Bristol Ornithological Club
Sep 11 2018

Sunday 09 – Thursday 13 September – Pelagic trip to Spain and Asturias Organised by Jane Cumming

Day 1; Sunday 9 September
We met up with the group by the Downs Water Tower in Bristol and boarded the coach to Plymouth. We got to
the Ferry Terminal in the afternoon and our tour guide, Paul Burley was waiting for us. We then boarded the
Brittany Ferries, Pont-Aven for the overnight sailing to Santander.
Day 2; Monday 10 September
After breakfast, we went up on the deck to look for whales and dolphins in the Bay of Biscay. We saw lots of
Gannets flying past along with Sooty and Great Shearwaters. A few Short-beaked Common Dolphins were seen,
but sadly no Striped Dolphins. Our guide, Paul, said it had not been a very good for cetaceans this year, due to
the lack of plankton moving northwards, although we did see a few Fin Whales. We docked in Santander about
lunchtime and boarded the Spanish coach to take us to the hotel. We stopped for lunch at the port of San
Vincente de la Barquera. The birds of note here were Common Sandpiper, Ringed Plover, Curlew, White Wagtail,
Great White and Little Egrets. We continued our journey to our lovely hotel in Playa de la Franca, overlooking a
beach in an unspoilt cove. In the evening, we went for a walk around the area. We saw a few Yellow-legged
Gulls, Kingfisher and Crested Tit, as well as a Mediterranean Speckled Wood butterfly. A juvenile Black Redstart
was hopping around in front of the hotel. Chris Perry also managed to see and photograph a Long-tailed Blue
butterfly, which most of us missed. In the evening, Paul introduced us to a local guide called Javier, who told us
what to expect for the next two days.
Day 3; Tuesday 11 September
After breakfast we headed towards Panes and then along the stunning Cares Gorge to Covadonga. We dropped
the tourists off at the impressive Basilica and Holy Caves, while we headed up to the feeding station. The rangers
waited for us to arrive before putting the food out for the vultures. The skies were full of Griffon Vultures coming
down to feed and there were three Lammergeiers in the area. Two birds were seen perched on the hills, but
sadly due to lack of wind they didn’t fly over to the feeding station. A few Wall Lizards were seen around the
viewpoint. A few butterflies included Mountain Small White, Clouded Yellow and Chalkhill Blue. We headed to
Covadonga Lakes, where we had lunch. Around the picnic site was a juvenile White Wagtail, Black Redstart and
Spotted Flycatchers. In the afternoon we walked up into the hills looking for raptors, we saw more Chalkhill Blues
and Clouded Yellows on the way, I managed to see a Humming-bird Hawkmoth feeding on some of the flowers.
The views were stunning and we saw lots more Griffon and Egyptian Vultures and Lammergeiers on the way up,
along with Short-toed Eagle. As we sat at a viewpoint, listening to the cowbells ringing in the valley, a Booted
Eagle flew towards us giving brilliant views. We saw and heard lots of Red-billed Chough. Afterwards we made
our way back down the hill to our coach to pick up the tourists, before heading back to the hotel for dinner. The
juvenile Black Redstart was still hopping along the lawn in front of the hotel. A few Yellow-legged Gulls were
foraging on the beach.
Day 4; Wednesday 12 September
On our final morning in Spain, we left the hotel and headed through the beautiful Hermida Gorge to Potes. We
continued to Fuente De, where we took the cable car up to the Picos de Europa mountain range. At the top
station, a Black Redstart was feeding near a tractor. We walked further up the mountain and heard some Chough
calling overhead. A Water Pipit was feeding along the path. A few more Chalkhill Blues and Wall Lizards were seen along the way, a Rock Grayling was resting by the path. We managed to see some Alpine Accentors
foraging on the ground and on the rocks, until they flew over the top when an Egyptian Vulture flew through the
valley briefly. We walked further along the rocky track to see if we could see any more alpine birds. We stopped
for lunch at a good Wallcreeper site and soon had fantastic views of them foraging around the rocks and the cliff
face. While we were having our lunch, a couple of Alpine Choughs flew in and landed on the rock in front of us, so
we shared our sandwiches with them. An Alpine Accentor also came down, giving excellent views. Afterwards,
we started to make our way back down the mountain. Another Egyptian Vulture soared over our heads. By the
top station, there were lots of Alpine Choughs perched and flying around, unafraid of all the people. We then took
the cable car back to our waiting coach at Fuente De, where we said our goodbyes to Javier and the other guides,
and headed back to Santander to catch the ferry.
Day 5; Thursday 13 September
We had an early start at 06:30 to get on deck for a seawatch. We saw an impressive number of Great and Sooty
Shearwaters passing by along with a few Manx Shearwaters. Plenty of Gannets were still flying about and we
also saw some Common Dolphins. After breakfast, we went back for some more seawatching, we saw a couple
of Sabine’s Gulls close to the ship and a ‘Bonxie’ (Great Skua) chasing a Sandwich Tern. As we neared the
Ushant Islands we saw a few Manx Shearwaters and Common Dolphins. A Mediterranean Gull flew by and more
Sooty, Manx, Great and the odd Balearic Shearwater, four more ‘Bonxies’ were seen along with another Sabine’s
Gull. Also, Common and Bottlenosed Dolphins, Tuna and a Blue Shark.
Huge thanks to Paul Burley and Javier for guiding, and to Jane for organising the trip. Chris Teague

