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

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Saturday 11 August

This morning for a change I visited Sutton Park. I arrived before 9.00am but the gates were locked, a few people seemed rather perplexed by this and for some reason thought I had all the answers! Anyway I made my way to the main birding area an area of heath with scattered bushes, mainly Crab Apple. As I crossed the model plane flying area, it was obvious that there were quite a few hirundines around with I would estimate by the end of the morning c.150 Swallow, c60 House Martin & c.12 Sand Martin also, there were up to a dozen Swift.

As I reached the first area of bushes I had an obliging Lesser Whitethroat then a juvenile Wheatear. There were birds flitting from bush to bush but I recon I probable only got on about half the birds that I saw in flight. Down in the Valley (Lower Crabs?) I had a single Spotted Flycatcher, unto 6 Blackcap, 2 Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat but strangely not the expected Redstart!

This is another area where the silence is punctuated by people shouting after their unruly Mutts, one dog which was out of control was trying to engage the cattle that roam here into a game of chase, whilst it owner bellowed at the top of her voice. Surely it would be quieter and safer if the dogs were kept on a lead – especially if they can’t be controlled. Not long after I was scanning an area of bushes when a Greyhound tried to mount my leg – needless to say I was too quick for it! The owners thought it was rather funny!

I made my way back to the car toward the end of the morning as things had started to slow down. The pool in front of the entrance held a single Common Tern.

Friday, 10 August 2018

Friday 10th August

Middleton RSPB

This morning Joy and I were the first arrivals on the Car Park and pretty much had the place to ourselves for most of the morning. At the feeders the Water Rail was performing well but apart from Tits the feeders were quite quiet, not surprising for the time of the year.

The West Scrape was dead apart from a couple of Lapwing and a few Teal and a couple of Snipe. Between the two Scrapes a scan of the distant shorelines produced a LRP, Ringed Plover and Common Sandpiper, I searched through the wildfowl in search of Garganey but could not connect. At the East Scrape both Wood Sandpiper were present, but fed separately, they were joined on the Scrape by 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Snipe, Common Sandpiper and Common Snipe.

A couple of Egyptian Geese were present and there were @16 Common Tern and shed loads of wildfowl all in eclipse. We stopped at the two benches by the river and scanning across Jubilee I picked up the male eclipse Garganey feeding, pretty soon though it retired to the bank and went to sleep. Then a Green Sandpiper flew past heading towards the North Pit which was our next destination. We couldn’t locate the Sandpiper but with the vegetation there you could hide an Elephant! There were however a couple of Wigeon present, we made our way back seeing a Lesser Whitethroat, then as we stood on the canal bridge a Willow Tit popped up and gave us good but brief views before rejoining the roving Tits and departing.

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Wood Sandpiper

Shustoke Reservoir

Having failed to locate the Black-necked Grebe for Joy last evening we went over again this evening after the rain. I scanned from the Car Park with my scope but drew a blank, Joy and I proceeded to walk around but it was generally devoid of birds apart from a build up of hirundines and a couple of Swift.

Normally at this time of year the pond weed attracts lots of wildfowl and bird in general but with the Reservoir being cleared of the weed bird numbers have plummeted. In the far south-east corner – some weed has gathered and there was a Common Sandpiper along with a Dunlin feeding. That was my first Dunlin of the year, which is poor for a species that was regular.

We made our way back to the Car Park and I tweeted the Dunlin out plus the that I hadn’t seen the Black-necked Grebe. I then realised there was a message to say the bird was present! We got back to the car and I fetched the scope and scanned again, again no sign of the Black-necked Grebe. I hopped over the fence on the promontory and the bird was feeding right up against the waters edge, therefore difficult to see from behind the fence. It was getting a bit of stick from a couple of Great Crested Grebe but was still present when I left.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Thursday 9th August

Got to the Reservoir early this morning but was soon disillusioned with the number and behaviour of the dog walkers with none on leads and some encouraging their dogs into the water by throwing balls for them to swim after! This behaviour is a major contributor to the lack of birds at the Reservoir in recent years.

