The unsound approach

22nd August 

East Hills (RoMa, Gu'rn'y D've)

1 Redstart, 2 Spotted Flycatcher, 4 Willow, 1 Chiff and a Whitethroat. More or less what there should be on a gloriously sunny westerly day at this time in August. More unusual was further evidence of the mainlandification of this fine Norfolk island. Most significant was my first Tawny Owl out here, but in addition this was shown to us by the now friendly and much extended family of Long-tailed Tits that have been resident since last autumn. This trend is not entirely negative, as well as finding a hills tick for me the family also had the consideration to have collated all of the migrants on the arc into a handy flock visible from one location. We still thrashed around the rest of the area, but the migrants seem to have all been distracted by the tits. 

Well, at least we thought we'd birded the hills. Turns out that Spurn's accretion has increased apace while I've been away, and the perspicacious folk of (one of) Hull's longest-established estate agents have taken the time to place the area formerly known as East Hills on the market. Welcome to the future of Britain's NNR's...    . 

Juv. waders are great

14th August

Burnham Norton (RoMa)

Bunting nightmare part two. I strolled along the path to the seawall at Norton just after a heavy shower in an easterly and kicked up a Corn Bunting almost at the end. Then I looked at it, and something didn't look quite right. I took a few photos. Something definitely not right with this one. Big lateral crown stripes surrounding a straw-coloured median crown stripe. But it was big and ugly, and didn't have any white in the tail. Unlike James and Rik on Unst I was never excited by this, because I couldn't get past the fact that it felt like a Corn Bunting. After a minute on the fence it dropped into the grass, then got up with a Skylark and towered off inland towards the village. Any thoughts?  

Update: Turns out the reason I didn't get excited is that this is actually just a fresh juv Corn Bunt, somewhat concerning that I don't recall seeing one over the last few years!

Early August 2010

Corsica (RDM, AR)

After waiting many a year for Ryanair to sort out direct cheapskate flights to Corsica, they finally got their act together. It turns out that Corsica is actually really great. If you come at a time of year when there aren't 19 billion Italian tourists and another 25 billion French tourists clogging up every road and anywhere that could be considered in the least bit touristy then I'm sure it would be even more agreeable. A picture of your own father on the toilet would attract a crowd given enough directional signage. 

Temperatures rose to 'beyond hot' from 4.30am lasting until 3am making searching out many small passerines a task not worth bothering with - much more comfortable watching stuff like this

Bee-eaters - flocks of up to 40 down the central east coast

The only shearwater of the trip from boat to Levazzi Islands - note extensive dark hand on this presumed 'Scopoli's'

Two nights mist-netting with the good people of the Corsican Bat Group produced no bats on the first night and then more bats than I could wave my callipers at on the second night (30+ Daubenton's, 1 Geoffroy's (above), 3 Lesser Horseshoe, Common and Soprano Pips).

And this boy

Etang de Biguglia on the northeast coast produced 3 Wood Sands, many Common Sands, Southern Migrant Hawker, and 7 Audouin's Gulls

I caught up with a few drags/dams including the endemic (and exceptionally dull) Island Bluetail, this Southern Skimmer and Scarlet Darter (below)

The interior mountains are pretty spectacular and hold some great stuff, these presumed 'corsicana' Crossbills notwithstanding

Corsican Grayling - common enough at the Haut Asco ski resort, along with Corsican Citril Finch and Corsican Heath

The boy - this male never came down from the upper reaches and was tricky to get half-decent pics of. A great bird occupying f-off great Corsican Pines in a spectacular landscape. Makes me want to immediately book death tickets to northern Algeria.

8th August 2010

Cantley World of Beet and Breydon (RoMa)

Numbers up, 38 Green Sand, 10 Whimbrel, 6 Oystercatcher, 2 Ruff and 3 Common Sand. Water level dropping painfully slowly in the big lagoon. Breydon was heaving with Avo's, with a couple of Spotshank and half a dozen Whimbrel, 15 Meds and the tern roost is reasonable and growing, with Common, Arctic, Sandwich and Little present.

Paragominas, Brazil (AL)

Seven years ago in Mato Grosso, Andy Whittaker shoved a copy of Ridgely and Tudor in my face open on a plate of tyrannids, “which one would you most like to see?” despite being new to the game it was pretty obvious that there was only one candidate: Black-chested Tyrant - Taeniotriccus andrei. Sounds a bit like some sort of tapeworm, but on a scale of one to mega, its right up there. Until the bird was pinned down at Carajás later that year, and finally sound-recorded, it was pretty much an enigma within a mystery, known only from a few dusty skins and a few sight-records with little supporting information even on localities. Given that many of these dusty skins came from the Belém Centre of Endemism I fancied my chances on this field campaign. Having done my homework I heard the bird on day 2 of data collection, and subsequently found the species to be reasonably common in disturbed forest and second growth with dense vine tangles. Reasonably common but still a bastard to see. I made a few half-hearted efforts over the next few days, but come Thursday decided that I really needed to clap eyes on one. After we finished with point counts myself and Nárgila made tracks to the nearest territory I had pinned and tried to piss one off with some playback, this worked to an extent, in that in appeared to move a bit and started doing a double note call, I managed to get an ok recording, but the bird remained frustratingly elusive. 

