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FOR THOSE OF YOU THAT PARTICIPATED IN A WINGSPAN TOUR DURING 2016, THANK YOU FOR YOUR CUSTOM & YOUR COMPANY AND WE WISH YOU HEALTH AND HAPPINESS FOR 2017.

THE PROGRAMME FOR SPRING 2017 IS NOW ON MY

WEBSITE BUT HERE IS A PREVIEW



Jan 15th - 28th. - Sri Lanka. £1750

Feb 12th -27th - Costa Rica - full

Mar 20th - 30th Morocco - 10 nights. - £1190

April 5th - 12th - Andalucia migration tour. - £750 - 2 places

April 16th - 24th - Coto Donana & Extremadura - £950 - 2 places

April 29th - 6th May. - Lesvos - £875

May 8th - 15th - Portugal - full


May 13th - 21st Bulgaria - £850

May 23rd - 30th - Andalucia birds and butterflies - £750

May 31st - June 8th. - Extremadura and Sierra de Gredos - £950

June 12th - 20th - Pyrenees and Picos de Europa - £1050


FLIGHTS NOT INCLUDED IN THESE PRICES



BOOK NOW TO SECURE YOUR PLACE SEND AN E-MAIL TO:

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Red-throated Bee-eater

Red-throated Bee-eater
join us for a fantastic tour of The Gambia this November

Saturday, July 30, 2011

JULY 30TH - LARGE BLACK KITE PASSAGE CONTINUES

Huge numbers of Black Kites drifted down the Genal Valley on Saturday evening (30th). Between 6pm - 8pm at least 1,000 birds were seen with more pouring through before then. (per John & Penny Hale - Casares).

Gibraltar will be the place to be on Sunday 31st July to watch them cross the Strait of Gibraltar!

Friday, July 29, 2011

JULY 29TH -- BLACK KITES in good numbers

During a 2 hour watch this afternoon at the north/west end of the Gaucin (over the Castle) I logged 150 Black Kites, 1 Booted Eagle (probably one of the locals) and a single Marsh Harrier (fem). An earlier report of at least 150 Black Kites was received from a reliable source in the same area.

Migration is hotting up, Bee-eaters are heard everyday flying south over the village and on the 27th a flock of 50+ were feeding on the north side of the Castle, seen around 10am.

FURTHER TO THIS AFTERNOONS SIGHTINGS ANOTHER 166 BLACK KITES DRIFTED OVER THE VILLAGE AND FORMED A LARGE 'KETTLE' IN THE GENAL VALLEY BEFORE DRIFTING DOWN TOWARDS GIBRALTAR BETWEEN 5:30PM AND 6PM

TOTAL COUNTED TODAY: 466

Sunday, July 24, 2011

JULY 24TH - WHITE RUMPED SWIFT

Another glorious sunny day and yet another picnic down at the river near Cortes.

I took the scope and bins and during our 4 hour picnic ( 2 - 6pm ) I logged all the common species but I kept an eye out for the elusive WHITE RUMPED SWIFT.

All afternoon I watched Barn Swallows, House Martins, Pallid & Common Swifts coming down to drink. The ocassional Alpine Swift graced me with their presence but at last I had sightings of at least two WHITE RUMPED SWIFTS. They did not come down to drink but dashed around in the sky above me for a while.

I also saw Bee-eaters, Booted Eagles, Griffon Vultures, Little Ringed Plover, White Wagtails, Serins, Bonelli's Warbler and lots of finches.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

JULY 23RD - 2011 - REVERSE RAPTOR MIGRATION BEGINS

Bee-eater numbers are building, small flocks are over the house everyday, with a flock of 20 yesterday. The first BLACK KITES were seen this afternoon, about 15 - 20 so far circling on thermals above the village and then heading down to the coast. Numbers should pick up daily from now. Also the numbers of Barn Swallows and Common Swifts are increasing on passage, good number of swifts drifted high over the village between 3-5pm today.

It doesn't seem that long ago since the first Black Kites were seen heading in from the coast, how time flies............

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

SUCCESS FOR THE NORTHERN BALD IBIS

Conservationists have feared that Syria’s current political unrest may have affected the fortunes of the northern bald ibis – currently the most threatened bird in the Middle East with just one breeding pair left.

But counter to the trepidation, for the first time in the last three years the remaining pair has successfully reared two healthy young, which have left the nest and have begun their migration to the highlands of Ethiopia.

The northern bald ibis– named for its distinctive bald-headed appearance - is distantly related to storks, herons and spoonbills.

