Tuesday, 30 December 2014


I had a week in Cyprus over Christmas on a family holiday. Whilst that meant no going off  by myself for the day birding, I did still get to see plenty of birds. We were based in Paphos so a walk around the headland always presented a good opportunities to see the birds, although unfortunately, not the Greater Sand Plover that I had been told were almost guaranteed there.

Waders were in short supply and the only ones I saw, Common Sandpipers and Golden Plover, hardly set the heart racing. Pictures were also harder to come by as I did not have the large lens with me.

Common Sandpiper

Common Sandpiper

Golden Plover

Golden Plover

And with a Kingfisher sitting by one of the rock pools it felt just like being at home.


The most common birds were House Sparrows, Larks, Black Redstarts, Stonechats and Hooded Crows.

Crested Lark

Crested Lark




Black Redstart

Hooded Crow

Hooded Crow and Kestrel

We had one day up in the Troodos mountains and this was the one that I had been looking forward to. I had great hopes of seeing some decent raptors - but it didn't happen. We got up over 6000ft and had some great views out over the valleys but there were no birds flying. All I saw all day were Chaffinches and Sparrows and one very distant raptor that was too far away to identify.

Back down on the Paphos headland I finally caught up with a couple of decent birds, a Spanish Sparrow and a Sardinian Warbler.

Spanish Sparrow

Sardinian Warbler

Sardinian Warbler

I didn't see any signs of shooting or of the lime sticks that I have seen on other Mediterranean islands but there were caged birds around, in particular Turtle Doves. Its sad when I think how long I spend each year trying to see them in the UK.


As always, I would have liked to have seen more. Perhaps I will be able to get back sometime in the future and spend a bit more time tracking down some of the birds but that's it for now.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Richard's Pipit

Today's target was the Richard's Pipit on Horse Eye Level. The bird has been around for a while although apparently it has not always been easy to locate. However, with it being reported a few times recently and always from the same location we thought it was worth giving it a go.

I picked Dave up and we headed over to the levels. I had never seen a Richard's Pipit before and I cannot say that I was very confident on my ability to identify it. Checking the Collins the night before, it looked very similar to the Tawny Pipit. I was sure that I would be able to tell it from a Meadow Pipit if the two were close together but I was not so sure on my ability if there was only one of them there. A Tawny Pipit should have moved on by now but I was really concerned that my identification would be done on the basis of find a large Pipit and assume that it was the right one. Not really very satisfactory. I needed a picture to take home and study.

Fortunately we arrived at the site to find Bernie Forbes and Dorian Mason already searching the area. Usually I like the birds to myself but this time I was glad of the expertise to help confirm the identification.

Richard's Pipit

Bernie found the bird and although it was very distant I managed to get good views. I could see it was not a Meadow Pipit, it looked large and had a thrush like feeding behaviour, running through the grass and lunging at the insects. It was nice to feel confident that you are on the right bird but having Bernie there to explain what I should be looking for helped a great deal.

We had about fifteen minutes watching the Pipit before it disappeared into a dip and failed to re-emerge. It took about an hour of searching before we managed to relocate it, this time much closer to the road, which is where both these pictures were taken. It was still a long way off and the pictures are a massive crop but at least I have my record shot.

Richard's Pipit

Whilst waiting for the Richard's Pipit we had good views of Marsh Harriers, Stonechat, Short-eared Owl, and could hear Cetti's Warblers in the reeds.

We headed back via Jevington for another look at the Rough-legged Buzzard. It was there but not feeding this time. It took a few short flights but was heavily mobbed by Crows and Jackdaws. 

Rough-legged Buzzard

You certainly could not complain about a shortage of birds. As well as the large flocks of Crows, Rooks, and Jackdaws, there were probably two hundred plus Stock Doves and we also had a flock of Skylarks through that must have numbered over four hundred. There were also three or four Common Buzzards in the area including one particularly brutish looking individual.

