Northern Spain – Holiday Report

June 29, 2013 in ChrisLuv's Birding Blog, Featured, Holiday and Trip Reports by ChrisLuv

It’s nice to have something to write about on here, even if it isn’t anything local.

We have just got back from two weeks in “Green” Spain, where we stayed in Noja near Santander on the Northern Coast. It was a family holiday but gave a good chance to get out with the camera and see something different on the wildlife front.

The wildlife watching began on the journey there, the 24 hour Portsmouth to Bilbao ferry offered a good chance to see Whales and Dolphins, as well as the chance of some birds. Dophin’s obliged in the Bay of Biscay where the calm crossing made it easy to pick out two separate groups of splashing Adult Dolphins, some with young I think. On the bird front it was very quiet, keeping an eye on two small children makes see watching difficult, but Gannets and what I think was a Shearwater sp. (Balearic maybe?) were on my list.

Having arrived it was obvious why this part of Spain is called Green Spain, the rugged, undulating craggy coast is a lush green, and the scenery is spectacular. Obviously that much green needs to be watered and so the holiday started and ended with 3 days of heavy rain (not unusual for this area of Spain due to the geography of the mountains). Fortunately in the middle of the holiday we were treated to perfect temperatures and managed to get out and about locally around the campsite and further afield to explore.

The highlight of the trip was the amazing Cabarceno Wildlife Park , set in nearly 2000 acres reclaimed from an old iron mine. The craggy mountain scenery has been sculpted to form large, natural enclosures for the 100 or so animals, comprising lions, tigers, puma, giraffes and elephants, among the many others. The 15 miles or so of roads around the park mean you can drive and / or walk, and enjoy the park in all its glory, the size of the enclosures making it appear as if you were in Africa rather than Spain. My own personal highlight was the amazing Bird of Prey show, having been to these in the UK I nearly didn’t bother but I’m so glad we did. The kids watched in awe as birds like Andean Condor and Lammergeier, with massive 3m  wingspans flew literally inches over our heads. Bird after bird was brought out, unfortunately with commentary in Spanish it was hard to keep track of what was what, but as the Black Kites came out I recognised these, we’d seen them regularly during the trip already. I wasn’t expecting though to see 8 or so birds being fed by the keepers only feet in front of us, they’d throw morsels of meat and the birds swooped, dived and grabbed them in the air. Click, click, click went the camera as I tried desperately to work out which birds to concentrate on, often finding them too close too focus. After that specacle the main keeper said something and all eyes turned to the mountains, suddenly, over the hill, came an enormous bird, with jesses, maybe a black chested Buzzard (I lost track), and we watched as it came into the small arena and caught its dinner from a rope trailed behind the keeper. This continued with several other birds being released over the mountains, including a Bald Eagle, which caught it’s fish dinner from a pond in the middle of the arena – Splash!


A Black Kite swoops for a morsel



The Peregrine didn’t get a showing


Black Kite




Black Kites grapples and food passes were fairly common


I was too slow for the bald eagle!

Well what could top that? Well soon we were experiencing wild birds as we found a massive Griffon Vulture circling with the wild Black Kites, it’s size making it stand out immediately. Add to the the pair of Eygptian Vultures that had made their home in the craggy sides of the Brown Bear enclosure and we were very happy. In fact the Bear enclosure was very enticing for the birds, especially at feeding time when the spectacle of 60 Brown Bears fighting for food would have been great in itself without the addition of the similar number of wild Black Kites circling, diving and bombing and trying their luck to grab any morsel they could – clearly these scavengers had adapted to the feeding time and knew when to arrive. By now the camera was nearly smoking through overuse – more desperate clicking as I tried to catch the spectacle. See below for some vulture record shots, and some of the wild Kites.


Griffon Vulture


Eygptian Vulture


And finally some wild Black Kite images….




The rest of the park was just as exciting, and there were a few birds of prey which went unidentified, including a possible Golden Eagle. If you’re in the that part of Spain then I’d recommend the park for both its captive, and wild, animals.

Bird-wise the rest of the holiday was good, the campsite at Playa Joyel in Noja was pleasant and hosted Serin and Firecrest among its more glamorous species. The regular flyovers of the now ubiquitous Black Kite and Cattle and Little Egrets were also interesting, I eventually tracked the Egrets to an island off shore which hosted roughly 60 – 80 Egrets, offering them a good roost / breeding area. Black and Common Redstart adorned the cliffs, but despite a cat and mouse game with a Black Redstart I didn’t get a decent photo. Peregrine offered killer views along the coast and at Santander’s Península de la Magdalena, where they manager to avoid my camera except when facing the wrong way.

Butterflies were just as interesting, if a little more difficult to find. Clouded Yellow were very common, as were Painted Lady. Other species such as the Adonis Blue and Long Tailed Blue were very welcome. Some photos below.

