Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Jamaica Thursday to Saturday

Thursday 10th January
Green Castle Estate

Keith and I were up early and after a coffee on the porch watching the sun come up we headed to Waterfall Trail where I was anxious to see Worm-eating Warbler and avoid any marital harmony. We missed the bloody Warbler but had an enjoyable morning birding before returning for breakfast minus said warbler.

After breakfast Joy and I were joined by Darleen as we walked down the access track towards the sea in an attempt to bird a different habitat, we walked for about 90 minutes and got as far as the Lookout Tower before there was a little clear ground. We saw a few good birds on the walk including Northern Mockingbird, another Mangrove Cuckoo and a few American warblers.

The afternoon was spend reading and swimming in the pool, before at 4.00pm Keith and I went for another session birding where we saw Antillean Palm Swift but not a lot else.

After dark we were joined once again by Dwain for a night walk were we saw Jamaican Owl and had great views of Northern Potoo perched on a stump and striking a pose.

American Kestrel

American Wigeon

The beach

The pool and view

Jamaican Mango

Keith and I

Joy and I

Friday 11th January
Green Castle Estate

Another early morning session with Keith saw us find an American Warbler which we got poor views of and remained unidentified! On the way back a Ruddy Quail-dove flew past us!

We decided to go to the beach travelling in the back of a flat bed truck on a mattress which was strangely enjoyable. The afternoon was spent reading and swimming. Keith, Joy and I revisited the Reservoir where we added a few species and best of all Keith found a Worm-eating Warbler which I saw!

Saturday 12th January
Green Castle Estate to Montego Bay

We awoke early and partook in our habit of drinking coffee on the porch watching the world go by which included 13 Olive-breasted Parakeets. Too soon our transport arrived, so we said our goodbyes to the staff and headed to the airport to drop off the Ann and Darleen who had earlier flights, which then left us with a few hours spare, we visited Montego Sewage Ponds which added a few species to the holiday list, with a few waders on view before we ourselves had to head to the airport catch our flight home.

In reflection it was a great trip, we saw all the endemics plus a view other species, plus more importantly it was at an easy pace with plenty of time to relax. Green Castle Estate is the place to stay, it is the best of both worlds and the holiday will live long in the memory.

Least Grebe
Green Castle Estate staff
Red-billed Streamertail
The sunset

Jamaica – Tuesday & Wednesday

Tuesday 8th January
Green Castle Estate

This morning we explored yet another trail to try and find the two further endemics that were available on us on the Green Castle Estate, these were Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo and Jamaican Pewee which we located without too much trouble. A single Pewee and two Cuckoo responded to a tape lure and showed really well in the trees above our heads, unfortunately this back breaking birding was taking its toll on Dudley and he had to retire to his room to rest his back.

After breakfast we followed the access road before taking a track to the John Davy lookout which is a historic site where some of the original inhabitants of Jamaica lived, it is apparently an important archaeological site and has been excavated in the past, although now it has been reclaimed by the jungle. Dwain was very informative and as we looked down at the Orchid sheds he told us that it had been very successful until a Hurricane caused a lot of damage, then when they were repaired that disease had then effected the Orchids which resulted in them being abandoned!.

After lunch we made good use of the Swimming Pool and generally relaxed in a wonderful venue. The staff were brilliant and couldn’t do enough for us , the food was good, healthy and plentiful and barely four hours passed between meals! The Estate House was so quiet during the day, you could hear a pin drop, at night it was a little different when the wildlife started up!

In the afternoon we revisited Waterfall Trail where to cut a long story short I missed out on a Worm-eating Warbler which Joy managed to get on, it didn’t cause a problem, some you win, some your lose.

