Monday 30 November 2009

A year in Spain

A couple of years ago I was fortunate in being able to live in Spain for a 14 month period. I was based at the University of Lleida and worked on some streams in the Pyrenees. My work focussed on the ecology of some invertebrates in these streams, but of course I was in a great place for birding. Lleida is very close to some of the steppe habitats and conveniently close to the coast and the Ebro delta, where I spent many a long weekend looking at waterbirds. This post shows some images from my time in Spain. The camera and lens I had in those days was not so good (a Canon 30D with a 100-400 lens) but the good light more than made up for my lack of skill and the less-than-perfect kit. The bird above is a Calandra lark.

Southern Emperor dragonfly Anax parthenope, near Lleida

Great Spotted Cuckoo, Lleida

Squacco Heron, Ebro delta.

Chicken, Ebro delta

Southern Grey Shrike, Lleida.

Chough, Lleida

Subalpine Warbler. This photo was taken in the park in the middle of Lleida, a great place for passage warblers in the spring.

Calandra lark, Lleida.

Pin-tailed Sangrouse, Lleida. The lush spring vegetation is what makes this photo.

I spent several weekends with the ringers (David Bigas, Albert Cama and Joan Ferrer) on the Ebro delta. Orphean warblers are rather scarce here, so this one was a nice surprise.

Lesser short-toed lark, Candasnos.

Thekla Lark, Candasnos.

Lesser Kestrel, Fraga.

Lesser Kestrel, Fraga. Males are stunning birds, especially against a bright blue sky

The same male
Black Tern, I'vars

Monties Harrier

Black-necked Grebe, Ebro delta

Griffon Vulture, Pyrenees

Short toed Eagle. This photo was actually taken from the balcony of the house we rented.

One of Tarragona's pigeon-eating michahellis; this remains one of my favourite pictures

Red Kite, Lleida rubbish dump. Red Kites were always outnumbered by Black kites here, but this one came close enough for some photos.

Wednesday 25 November 2009

The Riga dump experience

I've put these images up to illustrate what gull watching on Riga dump (Latvia) is like. It is simply magical; what a place! As you can see, photography is rather easy, even for a duffer like me. These pictures were taken by Paul Hackett on our trip to Riga in April 2009 (thanks Paul). See if you can pick out any interesting birds in the above image - there is at least one cachinnans, plus an odd, pale Herring Gull.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Some birds from California, December 2008

I went to Northern California at the end of 2008. The trip was primarily to look at gulls, but I did take some images of other birds. This post shows a somewhat random selection of my better images, although I have tried to choose ones that are interesting from a European perspective.

Roosting Marbled Godwits

Wing-stretching Western Willet

Black Turnstone

Black Oystercatcher

Another Black Turnstone. The light was good so I could not resist taking lots of pics of this species.

Wing stretching Surfbird

Marbled Godwit. They can sometimes look rather dull; but they come alive in flight.

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Hudsonian Whimbrel

Black Brant
Willet. I tried for ages to get some flight photos of this species, but this was the best I could manage. Not great, but at least it shows the wing pattern.

Otters. This pair had taken up residence on a lake in a public park in Petaluma. Unfortunately they rather spooked the gulls, so although I got some nice otter pictures, the gulls were not so cooperative.

Least Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Hudsonian Whimbrel.

Another Least Sandpiper

Turkey Vulture. For me, odd to see one sitting on a beach.

Snowy Plover. I seem to remember reading something recently (from work published in The Auk perhaps?) that this is best regarded as a separate species to our Kentish Plover. Of course this has been suspected for some time, but scientific confirmation will, I'm sure, lead to a more rigorous search for identification criteria.

Willet; my attempt at an artistic portrait.

Pacific Divers group fishing

Brown PelicanRoss's Goose.
Scrub Jay; a common bird, but in this light and pose a rather nice sight.

Hudsonian Whimbrel.

Hudsonian Whimbrel showing off its rump

Hudsonian Whimbrel; this time showing its underwing.

White-crowned Sparrow

Marsh Hawk