Wednesday, 13 September 2017

First visit to Fairburn Ings RSPB reserve

Last Saturday I had the opportunity to travel to Fairburn Ings in Yorkshire (SE451278) to spend some time at the nature reserve there.  The trip was planned by my good friends at the East Lancashire Ornithologists' Club ELOC (, Facebook ) and a group of 6 or 7 arrived for the walk.  The weather was blustery with some very heavy rain showers so a bit of time was spent in the hides on the reserve.  We first went to the western end of the reserve to the Lin Dike hide and had some nice views of a perched Osprey in the distance and a little later observed it being harassed first by crows and then by a single Peregrine as it flew off to the west.
 Unfortunately my photos were very distant or the one below which was almost direct into the sun.
However, there are a few better ones on the clubs Facebook page.
 Also as I passed along the path I spotted a Pheasant in the distance, he was huddled down clearly not liking the weather much either.
 At the far end of the Moat were three Cormorants sitting on some poles
 and a couple of Little Grebe fishing in the lake.
Towards the middle of the lake there were a number of Shoveler Ducks feeding in the shallows and a pretty large number of Greylag Geese resting around the shallows.  Other ducks on site included Gadwall, Mallard and some Tufted Duck.
Scattered across all the lakeside edges on site were number of Lapwing,  I think we counted around 50 in total.
 There were also a couple of Mute Swans on site.

 Just beside the visitor centre we were watching a little flock of Tree Sparrows at the feeders when we noticed this little guy popping in.  There are a number of Bullfinch on site according to the warden but this juvenile was the only one we saw.
 At a hide close by the visitor centre we got slightly better views of Moorhen
 Grey Heron
Blue Tit and Great Tit although the Willow Tit and Bearded Tits which I understand are on site alluded us on the day.
 There were quite a few Little Egret all across the site.  Funny how these are now reasonable commonplace when a few years ago spotting one in the UK, especially the north, would have been cause for celebration.
I spotted a number of Greenfinch on site too but struggled to get any photos until this guy decided to do a little posing. Lovely little birds.
As are the Chaffinch which were also not particularly easy to photograph either.  Other birds I was quite excited to spot included a pair of fighting Green Woodpeckers and a small flock of Swift.  There were a large number of Barn Swallow about feeding frantically above the lakes.  I guess they are fuelling up for their trip south.  Along the edge of the lake we also spotted a Ruff and a single Common Sandpiper but my photos of both were terrible.

I really enjoyed my trip out to Fairburn Ings.  Unfortunately it was cut short by some very heavy rain which caught me out and left me soaked through but it is definitely a place I will revisit.

© Bernard Bracken

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Foulridge Reservoir

Took a walk down to my local patch at Foulridge yesterday 7/8/17.  The weather was a bit grey and there was the odd shower but we are used to those in Lancashire.  There were not vey many birds around the area but its always a nice walk.  As usual there were a lot of dog walkers about so any shy birds were highly unlikely to be easy to spot.  That said there is always something to catch the interest.

As with virtually all waterways around here there were a large contingent of Mallards

I think I counted about 30 in all across the lake.  Most of the Males have now lost their luxurious green heads and are looking a little drab at the moment but the females are still very pretty.  There were two Canada Geese way out in the middle of the lake so did not get particularly good photos of these;
 As always there were a good number of Great Crested Grebe around and a couple of young ones.  The juveniles were swimming together but a good distance from any adults so I guess they are being left to their own devices.

As I walked around the other side of the lake I found a small flock of 6 Coot feeding among the weeds;
 And among some more Mallards was a single female Mandarin Duck.  These guys are fairly rare around these parts but I generally see one (not sure if it is the same one) on most walks around the lake.  There was no sign of a male but I did see a pair in the spring and a couple of years back there was a female with 4 juveniles, I think I posted that here earlier.
In addition to these there was a Gull (Herring I think) with a couple of begging juveniles
Overhead there were a good number of Swallows and around the side of the lake were a number of Blackbirds, Wren, Magpie, Wood Pigeon, some Carrion Crow and Robins but I did not manage to get useful photos of these.

