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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:

E-mail: bobbuckler49@hotmail.com





















Red-throated Bee-eater

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

Saturday, January 21, 2017

SOMERSET LEVELS - WEEKEND BREAK - DAY 2 - SATURDAY 21ST JAN 2017

WEATHER: the beautiful weather continues, a most glorious sunny day, no wind, no clouds, perfect. Top temp 5C.

Well I couldn't believe that we had a second fantastic day weather-wise, it was superb, so we made the most of it! We left the guest house in the dark at 7am in order to get to the Starling roost by sunrise, which we did with 10 minutes to spare. It was freezing cold but we all wrapped up well so didn't notice it much, the air was still but alive with noise of nearly 1 million chattering starlings.
sun rise - we arrived to this at 7:20am

Whilst waiting for the starlings to fly we saw 13 Great White Egrets drop into the marsh with 7 Grey Herons, also Lapwings, Cormorants and several groups of various ducks dashed over us. A couple of early-bird Marsh Harriers also put in an appearance.

As 7:40am they all took off like a plague of locusts bursting from the reedbeds, it was incredible, the noise from their wings sounded like rolling waves on a windy day. It took ten minutes for them all to disperse, it was a truly memorable and fascinating experience, the ultimate natural spectacle, nature at its best, awe inspiring and many more superlatives I can't think of..

=
a swirling mass of starlings as they erupted from the reeds
We were back at the guest house tucking into a delicious cooked breakfast at 8:30 but within an hour we were off again. Today we started our birding at Westhay Moor by walking along London Drove, our target species was Goosander on '30 acre lake' and any other goodies that might pop out of the marshes.

From a slow start we gained momentum with sightings of Common Kingfisher quickly followed by Bearded Tit. The latter showed extremely well down to 3-4 meters but they kept moving.
Water Rail - as I didn't take any more pictures today the next 5 were taken by Kevin Jones in recent visits to the 'levels'
We added our first Pintail sightings at 30 acre lake but no Goosander were present, most the lake was frozen over so all the ducks, geese and swans were crammed together in small pools of unfrozen water. It was comical to see Mute Swans landing on ice and slipping on their rear ends before crashing into other birds.
Bittern -  swimming - taken by Kevin Jones
We spent a while in a brand new tower-hide, again we looked over frozen pools with nothing on them but we did mange to see a Eurasian Bittern in flight, well most of the group did.
8
Bittern - not swimming - taken by Kevin Jones
Walking back to the bus we stopped to watch a couple of Bullfinches and a single Lesser Redpoll before John found a Water Rail very close by. A quick search for a 'drumming' Great Spotted Woodpecker was in vain.

We drove round to Mudgley to look for Cattle Egrets but none were there, a huge number of Redwings and Fieldfares littered the fields with a single Song Thrush, a couple of Stonechats, a flock of Linnets and two Red Foxes!

Eurasian Teal - photo by Kevin Jones

A short drive around Tealham Moor produced sightings of many Lapwings, thrushes, Rooks, Jackdaws and Starlings, but nothing new.

After a short stop in Wedmore where we bought lunch we travelled to Cheddar Reservoir. Our lunch was eaten in the car park as we sat in the lovely sunshine. Birding at the Reservoir was short but sweet, we scoped the whole circular body of water from one point, it was covered in parts with hundreds of ducks, coots and gulls. We added Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Goldeneye, Red-crested Pochard but we couldn't find any Goosander that were supposed to be there.
Great Egrets fighting - phot by Kevin Jones

We then drove through Cheddar and the famous Gorge but never stopped because it was packed with day trippers that swarmed all over the place, a nightmare.

So back to normality at Chew Valley lake where we spent the last two hours of day light watching thousands or birds from the two causeways, Heron's Green and Herriot's Bridge. Both places provides good sighting and offered opportunities to see one or two rarer birds. We added Black-necked Grebe, Bewick Swan (8), Shelduck and we put a lot of time in looking for Ring-billed and Mediterranean Gulls without reward. We also missed Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, Pink-footed Goose and Goosander because we never had time to drive all the way around this huge man-made lake, another time maybe.

We drove back to our guest house in the dark arriving in good time for another delicious dinner.




Friday, January 20, 2017

SOMERSET LEVELS - WEEKEND BREAK DAY 1 - FRIDAY 20TH JAN 2017

WEATHER: a superb winter's day with a cloudless sky, no wind but cold. Top temp 5C.

