Monday, 29 June 2015

Spotted Redshank, River Clwyd

Having carried out a lot less birding on the River Clwyd this year, I have still got down there when I can and with it being a great place for waders, I'm always on the look out for a good species. John Roberts found this beautiful Spotted Redshank this afternoon associating with the Redshank just south of the railway bridge on the low tide. In it's fine summer plumage, it showed well from distance feeding away.
Spotted Redshank in a fine summer plumage
Spotted Redshank is quite a scarcity in Rhyl with the nearest birds present and best seen at this time of year at Connah's Quay NR. Birds have been sighted previously on the Clwyd with the last one back in 2012. It is a bird I've been hoping to see on patch for a good while so it was nice to finally come a cross one this afternoon.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Birding New York

During the last week of May, I spent 10 days in New York City making the most of what the city had to offer in terms of birding and migration. It proved to be the tail end of migration but after the harshest winter on record, migration was delayed considerably which allowed us to connect with a few more species than expected. In total we saw 123 species with 100 of those being new birds!
I've put together a video compromising of just a few species encountered during our time in New York. We visited Central Park, Prospect Park and Inwood Hill Park within the city centre. We hired a car to take us out of the city to Bear Mountain State Park just outside Doodletown as well as Jamaica Bay and Plumb Beach located on the coast.
Birds featuring in this short film are as follows:
Gray Catbird, Blue Jay, Northern Flicker, Red-Winged Blackbird (male), Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Red-Winged Blackbird (female), Mourrning Dove, Lincoln's Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-Sided Warbler, Red-Eyed Vireo, Black-and-White Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Northern Waterthrush, Hermit Thrush, White-Throated Sparrow, Magnolia Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Blackpoll Warbler,
Brown-Headed Cowbird,
Eastern Towhee, Northern Parula, Eastern Kingbird, Olive-Sided Flycatcher, Blackburnian Warbler, Empidonax sp, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Wood Duck, Blue-Winged Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Brown Thrasher, Tree Swallow, Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpiper, American Oystercatcher, Snowy Egret, Northern Harrier, Forster's Tern, Black Skimmer
A more detailed trip report will follow in the coming weeks

Friday, 19 June 2015

Cretzschmar's Bunting at Bardsey finally gives itself up!

After an initial report and a brief sighting of a Cretzschmar's Butning on 10th May 2015, despite a huge search the bird was not relocated until the 12th where it was again seen; albeit briefly. This would represent a first for Wales and a 6th national record after a Fair Isle bird as recently as last year. This would prove very popular if pinned down to a specific location with all previous records coming from Orkney or Shetland.
The Bardsey crew worked incredibly hard over the following days in order to locate the bird, and locate the bird they did. On the morning of the 14th, the bird was again reported and seen well within the compound of the lighthouse to which we made our move. Steff kindly decided to drive and we set off knowing that no boat load to this date had successfully twitched the bunting within the day. On arrival after the boat crossing, we made our way over to the lighthouse unknown of what to expect. The bird was apparently still present within the vicinity but not been seen for other an hour. We waited a further hour and still without a show, we came to the conclusion that it wasn't in the patch of grass we had all been anticipating it to come out of.
Eventually and to our disbelief, it finally showed and showed well. The bird sneaked over to a shaded area where there was a scattering of seed put out by the warden. The bird gave a much darker impression than an Ortolan Bunting with a blue-grey head, deep rusty-brown breast and warm orangey throat. The white eye-ring stood out as well as it's streaked back.
Cretzschmar's Bunting
During the next half hour, the Cretzschmar's Bunting showed well again giving some lovely scope views clearly allowing us to appreciate all it's fine beauty. The bird has shown well since and I haven't heard of anyone else twitching the bird and not seeing it up to writing this post. Hopefully the bird will stick around for all and it's clearly a reminder that North Wales can throw up some superb birds now and then if you stick at it. With a complete list of around 330 species and first for Britain in form of Yellow Warbler (1964) and Summer Tanager (1957). Throw in an American Bittern, Sora, Killdeer, Gray-Cheeked Thrush and Common Yellowthroat and it reminds us how good a place Bardsey Island can be.
A huge thanks has got to go to all involved at Bardsey Bird Observatory as without the dedication and effort to ensure and oversee the twitch, it all wouldn't have been possible. For more information on the observatory, future boats and day visits, please visit:


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

From East to West in a day!

