Monday, 23 April 2018

Colorado at Last!

For those folks who arrived early we visited xxx, a large lake complete with breeding Bald Eagles – always a great bird if you’re from the UK. There was a mas of waterfowl here with Lesser Scaup, American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal, 300+ Ruddy Duck, Green-winged Teal, 250+ Western Grebes, 6 American Avocets, 1 Bonaparte’s Gull, a few flyby Ring-billed Gulls and at least 9 summer-plumaged pink Franklin’s Gulls.

We had arrivals spread all over lunchtime and by 3.00pm we were on our way south to Pueblo. Upon arrival we headed along a dirt road out into the desert scrub where we met up with Rick Bowers who had been scouting the area for us. Thanks to him we quickly notched up the first of several Sage Thrashers along here, plus there was also a covey of 6 Scaled Quails, Loggerhead Shrike, Curve-billed Thrasher, Say’s Phoebe, 3 Coyotes, lots of Black-tailed Prairie-Dogs, and a herd of Pronghorn Antelopes. Not a bad start to our Colorado adventure.

Pronghorn Antelopes

Monday, 16 April 2018

Colorado: Loveland Pass to Denver

Just had today to find some feeders around the Silverthorne/Dillon area and then go up to Loveland Pass to find White-tailed Ptarmigan. Well, it took a bit of driving around but we eventually found some feeders - and there were loads of birds. I was immediately entranced by up to 10 Pine Grosbeaks sat around the garden....

Pine Grosbeak
And there was also Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Mountain Chickadee, Red Crossbill, Oregon and Pink-sided Juncos, and several Pygmy Nuthatches. All of a sudden a flurry of wings proved to be a large flock of Brown-capped Rosy-Finches. In excess of 200 birds were present, and we also managed to pick out a couple of Grey-crowned Rosy-Finches as well. 

A distant Grey-crowned Rosy-Finch

I tried a bit more phones coping when this Brown-capped Rosy-Finch flew down to one of the feeders....

Then we headed up to Loveland Pass at just under 12,000 feet where the scenery was awesome.

Loveland Pass at almost 12,000 feet

Well we didn't find any ptarmigans.... It's Sunday and it seemed everyone was up here skiing or snowboarding today. But we'll be back with my group later so I wasn't too disconcerted. 

So we headed back to Denver stopping along the way to see a Woodhouse's Scrub Jay, a few White-throated Swifts and Mountain Chickadee.

Mountain Chickadee

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay

Then we drove out into the prairies where we saw lots of Western Meadowlarks and Horned Larks.

Horned Lark
There were also lots of raptors with numerous Red-tailed Hawks showing a huge variety of plumages, plus we picked up a Krider's Hawk, Swainson's HawkNorthern Harrier and a pair of distant Ferruginous Hawks.

Krider's Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Swainson's Hawk

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Colorado Scouting

Just arrived in Denver ahead of the Zoothera Birding group and have a little time to scout out a few areas before we begin the 'Chicken Run" tour. The plane arrived at 1.30pm and by 2.30pm we were off to Dillon, about 90 minutes away. We followed a delightful valley surrounded by snow-topped hills and found this cracking American Dipper feeding along a little stream.

The dipper river

American Dipper

The scenery is bigger and better here than you can possibly imagine...

Just love the scenery here...

We checked out some pools for Barrow's Goldeneye, but they weren't around. But we saw Ring-necked Duck, Green-winged Teal, Grey-headed and Pink-sided Juncos, Western Osprey, immature Bald Eagle, Mountain Bluebird, plus more common species. And that was all we had time for before going to our motel.

Ring-necked Duck

Western Osprey

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Birding the Balearic Islands

We would like to introduce our new venture of Birding the Balearics

The Balearic Islands are situated in the western Mediterranean Sea and we offer tours to Ibiza and Mallorca, as well as the smaller islands of Formentera and Cabrera. You may not have heard of these latter two islands but they offer the exciting prospect of finding some unusual or scarce species in the early spring and autumn.

