Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Great Gulls!

 I took a flying visit to the Farm to find out from Glenn and Tank that an Iceland Gull had been seen. A check of the lake later and the gull had not been re-located. A walk onto the tip with Pinpoint would be more fruitful with a Mediterranean Gull being the first to show itself directly off the tip.

A few of the gulls had taken to low flight above the tip when Pinpoint exclaimed “Iceland” and there it was directly above my head. The camera was put to work before we both returned to lower ground and the Sand Martin bank.

The next entrant into the Farmlands made Pete’s heart jump a beat or two as there had recently been a Hen Harrier over the Farm which was incidentally a Farm tick for him. Enter stage left a male Marsh Harrier which received the usual get off our land welcome from the resident birds.

The Pintail was still present on the lake amongst a stack load of gulls that push all the wildfowl into the margins of the lake. Not a bad visit at all!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Laguna Blanca Paraguay Oct / Nov 2015

In a blink of an eye my months stay was at an end. I had a fantastic time and learnt loads about other amimals and processes on the reserve. I made some great friends and wish you all the best in everything you achieve! 

This trip was not all about the birds as well as studying for my Ornithology Level 2 I am doing a Vertebrate Zoology course. At Laguna Blanca I was a part of the frog and mammal collecting "squad" and spent time helping out in the museum.

But on the bird front I saw 13 species for my Laguna Blanca list (with photo recoveries pending) including a first record for the reserve a Limpkin putting my reserve total at 207 (319 reserve list). 

Two life birds Buff-bellied Puffbird and Collared Plover. Thanks Paul for the bird info the summary below has been updated.
My 500th birthday was fantastic and will not be forgotten along with many other great times. I look forward to seeing you all again soon!

Bird hi-lights during some very "El Nino!" tropical weather:-

24th October 2015
Swallow-tailed Kite 4 (four) – Seen mid morning in flight over the Lagoon and along Atlantic Forest.
Common Moorhen (Gallnule) 2 – Seen 0900hrs on Seasonal Pond.

25th October 2015
Swallow-tailed Kite 11 (eleven) – Seen late morning in flight NE along Atlantic Forest. They appeared to be hawking insects above the tree line.

26th October 2015
Kite sp 15+ (fifteen +) – Flying NE over lagoon and Atlantic Forest thermalling.
Pearl Kite – Seen 1400hrs in flght NW over dry river bed along Arroyito trail holding small prey item.

29th October 2015
Plumbeous Kite 3 (three) – 1500hrs perched on trees on edge of Atlantic Forest.

1st November 2015
Wader sp 5+ (five +) – Seen twice in flight low over the lagoon (pratincole sized) 1500hrs and 1600hrs flight near beach by Stefan and Becca. Group not re-located.

5th November 2015 – Overcast morning with low cloud.

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularus) – Seen at 0630hrs at the stream and along the beach. This bird moved further down the beach near the reeds during the morning and was last seen at approx 1430pm.

Rufescent tiger Heron (Tgrisoma lineatum) – Seen 0730hrs on Seasonal pond. This bird was feeding on the pond and flew into the tree (photo) t was observed for approx 5 -10 minutes before it flew off towards the lagoon.

Snail Kite(Rostrhamus socabls) – Seen 0725hrs perched at the top of the tall dead tree overlooking the seasonal pond as  moved down to the waterside I saw the tiger Heron. I moved to check the pitfall traps the kite flew SW across the pond towards the Atlantic Forest.                       

Great White Egret 6 (six), Snowy Egret and Cattle Egret 4 (four)seen on beach arrived together as mixed flock.

8th November 2015 (Bird race day)
Pics to be recovered from SD card of seedeaters and small finch n cerrado.

11th November 2015
Collared Plover – Seen on stream near small bridge at 1330hrs.
Small peep sp - 3 (three) flushed from beach walking back from seasonal pond 1500hrs.

12th November 2015
Collared Plover – Still present on stream am.

Amazon Kingfisher – This bird was reported by residents by the small bridge earlier in the day (SH) and was seen fishing along the stream mid afternoon.

13th November 2015
Planalto Hermit – Seen at back of horse paddock along Arroyito trail.

