Whos keeping an eye on me....

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


The European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola) is a small passerine 11.5–13 cm long and genetic evidence has placed it and its relatives in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae.

The summer male has black upperparts, a black head, an orange throat and breast, and a white belly and vent. It also has white half-collar on the sides of its neck, a small white scapular patch on the wings, and a very small white patch on the rump often streaked with black. The female has brown upperparts and head, and no white neck patches, rump or belly, these areas being streaked dark brown on paler brown, the only white being the scapular patch on the wings and even this often being buffy-white. Birds are frequently seen flicking their wings while perched, often doing so on the tops of low bushes. As its name suggests, birds utter a sharp loud call that sound like two stones being tapped together.

They breed on heath, moors, grassland, and wasteland that have some dense shrubs, such as gorse, in which it can build a nest.

Stonechats are primarily insectivorous, feeding on caterpillars, moths, ants, spiders and flies, though they will also take worms and snails, and feed on seeds and berries in the autumn and winter.

Please click on the images to reveal the finer detail within the pixels

The following image is of the male that holds territory close to a busy road high up on the peak district upper moorlands.

 2012 Male casting a cursory glance

2010 male in the same area but on the otherside  of the road - is it me or do wire fences make great perches for images!

2011 male holding territory on Anglesey (N Wales)
the backdrop is a farm gate (the rusty bolt adds to the image)

The following image is of the female that holds territory close to a busy road high up on the peak district upper moorlands.

2012 Female
with a fine meal

perfect habitat shot

I have to drive 30 minutes or so to see this species as I dont have enough of the right habitat locally but its always worth for a fine species such as this

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


The male Mandarin (Aix galericulata) has the most elaborate and ornate plumage with distinctive long orange feathers on the side of the face, orange 'sails' on the back, and pale orange flanks. The female is dull by comparison with a grey head and white stripe behind the eye, brown back and mottled flanks. They were introduced to the UK from China and have become established following escapes from captivity. Here in the NW of England a few large colonys thrive on inland bodies of water, often in Country Parks.

These images are from my local park - Etherow cp

please click on the images to appreciate the finer detail within the pixels

how many colours.....

just looking magnificant

in soft focus

preening in a tree

going for a stroll

mr & mrs

how cute are they.....

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Seabirds at Bempton - an annual pilgrimage

As the title suggests this is my once yearly visit to Bempton Cliffs. I am sat here asking myself the question of why? why make the 3 hour journey to the otherside of the country to see 6 species of seabirds? - no less- no more, just the same 6.

Fulmar, Northern Gannet, Guillemot, Razorbill, Atlantic Puffin and Kitiwake

Is it to generate 6 guaranteed year ticks to my birding list - possibly. Is it because I can get some fairly easy in-flight shots - again possibly (but this realy does depend on the weather), or is it just because its a fabulous place to visit - probably.

Still not fully sure, but anyway here are the results of pilgrimage 2012

please click on an image to maximise the resolution 

Bempton Vistors centre

breeding ledges being taken up 

low tide  along the coast 

every crevice utilised 

the weather turns for the worse

The real stars of the day
Atlantic Puffin






This year however there was one suprise, just down the coast at Flambrough a bird had shown up in a small wooded copse close to the cliffs. A possible Atlas Flycatcher. To be honest a week on and after much debate the birds true identity is still somewhat of a mystery. Some say Pied Flycacher x Collored Flycatcher hybrid, others say Iberian Pied Flycatcher, some really dont think it is the first ever visit of an Atlas Pied Flycatcher..... while others do

To be honest we may never know, but it was a smart bird to see and I am glad I took time out to catch a sighting of the latest UK mystery

Monday, 7 May 2012

Venezuela - Part 5 Cerro Montalban & Mt San Isidro

Fairly close to our base at Casa Maria were 2 mountains that proved to be worthwhile trips, Cerro Montalban & Mt San Isidro. 4 wheel drive was the only way to navigate the steep and rocky terrain. A small cloud forest adorned the top of each mountain as well as patches of dry arid land that provided a few contrasting birding habitats.

Both cloud forests bagged us some real skulkers. 
Identifying by call is one thing but actualy getting to see some of these birds was testing.... none more than this Stripe- Breasted Spinetail

 although this Grey Breasted Woodwren did eventually show quite well even if it meant me being on both hands and knees ..... and boy can it sing!

another skulker.... but worth the effort
Whiskered Wren

and unfortunatly birding megas such as the Black Faced Ant thrush never made it onto the camera but the experience and excitment of eventually seeing it cant be taken away

It wasnt all hard work though!
We would have been happy enough with just a single sighting of 
White Tipped Quetzel
 however around half a dozen individuals showed well for us - it was just a pity the cloud got lower and thicker just at the wrong time.

Other species seen and not always captured were Short Tailed Ant thrush,
Violet fronted Brilliant, Smoke Coloured Pheobe
Scarlet fronted Parakeet, Bat FalconEastern Meadowlark, Green Jay.

 Black faced Tanager
we were treated to a large flock of these wonderful birds

Scale Crested Pygmy Tyrant

Three Striped Warbler

Grassland Sparrow

White Tailed Hawk

and the best  just at the last
Burrowing owl
A single Owl stood on guard outside its nest hole

it kept an eye on us......

then overhead passed a solitary eagle and White Tailed Hawk, the Owl immediatly became edgy and went to higher ground just to make sure there would be no unwelcomed raptors visiting