Switzerland- Lausanne and a day out to the Bernese Oberland, 5-7 June 2015

I have composed the following notes and images to help any visitors that may be heading to either place and have an interest in wildlife.  Despite being very well travelled in Europe, the most mountainous country wasn’t on my list. My wife booked surprise flights and accommodation at he Ibis Hotel, Lausanne for a weekend break to remedy this. We flew from Bristol to Geneva with Easyjet, took a train to Lausanne where we stayed for two nights. We used the metro and our legs to explore the town and shores of Lake Geneva. In addition we hired a car from Hertz for the day to explore the Bernese Oberland for a day, this spectacular region was only a two hour drive away. Highlights and images (copyright M.J.McGill) to follow.

Junkers Ju-52 from Murren, Bernese Oberland- 6 June 2015
This aircraft was built in 1938 and has an interesting history, it was used in the 1968 film-Where Eagles Dare, a much repeated but favourite childhood film.

JU-52 Junkers, Murren, Switzerland, MJMcGill

An early start due to a 2 hr drive to our target area, we stopped for provisions at the supermarket in Wilderswil and arrived at our destination in good time. The drive up through the Lauterbrunnen Valley to reach the car park is awesome, with more time to explore it has Wallcreeper written all over it. Offering sheer rock faces, spectacular waterfalls and sun spots aplenty it seems perfect, one for another day. Taking the Stechelberg 922m cable car (c£150 for us both) to the summit passing a close group of Chamois (one kid) which browsed the choice bits of a scree slope. We cruised past the limestone walls, crags, forests, meadows and snow fields.

At the top of the Schilthorn 2971m I estimated 15+ individuals of Alpine Accentor, many were viewable from the ‘James Bond’ revolving restaurant/cable car station. Pairs seemed to be in competition and males were in full song. I left the ‘safe’ area and followed a walking trail away from the busier tourist area. It was quiet, only birds, the breeze, Alpine Marmots calling (and showing below), this was a new species for me. The loudest sounds came from the rumble of avalanches on the steep mountain slopes adjacent. Snow Finch have been recorded here but I could not locate any, possibly too early or just not nesting in the area this year. Inquisitive Alpine Chough were numerous both here and lower down at the Birg cable car station. We had a drink and a bite to eat from the Piz Gloria restaurant and enjoyed the changing scenery as the restaurant rotated, Bond fans may want to visit the ‘museum’ below as On Her Majesty’s Secret Service was partly filmed here.

Views from all of the cable car stops are stupendous, we watched a Golden Eagle rise from beneath us and soar to great heights within minutes from the Birg platform. Having the Eiger and Jungfrau as a backdrop in bright, sunny and clear weather was brilliant. Dropping down to the Murren platform we walked back up hill through alpine meadows and butterflies to initially have a drink at a restaurant (it was another very hot day, 30 C+)then to picnic next to a stream. I chilled the food and drink in the cold water, it allowed our melted Toblerone to reform but not in the distinctive shape.

I was pleased to see and hear a 1930’s Ju-52 transport plane  in the valley, pic above. Around the car-less village we saw Black Redstarts, Serins, Siskin and Redpolls as well as Continental Coal Tit and Firecrests, both feeding young.

Alpine Accentor (next three images) Summit of the Schilthorn.

Alpine Accentor, Shilthorn, 002, MJMcGill

Alpine Accentor, Shilthorn, 003, MJMcGill

Alpine Accentor, Shilthorn, Switzerland, 001, MJMcGill

Black Redstart- singing male, framed in a Murren Chimney Pot with the Eiger beyond.

Black Redstart and the Eiger, Murren, Switzerland, MJMcGill

Alpine Choughs (next two)

Alpine Chough, Shilthorn, Swiss Alps, MJMcGill

Alpine Chough, Shilthorn, MJMcGill

Lausanne Ouchy
Note the Red-crested Pochard

Ouchy, RCP, MJMcGill

Tour de l’Ale, Lausanne- this medieval tower was the home for many Alpine Swifts, their chattering calls could be heard all over the town but concentrations both here and around the cathedral were noted in the evenings. A Hobby at the latter site caused them and the hirundines to form up a dense nervous party, I estimated c 30 Alpine Swift. The tower acts as a giant nest box, it may have been home to these boomerang winged birds for centuries. Black Redstarts were very common about the town.

Tour de L'Ale Tower, Lausanne

Red-crested Pochard
These smart ducks were common on Lake Geneva and approachable, we hired a pedalo and got some great views! It just goes to show once again that being approachable does not always mean that they escaped from a captive collection. This species has increased rapidly in Switzerland from the 1990’s, improved water quality allowing aquatic vegetation (their choice of food) to grow again.

Red-crested Pochard, Ouchy, MJMcGill

Red-crested Pochard, Ouchy, Lake Geneva, MJMcGill

Red-crested Pochard, Lake Geneva, MJMcGill

RCP and pedalo, Ouchy, Switzerland, MJMcGill

Red-crested Pochards, Lake Geneva, MJMcGill

The Ouchy marina held a variety of common water birds including White Wagtail, Yellow legged Gull, Common Tern, Mute Swan, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Red-crested Pochard and Cormorant.
Great Crested Grebe

Great Crested Grebe, Ouchy Marina, Lake Geneva, MJMcGill

Lausanne Ouchy marina, busy with waterbirds, some kind soul had provided a raft for the grebes to nest among the boats.

Great Crested Grebes and Red-crested Pochard, Ouchy Marina, Lake Geneva Great Crested Grebe, Lausanne Marina

Other species of note were the numerous Black Kites along the shore of Lake Geneva and in the lowland valleys, 100’s were seen during the weekend. One Red Kite was seen between Bern and Interlaken both on the way and returning from the Bernese Oberland. I hope you enjoyed the images and notes.

Martin McGill July 2015






Day out to Marsh Lane NR, Warwickshire-Friday 26 June.

Three of us set off for Warwickshire at 0700 experiencing some traffic around Birmingham arriving at around 0900. Road closures played a part in some congestion, we arrived on site and aimed for our first target of the day . A long-staying (16 days) and highly vocal Melodious Warbler was well worth seeking out, this bird had been discovered by a local birder along a nearby bridleway. Following the directions we passed a small wood with Great spotted Woodpecker, Goldcrest and Coal Tits showing and calling. Approaching the compost plant perimeter fence the warbler was in full flow and audible from some distance.

A very enjoyable hour was spent in this songster’s company, it gave us excellent views and the full repertoire. It was concealed for periods but with patience came out into the open every so often. The MW would engage any bird that appeared in the sallow with, whether this was territorial or it was just so pumped up and sang at anything I couldn’t be sure. It was difficult to walk away and leave such a great little bird. Sand Martins, Pied Wagtail, Green Woodpecker and Kestrel were also noted here.

Melodious Warbler, Marsh Lane, Warks.

