Friday, February 29, 2008

Mediterranean Islands

As I mentioned some weeks ago I wrote a chapter on wildlife for a book entitled "Mediterranean Islands". Well, the book is finally out in March. I have seen a copy and it really is an original and useful work, with just about everything you need to know about Med islands from Spain to Turkey and back included, such as access, tourism, beaches, sailing, history, geology, vegetation, ecology and wildlife... It is illustrated with many fantastic, colour photos, too. More info at:

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Red Admiral

It looks like spring, and feels like spring, there is a nip in the air, and it is certainly mild, very mild for February... but rumours are that winter might return next week. Even snow. But whatever, yesterday I saw my first butterfly since Christmas... a Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta heading along the street...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Spa water by the Danube

I took one of my lads to his football match in the north of Pest this morning. Whilst waiting for the game to begin I walked on the nearby embankment of the Danube for a while, there is a drain there that enters the river and where the waters meet birds gather. There were Black-headed Gulls, Mallards, Coots and a fine drake Northern Pintail. A Great Spotted Woodpecker called in a nearby patch of trees, too. But the real highlight there was this... Another drain, which comes from a spa baths, enters the river close by. The water must be quite warm as steam rises from it. As it comes out of a pipe it collects in a concrete basin on the river bank before then passing through another pipe into the river. And there, in this basin, was a man. He was lounging, basking in the warm water, having a free spa bath, wearing a denim cap, his clothes on the bank nearby. Iventive maybe, but I wondered what is in that water ? Is it clean water from the spa being allowed to escape ? Or waste water ?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Getting back to South Africa

Mammals seen included Savanna Elephant, White & Black Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus, Buffalo, Plains Zebra, Giraffe, Eland, Greater Kudu, Blue Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Blesbok, Impala, Steenbok, Warthog, Lion, Leopard, Black-backed Jackal, Yellow & Slender Mongoose, Suricate, Vervet Monkey, Chacma Baboon, Rock Hyrax... and all this while concentrating on birds.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Wallcreeper and woodpeckers

I have just finished my first group guiding of the year. Taking eight nice folks from the UK around central Hungary for a few days. It was cold, but clear and crisp. Wintering and resident birds were the targets and we did well. In the woods and around the wetlands at Tata we saw lots of Greater White-fronted and "eastern" Greylag Geese, a few Bean Geese, various ducks, Pygmy Cormorant, many Great White Egrets, 6 species of woodpecker, big flocks of Fieldfares and Hawfinches. But the highlight here was probably a Wallcreeper foraging in a stone quarry. They really are fantastic birds. After crossing the Danube we explored the Kiskunsag and found a few Great Grey Shrikes, a Little Owl, 28 Great Bustards, and we added several raptors to our list: Merlin, Hen and Marsh Harriers, several Sparrowhawks, 2 White-tailed Eagles and a Rough-legged Buzzard. Later I took the group to a roost of Long-eared Owls, seeing about a dozen, and finally located a pair of Syrian Woodpeckers, making it 7 out of 7 woodpecker species on the route taken. As I said, cold, winter, but good birding all the same.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Back from SA

I am back from South Africa. I was unable to keep my blog going due to the lack of net access in the remote areas we visited and lack of time in the places where there was internet. It was a busy time, up at 4 - 5 am most days and shattered by nightfall. Amazing landscapes and habitats and loads and loads of birds, including some rarities and endemics, but too many to mention here... and, yes, great and multiple views of 6 out of 8 possible woodpeckers, including my number one target... Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus, a party of 4, including a male feeding a juvenile, calling, flying, sitting on rocks in the Swartberg Pass... fantastic. Oh, and by the way, we saw the BIG FIVE mammals, too... more on this later.