Friday, 3 July 2015

Gull-billed Tern - Burton Mere Wetlands, Cheshire - 3rd July 2015


Gull-billed Tern in front of Inner Marsh Farm hide.
3x Spotted Redshank in full summer plumage...stunning
1 of 2 Common Lizard

After visiting Exminster Marsh in Marsh twice in a day and missing the Gull-billed Tern twice, it was a sudden rush of adrenaline when I was closing down my laptop at work at saw a Birdguides printscreen of James Shergold saying GO GO GO as a Gull-billed Tern had appeared at Burton Mere Wetlands! Being only 20 minutes away, it would've been mad not to go!
I got there as soon as I could despite a spot of traffic and ran the mile from the car park to the IMF hide (which certainly proved to myself I'm not as fit as I once was!). I bumped into Scott as I got to the hide and he informed me it was asleep, so that was a bit of a relief knowing how impossible they can be to twitch! I got into the hide and it was sat there with jet black crest and bill tucked into the wings which projected well beyond the tail. Eventually it woke up and revealed it really chunky black bill (more impressive in the flesh than in photos!). It briefly flushed thanks to two squabbling Lapwings which allowed me to briefly see the long elegant wings. It looked to have some brown flecking in the wings suggesting a sub-adult, but can't be sure. 
Three Spotted Redshanks on view at the same time made for a rather stunning distraction from the tern whilst it was sleeping. 
On the walk back to the car park, I came across two Common Lizards too.

Monday, 29 June 2015

East Coast 'date'

First of all, can I only apologise for the photos as they are video grabs from my phone!

On Sunday I took Danni (the girlfriend if you didn't know!) across to Yorkshire to try and pick her up some new species.

We started off at Wykeham Forest raptor viewpoint to look for Honey Buzzards. It's proving a bit of a nemesis of ours now though as we've already tried multiple times this year with no success, with the exception of the day I went back to 'our site' on my own and saw a Honey in the same bins view as an Osprey! Typical!
The weather was far from favourable with light drizzle showers every so often and reasonable wind and cloud cover. It was fairly warm though, so we gave it a go anyway. With several Common Buzzards and Kestrels up, we were kept occupied and things got a bit more exciting when I picked up a Goshawk which seemed to hang/hover in the wind which was an interesting behaviour I'd never seen before. We decided to give up and head to Bempton Cliffs as Danni had never seen Puffin.

Bempton is pretty special to me as this is where I joined the RSPB back in 1998 when I was just 6. As we approached the cliffs, we got our first waft of seabird colony smell which takes me back to all the fantastic times I've had in colonies such as Puffin Island and Hornoya in Norway etc. Superb!
We had fantastic views of about 10 close in Puffins and about 50-75 birds flying around and landing on distant cliffs. It was great seeing Gannets flying around at all ages, including fantastic 1st summers looking very striking with dark plumage and white head. A single 'Bridled' Guillemot was nice to see too and again took me back to Hornoya spending time with the hyperborea race that were almost all Bridled. My highlight however, as is often the case were Kittiwakes. They're so smart and that striking red inside of mouth is just so amazing.

After we had our fill and Danni's cheeks were hurting from smiling at Puffins so much, we thought we'd try Wykeham Forest again as the weather was improving. When we arrived we instantly had a Common Buzzard circling with a very impressive female Goshawk. The views were great and really prolonged. This bird also hovered on the wind which made tracking it in the scope remarkably easy as it just didn't move! Sadly Honey Bs didn't show all day, so we decided to head home via Pennington Flash looking for Willow Tits late afternoon....The tables were almost empty which made it even more difficult to see what have been increasingly more difficult to see of late. Aside from a group of 9 Stock Doves and a couple of Bullfinch, the feeders were pretty quiet. Bunting Hide has always been and always will be one of my favourite hides though, so enjoyable nonetheless.

A rather lovely day out despite missing a couple of targets as I got to visit some of my all time favourite birding spots with my girlfriend. Brilliant :)

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Jonnie's leaving do at Spurn