Melodious Warbler, MJMcGill Melodious Warbler, Marsh Lane 2

Melodious Warbler, Marsh Lane, 003, MJMcGill Melodious Warbler , MJMcGill

Melodious Warbler, Marsh Lane, Warks, 26-06-15, MJMcGill

A brief stop at the Truck services across the road allowed us to use the facilities, the staff were very friendly, a coffee and egg roll certainly pepped me up. We had to purchase a permit and collect the gate key to access the private Marsh Lane NR, a nearby golf course (1.5 mile) is where the fishing lodge is located that issues the paperwork. Permits were £4.00 per person but the biggest surprise was the £50.00 deposit for the key. Back at the site (entrance at truck services)  a couple of gates were negotiated and we parked on the old road. The car park was unusable as Little-ringed Plovers were nesting. Avoiding the breeding site of these birds we skirted around to the first hide and spent a while scoping and studying the birds that were gathered.

A very busy Black-headed Gull colony was highly productive, at least 90 juveniles had fledged. Common Terns were present with more Sand Martins and Swifts, Gadwall were dabbling out on the lake, this included a brood of 9 well grown young. Great Crested and Little Grebes were also seen, the latter on the nest. Our third grebe species was a stunning breeding plumaged Black-necked Grebe, good views through the scope for all. Some scruffy Tufted Ducks and Mallard were in moult and a pair of Teal were seen.

The most interesting birds to watch at this busy site were the nesting Little ringed Plovers and territorial Ringed Plovers. Lots of display, ‘broken wing’ feigning to attract bumbling Black-headed Gulls away from nest sites by LRP’s and mate displays from the RP’s. Simply great little birds to watch. A few pairs of Redshank, A flock of post-breeding Lapwing and noisy Oystercatchers all added to the busy scene.

Ringed and Little Ringed Plovers

Ringed PLOVER Little ringed Plover, Marsh Lane

Great Crested and Black-necked Grebe

Great Crested Grebe Black-necked Grebe

Further exploration of the hides (6-7 on site) produced an ever increasing list of birds but more importantly, good views. Linnet, singing Blackcap, Reed Bunting, Reed Warbler, more Common Terns on nests and Black-headed Gulls with 110+ more juveniles were all seen. Sedge Warbler was singing from typha in front of one hide, a trio of Cormorant sat in the dead trees. The skies darkened as some weather loomed, fortunately we were dry in one of the well placed hides. After the rain shower a smart full hooded, second summer Mediterranean Gull dropped in to bathe. A nice bird to end on. Back at the car before leaving a Willow Warbler sang.

This reserve is worth a visit despite the long-winded way of accessing it. The hides are well positioned and there is plenty to see even without a couple of star birds for the day. After returning the key and claiming the deposit we returned to Gloucestershire by 3.15pm and concluded the birding day.





Zeeland, Netherlands and Belgium 25-28 February 2015

 Netherlands- Zeeland and (+ a little bit of Belgium) 25-28 February 2015.


25 February 2015
I could try but would struggle to be positive about the weather on the day of our departure, a wet and grey day heralded the start of our travels, the spray and traffic around London making things a little more unpleasant than we had liked. Despite the traffic we all arrived at Folkestone for the Channel Tunnel crossing on time and parked up for the ride over to Calais. It was soon time to make our way to our first birding destination. The weather was still poor but we decided to gamble on the favourable forecast and try our luck for the wintering Wallcreeper in Dinant.

Once again traffic at the Belgian border held us up, the cloud and drizzle refused to lift as we arrived on the River Meuse in the charming town of Dinant, our priority was to scan the citadelle, the church and any sections of limestone cliff and buildings for the outrageous visitor. It continued to rain until dusk so we failed to find the Wallcreeper, the chance to have a coffee and chat in the local Leffe Bar was taken before we headed via Brussels to the Netherlands.

We eventually arrived and checked in to our comfortable accommodation near Renesse (Resort Land and Zee) which was situated behind the coastal dunes on one of the Zeeland Islands known as Schouwen. Arriving in the dark we were unable to take in the scale of the dams that formed our route across to the islands. Some of the group opted for a meal and a few drinks others plumped for an early night.

26 February 2015

Up at the earliest opportunity for a substantial breakfast and we were soon on the lanes heading out to goose country, it wasn’t long before were located a large flock of very close Barnacle and Greylag Geese and parked up to enjoy them. The surrounding wetlands held a variety of wintering wildfowl and waders, it was interesting to see that large areas in Duiveland were left or restored for wildlife, this was noted in many other parts of Zeeland. A scanning stop using the car as a hide was made on the Grevelingendam. A flock of Dark-bellied Brent grazed the car park grass, a thousand more fed on the tide line. Mergansers were feeding further out and a few grebes were noted. Slavonian were in various stages of moult to confuse things and some hide and seek Little Grebe were also present.

Our main destination for the day was the Hoeske Waard near Strijen and we were not dissapointed. Driving slowly along the many tracks that criss cross the area allowed some close goose watching, Barnacle Geese and European White-fronted  Geese were found in dozens of flocks in some cases numbering thousands. A Tundra Bean Goose was located close to the road amongst one flock of ‘fronts’. The support car located a few Smew on one of the ditches and the first couple of interesting goose hybrids was seen on the polders among the dense grazing flocks.

The rest of the morning was spent cruising, scanning, stopping and enjoying the birds from the car or if outside, behind it. For a lunchtime stop we headed to a bar in Strijen which offered a decent toasted sandwich and soup as well as a coffee, it was pleasant stop as we chatted to the friendly guy who was working there.

The afternoon saw us resume the exploration of the local polders and the careful searching of the goose flocks. Despite a small number of Lesser White-fronted Geese being seen in the area previously we could not find any in the birds we checked. Plenty of other species were seen during the day including Green and Great-spotted Woodpecker that were located in the orchard gardens of the dike banks. Hoping to end the day at another site we moved on to the mainland of Nord Brabant and made a short stop at Willemstad harbour. The WW2 bunkers and defences were prevalent at this spot as were the huge barges shipping cargo out in the channels. Red-breasted Merganser and Little and Great Crested Grebes were inshore, the weather had been windy and overcast but we had remained dry for much of the day. A sheltered pond nearby held a colony of Cormorant and Grey Heron, both species were present on their nest sites. We made our way to a nature reserve which held a variety of birds including a mega flock of thousands of Barnacle Geese on the adjacent farmland. The hide was a WW2 bunker which bridge the gap between wildlife and history. This devastating conflict had a huge impact on humans but in some cases created habitat for birds back home. The light was fading and the weather changed to a heavy shower as we scanned the flock, a Cackling Canada Goose was spotted as well as a couple of hybrids. We were beaten by the sunset and had to end the birding for the day.

27 February 2015

A brighter day with sunshine greeted us but the strong wind continued, a short drive away across the Brouwersdam to our first stop of the day, this was a small harbour/breakwater and the tide was high. We scoped the surf from the shelter of the car, the sea was very busy with c 30 Red-throated Diver, two drake Eider and numbers of Great Crested Grebe on show. The breakwater provided a steadier spot for a local rarity, a Black Guillemot bobbed about among the Red-breasted Mergansers, the auk even climbed out on the rocks to show off its crimson feet. A small number of Slavonian Grebes were also noted as well as a pair of Goldeneye.

To cap of the great birding here a flock of roosting Oystercatcher were joined by a flock of Sanderling, a single Grey Plover completed the roost.

