Tuesday, April 18, 2017

North Norfolk Coast

Last week I had the opportunity to spend some time in a friend's cottage close to the north Norfolk coast. As it was (or so I expected!) a good week for spring migrants I planned to visit a number of sites during the week hoping to discover loads of newly arrived summer migrants. First up was Snettisham RSPB reserve. After two and a half hours of searching all I had managed to turn up was a single Swallow, a Blackcap and a few Chiffchaff.. The tide was out so the waders were miles away; the wind was up so there was little moving about. Not very promising.
Thornham and Holme were just as bad. A couple of Ring Ouzels had been reported earlier in the day but they were not there when I was!
Titchwell was devoid of birds...bad. And people...not so bad. I did manage to locate a single Little Ringed Plover and a few singing Sedge Warblers but that was it.
Holkham Hall held a good flock of 15 House Martins a couple of Swallows as well as loads of Chiffchaffs and a couple of Blackcaps.
Burnham Overy Staithe dunes was the best place during the week with half a dozen Ring Ouzel and half a dozen Northern Wheatear.
So five days in North Norfolk in mid April produced Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Sedge Warbler, Northern Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Little Ringed Plover, Swallow and House Martin. Generally I was left photographing the more common species. But the walking and the company were good.

Skylark - Snettisham

Avocet - Everywhere

Displaying Redshank - Thornham

Red Kite - Holme

Sanderling - Holme Dunes

Herring Gull - Everywhere

Oystercatcher - also just about everywhere

Little Egret - Holme

Knot - Thornham

Bar-tailed Godwit - Burnham Deepdale

Common Gull - Common!

Shelduck - all over the shop.

Black-headed Gull - Why not?

Pheasant - Garden!

Greylag Goose - Everywhere and then some.

Linnet - Singing male.

Curlew - Thornham

Moorhen - in a tree.

Drake Red-crested Pochard - Titchwell (one of the only birds on the reserve)

Barnacle Goose - Holkham Hall; an introduced bird.

Grey Partridge - in a field.

Black-tailed Godwit - up to its eyes in it.

Ring Ouzel - Gun Hill - a proper real migrant.

Wren - on top of its world.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Still birding in northern India. Pt 6 Vangat.

Our final destination was Vangat River Camp next to the Ramganga River in the Corbett N. P. buffer zone. Again different habitat meant different birds. This was an idyllic spot although the fact that tigers are probably ambling about close by meant that you had to be on your guard and you couldn't wander off on your lonesome. A bit dangerous apparently.

Me...birding along the Ramganga River.
The river valley held good numbers of Plumbeous Water Redstart and White-capped Water Redstart as well as White-browed Wagtail, a lonesome  Brown Dipper, Crested and Common Kingfisher, a single Small Forktail, Lesser Fish Eagle and, for me, the star bird Wallcreeper. The Wallcreeper was feeding amongst  the boulders along the river banks but it did occasionally fly over the river to crawl along the cliff walls...just like it should.

Wallcreeper  Tichodroma muraria. A real, proper, real bird!
Crested Kingfisher   Megaceryle lugubris
Female Plumbeous Water Redstart   Rhyacornis fuliginosa
White-capped Water Redstart  Chaimarrornis leucocephalus
Little Forktail  Enicurus scouleri
White-browed Wagtail  Motacilla maderaspatensis
Away from the river valley there were plenty of birding opportunities in the grounds of the lodge and woodland on the slopes on the other side of the valley. Here we had crippling views of White-tailed Rubythroat but, unfortunately, my photos are too embarrassing to post.

Black-crested Bulbul  Pycnonotus flaviventris  They look completely bonkers.
Black-throated Tit  Aegithalos concinnus
Himalayan Bulbul  Pycnonotus leucogenys
Indian Silverbill  Eurodice malabarica
Scaly-breasted Munia  Lonchura punctulata
Whiskered Yuhina  Yuhina flavicollis
After we left Vangat we had a few days in Delhi doing a bit of touristy sightseeing although you couldn't see much because of the terrible smog. I'm still coughing six weeks later. Our man on the ground Prasanna Gautam who organised our extension accompanied us to Okhla wetlands just outside of Delhi were we added a further 15 species to the trip including such majestic birds as Wigeon and Pochard.