Jun 15 2018

Friday 15 – Monday 18 June – Anglesey Leaders: Keith Williams and Alastair Fraser

After a pleasant journey spotting numerous Buzzards, several Kestrels, and of course the occasional Red Kite as we entered Wales, we arrived at Gronant near Prestatyn. Here on the beach is a breeding colony of Little Terns but sadly only the day before, due to a severe gale causing a tidal surge, the colony had been devastated. There were plenty of Terns to be seen in the air and an army of volunteers who were repairing the security fences. They reported that there were a few surviving chicks and some of the pairs had started nest building again so hopefully all is not lost. Skylarks were much in evidence on the surroundings dunes and Shelduck, Mallard, Moorhens and Little Egret were seen on the marsh. A Marsh Harrier, not common here, was also spotted. Those lucky enough to have good hearing were entertained by a Grasshopper Warbler. Many orchids were among the flowers blooming. We then continued our journey along the North Wales coast, the Menai Straits and finally to our destination near Holyhead.
We woke to heavy rain on Saturday but dressed for the weather and headed to South Stack. Here a gale was blowing and the foghorn was wailing in the low cloud. We took the path along the edge of the cliff but there was no sign of Choughs. The writer, for one, wished she was wearing lead boots to keep her tethered to the ground. It was not ideal birdwatching weather with rain on spectacles, binoculars and the windows of Elins Tower. Nevertheless, a good bird list soon built up including Gannets, Fulmars, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Razorbills. Manx Shearwaters were also seen. The first Choughs were seen by those who headed towards the cafe for a comfort stop. We descended the steps towards the lighthouse battling against a wind that felt like a hurricane but were rewarded by the sighting of a Puffin. The rain then started to come down more heavily and we retreated to the cafe for a welcome coffee. Hearing reports of a Snowy Owl on Anglesey we made enquiries about its location and set off to look for it. Amlwch Port proved to be an attractive sheltered spot for birds and birders to eat their lunch. Sadly it was to be a ‘it was here yesterday’ occasion. However, we were rewarded by good sightings of about six Harbour Porpoises just offshore. Our next stop was Cemlyn Bay where there was much activity in the tern colony. It was a good opportunity to sort out identification of Common and Arctic terms as they were here side by side. Sandwich Terns had their own territory and were present in good numbers. Oystercatchers were also breeding there and two Curlew flew over. A female Red-breasted Merganser fished on the pond near the car park. Seals were singing on the rocks towards the Wherries.
The next day started very well with a flyover of about four Choughs before we had left the car park of our accommodation. Holyhead harbour was our next stop where we quickly spotted Black Guillemots. We had excellent views of at least six birds including one in its nest hole in the harbour wall. A male Red-breasted Merganser was seen in the distance and more seals. After a drive to the North East corner of the island via a very attractive Beaumaris and coast road we arrived at Penmon point opposite Puffin Island. Here in lovely weather was a raft of Eider off shore and Cormorants and Shags for us to practice identification. More Harbour Porpoises went by. After lunch we strolled through the sheltered clifftop habitat and soon saw Bullfinches, Rock Pipits and Whitethroat and heard Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Blackcap. We next headed to the South Coast at Malltreath, returning to the wet and windy weather. After an excellent view of a Sparrowhawk with prey we saw a Little Egret, Ravens, Moorhen, Oystercatcher and heard Reed and Sedge Warbler.
On Monday morning we reluctantly left our excellent accommodation at Blackthorn farm and travelled south through lovely scenery. We arrived at the Osprey nest site at Cors Dyfed just as the rain started making viewing through the glass of the treetop hide less than satisfactory. There were big screens showing live footage which were the clearest pictures I have ever seen. Some of our telescopes were set up where there was no glass and good views were had of both adult birds. We ate our lunch in hides by the bird feeders and saw Siskins, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Coal Tit and brightly coloured Redpoll. A Snipe flew over. We then moved on to Bwylch Nant yr Arian Kite feeding station. Red Kites were already circling overhead waiting for the three o’clock tea time. The attractive lake gave us Tufted Duck and Little Grebe to add to the list. At 15:00 precisely the feeding frenzy started and what a sight it was with around 200 birds gliding in to snatch a morsel of the meat provided. It was an amazing finale to a great weekend. 93 bird species were recorded. Many thanks to Judy for making all the arrangements and to our two leaders and stalwart drivers Alastair and Keith. Thanks also to Jeff for sharing his detailed knowledge of all forms of wildlife. Margaret Gorely