Sanderling and Oystercatcher

Grey Plover

Heading North across Goeree and into the Westvoorne area we saw plenty of goose flocks along the way. We stopped in the woods with all but me, the driver, taking a stroll along the quiet roads back to the museum (Bezoekerscentrum Tenellaplas) to search for a flock of Waxwings. The pond held a few duck but the mistletoe clad trees were quiet. The Waxwings were located by dutch folk on the far side of the pond but flew off before we got there. A flock of Siskins sang and dropped down to the ditches in ones and two to drink.

Our next stop was nearby at Maasvlakte, this vast port area boasts huge sea defences to protect the land that has been claimed from the sea. We scanned the harbours picking up more grebes and mergansers. A large sandy area of fenced off weed strewn habitat was alive with life, the abundant prey had clearly attracted the raptors. We spent over an hour here and noted Sparrowhawk, 5+ Kestrel, a female Merlin, Common Buzzard and Rough-legged Buzzard, memorably the latter birds in  conflict allowing a great comparison. Another short drive away was the Slufter, a large lagoon seemingly used to house the results of dock dredging.  It was full of birds with Smew being the most notable.

We stopped at a service station along the main port canal not too far from Rotterdam for lunch and a brew, those dining inside ended up  striking up a conversation (in English) with a chap that ran a duck decoy. After refuelling we retraced our previous route tried our luck at a few different spots on the way back, the result was basically logging more wildfowl (a flock of Mute and Whooper Swan spotted in one field) . A longer drive back to the northern part of Duiveland  resulted and on arrival we followed the dike top road (Den Osse) stopping at a couple of harbours (Scharendijke and Brouwershaven) along the way. One stop was very rewarding due to the stunning light on the birds, flocks of Brent and Barnacle fed below us on the floods. Looking out with scopes over the horse grazed islands of the Grevelingenmeer, it was clear they were a haven for birds, a fishing boat arrived to unload its catch and a local character with a can of refreshment came to see what we were up to.

Barnacle and Brents


Following the roads back out to the Grevelingendam we crossed Overflakkee and returned to catch the birds coming in to roost at the reserve we visited the day before. The mega Barnacle Goose flock was still present with a small Canada seen in flight and couple of Barnacle x Canada Goose hybrids. A Peregrine was out on the marshes as well as Black-tailed Godwit and Curlew. White-fronted Geese began to arrive to roost as it got dark, we stayed until the light had gone ending a busy but satisfying day. In the evening the hotel restaurant once again did us proud, a relaxed atmosphere witnessed a few bottles of wine disappearing amongst the chatter.

28 February 2015

A later departure time followed  yet another good breakfast, it was time to begin our journey back to England. We headed south toward Middleburg and the stopped at various sites along the Versemeer, a huge movement of geese inland was in evidence so despite being time limited we tried to locate the masses, sadly we could not find the birds on our route, next day I found out that a Red-breasted Goose was in the very area we passed through. If only we had a bit more time.

Checking timings we had one more stop on the cards before boarding the Channel Tunnel  train back to blighty. Before this  I took a magical mystery tour via the Westersheldetunel. Leaving Zeeland (Beveland) behind we followed the canals into Belgium and we eventually arrived in Ghent, to be precise,  Wondelgem. A small wetland sandwiched between railway/houses and the highway was worth visiting for the passerines that were wintering there.

A small flock of Penduline Tit were soon located, these birds were delightfully confiding and extremely busy as the sought out grubs in the reedmace heads. We all had intimate views and heard the distinctive calls, we also got showered in the clouds of reedmace seeds that these little birds had set free. I was fortunate enough to experience the same behaviour as recent as  November 2014 when I the first for Glos dropped out of the sky in front of me.

A Common Chifchaff was notable but even better was the Siberian Chiffchaff that Ian had located near the Penduline Tits. A brilliant stop with classy birds but we had to move on, driving through the Belgian polders evoked thoughts of goose watching in future, many of the birds that had wintered here had moved North already. At Calais we had time to stop at a supermarket before boarding the train and making landfall in Kent. The drive back was straightforward with nothing more eventful than Ring-necked Parakeets and Red Kites thus ending our trip.

Penduline Tit, Wondelgem, Belgium, MJMcGill Penduline Tit, 2 Wondelgem, Ghent, Belgium

Martin J McGill

North Norfolk, a Cambridgeshire Fen and a Lincolnshire jaunt, 22-24 January 2015

Sunset at Thornham
Sunset at Thornham Harbour

Five of us left Gloucestershire with a Red Kite or two to add to our list on the way (A14) . We were meeting up with our sixth member of the party in Cambridgeshire to begin birding at Holme Fen. This was a very birdy area, the fenland restoration seemingly working well for our avian friends. On getting out of the car we were onto a Short-eared Owl immediately.  Large flocks of Linnet, Goldfinch and Greenfinch really made some noise and a flock of 30 Reed Bunting crept onto the track to feed/grit. Stonechat, 2 Little Egret and 2 Foxes kept us busy and a second Short-eared Owl began hunting, on a few occasions it came very close. Peregrine, 3 Buzzards, 2 Kestrel (we had noted 14 in total before leaving the area), Sparrowhawk, Raven and eventually a Rough legged Buzzard were all found. The latter bird dropped onto the ground among the Lapwing and Fieldfare to search for worms. The Rough-legged Buzzard was showing well hopping around possibly taking food from the plover and thrushes.

Rough-legged Buzzard Short-eared Owl, Holme Fen

Rough-legged Buzzard and Short-eared Owl

It was time to head on to Norfolk but we did see flocks of Whooper Swan before departing this fenland county. Our first stop was opposite Tesco in Hunstanton, even if I had not said everyone would have already guessed which species had been present. The two Waxwings showed before and after we were present so no luck today but we did not want to hang around in a car park for too long, not when there were so many great birds to see.

At Thornham Harbour we parked up and were immediately watching a charming flock of Twite, around 45 were skipping about the area feeding on the saltmarsh seeds. The low tide creeks held Redshank and Curlew with Grey Plover and Shelduck out on the mudflats. A Kingfisher fished by using the poles in the creeks as a lookout. At least six Marsh Harrier were around including an adult male, Pink-footed Geese came in to roost as well as a flock of Dark-bellied Brent Goose. Yet another highlight was a Barn Owl hunting the seawall, it caught a vole and flew off to the wood with its meal. Three Rock/Water Pipits flew over calling as did a Snipe but alas it was getting dark and time to head back to the hotel at Hunstanton.


I did see another Barn Owl sat atop a telegraph pole at Holme/Thornham on the way back to Burnham Deepdale in the late evening.

23 January 2015

I was up an out early to check on the Tesco Waxwings but they were having a lie-in, it was clear to see that a large movement of Fieldfare was underway. At the hotel we did a sea-watch from Hunstanton seeing 4 drake Eider, 6 Red-breasted Mergansers, Great Crested Grebes, 3 Common Scoter, Fulmars and a steady stream of vocal Fieldfare (2000+) were coming in off the sea and heading along the Wash coast.




