2015 Round Up

This year was an absolute write off. Due to a combination of many things, there was little birding, especially towards the end of the year and I ended on a measly 160 species for the UK. There is a lot more motivation, free weekends and hopefully less illness for 2016. Having said that, there were some great birding highlights and the year was rounded off with a trip to Majorca (more on that in the next post).

In January I had my first taste of American birding with a trip to Disney World where I got a few bits of birding time in. A trip to Wales in April saw great views of a Little Bunting and driving through 14 countries in Europe in May provided a few lifers, including Black Stork and Olive Tree Warbler. A Greater Yellowlegs punctuated an otherwise quiet summer for us. To finish our collection of phalaropes we went to see the Wilson's Phalarope in September. An excellent weekend in Norfolk in October got us Isabelline Shrike, Pallas's Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail and Olive-backed Pipit and then we all but gave up on birds until the end of the year.

2015 Catch up

I apologise to the two people who occasionally accidentally read my blog, this year hasn't been particularly bird filled and I've been extremely bad at updating!  Here's a quick catch up blog from May until now (saw about 3 birds) and then will get back into the hang of birding and blogging.  Promise.

So June saw a trip down to Titchfield to see the Greater Yellowlegs, which was very obliging.  A few year listers were also picked up that trip, including one of my favourite birds, the Little Tern.  June also saw us finally see the Bonaparte's Gull at Oare Marshes, although we managed to walk past it and would have dipped it again if a kind gentleman hadn't pointed it out.  Thank you!

Greater Yellowlegs
A month later we popped into Oare again for all of half an hour in the torrential rain, but got a nice little list, including year listers of Wood Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint and Sandwich Tern.  Two BOPs were added to the list at Birdfair, Hobby and Osprey.  Can't believe I only saw one Hobby this year, really poor birding from me there.
The Rutland Cormorant Tree

Only picture of a Goldcrest I've ever managed... 
We completed our Phalarope list with Wilson's Phalarope at Vange Marsh at the end of September, charming little bird, as all the Phalaropes are.  A trip to Norfolk for that great weekend mid-October helped boost both the life list and the year list a little, with Pallas's Warbler, Red-flanked Bluetail, Isabelline Shrike and Olive-backed Pipit.

Isabelline Shrike


Young Swallows

May 2015 - Europe road trip

Sometime last year, I joked that because we love the wine so much, we should drive to Hungary and bring lots back.  Stuart suddenly looked really serious and declared this to be a brilliant idea and so the 2015 Europe road trip was born.  We decided it would be fun to see how many countries we could visit on our route rather then just bombing it straight to Hungary and back an
d our final route map is below.  Obviously although this was mainly a trip to get wine, there would be excellent opportunities for bird watching.

Black Redstart
The first night we stopped in Mulhouse, France.  Whilst there wasn't a great deal of wildlife around in the centre of town, we enjoyed the scratching of a Serin and the screeching of Swift overhead as we wandered around.

The first great spot we had was the next day, a low flying Black Kite in Switzerland.  This was a lifer for all of us and there was great excitement in the car! We saw a great number of Buzzard on our trip, as well as Red Kite and many Kestrel. As we got further East we noticed the Swift numbers dropping off and the Black Restart numbers increasing (and becoming more approachable!).

Purple Heron
We took a short pre-breakfast walk after our second night stay at Lake Bled, which was lovely.  We picked up our only Redstart of the trip (and in fact of the year so far), a pair of flying Goosander and an incredible bush that seemed to be entirely comprised of Marsh Tit!

Lake Bled
Lake Bled
We were in Hungary for 5 nights, 4 based at the lovely Kulacs Panzio in the wine valley of Eger and the last night in Tokaj.  As an Irish mildly alcholic person, the wine valley is pretty much heaven.  You wander round a horseshoe road with about 30 open cellars, trying all their wines, with a glass starting at 25p. I want to live there.  Anyway, back to the birds!

