Friday, May 30, 2014

North To Nati

There was birding today but things were so quiet that I'd struggle to fill a post. So instead here’s more from our two week holiday in Menorca of 2nd-16th May. 

A trip north and west is an annual event, a birding morning to see a number of specialised species which inhabit the coastal area of Punta Nati three or four miles out from the second city Ciutadella. There’s perhaps not much to interest the average Joe at Punta Nati - a lighthouse, a number of partly restored prehistoric monuments within a patchwork of dry stone-wall enclosed fields, and birds.

Punta Nati - Menorca

For birders this part of the island guarantees Short-toed Lark, Blue Rock Thrush, Thekla Lark, Tawny Pipit and Stone Curlew. Off shore there may be Cory’s Shearwaters, Audouin’s Gulls, Yellow-legged Gulls, European Shags and if the conditions are right, swifts of the Pallid, Alpine and Common persuasion. 

European Shag

 Alpine Swift

Although our morning here was dry and sunny the Tramuntana blew quite strongly to make the birds skittish and less likely to pose on the exposed walls, so apologies for less than ideal pictures. It all makes for good reasons to return to Menorca in 2015.

Blue Rock Thrush

Thekla Lark

Short-toed Lark 

Tawny Pipit

The common lizard in Menorca is the Italian Wall or Ruin Lizard - Podarcis siculus

Italian Wall Lizard - Podarcis siculus

On the way south but before hitting the outskirts of Ciutadella there’s a roadside stop at the Cattle Egret colony.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

It’s easy to wax lyrical about beautiful Ciutadella, an historic town that has held up well to the pressure of tourism in the twentieth century. It was originally named by the Carthaginians, who called it Jamma, and was the original capital of Menorca until the British came along and chnged it to Mahon in the eighteenth century. To many Menorcans Ciutadella still remains the capital of Menorca and there is intense rivalry between the two cities.

A little shopping, exploration and coffe stops in Ciutadella is a relatively good exchange for a morning’s birding at Punta Nati.


Street Artist - Ciutadella


The Harbour - Ciutadella - Menorca 

At least a couple of Kestrel pairs nest in the centre of the city, one pair next to the clock tower of the Cathedral Basilica. The fine old buildings are home to many pairs of Common Swift, the harbour a place to see Yellow-legged Gulls and sometimes Audouin's Gull. So even amongst the shopping and sightseeing there's always a spot of birding.   


Menorca Cathedral - Ciutadella

 Yellow-legged Gull

Log in soon for more birding and photography from Another Bird Blog.

Linking today to Anni's Birding Blog and Eileen's Saturday Blog.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

CES Menorca Style

During my recent Menorcan fortnight I spent a morning with Javier Mendez helping out at his Constant Effort Ringing site near Mahon. It was the first visit of the 2014 Constant Effort regime whereby a comparable ringing session is carried out every 14-21 day period. The site is a working farm of crops and animals managed in an ecologically sustainable way.

Menorcan farm gate

Not only is Javier an extremely nice guy but he is very knowledgeable about Menorca and its flora and fauna. His website Menorca Walking and Birds offers tours of all sorts to experience the sights and sounds of Menorca. 

Javier Mendez

Javier Mendez

Javier and I caught 45 + birds including a good number of everyday “UK” birds like House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Great Tit and Chaffinch, and also included more exotic fare like Turtle Dove, Nightingale, Cetti’s Warbler and Sardinian Warbler. We didn’t catch the resident Woodchats or a Hoopoe, and certainly not the Stone Curlews which provided a backing track to the morning’s work, but we did catch a migrant Redstart and a stunning Wood Warbler. 


Wood Warbler

There are a good number of Turtle Dove in Menorca. Generally they are a shy species and keep a very safe distance, but in some resorts where pines and gardens flourish they seem to have lost their natural aversion to man and happily walk the footpaths with almost total disregard for passing tourists. 

Turtle Dove

Turtle Dove

The Spotted Flycatcher we caught was of the subspecies Muscicapa striata balearica, paler and smaller than the nominate race that migrates a long way north of the Balearic Islands of which Menorca is part. 

It is much harder to tell the two races apart in the field in early May when large numbers of migrants pass through Menorca on their way to Northern Europe. 

Spotted Flycatcher - Muscicapa striata balearica,

Spotted Flycatcher

Pied Flycatcher

Pied Flycatchers are strictly migrants on Menorca although they have been known to hang around nest boxes in the Spring until evicted by the Great Tits. There are no Blue Tits or Long-tailed Tits on Menorca. Apart from Ravens on the rocky outcrops and the single mountain El Toro, there are no crows on Menorca and the commonest birds during the summer months may well be the Nightingale, Sardinian Warbler and Cetti’s Warbler, which inhabit every clump of suitable habitat plus more besides. Menorca’s Cetti’s Warblers are not found exclusively in their normal reed and waterside habitat, but also in very dry areas which have the necessary impenetrable cover they require. 



Sardinian Warbler

Cetti's Warbler

My thanks to Javier for inviting me along to his CES session. I hope to catch up with him and his colleagues in 2015. 