Feb 16 2018

Weekend in Kent, 16-18 February Leader: Jane Cumming

Friday 16 February. A number considered unlucky for some left Bristol for this trip, but on arrival in Kent we were joined by BOC member Lyn and her partner Ray, who stayed with us for the whole trip and whose local knowledge proved invaluable. But before we got to Kent our trip list was already around 40, due partly to an injunction to keep a look-out for Red Kite between Junctions 13 and 11 on the M4 (in fact we saw several); and partly because we made a small diversion to Staines Reservoir en route, having been advised of the presence of a “Horned Lark”. Information on which race was ambiguous (hardly surprising since there are around 40 races of this species). Suffice it to say that it was not the race we call Shore Lark, so there was considerable excitement about this bird, which had evidently arrived from North America, or possibly Asia. We duly found it, but sadly not everyone saw it, since it flew off after showing really well for a few minutes. All this meant that we didn’t reach the Isle of Sheppey until after 15:00. Here we saw Merlin, Marsh Harrier, Barn Owl, Stock Dove, Red-legged Partridge and Hooded Crow before Ray and Lyn took us off to the Swale NNR, where we added Greylag, White-front, Brent and Barnacle Geese to our list – plus Fieldfare, Kestrel and, best of all, a gorgeous male Hen Harrier.By then the light was fading, so we set off towards our hotel; we screeched to a halt when Ray discovered Corn Bunting. But most of us assumed that we were just getting better views of Barn Owl, so dipped out on that opportunity. Saturday 17 February. Our first experience on arriving on the Dungeness peninsula was to fail to find a Caspian Gull, which should have been mingling with a large group of gulls. It wasn’t, so we went for a 45 minute sea watch, where we added Guillemot, Razorbill, Gannet, Kittiwake and Red-throated Diver to our list. From there it was a short journey to the Power Station where an immature Glaucous Gull had been seen for some while. Since there were about 200 gulls in a tightly knit gathering, finding the target bird needed hard work and patience. But finally we all got good views of this spectacular bird. Before lunch at the RSPB Observatory we took ourselves off to Scotney Gravel Pits in the hope of seeing Bean Goose. We failed in this but compensation was rich because we saw Raven, Redshank, Oystercatcher and Buzzard (which surprised us this far east, but the following day we saw many more, so it was no accident); also Gadwall and Wigeon, which had been thin on the ground before this. After lunch, we spent the afternoon touring the RSPB Reserve.At the feeder station we encountered Tree Sparrow, which pleased us, and Greenfinch which have become scarce in recent years. Most of our time on the Reserve was devoted to viewing waterbirds in flooded gravel pits from hides. Between hides we discovered a Great White Egret (OK, so it’s common in the West, but still a rarity here) and a large flock of very colourful Golden Plover. The first two hides treated us to a feast of so many birds that we gloried in the number and variety and didn’t bother too much about listing individual species. That tendency disappeared in a flash at the third hide where we were treated to a male and two female Smew, plus a Slavonian Grebe, a Black-throated Diver and hundreds of Cormorant with all-white heads. Thus sated, we returned to Gillingham and our hotel. Sunday 18 February. Today we first went to a small village called Eastling, which had a mixture of woodland and farmland habitat. On arrival a Little Owl flew into a Yew tree. Not many of us saw it, but the small birds did and they proceeded to emerge and mob the tree in large numbers. This was good for our I/D skills of Blue and Great Tit, Goldfinch, Chaffinch etc., and fortunately the “defenders” included a splendid female Hawfinch, which gave all of us excellent views. There was also much birdsong to be enjoyed – possibly because we were basking in the third successive day of fine, spring-like weather. On the subsequent walk through woods and farmland, we added Yellowhammer, Sparrowhawk and Mistle Thrush to our list, and we also passed close to an active Rookery. Finally, we stopped and were treated to a distant view of three more Hawfinch, including a spectacular male. We heard the repeated sound of a Bullfinch and a lucky few managed to see the bird. The rest of us had to be content with a repeat viewing of a Red-legged Partridge. By now most of us were suffering from WWS (Wader withdrawal symptoms), so after lunch we went to Oare Marshes to solve this problem. And how! We saw Avocet, a large flock of (probably) Knot, Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits, hundreds of Golden Plover and several Ruff. We also saw three Bearded Reedling feeding at the top of a small reedbed. And after a long, hard-working search we finally managed to connect with the Long-billed Dowitcher which has been at Oare Marshes for several weeks but had not been seen for some days. Flushed with success, we went off in search of some Water Pipit, which had been reported recently. What we saw was a Green Woodpecker! Lovely bird, but….. Well you can’t win them all! Nevertheless the consensus was that it had been a brilliant weekend – weather, birds (106 species), company, hotel – and in Alastair Fraser and Keith Williams two of the most skilful and dedicated drivers you could ever hope to meet. Along with Jane Cumming our leader, the rest of us owe these three and Ray and Lyn, an enormous debt of gratitude. Brian Roberts-Wray