We decided to split our birding between using books and previous knowledge and hiring a great guy we'd used the last time we were in Hungary, Roy Adams.  Roy is brilliant as he knows excellent sites and is great to chat to.  The first one he took us to was Egerszolok for a pre breakfast wander.  It was already ridiculously warm despite being 6am and we got off to a good start with Cuckoo flying all around and 2 Golden Oriole flying past, swiftly following by a Hoopoe.  A small group of Bee-eaters noisely rose into view from behind a small hill and we headed towards them.  Roy picked up the call of a River Warbler so we waited quietly until it was kind enough to pop out of the bush it was in, so we got lovely views.  Then, a large warbler like bird flew into view and disappeared into the bush the River Warbler was in.  It did a lap of us (I think purely for the amusement of making 5 birdwatchers speedily turn 360 degrees on the spot!) and then disappeared into the trees, unfortunately not to be seen again.  It was quickly agreed that it was extremely likely that this was an Olive Tree Warbler.  Unfortunately, whilst we knew it wasn't common for the area, none of us realised quite how rare for Hungary it was!  The walk back to the car was uneventful and we headed back for breakfast.

Sedge Warbler
After breakfast we went out to the Borsod-Mezo Plain.  A lifer was quickly found as we entered the plains and saw Tawny Pipit on the ground to the side of the road.  It was driving along this road we also saw our first Roller for the trip, an incredible bird however many times you see it!  We got out of the car and had a wander around a reed bed.  There was a racket coming from the reeds and lots of small birds flitting around, often too quickly to get a good look at.  An obliging Savi's Warbler came and sat in front of us whilst a Bluethroat was elusive but seen by nearly all of the party.  I spotted a pair of raptors a few fields away and we soon realised they were a pair of Montagu's Harrier - lifer!  What stunning birds they are, we watched them for a while. Back to the car and around the corner, where there was the incredible sight of a nesting pair of Eastern Imperial Eagle.  Wow!

Eastern Imperial Eagle
Lesser Grey Shrike
Next I was hoping for a Little Bittern (one of my favourite birds) so we popped along to Mezokovesd Lakes.  This was where I had seen my previous Little Bittern the time we had been to Hungary before.  Unfortunately, it was not to be. However, I did get a lifer within the first ten minutes in the form of the beautifully coloured Ferruginous Duck, they are absolute sweeties.  A Great Reed Warbler put on a show for us, yelling from the top of a reed and a Marsh Warbler and Savi's Warbler were seen.

Great Reed Warbler
Our final visit of the day was to a small wooded area in Nozsvaj, an area we had seen Middle Spotted Woodpecker and Collared Flycatcher at on our last trip.  There was no Middle Spotted Woodpecker this time, but quite a few nesting Collared Flycatcher!  We also spotted our first ever Wood Warbler and enjoyed watching it for a while.

Crested Lark
The day after we headed out to a location Roy had told us about, that was supposedly good for woodpeckers of all sorts.  We drove around but felt weirdly like we were being watched so headed back to the main road pretty quickly.  However, metres from the main road a hefty Black Woodpecker flew in front of the car, then landed on a tree at the edge of the road, affording us brilliant views.  I unfortunately couldn't get a picture despite the proximity as I didn't want to get out of the car and scare it off!  It was then on to the Tard Valley, a lovely walk with a Bee-eater colony.

The Thursday was great for birds - an early morning walk in the Bukk National Park with Roy produced a White-backed Woodpecker and a trip to a local plant of some kind (where they were VERY unhappy we had binoculars and cameras) saw another lifer before 9am, Rock Bunting.  The list for the rest of the morning was great but the highlight for me was a Rose-coloured Starling I found, a lifer!

Rock Bunting

Rose-coloured Starling
In the evening we headed out to the Hortobgay and got a list of around 50 birds over about 3 hours (including driving from one end of the park to the other!).  We saw a few Common Crane and Great Bustard flying which was pretty amazing and a roost of beautiful Red-footed Falcon.  A couple of Whiskered Tern and 3 Saker Falcon completed the list.

Red-backed Shrike
We then spent the rest of our time in Hungary drinking wine in the oldest wine region in Europe, Tokaj, before heading home through Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany and getting the boat from the Netherlands.  What a great trip!

Black Redstart

Yellow Wagtail

Great Bustard

April 2015 - Wales

I've not been too well, so a trip to Wales was my first 'proper' birding days out for a while.  We stayed near Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire and had a thoroughly lovely time, even managing to get sunburnt (in Wales! in April!).

