Southern Yorkshire Dales, 28 - 30 May 2016

A bank holiday weekend hiking up in the southern part of the Yorkshire Dales. Our walking took us through Wharfedale from Bolton Abbey, up the Valley of Desolation to Simon's Seat and back via the river. Then we did a blast up Pen-y-ghent and an amble around Malham Tarn. The last day saw us back in Wharfedale, walking from Conistone over the tops to Grassington and back via the river/valley.

The best way to summarise the birds is a list:

Goosander - 5+ River Wharfe
Red Grouse - c12, Simon's Seat and Pen-y-ghent including 2 pairs with recently fledged young
Red Kite - 1 Lower Wharfedale plus 3 near Peterborough from the A1
Common Buzzard - c10 widely scattered
Curlew - ubiquitous
Lapwing - several territorial pairs, widely scattered
Cuckoo - 1 Valley of Desolation
Kingfisher - 1 River Wharfe
Sand Martin - 3 colonies along the River Wharfe
Tree Pipit - c5 Malham Tarn
Yellow Wagtail - 1 singing on roadside post near Malham
Grey Wagtail - numerous along River Wharfe and in Skipton town
Dipper - 2 River Wharfe
Common Redstart - 1 female Malham Tarn
Northern Wheatear - just 1 Pen-y-ghent
Spotted Flycatcher - 1 near Bolton Abbey
Ring Ouzel - 2 in different spots near Pen-y-ghent
Mistle Thrush - several, widely scattered
Wood Warbler - 4 singers along River Wharfe between The Strid and Bolton Abbey
Willow Warbler - huge numbers, widely scattered
Nuthatch - c8 Lower Wharfedale and Malham Tarn
Raven - 1 Pen-y-ghent, 1 Malham Tarn
Siskin - 1 near Bolton Abbey
Lesser Redpoll - c6 Malham Tarn, displaying

Apart from that there were a few Early Purple Orchids at Malham Tarn and along the Dales Way north of Grassington plus a curious locked cage at the Malham Tarn Field Centre containing Ladies Slipper Orchids. Sadly I couldn't find any 'released' ones in Grass Wood but we did id Water Avens, Bog Bean and Marsh Marigolds at Malham and the whole Wharfedale area was carpeted in Wild Garlic giving off quite an aroma!. Butterflies were few and far between but we recorded Green-veined White, Small White, Orange Tip and Small Tortoiseshell plus big numbers of Lattice Heath moths on the moors.

Green-veined White
Bog Bean

Early Purple Orchid

'Captive' Ladies Slipper

Marsh Marigold and Malham Tarn

Water Avens

Wild Garlic

Upper Hollesley Common, Suffolk, 26 May 2016

Despite arriving an hour too late for the Red-footed Falcon a long walk around the heath did produce some bit and pieces that made the drive worthwhile. A Woodlark was singing intermitently, at least 3 Dartford Warblers giving some nice views plus Stonechats, Yellowhammer, Common Whitethroats, Green Woodpecker and Common Buzzard. There had also been quite an emergence of Small Heath and Small Copper butterflies.
Back at home a new insect for me - a Scorpion Fly was on our laurel hedge and Brimstone, Holly Blue, Speckled Wood and Orange Tip were also buzzing about.


Bee-eater and other weekend shiz, 14 & 15 May 2016

Not a huge amount of birding this weekend but we did venture out walking twice and each time it was in the direction of a bird I wanted to see. Funny that!

Saturday saw us walking up at Thornham but a quick stop at Choseley on the way gave me 20+ Dotterel but I have to say they were probably the worst views I've ever had, very distant and lots of heat haze :-( A Corn Bunting was near the barns and apart from common stuff we saw little on our walk except a late lingering and probably unwell Brent Goose in Thornham Harbour and 2 Grey Partridges and a day total of 7 Common Buzzards.

