Thursday, 27 August 2015

Spurn Point - 26th August 2015

 After starting the week with a lot of surveys, I was allowed a day off. I should really have had a rest as I'm ridiculously tired, but the days leading up to this day off held record counts of Willow Warblers and also very good numbers of Pied Flycatcher at Spurn. In addition there were several Wryneck, Icterine Warblers and a nice Greenish Warbler...It was a no brainer.
After checking my moth trap early doors, I set off and arrived at Canal Scrape at about half 10 and met Liam, who was just about to see a juvenile Red-backed Shrike in Clubley's Field, which was the first bird I saw as I got out the car...not a bad start!
We had a quick brew ready to set off for the point and whilst we did, the bush outside the Warren common room held a male Redstart and 2 Pied Flycatcher.
Getting past the narrows, the first Willow Warblers were seen along with 2 Common Sandpiper. Around the Sheep Field, we saw our first Pied Flycatcher and migrants were certainly obvious with loads of Willow Warblers and a couple of Whitethroat. Just before the lighthouse, I spotted two brown birds flying into a bush, which on reflection were probably Dunnock, and curiosity got the better of me. We walked over and I flushed a brown/grey bird with a long tail and a rufous speckled back. As it was about to land, I was expecting a Shrike to appear in the bins, but it failed to land and started undulating and revealed a yellowy throat and a very skinny body. It just had to be a Wryneck! I managed to get a couple of perched views and was over the moon to finally see a Wryneck in the UK taking me to 362 species BOU.
Heading down to the end of the point, we picked up Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Pipit, 3 Wheatear and about 7 Whinchat. Pied Flycatcher numbers probably hit 40 with flocks of up to 6 and Willow Warblers must've hit 80 at least.
Moving back up, we sat next to the heligoland in the potato fields as there was a hive of activity in terms of willow warblers. We gave it a good 15 minutes and saw about 20 Willow Warblers.
A bird suddenly appeared in an Elder which Liam and I instinctively got onto as soon as we saw it. It was startlingly pale and looked almost silver with the naked eye. It was basically white underneath with a clean throat and pale face. It was an obvious supercillium that appeared to get broader behind the eye and a pale green upperbody. As it dipped down to fly, I am positive I noted a wing bar. It looked very good for Greenish, so we waited a good while for it to reappear but frustratingly, it never did. I have never seen Greenish, so I didn't know they could look that pale, otherwise I might've been quicker off the mark with the camera. Would've been a quality bird to end what was a fantastic trip to the point, but oh well....

 On the walk back up from the point, we stopped at Chalk Bank to check any roosting gulls and waders. In amongst the Sanderling and Dunlin, there was a lovely juvenile Curlew Sandpiper and in amongst the gulls was a bird that initially gave us a little confusion. Liam's first thought was 1st summer LBBG due to the paleness of it compared to a standarly dark juvenile. I was instantly struck by the rather chunky bill, white basal colour long legs. I also noticed it had all juvenile scapulars (with the exception of possibly a couple of replaced feathers (was hard to see). It wasn't a 1st summer and I had my suspisions that it was a Yellow-legged Gull. As it took flight, there was a pale window to the inner primaries, fairly white rump and black tail band. It was indeed a fantastic juvenile Yellow-legged Gull. The first I've found in the UK of this age.

(Liam Langley)
(Liam Langley)
(Liam Langley)
After a quick cup of tea post-point, I headed back to Preston, stopping just north of Kilnsea Wetlands to scan a flock of gulls loafing in a newly cultivated field. There were 23 Med Gulls in there, which was a real shock considering there were only about 150 gulls and 30 Sandwich Terns.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Lesser Yellowlegs - Condor Green - 24th August 2015

After Bill Aspin, Tony Disley and Tom Darbyshire had a tantalisingly brief Lesser Yellowlegs at Brockholes last week, I was left feeling a tad deflated and hoped it would turn up somewhere else locally. I tried myself at Alston Wetlands and Grimsargh reservoir several evenings, to no avail.
I was pleased last night then, when it was relocated at Condor Green up near to Glasson.
Danni was still with me after our weekend at Birdfair, so first thing this morning, we headed north and started scanning the creek through the many Redshank. 2 Ruff and a Snipe, were the only obviously different birds amongst the Redshanks, Common Sandpipers and Curlew. We viewed a second time from the layby next to Condor Pool and it wasn't long before I picked up a distant, skinny wader with thin legs, thin bill, long tapering read end, long primary projection, obvious orbital ring and supercillium. It was the Lesserlegs and a lovely bird at that. We got nice views as it fed in the creek, but went out of view after a few minutes.
A nice Lancashire tick and a lifer for Danni