Small Copper

Small Copper


Painted Lady


Long Tailed Blue (and below)



Clouded Yellow

Butterfly Blues

I think this is an Adonis Blue (and below)



Finally other wildlife, such as Lizards and Hummingbird Hawkmoths were expected but always welcome. Hope you enjoyed the photos and write up.






East Anglia in two days 25 and 26 /06/2013

June 28, 2013 in Holiday and Trip Reports by Jim Steele

I took the campervan to Norfolk and Suffolk for two days to try and catch up with some more of the British butterflies and dragonflies I’d like to see.

First port of call was Upton Fen by the Broads, and what a beautiful reserve this is – fens, woods, streams and grassland. I was lucky by all accounts to catch a Swallowtail butterfly given that others weren’t seeing them and whilst I have seen them abroad I was just stunned at the size, shape and colours of this beauty. The other ‘target species’ was Norfolk Hawker and I eventually saw four of these very rare insects. Both Swallowtail and the Hawker are restricted to the Broads area more or less. Variable Damselfly put in an appearance as did a Hobby, whilst the fen was full of Marsh Orchids. A female Cuckoo made that weird bubbling noise – ages since I have heard this.

RSPB Strumpshaw Fen was next but by this time the sun had all but deserted me. Three Marsh Harriers were great to watch as always and I caught up with a Bittern flying along the River Yare (of Yarmouth fame!). Brief views of Norfolk Hawker here, too. A tip from the volunteer at the Centre sent me scurrying up a small lane to someone’s garden where a bed of impressive flowers yielded very close and truly awesome views of another Swallowtail – see pic below.

The next day required an hour’s drive to the very attractive Redgrave and Lopham Fen near Diss. I was told this was an impressive place and I wasn’t disappointed. Target species here was Scarce Emerald Damselfly – very rare – but I was a bit early in the season and the ‘Lestes’ damsels were only just emerging; in addition, they are very hard to separate from the common Emerald Damsel! I definitely saw some Emeralds, and I think I saw a teneral, female Scarce, but in any case the place was alive with Four-spotted Chaser, Emperors, a few Southern Hawkers, a single ovipositing Brown Hawker and a few Hairy Dragonflies. Calling Water Rails accompanied me and Little Egrets were fighting. No sign of the very rare Raft Spider – which is huge – but you have to be lucky for this. Two Hobbies were catching insects above the woods and Reed Warblers were everywhere. Lots of butterflies including my first Painted Lady of the season completed my visit to a very special place.

Finally, in a suitably exhausted state, I had an hour at the amazing earthworks Devil’s Ditch (or Dyke) near Newmarket racecourse but no sign of the speciality Lizard Orchid. I will have to go back…





The Scottish Play

June 23, 2013 in Holiday and Trip Reports by Simon Horsnall

Just returned from a few very enjoyable days in Scotland entomologising.  Five of us met in Manchester at 6 am on Wednesday and drove to Scotland, stopping at Ben Lawers to look for Large Heath.  Unfortunately, apart from a few brief glimpses of possibles, no joy but there were big piles of sheep poo which yielded many beetles.  On the Lepidoptera front there were Small Argent and Sable, Common Heath, Green-veined White ssp thomsoni and Argent and Sable.  Then on to the Black Wood of Rannoch for overnight camping and moth trapping.  Plagued by midges all night but managed to get 4 traps out.

A little bit of a disappointing haul because of a break in the cloud giving a moonlit night but several species: Lesser Swallow Prominent, Pale-shouldered Brocade, Poplar Hawkmoth and Broken-barred Carpet.  We then set out to Newtonmore for supplies.  Well stocked up  and a poor meal in a local cafe and we went down the road to Creag Dubh.  A dead Red Squirrel was heaving with beetles and there was a solitary Northern Brown Argus.  Then on to Insh Marshes for the night.  Here we trapped in mixed Birch and Juniper scrub with 6 traps.

Lots more species the following morning and it took hours to sort through them.  The most interesting was probably 17 Saxons but also Tawny-barred Angle, Pine Carpet, Dark/Dusky Brocade, Lesser Swallow Prominent, Swallow Prominent, Iron Prominent, Coxcomb Prominent and many more.  The sun then broke just long enough to get Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary before setting off west.  The weather turned a little and whilst several promising Large Heath habitats were tried, we had no success.  We arrived fairly late at Spean Bridge where a walk gave only one Chequered Skipper so we had fish and chips before setting the traps and doing a little dusking.  Pretty Pinion was seen in numbers.

The  following morning the traps were full.  Elephant and Poplar Hawkmoths, Foxglove Pug, Flame Carpet and Peacock Moth were among the pick of the bunch.  The weather then turned awful so we drove down the western side of Scotland, past Loch Lomond to Tyndrum where the cafe was packed so we carried on to Crianlarich Station where an all day breakfast was enjoyed before setting off home.

All in all a very productive trip which was blighted by less than perfect weather.  An estimated 100 moth species were seen.  Two target butterflies were completely missed and three were in short numbers.  Next time I am taking more insect repellent though.


