Thursday, 30 April 2015

Lesvos - Day 5

This morning a look on the inland lake in perfect morning light produced 6 or 7 Little Crakes, 2 Little Bitterns, Great Reed Warblers, and Red-rumped Swallows amongst others.

After breakfast we headed to Polichnitos Salt pans which were decidedly quiet. 20 Little Stints, Ruff and some Kentish Plovers with chicks was our best.

Back at Kalloni Salt pans we had 1 Whiskered Tern, 4 Gull-billed Terns, 1 Ruddy Turnstone, 2 Spotted Redshanks, 10 Little Egrets and 3 Curlew Sandpipers.

On the East River we heard a River Warbler singing but could not locate it before it fell silent. More Little Bitterns, Glossy Ibis, White and Black Storks, Olivaceous Warblers and Black-headed Buntings.

At Kalloni Pool outside our hotel the Great Bittern showed briefly and 2 Little Bitterns were spotted.

I will add a photo of Little Crake tomorrow.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Lesvos - Day 4

This morning a quick look on the salt pans saw a distinct lack of birds compared to previous days. However a nice male Citrine Wagtail made up for this by giving us great close views.
Male Citrine Wagtail
Afyer breakfast we decided to make a quick call in at the Scops OIwl site and unbelievably there were 5 birds all on show.We had great photo opportunities before being distracted by a Middle Spotted Woodpecker that shot into its nest hole and never came out.
Scops Owl
Moving on we arrived at the Ruppell's Warbler site and were greeted with views of Subalpine and Sardinian Warbler but no Ruppell's. After an anxious wait a male flew onto a telephone wire and everyone enjoyed superb views. A little later it showed well on some close bushes.
Male Ruppell's Warbler
Moving on to the North Coast track we found several superb Masked Shrikes, a Common Cuckoo and a flock of 25 Bee-eaters.
After an excellent tavern lunch we made our way down the Napi Valley seeing Roller, 4 species of shrike including 1 Lesser Grey, while an evening look at the salt pans found us a Spoonbill, Kentish Plovers and a flying Stone Curlew. Back on the Kalloni pool outside our hotel there was 2 Purple Herons, 2 Little Bitterns and 10 Glossy Ibis and 5 Squacco Herons.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Lesvos - Day 3

Great start to the day with our pre breakfast trip towards the Sheep Fields. A stunning female Pallid Harrier posed for us for 15 minutes on a fence post. After which it flew over our heads. Amazing!

This one digi-scoped
At the Sheep Fields we wanted to get good looks at Red-throated Pipits and sure enough we soon found 6 and enjoyed great views including one with a brick red throat. About 7 Black Storks were present and we scoped 4 Kentish Plovers.
Red-throated Pipit by Gina
After breakfast we set off towards the west where a roadside stop for a Red-backed Shrike also produced a super Great Spotted Cuckoo, several Sombre Tits, and Western Rock Nuthatch.
Moving on we made a stop for a pair of Cinereous Buntings, also seeing Woodchat Shrikes, Cretzschmar's Buntings and Short-toed Eagle.
A coffee stop at Tavari was made better with our beachside vista producing over 1,000 Yelkouan Shearwaters and about 10 Scopoli's Shearwaters in just 30 minutes.
Our lunch stop at Maladia was made better with two Eleanora's Falcons and a skulky Marsh Warbler, while a little further on we started to see groups of up to 10 Black-headed Buntings, and a flock of 11 Lesser Kestrels. At Sigri we finished the day with a flourish that included 2 Rollers, 10 Bee-eaters, and a Lesser Grey Shrike. 

Monday, 27 April 2015

Lesvos - Day 2

Didn't manage to get any photos today but we had a great day. We started off at the inland lake before breakfast and in superb morning light we watched 4 Little Crakes, 6 Little Bitterns, Little Grebes, Squacco Herons, Great Reed, Reed and Sedge Warblers and a low flying Long-legged Buzzard.

After breakfast we set off to the west of the island. Our first stop produced Blue Rock Thrush, Crag Martins, Cirl Buntings and Rock Sparrow.

Further on a quick roadside stop for two Eleanora's Falcons was followed a little later by prolonged views of a single Eleanora's hunting low over a hillside. Woodchat Shrikes, Black-eared, Northern and Isabelline Wheatears were seen before we head for the coast at Sigri.

On the beach we had two Citrine Wagtails, Little Ringed Plovers, and a Lesser Emperor Dragonfly.

Down by the River Ford we watched up to 5 Collared, 4 Pied and several Spotted Flycatchers, 6 Blackcaps and a few Yellow Wagtails. On our way back a short stop found 10 Little stints, 2 Marsh Sandpipers, Zitting Cisticola, and 2 Lesser Kestrels.

As we made our way back we found 4 Chukar plus better views of Isabelline Wheatear and Black-headed Bunting.

Back at the Salt pans were 55 Whiskered Terns, a Peregrine and the usual array of shorebirds.