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Caspian Gull - Ainsdale, Lancs - 16th August 2015

 After a slightly quieter night moth trapping, I thought I'd utilise the stunning morning's sun and head over to Ainsdale to try and look for the 2cy Caspian Gull that has been present on and off for a couple of weeks. Arriving on site, it was evident why it has only been present on and off! The place was massive! The sand at low tide is amazingly extensive and the gulls were spread over a vast difference. It was going to be like finding a needle in a hay stack, but luckily the pin managed to find itself on the top of the hay stack! I walked onto the beach and the first flock of 10 gulls I came across held a large pale headed bird. It stood up and revealed a pale chest and belly, streaked neck shawl, 'spotted' mantle, the black on the tertials was very black and the back end was elongated. It was the Casp!
 When it got up and looked alert, it had a really long neck, looked very snouty and had a tapered back and 'filled nappy'-like vent and looked remarkably elegant as it strutted around with model-like long legs.
 Look how smart that looks!
 Showing how snouty, long-necked, slope-backed, pale-headed and leggy it was.
 In flight, it was obviously in a lot of wing-moult: most of the secondaries missing, with the inner 6 still being old, the outermost secondary was growing and the rest were missing.  Primary moult was mostly done with all replaced except p9 and 10 (with p8 still growing). Primary coverts were the same with the outer two being old.

Even with the moult being THIS extensive, it still looked better than any other gull on the beach! Only my second Caspian and a Lancashire tick. It was a fantastic morning and then news came in from the Scillies, but I have been trying to not let that ruin my day! Looking at these photos, it does seem to be working (a little bit...)

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Scilly Pelagics - Day 5 - 10th August 2015

 My last full day on Scilly and there was an evening pelagic that I wasn't booked on to. Long story short, I was boarding the pelagic at 16:55!
There was a nice breeze and as we were close our chumming location, Bob spotted a Great Skua on the water, so we slowed down and tried to approach it. As we did, a Sooty Shearwater appeared from behind the boat. As it moved round, at passed a second shearwater and too our surprise it was a Great Shearwater! What a manic 10 seconds and needless to say, the skua and sooty were instantly ignored as a Great Shearwater was circling the boat!
Throughout the pelagic, a further 5 Great Shearwater appeared and one stuck around the boat in our slick for about 40 minutes and coming so close to the boat, many cameras couldn't actually focus as it fought with the gulls for tid bits and dived for food (who knew they did that?!)

The views were phenomenal and it was a wonderful end to a wonderful set of pelagics. One of my favourite holidays in my favourite place in the world.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Scilly Pelagic - Day 4 - 9th August 2015

Three Great Shearwater were the obvious highlights from today's pelagic as they all came insanely close to the boat. As one banked round the whole boat, I ran to the bow hoping for a shot and it came round again and passed less than 10ft away! If I'd have been quicker, I could've perfected the above shot (clipped the wing!) Even when you get crisp photos of insanely close birds, you can always do better sadly! A super experience and lovely to note the difference in underwings between the three birds.

With increased wind today, we mainly did drift chumming (with a bit of steaming and chumming later on which favoured the Great Shears), and this meant that Stormies were ever present and providing wonderful photographic opportunities. Whilst I got maybe 2 shots I was happy with on Friday night, I got over 30 today that were sharp enough to warrant a second look when processing.

The sun briefly came out and I utilised this by getting some really nicely lit stormie pictures. Fantastic birds and a pleasure to be in the presence of so many, yet again.
With great numbers come great variation. As I zoomed in on my photos I had to double take this stormie with pale grey carpal bar a la Wilson's. This is reasonably common in Stormies though and the shape of everything else along with behaviour is all wrong.

Three small skuas followed the boat as we steamed and chummed and 2 of the 3 seemed to be head scratchers. The jury is still out whether they were Long-tailed or Arctic and I'm none the wiser either way.
The behaviour seemed to favour Arctic, harassing the other gulls around, but the mininal white in the hand on upper and underwing was interesting, the dense barring on the underwing, contrastingly barred rump and vent. In certain angles, the wings looked narrow and the bill was pretty delicate. This trip had once again reminded me just how out of my comfort zone I am with immature skuas.

After the pelagic, I had a very short break and then went to the Garrison to play 6-a-side against the Scilly local team with Scott, Alex, Elliot and Kris (we had to borrow one of theirs) and lost a dizzying 20-7. As we're playing 11-a-side against them in October, I think we need an awful lot of work in terms of fitness, skill and playing as a team with any sort of formation or understanding! Bring it on I say!