Moving the short distance to Holme dunes it did not take long to locate a flock of 30 Snow Bunting. This mini blizzard settled on the frost laden high tide strand keeping company with Skylarks. The saltmarsh was busy with Knot, Redshank and Reed Bunting and the wader roost on the point was very busy with Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Dunlin, Knot, Sanderling, Grey Plover and Redshank.  Out on the sea some distant Red-throated Diver and Merganser were noted.

Snow Buntings

Snow Buntings

At Titchwell RSPB the drained pool W of the path held a Rock Pipit, an elusive Water Pipit, and a few Snipe and Redshank. The fresh marsh was frozen but 7 Avocet and a band of hardy Shoveler, Teal and Wigeon were sat on the ice waiting for milder times. On the brackish marsh things were more busy, 2 Little Grebe, Grey and Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Redshank and a nice comparison side by side of a single Bar and numerous Black-tailed Godwits. A couple of Linnet dropped among them. Out on the sea and beach a few wader species were present with a few Turnstone and Sanderling.  In the surf scattered Goldeneye, Merganser and Great Crested Grebe were present but sadly only a few female Common Scoter.

Along the coast we had to stop to scope the 4500 Pink-footed Geese and 2 Buzzard at Brancaster Staithe. The geese allowed us to watch them from a gap in the hedge, the only other goose species in the field was a Brent.  As we drove on  a trio of Egyptian Geese were seen near the windmill.


A stop at an advantage point overlooking Burnham Overy/Holkham dunes revealed at least three Red Kite, 2 Buzzard, 6 Marsh Harrier and best of all 2 Rough-legged Buzzard. One of these Arctic wanderers demonstrated its hovering hunting technique. On the marshes flocks of Greylag and Brent Goose had c60 White-fronted Geese among them. A couple of Mistle Thrush were also noted.


Next stop was Wells next the Sea and first bird a first winter Shag roosting on the quay, a couple of Little Grebe fished nearby, one visiting birder speculating that these were responsible for the reports of Red-necked Grebe over the last couple of days. Out over the saltmarsh a female (ringtail) Hen Harrier hunted with a fly through male that headed inland. A couple of Marsh Harrier were also seen. A male Sparrowhawk was on sentry duty near the quay and showed in the bright sunshine eventually a large flock of noisy Brent Geese arrived.


On scoping through the flock one really stood out, a big, robust and very black plumaged bird with a well marked throat slash was studied, in the strong sunshine a neck sock was just discernable from the mantle so it may have been an intergrade with Dark-bellied Brent or a genuine Black Brant.



Wells next the Sea Brents

Wells next the Sea Brent flock

Marsh Harrier, Holkham

Marsh Harriers were constant companions


The day was drawing to a close so were relocated to Warham Greens  for some dusk birding. It was pretty good, three male Hen Harrier (in same scope view), a ringtail female, 2 dashing Merlin and 2 more Marsh Harrier rounded off the day in style.


24 January 2015


A post breakfast seawatch was abandoned quickly at Hunstanton as the cold, eye watering wind was coming in off the sea. Changing venue to Brancaster met with one small problem, the tide had flooded the access road so we walked the bank to the beach. Ringed Plover, Redshank and Oystercatcher fed on the golf driving range, on the sea 20 Goldeneye, a few Red-throated Diver included a closer bird. Small parties of Common Scoter (3,4), Red-breasted Merganser and Great Crested Grebe were all seen.


A drive inland to search for geese was unsuccessful but a Bullfinch and a Grey Partridge were found near Choseley, scores of Red-legged Partridge and c40 Brown Hare were present. Another brief stop at Hunstanton beach to look for Waxwing was not rewarded by the crested wanderers but Turnstone and Ringed Plover were enjoyed between the groynes. We collected our non-Gloucestershire based team member’s car as we were heading back out of Norfolk that afternoon.


Our first stop was the Grimston Warren/Roydon Common area to search for the wintering Great Grey Shrike, a quiet but picturesque heath was eventually livened by the target masked predator. It gave us a number of views in the sunshine culminating in a flyover of our position. Moving on through Cambridgeshire we saw thousands of Fieldfare gathered over a large orchard as they feasted on the windfalls. Reaching Lincolnshire we drove along the drains that held Tufted Duck, one field held Golden Plover among the Lapwing. Our destination was Deeping Lakes LWT for late afternoon and from the hide we watched the roosting Long-eared Owl tucked up in the ivy, a few Goldeneye and four Goosander in the setting light. Many other wildfowl and wetland species were present on these pits.


We had reached the end of the trip with over 100 species of bird noted, lots of sunshine despite the cold wind and some memorable sightings.  A huge thanks to the group for good company, birding focus and such enthusiasm  that we did not notice it was winter.



Gloucestershire half day trip 10 January 2015

We began at 0900 with a  slow drive along the lanes of Fretherne which produced a total of 26 Little Egret, all were presumably worming in the wet fields. A forecast of gales was accurate so we began by meeting the incoming Severn estuary tide from the footpath just in case any seabirds made an appearance. A squall went through which forced us to shelter for a while but moved on allowing us to scope a flock of Curlew and take note of Meadow Pipits and Goldfinches that braved the exposed shore. Moving into the bushes we found shelter along with a couple of Chiffchaff that were fly catching. Out on the estuary Shelduck and a variety of gulls moved off with the tide.

A short drive away and we were soon looking through the ducks on the Court Lake at Frampton, it was busy with birds especially Tufted Duck, Coot, Shoveler and Gadwall. The first winter Greater Scaup and female Goldeneye were among the Pochard and a male Pintail was notable for this site. The sun was out which had enticed the Tawny Owl to sunbathe in the entrance to its hole.

It was a case of what to do as the wind had not abated so we tried our luck birding around Sharpness Dock recording a number of bird species, 2 Peregrine, Bullfinches and a Stonechat were the highlights but no Black Redstart was found on this occasion.

Heading back to Fromebridge we stopped to scan the gull flock roosting on the floods seeing all the expected gull species. The best surprise was a Green Sandpiper feeding on the edge of the water. The trip out ended at 1.30pm.

South Devon- 20 December 2014

Cirl Buntings– male and pair

Cirl Bunting, Broadsands, MJMcGill Cirl Buntings, Broadssands, MJMcGill

20 December 2014

We left Whitminster at 0700 and headed to South Devon stopping at Exeter services for a short break. A calm and sunny start to the day was ideal for watching passerines, Broadsands in Torbay is well known for Cirl Buntings along with other species that shelter in the valley. The buntings were showing well around the car park with 20+ present, Reed Buntings were also found among them. A range of common species were basking or fly-catching with Chiffchaff being obvious but the real star was a vocal and very showy little Yellow-browed Warbler that we all got to see very well.

A look on the sea revealed a Great Northern Diver fishing off the rocks, a few Shag loafed among the gull flock with the Great Black-backed Gulls dwarfing all around them. Further out a few Guillemot and distant Razorbill flew by on the horizon, a few of the former were diving a little closer in. Colin counted 36 Great Crested Grebe and among them two Black-necked Grebe were found. A small number of Gannet fished offshore.

