23 Jul 2010

Somewhere on the Wirral..............................

......................lurks this beauty. Just as well it wasn't in off the sea otherwise someone would be claiming Snowy Sheathbill! A stunning looking bird and well worth the effort to go and see it. I've never seen a completely leucistic Moorhen before. Extremely wary and shy and pprobably for good reason.

21 Jul 2010

I got you babe.

A quick walk with Molly along the Shropshire Union canal at Stoak produced little except a young Chiffchaff being fed by one if its parents and a family of Sedge Warblers. No sign of the hoped for Hobby.

16 Jul 2010

Twice Bittern.

Somewhere in deepest dankest Somerset something is barking in the reeds. Seen yesterday a few miles from my parents place.

Brief views in high winds. Also one of these!

And a very confiding juv Cetti's that really shouldn't have been allowed out by itself.

A great place to spend a couple of hours after work and only 20 minutes away!

14 Jul 2010

Day 5. The journey home.

A leisurely breakfast Saturday morning and we were off to the airport to drop thie hire car back aand get our Ryanair flight back to Liverpool. A slight dealy whilst the plane sat on the tarmac for 40 minutes with the air conditioning off and all the doors closed is now becoming the norm for air travel!

People have remarked that the number of White-faced Petrels we saw is exceptional. Previous high counts haven't beeen into double figures but they have been from the direct ferry from Lanazarote to Tenerife which I believ eonly runs in the winter months. It appears that the route we took from Lanzarote to Gran Canaria is the best one for seeign this species.

We are confident there was no duplication of records as we were all watching from the port side and all birds were picked up slightly ahead of us and passed from bow to stern. We didn't see any birds coming up from behind us.

We noted the times for all the species seen and they make interesting reading.

Ferry left Arricife 11.15.
1st Bulwers seen 12.00 and last seen 16.00 but most seen 12.00 to 14.00
1st White-faced Petrel seen 13.15 and last 15.39 (about 20 minutes from Los Palmas, Gran Canaria).

There seemed to be a distinct species profile as the journey progressed. Cory's then Bulwers then White-faced and then more Cory's again as we approached shore.

A brilliant trip with some fantastic memories for all of us.

11 Jul 2010

Day 4. La Gomera.

Having delayed our trip to La Gomera by one day this was to be our last day in the Canary Islands and our last chance for Little Shearwater - another target bird. We decided not to take the car on the ferry but to get taxi's to the Bar Carbonera where Carke & Collins say both species of endemic Pigeon could easily be seen from the terrace. What more could we want. Good views of both Macronesian endemic pigeons whilst enjoying a cold beer.

The trip to La Gomera was disappointing seabird wise with only a single Bulwers Petrel amongst the common Cory's. The Cory's provided fantastic views as they sheared alongside the ferry.  We did see two more species of cetacean on this crossing with Bottle-nosed Dolphin and Short-finned Pilot Whale being added to the list.

 Finding two taxis standing idle Eddie started negotiating in his best Spannish for them to take us to the Bar Carbonara. Starting off at   €50.00 per taxi we eventually settled on a more reasonable € 20.00 and the news the bar had been closed for two years! This meant if the taxi's didn't return we were stuffed so we stopped and bought some water and asked the drivers to meet us again at 13.30. As we intended to get the last ferry at 18.15 we at least had time to either walk or hitch the 12 km back to San Sebastian if we were abandoned.

Rather than sitting on the deserted bar terrace we walked a short distance alongside the footpath running alongside to a point where we had good views over the hills and valley on the opposite side of the road. Within minutes we'd seen the first of 12 Laurel Pigeons but only saw a single Bolles in nearly three hours.

Pigeon territory.
Wirral pigeon fanciers chilling out.

Laurel Pigeons - as good as it gets!

Once again there were penty of Butterlfies to keep us interested with Bath White, Canary Blue, Indian Red Admiral, Canary Grayling Cleopatra & Queen of Spain Fritillary all around us. Sitting with my back against my rucksack I became aware of a buzzing around me and found that for the last two hours I'd been sat against a Wasps nest!

Our taxis arrived as planned and we headed back into San Sebastian for a sustaining lunch before trying to find somewhere to shelter from the sun and wind until our ferry left. Deciding enough was enough we decided to take an earlier seemingly unscheduled ferry and left just after 16.15 for the return journey. Whilst waiting to leave the port we spotted a Barbary Falcoln circling the cliffs opposite and it settled on a rock face just below the radio mast.