At the hotel we once again spotted the Great Bittern.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Lesvos - Day 1

Our first full day in Lesvos started with a nice female Pallid Harrier flying past. Then as we were returning for breakfast we heard that the Demoiselle Crane had been relocated. A quick dash to the West River and we were watching this superb bird feeding amongst some gulls in a grassy meadow.

Demoiselle Crane by Gina

Demoiselle Crane by me
Thi superb bird represents the first ever record for Lesvos and was found late in the evening of Friday by Killian Mullarney. Unbelievable selfishness by the guide of Heatherlea birding group had them all sneak out and see this bird on its discovery without telling the rest of the hotel restaurant full of birders. As I say selfish and unbelievable.
Anyway the rest of our day saw a pair of roosting Scops Owls, Orphean and Subalpine Warblers, a wonderful pair of Kruper's Nuthatch coming to their nest hole
Close Black Stork, 25 Collared Pratincoles and a superb flock of 75 Whiskered Terns. Lots more beside but this was a nice start to our tour.
We did have 2 hours birding yesterday after our group arrived and a Spur-winged Plover and nest of Penduline Tits was great.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Lesvos Magic

Myself and Gina have just arrived in Lesvos, Greece a couple of days before our trip is due to start and as ever this wonderful island has many great birds to see whatever the weather. Its actually bright blue sky but chilly.
A quick look out side our hotel the 'Kalloni 2' and a Great Bittern showed itself off just 10ft away. Also lots of Glossy Ibis, Little Bittern and Garganey. A drive to the sheep fields rewarded us with the acti9ve nest of a pair of Penduline Tits, followed by 3 Spoonbills, 9 Ruddy Shelduck, 6 Greater Short-toed Larks, 6 Tawny Pipits, 10 Garganey, 9 Gull-billed Terns, 2 Black Storks, 11 Sort-toed Eagles, 6 Red-footed Falcons, a Hobby and a few Red-rumped Swallows. Moving on to the Salt Pond we found 15 Spotted Redshanks, a bunch of Ruff, 1 White-winged and 1 Whiskered Terns, 1 Temminck's Stint, Flamingos and hundreds of Avocets.

A quick look for the resident Scops Owls soon had us looking at two of these tiny owls roosting in a Eucalyptus tree together.
On to another site, this time for Kruper's Nuthatch and we soon located the nest hole of a pair of these sought after birds. They were feeding young so as soon as our group arrive on the weekend we will be revisiting this site.
On the way back to our hotel in the afternoon we spotted a nice male Montagu's Harrier, 6 Black Storks, 19 Glossy Ibis and right outside our hotel the Great Bittern gave an amazing performance.
Male Montagu's Harrier
Almost tame Great Bittern

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Day 10 - The last Chicken!

Our last day of the 'Colorado Chicken Run' saw us up early at 04.10 to get the lek of our last target species the Greater Sage Grouse. As the sun slowly came up we were treated to another fabulous show, this time 42 grouse strutted around and displayed just twenty metres from our parked minibuses. Totally unconcerned by our presence it was a fantastic finale to our trip and completed all the target 'chickens' i.e Lesser Prairie Chicken, Greater Prairie Chicken, White-tailed Ptarmigan, Dusky Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Gunnison Sage Grouse and Greater Sage Grouse.
Displaying Greater Sage Grouse.
Click this link to watch Gina's video.
After a late breakfast we started to make our way back towards Denver. Along the way we stopped in Cameron Pass where it began to snow and at a visitor centre we enjoyed close views of Brown-capped Rosy Finches, Cassin's Finches, Fox Sparrow, and Brewer's Sparrow. We then continued over the pass driving through several inches of snow that had all but covered the roads completely. On the other side we were delighted to see 4 Big-horned Sheep on a close hillside.
Male Cassin's Finch
Big Horn Sheep in a snow storm. Not the best photo but at least we
A wonderful was now over and everyone had had a great time!

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Day 9 - Sharpies!

Today we woke up early to find a snow covering. We set off to a grassy area and as the daylight appeared we were treated to fabulous close views of about 15 Sharp-tailed Grouse performing on a lek just a short distance from the road. The males were running around with their wings held out and purple air-sack puffed out. This we watched for about an hour.
This was the best I could do in the circumstances.
This was our main goal of today and after breakfast we set off toward our next destination of Walden.
Along the way we saw Swainson's Hawks, Long-billed Curlew, and numbers of Sandhill Cranes. Near Walden we check a lake that held hundreds of waterbirds including Canvasback, Redheads, Western and Eared Grebes, White Pelican, Avocet, a Franklin's Gull, lots of California Gulls and a lone Ross's Goose.
California Gull

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Day 8 - A Monumental Day

This morning we set off into Colorado National Monument a stunning park that could almost rival the Grand Canyon. We soon found a very nice Black-throated Sparrow, followed by Rock Wren, Juniper Titmouse, Bushtits, some close White-throated Swifts and further along past some fantastic scenery we found Bewick's Wren, Hairy Woodpecker, Violet-green Swallows, Western Bluebirds and lower down we had several Gambel's Quail. The rest of the day was pretty much travelling with stops to look at Chukar sat on a rock, Golden Eagles flying around and Mule Deer, Elk, Beaver, White-tailed Prairie Dogs and a variety of chipmunks and ground squirrels. 
Colorado National Monument
 Black-throated Sparrow
 Rock Wren


Monday, 13 April 2015

Day 7 - More Grouse!