With birding out of the country taking priority towards the back end of May, I was lucky that nothing 'big' turned up whilst I was away. Considering it was prime time in Spring migration, there was always a risk that this could happen and after last year's Short-Toed Eagle nightmare, I was more nervous! Birds have been a little later this year and as a result timed it nicely for my return. This weekend was devoted for the Hudsonian Whimbrel (an American species) which was found at Church Norton much earlier in the week. I had hoped that it would stay for the weekend so I could get the opportunity to see it!
Saturday came and a late start to the day was unavoidable due to work commitments until Black-Eared Wheatear popped up on the phone. A striking male had been found at Acres Down that morning and photographed. This was now a priority and I needed to get moving. Myself and Steff travelled down shortly and arrived early evening. To our delight, the bird was still on show but mobile obviously feeding up with the intention to move on at the next available opportunity.
Eastern Black-Eared Wheatear
The bird by this time had been called an Eastern due to it's stark black and white plumage and lack of rusty tones on the mantle, head and upper breast. Instead, you could easily pick out the greyish tones on it's crown.
In flight, the tail had a more extended black on the sides and the white reached right up to it's head as you can see in the video below
Hudsonian Whimbrel has only recently been split by the BOU and recognised as a full species rather than a race of our more familiar European counterpart. The next bird on our radar was this so we travelled over to gain some good scope views of the bird at Church Norton. The bird was incredibly distance to begin with making it difficult to pick out the features whilst it was ranging inside a lower channel.
With the incoming tide in our favour, the bird was forced ever closer. Although this improved our scope views, taking a picture was still very challenging. The bird spent a lot of it's time in the long grass on the island feeding but seems very settled on the marsh with the other Curlews and Black-Tailed Godwits present.
Hudsonian Whimbrel
The main features identifying this as a Hudsonian is it's longer bill, it's lighter-brown appearance and a plain brown rump and back opposed to a white one on the European species. Two superb and mega birds in a space of a few hours!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Corncrake at Hale, Cheshire

A Corncrake is a rather secretive bird rarely ever seen on migration but rather vocal on breeding territories. It's a bird I'd only ever seen in flight and without another trip to the Hebrides of Scotland, there was always going to be a slim chance of success. Of course, birding throws up the unexpected and after initial reports of a calling Corncrake at Hale in Cheshire, access was possible and a watching point was set up from the road.
On arrival at the site in Hale, there was a small group of birders and not much action. The bird had been rather elusive that morning and less vocal that afternoon. After initial feelings of having to wait some time, it piped up with it's 'crex crex' call. It wasn't long until one of the birders present spotted it. Like a needle in a haystack, excellent directions led me to get on the bird as it continued to show well in the horse field. The bird remained faithful to the small patch of grass in front of the nearby hedge to where we were standing giving fab photographic opportunities calling at times.
Corncrake was once a common sight breeding across North Wales and Cheshire a few decades ago. Changes in farming and habitat loss has forced these rare breeding birds to the remote islands of Scotland. Other birds noted was a Corn Bunting (another declining and very rare sight in Wales), 2 Grey Partridge and a handful of screaming swifts... but sadly no Pacific amongst them!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Citril Finch, Holkham Pines (Norfolk)

