Monday 30 April 2018

Greece, Day 3 - nature and sports in Olympia, 7th April 2018

After a very early start, with breakfast at 06:45am, we were on the coach at 07:30am ready for our 3 hour coach journey to Olympia. We set off, and then stopped after a kilometer or so as the driver had left something behind. While he recovered this we were parked in a wild area with gorse-like bushes all around - though the sun wasn't fully up yet it was a great time for some birding. And guess what I was next to the master-eyed Alex - while I checked every Chaffinch and Goldfinch the first time he looked up from his phone he said what's that on the wire. At first I ignored it as another Chaffinch and then I checked again, just before we started moving, and it was actually a Cirl Bunting. A hurried picture was pretty bad, but my own fault for ignoring it. I then spent the next 45 minutes looking for one of my most wanted birds, the Shrikes, having read they were seen around there. After a long time in vain, I was about to put the brain away for once again I was still really tired, when I spotted a Shrike on a line right in front of coach. I'm pretty sure it was a Lesser Grey, but was pleased to have even got a glimpse. Then after what felt like an eternity I managed to fall asleep. 

I was awoken shortly after, initially to my dismay, by the person next to me, as we were stopping at a service station. I got a few presents and drinks etc, then went back outside with a few friends to take some pictures of the Rio-Antirion Bridge (said to be the longest suspended bridge - 1.8 miles - in the world.) While taking pictures I heard a bird singing in a nearby field, and a Zitting Cisticola flew off. Then a Cuckoo started up as well. I then became aware of another bird actually in the car park. A smallish bird was scuttling around the coach, calling frequently, helping me to identify it as a Crested Lark. It showed pretty well before heading across the fields. 

Cirl Bunting (crap photo)

Crested Lark

Crested Lark - staring down the asian boy with camera

Crested Lark

Rio Antirion Bridge
After a couple more hours we arrived in Olympia. Not only was it nearly 30C but the sun was intensely hot.
We started walking towards the ancient Olympics site, the reason why we were visiting, and warblers were singing everywhere, with Blackcaps and Cetti's and Garden Warblers all by the river. As we walked around, tons of Chaffinch were busy among the ruins, and unbelievably my first ever Hooded Crows - taken me a long time - flew over. Some Balkan Green Lizards were basking in the sunshine as well making the morning thoroughly enjoyable. It was one of my favourite days as some of the old structures were fascinating to learn about. Some of us even took part in a race on the '100m' track, which was amusing to watch.
We soon visited the Archaelogical Museum, where we continued learning about the ancient Olympics. Some of the models were unique, as in I'd never seen anything like them in England. 
With a long morning, we were all thankful to have lunch, which was quite a good laugh as well.
The afternoon and evening was mostly relaxing, as we were given the chance to explore modern Olympia and collect souvenirs. I decided to, as a surprise for my friends, to not take my camera or binoculars with me. I can tell you they were shocked :)
Due to it being Easter in Greece, there were fireworks at midnight so we all had a late but calm night. 


Balkan Green Lizard

As usual I didn't get many pictures of the good birds!

Saturday 28 April 2018

Greece, Day 2 - Delphi's Brilliant birds and history! 6th April 2018

(I'm a bit behind with blogging again as I've been busy revising and playing cricket - on top of some computer problems.)