For a truly laid back, easy-going, holiday-style birding tour targeting some great birds you can't get much better this. From our permanent base on Ibiza at the wonderful Villa Rosa we can go in search of Balearic Warbler, Eleonora's Falcon and take in the excitement of Spring and Autumn migrant watching. Ibiza is also THE place to get up close and personal with the much-wanted and in our opinion rather sexy Audouin's Gull.

Our base in Ibiza - Villa Rosa

At Villa Rosa we can sit on the roof and check out the VisMig each morning. A couple of morning watches during early April 2018 resulted in Penduline Tits, groups of Tawny Pipits, flocks of Audouin's Gulls, Red Kites, many Booted Eagles, a distant flock of Lesser Kestrels and others. But you might be kept awake by the local Stone Curlews displaying behind the villa every night. Oh and we often get hunting Eleonora's Falcons overhead as well. The really exciting thing about Ibiza is that it can be a superb migrant trap and with the island of Formentera a short ferry ride away, who knows what we will find?

Balearic Warbler is endemic to Ibiza and Mallorca

Spring is the best time to see Firecrests displaying

Mallorca needs no introduction as this was often birders first destination when venturing abroad for the first time in the late 1970's/1980's. Its kind of gone out of fashion a little bit these days but still offers the visiting birder a number of quality species that are often difficult to get to grips with elsewhere, such as Marbled Duck, Cinereous Vulture and Moustached Warbler. It's also excellent for Balearic Warbler

Balearic Warbler is endemic to Ibiza and Mallorca

Both Ibiza and Mallorca are only around a 2 hour flight from the UK and if you time things right then flights can be as low as £20 each way from regional airports such as Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Gatwick etc. 

In Spring Ibiza is carpeted in wildflowers

So why are we so keen to entice birders back to these islands? Well they are simply magical with fantastic weather, clear blue seas, dramatic coastal scenery, meadows full of wildflowers and more importantly a variety of habitats from marshes, headlands, maquis, pine woodland and reedbeds. There's not much driving involved at all to get between the sites, for example on Mallorca (the largest Balearic island) you can get anywhere within an hour. A quick 25 minute flight takes you between Mallorca and Ibiza, whilst a short boat ride to Cabrera Island offers close ups of Balearic and Scopoli's Shearwaters. And this is also Spain's equivalent of Fair Isle attracting some great rarities every year, having hosted the countries' first Semi-collared Flycatcher and Cretzschmar's Bunting amongst others. The food in the Balearics is as good and you can get to see some great birds at a really relaxed pace, enjoy picnic lunches out in the field and sip some local wine over a delicious dinner at a number of fine, local restaurants.

Formentor Peninsula, Mallorca - great for migrants

Tramuntana Mountains, Mallorca -  home of Cinereous Vulture

Mallorca has many hidden valleys

S'Albufera Natural Park - the premier birding site on Mallorca

So what's here? Well Ibiza might well be the best place on the planet to see Audouin's Gull up close and personal. They fly over our villa on Ibiza every day and the local harbours and nearby rocky coastline offer unparalleled views of this much-wanted gull. Although their call is anything but attractive.....

Audouin's Gull

There's a great selection of other birds to see such as Marbled Duck, Red-knobbed Coot, Western SwamphenEleonora's Falcon, Cinereous VultureAudouin's GullBalearic, Moltoni's, Moustached, Savi's and Spectacled Warblers, Balearic Spotted Flycatcher, Balearic Woodchat Shrike, Balearic Crossbill, Common Waxbill and many others.

Balearic Woodchat Shrike
Yellow-legged Gull
Marbled Ducks at S'Albufera

For full details of our tours to the magical Balearic Islands then please follow this link for our Autumn 2018 tour:

Spring 2019 tour info:

For great birding, lots of fun, a nice easy pace, and plenty of time to relax and just watch birds why not join us?