Scotland Marvellous May Tour 2020

Capercaillie with Birding In Spain Scotland Tour

Capercaillie – Birding In Spain’s Scotland Tour

 

Atlantic Puffin and Marvellous May Scotland Tour

Atlantic Puffin and Marvellous May Scotland Tour

 

Red-throated Diver and Marvellous May Scotland Tour

Red-throated Diver and our Marvellous May Scotland Tour

 

Slavonian Grebe and Marvellous May in Scotland

Slavonian Grebe and Marvellous May in Scotland

 

White-tailed Eagle, or Sea Eagle in Scotland

White-tailed Eagle, or Sea Eagle in Scotland

Isn’t May Marvellous? And Scotland too? Just imagine the two combined! Next year, 2020, we at Birding In Spain are running a 10-day birding and wildlife tour to get some of the best of what Scotland has to offer. You can read about it all by clicking on the link below, which will download a pdf describing the tour.

Scotland Marvellous May 2020 pdf

Tell us about the birds and the bees

Tell us about the birds and the bees

The birds and the bees, mmm, I think we’ll start off literally and see where it leads.
Alas, the canvas hide overlooking the pool has stood unloved for a couple of years now, if occupation for any nature-oriented purpose is anything to measure love by. In other words, I have had no time to spend in the hide enjoying some of the fruits of my many labours, and it’s a shame. It happens like this: before I can walk the 200 metres or so between my parked car and the pool there are just so many things that I see need attending to and I have so many ideas about what could be done that I can never quite make it.

For example:

• The compost isn’t doing anything – you could turn and water it.
• Check on how the trees are doing – water, aphids, nutrients…
• Turn over a log or move a branch in the wood pile to see if anything moves
• The stairs up to the pool need weeding/repairing
Weeding, there is always weeding to do. But are there enough edible weeds to gather and make them into a dish?
• Check to see if any of the flower seed is showing signs of life.
Scythe the grass
• Improve the paths

And so on, and so on, and so…

Thankfully, in my prolonged absence we have the trail cam to step into my shoes, and to at least bear witness to some of what goes on at the pool. With it’s motion detection and nocturnal flash function it’s the unsleeping eye – as long as the batteries last, and as long as it’s aligned properly.

How else would we have discovered that a Red Fox is a regular visitor to the pool, at night, and even at 9 in the morning? Or that Badgers are in the area, and visit when all is dark and still? And that at last those couple of stray tick-infested dogs seem to have moved on?

Red Fox at the Pou del Mano drinking pool

Red Fox at the Pou del Mano drinking pool

 

Badger at the drinking pool

Badger at the Pou del Mano drinking pool

Having said “badger” reminds me of a badge I used to wear at Sixth-form college, when I was an active member of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, trying to get people interested in saving the world’s wildlife. It read “Don’t badger the badger”, which in itself is quite a succinct endorsement of the English language ie “badger” can be used as a verb as well as a noun and slots perfectly into a 4-word catchword to convey the message: “Leave the badgers alone, they are not your scapegoats”. Unfortunately there’s no trace of the badge among my personal belongings, and worse yet, I can’t even trace it on the Internet. Has anyone out there ever had one of those badges, and still got it? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

It seems the idea of slaughtering badgers (called “culling” when you have to justify it to constituents or customers) resurfaces every decade or so in the UK, as in its day my old badge was a response to ongoing badger culls in the early 1980s, while the Guardian article below relates to a proposed cull in 2010.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/blog/2011/aug/11/badger-cull-dont-stop-bovine-tb

By the way, if you read the article it virtually destroys the logic of any proposed badger slaughter, and please let’s not get started on “Seals eat our fish”, and “Fox-hunting is needed to control the vermin”, and all that kind of nonsense.

Back to the camera: more than 30 species of birds were recorded in the first couple of winter sessions, including the locally scarce Brambling and Hawfinch. Unfortunately, the camera wasn’t set for the spring migration, when I was hearing regular bursts of song from Wryneck, Bonelli’s Warbler and even Grasshopper Warbler. Hopefully next year…

Bumble bee on flower

Bumble bee on flower

And the bees? Well, one of the measures that you can take to encourage native bees is to provide water for them. They need nectar and pollen sources, soft banks to nest or roost in, patches of exposed earth and water. Although the hard truth is that we’ve had more interest at the pool from wasps and even dragonflies than from bees, it’s still early days yet, and once the drought has come to an end hopefully much of the flower seed we have sown will grow into flowers, attracting bees who will then need a drink after gorging themselves on abundant nectar. Either way, we’re going to have a lot to say about bees …

Next chapter: The frog in the well

What real people say about Birding In Spain:

Julie and Roger Knourek (USA), Marvellous May 2019

Hello Steve and Florinda! We’re back in Arizona, rested up and ready to travel to Wyoming for the rest of the summer. I just wanted to take a minute to thank you for the Marvelous May trip we recently went on with you. Everything worked out perfectly – the birding was excellent, the hotels and food were wonderful, and we enjoyed everyone’s friendship and companionship while we were on the tour. I really appreciate that you were able to accommodate our needs when necessary. It was truly one of the highlights of our lives!!! I will post a few pictures when we get to WY and get settled in. Thanks so much!