One arrival, the dull weather helped, with good numbers of hirundines for the first time this year, although there were only c.150 this was made up of 50% Sand Martin, 35% Swallow and 14% House Martin. Also unto a dozen Swift dropped in. As I made my way round I picked up a distant Grebe which I was certain was a Black-necked Grebe, although I wanted a better look before I put the news out. After straining my eyes for a while it flew from the east end up towards the Sailing Club. I followed it back there and got marginally better views, both in flight and it was probably 100 yards closer. I put out the news and continued on my way.

Black-necked Grebe, Shustoke Reservoir

Black-necked Grebe, Shustoke Reservoir
Black-necked Grebe, Shustoke Reservoir
Black-necked Grebe, Shustoke Reservoir
I saw little else although there were c.150 Tufted Duck with two broods one 3/4 grown and another with much younger chicks. When I got back to the car, Nick Barlow was scanning with his scope and we located the Grebe again, this time in the middle of the Reservoir.

This afternoon saw me visiting Ladywalk for the second time in a week. Last week Joy and I saw Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Water Rail, Green Sandpiper, Marsh Tit and Little Egret during our visit.

With news that there was a Wood Sandpiper at Ladywalk I spent the afternoon in the company of Pete Sofley as we tried in vain to locate the bird. As the batteries in my hearing aids expired on the way I had trouble hearing him, never mind any birds. We did see 3 Green Sandpiper, 1 LRP and Redshank. They have also started work on a new scape which will continue the impressive work that Pete and his team have carried out over the years.

I picked Joy up from work and returned to Shustoke were despite having my scope I could not relocate the Black-necked Grebe. The sailing club was open and they may have had boats out this afternoon.

Sunday, 29 July 2018

Sunday 29th July

Well the weather has finally broken, with the first substantial rain in nearly two months. During a break in the deluge Joy and I took a walk around the reservoir, it was a little disppointing, it was just as busy as usual which was a surprise.

There were three Common Tern and four Common Sandpiper plus another brood of Tufted Duck, not quite sure how the last brood got on, hopefully well.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

What a Summer

Its been a while since my last post nearly three months, I have been so busy with one thing and another that I have found it difficult to keep the blog up-dated. I have been over the reservoir a fair few times but there has been little to report.

Last week however, I saw my first Red Kite for the reservoir and now that the water levels are dropping the post breeding Lapwing flock has arrived but not in any great numbers with @30 birds in total. There have been unto four Common Sandpiper and today there was a Common Tern. I have also seen a Little Egret in recent weeks. Amazingly breeding success among the wildfowl seems good with Mute Swan (1), Tufted Duck (1), Mallard (several), Little Grebe (2), Great Crested Grebe (3), Coot (several), Moorhen (3) raising broods. Canada Geese however, don’t appear to have been successful.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Scotland 17th May to 20th May

Thursday 17th May – Little Glen Shee

It took us most of the day to drive to Perth as we hadn’t started early. After tea we decided to visit Little Glen Shee. It’s a short drive from Perth being a small glen with low summits holding a small grouse moor. We parked and walked up past the game keepers cottage with the sound of Red Grouse ringing in our ears. A Red Kite drifted over the hillside whilst the stream held a Dipper which quickly disappeared around the bend in the burn out of sight.

We walked a good way down the glen as it was a fine evening, we saw what we expected on the bird front with lots of Red Deer on the skyline. A couple of Short-eared Owls provided us with entertainment as did a pair of Whinchat, we didn’t stay long but it was a good start to the week.

The view down Little Glen Shee

Friday 18th May – The Angus Coast

We had originally wanted to go climbing today but we were both tired so we decided against it and choose a little birding along the Angus Coast instead. We started at West Haven, Carnoustie where unfortunately the tide was a good way out, so we continued to Red Head picking up Puffin and other Auks plus a Peregrine was seen hunting along the cliff edge. A singing Corn Bunting and a good number of Tree Sparrows were both new birds for the year.