After 4 days intensive birding we were bone tired and our enthusiasm was flagging. Still, we stuck at it and following the suggested port out starboard return positioned ourselves in a prime spot. This was to be the last roll of the dice for Little Shearwater. Once again Cory's were the main species seen and we also spotted 3 Bulwers on this leg.

With rafts of Cory's lifting off the sea as we approached Los Cristianos we expereinced a surge of interest as we scanned the floating birds for something smaller and darker.................

Then it happened. Fate once again intervened and the Gods smiled on our endeavours. Not only had we changed the ferry time but the day of our trip to La Gomera. Just as we started thinking it wasn't to be our intrepid tour organiser  yelled TWO LITTLE SHEARWATERS STRAIGHT OUT in a slightly higher pithced voice than usual. Success! We all got onto these dimunitive Shearwaters and incredibly I even got a couple of record shots as they flew away from us. Cometh the hour cometh the Little Shearwater. Almost right at the end of our trip.

Amazing  - we'd got nearly 100% of our target birds.

A very happy but dog tired and filthy bunch of Wirral's finest disembarked at Los Cristianos and headed up the seafront to a good bar I knew for a refreshing couple of beers before returning to the hotle for a shower and change of clothes before going out celebrating to the McGuniness Bar to listen to some live music and reflect on our trip.

Nest day we'd leave the Canaries after an exhausting few days but having seen some quality birds (perhaps having opened up a new route for Western Palearctic birders looking to add White-faced Storm Petrel to their lists), having some good laughs and enjoying some superb company.

Day 3. Catch that pigeon.

Thursday morning and we changed our plan to go to La Gomera deciding instead we might as well 'do' the Tenerife sites for Bolles & Laurel Pigeon as well as Blue Chaffinch. Anoher amazing decision as you'll see later. My alarm failed to go off as the phone battery died completely and for some reason none of the sockets in our hotel room worked. The first I knew was when Al rang me to check if me and Kenny M were OK! A hurried shower and an even quicker breakfast and we were in reception arguing with the very nice lady who tried to charge us an extornioate € 25.00 for a breakfast that consisted of two coffee's, two hard boiled eggs and  tiny Danish pastry. Eventually we found the paperwork to show breakfast was included in the price and we set off down the hill to the Hertz car rental office to pick up our wheels. We'd booked a Renault Espace but instead ended up with  much larger Renault traffic. At least there was plenty of room. After the usual argy bargy over insurances we were off only for eagle eyed Eddie to notice that although the documents showed there was half a tank of diesel the gauge showed a quarter. Hmm. Back in the office the rep admitted the mistake and rectifed the paper work. Yeah right.

Heading out of Santa Cruz we decided to head towards a well known pigeon site at Chanajiga near La Orotava before heading across the volcanic centre of Tenerife stopping at sites for Blue Chaffinch and Other specialities. I'd seen both species of Pigeon at Monte del Agua on a prvious visit but knew the road had been closed off as Mark Turner had been last year. Chanajiga is mentioned in Clark & Collins as one of the best sites on Tenerife. As we approached the wole area was covered in low cloud and didn't look promising but as we climbed higher we broke through into brilliant sunshine. The directions in our guide book were spot on and we found the site easily. Almost immediately Kenny D picked up a Laurel Pigeon but the rest of us couldn't get on to it. The car park area was very productive with our first Tenerife Blue Tits, Goldcrests, Great-spotted Woodpecker and the beautiful tintillon Chaffinch. We found two Blue Tits nests in the walls alongside the track.

Wandering along the track we stopped at various viewpoints and scanned the laurel forset for the elusive Pigeons. I flushed a Laurel Pigeon from alongside the track but once again no one else saw it. Eventually we had reasonable views of 5 Bolles Pigeons but as both Kenny's & Al needed both we were a bit disappointed. After 4 hours we gave up and went back to the Bar Casa Tomas for lunch and a drink before heading further inland into the lunar landscape of the Teide caldera. We spotted a Blue Chaffinch from the car before heading towards the well known site at Los Lajos picnic site where we had brilliant views of this monsterous billed finch.

Our next stop was Villafor where I'd seen Rock Sparrow two years ago. Unfortunately we were unsuccesful this time but did add more Turtle Doves and a Corn Bunting to  the trip list and had good views of the canariensis race of Kestrel.

