Saturday, May 31, 2008

Aquatic Warbler photo

It is all go here on the bird guiding front... all sorts of goodies, but one of the rarest, most satisfying to find and show to visitors, and also often a "lifer" for them, is the Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola. Here is a recent photo from Hortobagy, Hungary, of this great bird by my good friend and Aquatic Warbler expert Gabor Kovacs.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Rose-coloured Starlings etc

After sampling the boreal bird delights of Estonia for a week, it was back to birding in Hungary yesterday. A day trip around the northern part of the Kiskunsag produced about 20 Collared Pratincoles, 3 Great Bustards, 2 Saker Falcons and 2 small flocks of Rose-coloured Starlings hurtling by. I later found out that flocks of the latter had been seen elsewhere in Hungary, so the question is... is a major invasion underway ?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


In Estonia I had the best view that I have ever had of a European Beaver. It was swimming around in a drainage channel just before dusk. My companions and I were able to watch it from our vehicle and this allowed a close approach. Beavers are common in the Baltic States and increasing. Their signs are everyone... felled trees, lodges, dams, tracks... Here is a photo of a well gnawed tree.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Estonia... end result

Our week birding in Estonia was a great success. We recorded 172 species, with day totals that included one of 104 and one of 106. We saw some real Estonian specialities like White-backed Woodpecker, Greater Spotted Eagle, Great Snipe and Citrine Wagtail. However the 'bird of the trip' was judged to be two superb Ural Owl chicks that stared at us from atop a broken tree stump. The noise created by a flock of several 1000 Barnacle Geese in flight was voted 'sound of the trip'. Now it is back to Budapest and on with my next birding assignment.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Soomaa at 5am

We visited the Soomaa National Park (Estonia) on a pre-breakfast jaunt this morning. We set off at 5am and some (particularly Polly, the only lady with us) were a bit "sleepy". The bird song was lively at that time, a few woodpeckers drummed and Common Cranes trumpeted in the misty fields. As we drove a gravel track I spotted a Lesser Spotted Eagle perched in a roadside tree. It was sleepy, too, and so we got very good views. Just before we headed back for a late breakfast, at 8am, a Black Woodpecker flew in front of our bus. Toivo, our excellent Estonian driver must of thought us bonkers as we piled off the bus like ferrets down a drain-pipe to search for it.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Tuhu Soo and all that

Our journey from Haapsalu to the Parnu area today (in Estonia) took in several fascinating wetland and forest birding sites. Kloostri and other spots along the south shore of Matsalu Bay, Lake Tohela, the coast at Kavaru and the peat-bogs of Tuhu Soo and Lindi. We used some great board-walks and climbed some wobbly bird-towers. Birds included: Black Stork, Montagu's Harrier, Lesser Spotted, Golden and White-tailed Eagles, Arctic Skua, Icterine Warbler and a Thrush Nightingale singing right out in the open. Tomorrow it is 5am start, so I will keep this one short.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Estonia's north-west

It has been another great birding day in the north-west of Estonia. We recorded 106 species without rushing around. We visited Sutlepa meri and the Slima Reserve (Red-necked Grebe, Common Bittern, Black Tern, Penduline Tit), Saare (Wryneck, White-backed Woodpecker), Roosta (Crested Tit, Hawfinch), Dirhami (Long-tailed Duck, thunbergi Yellow Wagtail), Poosaspea (Red-throated Diver, Common Eider, Velvet and Common Scoters) and Spithami (Pygmy Owl calling). Tomorrow we head on southwards to the Parnu area.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Matsalu Bay - geese

Today was a great birding day in north-west Estonia. We visited various sites on the northern shore of Matsalu Bay seeing, amongst others, thousands of flying, roosting, drinking and feeding Barnacle Geese. At one stop I managed to pick out a Red-breasted Goose amongst the mass of Barnacles which proved to be a lifer for most of my party. An adult White-tailed Eagle right overhead also proved popular. Just two and a half day's birding and we already have 96 species. On we go tomorrow...

Monday, May 12, 2008


I am now in Estonia guiding a group of UK birders. After setting off from Tallinn airport this morning we were soon headin fo Happsalu and the Baltc coast, passing through rural landscapes dotted with conifer and birch woods. Birds today ? White Storks, Common Cranes, White-tailed Eagles, Arctic Terns... more tomorrow as we bird Matsalu Bay.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


I have just finished guiding birders who participated in the HUNGARIAN BIRD FESTIVAL, organised by WILDWINGS, UK and based on the Hortobagy. We recorded 185 species which is a great total. Highlights included... Montagu's Harriers displaying, around 10 different Eastern Imperial Eagles, 6 Sakers, 3 close Lesser Spotted Eagles, a superb hunting Long-legged Buzzard, masses of Red-footed Falcons, Little Crake, daily Great Bustards, a vagrant Terek Sandpiper, Collared Pratincoles, a confiding Ural Owl, daily Wrynecks and Syrian Woodpeckers, about 5 Black Woodpeckers, Aquatic Warblers... etc, etc, etc. The group voted Red-footed Falcon the "bird of the trip"... a deserved "winner" as besides being a cracking bird, it it also is very much a bird of eastern Hungary's lowlands, a real typical "puszta" species.

Friday, May 2, 2008

China with Nigel Marven

You may have head of, and seen on the TV, my good friend Nigel Marven. A superb and original wildlife film maker and presenter... not to mention a mean marathon runner. Well, he is taking a group of birders to Qinghai in China from Saturday 9th to Friday 15th August, 2008. There are still a couple of places to fill, so if you fancy this, in Nigel's excellent company, drop me a line and I will put you in touch.