Sunday, 22 December 2013

South of Baku

Finally work has eased off and I am able to start getting out and about to do some birding. I've also now got access to a 4WD so I took the chance to visit the Caspian coast some 20 kms south of the capital.

I've visited the area around Bakmi market before but was hoping for some wintering wildfowl on the two large lakes around the market area. They didn't hold the large numbers of ducks I'd hoped for but there were a few tufted duck and great crested grebe and I had close up views of several mediterranean gull hanging in the breeze. My shiny new swarovski scope came in handy for picking out large numbers of pygmy cormorant on the rocky islands and my first lifer of the day was four dalmatian pelican on the same rocky outcrops.

Parking up I took a rather muddy walk around the eastern lake and soon startled two great bittern that were out in the open. A far off eagle was probably a steppe eagle but not much else to report.

I then drove a few miles further down the coast to an area near one of the ubiquitous oil refineries. Spotting a raft of wildfowl out to sea I took a walk out to the waters edge to find quite large numbers of tufted duck, pochard and shoveler but most impressive was a flock of 28 whooper swan on the water. I also picked out two far off red-breasted merganser.

The best bird of the day was a merlin that flew over the car, oddly a common enough bird back in England but one I've not managed to see over the years. So two new lifers and 15 new birds for my Azerbaijan list, not bad for an afternoon.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Birding around Baku

I've been in Azerbaijan for two weeks now and finding somewhere permanent to live has taken precedence over birding but I have managed to get out and explore a couple of times so far.

Botanical Gardens, Baku

A somewhat scruffy botanical garden, more of an arboretum, in the west of the city. It's a quiet place behind high walls and appears to have a reasonable number of common woodland birds such as blue tit and blackbird. I've also seen two golden oriole and three cuckoo. It may be easier to bird in the winter after the leaf fall.

Qanli Gol, Baku

A medium sized lake in western Baku, unfortunately the citys unofficial rubbish tip too. Fair numbers of common late summer waders such as green sandpiper with several great crested grebe, moorhen and coot further out on the water. The reed beds gave up a little bittern both times I was there and they contain breeding reed warbler. Again likely to be more interesting in the winter when waders and ducks return. Surprisingly I've seen no herons or egrets except for purple heron in two visits.

Gorbustan National Reserve

This reserve some 40 kms. south of Baku is a protected area because of its ancient petroglyphs but the rocky hillside provides plenty of birding opportunities. I spent an afternoon hiking the hills and added 19 species to my Azerbaijan list including egyptian vulture, lesser kestrel and peregrine, black-eared, isabelline and pied wheatear, several lark species and a rufous-tailed scrub-robin but one of the commonest birds, and a lifer for me, was western rock nuthatch. It's a site I'll definitely visit again later in the year.

Pied wheatear, Gobustan National Reserve

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Azerbaijan frogs

Some photos I took birding Baku Botanical Gardens and a lake called Qanli Gol in the western suburbs. I haven't managed to identify them yet.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


I leave for a posting in Azerbaijan this weekend and should be there for at least a year. Birding highlights should be Guldenstadt's redstart, caucasian black grouse, great rosefinch, caucasian snowcock, lammergeier, snowfinch and red-fronted serin. There's also good numbers of goitered gazelle and wolf to find too, plus God knows how many odonata and reptiles to photograph.

I've added a page of my annotated sighting sin Azerbaijan.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Species a day

Some more species from a walk at the RHS in Wisley.

Emperor dragonfly, Surrey, England

Pied wagtail, Surrey, England

Little grebe, Surrey, England

Magpie, Surrey, England

Emperor dragonfly

I've been trying to get some photos of an emperor dragonfly for a couple of weeks. They are over 3 inches long but highly territorial and difficult to approach. This individual posed just long enough on water lilies at the Royal Horticultural Society at Wisley in Surrey.

Its size can be seen from the common blue damselflies that were mobbing it like crows mob an eagle.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Farne islands: Arctic Terns in Flight

Terns are a delicate bird that are great to photograph in flight given the right light conditions.

Friday, 19 July 2013

Species a day

More new species...

Ringlet, Surrey, England

White-legged damselfly, Surrey, England

Beautiful demoiselle, Surrey, England

Large skipper, Surrey, England

Comma, Surrey, England

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Wey Navigation Canal: New butterflies and damselflies

I took my 400mm lens on a walk along the Wey Navigation Canal today. It may not be as good a lens as the 100mm dedicated Canon macro I have but its 'reach' means I can shoot from the hip and grab a few of the more mobile subjects.

This meant I captured reasonable photos of 3 new damselfly species and 3 new butterflies.

White-legged damselfly

Common blue damselfly

Beautiful demoiselle

Large skipper



Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Farne Islands: Trip List

List of everything I saw on my trip to the Farne Islands.


  1. Mallard
  2. Common eider
  3. Grey heron
  4. Northern fulmar
  5. Northern gannet
  6. Great cormorant
  7. European shag
  8. Common ringed plover
  9. Eurasian oystercatcher
  10. Jackdaw
  11. Black-legged kittiwake
  12. Black-headed gull
  13. Herring gull
  14. Lesser black-backed gull
  15. Great black-headed gull
  16. Bridled tern
  17. Roseate tern
  18. Common tern
  19. Arctic tern
  20. Sandwich tern
  21. Common guillemot
  22. Razorbill
  23. Atlantic puffin
  24. Feral pigeon
  25. Collared dove
  26. Barn swallow
  27. House martin
  28. Rock pipit
  29. House sparrow

  1. Grey seal
  2. Common seal

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Species a day

More photos for my species a day challenge...

Banded demoiselle, Surrey, England

Blue-tailed damselfly, Surrey, England

Muntjac deer, Surrey, England

Monday, 15 July 2013

Farne Islands: More Arctic Terns

The puffins weren't the only birds busy providing for their young. The arctic terns, bringing back single fish, were probably working harder.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Farne Islands: Kittiwakes

The commonest nesting gull in the Farne Islands is the rather vocal kittiwake.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Odonata on the Wey Navigation Canal

We're going through a bit of a mini heatwave in England this weekend and I went for a lunchtime walk along the Wey Navigation Canal in Surrey.

July and August are the best months to see odonata in flight and the canal is home to several species. Damselflies were most evident particularly banded demoiselle and several other species were hawking the waters edges including azure damselfly, large red damselfly and I got my first photo of a blue-tailed damselfly.

There were also several huge emperor dragonfly patrolling mid-stream but they were too mobile for photos.

I'm not too skilled at odonata identification so I may return tomorrow a little bit earlier for another attempt at some photos, the morning should be a bit cooler and the insects a bit less active.

Other sightings of note were a muntjac deer, a pair of common buzzard and a large grass snake (about 18" long) that swam across the canal from below my feet.

Blue-tailed damselfly

Large red damselfly

Male banded demoiselle

Male banded demoiselles

Farne Islands: More Puffins

I was lucky that the puffin chicks only hatched a few days before I arrived in the Farne Islands. By the time I got there the adults were busy feeding their broods.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Species a Day

Five more species for Species a Day.




Arctic tern

Common tern