On the journey back we popped into West Haven again where we saw upto five Whimbrel, plus a few commoner waders. Just as we were leaving a couple of Sandwich Terns were seen up on the rocks by the car park.

Saturday 19th May – Meall Tairneachan and Farragon Hill

Today we were well rested and travelled the short journey from Perth to these two Corbetts, which stand around ten miles north of Aberfeldy. We parked opposite the track to the a Baryte Mine that lies between the two peaks and started the march up through the forest following the track to the mine, and although steep we were soon out of the forest and approaching the base of Meall Tairmeachan in little over an hour. From the road it was little more than a quick 15 minute slog to the summit, where the views were extensive with Farragon Hill looking worryingly distant.

The summit of Meall Tairneachan
The summit of Meall Tairneachan
Meall Tairneachan
We dropped down to reach the road which eventually led over a ridge to the Baryte Mine which was deserted, I assume due to it being the weekend and not the fault of the Royal Wedding! The track led over another ridge and then the view ahead was filled with the bulk of Farragon Hill. We headed up the slope to the south following a break in the heather then traversed along to reach the base of the hill.

It was then a steep climb to the summit avoiding a few crags, soon we were sat at the summit admiring views and eating our lunch.

The summit of Farragon Hill

Meal Tairneach with the Baryte mine the visible scar below the summit.

The summit of Farragon Hill

The final slopes of Farragon Hill

We followed a faint path off the summit and were soon lost a lot of height, we looked back to see two other walkers standing at the cairn the first people we had seen all day. Like buses another walker met us coming the other way. We soon covered the rough ground and rejoined the track and past the mine, then over the ridge to Meall Tairneach and then back through the forest and the car..

Bird wise there were good numbers of Willow Warbler near the start in the conifers and a Hen Harrier flew overhead, but as a general rule apart from Meadow Pipit it was devoid of birds.

Friday 27th April

Not working today, so Joy and I though the Reservoir would be quiet due to the heavy rain that was falling. We arrived approximately 8.30am and proceeded to walk around. There was a single Common Tern that passed straight through, plus a single Common Sandpiper.

There was @ 20 to 30 hirundines the majority of which were Swallow although I did add House Martin the Reservoir list for the year. The rain brought out at least Song Thrush which were seen feeding at different locations. A single male Shoveler was unexpected but apart from c.50 Tufted Duck and six Gadwall there was little of note.

This afternoon I visited Wishaw area where I saw a single Wheatear, a couple of Yellow Wagtail and a selection of commoner birds.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Sunday 13th May

Have been over quite a few times recently but it has been quiet as a whole, as it has across the Midlands generally. I have had up to three Common Sandpiper but passage has been really poor.

Thursday – Cannock Chase
Joy and I saw plenty of Tree Pipit, Cuckoo plus Redstart and Pied Flycatcher.

Thursday – Shustoke Reservoir
Thursday there was a good number of Swift with @300 present with @200 hirundines, although there was no Hobby to take advantage of the situation.

Friday – Middleton RSPB
I took Joy and her sister to Middleton RSPB where we saw a good number of species including a Grey Plover (very difficult), Greenshank, Snipe and a couple of Yellow Wagtail. However, we missed a Temminck’s Stint which was unfortunate, but I did see rather a lot of them in India.

Saturday – Middleton RSPB
We went over later in the day to avoid the crowds, and although the Temminck’s Stint had not been seen we thought we would go anyway. In the two visits we recorded over 70 species which for the Midlands is good. There were a couple of Common Sandpiper and Ringed Plover which we didn’t see yesterday. Plus the Snipe was on the west scrape again, which is late!