After an excellent day in Hampshire seeing the Greater Yellowlegs, I was looking forward to a day in North Wales hoping to catch up with some of the local birds.. I was planning the day ahead until everything changed: CITRIL FINCH, Norfolk. Damn! I must admit there were a few seconds where I hoped this bird was a flyover and not been seen since and that was the message that came through!! A couple of hours later through checking messages, news and seeing a picture of it, myself and Steff caved and went for the bird. Steff kindly offered to drive and so we were on our way down.
Despite a couple of early 20th Century rejected reports, there has been just one accepted British record of Citril Finch coming as recently as 2008 from Fair Isle therefore this was a must and a golden opportunity to see one. Arriving at Holkham and paying a London City parking price for a few hours, we had another half hour's walk west through Holkham Pines and into the dune system. As we arrived the bird was luckily on show, although not for long! We both saw it for seconds through someone else's scope and off it went. Short lived but we were reassured it would be back.
Around 35 minutes later it was, and it came back down into the dune system to feed. This allowed good opportunities for taking a couple of snaps and enjoying the beauty of this small finch. There's been much speculation of acceptance of finches, buntings and wildfowl in Britain as many are kept in collections or privately. The last Citril Finch was accepted after long deliberation and investigation through isotopes and research. It was thought that the Fair Isle bird (possibly this bird too!) originated from Germany with the Black Forest being a likely source.
It has been confirmed that Citril Finch are capable of movement and the furthest recorded individual has been recorded to have travelled in the excess of 600km. Birds have been known to tag themselves along with a migrating flock of Siskins and make significant movements.
With it being my first visit to Holkham Pines, it was remarkably interesting to see the similar habitat comparison to that of their breeding grounds. Yes, it's on a dune system at sea level, but this was the nearest it was going to get for a few hundred miles!
A top bird nevertheless! Since, the finch was seen very briefly on the following morning but no sign since. Holkham Pines is a huge area to cover though and a small bird could easily go missing in an area like that. With previous records of Red-Breasted Nuthatch,Black-and-White Warbler and Indigo Bunting to name a few it's a true little migrant trap where anything could turn up!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Greater Yellowlegs, Titchfield Haven

Greater Yellowlegs is the rarer of the two Yellowlegs species to turn up in Britain and having seen Lesser Yellowlegs on a couple of occasions, I was keen to catch up with the Greater Yellowlegs when one turned up back in January at Titchfield Haven. One thing was that I was watching a Harlequin Duck! Couldn't complain as it was a top bird to catch up with. Sadly the Yellowlegs had moved on by the day after.
...or that's at least what we thought. The same bird was then reported exactly 3 months later in April at the same location but again, we were back in Scotland! We finally got our chance on Saturday morning when news broke that the Yellowlegs was back on Posbrook floods, Titchfield Haven. It was a long shot but worth the gamble. Travelling through the traffic and thundery rain showers, we arrived on site and walked 400 metres south along the Canal Path. The Yellowlegs was still present with 80+ Black-Tailed Godwits; albeit asleep. Waiting for around 40 minutes, the bird eventually woke up, made a short flight and started socialising with the Godwits more occasionally probing around for food.
If we weren't lucky enough with our views, it took a short flight further towards us allowing photo opportunities and the video to be taken. The bird is evidently larger than it's Lesser Yellowlegs cousin. The Greater Yellowlegs are best distinguished from it's over all size, slightly broader, longer bill and bold flank streaking.
This bird has been  present in the area all winter (probably since last autumn) where the area around Titchfield Haven have been favoured. However, it's spending the majority of it's time at another unknown site; possibly private hence the lack of news.
An excellent bird nevertheless and a real treat to see.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Red-Rumped Swallow, Hull

Red-Rumped Swallow is a bird I've wanted to see in Britain for many years but being a hirindine, it has a tendency to fly away before getting on site! After various previous attempts of hoping to catch up with one of these birds, an 'one the day' twitch was vital and after confirmation of a bird present at East Park in Hull on May Bank Holiday Monday, thoughts of Bank holiday traffic had soon evaporated and myself and Steff were on the M62 heading towards Hull. It was just over a two hour drive altogether and we arrived on site mid-afternoon to discover that hadn't been a confirmed definite sighting of the Swallow since not long after midday.
After a good 90 minutes of checking each hirindine; Swifts, Swallows and House Martins, Steff did the unthinkable and locked onto a bird with an obvious Swallow-like flight, pale, warm rump and a cream-coloured underparts. Finally, the Red-Rumped Swallow was on the British list! It showed well for a good 5 minutes and all that were present within the vicinity were also able to connect.
Red-Rumped Swallow - taken by Steff Leese
The bird circled around a large area of the park and with a good vantage point of the bridge, we were able to keep good track of the bird. It flew, swooping down low and took at drink from the lake beneath it revealing it's beauty and separation from the more familiar Barn Swallow. An excellent and ridiculously long-awaited bird, and it was almost a year to when I saw them nesting back in Turkey last May!
Ironically, the bird has been showing better for the last 2 days and has altogether been present for 3 days! Certainly a bird, that if you're passing is worth the time of day and with the publicised breeding Montagu's Harrier's at Blacktoft Sands, it's an excellent day's birding!

