(3) Blog Posts Made in June 2015


This has been a good month for birds though I have spent some time away.  I attended Beating Retreat and Trooping the Colour on Horseguards for the first time and was suitably impressed.  I also watched Slovenia play England live.  I flew in and out using Zagreb which has changed since I last visited when UN HQ was based there.  At the beginning of the month I had organised a Bio-blitz for Heytesbury Wood and surrounding areas.  The sun shone but it was rather windy (a common feature this month).  There were lots of Swallow, Goldfinch, Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer as well as masses of corvids.  We saw many butteflies including Marsh Fritillary and a few Painted Ladies amongst the many invertebrates.  We also recorded about 130 species of plant.  My House Martin Survey at the old SASC camp near Netheravon produced lots of Swallow and Swift as the only hirundines.  There were none near home as well though I saw a few using a pond just in the square.  I also checked my bird boxes on the Plain and they will have to move as I am not keen on walking through Stinging Nettles at shoulder height.  The majority of my broods have fledged or were about to.  The boxes with holes were mainly occupied by Great Tit families.  I also did a lot of ringing though none on the Plain as the planned day's forecast was strong wind.  I carried out my BTO BBS instead and the forecast was right.  Besides recording lots of Skylark as I dodged the UXBs there were lots of butterflies which were mainly Dark Green Fritillary and Marbled White.  I had a long walk in from the north as there were restrictions but I did hear Grasshopper Warbler and a Barn Owl flew over me with a vole in its claws.  On the East Quail are regularly heard near Baden Down Farm and a ringtail Montagu's Harrier was spotted as I drove along the A342 (pure chance).  A Great Bustard is rearing a chick and Stone Curlew scrapes seem to be active though it is hard to spot the birds at present even in low vegetation.  A few Lapwings are also on the scrapes.  I have been birding in the New Forest (Goshawk, Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and Firecrest) and at Heaven's Gate and Shearwater in the County (Siskin and Crossbill).  I have been ringing at Trowbidge (Reed Warblers) and in the Braydon Forest area (Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Garden Warbler, Blackcap and Chiffchaff).  There are a series of woods north of the M4 between Royal Wooton Bassett and Minety.   There are lots of Corn Buntings, Yellowhammers, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits on the Plain and the young are active.


Cyprus Weekly - Final Edition

The Final Curtain

After 3 years and about 160 BLOGs, this is the final curtain. I’ve been struggling to find time to write the BLOG in the last couple of weeks and with it being June (the worst month for birding in Cyprus), I’ve also struggled for material, and so all in all, it’s probably time to call it a day, as I depart the island on 11 Jul and am on a Mediterranean cruise next week.

During my time on the island, I’ve submitted circa 35000 records detailing 305 species and managed to photograph many of them. My Cyprus list stood at 263 when I arrived and is now at a very respectable 320. 4 lifers were seen on the Island; Saker, River Warbler, Asian Buff-belled Pipit and Crimson-winged Finch, with an additional 2 being seen in Turkey – Brown Fish Owl and Red-fronted Serin. I’ve submitted rarity reports and supporting evidence for 37 rarity occurrences and so far, with a few pending, all have been accepted, including a few “MEGAs” like the 2nd record of Menetries’ Warbler, 5th record of Goosander, 14th record of River Warbler and recently the 1st record of Lesser Flamingo.

Despite the fact that writing the BLOG every week was a bit painful at times, on the whole, I’ve really enjoyed doing it and providing information to visitors. During my last 3 years and as a result of writing the BLOG, I’ve guided, assisted or provided information to in excess of 50 visiting birders and at a fraction of the price that they might have been charged elsewhere – so I’m very pleased about that! 

The 2 tours I organised for the Army Ornithological Society – 1 in the Spring and 1 in the Winter of 2014 were very successful with lots of new birds for all those participating. The best moments; finding a male Hooded Wheatear at Cape Greco on the final day of the Spring tour and getting a Wallcreeper for Tim Cowley in Avgas George on the Winter tour.