Chris Bowden is the RSPB’s international species recovery officer, coordinating the northern bald ibis programme for BirdLife International. He said: “This species has teetered on the brink of extinction in the Middle East for several years, but we’re delighted to report that the fledging of two chicks has reignited our hopes for the recovery of this bird.” The Syrian Desert Commission has successfully protected the birds.



Chris Bowden added: “This species has been an important cultural and religious icon in the Middle East and it had special significance to the Egyptian Pharaohs, but now it has become a symbol of optimism too.

“As we trace their migration route across the Middle East, we have colleagues across the region poised to monitor them on their journey. However, difficulties, such as petrol shortages are confounding our efforts. One of our Yemeni colleagues was forced to wait nine-hours for fuel before starting to search for the birds!”

The wild population of northern bald ibis was feared extinct in the Middle East, when in 2002 birds were found nesting in the mountains of Syria, near Palmyra - after not being seen in Syria for 70 years. Since then conservationists have sought to give the birds protection by working with local people and by using state-of-the-art technology to track the birds’ movements. This research has identified that the Syrian adult birds head to the highlands of Ethiopia to spend the winter, but where the juveniles go still remains a mystery.




The Critically Endangered northern bald ibis was once widespread across North Africa and the Middle East. Aside from Syria, the only other nesting population occurs in Morocco, where just over 100 breeding pairs still occur in two coastal locations near Agadir, on the Atlantic coast. The outlying birds in Syria will be an important addition but only if the population can be sustained.

Two of the three adult birds carry tracking devices and their daily progress can be followed by visiting the following website: www.rspb.org.uk/ibistracking and for more background visit www.iagnbi.org

JULY 19TH - RIO GUADIARO AT ESTACION CORTES

Paul and I made another superb early morning birding trip, this time we went down to the Rio Guadiaro at Cortes. There was a nip in the air at 7am just as it was getting light but it soon warmed up as the sun rose over the distant mountains.


The bird life along the river was, as usual, fantastic, birds were everywhere, in the water, near the water, in the trees and bushes, in the fields and in the sky.

We quickly logged both the Grey and the White Wagtail, Grey Heron, Woodchat Shrike, Spotted Flycatcher, Red-rumped Swallow, Serin, Chiffchaff sp, Blackcap, melodious Warbler, Cetti's Warbler and an unusual sighting of a Sedge Warbler.

There were many finches around including Green, Gold and Chaffinch, also Linnets, House Sparrows and Spotless Starlings. A Kingfisher flashed by a couple of times and several Little Ringed Plovers feed along the shingle shore-line.


The sky was full of House Martins, we also counted over 300 perched on the wires, a sign that migration is looming. They were joined by Barn Swallows and a single Sand Martin.





We also found a single Rock Sparrow on the same set of wires, if you look closely at the picture you can just make out the yellow throat patch. (click on the image to enlarge it)







Over the surrounding hillsides a good number of Common Swifts were joined by Pallid Swifts and the odd Alpine Swift but, although we searched, we couldn't find a White-rumped Swift.

Birds of prey were represented by a couple of sightings of Booted Eagle (pale morph), we saw 2
perched Short-toed Eagles and a couple of Griffon Vultures. Paul got onto a falcon 'species' but it disappeared over the hill before he could ID it.








































































Sunday, July 17, 2011

MY FAVOURITE WALK AROUND THE VILLAGE

CAMINO MOLINO TO CAMINO GIBRALTAR - 5KM walk

During this quiet 'birding period' I spend most evenings walking the local tracks.

This walk commences on the north side of the village - the first three images show the track leading down-hill with Sierra Beremja in the distance and the Rio Genal Valley ahead.

Cork Oaks are to the right and a mixture of fruit, carob, almond, oak and olive trees fill the valley to the left.

several good bird species and butterflies can be seen along this stretch of the walk with Cirl Bunting, Sardinian Warbler and Chaffinch often on the track or in the fence-line and Jay in the oaks.









As we round a bend a little lower down the first view of Sierra crestellina appears.


A better view of Sierra Bermeja with sun now behind us.


Nice views of Crestellina in the evening sunlight. Overhead, just recently, a good number of Bee-eaters have been feeding amongst the hundreds of Swifts and Martins, this is a sure sign that migration back to Africa has began.


A view to the south with the mediterranean coastline just visible in the misty evening light.
The track 'bottoms out' in this open area, a good place to watch raptors drifting into the Genal valley. Booted and Short-toed Eagles are common throughout the summer and Griffon Vultures are always about. In the grass meadows Finches often feed on the seed heads, Goldfinch, Serin, Linnets nad Greenfinches. a pair of Zitting Cisticola have bred here this year.
Here we get our first sighting of El Hacho, the mountain found on the west side of the village, the sun has just dropped behind it in this picture.