14th November 2015
LIMPKIN – Seen 1100hrs (1st record for reserve) was stood on the seasonal pond and flew towards the lagoon out of sight.

Mississippi Kite 5 (five) inc juv birds at 1000hrs thermalling NW over lagoon and base.
16th November 2015
Toco Toucan – Seen in flight 1130hrs from airfield E over Transitional Forest.

18th November 2015

Yellow-billed Tern  – Seen in flight 1130hrs from airfield E over Transitional Forest.

Not to forget a small matter of a Serin at Beddington Farm as a welcome home present. Beddington Farm list 182 Surrey VC list 228.  

Next up a week in Lanzarote then masses of assignments to write up once I have replaced this moody laptop - A victim of the heat whilst in Paraguay... !! 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Birthday Presents!!

My time at Laguna Blanca has been flying by but this was expected. I have continued gathering data for my online Zoology course as well as keeping my eyes on the reserve for new birds.

The reserve has been subjected to heavy rain storms which is unusual for this time of year. A storm usually brings the possibility of a rarity and experience has taught me to be very wary on these days.

The day of my birthday (5th) was to be full of some unexpected presents. The first was delivered as I was walking along the beach to the seasonal pond I spied a small wader with a distinct wing-bar fly from the stream towards the beach. The bird settled and was very obliging and was my first Spotted Sandpiper in Paraguay.

I continued my walk with Al to the seasonal pond to check the pit fall traps for frogs when present number two a Rufescent tiger Heron flew across the small pond and obligingly sat up in a tree. I had missed this species at Laguna Blanca a couple of years earlier as I was having a Spanish lesson when a bird appeared in the reeds along the beach.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better I noticed a Snail Kite perched near the top of a tree. The bird took flight over the pond making my tally of new birds for my Laguna Blanca list three in less than an hour!

A Maguari Stork was was the next species to fly over the lagoon. The birds were definitely turning out for my big day. 

My 500th birthday celebrations continued into the night with my good friends from Para La Tierra and my new friends staying in the PLT house...Thanks guys I had a great time. Here’s to the next 500 years!

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Laguna Blanca Paraguay - Skimming around the Lagoon

The last couple of days have been spent catching up on some of the regular species around the reserve and checking the pitfall traps for frogs on the seasonal pond. There has been a suggestion that a storm is heading its way towards the reserve but today was perfect in all ways.

I decided on a lagoon watch which was to prove to be a good choice. A group of Swallow tailed Kite were the first species to focus my attention. The group of seven birds were gracefully swooping to drink from the lagoon and turning as they gained altitude showing the contrast in the plumage detail.

I had settled down in my chair scanning the lagoon at regular intervals when a group of small wader like birds were observed flying quickly just above the water level. The birds were in a tight formation and only twisted in flight to change direction. The small flock would then drop out of sight into the reeds. This was repeated before the birds dropped out of sight again. Becca and Stephan reported the flock moving at the beach end of the lagoon.

I continued scanning the lagoon and noted a Black Skimmer resting on an area of the beach where there were no tourists. I had only seen this species at Laguna Blanca once before and quickly called Stephan over to view this amazing bird.

My next task was to photograph the bird and after a bit of scurrying around I had made it to the beach and took some shots of the bird. Stephan, Victoria (Can) and I made a plan to go out on the boat and search for the waders. The Skimmer had re-located itself further along the lagoon and another photo opportunity was taken.

The Skimmer seemed un-phased by the three people in a boat allowing close views and even a fly past the boat. This bird was in no hurry to depart the lagoon. Sadly the waders were not found after a search of all the margins of the lagoon and the three explorers returned to base at dusk!!

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Birds Snakes and Spiders!

There have been regular sightings of raptors around the reserve. Plumbeous Kite have been observed flying over and perched in trees in the Atlantic Forest. Swallow tailed Kite numbers have reached eleven in one group passing over the Atlantic Forest.

I spent some time Tuesday on a lagoon watch and Jorge pointed out a pair of Crested Becard in a tree near the entrance to the Arroyito trail.