Nov 24 2017

Friday 24 – Sunday 26 November – South Devon weekend Leader: Jane Cumming

Based at Hope Cove – 20 members; weather – squally with periods of bright sunshine interspersed with showers, driven by a blustery NW wind. Species total: 90
Day 1: We started at Matford Marsh, an informal newish reserve for flood relief between main roads just south of Exeter, to look for an American Wigeon – not there; though Eurasian Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler, Black-tailed Godwit and Snipe were.
Next, Labrador Bay, a coastal farmland reserve just south of Teignmouth, for Cirl Bunting. We found abundant Linnet and Chaffinch, and Skylark and Meadow Pipit as well as up to 20 Cirl Buntings sunning on a sheltered hedgerow waiting to be fed. It was many people’s first view of these lovely birds with striped heads with olive surround, and they became the favourite ‘bird of the trip’.
Next, a sea watch on the calm seafront by Paignton Pier, finding Gannet, Shag and Great Northern Diver.
Finally, the Clennon Valley Reserve, Torbay, a modest urban-fringe reserve with woodland, stream and lake, to look for Yellow-browed Warbler. We didn’t find it, though it was there earlier and would be seen later; but we did find a Firecrest and Kingfisher.
Day 2: The early morning beach at Hope Cove had Oystercatchers, Rock Pipits and Pied Wagtails and Kestrel, Guillemots and Gannet flying close in.
Next, to South Molton Reserve, Thurlstone, a mile west of Hope Cove – a modest wetland area behind the beach and dunes, with Wigeon, Snipe, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwits, Stonechats, and a Kingfisher balancing in the reeds. The large sea stack off the beach had Cormorant and Shag, with a Grey Heron huddled high on the sheltered side.Next, to the long flat stretch of shingle beach at Slapton Ley, where on the sea side were Shags, a diver which photographic scrutiny resolved to be a Red-throated Diver; and, surprisingly close inshore, a raft of 25 female and two male Common Scoters (Jane’s ‘birds of the trip’…) bobbing on relatively calm waters and easy to view even with bins; with a dolphin diving further out. Then, into the reserve round the Ley (lagoon) behind the beach – strikingly calmer and warmer. We saw or heard a good list of water and woodland birds including Water Rail, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay, Song Thrush, Redwing (one of only a handful of winter thrushes seen on the trip), Treecreeper, Cetti’s Warbler and Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Bullfinch; with Cormorant, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Coots and Moorhen on the Ley.
Next, to Bowcombe Creek, a quiet inland arm of the great tidal Kingsbridge Estuary, to see Shelduck, Little Egret, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Common Gull – and strikingly, a Cormorant catching and swallowing an eel whose writhing progress down the neck we followed… it became one member’s ‘bird sight of the trip’.
Finally, to South Efford Marsh Reserve by Aveton Gifford (on the tidal headwaters of the River Avon which debouches at Bigbury on the coast west of Hope Cove) – a relatively new reserve with a path running betweenenclosed wetlands on one side and the river on the other. We saw Mute Swan, Heron, Little Egret, Common Sandpiper, Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, Wigeon, Kingfisher, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Reed Bunting, Bullfinch, Stonechat, an LBJ that resolved to a Water Pipit, and Otter prints.
Day 3: Through the beautiful wooded lowlands of Dartmoor Forest national park, to Steps Bridge and Dunsford Nature Reserve on its north-east edge – ancient woodland along the River Teign. Two Goosanders on the river and a Dipper calling loudly as it patrolled up and down. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mistle and Song Thrush, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Coal and Marsh Tit, Goldcrest, Siskin – and for a lucky minority, a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker showing fleetingly in low tree growth.
On the drive back we returned to a less obvious area of wetland at Matford Marsh, where kind locals pointed out the American Wigeon sitting with Eurasian Wigeon on the banks of a stream, its dark green face pattern almost black against a greyish face. It was here last year too – a distinctive patch of dark feathers on the creamy crown identified it to the local birdwatchers. And finally our first, and only Fieldfare.
Many thanks as always to Jane for her fun yet focused leadership, and to Keith and Alastair the gallant drivers of a minibus round the too-small, too-steep Devon lanes. Lois Pryce