 I spent the weekend at Spurn after heading to the South Coast for a leaving do for Jonnie who has now moved to Varanger! We started off early on eating toast and tea in the Warren when a muffled message over the walkytalky sounded like an interesting gull at Beacon Ponds. A quick repeat revealed 'Laughing Gull on the Wetlands'!! Action stations as we all dived into cars half asleep and got there as fast at possible. As we arrived at Kilnsea car park, we ran and the avocets were going mad. We caught sight of a gull in flight and lifted our bins. It had a jet black head, blood red bill and lesser black-back dark upperwings and broad white trailing edge! A first for Spurn and my third ever. Superb
After the adrenaline wore off, we realised we were still shattered (I had driven 800 miles the previous day!). After a while, I decided to walk to the point on my own and the best I could muster was a Sedge Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. Meanwhile the rest of the NGBs were at Sammy's and found a Marsh Warbler! I carried on working the point as if there was something at Sammy's then there's no reason that the point would be any different....I failed, so meandered slowly back to the Warren.
I took Matt, Jonnie and Twiggy back to Sammy's and we spent a long while enjoying the fantastic Marsh Warbler singing away and occasionally showing well.
Relaxing with a cup of tea at the Warren, a Bee Eater came on the radio flying south over Sammy's. We all went up to Numpties with the hope it would fly over. It was seen over the wetlands, church field and the triangle. We managed to pick it up in the scope and very distantly through bins, before it u-turned and seemed to head back to Church Field. We thought we'd go and try and twitch it (not having much hope it'd stick around) and as we drove past church field, it was sat on the wires right above our heads! It quickly flew into the field and began flycatching and landed on the surrounding wires.
An assembled crowd enjoying superb views for almost an hour as it sat in the sun, caught bees and called away. What a phenomenal bird and a real joy to watch.
Later in the afternoon, we managed to catch the Marsh Warbler (with schedule 1 license at hand of course) which was fantastic to see. Not only because it's only my second I've seen in the UK and one of my favourite species, but because of all the Marsh Warblers we caught in Sweden, I was having a morning off when we caught a single adult, so this was very educational.

 Sunday morning was really quiet, but I got to handle a Sparrowhawk (which had previously been caught at Mig Fest the previous autumn.) I have been ringing for four years and somehow managed to avoid Sparrowhawks all that time. It was a juvenile male with dropped and regrowing inner two primaries. Wonderful birds. A great end to a great weekend.

South Coast Megas

 Hudsonian Whimbrel...honest
 Greater Yellowlegs
 Greater Yellowlegs
I went down to the South coast with Liam as a combination of the long-staying Greater Yellowlegs at Titchfield Haven and Hudsonian Whimbrel (found by NGB George Kinnard) at Pagham Harbour were just too much to ignore.
We started at Pagham early doors, but we arrived just before high tide, so there was no sign of the Whimbrel as it was presumably in the long vegetation roosting. We then decided to try Titchfield whilst the tide went over. As it was on the flood viewable from public footpaths, we were able to get access before the reserve opened at 9am (and closed at 5pm) and avoided the £4 entrance fee (Thanks Amy for the gen). After a bit of annoyance from the bird walking out of view just before we got scopes onto it, we relocated and got fantastic views of what was a superb wader. In photos it really didn't look too impressive and I couldn't really pluck up the interest to go and see it, but I am really glad I did. In full summer plumage, it was a very smart looking bird and with slight primary projection, long bill, large size and overall lankiness, it was really educational to separate from Lesser Yellowlegs.
As we were onsite, news came through that the Whimbrel had been found again, so back we went. Sadly, that sighting was very brief and it landed in a creek and out of view almost straight away. We gave it an hour or so waiting and hoping it would move out of a creek, but eventually we gave up hope and decided that we'd utilise the rest of the day. Not ten minutes down the road, news came through again that it had been seen just after we'd left! Sod's law really!
I was getting annoyed by this bird now, but it would've been mad not to return. We took one scope with us and basically ran all the way to the assembled crowd. It had just flown, so we followed the stampeed of twitchers and got onto the two Whimbrels they were watching. I was confused as they looked identical and couldn't see the striking pale face and broad black striping on the face that seemed so obvious in photos. These were both Eurasian Whimbrels, I was sure of it. We soon got onto a third bird and this one looked so much more different. It was obviously rufous in tone, the pale on the face was almost white, the crown stripe was very broad and the bill seemed almost curlew length. It started preening and revealed a strongly barred rump with no white at all. Later on it flapped and revealed a similarly ginger banded underwing. This was the bird! So striking and fantastic to compare with the Eurasian Whimbrels. What a relief to see, but boy did it take some effort to see!
Due to lots of traffic problems, I was only able to get to one more site during the day and that was the Melodious Warbler that has taken up territory at Marsh Lane in Warwickshire. The bird was extremely vocal and it was incredible to hear how rushed it was. It did a lot of mimicking, but seemed as though it was trying to fit in as many impressions as possible! Quite remarkable. The mid-ranged primary projection, almost Marsh Warbler-like jizz to the face and warm green-brown and yellow plumage were easily noted. A nice bird indeed and one I've wanted to see for a while now.
 Melodious Warbler

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Day off in the Flatlands - 14th May 2015