I returned to the base and began scanning the sky I noticed a high raptor which I identified as a White tailed Hawk circling above the house. This species is resident in the Cerrado area of Nightjar land.
Wednesday morning I was up early and set off with Al to check the pitfall traps at the seasonal pond. Frogs were our intended quarry and there were plenty of them with over thirty five in one bucket. After returning to base the remainder of the morning was spent helping Al and Stephan processing and photographing frogs. 

The afternoon was spent in the corn field with Becca and Jorge searching for the Capuchin Monkeys. The larger of the two groups were heard approximately 100m into the Forest. A single Capuchin was observed briefly as it walked along a branch briefly looking at us as it passed by.

Thursday morning I returned to the Atlantic Forest to look for Magpie Tanager. I had a brief view of a single bird the day before. My trusted bird watching friend Lobo joined me to scare off the horses and some of the birds too! I was fortunate to find a group of three birds which were very obliging. I also heard the Capuchins whilst walking the path.

I returned to the base and was sitting on the porch when the Jays started a frenzy of noise and swooping at the ground. This was a clear indication there was a snake in the vicinity. Al entered stage left and he was off into the scrub by the pitfall traps in search of the intruder! The rest of us followed on gathering the snake catching equipment (which included a pillow case). A short struggle later and Al had bagged the two metre long serpent with the assistance of Matt and Akira. “El hombre serpiente” has experience of handling snakes and this should not be attempted at home!!

The afternoon progressed into evening and I was just beginning to think that the day could not get any livelier a Brazilian Wandering Spider had decided to visit the house. This magnificent spider was removed by Jorge and was put into a jar and taken and released along the Mbopi trail close to the base.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Laguna Blanca Paraguay Night Bonanza!

Sunday was spent looking around the lagoon and its environs. The most notable movement of birds were eleven Swallow tailed Kite that were hawking insects at the SE corner of the lagoon and Atlantic Forest.

Monday started with rain and a sighting of a small flock of Egret sp on the seasonal pond by the Frog Squad (Caroline and Rachel).

The rain cleared by lunch therefore I took to the Arroyito trail (which is at the back of the base) with Stephan Rachel and Caroline. The birds were particularly active as a result of the drop in temperature and humidity. A Pearl Kite carrying prey and a Black throated Mango were the hi-lights of this walk.
Later on in the afternoon Victoria (UK) informed me that she had seen a Fork tailed Flycatcher near the tourist area. Stephan and I decided to investigate. We did not find the Flycatcher but continued our walk to the seasonal pond which was alive with birds.

I noticed a group of birds squabbling at the far side of the pond a Greater Ani then emerged at the front of the small tree parading itself as if it had been the victor in battle!

A careful search along the margins of the pond produced a pair of Brazilian Teal along with a Wattled Jacana. The Ringed Kingfisher made infrequent visits to the pond.

The Least Grebe and their chicks were busy feeding amonst the reeds and sunken branches. There was a continuous chatter amongst the chicks but all was gather and head for cover at the call of a parent.

A pair of Common Moorhen emerged from dense cover later on into the afternoon. One strayed too close to our position and quickly turned scuttling back towards cover.

Stephan and I completed our circuit around the pond stopping to admire Social Flycatchers as they hawked insects from regular perches.

After dinner I joined Jorge Victoria (Can) and Caroline on a journey into Nightjar land. Jorge has been monitoring the radio tagged birds as a part of the White winged Nightjar project. This was to be a productive night under a full moon.

We had not ventured too far out into the area when I caught the red eye of a Potoo. A fix on this amazing bird was maintained as we cautiously made our way closer to the bird. A few pictures later and the bird was left to continue its statuesque pose.

Several White winged Nightjar were located and each birds position was noted on the GPS. We had just settled down to observe the courtship dance when a deep barking noise was heard. Jorge reacted stating the call was from a Maned Wolf. This was heard four times in the distance and the decision was made to go and try to find the wolves.

The search was in vein so we made our way to our next stop to monitor more White winged Nightjar.

As we passed through the disused airfield two Nacunda Nighthawk was busy hawking insects. Both birds landed on the red soil near the truck and another photo opportunity was taken.

The journey back to the base produced Burrowing Owl, Potoo, Pauraque and a very obliging Little Nightjar.

A fantastic day in the field..!!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Laguna Blanca Paraguay - Kites and Frogs!!