In the meantime recent posts on Another Bird Blog feature Menorcan birds (click the tag "Menorca" or "Menorca birds") and there are still a number of photographs on my PC for a Menorca posting soon, so stay tuned.

Linking today to Theresa's Run A Round Ranch.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tawny Times, Lapwing Woes

The Fluke Hall thrushes had found the Tawny Owl again. Blackbirds and Song Thrushes joined in to noisily mob their enemy and led me directly to the spot where the owl sat motionless against the trunk. Fortunately, I have the landowner's permission to cross a private piece of land.

It squinted at me through half open eyes as I moved around trying to get a clear view for a filled frame picture. The owl's dark eyes opened a little more to stare me out; luckily I hadn’t frightened the roosting bird away so I rattled off half a dozen frames and then retreated. 

Tawny Owl

Tawny Owl

The Tawny was the highlight of not much doing here. The Mistle Thrush family fed together in the recently sown field, 2 adults and 3 youngsters bounding across the field when they saw me in the gateway. In song were 6 or more Whitethroat, 1 Blackcap, 1 Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Song Thrush, plus Tree Sparrow activity and noise around the nest boxes. 

I’ve been looking in vain for proof of Lapwing success this year. Between Pilling and the River Cocker, a distance of 2 or 3 miles I found less than 10 Lapwings in total, none of them showing any sign of nesting or parental behaviour. This count included a scan of the “environmental stewardships” at Fluke Hall Lane and the one of Braides Farm, the latter having some success in 2013 but which this year appears to lack ideal Lapwing habitat, the grass, too lush, tall and dense for nesting Lapwings. 

It’s not too many years ago when this stretch of coastline would hold 40/50 pairs of Lapwings, any high counts nowadays reserved for animals, the several hundred sheep and dozens of cattle crammed into already over-grazed fields. 


I hoped to complete the owl double with the regular Barn Owl of Conder Green but no luck on a rather cool and windy morning that Barn Owls also dislike. 

On the pool, in the creeks, reeds and surrounding hedgerows: 19 Black-tailed Godwit, 14 Redshank, 8 Oystercatcher, 15 Shelduck, 3 Teal, 2 Wigeon, 10 Tufted Duck, 3 Grey Heron, 3 Sedge Warbler, 2 Reed Bunting, 6 Whitethroat, 2 Song Thrush, 2 Pied Wagtail. 

Pied Wagtail

Tufted Duck

Grey Heron

I took a quick tour towards Cockersands totted up 18 Stock Dove, 5 Whitethroat, 5 Sedge Warbler, 3 Grey Heron, 1 Blackcap, 1 Willow Warbler and 15+ Lapwings scattered across a number of fields, but none appearing to be in the throes of breeding. 

Once again the situation looks pretty bleak for Lapwings in this part of Lancashire, a former major stronghold of the species. I’m left wondering if I will see any young Lapwings this year to restock the ever dwindling population of this iconic bird. 

Juvenile Lapwing

The fields held more Brown Hares than they did Lapwings, with in particular a gang of eight or more hares hurtling through a single field. More hares hid in the lush grass of Cockerham Marsh until a wave of chasing began here too as the animals ran far and wide and then melted into the landscape.

 Brown Hare

Brown Hare

There will be more birds soon from Another Bird Blog, hopefully this might include a few Lapwings, but don’t bank on it. 

Linking today to Stewart's World Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Hoopoe Action From Menorca

Every year I seem to return from Menorca with lots of pictures of Hoopoes. 2014 was no exception, particularly since I found a pair breeding in the same location they have used for a number of years.

So here are more Hoopoe pictures for all the fans of this rather spectacular bird. 

The name of the Hoopoe, pronounced 'hoo-poo', is derived from the bird’s call frequently described as ‘oop-oop-oop’. So remarkable is this call that it is also reflected in the scientific name of the species, Upupa epops. 

The nest is built in a tree cavity or a rock crevice, sometimes lined with debris, or sometimes bare. The female lays and incubates from four to six pale blue to olive coloured eggs per clutch and is fed during incubation by her mate. 

Hoopoes are primarily ground feeders and use their long, slender, decurved bills to probe for large insects, worms, and lizards. Less frequently a Hoopoe feeds while airborne, exhibiting its characteristic undulating and floppy, erratic flight. A Hoopoe's bill can wear down during the summer months as they spend so much time drilling into the ground to find their prey. 

The pictures require little commentary from me, but “click the pics” for a close-up of the action. 








When seeing an individual Hoopoe it is almost impossible to say whether it is male or female as both sexes are identical. There is a however a size difference, and when seen together the male is noticeably bigger than the female. 

Hoopoes - female and male





Here’s a video of a Hoopoe at a nest site. Watch carefully to see how the bird inflates its neck to emit the ‘oop-oop-oop’ call. 

There's more birding action from Another Bird Blog very soon. Don't miss it.

Linking this post to Anni's Birding Blog and to  Eileen's Saturday Blog.
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