We recommend:

Marvellous May Scotland Tour 2020

  • information to follow

Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Short Break

Being a local bird tour specialist – both agency and guide – must be like being an actor – you can’t escape first-day nerves and uncertainties.

Will the Wallcreepers be there at the first site?Will everyone get to see them? Or will we have to use one of the back-up sites and bear the weight of undelievered expectations until a Wallcreeper finally flutters into view?

Can the forecast be trusted? Will it really rain on Tuesday, or should we go ahead with our original itinerary?

Will everyone in the group be in shape enough to make the walk to the entrance to the gorge?

And so on. Until you walk onto stage, move into gear, and flow with the motion, letting the years of experience do their thing while you get that nagging voice of doubt to sit down and shut up. Under promise, over deliver. Let the group dynamics furnish most of the input, just add a drop of oil now and then on a few rusty spots. And above all, let people enjoy themselves – they’re on holiday, after all – whether it’s with rare Wallcreepers or abundant Griffon Vultures.

Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Tour

You can join us on one of these Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Tours in November 2019 or February 2020. It’s an interactive performance.

 

Birding In Spain’s Gift Pack – what a great idea!

About the Birding In Spain Gift Pack now available:

Looking for a Christmas gift that will leave the loved one(s) open-mouthed with delight?

You must know that birders already have bird books, binoculars and apps, but that nobody – even the most experienced birder – has travelled the whole world and seen all of its birds and natural wonders.

two birding together

                                     Two birding together

Have they ever been birding in Spain? If not, can you think of a better way to make them a gift that they’ll enjoy and remember for a long time?

Birding In Spain is easy, safe and really enjoyable. Here’s how to do it:

Birding In Spain gift card

                                  Birding In Spain gift card

  1. Look at the website, and download our brochure to see what kind of tours we put on offer, who we are, etc.
  2. Decide if you want to participate in one of the set tours, or if you want us to design a private tour for you.
  3. Decide how much you want to spend on your gift for now. The minimum of 50 euros won’t buy you a tour but it will ensure you a provisional place on one until all the details have been arranged and confirmed.
  4. Send us all the the details you can about yourselves, approximate dates, tour interest, etc, as well as what text and details you  would like us to incorporate on the personalized gift card.
  5. Birding In Spain Gift Pack Special! Purchase before 31st December 2018 and enjoy a 5% discount from the brochure price from any set tour, and a bottle of local wine or cava during your tour.
  6. Receive your personalized gift card from us. It’s a guarantee of our compromise with you. Merry Christmas!

Autumn Iceland Tour 2018? Yeah!

When planning this Iceland Tour for 2018 and 2019, I was asked why the autumn? Everybody knows that the best time for visiting Iceland is in the short summer, when the days are long and the birds are frantically set on their breeding activities and on raising their young. By September most of the migrants (those that there are!) have already gone, the weather can suddenly turn,…

Skogafoss Waterfall, Iceland

                          Skogafoss waterfall, Iceland

All that is true. So at the time I was less eloquent in my answer, babbling something about the Northern Lights (which are not seen in June, but there’s a reasonable chance in September), about Glaucous and Iceland Gulls everywhere, wintering and passage geese flocks, and the chance of some lovely autumn days. I don’t think I was that convincing.