Fast forward to Sunday and we headed to Winterton (but not before a surprise Leveret on our lawn!). The Bee-eater was in to it's 5th day and after playing it very casual it would have been a shame not to go see it. It duly obliged both at the Winterton end of it's preferred stretch (on wires) and then again later at East Somerton in a bare tree. A walk through the north dunes was pretty quiet but a pair of Northern Wheatears could have been possible breeders as they were in a very suitable looking area. A steady stream of Swallows were heading south and 6 House Martins around the beach cafe area. 5 Stonechats, Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker was about all else.


Dalmation Pelican twitch, Lands End area, Cornwall, 10 May 2016

I've not twitched much at all in recent years but sometimes a bird turns up that you feel you have to see. And this was one of them for me - a great looking bird that would be a new UK, Western Palearctic and World bird for me - it just ticked all the boxes!

Steve and Dot were kind enough to offer me a lift (I didn't fancy that drive in my van!) and after a quick dash round and a drive to meet them in Attleborough we were on our way by about 18.30. The original plan was to grab a few hours sleep in a Travelodge when we were in the Exeter area but it quickly became apparant we weren't going to get enough time for that. Instead we slowly trundled down noting a Barn Owl by the A30 in Cornwall and were on the Lands End carpark by about 04.30 after several stops.

From dawn until mid morning thick fog hampered any birding. From our vantage point the car just north of Sennen we had 23 Whimbrel and a single Black-tailed Godwit in a roadside field with Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat singing but little else. We decided to have a little drive around but quickly found ourselves back at the Lands End carpark where a nice singing male Serin eventually gave some lovely scope views in the garden of Swingate House where there were also 2 Spotted Flycatchers, Lesser Redpoll and a nice late Redwing. It was here that we got news that the pelican had been reported flying east past Mounts Bay/Marazion which prompted a sharp exit as we tried to check the coast area east of Penzance. We got as far as Helston and it seemed like a complete waste of time so returned to Marazion. Here I got some nice views of a male Woodchat Shrike in brambles and added Cetti's Warbler, Willow Warbler and Little Egret to the day list. Then all hell let loose as first the earlier sigtings of the pelican were declared to be rubbish and 2 minutes later news that it was back circling over Lands End!!

Cue a mad dash through the narrow windy lanes until just south of Sennen a tell-tale line of parked/abandoned cars and then birders looking skyward indicated that we'd got there in time. We watched the Dalmation Pelican circling for just 2 minutes before it headed SE towards Skewjack and was lost in the haze. Luckily we followed LGRE down the track from Polgigga towards Bosistow Farm where we had the bird again including 2 memorable 'over our heads' views. The stress levels diminished considerably and when back at the car in Polgigga it flew over us yet again heading north. With a handful of Common Buzzards we headed back to Marazion for lunch and so Steve and Dot could quicky scope the Woodchat. After that we would our way home with just a Red Kite beside the M4 in Berkshire to bother the scorers.       

Dalmation Pelican, Sennen/Polgigga

Map of my sightings and the direction the pelican was watched flying

Woodchat Shrike, Marazion

Western Rufous Turtle Dove, Otford, Kent, 7 May 2016

I cracked and went this afternoon! Having seen that the village of Otford is only a short distance off the M25 into Kent and the regular pattern of appearances of the bird it seemed a no-brainer even for someone who's more or less given up British listing. I didn't fancy getting up at crazy o'clock for a morning viewing so waited to see if it was seen this morning before heading off early afternoon.
Favourable traffic meant I was door to door in less than 2 hours even in my van. Of course that necessitated a bit of a wait but eventually other birders started to arrive. At about 16.30 the Western Rufous Turtle Dove popped up in it's favourite blossoming pear tree and was viewable at reasonable range from between houses on The Old Walk. Initially quite hidden it gave itself up for some great views. Nice to get a western bird of the race 'meena' to add to the eastern 'orientalis' bird I saw in Sweden a few years back. Maybe a split is in order!!
Also around the gardens were a single Stock Dove, Collared Doves, Woodpigeons and Feral Pigeons making is a right dove fest! A Goldcrest collecting nesting material in a blossoming cheery tree was also nice to see.
The photo below was the only hasty hand-held phone scoping shot I took.

