Sunday, April 26, 2009

Stilt and co

I had a mad day of birding yesterday. Jo, Jaz and Ed were at a singing workshop for several hours, so I knew I was going to have a big birding window.
But naturally, I had to have a pre-workshop early start. I chose the Nene Washes where the highlights were:
Merlin, immature bird perched some 6 feet from my car,

Avocet, a colour-ringed bird, my first of the year, and hen later perched on ditch sides in the same area.

Wheatear, two early morning females, which I only saw on my way out,
Roe Deer, a straggly, moulting buck grazing on the washes.

This Redshank wasn't keen on having its nest trampled on...
During the songfest I was back at the washes, though now between Eldernell and March Farmers. Highlights:
Bar-tailed Godwit, 14, including 10 superb red males, year ticks,

Blue-headed Wagtail, 1 female-type (see below), among 20+ male flavissima-race birds

Two flavissima Yellow Wags
Hobby, my first of the year (and the fourth falcon species of the day)
Peregrine, hunting male disturbing all the waders including
Ruff, c20, including some superbly plumed males,
Greenshank, another year tick
Marsh harrier, a mad amount of breeding behaviour from several birds

After picking up the gang, we spent a couple of hours playing at Ferry Meadows. There were 42 Common Terns and a flockk of 15 early Swifts.

It was on the drive back from there that we got the call: "Drop everything, there is a Black-winged Stilt at Maxey!" said Chris Lines in a shakey voice.

What a great bird: PBC tick number 230. This pic is by Bob Titman as I didn't have time to grab my camera en route.

After, a bit of evening birding which went on till after dark, during the day I had added 6 birds to my year list, including 4 'elites' according to Weedonian PBC rules. My PBC year list now stands at 163 species.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Which flava?

This wagtail was on the Nene Washes today. It has a blue nape, though greenish tones in the crown. I don't know if this is what female nominate flavas look like, but it'll do as an explanation unless anyone else has a better idea...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Brayka Bay, Marsa Alam, Egypt, Part 6

It was all the natty wheeze of Grandma Monika. Why not get the family together for a grand, blowout holiday – how about at the snorkelling paradise of the Red Sea coast of Egypt? So, in mid-April 15 members of the Weedon clan flew off to Brayka Bay resort, Marsa Alam, about halfway up the eastern coast of Egypt.

It is an all-inclusive style resort. Cross through the western gates and over the road and all there is is the endless Eastern Desert. Roll out of bed and across the lawn awaits the sea, the reef, the fish, the coral, the turtles.

The lawn and flowering bushes seem to be watered 24-7, the only greenery as far as the eye can see. The result? A literal oasis for migrating birds heading north through parched Africa to Europe.

Every morning I awoke early to carry out a 5 o'clock roll call of what had dropped in in the night. Every morning had one or two new treats.

In addition to resident White-crowned Black Wheatears, Cattle Egrets, Spur-winged Plovers, Brown-necked Ravens, Laughing Doves, Kestrela dn Sparrowhawk, Reef Herons and a few Spanish Sparrows, there was a fines spread of juicy migrants. We had Quail underneath our drying swimming costumes, more races of Yellow Wagtail than there are in the book, more Bluethroats (white-spotted and red-spotted) than I have seen before in my life, more Nightingales than it is is healthy to gather, a regular roosting flock of nine Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters, plus passing Montagu's and Marsh Harriers, and more Lesser Whitethroats than breed in the whole PBC area.

I'll break down the migrants later.
For me the absolute highlight was taking the children out on individual hand-held snorkelling trips over wonderful reefs. But coming up second were my first ever sea turtle (a wonderful experience to watch it feeding over some 45 minutes); plus swimming over a white-tipped reef shark and seeing some superb puffer fish etc.

Between the 15 of us, there was only one hospitalization, one case of gastroenteritis requiring a drip, one near drowning of a five-year-old, one double ear infection, and only 15 or so cases of diarrhoea, so no real problems there.

But as Grandpa Barry and Grandma Monika would doubtless concur, the display of teeth in the gang was excellent!
Thanks very much for a wonderful holiday xxx

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Brayka Bay, Marsa Alam, Egypt, Part 5

Immature white-morph Reef Heron

Spur-winged Plover


Laughing Dove

Sunset over the Eastern Desert

Brayka Bay, Marsa Alam, Egypt, Part 4


Our room was one of those gold bougainvillea draped ground floor pads. The plants were full of Laughing Doves and Lesser Whitethroats, the undergrowth held Quail, the roof had White-crowned Black Wheatear and the lawn was draped in the world's Yellow Wagtails, Cattle Egrets, Wheatears, Nightingales and Bluethroats

Laughing Dove babby

Artist and pupil

Lawn Egrets

Two types of Jasminian Reef Fish

Red-spotted Bluethroat

Pied Kingfisher

Sunrise over the bay

Rock Thrush

Semi-collared Flycatcher

Crab tracks

Brayka Bay, Marsa Alam, Egypt, Part 3

European mountains on the way to Egypt

Mediterranean coast of Egypt

The fertile Nile valley from the air

My lovely daughter, Jasmine

The Edge

Grandma Monika (and Grandpa Barry if you look closely)

Egypt as Mars

The Red Sea near Marsa Alam

The desert of Marsa Alam and a Weedonian shadow

Hermit crab

Feldegg Yellow Wagtail

Rock Thrush

Fossil reef in the desert

Brayka Bay

Brayka Bay, Marsa Alam, Egypt, Part 2

Pied Kingfisher guarding the reef

Tree Pipit

Red-throated Pipits

Rüppell's Warbler

Yellow Wagtail races...