A short drive away was Dawlish Warren with the promise of more birds but an immediate distraction for some was the seaside chippy. This sorted out the sea-watchers from the lunch takers, Colin was off to set up his scope for a scan. We all joined him for a look over the sea. Grey Seal, c 4 Common Scoter and a number of Great Crested Grebe were present, a few Red-throated Diver were picked up in flight or distantly floating. A flock of Shag were also fishing the beach. The biggest surprise was watching a flock of very distant white birds flying in from the east, it took a while to see that they were 11 Avocet. This group of waders eventually landed on the sea off the mouth of the Exe for a while. The eventually took flight and continued westward, perhaps to the Teign or a Cornish estuary, maybe beyond to the continent. Wherever they were going it was great to see migration of this species in action. We headed along the dune path heading toward the point scanning at various spots along the way, we picked up Stonechats, flocks of Dark-bellied Brent Geese and in the estuary a selection of waders, 4 Greenshank being the most notable. Red-breasted Merganser were in the low tide creeks but sadly we did not pick up the wintering Bonaparte’s Gull that was seen off Finger Point. Back on the sea a single Slavonian Grebe was in the mouth of the Exe.

Everyone was keen to get to Bowling Green Marsh RSPB at Topsham not least because 2-3 Penduline Tits had been seen again in the morning so we spent the rest of the day in that area. They did not show whilst we were present but the usual wildfowl and Black-tailed Godwits were on the marsh. From the viewing platform over the R. Clyst a full suite of estuary waders were feeding on the mud. The tide was just turning and the sun setting so the Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Avocets, Dunlin and Knot were all busy gleaning food. A search from the new viewing screens over the low tide creeks gave us Water Rail, Spotted Redshank, 2 Greenshank among the more numerous Redshank. The sun had now gone a it was time to return home, we got back at 6pm.

Thank you to all four of you that joined me for the day.

Somerset and Devon-1 November 2014

Somerset and Devon day trip

Grey Phalarope (1st winter) Otter Estuary, Budleigh Salterton, Devon

Grey Phal

Grey Phalarope

We all met up at Whitminster for a departure time of 0600 and made our first stop at WWT Steart Marshes. The reserve is fully open and is highly recommended as a birding destination or for a good walk in open country or even to cycle around. Although it was breezy we had fantastic light all day, bright sunshine. Our vantage point over the vast reserve was from the screens adjacent to Mendip Hide, and what a vantage point. Scanning and scoping produced a long list of sightings. We hoped to see the juvenile Pallid Harrier that has been present but were not lucky enough to connect today. It showed brilliantly the day after. The breach on the River Parrett side is fairly new so the relationship with birds and their movements is bound to still be evolving. We noticed that many species arrived through the morning to feed in the creeks as the tide dropped. Flocks of Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Linnet were seen out on the weedy areas, a few pairs of Stonechat roamed the hedges and weeds and flocks of Starlings totalling 1200 passed through during our watch.

It was very productive for raptors, Roberta spotted a Merlin, at least three Kestrel, 4 Buzzard, Sparrowhawk and a Peregrine showed for us, the latter clearing the area. Large flocks of Dunlin moved across the site from Stert flats to the Parrett. The tidal pools and creeks held at least 9 Little Egret and 3 Grey Heron but pick of the leggy bunch was a Great White Egret, this was being chased by a heron and was even flushed by the Peregrine. Flocks of Lapwing came in, 24 Golden Plover flew over and 2 Ruff appeared on the wet mud.

Off in the distance some dedicated scope work picked up 7 Brent Geese flying out of the Parrett and a female Red-breasted Merganser that flew around not really knowing what it wanted to do. Small flocks of Black-tailed Godwit were also noted. I heard later that nearly 300 Avocet were also on the Parrett, very impressive. We all enjoyed this visit very much and will definitely be back.

Moving on we then headed to Devon to Budleigh Salterton and the mouth of the R. Otter. A showy 1st winter Grey Phalarope had been present for a week and we were soon watching it feeding very close to us on the mud. A very smart little bird. A couple of Ringed Plover jostled for the best island to roost upon. A few Wigeon and Teal were present on the small fresh marsh along with the gull flocks and out to sea we noted Gannets on the horizon. Dunlin, Redshank and Curlew were also present. It was very windy on the coast so after a check with everyone we decided to head to Seaton in hope of some sheltered birding.

A short drive and we were as Black Hole Marsh wandering to the Tower Hide to view across the marshes and Axe estuary. Large numbers of gulls were loafing on the sandbars and channels. A ringed juvenile Great black-backed Gull appears to be from a S. Norway project, I await details. Black-tailed Godwits were accompanied by a Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Little Grebe and a variety of duck added to the experience. On the walk back to the car we watched a Chiffchaff sheltering in the ditch.

One last look over the sea at Seaton produced a skua sp chasing the Kittiwakes. The light was fading so we called it day arriving back at 1840hrs. It was a good day out, thanks to all for your company.


Gull details below.

Resightings of a Colour Ringed Gull

Thank you for your report of a CR-ringed Gull. Under you will find the details. In the event the bird is dead and you still posses the ring(s), we kindly urge you to send (them) to us. Resightings of our CR-ringed Gulls could be reported to Lista Ringing Group, Box 171, 4558 Vanse, Norway, on E-mail: clifu@c2i.net or the WEB page http://www.ringmerking.no/cr.

This list of ringingdata and ring reading data is intended for personal use only. If you want to publish data from this list please contact us before publication;

For birds ringed in Norway;
Morten Helberg at email morten.helberg@bio.uio.no

For birds ringed in Denmark;
Kjeld T. Pedersen at email ktpedersen@snm.ku.dk

CR-Code Black ring with white code: JU180 LBNW(JU180);RBM
Ringing Centre Stavanger Museum (Norway) Ring number 3023069
Species Great Black-backed Gull  Larus marinus
Sex Unknown Age Pullus

Date Place Coordinates Observers Days/km/°
01.07 2014 LILLE STEINSHOLMEN, Farsund, Vest-Agder, Norway 58°02’40″N 006°53’36″E Olsen, Knut Sigbjørn
01.11 2014 Tower Hide, Black Hole Marsh, Axe Estuary, Seaton, Devon, Great Britain 50°49’03″N 003°03’33″W McGill, Martin 123/1028/222

September 2014 blog

September 2014 delivered a good variety of waders to the Severn and WWT scrapes, unfortunately low numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plover were generally recorded. The settled weather may well have allowed many migrants to pass through unhindered. Little Stints and Curlew Sandpipers were present in double figures, an easterly airflow helped to deliver higher than average numbers.

Dunlin with a Curlew Sandpiper and Ringed Plover over the Severn

Waders in flight, Dunlin and single Curlew Sandpiper  (5)_edited-1

Great Crested Grebes
Adult and begging juvenile on Gloucester to Sharpness Canal
Some late broods around this year.

Great Crested Grebes, Frampton church, Glos to Sharpness Canal (3)_edited-1

Ruff juvenile

Ruff, juvenile, MJMcGill_edited-1

Golden Plover

Golden Plover, Dumbles, MJMcGill (3)_edited-1

Common Blue Butterfly

Common Blue butterfly, male, MJMcGill (2)_edited-1

Spotted Flycatcher
A few turn up in the Severn Vale on passage, a few more were around than is typical this year thanks to rain storms.