At the lowest point of the walk the track narrows to a path through dense scrubs and carob trees. A good place for Nightingales, Blackcaps and Chiffchaff.








Back to a wide track which is lined by Eucalyptus, during the last week a party of Golden Orioles have frequent this area. (they were still there last night - Saturday 16th July)








Looking back at crestellina as we begin the hard slog back up the village.








A closer view of El hacho as we climb westward up the hill.








We pass a disused quarry - where a pair of Blue Roch Thrushes bred this year nad I often see a Sparrowhawk near here.








Back to civilization - we pass a couple of Fincas which grow Almonds and Oranges, these are Almond trees. Just now a small flock of Chaffinches are seen on the track each evening.








half way back up to the village lies an open area of scrub, this is another good area for Cirl Bunting, Sardinian Warblers and Finches.
A view up to the village just as the last rays of sunlight bathe the Castle.








A steep section of the Camino Gibraltar has recently been concreted, it rises through a small Cork Oak woodland whcih is a good place for Bonelli's Warbler, Iberian Chiffchaff, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Short-toed Treecreeper, Tits and Finches.





A final View of Crestellina as we enter the south-western side of the village at the end of the walk.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

ANSWERING THE CALL OF THE CONCRAKES

Answering the Call of Corncrakes

Fri, July 15, 2011 - Corncrake is an iconic species in Northern Ireland that migrates here from South Africa every spring. Although a very secretive bird it is their distinctive call that gives these birds their iconic status. In the early summer months, the evening mating call of the corncrake was once deafening as it rang through fields of long grass across Northern Ireland’s countryside.


However, in the last 30 years the number of corncrake has declined dramatically because of changes in grass cutting timings (due to the increase of silage being grown in replace of the later cut hay) and land management on farms, today our fields have fallen silent of the corncrake call and the species are on the verge of extinction in Northern Ireland.

A recovery programme in Scotland has been hugely successful. A Scottish survey in 2007 found 1,273 calling males the highest corncrake numbers in Scotland in 30 years!!

Northern Ireland is not without its own potential success story even if it is on a much smaller scale. Recently the McGrath family who own land outside Benburb called the RSPB reporting hearing a male corncrake calling from a silage field outside their house for over a month now. RSPB’s Farmland Bird Recovery Officer, Claire Barnett visited the site and confirmed that there was a male corncrake calling. Jody and his wife Angela have happily agreed to allow the field to be cut for hay giving the corncrake a chance to breed successfully on their farm.

The McGraths enthusiasm and cooperation over the potential breeding of corncrake on their land is a great example to all Northern Ireland farmers that production and wildlife friendly farming can co-exist. This family’s positive reaction to the corncrake’s arrival on their land is good news for RSPB staff who have just started managing land on Rathlin Island to cater for corncrakes. RSPB are using a mixture of land belonging to their reserve on Rathlin, the NIEA and local farmers.

This combined effort involves planting nettles, and other tall vegetation to provide early cover for corncrake to spot as they fly overhead, land and use as a nesting site. These plants are perfect for corncrake as they grow to reach heights of 8-10inches, which is tall enough to give them the secrecy and security they like but are also open so the birds and their fledglings can move easily amongst the vegetation.

These areas are known as “corncrake corridors” and run along suitable field edges. This early cover will be protected from grazing in late winter and spring. The RSPB will also be planting wild bird cover, left un-grazed this grows into tall open cover ideal for corncrakes whilst also providing winter seeds for farmland birds. Two-year bird cover will also be planted. By next spring, this will have grown to provide early cover for migrating corncrakes and will hopefully attract and host breeding corncrakes.

It is hoped that these first steps towards corncrake conservation and recovery will eventually lead to a success that matches the species revival in other parts of the UK

This post was written by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, a charity registered in England and Wales no 207076, in Scotland no SC037654.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

JULY 13TH 2011 - SANDPIPERS & TERRAPINS

Another early morning Birding Bash with Paul from the village. We met up in the centre of the village at 7am and drove down to Colmenar to visit a couple of areas near the Rio Guadiaro.

A perfect morning with a warm breeze, bright blue sky and no traffic! We visited the shrubby valley adjacent to the Hydro-Electicity Works where my favourite dead tree is still standing. Just remember in previuos blogs that we have seen over 15 species perched in this tree.