Wednesday 9th January
Hardware Gap, The Blue Mountains

Another early start involving two breakfasts, the drive though was not as long and we met up with Roger again in his home territory of the Blue Mountains. At this point we only needed to see a further three endemics which were all on today’s agenda. The first proved no problem, we saw uptown 30 Ring-tailed Pigeons immediately. We basically birded alongside the road with the van following all the way up to Hardware Gap, we saw a single Blue Mountain Vireo leaving just the Jamaican Blackbird to compete the set, but this bird was proving elusive. We were giving up hope so we stopped for lunch, we were checking out a few promising trees when Roger located a single Jamaican Blackbird feeding low down in a tree.

By the time we made our way back down to the coast it was time to return to the Estate for a quick dip in the pool and a relax having seen all the endemics that Jamaica had to offer. The next couple of days were down to us to bird on our own which I was looking forward too.

Jamaican Pewee
The Blue Mountains
Jamaican Blackbird
Ring-tailed Pigeon

Jamaican Pewee

Jamaican Tody

JAMAICA – Saturday to Monday

Saturday 5th January
Manchester to Jamaica

Dudley and Mary travelled up from St Albans and stayed the night as we had an early start his morning. We arrived in Manchester a little after 8.00am parking the car and catching the shuttle bus to the Airport where we met up Keith and Lyn the remainder of the UK contingent in the terminal. The flight was fine and I watched on of the worst films I have ever seen “The Meg” avoid at all costs.

We landed in Montego Bay nine hours later where the two Americans Ann and Darleen had been patiently waiting for us. I first met Ann in Brazil in 2005 and being a long-standing friend of Dudley and Mary I had met her in the UK a few times. Darleen (a friend of Ann’s)  a lady in her 80’s was as fit as a butchers dog, during the course of the week she left most of us standing and was amazingly resilient. I felt so sad when see told us about coming home from a weekend away to find her house had been burned to the ground during the Californian fires a couple of years back.

At the airport we saw a couple of Magnificent Frigatebirds and Zenaida Doves. Our driver Raymond got us loaded up and started on the three hour drive to Green Castle Estate which lay 100 miles to the west along the north coast of Jamaica. After what seemed forever we turned off the main road and followed a rough track for about three miles with a brief stop for a Barn Owl before we arrived at the Estate House which was our base for the next week.

The staff were waiting for us and showed us to our rooms, which were well equipped and very pleasant. We then returned to the dining room for a light meal to be joined by a Northern Potoo that flew in to take advantage of the insects attracted to the lights around the complex.

Sunday 6th January
Green Castle Estate

We were met by the resident guide Dwain, after a pre-breakfast at 7.00am he took us for a walk around the gardens. The birds came thick and fast with Jamaican Spindalis, Red-tailed Streamertail, Vervain Hummingbird, Jamaican Woodpecker, Jamaican Mango, Jamaican Vireo, Sad Flycatcher, White-crowned Pigeon, Jamaican Euphonia, Jamaican Oriole and Loggerhead Kingbird, most of which were endemics.

After breakfast we explored the Waterfall Trail one of many trails on the estate. We saw further endemics plus a Mangrove Cuckoo, Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Orangequit, Yellow-shouldered Grassquit plus a good scattering of American Warblers were Parula Warbler and American Redstart were surprisingly rather common.

Jamaican Spindalis
Loggerhead Kingbird
Sad Flycatcher
The view from our room

Monday 7th January
Eccesdown Road, John Crow Mountains

We had an early rise this morning rising at 4.00am were the staff had provided tea and coffee and some fruit (pre-breakfast) before our drive to the extreme west of Jamaica to the John Crow Mountains, we stopped on the way to pick up our guide Roger who was our guide for trips away from Green Castle.

We arrived at Eccesdown Road a little after sunrise where we partook in our second breakfast of the day with some rather tasty porridge! Again the birds came thick and fast with both Black-billed Amazon and Yellow-billed Amazon seen before we had walked far. The rest of the morning was spend searching for endemics and dodging the frequent rain showers. One of the hardest endemics to find is Crested Quail Dove and most of us managed to get views of a perched bird.

