Friday 25 March 2016

Estonia & Latvia 7th to 12th March 2016 Part Two

                                         Estonia & Latvia  Part Two : Last three Days
                                                   Day Four  10th March 2016

Grey Headed Woodpecker
Grey Headed Woodpecker near the Hotel.

Day four started of  with some superb views of two Grey Headed Woodpeckers near the hotel, they stayed mainly high up in the canopy .

Grey Headed Woodpecker .

The plan today was to look for Three toed & White Backed Woodpeckers  , Karlis friend Gaidis who is also a top guide in Latvia , had a site for Three Toed & also had a White Backed which had recently been drumming near his home , we met up with Gaidis and checked out a nearby site for White Backed  but sadly had no luck with this , the same story for Three toed woodpecker to , however we did have some cracking views of a small flock of Northern Long Tailed Tits & a cracking Lesser Spotted Woodpecker near Gaidis house.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

Northern Long Tailed Tit.

After some refreshments and looking at a couple of Brown Long Eared Bats at Gadis house (thank you those cakes were excellent), we headed to a large forest in the Ranka area , 2 more Grey Headed Woodpeckers , 1 Middle Spotted Woodpecker , 2 Crested Tits & 2 Willow Tits were all seen well plus 2 Pygmy Owls were heard .

DAY FIVE 11th March 2016

Black Woodpecker.

Today we headed back to the Ranka forest area in pursuit of woodpeckers and we were not disappointed , we tried different areas along the forest tracks when all of a sudden Ray picked out a Three Toed Woodpecker in flight , i only had a rather brief frustrating view and got no details so could not tick it as a lifer.

However a bit later a Black Woodpecker showed a lot better drumming on a tree , we had all sort of separated and i caught up with Darrel & Ray , as we chatted a woodpecker flew in and we all shouted WHITE BACKED WOODPECKER ........ Finally our luck was in with this rare woodpecker , Ray ran off to get the others .

Female White Backed Woodpecker.

Cracking bird to see.

I watched this bird for quite some time before it flew further away and then out of sight , there were also Crested , Willow & Northern Long Tailed Tits in the area and a Nutcracker was calling in the distance.

Crested & Willow Tit.

Once again everyone spread out and i joined Lee, Ray & Darrel on the quest to look for Three Toed Woodpecker , as we had been checking one area for some time we were just about to leave when Darrel picked out a woodpecker fly in .... THREE TOED WOODPECKER .... which was the main bird missing from our woodpecker list , showing really well drumming on top of a dead tree.

Three Toed Woodpecker.

What a Bird.

Really enjoyed seeing this bird , sadly the photos don't do it justice , it eventually flew off over our heads and disappeared in the distance.

We checked out one last area and had superb views of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

DAY SIX  12th March 2016

White Tailed Eagle

Today was the last day in Latvia and it was decided to check out Lake Lubana and fish ponds , really superb area , plenty of Whooper Swans and a couple of last years Penduline Tit nests were hanging from trees , a distant White Tailed Eagle put in an appearance and came quiet close , at least two other birds were seen a bit more distantly , a flock of 28 Snow Buntings were picking food of the frozen lake , 

Rough Legged Buzzard.

On the return route two Rough Legged Buzzards & 4 Common Buzzards were seen well , a small flock of Goldfinch were added to the trip list and as we were checking out some Grey Geese Darrel picked out 2 Common Cranes overhead , as we were watching these a small flock of Taiga Bean Geese flew over.

Two Common Cranes.

We checked out a couple more sites adding Black Woodpecker  & 3 Great Grey Shrikes, Karlis had one more trick up his sleeve and took us to an Eurasian Eagle Owl roosting site , Ray picked out the owl in the trees but no one else could get onto it , Sue decided to head up the adjacent track and managed to see it from there , we all joined her and saw this massive Eagle Owl , it eventually flew off and its true size could be appreciated .

So that concludes my trip to Estonia & Latvia , 10 new species seen plus 3 new mammals added , really great trip in great company , many thanks to Karlis for his superb guiding , would recommend to anyone .

Monday 21 March 2016

Portesham & New Forest Birding

Pallas's Warbler at Portesham in Dorset.

I have seen some really great photos of the wintering Pallas's Warbler in Dorset on twitter and thought i would go and have a look myself when i did my annual trip to the New Forest .

So last Thursday the 17th March i headed to Portesham in Dorset and made my way around to the disused railway area where the bird has been seen from , well it didn't long before this delightful bird made an appearance . All wing bars , head stripes and constant movement as this little gem moved through the trees & bushes.

Lovely Yellow rump.

Central crown stripe.

Double wing bars & broad supercillium.

Striking head pattern.

I watched this stunning bird for well over an hour and had some cracking views , my photos don't really do the bird justice and if you have never seen one before i would recommend you take the trip to see this one.

Dartford Warbler  at Acres Down in the New Forest.

On my way back from Dorset i called into Acres Down in the New Forest and had superb views of a Dartford Warbler , which was singing it's heart out .