Sunday – Shustoke Reservoir
I got over about 8.30am hoping to avoid the crowds but the Reservoir was very busy so I dropped down the bank and made my way over the river to work the fields between the Reservoir and Hogrill’s End. I heard plenty of Blackcap and Whitethroat plus a few Chiffchaff and a couple of Willow Warbler, but I haven’t come across Lesser Whitethroat or Garden Warbler so far this year. I saw a single Yellow Wagtail and a pair of Grey Wagtail. The highlight for me was a Kingfisher that flew past carrying food.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

Wednesday 25th April

I has been apparent to me and everyone who listens to my rants that Shustoke Reservoir is a shadow of its former self. It has been a great disappointment for me as I regard it as my favourite and still local patch. Quite why it has become a bit of a birding desert is probably more complex than I can comprehend, also I think it is a combination of factors plus some that I haven’t thought of.

Disturbance is probably a key factor with the Reservoir becoming increasingly popular for recreational use, especially dog walkers. The problem is caused in the main by the circular route being against the skyline, plus when the water level is high there is little distance between the walkers and the birds. Also when dogs run loose they invariably run along the edge or even enter the water. Over the last ten or so years the numbers of waders each year has decreased alarmingly. Also the shoreline has little in the way of open areas as Willow and a variety of shrubs have become well established, especially the once favoured south shore which is the only area with no public access.

The Sailing Club activity has always been a factor and little has changed there, apart from the organised removal of pond weed in the summer. I think this removal has had a detrimental effect on the aquatic life. For me this may well be the reason that most Terns, Gulls, wildfowl and waders no longer use the Reservoir as a staging post on migration. In addition Wildfowl numbers over the last few winters have been nothing short of disastrous from a birding perspective. Even the hirundines and Swifts that used to gather in huge numbers in the Spring and Autumn have largely bypassed the Reservoir.

An average visit in the past would normally result in between 50-60 species in the last couple of years I have been lucky to register over 40 species in an average three hour trip.

I would value any ideas or thought that anyone has, plus if anyone has the ear of Severn Trent or indeed the Sailing Club I would be happy for my thoughts or any others to be passed on.

Since my return from India I have made a couple of visits with the latest being today (Wednesday). It was poor again, the sky is usually full of hirundines etc at this time of year, today I saw 1 Sand Martin, 4 Swift, 4 Swallow. No Gulls, no Terns and just two Common Sandpiper which where clinging onto the only patch of shore line in the South-east corner, but a dog put them up and I didn’t see them again!

There were three singing Blackcap, two singing Chiffchaff and a single displaying Skylark. Also I saw my first Mallard ducklings of the year. There was also a Nuthatch calling so hopefully they have bred. I again searched for Lesser Spotted Woodpecker but I haven’t seen them since they deserted a couple of years back through the attention of photographers.

On my way home I stopped again at Little Packington where the Ring Ouzel was showing really well and is now into its fifth day.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Day 16 – Tea Gardens then Guwahati

A quick trip around the Tea Plantation at 5.00am prior to heading to Guwahati for our plane to Delhi yielded two more ticks in the form of Greater necklaced Laughingthrush and Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher. Despite the presence of another local guide on the walk we again failed to connect with Blue-naped Pitta.

After breakfast we boarded our mini bus and headed for Guwahati for another finger chewing driving experience. Soon we stopped for lunch at Beeparbhal Lake where we added five more species bring the group total to 445 for the holiday, personally I managed to see 433 including 150 new species which is a phenomenal total for 16 days.

Apart from missing a few of the targets, the most painful of which for me was Himalayan Monal it was a tremendous trip. The company was good making new friends is aways a satisfying experience and as a group we gelled well with no problems. The accommodation was the best available and the camps, which we were all a little apprehensive about were above our low expectations whilst the food provided in them was better than the hotel at Dirang which remained a slight disappointment.

The two guides were excellent and India Nature were their usual well organised selves, leaving nothing to chance from start to finish. We had all the relevant information from the moment we arrived at the airport until we left all our needs were catered for, leaving us to concentrate on birding. I can heartily recommend them.