The group arrived on time as we met at our guest house near Meare on the Somerset Levels. After settling in and a nice cuppa we were all ready for an afternoon's birding in the bright sunshine.

I drove the group round to Ham Wall nature reserve where we planned to walk the main track and to visit the viewing platforms and the large raised Avalon Hide. Our main objective however was to stay until dusk t o watch the famous 'starling murmuration'.
Glastonbury Tor looking from Ham Wall

In the car park we watched the bird feeders situated behind the visitor's centre where Blue, Great and Coal Tits were feeding on peanuts and Chaffinches were picking out seeds below them.

My group for the weekend, L to R Chris, Ted, Tom, Marianne and John
Along the main track we had excellent views over reed-beds, pools, ditches and managed channels where we found many species of wildfowl as well as passerines in the bushes and trees. The seven most common ducks were all present in good numbers, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Gadwall and Common Pochard, whilst smaller numbers of Little and Great Crested Grebes, Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan and Great Cormorant joined them.
I love the fine vermiculation on the flanks of the male Gadwall
a closer view of the breast and flank - Gadwall
The larger birds consisted of egrets and herons with Great Egret being the most common and both Grey Heron and Little Egret providing a supporting cast.

From the Avalon Hide we searched for Bittern without success but we had great views of 3 Marsh Harriers and we heard Water Rail. We watched Reed Buntings feeding on the phragmites seed-heads and Stonechats and Robins in the scrub. A distant field held a number of Lapwing and a Mistle Thrush, a Kestrel sat in very distant tree feeding on its latest kill and a number of sightings of Common Buzzard was enjoyed by all of us.

Great Egret
Taking the long way back to the main track we stopped to watch a couple of Goldcrest, a single Long-tailed Tit and as we joined the track we found a flock of Goldfinch and with them were both Lesser Redpoll and Siskin. Some time was spent at a viewing platform where we added a couple of Common Chiffchaff but not much else.

one of the first flocks of starlings to arrive

Wren, Blackbird and Dunnock joined the list before we settled at one spot to wait for the starling spectacle. Over the next half an hour and until it got dark we were mesmerised by the amazing number of starlings coming to roost. Despite the lack of 'murmuration' it was still a wonderful spectacle, the stunning and most colourful sky formed a perfect back-drop to the thousands of black 'dots' swarming across our vista.
a mass of starlings with a Marsh Harrier in amongst them - can you spot it?

It was cold now and getting dark, a crescendo of noise emanated from the reeds as the starlings settled down for the night, it was time for us to leave them to it. We walked back to the bus in the dark with hordes of other birders who had also braved the cold night air to watch this spectacle.

We completed our bird-log before a superb home cooked dinner was served, we logged 50 species this afternoon, a very enjoyable start to our weekend break in Somerset.





Wednesday, January 18, 2017

SOMERSET LEVELS - DAY TRIP

Weather: mostly clear and sunny, top temp 10C, dry all day.

This was a fantastic day out with gorgeous weather, superb light and a nice range of species. I left home at 8am just as it got light and spent 40 minutes in the car before arriving at Ham Wall, it was cloudy to start but as the morning progressed the sky cleared completely.

Glastonbury Tor
The main track at Ham Wall is in fact an old railway track which is raised and provides excellent views over the marshes, pools and tree-lined droves. I soon listed a number of species in the shrubs and trees, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Reed Bunting, Robin, Dunnock and Blackbird.
Ham Wall marsh and pool
In the pools all the common duck species were present in good numbers, Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Common Pochard, they were joined by Pintail, Great Cormorant, Great Crested and Little Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Mute Swan and Common Snipe.
Reed Bunting
I walked to the 'new' Avalon Hide where I added Great Egret, Canada Goose and two top birds, Eurasian Bittern and Water Rail.
Eurasian Bittern
Water Rail
After an enjoyable hour in the hide I walked further along the main track to Loxton's Marsh where I sat in Noah's Hide. I added Greylag Goose, Little Egret, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kingfisher, Common Stonechat, Eurasian Chiffchaff and I saw at another 30 Long-tailed Tits in 3 more flocks.
5 Great Egrets with 9 Grey Herons
More Great Egrets were seen with a number of Grey Herons, it is amazing that Great Egret numbers in the UK have exploded in recent years. A fantastic count of 31 was seen recently at the Ham Wall roost.
can't believe a Peacock Butterfly was on the wing today
Back at the car park a pair of Ravens flew over, a Great Spotted Woodpecker perched nearby and 3 finches fed nearby, Chaffinch, Greenfinch and Goldfinch.
Gadwall
Next I walked to Noah's Lake on Meare Heath, along the way I searched for a Firecrest which had been seen earlier, it never showed.

