Monday, 26 March 2018

Bluethroat!

Saturday 24th March, 2018.
Dungeness.

The previous weekend had seen Kent hit by blizzards and a couple of inches of snow had covered some areas as the mini "beast from the east" struck the country. The temperatures quickly rose early in the week and the snow disappeared. Despite the snow and ice a Bluethroat had been found in Denge Marsh Gully at Dungeness on the Sunday morning and later in the day another! As the weather improved and these very scarce Kent visitors attracted a steady stream of admirers the number of Bluethroats reported doubled to 4 but after a lot of social media exchanges and examination of photos most people settled on 2. Mid-week that dropped to 1 and that smart male was still present on Friday afternoon so I rather hoped it might stay and set off towards Dungeness at dawn on Saturday.

I took my usual casual wander across Walland Marsh to start with and whilst it was not exactly heaving with migrants, none in fact, there was enough to keep me occupied with 2 Little Owls, perhaps 10 pairs of Tree Sparrows at 4 locations, singing Yellowhammer and Buzzards and Marsh Harriers. I paused to look at my phone and saw that the Bluethroat was still present and "showing well". I arrived at Denge Marsh Gully at 08.30 and found a handful of birders watching the Bluethroat feeding on a patch of grass just a few metres below the track on the nearside. I laid on the grass bank above the Bluethroat and took a number of photos whilst it fed unconcerned in the open.
After a few minutes it flitted into the gorse.
I hadn't intended to stay so long but I didn't leave the gully until after 13.00! Barry and JT showed up and I spent a while with them and got chatting with a number of familiar faces. The Bluethroat showed on and off, sometimes along the muddy edge of the bottom of the gully and sometimes appearing in the gorse. It called and even sang on occasions, just a sub-song but interesting to hear. There were at least 8 Firecrest around too, plus a couple of Chiffchaff.
Raven's displayed overhead and a Woodcock was flushed and gave great views as it headed initially down towards the sea and then back over the ranges.
Early afternoon I explored Denge Marsh, the ranges and went out to Scotney gravel pits, the ARC pits and Lade pits. The only summer migrants I recorded were a couple of Chiffchaff and wintering duck numbers were well down. Lade was most rewarding with the 2 long-staying Long-tailed Ducks showing quite well, 4 Goldeneye and a Black-necked Grebe.
I had a brief look around the old lighthouse and adjacent gorse patches and had yet more Firecrest.
Just after 4pm I returned to Denge Marsh gully and found Kit Day patiently staking out a patch of grass. Joining him we were rewarded with stunning views of the Bluethroat in the late afternoon sunshine. A rather good finish.



Bluethroat - male, white-spotted ssp cyanecula







Firecrest - Denge Marsh gully

Firecrest - Denge Marsh gully

Firecrest - Denge Marsh gully

Firecrest - Denge Marsh gully

Reed Bunting in the gully

Raven over Denge Marsh

Curlew - ARC Pits

Firecrest -  old lighthouse garden

Firecrest -  old lighthouse garden

Firecrest -  old lighthouse garden

Bluethroat - returning to the gully late afternoon Kit Day and I had it to ourselves.




Sunday, 25 February 2018

Costa Rica; San Jose and beyond.

Saturday 24th February, 2018.
San Jose. Garden birding.

I landed at Juan Santamaria International Airport in Costa Rica's capital, San Jose, in the late morning  sunshine after a 2 1/2 hour flight from Mexico City which had followed an overnight flight from London. Just 90 minutes later I was on the north-east fringe of the city at the Hotel Bougainvillea where the Birdquest tour, led by Chris Kehoe, would begin in earnest next day.
It was very warm and the hotel garden rather busy but later in the afternoon as the sunshine gave way to overcast conditions I ventured out and searched the quieter corners and was rewarded with a good selection of common species; both migrants and residents. The garden is quite extensive and packed with mature exotic trees and shrubs attracting a good number of bird. They included Lesson's Motmot, Hoffman's Woodpecker, Rufous-backed Wren, Tennessee Warblers, Summer Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Philadelphia Vireos. As other members of the group arrived they too ended up in the garden and by dinner time we'd all met up and begun to get acquainted. Our group; Gavin Stewart, Peter Holt, Chris Hill, Phil & Hazel Haywood, me and an odd, older American woman, not a birder and not with us for long!