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Red-Throated Pipit, Ludworth Moor, Derbys.

Red-Throated Pipit is more familiar in the upmost North of Europe where it chooses to breed on tundra and bare mountainous regions. It is a rare visitor to Britain mostly being recorded as flyovers at best. The Scilly Isles and Shetland have the best 'touchdown' record with an overwhelming amount of records primarily coming from there.
News broke on Sunday morning of a Red-Throated Pipit at Ludworth Moor. As with the majority of RT Pipit reports, it was a quick scan through and with no further news, I went online to see if there was anymore information to be had. News followed rather quickly that it wasn't just a flyover and myself and Steff were on the road from North Wales. An hour and a half later, we rocked up at Ludworth Moor to a long line of birders and a beautiful, stunning Red-Throated Pipit.
No sooner had I watched it for a couple of seconds it took off and landed out of view in the next field. Pressure off, but I wanted a picture! Luckily, it came back to the same field soon after and with time, managed some nice shots. It showed off superbly outshining it's more drab-looking cousin; the Meadow Pipit.
The bird appeared to be a male with it's red-pinkish throat extending down to the upper breast. The whitish mantle stripes seemed to be apparent contrasting with the black and the under-parts were a clean white.
The bird spend most of its time feeding up and made occasional short flights across the field with the Meadow Pipits. The bird stayed 2 days in total before continuing onwards and hopefully North-Eastwards back to it's breeding grounds.
A truly delightful bird to see and one that was certainly not predicted... One for the prediction though... A Black-Eared Wheatear next!
Here's a Red-Throated Pipit vid......

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Hudsonian Godwit, Somerset

All really to set to head off to Lincolnshire for a drake Blue-Winged Teal, all hell broke out when I received a text from Steff of news on a Hudsonian Godwit in Somerset. Was this genuine? Is there a pic? Will it stay three hours until I get there? Well there was only one way to find out... luckily I was already on the road while Steff and Zac were already on the road to meeting me. We made the obvious decision that the BWTeal was off and a trip to Somerset had now taken priority.
The three hour journey down was kind to us apart from the average 50mph zones which seem to be featuring on the M6/M5 every few miles.. Arriving at our destination of Meare Heath, a Wood Warbler called in the car park... despite the want to stop and track it down, there was no time for that, there was a 'third for Britain' waiting!
As we stood on a grassy bank over-looking a small scrape, there was a Hudsonian Godwit sleeping amongst a flock of 160 Black-Tailed Godwits. It occasionally moved revealing it's considerably longer bill. After around 30 minutes or so, it took a stretch extending it's wings high above it's head displaying it's main identifiable feature: black underwings. The onlookers watched 'ooh-ing' and 'awhh-ing' each time it did so. Our much more familiar Black-Tailed Godwit contrast by having clean white underwings and it was great to see both species side-by-side.
Clearly in the image above you can see the less-prominent white wing bars than what we're use to seeing with the Black-Tailed Godwits.

Scanning the flock with binoculars could easily highlight the Hudsonian Godwit as the much overall darker bird was easily picked out.
The lighting conditions weren't great created from the overcast sky but a supporting cast was excellent in the form of  3+ Great White Egrets, Hobby, Bittern, Garden Warbler, Wood Sandpiper and 2 Crane (presumed introduced birds from the Great Crane Project).
This (if accepted) will represent the third record for Britain following a single record in 1988 in form of a fly-over and the last real twitchable bird (presumed the same) in 1981 and 1983 at Blacktoft Sands in East Yorkshire. The question now begs whether this bird will relocate further North or stay in the area for a few more days. Since, there has not been any further sightings although I'm sure everyone across Britain will take that little bit extra time to go through their local Godwit flocks for the hope that it'll have chosen their patch to stop off on it's next stage of its journey. There's a good chance that this bird will end up in Iceland and remain with the current Godwit flock. Only time will tell!
After Little Bustard, Hudsonian Godwit, Great Blue Heron, two Harlequin Ducks, Pacific Diver, Greater Yellowlegs and Pied Billed Grebe turning up so far in 2015, what will be next?