The food at times was a little bland but I didn’t go for the culinary experience. Also being a carnivore a little more choice would have been nice, especially in the hotels, but on the whole I was expecting to have vegetarian only meals in the camp so I was prepared for it. On the positive side I lost 8lb in weight which was a welcome bonus!

We had our last meal together in the hotel in Delhi before saying our goodbyes, we went a little earlier than we needed as we joined Nick and Raj in the minibus to the airport. We were that early that we couldn’t book in our baggage for a further hour. We then found Nick and Raj in the departure lounge to say our goodbyes.

Keith and I boarded our flight which was stopping at Amritsar, we had aisle seats with a gap between us which was taken by a Chinese lad with a face mask, he pushed past me sat down then went straight to sleep, he then lent on me and Keith and only woke twice, once to say he didn’t need breakfast and second to get off at Amritsar.

Sleeping Beauty.
On arrival at Birmingham Airport we had the usual wait for our baggage, this must be one of the countries worst! After waiting nearly 45 minutes our baggage trundled out and Joy was waiting to pick us up. The Captain had a quick cup of coffee then he left to complete his journey to sunny Scarborough! I see more of him abroad now than in this country!

Day 13 to 15 – Kaziranga – 6th to 9th April

Day 13 – Kaziranga – 6th April
am Kaziranga, Central Range – pm Kaziranga, Eastern Range

All the birding in Kaziranga was from the back of Jeeps or Gypses and the Indians call their models of Jeep! We had a good mornings birding but it wasn’t easy from the back of a Jeep. On entering the park we stopped to scan for birds when a thundering noise erupted from our left, we turned to see a large Bull Rhino being chased by an even larger Bull Rhino! Our driver got the Jeep moving pronto, with the two beasts crossing the road just about where we had originally stopped!

The rear of the hotel
Bird wise new species were starting to dry up with just Blossom-headed Parakeet and Striated Babbler added this morning. At lunch a group from Cardiff and Bristol took great delight in relaying tales of the three Tiger they had been watching all morning. On hearing this Leo changed our plans and we headed for the Eastern Ranges where the Tigers had made a kill.


Bloody Large Spider, with nearly 10 days of veg only I didn’t know whether to run or barbecue it!

The numbers of birds was quite staggering and we recorded well in excess of 100 species during the course of the day. We added Slender-billed Vulture to my new species list, as it and several Himalayan Vultures sat in attendance of an unfortunately carcass that lay in an open area and was attracting a hoard of scavengers.

Chestnut-headed Bee-eater

Oriental Turtle Dove

Asian Barred Owlet

Blue-bearded Bee-eater

After an hour or so it was starting to get late, no-one had any idea of where the Tiger were, but a Rhino across the way from us stopped and sniffed the air, then a head popped up, then another and that was Tiger in the bag. The female then walked towards its kill, which was being snaffled by a Wild Boar who’s head was deep inside the carcass. The Tiger could not have been more than 100 yards from it when the Wild Boar, realising the danger he was in bolted! The Tiger didn’t seem bothered, walked up sniffed the carcass then moved off!

One of the near full grown cubs sat sunning itself in full view and as night time drew in we left them in peace.

Day 14 – 7th April
early am Tea Plantation – am Kaziranga, Central Range – pm Kaziranga, Western Range

There was a Tea Plantation within walking distance of the hotel so after a coffee we walked there and birded for an hour or so, the target was Blue-naped Pitta, but unfortunately we didn’t connect but I did add the new species: Indian Cuckoo, Tickell’s Leaf Warbler and Rufous-necked Laughingthrush plus in addition a couple more to the holiday total.

Then we headed to the Central Range at Kariranga for the rest of the morning where yet again the birding was good but no new species were seen.