I appear to have lost my lists from this trip though, so have some photos instead (I don't appear to have got any of the Chough which is annoying!)...

Bullfinch and Reed Bunting

Little Bunting 

Lesser Scaup



Peregrine Falcon



22nd January to 6th February - Disney World

For my birthday present in 2015, Stuart took me to Disney World.  This was the first holiday in a while that wasn't a birding trip and it took a little while for me to stop carrying binoculars everywhere and checking every bird out!  It didn't help that I hadn't been to Florida before so the vast majority of the birds were likely to be lifers.  If I've IDed anything incorrectly, please let me know!

Downy Woodpecker (I think)

Lovely coloured squirrel

Mourning Dove

My first American Robin
The hotel we stayed in in the first week was called Coronado Springs and it had a suprisingly large bird population.  We quickly became familiar with the Palm Warbler, with its bobbing tail much like a Wagtail.  There were also a pair of Red-bellied Woodpecker, a resident Red-shouldered Hawk and a Pied-billed Grebe in the lake behind.  One morning whilst I was looking at a Collared Dove, we had a fly over of Sandhill Crane, the only we saw during the trip.

Northern Cardinal

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Female American Goldfinch?

Sandhill Crane

Pied-billed Grebe
Animal Kingdom was conducive to wild birds and we saw more Palm Warbler, a Downy Woodpecker and many wild White Ibis.  Queueing one morning, Stuart yelled at me from the other side of the gates to turn around and behind me flying low over the lake was my first ever Bald Eagle.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Yellow-throated Warbler

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Eastern Phoebe?

A trip to Cape Canaveral brought me tantalisingly close to Merritt Island and I had my nose pushed against the glass of the coach on the way over hoping to see a manatee (my second favourite marine mammal) but to no avail.  However around the space centre there were Roseate Spoonbill, Boat-tailed Grackle (one of which landed on my hand and tried to steal a chip) and an Osprey nest.  I was promised Alligator, but as became a theme throughout the holiday, there were none to be seen.  On the trip back however, we did spot a lovely little Armadillo snuffling around as well as Glossy Ibis, Wood Stork and Wild Turkey.


Boat-tailed Grackle

Lesser Scaup?

Royal Tern

Nine-banded Armadillo
I persuaded Stuart to let me go out properly birding one day and although I wasn't able to negotiate Merritt Island (next time!), we headed down to the Disney Wildnerness Preserve, which turned out to be lovely.  Nobody had heard of it at main Disney and had no idea how to get there so we Uber-ed there, only realising when we arrived there that we had no internet or numbers for other taxi firms.  Excellent.

Tufted Titmouse

Northern Cardinal (and glove)

Common Buckeye

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Northern Mockingbird
There are three marked routes at the Preserve, a simple one, a medium one and a rather long one.  We opted for the rather long one, but we spent so much time looking at birds that by the time we got to the turn off, we chose the medium route to get back in time for dinner that evening.  The first bird we saw before we even got on the trail was a Loggerhead Shrike, swiftly followed by a bush full of Palm Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warbler (we tried calling it Myrtle Warbler and nobody had a clue what we were on about).  A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker put on a great drumming show, whilst there was a very inquisitive Northern Mockingbird hopping around (which actually had us confused for a short while as we had been seeing only juveniles back at the hotel).  Around the corner we went down to the edge of lake, keeping an eye out for Alligator and Belted Kingfisher, but neither were to be seen.  On the path back up to the main trail there were a plethora of birds including Little Blue Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture and a Bald Eagle overhead.  We also saw a long black snake, but I was so excited I squealed 'LOOK AT THE SNAKE' and the snake promptly leapt into the grass.  Actually leapt.  I am that terrifying.

Prairie Warbler

Eastern Phoebe?

Eastern Phoebe?

Northern Mockingbird

Prairie Warbler
On our final day we were very sad to be leaving, but were rewarding with two great sightings on the way to the airport.  The first was our one and only alligator (I was starting to believe they were a myth), it was only a small one but great to see!  The second was the amazing sight of a Bald Eagle chasing an Osprey low over water, absolutely incredible!

Black Vulture

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Pine Warbler

Loggerhead Shrike

Limpkin at Epcot