So on a very rare day off, I took advantage and decided to go on a jaunt to the east coast to pick up a few yearticks and ideally a lifer in the form of Golden Oriole. There have been a lot of possible lifers in Norfolk recently, but alas, they have all gone! Golden Oriole has eluded me for far too long, so I was very keen to try my best with this species.
It turned out being a 20 hour trip with Jonnie Fisk getting churring Nightjar, 3+ Stone Curlew, Temminck's Stint, 2 singing Nightingale, 3 Red-crested Pochard, Spoonbill, 2 Woodlark, booming Bittern and a Turtle Dove.  Sites visited were Thetford Forest, Lakenheath RSPB, Weeting Heath, Wolferton Triangle (note a lack of a certain bird from the list.....), Dursingham, Titchwell, Broom GP, Paxton Pits and finally Gibraltar Point. The final site of the day took a real weight off my shoulders with THREE Golden Orioles including a wonderful adult male. The trio showed pretty well occasionally, but were very mobile and were flying up to 400m at a time, which made them hard to relocate/keep up with.

That's how you 'day off'!


 Last weekend I spent a fantastic two days with Jake Gearty, Danni Gilroy, Jonathan Scragg and Aidan Branch. We started in Aberdeen looking for the Harlequin, but sadly he wasn't seen at all on the Saturday and has since been seen up and down the river, which is frustrating! We then moved onto the Ythan Estuary and had superb views of the drake King Eider who was displaying like a hero. Next we moved onto the sublime village of Portsoy in beautiful sun and had excellent scope views of a full summer plumage White-billed Diver.
We ended the day in the Cairngorms with 2 Ptarmigan being the obvious highlight as they were just so fantastically tame and so beautiful! Some of the last birds of the day were 2 stunning Black-throated Divers, a stunning Slavonian Grebe and 3 displaying Ospreys, with the latter over the restaurant we ate at! We camped in a tent near the forest and enjoyed brief views of a male Capercaillie before bed...what a nice nightcap!
Sunday wasn't quite so brilliant as the weather was a little woeful to say the least. Crested Tit was about the only bird we added to the trip list, but that's rarely a bad thing! I had hoped to give the Crossbills a go, but sadly we only had a single flyover bird that was almost certainly a Common Crossbill. A great trip with some great people!

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Red-throated Pipit! - 3rd May 2015

Ridiculously good day with Jonnie Fisk and Daniel Branch with obvious highlight being the fantastic adult summer Red-throated Pipit near Stockport! Remarkable! Other highlights included yearticks of Montague's Harrier, Spoonbill, Black Tern, Common Tern and Curlew Sandpiper. Great day

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Local birding - Pectoral Sandpiper and a dastardly Bufflehead - 1st/2nd May 2015

 Last night on the way home from work I stopped in at Marshside to try and see the Pectoral Sandpiper. Just this week when the Rainham bird turned up, I was puzzled by spring Pec Sands and then realised that three of the four I have seen have been in Spring and in Lancashire! When one turned up at Marshside I couldn't resist so popped in. When I arrived it had just been flushed, along with the other 1000 or so calidrids, by a Peregrine onto the out marsh, so I had the hide to myself. After about twenty minutes, a flock of 30 or so waders came in and I picked up a call I was unfamiliar with but I recognised it from a previous search on Xeno-canto. A scan of the flock of Dunlin showed a slightly larger bird with a warmer tone, longer wings and pale belly. It landed and showed the yellow legs, yellow base to the bill, warm cheeks, tapering back end and most importantly, the strong contrast between the belly and breast streaking. My best views of Pectoral Sandpiper to date. Fantastic birds and I hope to finally find my own at some point in the near future.

Saturday came around and I was laying low after a tiring week hoping something would 'break' on the pagers and ideally not too far away. At half 8 I got my wish with a Bufflehead at Woolston Eyes! I was informed about the bird that toured the UK last year with a bright green ring on the left leg. The original finder was fairly happy it didn't have a ring, so access to the otherwise private nature reserve was granted at a cost of £2 per person. With several decent birds onsite and it not being all that far away I decided to take the risk. I joined Graham Clarkson, Paul Brewster, Scott Reid, Alex Jones, Steff Leese and Chris Piner on site and had really nice views of the Bufflehead as well as the male Ruddy Duck that took a shine to the bird! I had the ring in the back of my mind so paid a lot of attention to the legs and only really got good views of the right leg which was unringed. The left leg was harder to see but from what I could see, it didn't have the 'bright green' ring. A short while after I left the site, I was alerted that a photographer got a shot of the left leg and it was indeed bearing a green ring....oh well! A nice bird, a nice site I've been to only once before and nice to catch up with mates.