Noah's Lake was covered in birds but only a single juvenile Whooper Swan was new for my day list, the light was superb and ideal for photography.

Eurasian Wigeon
Tufted Duck
I returned to the car park for a second time to find out that a Yellow-browed Warbler had been seen close by, however my search turned up nothing.

I travelled to Westhay Moor to look for Cattle Egrets but only found Pied Wagtails, Redwings, Fieldfares, Lapwings and a Song Thrush.

From there I visited Tealham Moor another superb section of the 'levels' where I saw many species, nothing new except Common Gulls, Common Pheasant and Rooks.

The last hour of the day was a classic winter sunset, the colours were simply stunning. I drove back to Ham Wall to watch the Starling roost and whilst their numbers were around 1 million birds they never performed as they are supposed to. Nevertheless, it was spectacular and a fitting end to a beautiful day.


Starlings - quite a few of them!













Thursday, January 12, 2017

GAUCIN - OUR LAST WALK BEFORE LEAVING FOR THE UK

AFTERNOON,  CIRCULAR WALK BELOW THE VILLAGE

WEATHER:  another fantastic sunny day, cloudless, warm and no wind.

We left the village around 2pm on a track from Calle Tinajones which takes you down into the Genal Valley passing below the Castle. We returned on a narrow footpath arriving at the bottom of Calle Casares, this circular walk can be done in about 30 minutes, it took us 2 hours because we stopped so many times to admire the wonderful views and the very active bird/insect life.

looking down the main track

It was great to see the 'wintering' Booted Eagle again, we had 3 different sightings and yet  I still failed to photograph it. The little blighter crept up behind us on two occasions and flew across the bright sunlight, the third view was too distant.
Sierra Crestellina with Almond blossom in the foreground
A 'kettle' of 49 Griffon Vultures clustered in the valley between Sierra Crestellina and Gaucin and both Common Kestrel and Common Buzzard showed up too.

The bushes, trees and open fields produced many bird sightings with the usual fare of Blackcap, Black Redstart, Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Sardinian Warbler, Robin, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Blackbird and Blue Tit.
Gibraltar and Morocco in the distance - taken from the track

A Short-toed Treecreeper was nice to see and the pink almond blossom was starting to break out all over the place and was buzzing with bees, it really felt like a sunny June day in the UK!

This really warm winter spell enticed several butterflies out on the wing, we saw Cleopatra, Large White, Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow, also, and to our great delight, we saw a Hummingbird Hawk Moth.

a young Iberian Wall Lizard sunning itself

We said goodbye to the beautiful surroundings as we re-entered the village, we'll be back on April 4th.

If you want to see what birding trips we do during the next two months then follow the wingspanner blog go to: www.wingspanbirdtours.com/blog

Monday, January 9, 2017

Birding in Spain - January 9th 2017

Andalucia - Los Lances beach - La Janda - Barbate river and marshes

We had a brilliant day out with the most beautiful weather - not a cloud all day, not a whiff of wind and the light was just exquisite.

Dawn and I collect John & Mary on the edge of Gaucin and we all drove down to Casares where we picked up Penny. From there we drove straight to Tarifa to visit Los Lances Beach. What a great start to our birding, the still air produced perfectly calm water giving wonderful reflections of the surrounding mountains in perfect light.

the view from the hide at Los Lances beach
From the approach track and boardwalk we logged several species such as Meadow Pipit, Stonechat, Crested Lark, Corn Bunting, Spotless Starling and Cattle Egret.

On the beach feeding around the pools we saw a good selection of waders and several species of gull loafed around in the pools. Grey, Ringed and Kentish Plovers, Sanderling, Dunlin and Turnstone made up the wader numbers whilst Audouin's, Black-headed, Yellow-legged and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were joined by a single Sandwich Tern. Dozens of Crag Martins dashed above the beach and other species such as Little Egret, Grey Heron, Goldfinch, Linnet and Robin made up the numbers.
the calm waters at Los Lances
At La Janda we were surprised to be enshrouded in a thick mist but this soon burnt off to reveal a flat landscape of rice fields, reed-filled ditches, flat pastures and distant hills, the whole area was brimming with birds.