The journey to Laguna Blanca is always a lengthy one but the rewards are obvious once you enter the reserve gates. Victoria and I were lucky enough to hitch a lift from Asuncion with Karina, Joe and Becca. First off was a stop at the Benjamin Franklin Science Corner to watch Becca give a presentation (in Spanish) at a conference. We arrived at Laguna Blanca at around 10pm Friday.

Saturday morning I was awake early and I joined Al and his volunteers to check the pitfall traps at the seasonal pond. A couple of the buckets were alive with frogs. These were collected and taken back to the base in buckets for photographing.

After my induction I noticed a Swallow tailed Kite high above the Atlantic Forest side of the lagoon. The bird disappeared into the cloud and was lost sight. I decided to take a look in that area of the lagoon hoping I would catch another glimpse of the bird.

I was not to be disappointed not one but four birds appeared low over the lagoon and seemed to be hawking over the seasonal pond.

I walked through to the seasonal pond where I saw a couple of new birds for my Laguna Blanca list Common Moorhen and Least Grebe. Both species were particularly weary of my presence moving into the far corner of the flooded area.

This was a good start to my stay. I have only seen Swallow tailed Kite on one previous occasion at LB and this was a fly through over the lagoon.

During the afternoon I assisted Al with photographing the frogs. I was surprised at the level of compliance of these amphibians especially the sitting on a leaf pose.

The Speckled Bellied Frog (Leptodactylus podicipinus) was first for the paparazzi.

I found (Eupemphix attereri) particularly interesting as it changed colour from a brown to a green during its stay. The markings on its back are as unique as a fingerprint.

The most interesting frog which Al aptly named “Kermit” was saved until last and this species (Hypsiboas rubrolineatus) is a rarer find on the reserve.

The day rounded off with a game of volleyball with the housemates and an evening with Becca, Joe and Karina. It feels great to be back!!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Winter is on its way!

The Farm has ticked over nicely recently so I decided to spend my last weekend before I venture back to Paraguay staking the place out. With weather deteriorating in Europe and a steady run of NE winds with early morning cloud raised the bar in hope of a rarity. 
There has also been a small passage of Fiedfare, Redwing, Siskin and Redpoll with Wigeon numbers increasing on the Farm.

There are two Cetti’s Warblers on site which probably explains the amount of calling from the birds in and around the South end of the North lake. This species has become more common in the Surrey Vice County over the last few years.

Goldcrest numbers have been high in the country with several birds hitting the mist nests on ringing days.

Tank and Glenn had a Bearded Reedling beyond the Northern end of the North lake. This bird was very obliging to the birders in the hide as it performed a fly past before continuing its tour of the Farm.

Short Eared Owls have made a regular appearance of the last few days. It is not certain if it is the same bird as all have been observed as flyovers. Today the bird appeared with a couple of gulls that were using the thermals to gain height. The bird slowly made its way South as it sailed away.

This time next week I will be enjoying a 40c heatwave and no doubt be hoping for rain to bring in late migrants. If I see a gull this will certainly be a MEGA and duck numbers at Laguna Blanca are limited to the passing visitor. All in complete contrast to the Farm!!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Fudged it!!

With the recent run of North to Northeasterly wind I have found myself camped out at the Farm. There has been a distinct lack of rain and cloud but the wind has been perfect. Having left Sunday lunch time with only a few migrants to show for my efforts I could not help but think that something was due to turn up in the Vice County.

I was not expecting the next addition to my Vice County list and I guess I could not have been further away from my car when the news broke. I actually made good time from Haringey to home but also had commitments early evening therefore getting back through the rush hour was going to put me to the test. This twitch was going to be a challenge!

Life was made easier by some precise directions from Dave Harris and before I knew it I was feasting my eyes on the Ferruginous Duck which was sticking like glue to a small group of Pochard. Thanks Ninja!

The smaller size in comparison to the Pochard was my first observation. The long bill and round peaked head and dark back with lighter flanks were evident. The white rump patch was also visible.

I was hoping this bird would also flap its wings showing the white panels. I did not have to wait too long before I had splendid views of this through my scope. Unfortunately capturing the moment is lacking finess!

