Sunday, July 31, 2011

Week ending 31st July - IRRI

Several Tropical Storms/ Typhoons swirling around the Philippines made for a soggy week. I did get down once, and found some Blue-tailed Bee-eaters, as well as a flyby pair of White-bellied Munia, and several small flocks of Wood Sandpipers, but overall a bit of a washout - literally!

Blue-tailed Bee-eater

Tropical Storm Juaning, passing just to the north of us this week

Monday, July 25, 2011

Week ending 24th July 2011 - Laoag, Bay-Yo, Mt. Polis

Back from Ireland, and off again on my postponed trip to the north to pick up some key Luzon endemics. First stop was Laoag (after a 10 hour drive) to check out a patch of forest that a friend had said was promising. Not much luck there at all however, lots of 'normal' birds such as Blackish Cuckooshrike, Philippine Coucal, Colasisi, Barred Buttonquail, Plain Bush-hen etc. A little disappointed I headed south towards Banaue and some montane birds. A bad choice led me down a deteriorating road so that I eventually had to back-track to save my 2-wheel drive vehicle's undercarriage, so I didn't get to Mountain province until the afrtenoon of the following day. On the way my first Philippine sighting of Common Buzzard. I stopped at Bay-Yo village east of Bontoc for the staked-out Luzon Water Redstart, which was very obliging (The only reliable sight for this endemic anywhere, there is more habitat for it, but hard to get to).

Having suceeded here I moved on the the pass known as Mt. Polis. Very quickly I heard, and then saw Long-tailed Bush Warbler (caudatus), then Luzon Bush-Warbler. While photographing the latter a pair of White-cheeked Bullfinch (leucogenis) flew over my shoulder, and perched long enough to be identified but not photographed. This made up nicely for the threesome I'd briefly caught sight of at Kitanglad in January, but had been unable to get anything on. Not much more that day, so I moved on to Banaue and a hotel.

Next morning I was back, with lots more Bush-Warblers of both species about. The only other bird at the pass was a gorgeous Mountain Leaf Warbler (benguetensis). I tried one of the ridge trails, and had great views over a valley, but bugger-all birds until 3 distant Luzon Montane Racquet-Tails hove into view.

Back at the pass a Mountain Shrike (validirostris) showed distantly on the ridge, but had disappeared by the time I got up there with a camera. By now it was time to leave, with only a Mountain Verditer (nigrimentalis) on the descent. Not a bad trip, but not great either, leaving several montane specials still to find.

A beautiful male Luzon Water Redstart at the stake-out at Bay-Yo village on the Banaue-Bontoc Road.

A juvenile Luzon Water Redstart, possibly female?

Luzon Bush Warbler. Very skulky, but also very common at the pass known as Mt. Polis, closer to Banaue

The blob on the tree is a Mountain Shrike. I spent a breathless 15 minutes climbing the ridge to get a better view than this, but by then it had gone!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Week ending 17th July - Dublin Bay

The last week of our trip and I spent most of it wandering the shores of Dublin Bay. Monday was Dun Loaghaire and Booterstown, Tuesday I was at Bull Island and Wednesday Howth Head. A nice selection of birds, the highlights being; a juvenile Whitethroat On Howth Head in the gorse above the breeding colonies of Razorbills, Guillemots and Kittiwakes; Breeding plumage Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Sanderling on Bull Island; Lesser Black-backed Gull and Little Egret at Booterstown.

Common Gull - adult. Quite a few on Bull Island, and a scattering at Booterstown

Black-tailed Godwit



Gorgeous, gaudy... Goldfinch

Little Egret. As elsewhere in Britain and Ireland these are now on every estuary. I remember twitching one in Dungeness in the '80s. Hard to imagine these days!

Lesser Black-backed Gull. The scarcest Gull I saw, these were only in small numbers at Booterstown and Bull Island, with a few in Dublin city on the Liffey

Common Tern

Kittiwake with nestling

Young Robin

Grey Seal



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Week ending 10th July - Dun Loaghaire

On Tuesday I spent the day down at Dun Loaghaire (a fun pronunciation challenge for non-Irish). In the last few years the population of Mediterranean Gulls here has increased from a few stray individuals passing through every year, to a healthy breeding population. Even in the 10 years or so I have been visiting the area I have noticed an increase, and I saw at least 60 birds together today. Most are east of the harbour at Dun Loaghaire, in what is known as Scotsman's Bay. Further afield a few birds are in most areas of Dublin Bay, so I'd say the population is in the hundreds. In amongst them were several Common Terns, and a scattering of Black-headed Gulls.

Mediterranean Gull - adult.

Mediterranean Gull - Juvenile

Mediterranean Gull and Common Tern

Black-headed Gull - adult

Common Tern

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ireland's Eye - 3rd July

A great day's birding on an island just offshore from Howth, north of Dublin. Lots of breeding seabirds on the cliffs. Mainly Razorbills, Guillemots, Shag, Great Cormorants and Kittiwakes, with a small Gannet colony at the north end. Smaller numbers of Fulmar and only a few Puffins. On the tops loads of Black-backed Gulls, very aggressively defending their chicks, with Herring Gulls restricted to lower cliffs at the north end. Rock Pipits very common all over. On the shingle beaches several Ringed Plovers and Oystercatchers.


Eurasian Oystercatcher

Rock Pipit



Ringed Plover


Great Black-backed Gull - Adult

Northern Gannet



Great Cormorant

Great Black-backed Gull - chicks


Harbour Seal. At the breakwater in Howth.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

27th June - 2nd July - Dingle Peninsula

A very enjoyable week in a beautiful part of Ireland. The countryside is very rocky, with bracken-choked gullies, grassy slopes dotted with sheep, and rocky crags. Ideal Wheatear habitat! Lots of them about, as well as scattered pockets of Ravens, Chough, Rock Pipits etc. Offshore Manx Shearwaters abounded, as well as Gannet, Fulmar and all the usual Auks and Cormorants. I spent a frustrating couple of days looking for Dipper, which were unaccountably hard to locate, though I did succeed in the end.

Gulls were plentiful, but mostly Herring Gull and Great Black-backed, with a few Common Gull on the northern side of Dingle Peninsula.

Wheatear. Very common in the hilly areas

Raven. Very impressive...

Mistle Thrush

Pied Wagtail

Dipper. Surprisingly hard to find, considering their status in Ireland...

Willow Warbler

Herring Gull - adult


Meadow Pipit

Sand Martin

Common Gull