In many ways, I have mixed emotions about leaving Cyprus. Of course I’ll miss the birding with Rollers, Beeaters and Spur-winged Plovers to name but a few in my back yard but there are also reasons why I’ll be glad to depart. Sadly, despite the country being full of potential for birders the mass slaughter of millions of birds through netting, liming and shooting continues unabated and if anything, it’s got a lot worse during the last 3 years. Europe, The Cypriot Government, Birdlife Cyprus and the SBA Police seem unwilling or unable to take any real, meaningful action to address and defeat this disgusting, cruel and barbaric practice. Lobbying and campaigning are all very well but it doesn’t save any birds without practical intervention on the ground.

I do not discriminate between the political boundaries of the country or Birdlife Cyprus and KUSKOR as birds do not adhere to political boundaries and more needs to be done to produce a set of records that represents occurrences across the island if any meaningful data is ever to be collated. How it can be described as Birdlife Cyprus that doesn’t represent the Island holistically is beyond me.

Not to end on a low, a big thank you to all the friends I’ve met in Cyprus and visitors who’ve assisted me, joined me in the field and shared bird sightings, which have all added to a fantastic birding experience. Special thanks to the kindred spirit and long standing friend Colin Richardson.

Finally, a thank you to all the BLOG readers (I really have no idea how many), who have followed the exploits of a manic birder and twitcher. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the read and found some useful information on the Birds, Orchids, Butterflies and Dragonflies of the country as a result.

Many thanks and perhaps I’ll see you all around the course.

Yours Aye

Mark Easterbrook - The Bird Finder General - “It’s All About The List”!



It has been quite a while since I last posted some news about the Plain.  At the end of April and into May I was based in Sicily helping out and leading bird tours.  Just before I left when carrying out a Bee Survey I disturbed a Short-eared Owl which was a surprise.  To bring you up to date with May I should first of all mention that Stone Curlews are back and some have had chicks already.  I was looking at one with 8 Great Bustards yesterday and there was a pair with a chick on the Driver Trg Area at Tidworth.  There are also plenty of Whinchats about and a nest with 7 eggs on Deptford Down was predated.  Of my nest boxes all but one with holes are occupied (it lost the lid earlier on) but the open fronted boxes remain empty less an old one by Imber Village which has 7 Robin eggs.  Yesterday I saw 2 Hobbys on the west and on Saturday a Wheatear was at the refurbished junction of Berril Valley and Tinkers tracks. Cuckoos are calling from Westdown Plantation and near Southdown Barn.  Everywhere I go there are plenty of Swifts and Swallows as well as Whitethroats.  In the valleys there are lots of Stonechats some with young families already.  Tree Pipits have been noticeable and one by Imber Road perfomed as per the book as it took off from and parachuted back to a large Hawthorn bush whilst singing.  Butterflies include Adonis Blue, Small Blue, Grizzled Skipper, Dinghy Skipper, Duke of Burgundy, Marsh Fritillary, Brown Argus, Green Hairstreak as well as whites.  Of course there are plenty of Corvids about including Jays.  Ravens nested again in the quarry however the Peregrines have moved to the old cement factory building and not the tower.  Salisbury Cathedral has it pair back this season nesting on the south side of the spire.  Skylaks are singing across the area as are Corn Buntings.  Yellowhammers are bit more circumspect but they are still around.  One of my BBS squares is in the middle of the impact area and all my recording is done by sound as my eyes are glued to watching I do not place my feet too close to some half buried metal (especialy those with fins).   There is a Redstart near Southdown Barn and a Grasshopper Warbler has a nest around the corner of the track.  The whole eastern bank by the track south of the barn is occupied by birds including Reed Bunting.  There are Nightingales near Southdown Plantation as well as Lesser Whitethroat, Blackcap and Willow Warbler.  Chiffchaffs are quite common across the area as are Linnets and Goldfinches.  That brings me up to date with ongoing birds and with the weather getting better I aim to be out more weekdays.