After waking up pretty early and having a quick breakfast, the 46 of us were on the coach departing Athens at 8:30am. We were going to be visiting Delphi, famous for many reasons and we were told all these reasons by our fantastic tour guide Pantellis. Despite the day forecast for rain, spirits were mostly high despite everyone being exhausted - I didn't sleep a wink the whole way. 
Though I was tired, I'd never been to Greece before and was pretty excited to see what the birding and Classics would be like. Most of the journey was spent birding, and some of the best birds seen included a Spotted Eagle sp., 5 Northern Wheatear, 40 Corn Bunting (surprising number) and a large wader sp.. This all while listening to the fascinating history our guide was explaining to us. 
When we arrived, it started drizzling. Just as we thought we'd left England for some good weather, the rains began. After a while, it stopped and we proceeded to the ancient site of Delphi. 
As the sun recovered, the next hour was thoroughly enjoyable. Greenfinch were singing, as did a distant Serin. While walking alongside the ancient buildings, with the foundations still holding strong after hundreds of years, it was amazing to learn about their history and how the modern world is so different. 
In amongst the ruins, the wildlife was also thriving. Butterflies were on the wing in huge numbers, and the birds were active too. In the old theatre, a Yellow Wagtail was flying around constantly, as was another Wheatear. Frustratingly they flew across way too fast for me to photograph. A Spotted Flycatcher was flycatchering(?) a long way away, and one of my favourite birds of the trip was busy collecting nesting material on the old pillars - a Rock Nuthatch pair. When I first saw these I couldn't for the life of me figure out what they were. Black Redstart? No. Blue Rock Thrush? Stupid idea. 
When I eventually remembered that these had been living amongst the ruins for years I got some hasty pictures, but as I wasn't there for birding they're pretty poor. 

The views were also stunning - looking across the valley and towards the sea was especially so, so more pictures that I took were of these. 

Rock Nuthatch

the Theatre

the Theatre from above

 After visiting the museum where we discussed some of the history in more depth, like looking at some of the things that had been uncovered on the site, we went into the town for lunch. Once we'd eaten most of us piled onto the balcony to take pictures of the views and scenery (above.) For those who read my post about Newlands Corner a while back, you may remember me mentioning a sharp-eyed friend who managed to spot birds from miles away. He was back again, and helped me add to my WP list when he found an odd Swallow - a pair of Red-rumped Swallows. He also spotted a Lesser Kestrel, not unexpected but a great bird nonetheless.

Red-rumped Swallow - record shot
Soon after we reached our hotel, and although the plan was to go for a walk around Delphi Zeus and Hera had had enough of English tourists and the heavens opened. Nobody complained too much though - a pretty good start to the trip!

Tuesday 17 April 2018

Greece, Day 1 - arrival at Athens! 5th April 2018

I'll keep this post short as there's not much to say!

Nearly a fortnight ago I was up at 6am, eagerly anticipating a Classics trip with school to Greece. I got to school at 7am, and we set off for Heathrow shortly after. While the journey was quiet - teenagers made to get up early in a holiday was never going to be lively - when we arrived at Heathrow, checked in and passed security, we had some breakfast and wandered around the terminal. I managed to find a pair of Kestrel that seemed to be nesting in the roof, but that was all. 
At around 11:30am, we set off for Athens. The journey was pretty peaceful, besides the guy who sat next to me and didn't stop talking/just generally was a nuisance throughout. 
By the time we arrived it was late afternoon, and I was still tired. 

I liked the look of Greece from the moment we got on the coach - though a little similar to Spain it seemed much greener, which I preferred. Even the journey into the city was interesting - my first House Martins of the year were circling the coach, and a Caspian Gull sat on a lampost - my first Swifts also circled the buildings. Plenty of Yellow-legged Gulls flew over as we travelled into the city, and from the road we had some stunning (probably going to use this word a lot) views over Athens. 
When we arrived at the hotel most of the evening was spent chilling inside, and we eventually went to bed, in preparation for a long trip to the ancient ruins of Delphi. An incredible week was ahead of me..!

Sunday 15 April 2018

Little Woodcote - further disappointment! 15th April 2018

After being a morning, if not day, off of revision, I had nothing better to do than head off for a morning walk at Little Woodcote. I arrived at around 9am, and to be honest very little was seen for the rest of the morning. A Raven flew N, being mobbed fiercely by some of the other corvids present - mostly C Crows. A flock of 6 Linnet was located near the Little Owls' tree, while 3 other singles were seen later on. Typically the owls weren't around at all, though a pair of Green Woodpeckers were entertaining on their tree. The only migrants found were 4 Blackcap, while other birds included 7 Skylark, Song Thrush, Common Buzzard, 16 Chaffinch and a single mystery flyover - a small bird with a group of Chaffinch with a flight call resembling Crossbill. Either way that was another nice miss. 
When I got home and noticed that a Hoopoe had been at the farmlands with plenty of birders seeing it I was mildly frustrated, wishing that I was slightly older and had the pleasure of knowing more birders that could have let me know/in. Unless I get a miracle tomorrow morning - like the farmlands opening up before school starts at 1040am - it's going to be another rarity that I miss. Yes I get it, I need to stay patient. But first Hoopoe in 50 years is going to be a long wait... 