The bird also obliged showing its white belly patch with white and grey underwing having raised itself out of the water during a wing stretch.

That was definitely worth the slog across town and country. Vice County tick number 227 was in the bag. Fantastic!

I was joined by Jeremy Gates who had a look at the duck through the scope before it moved off with the Pochard into the sun.

Time was pressing on but and rush hour traffic was looming! JG passed on a life saving traffic avoiding tip which incidentally did save me a good 30mins on the way back! 

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Day of the Ducks!

I decided to take a different approach to gaining access to The Farm today under the cover of darkness and wearing full regalia I was dropped onto Mount Beddington. I kept low for a while to surface at around 10am having circulated Pyros find a Cetti’s Warbler near the hide. This bird did call infrequently during the day.

The number of duck on the lakes has been slowly increasing throughout the month. The North Lakes water level is particularly high following recent rain. This has flooded the islands presenting ideal habitat for the ducks.

The Garganey was still taking advantage of these conditions but was on the West side of the lake by Elands Island this morning. A small group of Pochard were also patrolling here.

Tufted duck were scattered all over the lake some preferring the deep channel in front of the Sand Martin bank to feed. A couple of birds did seem a bit tamer than the rest perhaps they were Beddington park birds on a day trip. They must have been disappointed at our lack of supply of bread!

The Shoveler were however very wary of our presence remaining within the confines of the island edges. Many of these birds were still in their eclipse plumage.

The Teal have made their home in the now flooded channel in the centre of the largest of the Islands. Their blissful existence was infrequently disturbed by a Sparrowhawk which had the flock of around 40 birds dispersing in all directions!

The family party of Mute Swan were causing their own form of havoc on the lake busy practicing their flight techniques. They appear to have mastered the take off and flight but the landing stage had every inhabitant on the lake diving for cover.

Wigeon, Mallard and a mobile group of Gadwall were to complete the line up of ducks on the lake. Three Buzzard was the highest count in the sky at one time.

I settled in for the afternoon  on top of the Sand Martin bank with the NE to E wind picking up and a band of cloud moving in. The weather looked promising but would it produce a rarity! I was caught by surprise by a more regular visitor to the Farm, a pair of Little Egret that appeared from the SW and after a lap of the lake departed NW. A lone Egret was to make up the count some time later.

I left at 1700hrs with the taste of the tip on me but it was an enjoyable day! There are more E winds tomorrow. Who knows what that will bring!

Other sightings today:- Hobby, 2 Sparrowhawk, 1 Peregrine Falcon, 2 Kestrel, 7 Buzzard, 3 Whinchat, 2 Wheatear, 3 Stonechat, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 8 Swallow

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Garganey is Top of The Pops!

A few Wryneck have popped up in the South with the most recent found on Staines Moor. This species is still a Surrey tick for me having missed two at The Farm and numerous in the Vice County.

The only way of guaranteeing to add one to my list is to find one myself. The mounds at The Farm were my target for the morning. The weather was surprisingly calm and quite pleasant for stupid o clock in the morning! I slowly zig-zaged my way across the uneven surface checking the borders of the truck created paths.

The first species of note was a couple of Yellow Wagtail and a Wheatear which flew low between two groups of newly planted trees/shrubs. A skylark was joined by a group of Meadow Pipits shortly afterwards.

I meandered down to the lagoons which were almost devoid of birds. A couple of Green Sands did make an appearance en route to the SE corner. I took a short hike to the top of the next mound which has a small volcano type flat indent at the top. This is a good place in winter for Jack Snipe and Snipe when the top becomes sodden. As I reached the top two birds took flight from the top of a raised scrub like bush. One called confirming its identity as a Tree Pipit. Both flew off towards the SE corner.

I made my way along parkside which is another good area with its trees and line of bushes with grassy path like areas to stalk my intended quarry. Sadly the search was in vain and I returned to Kojak’s Corner to continue a vigil across the lakes.

I was joined by Pyro who spied the Garganey which was having a nap close to the top end of the southern island. This bird was to show well at various times during the day. A group of Wigeon and a Common Sandpiper were still present. A few Siskin and Mistle Thrush passed though along with a mix of hirundines during the morning.