Spotted Flycatcher, Knott Hide (2)_edited-1

Crane and Greylags
One of the Great Crane Project birds at home among geese (and swans) as they are across their range

Crane and Greylags, Top New Piece (1)_edited-1


August 2014 blog- Marsh Sandpiper, a first for Gloucestershire!

All images by M.J.McGill unless stated.

Curlew Sandpiper juvenile
The first Siberian reared-Africa bound youngsters appeared on the Severn at the end of August

Curlew Sandpiper, Dumbles

Yellow Wagtail
Flocks of these busy birds were present locally favouring the cattle herds and the disturbed insects as a food source.

Yellow Wagtail, juvenile 1st winter, 29-08-14,  MJMcGill

Peregrine juvenile
The parents were in attendance around the Upper Severn during July and early August but eventually left the young to get on with. This one managed to bring down a juvenile Tufted Duck on the Severn shore. One species not learning survival as quickly as the other can be fatal.

Peregrine juv

Marsh Sandpiper, a first for Gloucestershire, 28-30 August 2014

Marsh Sandpiper, Splatt Bridge,Frampton on Severn, Glos, 003, 28-08-14, M.J (2)_edited-1

Marsh Sand, MJMcGill

, 007


The week began with some interesting weather forecasts, easterlies with heavy rain and migration was well underway. By coincidence I was due to benefit from a four days off due to a run of working weekends. A conversation with Nige Warren at In Focus had me speculating on a certain graceful needle billed wader being ‘next in line’, it was a good date and weather system.

I went in to work at WWT Slimbridge on the 26th mentioning to Dave Paynter that it feels rare.  I eagerly checked and balanced water levels and went through the birds on the scrapes, a good selection was present. All pumps and grids sorted so  I went on to spend all day tractor mowing on the Dumbles, just another part of management for the thousands of wildfowl and waders that winter on site. It was clear that a fall of birds had happened, a flock of Ruff were with the Lapwing so stopping for a sandwich late afternoon  I was pleased to see six Greenshank  among the other fall waders on the Severn.  It looked promising, I finished up  late, as we left for home I  mentioned ‘that’ hoped for wader again to Dave.

On Wednesday morning I went searching for migrants for a couple of hours and had a decent haul of passerines. I  wandered along the path north of Splatt Bridge at Frampton on Severn spotting  a small flock of Teal on the shallow flood. This temporary wetland was created by the recent super moon high tide surge. A party of 4 Ruff and 7 Greenshank  with the duck were very notable for this location and added to a very enjoyable prolonged  and above all relaxed birding walk, something which is not really possible whilst working.

The next day  I was keen to go out again so I set off to Hock Ditch, a distant wader flock was forced into mobility to the highest mud due to the incoming tide. A variety of waders were out on the Severn, a juvenile Curlew Sandpiper was the first of the autumn for me, a few Common Terns, Whinchat and Redstart added to the tally. Five Pintail dropped out of sky and into the flooded field, I just had to check it again, I had thoughts of rare waders. I grew up rather obsessed with wildfowl but waders have really hooked me as a result I am into sifting through flocks of these varied birds.

A scan of the flood revealed an increase, more Greenshank and Ruff on every sweep of the scope. When I got to a tenth ‘shank’  it turned out to be a small, delicate and more elegant creature that made the Greenshanks look ungainly. ‘Get in’ , a Marsh Sandpiper was wading around among this mob of waders. This fine visitor was a juvenile, like so many young waders at this time of year nearly every feather was perfect. What a smashing bird, just what I had been hoping for. I spent a bit of time enjoying being in its company taking the time to study the plumage, when preening I noticed it had a slightly bent tip to the bill.

The Frampton Severn bird is only the second of have seen in England, the first being a spring adult I twitched with Rich Hearn at Earl’s Barton GP in Northants many years ago. I have enjoyed watching this species many times abroad including memorable parties of spring breeding plumage adults in Greece and most recently in October 2013 when I was among the small numbers of wintering birds that feed in the high tide creeks and pools in and around the Coto Donana NP.

After taking in all I could on this bird I began ringing friends so they could pass on news then tweeted out details. It was flushed by raptors flying over a couple of times and made forays south over the adjacent reserve. This allowed me to see it in the WWT Slimbridge recording area which was a bonus. The bird flew down to the reserve on a few occasions and it may well have actually roosted there.

From all the messages I have received it is clear that a lot of people enjoyed this bird, especially me and all local/county birders. A first for the county is always nice but this wader was something a little bit special.

27 August 2014

A few days off and a chance to spend time birding properly. Quietly watching and listening to a section of hedgerow can be very rewarding, even relaxing when you not in a rush to get on. Many juvenile birds will come out and have a look at you, a hedge which offers a sun trap for insects and basking for birds with a variety of berries is best. I managed to see and hear ten species in a very short section today which included three Reed and a Cetti’s Warbler, Lesser and Common Whitethroat.

Cetti’s Warbler

Cetti's Warbler, 28-08-14, MJMcGill (1) copy

Reed Warbler

Reed Warbler, 28-08-14, MJMcGill (1) copy

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting, 28-08-14, MJMcGill copy

This August has been very good for records of this species around the Severn and scrapes.

Greenshank, juvenile, Rushy, 17-08-14, MJMcGill (14) copy

Great Crested and Little Grebe

Great Crested Grebe, 03-08-14, 001, MJMcGill Little Grebe, MJMcGill (3) copy

The challenge of sifting through sleeping late summer Teal flocks looking for Garganey is something I relish every year. I managed to record six plus on two dates this August around WWT wetlands.

Garganey, 100 Acre, 16-08-14, MJMcGill (3)_edited-1

Visited Slovenia from 5-12 August, see trip reports page for details.





Western Slovenia- 5-12 August 2014, Wildlife and more trip report

I have visited Slovenia on two previous occasions, it is a fantastic destination. This trip was strictly a family holiday but I usually go out a few times early in the morning or get pass for an afternoon or so. We stayed at four locations and visted many of the famous local attractions such as Postojna caves and Predjama Castle plus the WW1 trenches and historical sites. Walks in the mountains and gorges, Etno music festival, hiring bikes and rowing boats and swimming in the sea and lakes also featured but wildlife is never far away…

My trip report follows.

5 August
Drove to Stansted Airport and flew with easyjet to Ljubljana, hired a car through Sixt and went on our way. The usual flocks of Hooded Crow and Starling were seen on the way to Bled. We checked into Penzion Bledec where we were to stay for the next three nights. A wander down to the lake we experienced a light rain shower, the only one of the week. A stop at a familiar bar for a beer and soon after we were hiring a rowing boat. Although not actually using the sport rowing lanes I did reach Otok island in quick time passing 7 juvenile Goosander and a flyover Hobby which was scaring Swallows and House Martins. Mooring up I walked around the island which had a very tame Spotted Flycatchers and flocks of Goldfinch and Chaffinch. The interpretive signs displayed wildlife and I was impressed with an underwater shot of Little Grebe from the crystal clear Lake Bled. Short of time due to promising the attendant that I would be on time we rowed back rapidly and was ready for another beer. A Kestrel and Peregrine were seen over the imposing Bled castle.