I moved up the road to the wood at Alkincoats and took a short walk around there.  There were a good few Blue and Great Tits at all of the feeders and a couple of Dunnock.  However, these had to grab what they could between visits from a couple of these guys;
They were very adept at taking food from the feeders, even those designed to prevent them from doing so :)

As I had the chance to get some photos of a couple of butterflies too I thought I would share them;

 This is a Speckled Wood (Parage aegeria).
and this one is a Green Veined White (Artogeia napi), Although I am open to correction on these :).

A very nice couple of hours out and about.

© Bernard Bracken

Monday, 7 August 2017

Swinden Resevoir

Have been back in the UK for a couple of months but got tangled up with work so unfortunately I have not really had much time to update the blog.  However, as I am now a man of leisure again for a while I thought I would catch up a bit. I have been out birding around my home in East Lancashire in the UK and have also been spending time encouraging birds into the garden so the lazy side of me can get to watch birds too :).

Anyway, last week I took a walk around a reservoir which lies a little to the south of Burnley.  The weather was not especially good but I thought seeing as I had not been to this site before I would do a kind of reconnoitre as a prelude to future visits. 

The rain eventually stopped and I started off walking along a footpath to the south of the reservoirs which are located in a small valley and is mainly fed by Swinden Water, a small river flowing down from Extwhistle Moor. Somehow I strayed off the path and ended up trying to walk on some very wet and slippery fields towards the eastern end of the lake.  The birding was not especially good on the day, there were plenty of Meadow Pipits about and on the way back I got a fleeting glimpse of a pair of female pheasants disappearing over the brow of a hill.

There were also some high flying Barn Swallow and Gulls (Black Headed I think).  However as I walked past a small group of mounds, one of which had a small cliff of large rocks on one side, I noticed a rabbit in the valley and as I approached to take a closer look I flushed this little guy;

Little Owl
He flew to the rocky area and disappeared into a burrow behind the rock on the left of the photo.  I sat for a while to see if he would allow me another look and about 10 minutes later he bobbed out.  He stood on the ledge for about 5 minutes bobbing his whole body while observing me closely.  He flew off after those few minutes but I sauntered back to the car happy as anything to have shared that few minutes.  This is the first Owl I have managed to spot in the UK and it confirms what I have aways said about birding, you should never give up even on what seems like a rubbish day, it could still surprise you at the very last minute :)

Happy birding Guys and Gals

As I was out there and he landed close by I thought I'd capture a Ringlet photo as well.  There are a fair few different butterfly species around the area and I think I will try capture the images of a few while I am on my birding trips.

© Bernard Bracken

Monday, 13 February 2017

Wadi Hanifah in early February

Returned to Wadi Hanifah for a short trip last weekend and had quite an interesting visit (4/2/17).  The Wadi is close by the Diplomatic Quarter of the city and very much a manicured area.  I started out about 6:30am with a small number of fairly common birds, but as I have said many times you never know what surprises are in store...
The temperatures were well down on the norm for Saudi Arabia and I think this is the first time ever I had to wear a jumper while birding, although within an hour or so of dawn it was warming up nicely.
This area is a fairly popular picnic site for locals, although I have not seen many at the times I am there.  They all tend to arrive in the evenings.

On each of the turrets that are spaced out along the wall of the Wadi were small flocks of Feral Pigeons.  There are significant numbers of these around

Along with their cousins the Collared Dove and the Laughing Dove.  These birds love to live in close proximity to city dwellers as the remnants of the picnics make for easy pickings.

Close behind the Pigeons and Doves are the Mynas' which also like the leftovers from our picnics.

The House Sparrow were present in good numbers, although not as many as I have seen here in the past.

and from time to time a few Spanish Sparrow appeared in the bushes.

One bird I have not seen in the area for quite some time is this Grey Hypocolius.  On the day there were about 10 to 12 f them around the area in small groups

I did make several attempts to get a photo of the male birds to but they proved too quick and all the photos of those were blurred.