Along the first section we noted Great White Egret, Lapwing, Stonechat, Corn Bunting and Common Buzzard, as we reached the central track we stopped for coffee and cake, how nice! From this raised track we had splendid views of our surroundings, the water level in the central 'drain' (canal) was very low  creating a reed-fringed muddy environment which was excellent habitat for wintering Bluethroats, which was exactly was we saw next. What a stunner, a perfectly marked male white-spotted Bluethroat, marvellous!

The Bluethroat


Green Sandpiper, Common Crane, White Stork, Calandra Lark, Zitting Cisticola, Purple Swamphen were seen in the ditches and fields whilst a lovely male Hen Harrier sat preening in a pasture giving lovely scope-views. A flock of some 300 Common Cranes landed in a distant field just as we began our trek along the track.

rice fields at La Janda

As we worked our way along the central track we added more species to the list with Marsh Harriers turning up quite often and good numbers of Little Egrets, Spoonbills, Grey Herons and White Storks lining most of the ditches and rice fields.
panorama of La Janda 
A few more waders appeared, with Greenshank, Common Snipe and a very surprising Wood Sandpiper (not a bird I would expect to find wintering in Spain). A number of raptors circled on thermals we found a couple of real goodies, first a Bonelli's Eagle and then a Spanish Imperial Eagle joined three Marsh Harriers, wow could it get any better?
these specs are White Storks up on the thermals
Well, yes it could. Our next sighting was of a Kingfisher and then we found another unexpected migrant when a Wryneck landed in the top of a nearby bush.

A second Bonelli's Eagle appeared as we stopped for lunch and during lunchtime we saw Cetti's and Sardinian Warblers, Great Tit, Red-legged Partridge, Common Kestrel, Griffon Vulture and a second Kingfisher.

the central drain - Bluethroat habitat

We drove off La Janda about 3pm stooping several times to watch even more birds, but we missed sightings of Short-eared Owl, Black Stork and Black Winged Kite which has all been seen recently, never mind you can't see them all.

A quick stop along the road to Vejer de la Frontera was made to look for an Eagle Owl, which often sits out in the day time, proved fruitless, however we did see Black- Redstart, Raven, Common Buzzard and lots of Jackdaws.

At Barbate we stopped at the main bridge near the mouth of the river Barbate, the tide was turning and began to ebb as we watched the marshes from a grassy verge. More waders appeared, we saw both Common Redshank and Spotted Redshank standing side by side, also Black-winged Stilt, Grey Plover, Greenshank and a dozen more Sandwich Terns. A Caspian Tern in flight was nice and a closer view of Spoonbill was enjoyed by all.
Eurasian Spoonbill

On Barbate Marsh Reserve we hoped to finish in flurry but we were disappointed by the lack birds on the lagoons, we discovered why when we saw a powered-paraglider preparing to take off. Nevertheless sightings of more waders, Spoonbills, a couple of Ospreys, 5 Stone Curlews and a bunch of Calandra Larks was very nice to finish off the day.

poor record shot of Stone Curlew

It was now 5pm the sun was dropping, we were losing the good light and temperature was falling so we called it a day and set off home. It had been a wonderful day, we logged 75 species with some real beauties on the list.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Gaucin walks 8th Jan 2017

weather: mostly sunny with some clouds, light westerly wind, max temp 15C

Punta Umbria circular walk.

Dawn and I set off from the village for the walk around the hillside of La Umbria found along the Ronda road. The walk is about 7km in all and takes you through some superb 'ancient' cork oak woodlands with open glades, stands of pine, carob and sweet chestnut. It is because of this diverse woodland habitat that such a good range of woodland bird species can be found there especially in the spring and summer.
view of mature oaks

looking back to Gaucin and El Hacho

We bumped into two Firecrests after just 50 meters into the wood, then a series of sightings included; Robin, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Blue Tit.

On the south side of the hill a section of much older mature cork oak trees straddle the slopes this where we saw Eurasian Nuthatch, Crested Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit and we heard Great Spotted Woodpecker 'drumming'.
view across to Cortes de la Frontera
As we rounded the last section of the woodland the tree species changed, large areas of sweet chestnut trees stood in silence, bereft of leaves and birds. Another woodpecker drummed as we started the descent back to the village.
fellow walkers!
A Short-toed Treecreeper was a good find, another species for my year list, Griffon Vultures drifted over all morning heading in all directions with no particular place to go.
plants and lichen growing on the rock - we counted 8 different species in this picture
more growth on a cork oak tree-trunk
A stunning male Black Redstart seen just outside the village gave us a few minutes enjoyment, it really was a corker. Other species seen as we finished were Sardinian Warbler, Crag Martin and Raven.