6 August
A warm sunny, time to hire bikes and cycle around Lake Bled and back. I saw the 7 Goosander again plus 4 Mute Swan, plenty of Coal Tits and Buzzard and Jay. A Scarce Swallowtail patrolled the sunny banks at the West end.

Goosanders on Lake Bled

Goosander on Lake Bled, Slovenia_edited-1

Goosander on Lake Bled, Slovenia, MJMcGill (1)_edited-1

Mute Swan, Lake Bled and Bled Castle

Mute Swan on Lake Bled, Bled Castle (4)_edited-1


Afternoon was spent at Lake Bohinj where we swan with the fish in the cool, clear water surrounded by forest and mountains. I saw a single Teal, a few Marsh Tits but was distracted by dragonflies. Emerald dragonfly sp were whizzing along the beach. They took some stalking and patience to photograph but I studied them long enough to work out their behaviour. Any fallen tree in sheltered bays seem to attract them and they held territory. I was along the southern shore of Lake Bohinj near the west end. In the village of Bohinj Bistrica I noticed a heronry with unfledged young in pines above the supermarket.

Brilliant Emeralds

Brilliant Emerald Somatochlora metallica, Lake Bohinj, Slovenia, MJMcGill 06-08-14 (8)_edited-1 Brilliant Emerald Somatochlora metallica, Lake Bohinj, Slovenia, MJMcGill 06-08-14 (15)_edited-1 Brilliant Emerald Somatochlora metallica, Lake Bohinj, Slovenia, MJMcGill 06-08-14 (17)_edited-1

Brilliant Emerald Somatochlora metallica, Lake Bohinj, Slovenia, MJMcGill 06-08-14 (3)_edited-1

I was going to make a special visit to Berkshire for this species in July but never had the time. I could not wish for better views of this smart insect.

A return drive to Bled took in the scenic route via the Pokljuka plateau and a coffee stop where a few butterfly species were seen on the hay meadows. A small finch with an unfamiliar call flew over and rested in a pine before heading off again, it may well have been a Citril finch. Back at Lake Bled I had good views of a Hawfinch perched in trees above the casino, it flew off over the shopping centre calling.

7 August
Just outside the Penzion Bledec  I wandered a very short distance up the path to the castle. A ‘Black’ Red Squirrel was on the track, I tried to get my children to see it but it had disappeared so we turned to come back down when my daughter found a Garden Dormouse on the path, a proper little spotter. The woods had Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Coal Tits. Black Redstart sang from the rooftops, in fact every village, town, barn or even woodpile in Sloveina seemed to have Black Redstarts. We travelled to Klagenfurt to spend the morning in Austria’s 5th largest city. The afternoon was spent back in Slovenia, the family swan in Lake Bled, I went back up onto the Pokljuka plateau to investigate some bogs that I had been to before. The sites are known as Veliko Blejsko barje and Barje Sijec. Crossbills were present, I heard Nutcracker, Chiffchaffs were numerous and I was soon distracted by dragonflies. I also saw a Roe Deer run across the road.

Barje Sijec
An upland bog within the forest as viewed from the platform

Barje Sijec, Pokljuka, Slovenia, MJMcGill

Common or (Moorland) Hawker
Males and female were present.

Common or Moorland Hawker, Blejsko Barje, Pokljuka, Slovenia, MJMcGill

Niobe or Dark Green Fritillary
I still need to have a close look at some pics. My wife has some on her camera which look like Niobe.

Niobe or Dark Green Frtillary, Barje Sijec, Pokljuka, Slovenia, MJMcGill Niobe or Dark Green Fritillary, Veliko Blejsko, Barje, Pokljuka, Solvenia, MJMcGill

Northern Emerald
These insects did come and hold a hover near if you stayed still, it was still a challenge to try to get a shot.

Northern Emerald, Veliko Blejsko Barje, Pokljuka, Slovenia, MJMcGill 001 Northern Emerald, Veliko Blejsko Barje, Pokljuka, Slovenia, MJMcGill

I made the most of the warmest part of the day and headed back around 5pm to meet up with the family in Bled. I waited for them outside a bar and basked in the sunshine with a beer. That evening we all went for a hike up the dry riverbed of the Pokljuka gorge and subsequently visited a restaurant at Zatrnik. The wooded limestone gorge had Crested Tit, out of the gorge Buzzards were alert atop trees as the hay cutting was in full swing. The meadows in Slovenia are marvellous, low intensity farming, most steeper slopes in the fields are still cut and raked by hand. The whole field is cut in sections not all at once hence Corncrake still breeding in this country. I did not feel good on this walk, I was sweating and actually became dizzy watching a dragonfly that repeatedly circled me in the gorge. I am sure it was a Southern Hawker. Up on the slopes to the plateau opposite the restaurant the meadow opposite was rich in butterlflies but I had been struggling to hold it together. A good meal was forced down but it was clear I was not well, I think my hunger and resultant eating unwashed fruit earlier in the day (that was purchased in Austria) may have given me a bug. The journey back to Bled and all night were pretty awful. Could have done without it.

View from Penzion Bledec

View from Penzion room, Bledec, Bled_edited-1

8 August
We were to move on to new accommodation and leave Bled for the mountains. I had no energy left, could not drink or eat so stopped in Kranska Gora to get something from the pharmacy. I abandoned my plans to use the Dom na Vitrancu chairlift to explore Ciprnik. We pressed on passing through Italy to reach Mount Mangart where I was called upon to drive the narrow tarmac road to the near the summit. It was stupendous up there, great views and birds too. I gave everything I had to reach a ridge where two Golden Eagle were passing at eye height but just collapsed in a heap half way up. Nothing left in the tank, my family carried on and enjoyed the eagles without me. I did note Water Pipits, Crossbills and Raven as well a Alpine Chough but gave up on Snow Finch.

View from below Mt Mangart summit

Joe, Mount Mangart, Julian Alps, Slovenia (1)_edited-1

Back down in the valley we stopped at the Fort at Log Pod Mangartom but I just slept in the car. Our next stop was at our accommodation (Jelenov breg Pod Matajurem) at Avsa, Livek near Kobarid. A mountain top farm on the Italian border, idyllic for all of us. Farm animals for my daughter to feed, views, peace, quiet and a comfy little house for us to stay in. The food was from the farm, fresh, local and hearty but I was still in a bad way and spent most of the time here asleep. We would go back anytime the family that run it were lovely.

9 August
I was woke by the sound of a Mallard at 0500 and got up to find out it was an alarm clock my daughter had set on her ipod. Naturally it never woke her! I felt more human and stood out on the balcony looking at the views and sunrise over Mount Krn with my wife, Harriet, she went back to bed and I decided to head for the mountain. A long winding drive ensued as I dropped down into the valley and back up the other side. Parking up and setting off I was soon birding. Juvenile Red-backed Shrikes were in the scrub just above the treeline and Water Pipits up on the boulder strewn slopes. I climbed for an hour and was specifically searching for Rock Partridge but never located any. The south facing slopes are perfect for them, a peaceful place, difficult to envisage to horrors of the mountain top front line (Soca or Isonzo front) played out in WW1 where thousands of men died fighting in freezing conditons, it is said the mountain was lowered by the heavy shelling. The mountains still give up sad remains to this day.