Today the tree was a bit lame but we did see several male Golden Orioles, a pair of Green Woodpeckers, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Spotless Starling and House Sparrows.

Other sightings nearby were of Short-toed Eagle, Collared Dove, Barn Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Blackcap, Wren, Pallid Swift, Kestrel and we heard Turtle Doves.



The Wier pool


Above the wier


Grey Wagtail

Our next and final location was a little further down river through to the south side of the village.


We searched the trees and shrubs for Wryneck (this is where we found a family party last year) but they wern't there this time. In the meantime we enjoyed good views of both Grey and White Wagtails, Robin, more Blackcaps, a large party of Long-tailed Tits, lots of Blue Tits, Spotted Flycatcher, a pair of Short-toed Eagles, Booted Eagle, Common Buzzard, AlpineSwifts, Common Swifts and many House Martins.

Looking over the man-made wier we found a Common Sandpiper with more wagtails, The sandpiper flew onto a concrete island and almost bumped into a large terrapin, we left them in the throes of a 'staring match'.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

MORE GOOD NEWS FROM MALTA

MALTESE HUNTERS JAILED

Tue, 12 July, 2011 - Maltese law courts yesterday sentenced a hunter to two years imprisonment and a €9,000 fine, and another to one year imprisonment and a €5000 fine, for the targeting of White Storks on the 18th May this year. All hunting licenses were permanently revoked for both individuals. Of a flock of 200 White Storks which first arrived in Malta, less than half were confirmed as leaving the island safely.


This is a real landmark case for Malta as sentences have previously been more lenient in such cases.

Both hunters were found guilty of contravening several sections of national hunting law including; hunting out of season, hunting protected birds, the use of illegal cartridges with large pellets, and the use of an illegal irregular shotgun.

In sentencing them the court also took into consideration the fact that in spite of both accused having several previous hunting convictions they persisted in hunting illegally.

One of the hunters was apprehended by two police officers with a dead stork and a loaded shotgun after the officers heard shots at a roosting flock of White Storks and saw two of the birds being shot down. Another two hunters managed to escape. Two dead storks and a third injured and dying stork were recovered from the area.

The other hunter was seen with his shotgun when several shots had been fired at a large flock of White Storks and an eye witness gave his number plate to the police. He was later apprehended and he admitted chasing the storks seeking an opportunity to shoot, but denied successfully shooting them. A dead stork was recovered from the area the day after the incidents.

BirdLife Malta congratulates the police on their action in these incidents and in the successful prosecutions.
This is a big step forward in the campaign against illegal hunting. A big part of this campaign is running conservation and monitoring camps such as Spring Watch and Raptor Camp. At these camps we monitor numbers of migratory birds, maintain a presence in the countryside and collect evidence to help bring individuals such as the above to justice. If you’re interested in helping the cause then you can join us this Autumn, 14th September – 2nd October. Details at www.birdlifemalta.org.

This post was written by Birdlife, which comprises more than 100 conservation organisations working together to promote sustainable living as a means to conserve biodiversity. BirdLife Malta is the BirdLife Partner in Malta.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

SUNDAY- 10TH JULY - PICNIC BY THE RIVER

We spent a lovely afternoon taking a picnic besides the Rio Guadiaro at Estacion de Cortes with our good friends Jim & Alice. A light breeze kept the heat down as we set up our picnic below an ash tree.


yet another picture of a juvenile WOODCHAT SHRIKE, they are so obliging




During the afternoon we saw several nice bird species: the Common Kingfisher was busy darting to and fro across the surface of the water, it landed twice on a perch that I provided on the bank of the river but did not stay long enough for me to take a photograph.

We also had good views of: Woodchat Shrike, lots of White Wagtails, Turtle Dove, Bee-eater, Pallid Swift, Red-rumped Swallow, Bonelli's Warbler, Serin, Cirl Bunting and several parties of Little Ringed Plovers.



LITTLE RINGED PLOVER
TURTLE DOVE
BLACK-EYED BLUE
And, Oh yes, the picnic was lovely too, thanks to Dawn & Alice!








Friday, July 8, 2011

July 7, 2011 -Ospreys Sat-Tagged for African Adventure

Satellite tags have been fitted to two osprey chicks hatched this spring at the famous RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Centre, allowing wildlife enthusiasts to track their progress online.


By late August, the young ospreys, a female named Tore and a male named Bynack, will leave the safety of their nest to begin their 3,000 mile migratory trip to West Africa.

The tags will transmit data so that the huge online audience can follow the fortunes and movements of the birds over the next few years.

