Leica Telescope Repair

Last week I traveled up to Ryston, near Ely, to get my birding ‘scope repaired and yesterday I gave it a proper test at Oare Marshes, Kent, getting wonderfully clear views of both Long-billed Dowitcher and Bonaparte’s Gull. I would like to give a huge thanks to Gary Hawkins of East Coast Binocular Repairs for helping me out in an optical emergency and restoring my ‘scope to its original condition for a very reasonable price while I waited. I was very thankful for the restoration of my ‘scope as when I contacted Leica they were unable to provide a repair although their staff, particularly Jo Pertwee, were very helpful and put me in contact with Gary.

The problem with my ‘scope was that the coating had come off of the objective lens resulting in a very foggy image and making it impossible to use at higher magnifications. This problem was acknowledged by Leica as a manufacturing error but they did not have any lenses available to replace those in ‘scopes with damage owned by their customers, including myself. Read more »


Camargue Quick Visit – Birding in France

When I realized I would be visiting Southern France as part of a non-birding holiday I immediately realized that I should make some time, even if limited, to visit the Camargue and nearby Crau Plains both of which potentially would give me some exciting birding. Staying in the nearby town of Arles, where we visited the Roman Ampitheatre, the nearby town of Avignon and Roman Aqueduct of Pont Du Gard, I found that I had a couple of early mornings free before the sight-seeing began in earnest. Of course I used this time to drive into the Eastern side of the Camargue one day and to search for Little Bustard in the stony Crau region on the other morning.

Hopefully the following will be of some use to other birders visiting the region as part of non-birding trips and show them that some really good birds can be seen in a very limited time; my highlights were Little Bittern, Little Bustard, European Roller, Short-toed Eagle, European Bee-eater, Montagu’s Harrier and Tawny Pipit. Read more »


Mont Ventoux; Early Morning Birding – Birding in France

Through the second half of July I made a road trip around France, visiting Northeastern Spain and Andorra too. Although the trip was mostly for sight-seeing I made some time for birding in several early mornings, the first of which was at Mont Ventoux in France. We stayed close to this mountain for a couple of days while visiting tourist sites in Provence and it allowed me to get in a few hours of birding, two days in a row, before the sight-seeing began. I saw a nice selection of species in Alpine meadows and scattered woodland here and it was a pleasant spot for birding while waiting for a non-birder to get ready for more touristic activities with Rock Bunting, Red Crossbill, Crested Tit, Western Bonelli’s Warbler and Citril Finch being numerous and easy to see. Hopefully the following notes will be useful in planning a visit here for others thinking about traveling in the area. Read more »


Survey of Calling Male Corn Buntings – British Birding

More Corn Buntings! Many people may be wondering what is my obsession with what is a rather dull-coloured, sparrow-like bird regarding the fact that I have posted quite frequently about this species here, on my Facebook timeline and on my Twitter account. Well, apart from the fact that in UK this is a red list species, meaning that it is of prime conservation concern, and that I grew up with them in the countryside around me, I also wrote my degree dissertation on crop selection of calling male Corn Buntings; with all of this it can be seen that this is a species that has always captured my imagination. Over the last few months I have been back in Kent, staying at my mother’s house from where I have made loads of walks through the countryside and made a bit of a survey of where local Corn Buntings are holding territories. Here I have made some notes on the features of Corn Bunting territories in North West Kent and have included the territory map that I have created and a whole lot of Corn Bunting photos taken in the area over the last few months. Read more »


Twitching at Frensham Common – British Birding

I very rarely go twitching but today was an exception. Having dipped on Red-footed Falcon last week at Minsmere a second chance presented itself with another bird present at Frensham Common, in Surrey, over the last few days. The plan was to get there early, which was somewhat spoiled by traffic on the M25 but  I still managed to get there before most other birders twitching the Falcon and it would turn out that this was a good move – the early bird catches the worm.

Frensham Common is an area of heathland and woodland owned and managed by the National Trust and as such it also contained really good numbers of heathland specialists and some nice woodland birds in good abundance too. As well as successfully twitching the Red-footed Falcon other highlights included Dartford Warbler, Woodlark, Tree Pipit, Spotted Flycatcher and Common Redstart. Read more »


Early Summer Walk – British Birding

One of the pleasures of being back in UK in late Spring/early Summer is the abundance of wildlife, wildflowers and fresh foliage all around and walking in the area I grew up in brings back a lot of memories of when I used to go on Sunday morning strolls with my father. A few days ago I took a nice walk in sunny weather along the Darent Valley near Dartford in Kent which used to be my “local patch” when I was much younger and spent hours photographing wildlife of all sorts; insects, flowers and birds. With fine weather there were many birds singing, which made them relatively approachable and a huge abundance of damselflies indicated a major emergence of them in the few days previous. Take a look at some of the photos I got on my walk. Read more »


Passerine Migrants near Rudong – China Birding

Apart from great birds like Courtois’s Laughingthrush, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, Cabot’s Tragopan, Reed Parrotbill and Elliot’s Pheasant, one of the main objectives on last month’s Zootherabirding tour of SE China was to witness the migration of East Asian passerines, particularly many of those species that can turn up, or potentially turn up, in UK – one might say “Sibe’ vagrants”.

By birding in and around small stands of trees and hedgerows situated close to the coast where open country was the prevailing landscape we managed to find a high number of migrant species including a few really sought-after birds. As with any migration-based birding the weather conditions are key to seeing birds in good numbers and we had a variety of conditions which gradually got better and better in terms of providing mini “falls” of migrants. Read more »

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