24 Dec 2019

24 Dec 19 - Happy Christmas 2019

I've got a backlog of photos from this Autumn to sort out & add to the Blog, but other projects keep distracting me. Hopefully, I will start clearing this backlog in the next few weeks. In the meantime, this is a quick Post to wish everybody a Happy Christmas & thank you for following the Blog. A nice Christmas photo from last year's travels, albeit not sure when we are going to see a white Christmas again in Dorset.

King Penguin: South Georgia (2 Apr 18)

Happy Christmas & a Great New Year

23 Sep 2019

15 Sep 19 - Migrant Hawker

Light Northerly winds, high pressure & clear skies meant the conditions were sunny & pleasant to be out Birding at St Aldhelms Head. There were large numbers of Hirundines moving slowly over the Head, but on a broad front & generally feeding. The movement was only visible by the periods of low Hirundine numbers. There were fifteen Wheatears & a small scattering of Warblers & other typical migrants. Perhaps the most interesting was this Migrant Hawker which was patrolling the trees by Trev's quarry (AKA the Two-barred Greenish Warbler site). It got me thinking. Most of my sightings of this species have been like this, with Migrant Hawkers patrolling or perching on downland, with no nearby water sources. The nearest water is a small pool of water trapped by a slippage on the undercliff: it is over a half mile away. The Winspit sewerage pond and garden ponds in Worth Matravers are over a mile away. Apparently, this is typical behaviour for the species. Migrant Hawkers are happy to feed well away from water before they are sexually mature & may only appear at water when they are ready to breed.
Migrant Hawker: Male. Perching high up in a tree
Migrant Hawker: Male. It briefly perched low down as I walked back to the car
The larger Dragonflies generally seem to be very territorial on breeding territories. However, Migrant Hawkers seem to be happy in groups before they move to their breeding territories as the next photo shows.
Migrant Hawker: Again a non-breeding location (11 Aug 14)

17 Sep 2019

21 Aug 19 - Wood Mouse

Wood Mice seem to be the regular Mouse species in the Purbeck area of Dorset. I've seen them around the Garden for most of the years I've lived in Dorset. In the Winter, they have a habit of coming into the house, although with all their entry points now blocked up, this is largely a thing of the past. Given they are a cute-looking species, I've never been worried that they are around. They usually can't resist some food (if they get into the house) & get caught & released again in the garden. This individual has taken to feeding under the Bird feeders in the early morning, but it is easy disturbed. It disappears when the back door is open, as the feeders are only a few feet from the door. However, on this occasion, it reappeared when the door was still open & gave me a choice. Grab the camera & be late for work or hope for another occasion. It wasn't a difficult choice.
Wood Mouse: A new Mammal for the Blog. I have photographed them before, but poorly through the back door glass. Great eyes & big ears

11 Sep 2019

10 Mar 18 - Colombia: The Final Afternoon On The Guajira Peninsula

Finally, we had to head back into the heat of the mid afternoon sun on the Guajira Peninsula. There had been a bit of a breeze by the coast, as well as, some shade. But we lost both of those benefits once we got back to the bushes. But first, there was the chance to check the Birds feeding along the estuary.
Fish drying on a local boat
Little Blue Heron: Adult. A bit easier to identify compared to a white youngster if one turned up in the UK
Tricoloured Heron
Great White Egret: The white phase of Great Blue Herons also occur in Northern Colombia, but they have pale yellow legs & pale blue lores
Scarlet Ibis dropping in by two Snowy Egrets
Scarlet Ibis
It was time to head to the bushes.
The habitat was even more arid than where we had been in the morning
A close up
Crested Caracara
There was a reasonable selection of Birds that were still active despite the heat.
Buffy Hummingbird: This had been a Tick in the morning, but I hadn't managed to get any photos
Green-rumped Parrotlet: They occur in arid Colombia, Venezuela, the Guianas and arid Northern Brazil
Grey Kingbird: A species that occurs from the coastal SE of the US, to Colombia & Venezuela & the Caribbean
Brown-crested Flycatcher: A species that occurs from the SW of the US, through Central America to Colombia & Venezuela to Brazil & Northern Argentina
Tropical Mockingbird: Running off with a large berry
Tropical Gnatcatcher: Another common resident of this arid scrub
We ended the day, walking along a short track in the failing light as it was a roosting site for Rufous-vented Chachalacas. We were successful in seeing, but not photographing, them.
Cattle Tyrant: The light was just about good enough to photograph this Cattle Tyrant on this large pile of rotting fruit
We had the final evening cooling down back at the Hotel La Jorara. There was a final pre-dawn start so that we could be at a site for Chestnut-winged Chachalaca at first light. We were successful in seeing them in the trees before the dispersed to feed. After that, we had a final couple of hours of Birding in some mangroves at the Isla Salamanca National Park, which produced my final three Ticks of the trip. However, I've no photos from this final day, as I wasn't expecting to do a lot of photography & the cameras were packed. In the end there was more than I had expected. After a couple of hours in the minibus, we arrived at Barranquilla airport around lunchtime. As Brian & I were checking in, we asked if they had any earlier flights back to Bogota & managed to get onto a flight that was departing in about two hours time, rather than early evening. There was just time for a rushed final drink with the others before we headed off for the departure gate. It was a good flight to Bogota & gave us the afternoon & evening to have a leisurely meal & final chill out before getting our international flights. Brian flew back to the UK & I caught the late evening flight to Chile for the next part of my adventure. Little did either of us know that this was the last time we would see each other. I spoke to Brian a few times after I returned home in May & was planning to visit him later in the Summer. Sadly, he had a sudden & fatal heart attack at Porthgwarra in late July.
Brian: Thanks for another great trip with many happy memories

