Friday, 19 September 2014

Dotterel on the Great Orme

An earlier report today led me to go down to the Great Orme this evening in the hope to catch up with a Dotterel that had been found earlier that day. After 20 minutes or so and with the heavy cloud rolling in, I picked it up at the highest cairn south of the limestone pavement.
I watched it for 5 minutes or so before an RAF helicopter flushed it (and me) further away as it passed within a matter of a few hundred yards! Another bird that nearly slipped past the year list!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Lesser Grey Shrike in Suffolk

Having spent the Saturday at Spurn, we stayed outside Hull leaving us in prime position had there be a bird turn up on the East coast. Luckily, a Lesser Grey Shrike had turned up on the Saturday but had spent a good two hours on that afternoon absent further south. With this in mind and considering past records having stayed considerably longer than a day, I waited on news before making a long drive down towards Hollesley in Suffolk! It was a bird I had previously missed on many occasions in Spain so was keen to see it!
It was a fairly straight forward drive down and we arrived in good time to see the female from distance out on the marsh between the beach and the small river outflow. It spent most of its time carrying out aerobatic display as it caught insects clearly showing its identifying features.  
Female Lesser Grey Shrike from distance
The Lesser Grey Shrike lacks any white above the thick black eye stripe unlike it's much more familiar cousin; the Great Grey Shrike. The LGS has a strong black forehead and lacks any white edges on the mantle. In flight, it is best to observe the wing pattern as it features a white medium patch which is larger than the patch on our European Great Grey Shrike. Again, in flight, it is best to observe the abundance of white on it's tail as they have much more of it present than what a Grey Grey does.

A very educational bird and certainly one right up there out of the birds I've seen this year!

Migrant rush at Spurn!

The Easterly's are blowing and the migrants are starting to arrive in force with a handful reaching the West. I dropped in on Spurn last week for the migration festival and in the couple of hours I was there managed to jam in on a Wryneck, Barred Warbler and Long-Tailed Skua.
Despite being elusive, the Wryneck showed well briefly on the road between the Bluebell Café and the Caravan park.
As we decided to travel down towards the site where a Barred Warbler was suppose to be hanging out, a Long-Tailed Skua came on as passing north from the sea-watching hut. After a sprint up to the beach, we were just in time for a juvenile bird passing high above the sea.
With evening drawing in, we were lucky to pick out a Barred Warbler hidden away in the Elderberry bush near the church. The bird showed relatively well for a Barred Warbler.
Barred Warbler - Taken by Steff Leese
Other migrants included Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Whinchats, Wheatears, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats and Blackcaps.
Out on the falling tide Curlew Sandpipers showed well amongst the Dunlin flock along with Golden Plover, Turnstone and Knot.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Marsh Sandpiper in Gloucestershire

After a very quiet August, myself and Steff decided to drive down for the Marsh Sandpiper that had turned up at Splatt Bridge in Gloucestershire. Despite reports of the bird being fairly distant, this didn't put us off going. We arrived around lunchtime on the 30th and quickly locked on to the bird. It was in company of 9 Greenshank and 14 Ruff happily feeding upon a flooded field.
The juvenile Marsh Sandpiper gave good scope views and allowed it to be easily compared with the neighbouring Greenshanks highlighting it's much more fragile, smaller size, needle pin-sharp, straight bill and overall plumage patterns.

Looks more like an artistic expressionist painting, but was the best I could manage in between distance and heat haze 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Blue Winged..............Hybrid?

Having had a very quiet few weeks birding, I decided to take a trip down towards Camp Lane Pools, Worcester as an eclipse drake Blue Winged Teal was staking out. There didn't seem to be much talk on the bird and everyone seemed happy with it's ID up until today. I haven't any experience with eclipse drakes and it's amazing how much you learn about a bird when it's ID is questioned. In my opinion, I believed this bird is a Blue Winged Teal. Innocent until proven guilty (or hybrid) in this case.
Shoveler was being brought into the equation as the day progressed. Yes the bill is ever so slightly bigger than what I would've liked it to be, but this feature is certainly not uncommon in Drake Blue Winged Teals especially. Although the images don't show this very well, but the legs were a nice yellowy-orange complementing BWT and it also has a very faint white eye ring.
The bird has a strong dark brown line through the eye and there is good evidence of spotting under the under tail coverts. It showed well with the resident Mallards clearly showing how small I size it was. The Teal had a nice slate-grey bill and it had a noticeable light spot just before it's bill.
In flight, the bird clearly showed light pale blue patches above the wing and had light underwing patches. It now appears, with better images that this bird is what was suspected: BWT x Shoveler hybrid but none the less, an interesting and educational bird and something that will teach me to always look at a bit just that little bit closer!

North-West Resident?

Med Gulls are occasional visitors to the River Clwyd in Rhyl with numbers touching double figures each year. This adult is thought to have been present last year but I failed to get a ring reading due to distance. When it appeared this year, I was keen to find out some history on it's origin.
Ringed as a young bird at Conchil le Temple, Pas de Calais, France in 2010, it was immediately found that October (2010) at Seaforth, Liverpool and again on 3 occasions in 2013 followed by a sighting at Pensarn in March 2014 and my record on 31st July.
Where is it breeding? Who knows but one would think it has taken up territory in the North West. Hopefully it'll stick about for many more years to come!


