We’re on a Euro trip, picking off birds here and there. Lithuania, Poland, South Germany, Calais France, back to Germany, Gibraltar, Mallorca, …..
The first bird was Aquatic Warbler in Poland. It was a close call that we went for the Albatross that had been seen regularly on Sylt, north-west Germany but the Albatross decided to leave just as our Euro trip started, so we went to Poland instead.
Our original plan was to try for the Aquatic Warbler during migration. We were told that it’s reasonably easy in Portugal during migration, late August. It’s also a possibility in Holland during migration. We felt this was a bit random and decided to twitch it at one of the breeding sites in Poland instead. Flew to Lithuania and drove to Bialystok in eastern Poland. Arrived late at the site and slept in the car. At dawn the warblers were singing in the marsh and we were able to locate a singing male fairly easy.
Off to Germany and their two iconic Cat-C species. The Yellow-headed Amazon in downtown Stuttgart and the Swan Goose in downtown Heidelberg. Both were easy to find.
At this point, we had a few options available. A White-winged Scooter in Scotland, the possibility of the Albatross becoming twitchable again as well as an Elegant Tern that had been very stable close to Calais on the English Channel. We opted for the tern. This was also close to forests with known populations of Reeve’s Pheasant. We twitched the pheasant easily. Our friend PAC said that these pheasants are not tickable, however other birders (on Netfugl) tick Reeve’s Pheasant around Calais and until some French birding committee says that these birds are cage birds we tick it. The former population on Îles d’Hyères is apparently extinct.
These birds, the pheasants are assisted by humans. They are bred and released for hunting. OTOH, so are Ring-necked Pheasants, all over Europe. We tick the Ring-necked Pheasant without hesitation (unless you are Dutch)
Then we went for the tern. It had been seen regularly amongst a colony of Sandwich Terns on a beach just north of Calais. We arrived at the beach in the evening and scanned through the Tern colony. Next day we started at dawn, and searched and walked the beaches to no avail. The Elegant Tern just wasn’t there.
Eventually we gave up on the tern and drove all the way back to Stuttgart to return the car and fly on to Malaga, southern Spain. (Today, when I write this, we see that the damned Tern is back again)
Two important birds in the Gibraltar area, the first one – where we had received a good spot from Mårtens friend Rafa Benjumea (from Ecotonobirding ) for Iberian Chiffchaff. We played our mobtape, which has proved extremely successful. No Chiffchaff appeared so we gave up and went to another spot, a spectacular cliff overlooking the strait of Gibraltar. The bird which was possible here was White-rumped Swift. We scanned the area for a few hours. An Eleonora Falcon came flying – this was a year tick and a lifer for Erik and me.
Balearic Shearwaters flying outside the cliffs, also a good bird. Far away, but identifiable.
So – with this streak of bad luck, dipped Tern, no Chiffchaff nor the Swift we had lunch. No time to relax, just push on. We eBirded another point for the Swift and went there, just north of Gibraltar. Lots of swifts in the air, and after maybe an hour, we found two White-rumped Swifts flying. We got good views in the scope but no pictures. Phuuu, at last, now it’s turning. Went to a strange hotel very close to the site for the Chiffchaff, the idea being that we jump up very early in the morning looking for it again. Just as we park the car at the hotel, an Iberian Chiffchaff shows well in the hotel garden. Dang.
Move fast, next day we flew to Mallorca. Two important birds there, the newly split Mediterranean Flycatcher which was very easy. They were virtually everywhere on Mallorca.
Harder bird to find was the Balearic Warbler. We tried first one place close to Port de Pallenca where it had been reported, we only saw Sardinian Warblers there though. Next we tried a valley close by. Walking into the stony valley, Mårten and Erik hear the bird calling faaaar away. Hyper-hearing. It’s in the bushes, and they sort of hear it maybe calling very low. I cannot hear a thing, but we make our way through the thorns and suddenly we flush a small dark bird. It lands maybe 100 meters away and we can see it, it’s the Balearic Warbler. It came in closer as we playbacked the song and the call and we got excellent, but short views.
Mallorca cleaned up, next stop before we go to Corsica is Valencia where a pair of breeding Elegant Terns appears to be possible.