Friday, December 30, 2016

Portugal - Portimao and Alvor

Sun, tasty healthy food, a steady flow of local wine, and fireworks over the sea was a great way to see in the new year.

A real highlight was seeing my first Black-shouldered Kite hovering by the side of the highway as we made our way back to the airport.

Other sightings during our stay were plenty of Azure-winged Magpies around the hotel, urban Cattle Egret, two stately Caspian Tern and Kentish Plover on the Alvor Estuary, and plenty of Blackcap and Chiffchaff within the scrubby areas not far from the beach.













Thursday, December 29, 2016

Blue Rock & Dusky...

...are not members of a Country and Western band.  They are two mega Thrushes, one spanking brand new, the other still in the courtroom... while the jury ruminates.

It was an icy start.  It was an early start, arriving in Stow through isolated but impressive blankets of fog.  Graham and I watched the sun sparkle against the technicoloured sky as it lifted out of a crisp eastern dawn.


The crowds were assembled, scouring rooftops for any signs of vagrancy.  The Blue Rock Thrush then surfaced, appearing incongruous as it blundered around a residential garden before announcing it's presence on top of a TV aerial.  It all felt rather unsatisfactory.

My mind was drawn to a spectacular Spanish rock-faces, listening to the fluty abbreviated melodies of this mountain dweller while peering furtively from behind rocky crevices.

Plonked on a satellite TV dish wasn't the image I really wanted to 'entertain' for very long.





Bemused but reasonably content, we left the village, heading onto our next target while patiently awaiting news of its presence.  The Dusky Thrush was still in situ.  After a brief hiatus at a conveniently located coffee outlet, we were back out on the road as news broke.

The village of Beeley is set within the wonderful backdrop of the English countryside settled at the periphery of the Peak District.  


A small group of birders were lined-up halfway up a grassy knoll.  And there we joined them. 

Skittish but elegant and appreciatively distinctive, the Dusky Thrush dwelled for long periods along a tree-line interspersed with brief nervous forays onto the frosty turf in search of lumbricids.

Now this was utterly satisfying, particularly with the obliging weather and the picturesque surroundings.





Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rainham Marshes

A glorious day on the Marshes, the diluted winter sun hanging low, piercing through a milky blue sky.  There wasn't a breath of wind.  I love days like these.  They make dank winter days seem infinitely more bearable.




The aim was to see sixty species.  The end result was sixty-two (including two Peregrine seen on the drive home).

The highlights were;

a Short-eared Owl that perched on top of a small bush at Wennington


the Barn Owl roosting at its usual residence,

ten Avocet feeding in Aveley Bay,


Seven Curlew on Purfleet,

The continuing Water Pipit seen in front of the Butts Hide,

A couple of Stonechat around the Butts Hide,


Two Marsh Harrier quartering Wennington,

five stunning drake Pintail,

Small flocks of Redwing and a single Fieldfare,

A lone Chiffchaff behind the Ken Barrett hide,

...and hundreds of Lapwing.



Saturday, December 10, 2016

Jersey

Not to do Jersey any injustice at all, but this weekend trip may fade quite quickly from the memory.  Arriving in gloomy conditions on the short flight from Gatwick, we headed into town on the local bus.

The cold and low cloud had transformed the beaches to barren sandy wastelands as the bus skirted past the bay en route to St Helier.

The town was busy throughout the weekend, the festively-lit high street full of shoppers stock-piling for the holiday season.  There was no spirit here to find.

The Christmas market was embarrassing.  A cheap marquee filled with tack with nothing to fill the senses with festive cheer.

Sunday was better.  A nice afternoon spent in St Aubin feasting on a cracking Sunday roast at The Tenby.

And that was that really - until on the Sunday on arriving at the airport, the fog that had lingered all weekend cancelled most flights during the day - including ours.

A night at the Radisson Blu overlooking the harbour expensed by the airline wasn't bad at all.