Common Buzzard

At about half past two, with the light already starting to fade, we headed for home. We made a brief stop at Widewater on the way to see the Mergansers and to have a quick look out over the sea. There were thousands of Gulls stretching along the coast as far as the eye could see. Fortunately the light had gone by then so we did not have to stop and inspect them all searching for a Caspian.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Dartford Warblers

Having had a disappointing days birding yesterday we decided to head inland today and visit Iping Common. Yesterday had been ruined by a weather forecast that had got it completely wrong. The promised day of sunshine and clear skies through to late afternoon had in fact lasted to about ten in the morning when a cold wind, dark skies, and a general air of gloom settled over us.

Today's forecast had changed from strong winds and storms to yet again a promise of clear skies and sun. We were sceptical, with some justification as it turned out, but decided to give the birding a go anyway.

On arriving at the common we headed up to the north west corner where a large birch tree covered in bracket fungus is located. The target was the reported Great Grey Shrike and the tree is a perch that has been favoured by previous Shrikes visiting the common.

Our initial search did not locate the Shrike but we were quickly sidetracked by a small flock of Goldcrests and then by a Dartford Warbler that Dave managed to locate. The shrike eventually returned to the Birch tree and we had good if distant views of the bird.

Great Grey Shrike

A walk around the common gave us some of the usual birds and then another pair of Dartford Warblers. It also signalled the onset of another overcast sky and eventually of rain. The score so far is BBC weather forecasters  0 , the weather  2.

The Dartford Warblers are always difficult to photograph. They are fast moving and tend to stay in cover but they are a beautiful looking bird and a great prize for the photographer who gets a clear shot.

Dartford Warbler

We had plenty of sightings over a period of about an hour but there were few good picture opportunities. The birds would stop and look at us and when they moved out of the Gorse into the Birch saplings you had some reasonable views but there were usually twigs or small branches obstructing the views. It was all very frustrating but eventually I managed a clear shot.

Dartford Warbler

Still not perfect but easily my best shot of a Dartford Warbler to date.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Snow Bunting

The title should have read Brambling which was yet again our target for the day with Friston Forest car park being the location we had chosen. We did actually manage to see two female Brambling this time which is a big step up from our last few failed attempts but there was no chance of getting any pictures.

It had looked promising as we drove into the car park with a large Chaffinch flock moving through the area. After studying them for a few minutes we came up with at least two female Brambling. Unfortunately the cameras were in the back of the car and our attempts to retrieve them saw the whole flock take flight. We watched for about another two hours but they did not return in that time. I should be happy at getting the year tick but without a record shot or better it does not feel like a success.

We aborted a plan to look for Kingfishers on the Cuckmere and decided to head back to West Sussex but a last minute decision (about ten yards from the turning) saw us heading into Tide Mills. We were telling ourselves that these last minute impulse decisions always come good, and it did. Two young birders Gideon and Caleb had located a Snow Bunting. We might well have missed it but the two doing a commando crawl across the shingle suggested there might be something worth looking at. They already had a few good shots and, hopefully without spoiling it too much for them, we also managed to get some pictures.

We then tried the pier looking for Purple Sandpipers. Unfortunately by then we had missed high tide and the birds had gone back onto the concrete supports below the pier. Light levels were low down there so I only managed to come away with one decent shot but I was grateful for that given that the speed setting was only 1/40 sec. Its amazing what you can do with image stabilisation.

Purple Sandpiper

We went back to Friston Forest and had one more search for the Bramblings. There was a Chaffinch flock feeding there but we could see no sign of the Bramblings this time. A couple of Jays were threatening to give good picture opportunities but I could not get them down sun of me so I had to settle for a backlit shot.


To finish, here are a couple of shots of the Tundra Bean Goose taken on Sunday at Cuckoo Corner. The lighting was poor but the bird did allow a reasonably close approach whilst it was out on the river. I was surprised to see it still there by itself. There was a fox about, a number of dog walkers,  a few bird watchers and at one stage it was even harassed by one of the local crows. Having to keep a constant watch for threats takes a big toll on feeding time. It would be better off in one of the the Greylag flocks where it could share sentry duties.

and there is always someone trying to gatecrash the picture

I wasn't aware of the Kingfisher at the time it only came to light whilst I was checking the pictures at home.