a Sussex ringed Herring) had to suffice.
1st-summer Great Black-backed Gull JZ042 Dungeness 17th May 2015 - ringed as a chick at Nordre Rønner, Læsø, Nordjylland, Denmark on 1st July 2014 then seen at Boulogne-sur-Mer, Pas-de-Calais, France from 2nd January to 9th February 2015, then Outreau, Pas-de-Calais, France 14th February and 14th March 2015 before being first seen at Dungeness, Kent on 25th April 2015.
Returning to Rotherhithe early evening, a couple of Swifts were about along with two NTGG Herring Gulls on the barges on the River Thames. If only the birding this weekend could have been more exciting...

Sunday 10 May 2015

Back to normality (with a few gulls thrown in)

I thought I'd post something today. Not because I went to Norfolk and saw the Citril Finch like most; for once I could sit back and relax having seen the Fair Isle bird. Though I did at one point nearly set off for it. Glad I didn't though, as I had a nice little spell on the river by my flat in Rotherhithe this evening - the first Yellow-legged Gull of the year, 4 NTGG ringed Herring Gulls (including a 2nd-winter that had been to France and back) and four Swallows through too.
1st-winter Yellow-legged Gull Rotherhithe, London 10th May 2015
Earlier today, I spent a fair bit of time at Crossness where it was absolutely dead. In fact, it was even worse than last week's Bank Holiday Monday and that was bad. When you're talking about Oystercatcher as the best wader of the day, enough said. However, after getting married last weekend and the build up to it, I must admit that it is nice to have a bit of time again to throw away seeing nothing around London.
1st-winter Herring Gull M0KT - ringed at Pitsea, Essex on 27th September 2014 and then seen at London Bridge on 19th April 2015; present in Rotherhithe on 4th and 10th May 2015.
1st-winter Herring Gull M7MT - ringed at Pitsea, Essex on 21st March 2015 and present in Rotherhithe on 26th April and 10th May 2015.