 

May 07 2017

07 to 14 May – Wild Herzegovina

Club Trip:  7-14 May – Wild Herzegovina                                                           Leader: Denis Bohm

Rock Partridge

 

We arrived in Dubrovnik, Croatia on 7 May and drove across the border into Bosnia-Herzegovina. A three-hour drive took us to picturesque Mostar (although many of the buildings still show chunks missing and peppered shrapnel holes from the brutal war this town endured in the 1990s). The scenery was extremely unspoiled, with rivers meandering through rocky valleys and views across to islands dotted about the Adriatic Sea. The weather was moody, ending in torrential rain with dramatic cloud formations. Our first birds seen were several Alpine Swift, hundreds of House Martins (so this is where all ours are) and cracking views of a Nightingale.

On 8 May, from our balcony, we watched Red-rumped Swallows and Pallid Swifts hawking insects above us. We soon noticed a large Honey Buzzard movement along the River Neretva. We headed South to the banks of the River Buna just outside town and what a treat it was. There was no-one else there, the woodland purred with Turtle Doves and Bee-eaters, trilled with Wood Warblers and the sound of bill-snapping Spotted Flycatchers. Six species of Woodpecker were present with Wryneck and Lesser Spotted common, as were Golden Orioles who chased each other around vying for nesting sites. After lunch, we went East of the city and up into the foothills of the Dinaric Alps where Subalpine Warbler and Black-eared Wheatears were numerous. We were around 600 Metres above sea level.  This subalpine region is inhabited by a mostly Muslim population, so one can see mosques and minarets dotted around the plateaus of limestone Karst. The star bird though, after a gap of 43 years for me and a lifer for the rest of the group, was Rock Partridge – we had a couple of sightings of this limited-range bird and were able to study its call which is completely different from Chukar. Our attention was also caught by a male Montagu’s Harrier that drifted past us.

At the end of each day in Mostar we dined in a lovely old restaurant in the historic quarter of town near the Old Bridge.

Male Golden Oriole

 

9 May. A day spent in two countries: the morning Bosnia-Herzegovina and the afternoon Croatia. After breakfast, we visited a Pallid Swift colony under the New Bridge in Mostar. We then headed North-east out of town to the fabulous Blagaj Gorge which is the source of the River Buna. Here we enjoyed nesting Rock Nuthatch, Alpine Swift, Crag Martin, Blue Rock Thrush, and a Dipper on a cafe table! Before crossing the border, we visited a small section of Hutovo Blavo Nature Park where there were large numbers of Bee-eaters; we also found a Penduline Tit weaving a nest and several Pygmy Cormorants. Our sortie into Croatia took us to the Neretva Delta, a great place for water birds with wonderful views of some of the Adriatic Islands that were dotted around the sea. Birds seen included Little Bittern, Squacco Heron, Spoonbill, Honey Buzzard, Black-winged Stilt, Avocet, Kentish Plover, Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Great Reed Warbler, Black-headed Wagtail, Serin and Spanish Sparrows.