White-tailed Eagle, Iceland

                            Immature White-tailed Eagle in northern Iceland

So now, after our first Iceland autumn tour I’ll let the photos do the talking – well, most of it! For the record though:

Humpback Whale

                                                   Humpback Whale spouting

  • We came close to Humpback Whales on a beautifully calm day, on a lovely old fishing boat, and with snow-capped mountains framing the photos
  • The Ptarmigans we encountered all had white “trousers” and were in different stages of donning their snowy winter plumage
  • We had flocks of geese: Greylag, Pink-footed, Greenland White-fronted, Brent and the vagrant Canada Goose.
  • On one day we saw 5 merlins and 2 White-tailed Eagles, among other things
Whale-watching boat and fjord, Iceland

                                   Whale-watching in northern Iceland

  • We had days when the scenery and the weather were aligned just perfectly (we also had days when it was windy and downright freezing!)
  • Glaucous and Iceland gulls were indeed all around, as were Common Seals
  • Gyrfalcon, Arctic Fox, Grey Seal, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Harlequin Duck, Purple Sandpiper, Black Guillemot, divers, scoters and more were all memorable features and moments
  • Good food, hotels in great locations, easy-going Icelanders and a really lovely group of participants made us just so content that everybody was going home happy
Iceland tour participants

                                    Autumn Iceland Tour participants 2018

All things permitting, we’ll be doing another Iceland autumn tour in 2019. Oh yes, and a summer tour as well.

Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Tour and the Big Year Prize

We know, and we apologize. We haven’t appeared on the blog for months now. Now, it’s not as an excuse, but rather as information, that we can tell you we have been very busy working on a new Birding In Spain Tour brochure, and a great competition where prizes can be won every month. Additionally, there will be a Big Year Prize at the end of those 12 months, with the option of winning a place on one of our Wonderful Winter Tours Winter wallcreeper tour info (1) to take place in 2019 or 2012.

Wonderful Winter Wallcreeper Tour

Want to know more? Then get in touch via e-mail, or follow Birding In Spain on Facebook. There will be competition announcements on Twitter and Instagram, as well as on this blog.

The Iceland Experience 1

Our Iceland Experience

A day out Whale-watching

Icelandic horses

Icelandic horses grazing near Akureyri, Iceland

I can’t confess to anyone how fast I drove our hire car along that almost deserted road running along the western shore of the fjord, hoping to get to the whale-watching harbour before the ship’s scheduled departure at 9.30 am.

“When they see us, or people like us, the locals must think that the tourists are crazy”, observed Florinda.

And in truth, driving like that did seem out of place, taking into account that in this part of Iceland all roads except the main ring Road 1 were virtually empty, and that we had not encountered anybody speeding over the last week while driving in the country. I was no expert in the Icelandic temperament, but the people didn’t seem to do stress the same way I could.

We sped past a few local ladies out for a walk on the edge of the harbour-side settlement which passes as a village in these parts. I imagined their surprised comments as we pulled up into the harbour and spotted the likely looking vessel comfortably moored by the sea wall. That’s funny, we couldn’t see the activity one would normally associate with a whale-watching cruise about to depart in a few minutes’ time.

We dithered between the moored vessel and a large warehouse which was obviously the commercial base. The only person we could see was a blond middle-aged man in an anorak, walking calmly towards us. He was smiling gently, and to me he looked like a skipper.

“Hello, is this where we get the tickets for the whale-watching?” I asked.
“Yes” he said, “You’re a bit early though, we don’t depart until 1.30 in the afternoon”.

About half an hour later we were back at the guesthouse. Slightly deflated. We approached the reception desk, our source of local information, including the whale-watching enterprises and their timetables.
“Um, the departure from Dalvik is in fact at 9am, not 9.30. And at Hauganes they only do an afternoon departure at 1.30 pm,” I pointed out to the attentive young lady who had previously provided us with some slightly inaccurate information.
“Oh really?”, she smiled, “Thank you for telling me”.

So what could we do for the next 3 hours? We retired to our room to consult leaflets and things over a quick cup of instant coffee. I thought hard while staring out of the window watching some of the numerous and noisy Redwings feeding in the clump of Rowan trees within metres of our room. There were Common Redpolls there too, I could hear them, but they moved so fast it was so hard to get a decent view of any of them.

Iceland fjord

Florinda, a Black sand admirer, Akureyri, Iceland

Our solution was to take a gentle walk along the shores of the fjord – unfortunately we were also just a little too late to go horse-riding. As a complete beginner I’m not sure whether I was relieved or not about that. Still, the walk was enjoyable, the waters were calm and we spent some good time watching Long-tailed Ducks, Common Eiders and Glaucous Gulls at close range, and in calm, gentle sunshine. I kept scanning for the Diver (Great Northern?) I had seen from the guesthouse the previous evening, but it seemed to have moved on. Turning inland and reaching the local road was not enough to call us towards the “forest”, which, by Icelandic standards was obviously quite an eye-catcher, but by my Anglo-Catalan standards was a rather lifeless rectangle of land planted with single-aged spruce trees, where the only birding appeal might be to get close to a slow or unwary Redpoll.