Our old friend the White Eared Bulbul were in most of the bushes and were busily feeding and I think pairing off, as I saw many getting together in pairs on branches.

However, there was also a pair of Spectacled Bulbul.  So far I have seen a number of these at every site I have visited around Riyadh this year, in years gone by it was unusual to see one as they are more common in the south and west of the country.  But maybe things are becoming more to their liking here in the Central Region.

One bird I have never come across in the Central Region before is this Ruppell's Weaver.  These are fairly common in the south and west but not generally found here.  Could this be a new development or simply a bird that has escaped from a cage somewhere?
In addition I flushed a Grey Heron early in the morning but it was still too dark to get a photo, later there was a Squacco Heron which also flushed.  A number of Ring Necked Parakeets flew over screeching as they went and as we left the area I spotted a single White Crowned Wheatear.

See every day has its surprises even if it is a fairly short mornings walk!!

© Bernard Bracken

Monday, 6 February 2017

Khobar 27/1/17

As I will soon be leaving Saudi Arabia I decided to try to get around to visiting some of the sites I have been to over the past 4 years.  This weekend we took the long drive towards the gulf coast to Khobar to see some seabirds.  Unlike my last visit here last summer it was cold with temperatures only around 14 degrees centigrade when I arrived around 8:30 am.  Not that I was upset, it is far easier to walk in 14 and 42!!

Al Khobar water tower is one of the main landmarks on this coast along with the King Fahd Bridge joining Saudi Arabia to Bahrain.  This is an impressive landmark towering 90m above the city and hosts a restaurant and observation area along with its primary water tower function.  Impressive eh?

Almost immediately after arrival I got some lovely views of Great Cormorant which were present in large numbers, some were molting to their breeding plumage.  This one is in classic feather drying pose as unlike many water birds Cormorants do not have waterproofing and have to get out from time to time to dry off.

I think these are probably the avian version of a submarine swimming very low in the water.  In addition to the Great Cormorants there were a small number Socatra Cormorants out to sea on the shallow water markers but I could not get any useful photos of them. 

There were a small number of Grey Herons around the place today although as ever they were quite difficult to get close to.
The most common member of the Heron family seen around the place was the Western Reef Heron, a good deal smaller than the grey but nonetheless impressive.

The Western Reef Heron comes in a variety of colours, the Dark Morph and the light morph as seen here.  There is an intermediate type also seen which I think is a hybrid of the two.

There were a small number of terns along the Corniche like the Lesser Crested Tern.

And rather a lot of Greater Flamingo, as always the Adults were segregated from the juveniles (above). 

Common Redshank were pretty much all over the place today.  Dispersed in small numbers but everywhere.

As were members of the plover family with the most abundant being the tiny Kentish Plover which is found in many areas of the Kingdom almost all year round.

Slightly less common but a handsome bird is the Grey plover.  There were a couple of dozen of these about today.

And last but by no means least the Ringed Plover which was scurrying about the tideline in search on food.

The Black Headed Gull were on site in huge numbers.  One of the many flocks I watched numbered a couple of hundred birds.

The Black Winged Stilt was another common sight today, I'm not sure why the gull in the background was giving one of them a ducking but it did not appear to bother any of the others too much.
A little fly by of some more Black Heads.
There were not that many land birds around today for some reason, I spotted a few Collared Dove and the ubiquitous House Sparrow were busy in the trees.  I did have a flypast of 4 House Crows but they were gone before I got a chance to take a photo.  

Along the pathway were a few Crested Lark picking at crumbs left by picnicking locals.
I am not certain about this gull.  I think its a Caspian Gull although the yellow bill with black tip and small red spot suggests Armenian.  The classification of many of the yellow legged gulls is far from clear with a number of different bodies either lumping or splitting the species.  For those who are interested in the challenges of this I attach an interesting article on the identification of Yellow Legged Gulls from British Birds magazine.

The cool conditions were much to my liking today and made life a lot easier for birding.  That said there is never a dull day when your birding here, always loads to keep the interest.

© Bernard Bracken