Richard Thaxton, site manager at RSPB Scotland Loch Garten Osprey Centre, said: “These chicks have had the best possible start in life thanks to the sterling efforts of their proud parents. While EJ has been playing the attentive mum, Odin has been bringing back numerous fish every day to make sure no little mouths go hungry.

“Tore and Bynack need to be in tiptop condition to ensure that they survive the huge journey to West Africa at the end of August. We know from tracking other ospreys that the first year can be the most dangerous. These tags will not only help us understand more about the migratory movements of ospreys, but also allows others to follow their adventures for the foreseeable future.”

Last year, for the first time in forty years, no young ospreys were tagged or ringed at RSPB Loch Garten after unseasonably windy weather thwarted efforts.

Of the two sat-tagged female chicks from in 2009, contact has not been made with Mallachie for over a year. However, Rothes was tracked to Guinea-Bissau where she remained for almost two years before recently beginning a partial return migration north, currently in Morocco. Her progress is documented on: http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/tracking/lochgartenospreys/index.asp

Loch Garten Osprey Centre is open daily from 10am until 6pm until the end of August when the season ends.

This post was written by the RSPB, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Charity registered in England and Wales no 207076, in Scotland no SC037654.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

LESVOS 2012

We are now taking bookings for our tours of Lesvos during April/May 2012.
This beautiful island is a real gem it has fantastic scenery, lovely people, terrific wildlife and a great variety of habitats.
WATCH OUR SLIDE SHOW OF SOME OF THE BIRDS YOU MAY SEE ON LESVOS DURING OUR 2012 VISIT:















Our tours coincide with the peak migration when thousands of birds stop off on the island on their way to north-eastern Europe and Russia. we often record over 160 species during our stay which includes many European colourful gems such as Roller, Bee-eater, Hoopoe, Golden Oriole & Masked Shrike.





Tour dates for 2012 are Thursday April - 26th - May 3rd. We stay at the lovely Pasiphae Hotel situated in the heart of the island and at the hub of all bird-watching outings.

For full details of the tour visit http://www.wingspanbirdtours.com/sevendaytour-lesvos.asp

Our prices are very competitive,we charge £950 + flights of around £250 - £280 you will fly on the same aeroplanes, stay in the same hotel. eat the same food and travel in the same type of mini-buses as many of our competitors, yet you will pay up £400 less!!!

For past trip reports click here http://www.wingspanbirdtours.com/trip-reports.asp

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

JULY 5TH - TRACK NEAR SAN PABLO

I joined Paul from the village on this early morning birding sortie to the nearby village of San Pablo. Our mission was to discover if the 'known' track near San Pablo was a reliable site for Rufous Bush Robin.

VIEWS ALONG THE TRACK





We set off from Gaucin at 7am and drove the short distance to San Pablo and after passing through the village we turned onto the track. Birds were everywhere, many newly fledged youngsters were in sight. We found many Woodchat Shrikes, at least 3 family parties were quite near to us, lots of Melodious Warbler were also flitting about; adults were feeding youngsters along the hedgerows. We also had several sightings of Olivaceous Warbler, this was a new bird for us at this site! a great find.

A POOR PICTURE OF AN OLIVACEOUS WARBLER



JUVENILE WOODCHAT SHRIKE


It wasn't long before we heard a song that we were unfamilar with, we soon located a RUFOUS BUSH ROBIN, it was perched on a fence and gave us good, but short, views as it uttered short bursts of song. It was also carrying food (proof that males can multi-task) but, before we could get any pictures, it flew off to a small plantation.

Encouraged by this we searched with renewed vigour and over the next couple of hours we must have had 10 sightings. We found two separate family parties, each having at least 2 youngsters. Eventually we got very close to them.

RUFOUS BUSH ROBIN - SHOWING THE UNDERTAIL PATTERN


RUFOUS BUSH ROBIN - VERY CONFIDING ALONG A FENCE LINE




In the meantime we also saw a plethora of other species: Zitting Cisticola, Blackcap, Linnet, Corn Bunting, Goldfinch, Common Whitethroat, Cetti's Warbler, Olivaceous Warbler, Melodious Warbler, Red-rumped Swallow, Bee-eater, Woodchat Shrike, Raven, Short-toed Eagle, White Stork, Greenfinch, Collared Dove, Spotless Starling, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Stonechat, Barn swallow, House Martin, Common Swift, Common Buzzard and some that I have forgotten! Its amazing really, we only walked a couple of hundred meters and we saw nearly 30 species, wow, what a great place Spain is for wildlife!

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED - THE RUFOUS BUSH ROBIN SITE IS RELIABLE