Some time later, we pulled into a parking space in the harbour well before 1 o’clock: we weren’t taking any chances! The possibility of seeing whales was one of the major highlights of this trip for Florinda, we knew there were no guarantees, but the pressure was on. We paid, each found a red jumpsuit which fit us and, feeling slightly awkward in this unfamiliar attire, filed out towards the vessel among a growing group of similarly-clad visitors. The captain was there again, with his enigmatic smile.
“What are the chances of Humpback Whales?” I asked, searchingly.
“That depends on them, but should be good”, came the not-quite reassuring reply.

As our ship set off we could feel a breeze working up and see grey clouds gathering – the lovely calm conditions of the morning were changing and the forecast was for overnight snow. Hopefully we still had a few good hours before things got rough, time enough for us to see a Humpback Whale or two, and to get back to dry land without Florinda having cause for getting seasick!

We had just turned into the open fjord when the first mate shouted to the skipper, who immediately announced that there were Humpback Whales, 3 or so, and gave full throttle across the fjord towards the whales. Could that really be true? He wasn’t having us on, was he? Some of us held on the rails and peered out past the stern, following our line of travel to try and spot a Humpback Whale, and yes! There was a huge watery spout being blown high into the air! Then a tail fin breaking the surface and disappearing below! There really were whales out there!

Humpback Whale tail fluke

Whale-watching: Humpback Whale tail fluke

The next couple of hours were better than we had even dared to dream: we came into close contact with at least a dozen Humpback Whales of different ages, one time so close that one surfacing whale blew its watery spout into my gaping mouth. It was light and salty. We saw the barnacles growing on their bodies, the nicked fins of some, and could tell when they were just swimming or going for a dive. Another vessel had sped up from Akureyri to join us, and after many close contacts with the Humpacks the skipper could see we were all well-satisfied and offered coffee, biscuits and buns to all.

Humpback Whale submerging. Whale-watching north of Akureyri, Iceland

Someone’s just caught a fish!

Great Northern Diver, or Common Loon, Iceland

Turning back to the western shore we hadn’t finished yet. There were good numbers of gulls in flight over the water, including Black-legged Kittiwakes, Glaucous and Iceland Gulls – I’d never imagined I’d see so many in one place- , and a single Great Skua. Common Eiders seemed to be more common closer to the shore, and didn’t seem too put off when we dropped anchor to do a spot of line fishing.

Result: the Chinese tourist was exultant as he caught a fish – and took a selfie; I too caught my first-ever fish; and what about Florinda, would she catch a fish too? Maybe next time – she had already seen so many Humpback Whales, better than a dream come true, so how much more can you ask for?!

7 Marvellous Days in May

New 7 Marvellous Days in May Tour

How do you get from Storm Petrels to Lammergeiers in 3 easy steps?

See the pdf here to find out!

 

Marvellous May (1)

Or should it be 7 Days in Marvellous May?

Iceland Autumn Tour 2018 – with contact info!

Iceland Autumn Tour 2018

Sorry to be repetitive but we have an excuse! Here is a link to download all the information about our 2018 autumn Iceland tour, this time with contact information, which we forgot to publish last time. We apologize for any inconvenience and take the opportunity to show a few more photos of this marvellous experience!

Autumn Iceland 2018 contact

horses-andrew-maranta

Icelandic horses near Akureyri (photo by Andrew Maranta)

iceland-bird-sign

Birds! Shades of Hitchcock?

iceland-godafoss

Godafoss waterfall. Godly.

iceland-hellnar

Headland near Hellnar

iceland-whale-2

A Humpback Whale has just spouted into my open mouth!

iceland-snaefellness

The Snaefellness Peninsula glacier

Autumn Iceland Tour 2018

Iceland in autumn!

Balenaloblog

Humpback Whales

Geiserblog

Geysers

gyrfalconblog

Gyr Falcon

 

Here is the pdf with all the information you need to get you warmed up for our autumn Iceland Tour 2018. There’ll be great birds, amazing scenery, whales and seals, maybe even the northern lights too. Oh, and some wonderful photo opportunities, so you really must bring a camera, even if it’s only on your mobile phone!

Autumn Iceland 2018

pascal-mauerhofer-sealblog

Common Seal

Short-eared_owl_blog

Short-eared Owl

vincent-guthblog

Northern Lights

Photo credits: Florinda Vidal – Whales and Geysers; Ólafur Larsen – Gyr Falcon; Pascal Mauerhofer – Common Seal; Dan Dzurisin – Short-eared Owl; Vincent Guth – Northern Lights.

Are you sure the best thing to do is to ignore this? Think about it…Iceland….Iceland….

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