The other restricted range endemic was Black-billed Streamertail which we saw really well, very similar to Red-billed Streamertail apart from the obvious. The most impressive bird was a Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo one of two endemic Cuckoos that Jamaica has to offer.

Chestnut-bellied Cuckoo
Sad Flycatcher

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

Monday 24th December

With news that a Dusky Warbler had been seen in Kingsbury Water Park there was only going to be one destination I would be visiting today. The bird which is a first for Warwickshire was found yesterday by Rambling Walker (twitter moniker) and reported to Steve Haynes.

I met up with Steve and Graham Mant and we made our way through the partially flooded paths to where the bird had been seen adjacent to the M42 motorway. On arrival the traffic noise was deafening, making picking up the bird calling rather difficult, unless it was close. On arrival we joined several other local birders some of whom had been there since first light.

The bird had shown briefly earlier in the day but only the original finder had seen it. The others though had seen a couple of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers and there were double figures of Chiffchaff feeding in the Willows along the river.

After a couple of hours the sun started to sink, as did the temperatures, and the intrepid group had shrunk somewhat. At about 2.20pm the Rambling Walker beckoned us, he had been watching the bird for about ten minutes but he hadn't been able to attract anyones attention as we were around the river bend out of sight.

We quickly made our way to where he was standing and sure enough the bird was calling. It was making its way quickly along the reed bed calling as it went. At this point we were looking into the sun, so we instinctively made our way to the end of the reed bed for a better view and eventually got flight views of the bird as it flew from the reed bed into the Willows. At one point it actually gave a burst of song, certainly something that I have never heard before.

It then reverted to being very elusive and it was a further 30 minutes before it was heard briefly again.  The whole area looks good but there is an awful lot of cover there and its hard to work, more importantly I don’t think the bird will get any easier to see. One thing is for sure I know where Joy and I will be going this year for our Christmas Walk – Merry Christmas Everyone.

Saturday 22nd December

After the rain of the last week had kept me sidelined I took a walk around the fields at Wishaw this afternoon. It was pretty good with over a hundred Skylark seen, in true there was probably double that number.

Surprisingly I only saw a single Meadow Pipit, but other species were seen in good numbers with Yellowhammer, Fieldfare, Redwing, Startling and Reed Buntings numerous. I did search for Corn Bunting amongst the flocks but didn’t see one. But there were a awful lot of birds feeding and a good search through with a telescope could produce results.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Tenerife 27th to 30th November

Monday – Golf del Sur

Steve Haynes and I took advantage of cheap flights to spend a few days in the sun on Tenerife, unfortunately due to unforeseen circumstances another member of the party had to withdraw at the last minute.  On arrival we dropped our luggage at the apartment and went birding near to the Airport at a favourite site of mine in the South of the Island at Golf de Sur.

We walked along the main road that splits the golf course into two, at first it was slow with just a Little Egret, a Greenfinch and a small group of Spanish Sparrow, it was proving hard work! We returned to the car, crossed the road to head out between the Golf course and the surrounding desert. As we approached two Barbary Partridge put in an appearance before flying out of sight. We hugged the fence to viewed a small pool partially obscured by surrounding trees when a couple of golfers flushed two birds one of which we identified as a Squacco Heron, my first for Tenerife. Then a Spoonbill flew overhead, I hope my shout to Steve didn’t distract the golfers!

Poor shot of Squacco Heron through the vegetation

There were several Canary Island Chiffchaff but hearing them and seeing them are two different things.We then heard a unfamiliar call which we put down to Spectacled Warbler. With the light fading it was time to return to the apartment via the local supermarket to stock up with liquid refreshments.

Tuesday – Las Lajas

This morning we walked along the sea front near to the apartment but with the tide out it was poor for waders with just a few Whimbrel, Turnstone and Ringed Plover seen.

