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?

Monday, 27 April 2015

Blue-Winged Teal, Donna Nook

After the excitement of successfully twitching the Hudsonian Godwit, the Blue-Winged Teal was held off for a day until the Sunday where Steff offered to drive me over to Lincolnshire in search for this American species. Blue-Winged Teals have been hard to come by for me in the last few years with mainly BWT x Shoveler hybrids turning up over the real deals! I missed the last local bird back in April 2013 at Burton Mere Wetlands whilst being up in Scotland and with it staying only a couple of days, it had sadly departed before I got back.
The drake at Donna Nook turned up about two weeks ago and has remained very elusive over it's stay remaining unseen for up to 5 days during one week. Waiting for a good day weather-wise provided key. We turned up not really knowing of what was in store. Seeing some birdwatchers in the car park, negative views came about on it's whereabouts and confusing directions added to the frustration. We set off on the 2 mile trek walking South East along the beach, passing the military area and following the military towers until we came to the last one on our right. Walking inland over a metal gate into a cattle field and over the bank, we finally found the pools that the Teal was inhabiting. Luckily, we didn't need to do too much more; a group of birders had the Teal locked down and it was remarkably 'showing' from inside the reeds! Not sure if I'd have picked this up though if I'd have been casually walking past on my own looking for it...
Spot the Teal
Luckily, the bird came out for a few seconds on the water and swam around to the other side of the small island. The contrasting white facial marking was apparent as was the small sky-blue speculum and the small white circular patch behind.
The bird was particularly wary and spent a lot of its time under over-hanging branches or in the reeds.
A couple of fine Yellow Wagtails also put in an appearance along with a couple of Lesser Whitethroats, lots of Common Whitethroats and a Wheatear!
I was really pleased to get the Teal as it was one on the most wanted list for quite a while. A huge thanks to Steff who drove!
A short video of the Blue-Winged Teal below:

Monday, 13 April 2015

Orme Ouzel Outbreak

After failing to not see a single Ring Ouzel last year, I wanted to ensure I saw a couple of birds this year as North Wales is an excellent place for catching up with the species as they're pretty hot on migration and breed at nearby localities as well.

The Great Orme has always been a migration hotspot over the years with scarcities such as Bee-eater, Red-Rumped Swallow, Alpine Swift, Subalpine Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Hoopoe and Short-Toed Lark just to name a few occurring during the Spring migration in recent time.

Woodchat Shrike - June 2012

With migration delayed due to a cold airspace centred over the UK, it was only a matter of time before the flood gates opened and the migrants poured northwards. Ring Ouzel's are one of the birds that have hit the UK in force within the last week with over 50 individuals reported from Combe Hill in Berkshire on 13th April. The Great Orme also delivered too with over 20 birds reported during the weekend.
Very distant shot in terrible conditions - Male Ring Ouzel
Myself and Steff took the trip over on Sunday I weather that can only be described as abysmal with gale force winds and driving rain starting out on arrival. Luckily we met Steve Culley there who gave us directions to bird by car which led us straight towards the flock. Up to 7 birds showed well (although there was probably 10+ birds in total) feeding on the ivy berries.
Note the stark contrasting white collar clearly highlighting them as a male birds
A lone male Blackcap and a Wheatear also joined in on the action as the Ring Ouzels sheltered from the spring storm. A great sight and despite the distance and the weather, it certainly provided a warm spring feeling on a dire, wintery day.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Patch Scaup Rarity

Found a real nice drake Scaup amongst the 11 Tufted Duck at the Brickfields pond in Rhyl today. The bird stood out a mile away and showed well at many times allowing good opportunities for images. It was only inevitable that something had to have been blown in on the back of the strong winds over the last two days.
The last Brickworks' Scaup was actually only a couple of years ago so didn't quite quality for a 'patch mega'. The search will continue during the Spring of which I'm still waiting for the first signs. Into April and no sightings of any hirindines yet really shows how slow it's taking.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Iceland Gull at Pensarn

Present for almost 6 weeks now, the Pensarn Iceland Gull seems to have made the overflow car park on the east side its home for the time being. It is still showing incredibly well and won't refuse a slice of bread or two. However, this isn't my latest record of Iceland Gull in North Wales. I found a second winter bird back in 2013 on 30th April on the River Clwyd.  
Hopefully the Pensarn Gull will stay around as long as that, but the likelihood is that it probably won't. So if you haven't seen it yet, get yourself down there soon!
Very approachable, especially when you're in the car

Here's a video of the bird I took last month if you haven't seen it already!
Best of the rest include a Great Northern Diver from Rhos-On-Sea (28/03), Whimbrel and 2 Pink-Footed Geese on the River Clwyd (30/03) and plenty of Chiffchaffs

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Penduline Tits at Dart's Farm RSPB

I've seen a few Penduline Tits in Spain and they've been easy to catch up with, however records in the UK have been a little different. Many are elusive, a one (or two) day bird or even after the initial report; fly off high and are never seen again. However, in recent time they have become an increasingly more familiar sight on the birds news services. Many reports have mainly come from the Kent area, whereas others have been dotted around the south coast. An interesting report from Lancashire back in 2011 where a Penduline Tit was trapped and ringed in the November. It was even more surprising when it was re-sighted in the following February and April, 2012.
Back to these birds... they've been around since 5th December last year and due to reputation and other birding priorities, I haven't had too much chance to travel down for them until this weekend. We were due another twitch (as March can drag birding-wise) so myself and Steff made our way down on the back of 3 week's worth of reports of these birds coming from the same location: the little pond at Dart's Farm RSPB.
After a set back and diversions all occurring within 10 minutes to the destination, we finally arrived. To our surprise, the two Penduline Tits were showing, and showing well a matter of feet in front of us! Before I could get over the realisation that they were actually present, they did what they do best (when they want out) and took to the skies (and high!). With the pressure off, we both decided we wanted more views so decided to wait until they returned. A few birdtracks later and a doze in the warm sun, they were back!
The birds showed incredibly well in front of us for at least 90 minutes giving us opportunities for a few pictures although with the ever-increasing strength in the wind and the quick flitting from reed-to-reed and branch-to-branch, I found it difficult to get a definite shot in!
Both sexes are very similar with subtle differences but both feature a black mask over the eyes, grey head, brown-rufous back and buff-coloured under parts.
After spending the majority of time in the blossom tree adjacent to the small pond, they came down to the reedbed and bed from the bulrushes giving more fantastic views.
Although the birds showed for well over 90 minutes, they have lived up to their reputation during their stay commuting between the small pond on the RSPB reserve, Exminister Marshes and Bowling Green Marsh RSPB all within close proximity of each other.
Penduline Tit extracting the seeds from the bulrush
Here's a couple of videos taken from the visit to Dart's Farm RSPB
Since arrival there has been three birds present up until just over a week ago so who knows where the third has gone and who knows where these birds will go next? Will they stick around or head off from it's wintering ground?
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