Dropping into Playa  de las Americas we found the Hotel Volcano where I'd stayed last year and had a well earned shower before setting out to find somewhere to eat and drink.

Part 2 of our Canaries epic - a mammoth seawatch.

An leisurely breakfast was in order before we checked out of the hotel and headed towards the port to catch our Armas ferry to Tenerife. Mind you our first glimpse wasn't to promising.

Dropping Kenny D, Kenny M & Eddie at the terminal with our passports (checking in is much much easier on these ferries if you have your passport as they just scan it) and all the gear Al and I headed back to return the hire car intending to get a taxi back. We got completely lost in Arricife's notorious traffic and one way system. Even a kindly local who jumped in the back of the car to help shrugged his shoulders and left us to it. A phone call from the lads asking where we were decided our course of action. Having paid cash and not used a credit car we decided to exact our revenge for leaving us fuelless and neglecting to warn us and dumped the car at the ferry terminal and ringing the hire company. Actually they were every understanding and told us to leave the keys in the glove compartment and they'd collect it.

Safely on board and having secured a good viewing point at the stern we settled down, drunk the first of many cuppa's and got a bemused local to take our photo.

Wirral Seawarchers Association members on their field trip to the Canaries.
Yours truly trip photographer, Kenny 'Kendo Nagasaki' Mullins, 'Spannish' Eddie, Al 'Albatross' Conlin and Kenny 'Braveheart' Dummigan.

With the ferry departing and still no sign of our hire car being picked up Al decided to hide his face in shame until we'd left the harbour area.

Our luck was holding. The conditions were ideal for seawatching being overcast and dull and we were soon picking up Cory's Shearwater's.

Our target birds were Bulwers and White-faced Storm Petrel. All of us, except Kenny Mullins needed this elusive species and this ferry route was hoped to provide us with our best chance of success.

As the ship ploughed on we saw plenty of Cory's but nothing else until around an hour into the journey when I picked up the first Bulwers Petrel heading down the starboard side. This was to be the first of many and we eventually tallied 43!

Bulwers were a new species for several of the party and are amazing long winged Petrels. Kenny D likened them to a cross between a Leach' and Arctic Skua. Although many birds were distant some were close enough to see the pale carpel bars.

With Eddie and Kenny M deciding to go for lunch Al, Kenny D and me were standing on the port side chewing the fat as only birders can when Kenny suddenly screamed WHITE-FACED STORM PETREL. He was so excited he could hardly spit the words out and suspecting a wind up from one of lifes practical jokers I glanced sideways to see him peering intently out to sea.He wasn't joking. By now panic was setting in. Where the hell was it. Anyone who's been seawatching off a moving boat with no landmarks will realise the problem. This could be our only one of the trip and I couldn't see it. For what seemed an eternity but infact was probably only seconds I scanned until finally I found it. Huge bat wings and ultra long dangly legs bouncing across the surface of the sea like Zebedee from the Magic Roundabout. Success and much back slapping and congratulations all round until the realisation that our compatriots hadn't seen it. Having never seen one before Eddie was gutted but no fear the intrepid team picked up more . Unfortunately Eddie couldn't get on to the first few and his voice was getting higher in desperation but then he got his eye in. Incredibly we saw 21 White-faced Storm Petrels between 13.15 and 15.30 - the final one being only 20 minutes from Los Palmas.

Absolutely stunning birds and much better suited to their old name of Frigate Petrel. We mainly saw singles but on two occasions saw two birds together, saw one interacting with a Bulwers and one mobbing an unexpected Bonxie sat on the water.

An announcemnt on the tanny that we had to leave the ship at Los Palmas had us a bit bemsued as we thought the ferry took us directly to Santa Cruz on Tenerife. Instead we had a three hour wait before catching a ferry around 19.00 that saw us arriving in Santa Cruz around 22.00. The second leg of our journey was unproductive bird wise with only the Cory's and a single Bulwers being seen. However we did pick up two Common Terns and a Green Turtle in Los Palmas harbour.

We also saw Risso's Dolphin & 4 Blainvilles Beaked Whales on the trip between Lanazarote and Gran Canaria

Arriving in darkenss we walked from the port to our hotel before deciding to join the locals in a celebratory 'few' beers - they celebrating Spains success in reaching the World cup final and us our success in seeing our two target seabirds and the fact Germany got knocked out!! And so to bed for a new adventure in the morning.