Later in the day I took Steve up to the Blue Chaffinch site at Las Lajas which is high up in the pine forests on the slopes of Mount Teide. On arrival there were a few picnickers but not at the far end where the birds tend to reside. I parked by the drinking pool, but unfortunately this was dry. Immediately we were into a couple of African Blue Tit a smart bird and impressively marked. Further away I glimpsed a couple of distant Blue Chaffinch and a Canary, I returned to the car to collect my scope setting it up and headed down the slope, only just a little to literally. I lost my footing went arse over, ripping the knee out of the only pair of trousers I had and skinned my knee into the bargain.

Blue Chaffinch

Island Canary

Above the clouds on Mount Teide

Despite my mishap the Blue Chaffinch performed admirably as did Island Canary, we did hear the Goldcrest but couldn’t locate the bird as the light was fading. We had intended to go to my favourite restaurant but as I looked like a street urchin I suggested to Steve that maybe we head into the lava field further up the mountain as they are impressive. So that's what we did, however, it was the cloud rolling into the hillside below us that was impressive. Bird wise we did pick up a couple of Berthelot’s Pipit even at this altitude before returning to the apartment for a shower before a Chinese Buffet to end the evening!

Wednesday – ’tup North & Mount Agua, Erjos

Birding wasn’t the primary reason for this trip, which was fortunate as birds were proving difficult anyway. We headed to Punto Tino in the north west of the Island, the drive was spectacular and we were soon there. Species usually present were absent and it was a bit of a waste of time, We had good views of Spectacled Warbler and a couple Sardinian Warbler, plus Island Canary and Bertholot’s Pipit. We missed out on Barbary Falcon although Steve had a distant bird that was probably this species. A few Raven and Buzzard soared above the distant ridge but little else.

I decided to cut our losses and head to the high altitude village of Erjos in search of the two species of Pigeon. As we drove up the road we entered thick cloud and at Erjos it didn’t look good, also time was getting on. We walked to the viewpoint but visibility was zero, we enjoyed a eerie walk back through the laurel forest hearing Pigeons but not locate any. The best area for White-tailed Laurel Pigeon started to clear and the scenery was mightily impressive but with the light fading fast we decided to cut our losses.

The clouds rolling in from Mount Agua

Erjos with Mount Teide behind

We spent the evening in the apartment with good wine and a Burger King listening to the football via the Internet, Steve's game was a lot more exciting than mine. But we won, Villa had a boring 5-5 draw!

Thursday – Playa del las Americas and Erjos

A walk along the front this morning proved a little more rewarding with the addition of Sanderling, Grey Plover and Dunlin.

A poor shot of Bolle’s Pigeon

In the afternoon we returned to Erjos where we were at least successful with Bolle’s Pigeon, we managed to get a couple of perched birds inside the forest, but when perched they don’t do much other than sit still, so if you haven’t got the whole bird what you see is what you get!

Fortunately we found a different vantage point and after much searching picked up a bird perched on the outside of the canopy, it showed well but was unfortunately a little back lit.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Tuesday 4th December

This year has been a strange and exciting one for me on a professional and personal level. Joy and I became grandparents for the first time. I also took up a job part-time as a Porter at Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield. As a result the blog has suffered somewhat, to a certain extent I find it quicker and easier to put news out via Twitter. But this “My Diary” has gone to pot!

However, this morning it was nice and bright so I though I would give the Reservoir a couple of hours and it payed off.

I completed a reasonably complete count of the species which included this years first Wigeon and Red-legged Partridge. Also and perhaps more importantly I saw my first Tawny Owl for the Reservoir, a shocking admission. I have heard plenty and have never spent a lot of time searching as they have always called from private land. So todays was a welcome sighting.

8      Mute Swan
62    Canada Goose
1      Wigeon
11    Gadwall
1      Teal
34    Mallard
13    Pochard
170  Tufted Duck
6      Goosander
26    Little Grebe
30    Great Crested Grebe
9      Moorhen
300  Coot

I saw a good selection of passerines including Raven, c.110 Fieldfare, c52 Redwing, Bullfinch, Coal Tit, Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Goldcrest.

Tawny Owl, taken on my phone