This morning we were up at 03.30 with as many clothes on as we could. We then drove to an area near Gunnison where we set ourselves up in a trailer with open windows and seats from where we had to wait an hour before first light and our first views of up to 20 Gunnison's Sage Grouse a highly endangered species. We watched through scopes at half a mile distance as males strutted around with their tails fanned out and heads flung back. Although distant it was an amazing experience. By about 07.30 it was all over and the displaying birds had disappeared. As we came out of the trailer desperately trying to warm up, we spotted a Sage Thrasher sat on a bush and a Golden Eagle fly overhead being mobbed by a Swainson's Hawk. Leaving Gunnison we headed off towards Black Canyon. Along the way we spotted some Yellow-bellied Marmots and three more Golden Eagles.
Yellow-bellied Marmot
In Black Canyon we were treated to superb views of several Dusky Grouse including both male and females.
Male Dusky Grouse
Female Dusky Grouse
There were plenty of Spotted Towhee's around, a showy Broad-tailed Hummingbird and finally good views of a Fox Sparrow of the Rocky Mountain race Slate-colored (Passerella iliaca schistacea).
Broad-tailed Hummingbird
Slate-colored Fox Sparrow.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Day 6 - Gunnison

I didn't get much in the way of photos today but we had a really good day around the Gunnison Basin. In the morning we drove to a small town seeing Yellow-bellied Marmot along the way. At a river bridge we had very close looks at several Dippers, a Mink was seen by a few and a Red-naped Sapsucker on a telegraph pole. Moving on to Crested Butte we found a bunch of Cassin's Finches, Brown-capped Rosy Finch but generally this area was quiet. Moving on again we visited Taylor Canyon and eventually got to see a male Williamson's Sapsucker, 2 Townsend Solitaires, and a pair of Three-toed Woodpeckers.
Townsend Solitaire
Townsend Solitaire
Poor shot of male Three-toed Woodpecker

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Day 5 - Mountain Birding

This morning we started off just a couple of miles from our hotel in an area of residential houses who have feeders. Unbelievable since myself and Gina checked it out 5 days ago some thoughtless individuals or a group have been there and upset the residents probably by assuming that had right to walk into their properties and get closer or photograph the birds. So now the residents have put up signs and no one is allowed to view their birds!
We watched the nearby trees and soon managed to find lots of Gray-crowned Rosy Finches, about 40 Brown-capped Rosy Finches and eventually a lone Black Rosy-Finch. There were also about 4 Pine Grosbeaks, Red Crossbill, a Gray Jay, Steller's Jays, Pygmy Nuthatch, Mountain Chickadee, and a Sharp-shinned Hawk that kept scaring everything off. I didn't manage to get photos today so here are some of the Rosy Finches I took when we checked the area out 5 days ago.
 Brown-capped Rosy Finches on feeder
 Brown-capped Rosy Finch feeding on ground
 Black Rosy Finch
 Black Rosy Finch
 Gray-crowned Rosy Finch
 Gray-crowned Rosy Finch
We left the Rosy Finches and headed up to Loveland Pass where after an hour of searching we eventually found a White-tailed Ptarmigan and everyone enjoyed prolonged scope views as this pure white bird sat amongst some shrubs in the pure white snow.
Moving on again we saw Mountain Bluebirds, a few raptors, Bald Eagle and in a small town full of Cotton Trees we enjoyed superb views of two Lewis's Woodpeckers.
 Lewis's Woodpecker

Friday, 10 April 2015

Day 4 - Great er !

Up very early this morning to be in position in the Prairie an hour before dawn. It wasn't long to wait before strange shapes appeared in the dark and a cacophony of hoots, booms and chattering filled the air. Here we were as the sun rose watching 32 Greater Prairie Chickens strutting their stuff. A truly amazing experience and from our stationary vehicles the birds approached and danced just 10 - 20ft away. One male even flew up onto the roof of our van at least 10 times. With 3 Burrowing Owls and a Coyote also present it was a fabulous few hours.
This was the unimpressed female!
Moving on we headed for the Pawnee Grasslands seeing a nice Rough-legged Hawk along the way.
One here we searched several areas where we firstly enjoyed super views of about 10 Chestnut-collared Longspurs and then in another area of shorter grass we had 19 McCowan's Longspurs.
It was then time to leave and head towards the Rocky Mountains.
 Click the link below to watch Gina's video of the Greater Prairie Chicken