This was a fruitless afternoon with the only species being added being Swamp Francolin which we saw first in flight before pinning two down at a distance of 200 yards. We searched for Finn’s Weaver and Himalayan Rubythroat without success. We devoted the rest of the day searching areas of grass for Pied Harrier and any other Harriers we could find, unfortunately we couldn’t find any.

Day 15 – 8th April
am Kaziranga, Easter Range – pm Kaziranga, Central Range

Our proposed visit to the Tea Plantation was abandoned when rain stopped play, we sat on the veranda as a group drinking coffee and having a good natter. After breakfast we tried another site for Blue-naped Pitta but all we got was bitten by Mosquito's.

In true Indian tradition, I give you a “Selfie”

The mighty Bhramapurta
Asian Elephant
One-horned Rhino

Green-billed Malkoha

The birding was very similar to the previous days and we were struggling to add new species with just Tytler’s Leaf Warbler being added. We paid a visit the might Brahmaputra River which was impressive, with the Bionic Swede picking a pod of Ganges River Dolphin.

We saw a Common Woodshrike feeding fledged young, it then became apparent why the birding had been difficult with few birds singing. Most birds had begun breeding a few weeks early this year, which accounted for the lack of activity and the muted response we were receiving when playing tapes.

Day 12 – Eaglenest to Kaziranga – 5th April

Day 12 – Eaglenest to Kaziranga

A 5.45am breakfast meeting again and after loading up and taking in the views for the last time we headed downhill to the site of the “Bugan” where we enjoyed a good hour of birding adding a couple of new species. Unfortunately the “Bugan” were not playing ball so the views from the other day would be our lot.

In an attempt to catch up with Ibisbill we took another route that took us west then south along the border with Bhutan. We searched, what looked like an ideal river for Ibisbill but it wasn’t to be. Driving in India is nerve racking experience at the best of times, but on these road perched above large drops it is especially scary. To make matter worse our driver missed the first bend, taking it way to fast, fortunately he just managed to keep it on the road. You would think he would have learnt his lesson, but no on the next bend he did exactly the same, only this time there was another car! Everyone let out a scream and through their arms into the air – quite how that would have helped I don’t know, but we all did it. Somehow, more through luck than judgement the cars didn’t collide – words were said!

The rest of the day was hard, the roads were good but it was hairpin bend after hairpin bend, as we descended out of the foothills onto the plains of Assam. We eventually stopped for lunch at @3.00pm, I for one was an emotional and physical wreck, lack of sleep and hard days in the field are not good preparations for meeting your maker!

We eventually got the the hotel in Kaziranga just as it was getting dark for a welcome coffee, then to our rooms where we all showered and shaved for the first time in six days. I had at this point a 7 day beard which looked better than I thought it would, I decided that I would only feel clean if it came off, part of me wishes I hadn’t.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Days 9 & 10 – Lama Camp via Eaglenest Pass to Bompu Camp – 2nd & 3rd April

Days 9 & 10 – Lama Camp via Eaglenest Pass to Bompu Camp – 2nd & 3rd April

We packed last night as we had a 5.30am start to drive over Eaglenest Pass to Bompu Camp on the other side. We birded all the way seeing new species all the time. The change in habitat was noticeable with the south side of the mountain obviously receiving more rain, it was much lusher and the cover was thicker. We caught up with a couple of Ward’s Trogon amongst others on the drive. Later in the afternoon we managed to get views of Long-billed Wren-babbler and Rufous-throated Wren-babbler both under the same bush.

After birding most of the day we arrived at Bompu Camp, at first glance it was similar to Lama, although in reality it was a little more down market, but the sleeping arrangements were similar as where the tents. The bed though was not comfortable, I likened it to sleeping on a Snooker Table, it was however, at a lower elevation and therefore not as cold at night, so I slept a lot better. The sky on the first night was amazing with the dark sky highlighting the stars on show, it took me back 40 years to when you could see them locally, with excessive light pollution nowadays star gazing is a thing of the past.