Dartford Warbler.

Little white feathers on it's throat.

I did my normal stake out in the hope of seeing Goshawk , however it was quite hazy & slightly misty which didn't bode well for raptor watching , however i did see at least 3 Common Buzzards and after a couple of hours i eventually saw a distant Goshawk , great views through the scope but to far to attempt a photo .

Record shot of a Goshawk taken in 2015.

I decided i would head back towards my car and search for Firecrest around the car park , however as i was making my way along the path i saw 2 Woodlarks .

1 of 2 Woodlarks.

Really pleased to see these smart birds , i had no luck with the Firecrest but did see plenty of Siskins & Coal Tits plus i added a Red Kite  going over the M3 on my way home !!

Sunday 20 March 2016

Estonia & Latvia 7th to 12th March Part One.

Estonia & Latvia  Part One , first 3 days 

DAY ONE  7th March 2016

Middle Spotted Woodpecker  at Marupe Latvia.

After an uneventful flight from Stanstead to Riga in Latvia the first port of call was Marupe which was approx 10 mins from the airport , there was plenty of birds calling , mainly Great Tit , Siskin and Lesser Redpoll.

Other birds of note where Northern Nuthatch , Hawfinch & Goshawk and my first new bird of the trip :   2 Middle Spotted Woodpeckers !!!

One of two Middle Spotted Woodpeckers.

Then it was a long drive to Estonia in the hope of seeing one of the main target birds of the trip , on route the main birds seen were Great White Egret , Whooper Swan & Goosander .

I added my second new bird of the trip as a Black Woodpecker flew across the road , not great views but no doubting what it was. In the harbour waiting for the ferry across to Saaremaa Island there were plenty of Long Tailed Ducks , Goosanders and a distant White Tailed Eagle.

DAY TWO  8th March 2016

Steller's Eider .

One of the main target birds of the trip was seeing Steller's Eider and 240+ were seen really well through the scope , most of the time they were sleeping but every so often a few would wake up and swim through the tight flock and did a bit of wing flapping , really pleased to see these as they were lifer number 3 !!!

Steller's Eider flock.

There were great numbers and variety of duck species here , 400+ Velvet Scoters , 1000's of Long Tailed Ducks , Scaup , Smew , Goosander & Red Breasted Mergansers , there was also another distant White Tailed Eagle.

Long Tailed Ducks.

Other birds seen were 30+ Snow Buntings , 2 Great Grey Shrikes & 28 Waxwings.

1 of 28 Waxwings.

DAY THREE  9th March 2016

Black Grouse.

Back in Latvia and today we started of really well with the sighting of  4 Black Grouse which were picked out by Darrel, whilst looking at these Karlis picked out 2 Grey Headed Woodpeckers which were my 4th lifer of the trip, wow !!!

The next destination was Ezernieki Forest in the hope of seeing more Woodpeckers & Owls , it wasn't long before a Pygmy Owl was heard but finding it would take some doing , however after an intense search Karlis picked it out high in the canopy , i knew they were a small Owl but i didn't quite expect it to be so small , cracking looking bird and in the end i got some great views of yet another new bird .

Pygmy Owl  

Being watched .

Another fly over Black Woodpecker and Capercallie heard nearby , Willow & Crested Tits all around this delightful forest made for a great experience.

We decided to move on to another part of the this huge forest to try for Hazel Grouse which are numerous but very hard to see , how ever it wasn't long before we heard one calling before it flew up to the top of a pine tree and then flew back down again out of sight , very brief views but a new bird all the same.

A bit further along the forest tracks we heard a distant Nutcracker , thankfully the Nutcracker flew in quite close and great views were obtained and i was adding my 4th new bird of the day and 7th lifer of the trip.


Calling Nutcracker.

After dinner that evening we went to the Madona forest area for an Owling session , overall we heard 6 Ural Owls , 1 Tengmalms Owl , 1 Tawny Owl & 2 Pygmy Owls , although we never saw any it was a great experience to at least hear them .

I did see 2 new mammals though , a superb Beaver showed really well plus an Elk put in an appearance , lots of Roe Deer were also seen .

Roe Deer.

Friday 4 March 2016

Practicing Flight shots .......

Greylag Goose.

I am still trying to get to grips with my new camera which is a  Canon 7d mark 2 and all of it's many functions & buttons , i tested it out over the last couple of days mostly practising flight shots .

Another Greylag Goose.

I had a mixed bag of results and clearly need lots of practise , however i am very pleased with the camera and once i get the hang of all the new functions hopefully the results will improve (famous last words......) .

Barn Owl.

The Barn Owl photo's were taken in fading light and trying back button focusing for the first time , i was surprised how quickly the Owl moved (or is it just my slow reactions...) , however i did get some goodish results especially compared to my old camera.

Marsh Harrier.


The Marsh Harrier & Avocets were my earlier photos with this camera and seemed a bit dark & grainy , so much to learn