Lesson's Motmot
Rufous-collared Sparrow

White-winged Dove

Clay-coloured Thrush; the National Bird of Costa Rica!



Sunday 25th February, 2018.
San Jose to the San Gerado Valley; hummers & quetzals.

I was in the garden of the Hotel Bougainvillea at 05.50 as Chris kicked off the tour with a quick pre-breakfast wander. It was even better than the previous afternoon with many more Philadelphia Vireos and Tennessee Warblers together with Yellow-throated Vireo, Ferruginous Pygmy Owl, Brown Jays. Blue-vented and Rufous-tailed Hummers. Watching from the front of the hotel we had White-Tailed Kite and six Finsch's Parakeets.
Soon after 08.00 we headed off in our Toyota Coaster van south-east and up onto the western edge of the Cordillera de Talamanca and into cloud forest. We stopped at a lodge/restaurant called Paraiso Quetzales, at 2,650m, where we found their feeders, set up on a veranda on the edge of a forested ridge, attracting a swarm of hummingbirds. Most were large Talamanca Hummingbirds but there were plenty of stunning Fiery-throated Hummers, Lesser Violetear's and smaller numbers of Volcano Hummers. Chris K. picked out a single Scintillant Hummingbird. In the forest around the lodge we were soon seeing whitestarts, bush tanagers and wintering American warblers like Wilson's and Yellow. A pair of Black and Yellow Phainoptila's fed in bushes below the platform.
After a couple of hours we boarded the bus in drizzle and were taken by a local guide the short distance to a farm where a pair of Quetzals were apparently prospecting a nest site. He told us that a growing number of farmers were finding that having breeding quetzals on their could be quite lucrative if they allowed groups of tourists to view them! We were soon standing under the cover of an old barn-like structure watching a pair of Resplendent Quetzals as the rain fell. The birds were excavating a hole in an old stump which it transpired was where they had nested the previous year. Despite the rain, and the need for us to keep our distance and stay largely under the cover of the barn, the views were great and I got some reasonable pictures.
Around 15.00 we headed south and were soon driving down into the San Gerardo Valley on narrow winding roads to the Savegre Hotel where we'd spend the next 2 nights. Once out of the cloud forest the weather improved dramatically.
We were barely out of the vehicle when we found ourselves confronted with a group of stunning Long-tailed Silky-flycatchers feeding in one of the many fruiting trees outside reception. In the last couple of hours of daylight we explored the beautifully laid out gardens full of fruiting trees and nectar-rich plants which were attracting a host of birds from the surrounding forest. There were a number of hummingbird feeders and bird tables laden with fruit and it was hard to know what to look at first!
A quite amazing first day and plenty for Peter, Gavin and I to discuss over a few very welcome beers before dinner.



The Hotel Bougainvillea's garden



Baltimore Oriole

Hoffman's Woodpecker

Hoffman's Woodpecker - male

Summer Tanager - male

Philadelphia Vireo

Paraiso Quetzales

Paraiso Quetzales

Lesser Violetear, Talamanca & Fiery-throated Hummingbirds

Talamanca Hummingbird

Talamanca Hummingbird

Talamanca Hummingbird

Talamanca Hummingbird

Talamanca Hummingbird

Talamanca Hummingbird

Lesser Violetear

Lesser Violetear

Lesser Violetear

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Fiery-throated Hummingbird

Volcano Hummingbird 

Volcano Hummingbird 

Black and Yellow Phainoptila - male

Black and Yellow Phainoptila - female

Mountain Thrush

Sooty-capped Bush Tanager

Sooty Thrush

Resplendent Quetzal - male

Resplendent Quetzal - female

Resplendent Quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal

Resplendent Quetzal

Black and Yellow Phainoptila - female

Ruddy-capped Nightingale-Thrush

Savegre, San Gerado Valley

Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher

Long-tailed Silky-flycatcher

Mountain Elaenia


Stripe-tailed Hummingbird

Slaty Flowerpiercer

Flame-coloured Tanager

Volcano Hummingbird

Tennessee Warbler

Wilson's Warbler

Grey-tailed Mountain-gem

Grey-tailed Mountain-gem