The next morning saw us head down to a much lower elevation and the birds were everywhere, with new species coming thick and fast. One of the highlights was Blyth’s Kingfisher on the river which we viewed from a very rickety bridge. We had breakfast served from the bonnet of the vehicles again, this time we had chairs. We saw Rufous-necked Hornbill, Black Eagle, Rufous-belled Eagle, Asian House Martin, Silver-backed Needletail and Lesser Racket-tailed Drone whilst trying to eat breakfast.

In the early afternoon another target species led us a merry dance with myself and the two Swedes being the only ones to connect, the bird in question was Beautiful Nuthatch, the views I got were poor as the bird was somewhat silhouetted against the sky.

By the end of the day we had seen an astounding number of birds in addition to the birds mentioned we also saw: Grey Peacock-pheasant, White-throated Needletail, Pale-headed Woodpecker, Bay Woodpecker, White-bellied Erpornis, Collared Treepie, Mountain Bulbul, Rufous-faced Warbler, White-spectacled Warbler, Silver-eared Media, Long-tailed Sibia, Striated Yuhina, Whte-naped Yuhina, White-gorgeted Flycatcher, Pale Blue Flycatcher and Sapphire Flycatcher.

On day 10 we met at 5.00am for breakfast and headed back to try and connect with the Beautiful Nuthatch, this time we were eventually successful and everyone got good views. Keith and I were in the front vehicle for the first time and on the way down we saw a couple of Long-tailed Thrushes on the verge of the track. Other species seen included Spotted Elachura which I had missed twice already. Hoary-throated Barwing was also seen, after lunch we headed back over Eaglenest Pass to return to Lama Camp for another night. On the way we saw the endemic Broad-billed Warbler and a few of us saw a Fire-capped Tit. It was a rather uneventful last few hours as we searched in vain for species we had missed previously. Soon we were sat down to Rice and Veg again, then off to bed for another early start. I struggled to sleep as it was so cold but I lived to tell the tale.

Tent mark II

The Captain test driving the wife’s new mode of transport

The toilet facilities

Beautiful Nuthatch

Sultan Tit

Days 7 & 8 – Eaglenest, Lama Camp – 1st & 2nd April

After our arrival last night, we dropped the gear into the tents and headed uphill to the “Dining Area” for some Rice, Dhal and mixed vegetables! In fact the food here was better than at the Hotel in Dirang. The altitude of the camp was 2,350m over 7,000ft and it was pleasant during the day, but it was cold at night! The views however were superb and I will never forget the memory of going to sleep with Grey Nightjars and Owls calling all night.

Eaglenest Dining Area

Our accommodation, ours is the fourth tent from the left

Tent entrance

The views from the tent “Balcony”

Sign at the pass
We met for coffee at 5.30am and headed downhill to an area that hold the rare Bugun Liocichla after half an hour and with the use of tapes one bird appeared which only a couple of the group saw well, 10 minutes later we all had rather silhouetted views as the birds moved through the trees with the sun behind them. Wasn’t happy with the views which left me with the dilemma of whether to count it or not, at that time I thought we might get onto the bird again – I thought wrong!

We then birded higher up on a forest trail which was enjoyable but again hard work, birds came thick and fast and included a Hill Partridge which we managed to pick up deep in the forest. We also caught up with Darjeeling Woodpecker a species that we had missed previously.

After lunch we birded downhill and Lakpa heard a Blyth’s Tragopan deep in the forest, he played the call and ten minutes later it called again, this time closer, eventually one of the group picked up the bird partially hidden at the bottom of the hill, then it came closer still and ran across on open area. Eventually Lakpa put the tape on the path a little up hill and as he was making his way back the bird burst from cover and disappeared, then eventually it flew across the track and melted away into the forest.

This was one of our target species and it was a good to get reasonable views. We birded the rest of the day seeing a good variety of species.

I think this is a Blue-winged Sibia

Black-chinned Yuhina

Black-faced Warbler