We went in hard, fighting our way closer to where it was vocalising – not very easy in the tangled labrynth and played the tape again, this time it moved about 20m and I was afforded a five second view as it perched on a vine. Maria-bonita de verdade. Then it was gone again, without Nárgila getting a look. We tried the tape, again and the speakers wined and died, some furious battery resuscitation against the jeans managed to elicit another 5 seconds of quality sound before they were pronounced dead. Shit. Staring relative defeat in the face, we waited at a little light gap and pondered a strategy for another day, but then a movement caught my eye, there was a small passerine only about 5m away from us, almost on the ground, would Taeniotriccus really break cover? It should have been visible in the tangles, but nothing, nothing, nothing  then boom, point-blank cosmic-mind-f*cking tyrannid, the camera reflex failed to kick as I drank in the detail, too late I swung to shoot it as it moved to a partially obscured position, and then flew, bugger. We managed to track it for about 20m and get a few distant shots before it disappeared into the darkness; coming in a close 2nd for ‘bird of the year’ after Eurynorhynchus   

monster (AL) in other news, the rest of the weeks pictures.....

Hooded Gnateater (AL)

Purple-throated Fruitcrow (AL)

Spangled Cotinga (AL)

Masked Yellowthroats in cattle pasture (AL)

shades of an exciting afternoon on St Martins (AL) there are resident, boreal migrant and austral migrant populations/subspecies/species (delete as appropriate) of Red-eyed/Chivi Vireos in Amazonia at different times of the year.


7th August

Rush Hill (RoMa)

After a diversionary couple of days of driving and cake a notable absence of news from Hickling aroused my curiousity sufficiently to get me out onto the old hide at Rush Hill. Upon arrival I realised that the lack of information was doubtless due to the excessive water levels, clearly the dodgy sluice has still not been fixed. On the scrape were a couple of Green Sand, 10 Shelduck and a few Teal. However, being of exceptional height I was able to survey across the expanse of the Hickling complex. Two things were immediately apparent: there was a shed-load of stuff on Swim Coots; and a weight of water not dissimilar to the engorged Rush Hill was about to drop upon myself. Retreating inside the hide as the thunder cracked I heard Wood Sandpiper calling, then four appeared on the scrape. And some Ruff, then subsequently something booted all the birds from Swim Coots. More Ruff appeared, and 5 Dunlin and Mr T burst through the door. Wood Sands were up to five, then I focused on a newly arrived wader with some more Ruff. "Mr T" said I, but was cut off by his announcement that a Pec had been around earlier. Yes, it figures. Never mind. "There's a Pectoral Sandpiper feeding with those Ruff at the moment" I said. Hmm, at least I got a frisson of excitement for a moment. Tim bolted for a top secret rendevous with his all-seeing benefactor and I was alone once more. A Little Gull was the latest addition to the scene, and going back around the edges Wood Sands were up to an excellent 8, but two quickly exited stage left, to rejoin the secret gig over the way. The Pec disappeared the same way shortly afterwards.

Anyway, it was a really exciting couple of hours with waders dropping in and clearing off (the 6 remaining Woosa's towered off high to the south at one point, before thinking better of it and swinging back down for some more food) and really does show that suppression can be fun.   

24th-31st July

Paragominas, Brazil (AL)

Back in the Amazon, life is pretty sweet, apart from the 3hrs sleep a night and the ecto- and endoparasite fauna, but well this is a trade-offs project right? Week one started with a bang, picked up a few monster lifers, topped by White-tailed Cotinga, more exciting is some of the stuff I've picked up aurally on point counts but haven't had time to get in the mix visually yet, including Black-chested Tyrant and Hooded Gnateater. Better were the pair of (mother & big kit?) Oncillas that bounced across the trail, my 4th (and last) small rainforest cat.... and to think I nearly fell out of love with the Neotropics...  

Red Brocket Deer (AL)

Harpagus sister species act: left Rufous-thighed Kite - an austral migrant to Amazonia and right: Double-toothed Kite a resident primate-following hawk...

Jandaya Parakeet: agropastoral matrix quasi-synanthrope (AL)

Crab-eating Fox (AL)

female White-backed Fire-eye, following a swarm of Eciton sp. (AL)

classic old-skool rainforest canopy rare photo; minted cotinga. (AL)

early July 

Chapada das Mesas, Brazil (AL)

After successfully withdrawing myself physically (if not emotionally) from the 'fine city', I'm now based back in the Amazon for a year. Having arrived in Belem in late June, I was presented with the opportunity to do some peri-Amazonian birding before fieldwork proper commences in August. This was under the guise of leading an ornithology course for a cohort of students from across Brazil. This started in Sao Luiz (where a look at the beach produce a few Nearctic waders - 1 Semi-p-sand, Turnstones, Semi-p plovers etc) and then required a massive 16 hr drive to Carolina in the cerrado.  There followed 7 days of extensive drinking and intensive 'winging it', but everyone appeared to learn something about birds by the end of the week at least. Birding was pretty slow with the brood in tow and I was crushed by the lack of Caatinga Woodpecker, but the highlight was killer views of Collared Crescentchest and multiple dips in various diferent waterfalls. Bring on the jags.....

probably the world's hottest tapaculo (AL)

Chestnut-vented Conebill (AL)

think I'm 3rd in the best recent PB snake image competition...

but hope this puts me pole in the spider event... found it in my rucksack (AL)

4th July 

Acle Straight (RoMa)

Wandered around some pleasant ditches and investigated any moist patches, though despite spending a bit of time looking for insects I didn't find a Locust. Norfolk Hawker was in evidence, but as the typical English mid-morning 25 degrees C blazing sun kicked in I lay among the cold-bloods to get my kicks.