Sunday, March 27, 2011

A good passage

Birding close to home during the week produced a handful of Green Sandpipers at two different valleys , a Snipe, a few Marsh harriers, a Black kite and good views of a Hoopoe. The real good birding was this weekend though. Was still walking up the slope from where we seawatch in spring when another birder called out alerting me of a 200-250 flock of migrating Garganeys. More followed with small flocks gathering throughout the morning to around about a total of 700, but not passing through, flying around and setting on the water instead. Then we witnessed one of the larger flocks seen in Malta by those present some who've been seawatching for more than thirty years! At least 2000 strong ...all Garganeys as far as we could see, flew high above the sea and was gone in less than five minutes. Quite impressive! Two small flocks of Ferruginous ducks (12 and 5) and 15 Pintails but that was much it and migrations stopped for the morning. Went to Ghadira where I added Dunlin and Willow warbler to the yearlist. Other birds were a Little Grebe, a Ferruginous duck, 12 Little-ringed plover, 3 Common Sanpipers, a Snipe and a Water Pipit of interest. Little-ringed plovers were in full courtship behaviour and one was even seen incubating. The water pipit is the same that overwintered now nearly in full summer plumage. This morning was also good with around 1000 Garganeys. None migrated tough but still fine to see the large rafts on the calm sea, pity visibilty was not the best. Two flocks of Black-winged stilts passing through (12, 10) much completed the picture apart from a few passerines; a Tawny pipit, a few Tree pipits, 2 Subalpine warblers, a Blackcap and a Chiffchaff.

Only part of the 2000+ flock of Garganeys seen yesterday, showing c720 birds. The whoile flock was impossilbe to include in one photo and very difficult to estimate as it was seen quite shortly. Photo by R GALEA

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ups and downs the last week

Record shot of Isabelline wheatear

4 of the 5 Curlews

Spotted Crake

To start with the downs...dipped for the second time Desert wheatear. Two hours walking around in the area was unsuccessful and I left only with a handful of yearers...Wryneck, Short-toed lark, Linnet and Tawny pipit as well as loads of Yellow wagtails, Swifts, 2 Northern Wheatears, a pair of Kestrels and a Hoopoe. Nothing compared to 12th record Desert Wheatear and a beautiful male at that!
And now for the ups...We found the second Isabelline wheatear in a week so that was great! Even better was a Spotted Crake in one of the valleys close to my home. Flew up from edge of the watercourse only to settle on the opposite bank showing for a short while before it scuttled through the grass. Only the second I'd seen. A few Lesser Kestrels were about hunting as well as four Marsh harriers. Flushed a Moorhen, Snipe and Green sandpiper
A Ferruginous duck at Ghadira was nice to see, while at Simar nothing much about. Popped into Salina (disused salt pans) too with feeding Little-ringed Plovers (4), Common sandpipers (3) and a Common Redshank. 5 Marsh harriers flying over the surrounding hills.
Seawathing wise not much, 2 Black Kites on Friday was all of note and a flock of 25 Garganey on Saturday. What was good though and lifer compensating for the Desert whaeatear were 5 Curlews circling over the channel. tought they were gulls at first and some long seconds trying to identify wether they were whimbrels or curlews but as they got closer the long beak was evident so Curlews they were.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Highlights this weekend

Friday started off with a walk at a garigue area good for wheaters, hoopoes and other spring migrants which have started arriving. Four Northern Wheaters, a yeartick, including two beautiful males were replenishing thier reserves before continuing their journey. Black redstarts and Stonechats also migrating through, higher numbers than the wintering birds were seen. A Flock of 11 Slylarks flew up infront of us only to settle further off, and a Kestrel was hunting over the ridge. Breeding birds like Blue Rock Thrushes, Corn Buntings and Spectacled Warblers were in full song. The best was however a lifer and a great bird, an Isabelline wheatear! Clearly different from the Northern wheatear female, with no contrat between back and wings, broader black tail band and dark allula. A grey heron headed up the coast while we waited for the bus.

Saturday was not that productive with only a flock of 8 Grey herons of note from a seawatch, but saw the first Hoopoe and two Green Sanpipers at Simar NR.

Sunday was better altought the cloud cover and showers made us hope for good numbers of herons which were not to be. But cannot grumble when you get good views of a Short-eared owl entering from the sea just on arrival. Also the first Alpine Swifts, Tree pipits and a Lesser Black-backed gull of the year. At Ghadira Nature reserve a small gathering of waders, all year ticks bringing my list up to 78. A Common Redshank, two Ruff, a Woodsandpiper, 3 Little-ringed Plover, and two Little Stint. A female Shoveler was feeding on the shoreline, as well as a Common Teal. Two Coots, two Little Grebe and a Kingfisher remain from the wintering birds. A male Marsh harrier flew low over the ridge before I left.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring in the air

A blustery Saturday morning saw us huddled on the cliff edge at Cirkewwa scanning the channel. The minutes seemed to tick very slowly by with nothing much about...a few Cory's Shearwaters gliding the waves, four Mediterranean gulls, a Sandwhich tern but that was much about it. Got a short view just in time before it was lost from sight of the highlight, a Pomarine skua far out in the channel. Finally with the wind getting even stronger we gave up and went home.

Sunday was more succesful no seawatching but off to Simar Nature reserve. Not much at first apart from the usual birds and singing Moustached Warbler but during the afternoon we got some good birds. Managed to localise two Firecrest in the olive grove with help of playback. A yearer for me and a lifer for my sister...been quite a bogey bird for her so she was happy! From the hide we got a fleeting glimpse of the Bluethroat as it flew from the bank to cover but it soon hopped back giving good views..too far for photos tough. Two Swifts had joined the small flock of House Martins and two Swallows. At this time of year I always looking forward to the first Marsh harrier and there it was hunting over the reserve panicking the birds, two Snipes taking to flight.

Back home in the evening went half an hour up on the roof from where I have rather good view over Mdina, Mtarfa, Dwejra and Burmarrad area. A few Yellow-legged gulls passing over land to their roosting site on the west coast. Then the highlight of the day, a small flock of large birds in the distance heading North...9 Common Cranes!

Woke up to a glorious Monday morning, holidays thanks to Carnival :), and decided to take a walk in a nearby valley. The dams were full, having had good rainfall this winter. And the valley was full of life too, White wagtails in summer plumage, loads of Chiffchaffs many singing, Meadow Pipits, Stonechats, Black redstarts, Blackcaps and the first two Yellow wagtails all feeding close to the watercourse. Flushed a Moorhen from the side of a dam and a Common Snipe too. Even better was a Moustached warbler feeding for quite some time on a reedy bank, but got a bit too excited when shortly afterwards I got in doubt about what turned out to be only a Sedge warbler. Looked pale and at first impression the crown stripe looked much more obvious than in realy was. Playing mp3 afterwards with a much more experienced birder it was clear it was a Sedge and not Aquatic...that what comes from overexcitement!
Today was bit in contrast to the title with only 4 degrees when I woke up and a strong North east wind blowing but spring migration was at least evident. Apart from quite a few hirundines and Common Swifts, a total of 17 Lesser Kestrels passed us at Cirkewwa in singles and small groups throughout the morning. What's more a total of 6 flocks of Grey Herons migrating against the wind, the largest being of 28 birds. The first Garganeys of the year, 2 flying through the channel setting hopes for further flocks but it wasn't to be. 3 Marsh harriers and a Linnet ended the list of migrating birds with a Blue Rock Thrush singing from the cliff edge.