The sun sets over Okhla wetland and on our trip to Northern India.
Many thanks to Chris Mills, Prasanna Gautam, all of the guides rickshaw drivers and taxi drivers that made the trip so memorable. If you fancy a trip yourself then I suggest you check out Norfolk Birding's website at: http://www.norfolkbirding.com/

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Birding Northern India. Pt 5. Corbett N.P.

Next stop was the Kosi River at Garjiya to look for Ibisbill. This is a known site for this iconic wader, provided that you know the site! We were only on the bridge for a couple of minutes before the shout of Ibisbill went up and we had great views of three individual birds. The locals on the bridge were more interested in us and our scopes and began queuing-up to have a look through the optics. We thought about charging a few rupees each but nobody had any money as the Indian government had taken it all out of circulation.
My photos of Ibisbill are rubbish so I will not be posting any.
We spent the night in Tiger Camp hotel having added a few more species to our trip tally. The following morning  it was into Corbett N. P. for a few days staying at the park camp at Dikhala. From here on it was all open-backed jeeps, birds, dust, birds, dust more dust, birds and tigers.
There were loads of birds on the way to the park, at the park gates, in the park and over the park.
Blue tended to be the dominant colour!

Blue-throated Barbet  Megalaima asiatica
Blue-bearded Bee-eater Nyctyornis athertoni
Blue Whistling Thrush   Myophonus caeruleus
Changeable Hawk Eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus
Collared Falconet Microhierax caerulescens
During our stay in the park we saw a number of raptors, the collared falconet being one of the smallest I have ever practically overlooked. It's only 3cms or an inch bigger than a sparrer. Osprey, Lesser and Pallas's Fish Eagles were all making life miserable for the fish in the river.

Lesser Fish Eagle  Ichthyophaga humilis

Pallas's Fish Eagle  Haliaeetus Leucorphus
Osprey  Pandion halietus
Red-headed Vulture  Sargogyps calvus
We were fortunate to see a number of owl species in the park including Jungle Owlet,  Brown Fish Owl and Tawny Fish Owl and Spot-bellied Eagle Owl. Mostly big fearsome owls!

Spot-bellied Eagle Owl  Bubo nipalensis  63 cms big!!
Tawny Fish Owl  Ketupa flavipes. Looking at me looking at him.

The park was also really good for species of woodpecker: Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker ( very small), Great Slaty Woodpecker (absolutely enormous), Fulvous-breasted Woodpecker, Lesser and Greater Yellownape (biggish), Streak-throated Woodpecker (medium size), Himalayan Flameback, Greater Flameback and Black-rumped Flameback (impressively bright). Flamebacks are now known as goldenbacks but flameback captures the essence of these birds much better.
Greater Flameback  Chrysocolaptes lucidus
Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker  Dendrocopus canicapillus
Lesser Yellownape  Picus chlorolophus

Streak-throated Woodpecker  Picus xanthopygaeus
Whilst driving around the park looking for birds we were always mindful of the fact that this is one of the best places in India to see wild tigers. So we saw a couple!

Tiger # 1
This is also a great place to observe Indian Elephants. So we observed some.

Indian Elephant

We also saw plenty of Spotted and Sambar deer as well as both Mugger and Gharial crocodiles both of which I couldn't get close enough to to take photographs without risking death!
A few other birds seen in the park were:
Black-Hooded Oriole  Oriolus xanthornus
Long-tailed Shrike  Lanius schach  Extremely common in the park.
River Tern  Sterna aurantia
There are not a lot of terns or gulls to see inland in northern India but we did manage Pallas's Gull, Brown-headed and Black-headed Gulls and both Whiskered and River Terns.
Stonechat  Saxicola torquata
Next stop Vangat and the Ramganga River.