Great Reed Warbler

 

10 May, Bosnia-Herzegovina is the best value-for-money country that I have been to in recent times, one’s money goes far here. Lyn and I rose at 6am to head down to the old town, the Stari Grad district of Mostar, and to the Old Bridge famous for its divers. Since the 16th century folk have dived the 24 metres off the bridge into the raging waters below. Just looking at it was frightening enough, yet they even had a divers club!
In 1992 the bridge was destroyed by shelling and reconstructed after the war in 1997 with materials from the quarry originally used in 1566. We walked along the river valley to the mosque. Golden Oriole’s songs reverberated around the valley echoing off the walls and we had great views of some adult males. After breakfast, we all headed up into the Dinaric Alps on Prenj Mountain to a height of 1300 Metres. The alpine meadows were beautiful with myriads of butterflies such as Duke of Burgundy, Queen of Spain Fritillary and Clouded Apollo and spring flowers such as Gentian and Star of Bethlehem. Several nice birds were observed: Rock Thrush, Rock Bunting, Sombre and Crested Tits and Ortolan Buntings. After dinner, we finished the day off listening to my first ever Slavac Punk band (don’t knock it until you have heard it).

Rock Bunting

11 May we had a great finale from Mostar on our last night. Lyn and I were treated to a pair of Scops Owls mating on a minaret next to the old bridge in the Stari Grad district. The whole group previously saw the male bird. We spent the day at the picturesque Hutovo Blavo Nature Reserve. In the morning walking alongside the Krupa River looking over the reed-fringed lake. Birds here included Pygmy Cormorant, Collared Pratincole, White-winged Black and Whiskered Terns, Crane, a variety of herons and many Ferruginous Duck. It was also a great place for dragonflies.
In the afternoon we took a small motor boat onto the lake and explored some of its reed corridors, Ferruginous Duck and Garganey gave good views. The lake is fed by mountain water from the Dinaric Alps that flow underground and rise at that spot forming a pristine habitat and a lovely place to be. We saw not another person while out birding all day.

Squacco Heron

12 May. Our last day in Herzegovina. We arrived in Dubrovnik back into the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Before that though, our first stop in the morning was at the Buna Quarry where there were thousands of Sand Martins and hundreds of Bee-eaters nesting. We also saw a Little Owl with a Sand Martin in its talons. The site was alive with wild flowers and very colourful indeed. We then moved onto the Popovo Polje Karst Fields, these flower-covered green meadows were a perfect place to have lunch and go for a walk, although an inquisitive Short-toed Eagle made us forget our sandwiches. We later stopped at a rocky outpost to buy some honey made by bees that solely pollinate sage. Many of our group had a shot of mead while watching some subalpine birds there. Our final site in the country was Postaja Zavala which is famous for its cave. It was here that the remains of a Leopard were found. There is also a redundant narrow-gauged railway. The old station is now a café, festooned with Spanish Sparrows. We saw several legless Glass Lizards here, very strange creatures indeed. We now looked forward to two days’ sight-seeing in Dubrovnik before heading home late Sunday.

Bee-eaters

13/14 May were spent relaxing around our resort at Cavtat, Croatia and catching a 45-minute boat ride across the Adriatic Sea past some pine-forested islands to Dubrovnik Old Town. This is a fortified city where one can walk around the top of the wall overlooking the town and the sea. Many Common and Alpine Swifts screamed overhead and came in quite low; one could hear the wind in their wings. We saw a folk band and singers and traditional dancers all put on for the tourists, but the participants genuinely seemed to enjoy performing acts that were deeply rooted in their culture; their faces beamed. At lunch, we were serenaded by the excellent gypsy swing band Gadjo Monouche. Dubrovnik is still a beautiful ancient city. Cadvat was an excellent base on the sea front with coastal walks through pine woods and scrub where we found some migrant Glossy Ibis, Sardinian, Icterine and Wood Warblers, Red-backed Shrikes and black morph Red Squirrels. The village itself is spread out but delightful, apparently, it was once part of Ancient Greece.

Our trip was arranged and expertly led by Denis Bohm who grew up as the only birder in Herzegovina.  He now lives in London but returns to his homeland for a couple of months each spring to explore this under-watched country further and introduce its delights to visitors. 

For further information, see his website:   www.wild-herzegovina.com.

argagr

Thanks to Jane Cumming for organizing the trip and to the rest of our BOC travel companions for making it so enjoyable.

Ray O’Reilly