Western Rufous Turtle Dove         

Borneo, Days 22 & 23, 16 & 17 April 2016 - Mantanani Besar Island

We'd booked a 2 day/1 night trip to the island of Mantanani Besar through Amazing Borneo and stayed at the Mari Mari Backpakers with some snorkelling as part of the package. This fullfilled Belinda's need for some beach/island action but also gave me a shot at some good birds too!

We were picked up from the Jessleton Hotel (who kindly agreed to store some of our luggage until we returned) at 07.15 for the 2 hour minibus ride north to the jetty at Kota Belud where the boats depart for the island. We arrived early having seen 2 Black-crowned Night Herons on the way but whiled away some time watching the numerous Whiskered Terns near the quay. 

The boat trip itself wasn't without it's moments - we saw c10 Black-naped Terns and 4 Bridled Terns on the crossing.

Small islands aren't renouned for a large variety of species and Mantanani Besar is no different. It does have some goodies though and a late afternoon/early evening walk north along the coast from Mari Mari Backpackers gave me one of them - Christmas Island Frigatebird, in fact dozens of them amongst Lesser Frigatebirds and Great Frigatebirds coming in to roost on a offshore islet. White-breasted Woodswallows, Pacific Swallows and Collared Kingfishers are common on the island and I also managed some Germain's Swiftlets, Olive-backed Sunbird, 2 Pacific Reef Egrets and White-bellied Sea Eagle.

After dinner that evening a torchlit walk a few hundred yards north of Mari Mari Backpackers gave me my much wanted Mantanani Scops Owl. We had at least 4 calling and eventually I managed a brief view of one but it was spooked by my torch and flew off!

The following mornign we went for a long walk south of Mari Mari Backpackers and then inland near the school to eventually emerge on the opposite side of the island. My hoped for Tabon Scrubfowl proved nice and easy with 5 seen but it was pigeons that kept us amused trying to get a decent view. 1 group of c8 Metallic Pigeons were flushed out of the top of a fruiting tree early morning and we went on to see several Grey Imperial Pigeons and just a single Pied Imperial Pigeon. On the long hot walk back I photographed a raptor passing over a clearing that was later id'd by the resident birder/guide at Mari Mari Backpackers as a Japanese Sparrowhawk. Near the school on the way back a Paddyfield Pipit was beside the path. The last decent bird was a very close Pink-necked Green Pigeon as we sat having lunch.    

Lesser Frigatebird

Lesser Frigatebird

Lesser Frigatebird

Christmas Island Frigatebird

Tabon Scrubfowl

Japanese Sparrowhawk

  Pink-necked Green Pigeon

That pretty much concluded birding for the trip with a night in back KK at the wonderful fish quay with its food stalls and a morning exploring the city a bit before making our way to the airport for the mega journey home.

Trip list 256
Lifers 170

Borneo, Days 17 - 21, 11 - 15 April 2016 - Danum Valley

11 April was mainly a day of hanging about waiting for the 15.00 transfer bus which leaves from the Danum Valley Field Centre office in Lahad Datu. Our wonderful hosts at our B&B let us use their pool, supplied us with drinks and also gave us a lift to the office. I can't recommend them more highly.

Despite my fears our names were on the DVFC system and with a delay of an hour we set off on our drive to DVFC. The drive takes about 3 hours with the last 2 of those being on dirt roads. And boys did we hit it lucky on the road - 3 and then a single Asian Pygmy Elephants on the road (but quickly disappearing into the bushes), 3 Sambar Deer, a Bornean Yellow Muntjac, a white-phase Asian Paradise Flycatcher and then a mega Crested Fireback beside the track too. Things were looking promising as we checked in after dark and looked forward to our few days here.