7 Sep 2019

10 Mar 18 - Colombia: Late Morning On The Guajira Peninsula

After a good start in the hot & arid Guajira Peninsula, we had left the waterhole & carried on Birding in the scrub as it just got hotter & hotter. We headed off for another local track which we could walk down through the scrub, until we reached a dried field on the right hand side which was a stakeout for Double-striped Thick-knees. There were plenty of Birds as we walked down the track & it was good to see the Double-striped Thick-knees only nineteen years after I first saw them in Venezuela.
Double-striped Thick-knee: This Thick-knee is restricted to the dry scrub of Northern Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana & extreme Northern Brazil
There was a good selection of the other species along the track, but I didn't get the chance to photograph many as they either quickly disappeared into a tangle of vegetation or headed away from the track. With fences on either side of the track it limited my opportunity to try following them. However, there wasn't a lot of opportunity to do that anyway, as moving off the track generally meant heading into areas with a lot of dead leaves & branches which were noisy to walk through.
Brown-throated Parakeet: This species occurs from Colombia & Venezuela to Northern Brazil
Chestnut Piculet: One for the Brits: imagine a Woodpecker that is the size of a Goldcrest
Chestnut Piculet: Another Tick. This species occurs in Northern coastal Colombia & Venezuela
Chestnut Piculet signboard: This signboard for the Los Flamencos (Flamingos) sanctuary looks pretty good
Russet-throated Puffbird: Not a Tick, but this Northern Colombian & Venezuelan species was probably the best-looking species I saw all day
Russet-throated Puffbird: Another individual
That's another speciality from the sanctuary boards seen
Straight-billed Woodcreeper
Tocuyo Sparrow: Another speciality of the dry coastal scrub of Northern Colombia & neighbouring Venezuela
Bananaquit: One of the most widespread of species in Latin America & the Caribbean, so a bit of a surprise this was my first photo
South American Yellow Oriole: A species that occurs from coastal Colombia & Venezuela to North Brazil. This was one occasion where the plate in the Pro Aves field guide wasn't great as it doesn't show the wingbar
As we were heading for the beach, we stopped for this Pearl Kite.
Pearl Kite
By late morning, it had passed Mad Dogs & Englishmen temperatures & we headed for a small beach village with a couple of very basic cafes. At least, they provided some shade & there was a coastal breeze. We managed to get some food, albeit it was a bit more varied for the others as they ate fish. After that there wasn't a lot to do, apart from a seawatch which didn't produce much more than the occasional Magnificent Frigatebird & some Royal Terns flying past.
Brian Field: Taking a more sensible approach to the heat
Doug had found a good position to seawatch from
We were there for a good three hours until we had to head out again. However, it was more the clock telling us to go, rather than a drop in temperature.

4 Sep 2019

10 Mar 18 - Colombia: Early Morning On The Guajira Peninsula

It was a long drive to our first stopping point on the Guajira Peninsula & for once, we arrived just after first light, rather than before dawn. However, it had only been light for a short period of time before we stopped. We started to see new Birds as soon as we were out of the minibus.
Bare-eyed Pigeon: This is restricted to the arid coast of Northern Colombia, Venezuela & a few offshore islands
Bare-eyed Pigeon: Later in the morning, we had better views of this local speciality
The first Bare-eyed Pigeon, was quickly followed by a Vermilion Cardinal.
Vermilion Cardinal: This sign on a house gives you an idea of how bright they are
A habitat shot showing how dry & arid the site is
Soon after, a patch of flowering bushes which were hosting my first Buffy Hummingbirds & Red-billed Emeralds. However, the light was poor, everything was flighty & Janos was quickly moving us on. Given it was going to get hot very quickly, it was good to keep looking, before the activity dropped off. We were soon at a fairly large waterhole among the arid bushes. Obviously, this was a magnet for Birds.
Crested Bobwhite: The whiter faced male has just put its head up. This is the only Bobwhite species & it occurs from Guatemala to Colombia, Venezuela & the Guianas
Crested Bobwhite: I am assuming that the left hand individual is the female with the other back two being the youngsters
Pale-legged Hornero: This species occurs from Colombia & Venezuela to Ecuador & Brazil
Pied Water-tyrant: They are always a delight to see
Pied Water-tyrant: They look quite different as they turn
Pileated Finch: This had also appeared close to the Pied Water-tyrant for a drink
White-whiskered Spinetail: This must be one of the best-looking Spinetails. A pity it was skulking in the vegetation
White-whiskered Spinetail: Fortunately, we had better views of this cracking species later in the morning
Black-crested Antshrike: Female
Greyish Saltator
At the far end of the waterhole, was a mixed group of feeding White Ibis, Scarlet Ibis and Snowy Egrets.
White Ibis, a paler Scarlet Ibis & a Snowy Egret
White Ibis
Scarlet Ibis: A well marked individual
Snowy Egret
Yellow-headed Caracara
It was time to move on to another local track. More in the next Blog Post.