Large Skippers at heanor

June 22, 2013 in Latest Patch Sightings by colin penny

Large skipperFour counted on the local field to me at Heanor on Thursday along with several small heath

Storm Clouds Over Bennerley

June 22, 2013 in Photo Posts, Sightings, The Bennerley Birders Pages by Bennerley

Not a pleasant day at Bennerley today, but two very pleasant ladies had turned out armed with clipboards to take an inventory of the site plant species on behalf of the flora recorder for Nottinhamshire, they appeared taken by the plants they were finding, especially the many sedge’s they had come across.

The weather was poor so not much to report, not much seen, but a couple of butterflies made the effort, first a single Dingy Skipper and then a splendidly fresh Gatekeeper, plus a few hardy Common Blue Damselflies, meanwhile a single Skylark was holding his own from a pile of soil on the building site that is Chat Corner.

Bennerley. Cormorant, Black-headed Gull, Common Tern, 3 Grey Heron, 5 Lapwing, 12 Swallow, 3 Sand Martin, 7 Swift, Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Greenfinch, Green Woodpecker. Chat Corner. Sky Lark, Meadow Pipit, 3 Swift.

Butterflies. Dingy Skipper, Gatekeeper. Plus. Common Blue Damselflies.





Storm clouds over Bennerley

Storm clouds over Bennerley

Red Eyed At Bennerley !

June 21, 2013 in Photo Posts, Sightings, The Bennerley Birders Pages by Bennerley

Red-eyed Damselflies made an appearance at Bennerley today in decent numbers, plus many Chimney Sweeper moths on the wing.

Eleven Reed Warbler at Tathams Pond, birds everywhere ! lots in song, amazing, although I stuck around to try for a photo, not one was usable, these little blighters are just too quick for me !

Bennerley. Reed Bunting, Chiffchaff, 4 Whitethroat, 2 Black-headed Gull, 2 Goldfinch, Song Thrush, 5 Swift. Tathams Pond. 11 Reed Warbler, 2 Whitethroat, Reed Bunting, 6 Long-tailed Tit, North Marsh. 4 Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler, Meadow Pipit,6 Reed Bunting, 5 Goldfinch, 29 Sand Martin, Buzzard, 3 Pheasant. Chat Corner. 3 Swift, Reed Bunting.

Butterflies. Meadow Brown, 2 Peacock, 2 Ringlet, 4 Small Heath, 4 Common Blue,Large White, Small White. Damselflies. Red-eyed, Common Blue, Azure, Banded Demoiselle. Moths. Pale Tussock, Cinnabar, Chimney Sweeper [lots !]

Common Blue Danselfly

Common Blue Danselfly

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unknown Moth

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House Sparrow

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Red-eyed Damselfly

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Yellow Iris

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Male Banded Demoiselle

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A Horses Head !

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Azure Damselflies

Notts sightings for Tue 18th Jun (courtesy of Notts Birdwatchers)

June 20, 2013 in Other Notts Sightings by rssfeeds

  • Clifton - 1 Ring-necked Parakeet [in trees at Glapton Primary School at 15:30].
  • Newark - 1 Little Egret [flew south along Trent].
  • Lound - 1 Ringed Plover, 2+ Oystercatcher, 3+ Common Redshank, 2+ Common Shelduck, 7 Red-crested Pochard, 2 Common Tern, 1+ Turtle Dove [heard], 1 Eurasian Wigeon [drake].
  • Budby Pumping Station - Gadwall [good numbers], Common Buzzard, Oystercatcher, Green Sandpiper, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff.

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Notts sightings for Mon 17th Jun (courtesy of Notts Birdwatchers)

June 20, 2013 in Other Notts Sightings by rssfeeds

  • Eastwood - White Stork [on roof].

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Notts sightings for Sun 16th Jun (courtesy of Notts Birdwatchers)

June 20, 2013 in Other Notts Sightings by rssfeeds

  • Clumber Park - Common Kestrel, Common Shelduck, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Garden Warbler, 27 Mute Swan, Common Buzzard, Bullfinch.
  • Oxton Bypass - Common Kestrel.
  • Worksop - Common Kestrel.

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Notts sightings for Sat 15th Jun (courtesy of Notts Birdwatchers)

June 20, 2013 in Other Notts Sightings by rssfeeds

  • Attenborough Nature Reserve - 1 Reed Bunting, 1 Common Pochard, 1 Egyptian Goose, 55 Gadwall, 1 Red-crested Pochard, 3 Common Tern, 1 Herring Gull, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Grey Heron, 4 Willow Warbler, 1 Blackcap, 1 Garden Warbler, 5 Common Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Reed Warbler, 2 Sedge Warbler, 15 Common Swift.
  • Budby Pumping Station - Hobby, 2 Ostercatcher [with young].
  • Sherwood Forest Country Park - 1 Red Kite [drifting west], 1 Spotted Flycatcher.

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