Crested Fireback

During the following days we slogged the forest trails and it was HARD work! Very hot and humid and sadly the meals and accommodation at DVFC didn't offer any comfort - they were terrible. Boiled rice and cabbage and gristly bones plus chicken nugget for breakfast. A small amount of melon each day for dessert but you had to be quick before it ran out! If you go, take my advice and take plenty of snacks, we were so glad we did!

The powers that be at DVFC will try to insist you have to have a ranger with you on most of the trails (at MYR 20 an hour) but we didn't bother, walked wherever we wanted and never got challenged! 

Our days typically involved a 2-3 hours walking trails after breakfast, several hours downtime in the heat of the day and then another couple of hours walking trails in the late afternoon. 

I spent a lot of time trying to lure pittas and managed 2 more Black-crowned Pittas but nothing else was responding.  Green Imperial Pigeons were seen daily with 2 Large Green Pigeons, 2 Grey-rumped Treeswifts and 3 Brown-backed Needletails. Raptors included Black Eagle and Changeable Hawk-eagle  and the hornbills were represented by 1 Helmeted Hornbill and 2 Oriental Pied Hornbills. 

A round up of the best of the rest included Black and Red Broadbill, Blue-crowned Hanging Parrot, Blue-rumped Parrot, 2 Bornean Brown Barbets, 1 Red-crowned Barbet by our room, 2 Grey and Buff Woodpeckers, Orange-backed Woodpecker, Buff-rumped and Buff-necked Woodpeckers, Lesser Green Leafbird, a mega White-crowned Forktail on the Coffin Trail, Malaysian Blue Flycatcher, Rufous-tailed Tailorbird, Chestnut-winged Babbler, an educational id challenge with Rufous-crowned and Scaly-crowned Babblers, Slender-billed Crow and a very welcome Bornean Black Magpie around the buildings one early morning.

One afternoon we killed a couple of hours during the heat of the day on a balcony overlooking the river and some flowering bushes - it proved a spiderhunter mecca with Yellow-eared, Spectacled, Bornean and Little Spiderhunters plus Van Hasslet's, Red-throated and Crimson Sunbirds.  

On the final day I went on a long hike along the Tembaling Waterfall trail and managed to find Cinnamon-rumped Trogon, Banded Broadbill and a superb Red-bearded Bee-eater. Later that day the hanging bridge area and a trespass onto the grid trails gave me Ferruginous Babbler, Green Iora, Plain Sunbird, Black and Yellow Broadbill then at the death a marvellous Whiskered Treeswift on the bridge itself. For sheer uniqueness it was one of my birds of the trip.

We booked on a night drive on our 2nd night which produced some good stuff but it was all duplicates of stuff we'd already seen - Giant Flying Squirrel, 2 roosting Crested Firebacks, Sambar Deer, a similarly roosting Crested Serpent Eagle plus Common Palm Civet. A Buffy Fish Owl was in a tree by the badminton court after we got back from the drive. Other mammals seen during our stay were Maroon Langur and Pig-tailed Macaque.

15 April was the day we left on the 08.30 transfer minibus and this time the entrance road came up trumps again with a surprise and awesome Sumatran Rhino crossing the road in front of us!!

Luckily we managed to get on a much earlier flight back to KK from Lahad Datu (11.10 instead of 16.00!) and back in KK had loads of House Swifts, several Whiskered Terns by the fish quay plus Pacific Reef Egret, White-bellied Sea Eagle, White Wagtail and Olive-backed Sunbird.  

Rufous-crowned Babbler

Crested Serpent Eagle

Spectacled Spiderhunter

Yellow-rumped Flowerpecker

Bornean Spiderhunter

Yellow-eared Spiderhunter

Yellow-bellied Bulbul

Orange-backed Woodpecker

Scaly-crowned Babbler

Banded Broadbill

Cinnamon-rumped Trogon

Red-bearded Bee-eater

Yellow-breasted Flowerpecker

Black and Yellow Broadbill

 Green Iora

Lesser Green Leafbird

Plain Sunbird

Ferruginous Babbler

 Whiskered Treeswift