I went back for a breakfast and managed to eat something, to have juice and coffee before we set off for another day out and place to stay. We explored the Kobarid area. The museum here is excellent, the town very pleasant. We walked the Soca river route and investigated the WW1 trenches and positions carved out from the limestone karst. The river up stream of the old Napoleon bridge is crystal clear and has a suspended bridge which allows even better views, nearby the Slap Kozjak waterfall was well worth visiting. I noted and attempted to photograph as many butterflies as possible but some are just too quick. A Poplar Admiral was on a buddleia but flew off into the Aspen woods. A full day with little driving was enjoyed followed by a really good pizza in Kobarid on the main street and more exploration to dusk. A sombre look around the WW1 Italian war memorial, over 7000 souls are remembered here, the opening of which was attended by Mussolini. A perfect still, warm evening watching from our balcony finished the night off but I was restless. Another attempt to see my target bird was on the cards early next day, I never slept well thinking of it.

Soca Valley Lizard and blue butterfly enjoying the salt (sweat)

001, Lizard sp, near Kobarid, Slovenia (1) 001, blue butterfly sp, Soca Valley, near Kobarid (1)

Emperor Moth
This amazing moth came into our apartment at Tourist Farm Kranj at Kosec, my daughter intially called out that a bat had entered the room! The spots on the wings were clear which led me to think it could be used to attract or ward off predators with moonlight filtering through.

Emperor Moth, female, Saturnia pavonia (27)_edited-2  001, Emperor Moth, female, Saturnia pavonia (1)

Jersey Tiger moth along the Soca Valley path

Jersey Tiger, near Kobarid, Slovenia (1)_edited-1

10 August
Up and out early to get as high as possible into the mountains. I plumped for a climb up to Breginski Stol as I know it has a population of Rock Partridge. They are threatened across their range and in decline in the Julian Alps too, yet another bird in trouble. This species has given me the slip in the French Alps as well as in Greece and previously in Slovenia. All attempts to see it were in winter or late summer and half-hearted due to so many other birding distractions, it is not a great time to look for them, calling birds in Spring are a better way of connecting. The Rock Partridge is a true mountain species, trying to see them is a bit like the effort and skills needed when looking for Ptarmigan. I was here, it my main focus and I was determined as it would be another year before I could try for them again.

I drove up from the road and parked off the track then setting off on foot. I tried to ignore birds on the way up until I reached above the treeline where the scrub appeared. A Pied Flycatcher and many Spotted Flycatchers caught my eye, flocks of warblers appeared with numerous Great and Blue Tits. Chiffchaff and Blackcap were common but a Wood Warbler was a nice find. Plenty of Red-backed Shrikes were around, mostly juveniles but an adult male as well. A juvenile Cuckoo showed a few times, Jays were below over the woods and c8 Kestrel and 2 Buzzard soared over the steep slopes. During my regular sweeps across the boulders and crags I spotted two Alpine Chamois, a very welcome surprise.

Alpine Chamois

Alpine Chamois, Breginjski Stol, Slovenia, 001, MJMcGill Alpine Chamois, Breginjski Stol, Slovenia, MJMcGill  Chamois, Breginjski Stol, Slovenia, MJMcGill

Resuming my search I saw that on the dry stone walls and boulders were c 6 Rock Thrush, all were juveniles. This was a real purple patch but was being distracted, I then heard the call, I was among Rock Partridges. carefully scanning and stalking it was clear up to three birds were calling above and below me but they went quiet. The long grass, thorny stunted bushes and good camouflage allowed them to see me before I could scope them. I carried on past where one was near the track and got above them. I caught sight of one trundling along the slope, it knew it and took off flying past just below and around the cliff out of sight. At last I had seen the Rock Partridge as cloud rolled in and shrouded the area, absolutely no chance of digiscoping it or them but it was still very good. I waited as the sun got hotter burning off the mist and could now look at the view.

Views from below summit ridge of Berginjski Stol, near Kobarid, Slovenia (2)_edited-1

Coming back down made me realise how far I had climbed, I checked out every creature as I descended.

Striped Field Mouse

Striped Field Mouse Apodemus agrarius, Breginjski Stol, Slovenia, MJMcGill (6)_edited-1

A selection of butterflies

butterflies, Breginski Stol 001, Marbled White procida form, Berginjski Stol, Slovenia (1)_edited-1 Breginski Stol butterfly Breginski stol 001, blue sp, Breginkski Stol, near Kobarid, Slovenia, MJMcGILL

I was so late for breakfast it was an early lunch and we had to move on. This time to travel through the Karst region to Piran and Portoroz on the coast and then back to our last place of stay for the last two nights. We broke up the journey with a stop at Stanjel, it was hot. On the coast we swam in the sea and had a meal on the seafront in the picturesque Venetian style Piran. Mediterranean Shag and Mediterranean Gulls were duly noted including juveniles of the former swimming among the bathers, a good photo opportunity to those in favour of risking their camera. A few wetland sites including saltpans are situated close together but I never had time to explore them. We arrived very late at our last place of stay.

11 August
Waking up at our tourist farm I looked from the balcony, Black Redstart was around the barn and and saw an Emerald sp Dragonfly, I ventured out and had a closer look at the stream, it had a selection of dragonflies and was full of fish. The mystery dragonfly turned out to be a Balkan Emerald, this lowland stream at Hrusevje (Turisticna kmetija Hudicevec) is within the species range. I recorded a few more species before having to get going again.

Green eyed Pincertail

Green Pincertail, Slovenia, MJMcGill

It was another full day out so we visited the Predjama Castle, the marvellous Lake Cerknica (which deserves a full day out rather than an hour or so), Postojna caves to see the Olm or Proteus, a salamander that lives in the darkness of the deep caverns. Back on the surface we headed for Mount Nanos, a drive up the slopes and tracks produced a lot of birds. A depression on the plateau was experiencing a fly ant or other insect flight and it was alive with birds flycatching. Wheatear, Chaffinches, Marsh, Great and Blue Tit, Hawfinch and warblers were all at it. A little further up I found a Pied or Collared Flycatcher with other birds but was flushed by a passing 4wd. In the open country I saw a raptor on a rock above, it was a Golden Eagle and eventually joined another on the wing. Tw0 Hobbies were also catching insects. On the way back down the mountain I stopped for a Woodland Grayling on the road.

Great White Egret, Lake Cerknica

Great White Egret, Lake, Cerknica, Slovenia, MJMcGill (1)_edited-1

Golden Eagles over Mount Nanos

Golden Eagle, Mount Nanos, Slovenia, 11-08-14 (1)_edited-1

Woodland Grayling

Woodland Grayling, Mount Nanos, 11-08-14, MJMcGill (5)_edited-1

12 August
Had to head out to fuel up and get some cash to pay the farm but stop at the entrance road and walked along the stream looking for dragonflies, a Wryneck was on the grass verge and flew up into the trees. This was the last of my birding as we were off home today. We spent the day in Ljubljana before flying back to Stansted with easyjet.

A selected list of birds

to be completed

Some notes on butterflies

to be completed

Martin J McGill



Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