Black-Winged completes the weekly double!!

After dipping this bird in Durham a few weeks prior to going, I dipped it again in Cambridgeshire on the way back from Minsmere 2 weeks later. I was not going to let it get the better of me (#Eaglenightmare) and so myself, Zac and Steff returned a week later to the same place I dipped it the week before; Ouse Fen RSPB. It seemed to have settled after completing a few hundred mile tour of the East coast. I dread to think, but feel like I'd done just as much, or probably even more trying to see the damn thing! On arrival, the sun was baking and a 4km walk faced us which didn't fill us with joy. The bird was no way guaranteed as it had been best known for spending very short time down at the pools and then flying off high to another unknown location!

2km in and Steff picks a dark silhouetted bird flying around with the starlings flycatching, it was only the Black-Winged Pratincole! What a find and something that going to Minsmere the week before really benefited familiarising and seeing the Collared Prat!  

Black Winged Pratincole - taken by Zac Hinchcliffe

With it's dark wings, it was a complete contrast to the chestnut underwing of the Collared Pratincole and the Black Winged also held itself differently in flight as you can see from the image. It gave a tern-like flight and was described 'Green Sandpiper' like by Zac. Other birds we caught up with at Ouse Washes was a Temminck's Stint, Wood Sandpiper, Ruff and Garganey!
Earlier that day, we also jammed in on a Pacific Golden Plover at Middleton Lakes which was a lifer for Zac and Steff which kept them happy on the way down! It was originally put out as an American Golden Plover (which I needed) but was soon changed to a Pacific after better views. Shame! Again, this could've been the same returning bird that spent a few days at Rutland Water last year!
Pacific Golden Plover

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Collared Pratincole at Minsmere RSPB

It's not often that you get the chance to see a species of Pratincole in the UK. After a depressing dip of the Black-Winged in Durham a couple of weeks prior, I decided to take a weekend to Suffolk. Minsmere RSPB held a long staying Collared Pratincole at the time, of which would be a nice substitute from missing the Black-Winged Pratincole. After a long trip down and partly destroying the exhaust on my car after not seeing a bump on the way into Minsmere, we acquired good views of the bird sat down on the scrapes in front of South hide and then later on in the day; East hide. 

Collared Pratincole - Minsmere RSPB

Whilst there, we also had good views of Cetti's Warblers, Little and Common Terns, over 50 Little Gulls and Darford Warblers and a Juvenile Cuckoo on Dunwich Heath!

The Farne Islands

Last month I took a trip to the Farne Islands, some people would say it's probably the best place in the country to get up close to nature and breeding seabirds. Taking the boat over, one of the first birds we connected with was a superb Bridled Tern. This was the returning bird from last year which spent 4 weeks around the site. The bird showed well, albeit briefly until it was lost to sea but did return later on that day to give better views.
We decided to explore the island a little more, where Arctic terns nested just off the paths giving close views.
Arctic Tern chicks seemed fearless as they roamed the paths where we walked through
Razorbills showed well on the cliffs protecting their chicks from nearby dangers.
The rain started to come down whilst we were there for a short time but this didn't bother the Guillemots!
A cracking find by Steff was this beautiful Roseate Tern complete with a lovely black curved bill and bright red legs and a pinkish blush on it's breast!

A beautiful day had on the Farne Islands and very much recommended to anyone who likes quality and quantity!! 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Short-Toed Eagle finally stays put!

This Eagle (in the last 3 weeks) has taken more years off me than anything else imaginable recently. I was away in Turkey and then Romania during the last 3/4 weeks and low and behold, a twitchable Short Toed Eagle makes an appearance. (Not) funnily enough, I was in the UK at this point during a short window of changing flights. Of course, to inject the pain even more, a few close mates had travelled down and were (enjoying) keeping me up to date with the latest happenings. Complete with tiredness, I wasn't in the mood for it, or for what was about to come!

The Eagle showed well that morning in Dorset, I was stuck at Manchester airport as the flight was inevitably delayed, to which in the meantime I could've driven to Dorset, ticked the eagle and driven back up (albeit, tight). It eventually flew off and that was it, at least for a while, there were reports then of probable short toed eagle sightings across the south coast; Hampshire, Sussex, Cambridgeshire and it looked like it was going to be impossible to track down. Until last week, I was in Norfolk, Short Toed Eagle in Sussex... yes, it was still a treck, but doable! I headed in that direction until 80 miles was to go and then news filtered through of there being no sign.

 I wasn't in the mood for pissing around, so I headed back home as time was getting on. All week since the eagle had been showing on and off Ashdown Forest and the anxiety was building until the decision was final. I headed down with on Friday evening hoping to get it roosting and of course, it wasn't, so Saturday morning it was. Finally, after 4 weeks of hell, the raptor showed well from range.
Short-Toed Eagle - When present in Dorset (Taken by Steff Leese)
 Occasionally perched up in a tree and also making long flights around the ridge, the Short Toed Eagle seemed pretty and fixed on the area. You couldn't beat that moment and to make things even better, it dived down and flew off with a snake and ate it whilst in the air. A truly brilliant birding experience!
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