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

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Al Hayer Bridge 21-1-17

Spent morning around the bridge at Al Hayer.  The plan was to spend an hour or so there and move on but as you will see I got side tracked by a nice bird.

Around the area there are the steep sided cliffs if the Wadi and all along these are considerable numbers of Rock Pigeon which circle about a lot first thing in the morning.

There were also good numbers of Eurasian Collared Dove.  I am not that fond of these birds and their cousins the Laughing Dove because they flush noisily when you are still 40 or 50 meters away and disturb all the other birdlife in the process.

A single Blackstart sat on the wall of one of the factories close to the bridge.  I may be imagining it but I wonder if this is the same one I keep seeing in the same place each time I visit, I doubt it but who knows. 

One of the many Laughing Dove about the site this morning, beautiful bird but a pain for birders.

There are always a lot of White Eared Bulbul around this area as the bushes and trees are very much to their liking.

A little more unusual are the Spectacled Bulbul.  There were two on site today but there were also a few at Salbuk and AlHayer fields over the past few weeks.

Last time I visited here there were 3 White Throated Kingfishers flying about, only one was found on this occasion.

Not sure if I should bother even showing this but you can just make out a Moorhen disappearing into the reeds.

And close by was a single Bluethroat which stopped for a short while then flew off along the river.

As I was walking back to the car a bird flew over which was a little different, it subsequently landed in a tree a short distance off.  The Sparrowhawk is a young bird and I think is the same one I saw further up river towards the end of last year.

Another shot of the Sparrowhawk. 

There were a small number of Grey Heron visible around the site today but I only got this flypast to prove it.  This area is rapidly becoming overgrown with reeds so it is becoming more fifficult to spot birds along the river.

There was only a small flock of Common Myna around the place today, visits towards the end of last year found dozens of them.  I assume they had moved off to other areas along the river.

A distant shot of a Graceful Prinia.  As always there were dozens of these in the area though most were recognised by sound rather than sight.

There were good numbers of both House and Spanish Sparrow in the area.

And a single Marsh Harrier flew over literally as I was getting into the car (or maybe it is a Greater Spotted Eagle).  The weather was very cool and overcast so distant shots were all a bit drab today.

As I said I meant to move to another area but spent quite some time looking at the Sparrowhawk.  Also spotted was a single Kestrel which flew over very early.

Birding is always fun when you spot something that keeps your attention for a long while. :)