I'm yet to get the time to download and do a write-up for my recent time in Greece with my school (Classics Trip.) Spoiler - I found myself a Hoopoe then, for very brief views. Oh well. 
Another day rolls on...

Saturday 14 April 2018

Spring/Summer Target Bird

I forgot to publish this post before my incredible school Classics trip to Greece so before I get onto that here's this one.

I could argue that, despite seeing tons of new and great birds, this winter was unsuccessful as I didn't get to see the spectacle - I can't blame anyone else - of Hawfinches nor did I achieve my target bird the Yellow-browed Warbler. This was partly due to luck - one was found literally down the road from me when on the RSPB Conservation weekend - and the fact that very few compared to last year made it down into England and the South especially. So I did miss my 2017 Autumn target in that sense, though my other one was a Golden Plover, which I did see. 
Conclusion: a successful winter.

Now on to this spring - there a few birds, which aren't bogey birds, that I've been wanting to see for a long time as frankly I think they are amazing birds. My backup spring target is Short-eared Owl - though I'm not expecting to see one too close to Surrey as they are more winter birds in the South, I'd love to get a bird if I head up north this year as they truly stunning birds. However the bird that I've been wanting to see in years, and was disappointed to have missed last year, are Grasshopper Warblers. The sound of them reeling is quite spectacular, and I've been wanting to find one of them for years. This year I'm hoping is the year that I can finally get my Gropper.

Finally my British birding list currently stands at an ish 185 - since nearly 2/3 were seen in Surrey, it's not too bad. But I'm hoping to reach 200 by the end of the year. Hopefully... 

Tuesday 3 April 2018

Morden Hall Park, 31st March 2018

The last few days - if not weeks - have been very difficult for myself, my family and family friends due to the passing of my grandfather, after a battle with cancer lasting 2 years, and sadly ending in the evening on Easter Sunday. I'd been spending nearly every day with him, as much as I could, over the last few weeks, and needed to get out for a little bit just by myself on Saturday to try and stay happy, and decided to go to the patch, as it was nearby. 

As soon as I came out of the tube station I watched one of the civic centre Peregrines harassing the pigeons, and it was a nice start to the day.
Then everything seemed to become a bit horrible.
I've always been a bit of a dog person - if not a bit secretly. My cousins in the Peak District have 2 Chows, and they are both great dogs. This is not only because they are what dogs should be to people, but are relatively well-behaved etc.
The very first thing I saw when I entered the park, near the north side, was the male Kingfisher dash down the river, alarming loudly, with a dog chasing it for the sheer joy. It made me feel slightly sick, and the fact that the dog's owner, completely oblivious to what was going on, was strolling about 20m behind and chucking a tennis ball back into the river, made it seem all the worse. 
I apologise, as I was accidentally a bit rude about it on Twitter - this comes after seeing a post a little while back about dogs attacking Muntjac Deer in Norfolk. It's unbelievable what some dog owners think when in their own world, just them and their dog. It's just a shame that not all people are the same, and are good people that care about their dogs and wildlife. And I feel guilty about not being specific about it being some dogs and their owners, not like others who enjoy their surroundings as well.  

Either way, back to the good stuff. After last weeks patch tick nothing new was found, despite searching the meadows and open ground for some migrants like Wheatear. 
The Kestrels were mating near the reedbeds, with 2 males fighting for the female. No Water Rails were seen, but a Little Egret flew S, both Kingfishers were seen again - though the female is avoiding me at the moment. Every time I get to the bridges and the hotspots she flies off! 3 Grey Wagtail were seen throughout, and a pair of Tufted Duck were the first for a while. A Little Grebe was near the adventure playground, and the Peregrine circled at one point, as did plenty of gulls. The final birds of interest were 4 singing Chiffchaff, drumming GSW and GW, though no Lessers (unfortunately!) and 2 Nuthatch. 

(There were a few pics, but they aren't uploading. Will add later)