Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Another Sunday. Another trip round the Fylde - 25th January 2015

Second calendar year Pomarine Skua
adult Mediterranean Gull
4th calendar year Iceland Gull

Had a nice jaunt out on Sunday around the Fylde again to pay homage to the Pomarine Skua. After seeing photos of it flying around last week, I was hoping it had made some crazy recovery, but it seemed to be in the same condition when I saw it on Sunday, so perhaps if just a wing strain rather than a break. Also present were an adult Med Gull and a cracking flock of 120+ Twite.
I then went down to Lytham crematorium and saw a single Ring-necked Parakeet. 
I ended the day at Marton Mere looking for the Long-eared Owls, but was unsuccessful. I was repaid for my efforts by a cracking 3rd winter Iceland Gull which dropped onto the mere for less than a minute! Very lucky indeed.
The Big Garden Birdwatch also saw me see a Blackcap, so that was four yearticks in a day. Not bad!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Filley O'Fisk on the Fylde - 18th January 2015

 Great day out on Sunday with Jonnie Fisk around the Fylde. It began at Rossall Point where Jonnie got a lifer in the form of the long-staying Shore Lark. It performed remarkably well and even started feeding with Turnstone at one point!
After this we moved onto Knott End where we came across the Twite flock. These lifted form the marsh and landed on a hotel roof which was novel!
Next we went to Cocker's Dyke and joined an assembled crowd of 20 to see the juvenile Pomarine Skua which had been present for six days or so and wasn't looking in the best of shape, feeding on dead Mallard, Pigeon and Common Gull. The skua had what seemed to be a broken left wing, but as it was flying ok the day before, I wonder how this happened? It was an extremely showy bird though and therefore very educational indeed. A shame to see such a powerful predator in such a vulnerable state. As we were about to leave a wild swan flock flew over mainly consisting of 15 Whoopers, but 2 Bewick's added extra excitement. Always a pleasure to see
Finally, we headed to south Fylde and saw the end longer staying Great Grey Shrike which showed really nicely, despite the unforgiving photographic conditions!
Outside of the Fylde, we ended the day at Parsonage Reservoir where we saw the juvenile Great Northern Diver which is always a nice bird to see, especially in land and in Lancashire.
Great day.

Harlem Globetrotter - 17th January 2015

After heading up to Arctic Norway last year, I've got a bit of a thing for Arctic ducks! When a Harlequin Duck turned up in Aberdeen, I felt it was completely necessary to go and see it! I couldn't get there the first weekend and I was working during the week, so Matt Bruce, Jonnie Fisk and I drove up in the early hours of Saturday morning to go and see it. When we arrived, there was a film crew there filming Chris Packham and Martin Hughes-Games for Winterwatch, which was somewhat novel, but that's not what we were there for!
To begin with, the duck was playing a litle hard to get in a hard to view meander. It was still doing exactly what I expected it to though by playing around in a torrent like a professional kayaker. Later on, it decided to hang around with a couple of Goosander and eventually moved into the more open water. From here it sat right in the open on a rock, preening itself. When it came back into the water, it was drifted downstream by the current and much to the surprise of the assembled crowd, came and stood on the rocks about 5ft away from us! A truly remarkable encounter of a bird that, given such close views, is truly beautiful! If it happens to stay until the spring and moults into full adult male plumage, I will certainly have to have a return journey! What a brilliant twitch with two of the best birding companions a loner like me can ask for!

December in short!

I've been dormant for too long! I've been very busy over the last couple of months. December was mainly taken up with a target of 6000 Birdtrack records, which I acheived and therefore broke the 30,000 barrier for 2014. 
I ended the year in style with a trip to Pugneys for seconds of the Blyth's Pipit which showed superbly well. Pretty much as soon as we left the site, there was news of a Little Bustard flying around East Yorkshire. As soon as it was confirmed, we were well on our way and within an hour or so, we joined the assembled crowd of about 50 to see a Little bloody Bustard sat in a field eating Kale! What an insane bird and one that I really didn't expect to get on my life list anytime soon! A truly crazy bird that, at times, looked remarkably like a Hare!

In addition to this, I FINALLY joined the Caspian Club having seen a superb 2nd winter bird at Chasewater Reservoir on the NGB Gull Day in early December. This is a bird that I've put in more hours than I care to remember to look for, so it felt so good to finally see it. They say, you should never meet your heroes, but in this case, I'm so glad I did! Stunning bird!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Red-eyed Vireo - Walney Island, Cumbria - 4th November 2014

After the Eastern Crowned Warbler and Rough-legged Buzzards, I was wondering how many more lifers I would get in 2014. I certainly wasn't expecting an American Passerine or indeed 3 days later!
That is what happened though as I visited Walney Island bird obs for the first time thanks to a lift off Bill Aspin to see the Red-eyed Vireo found this morning.

We arrived mid-afternoon with golden afternoon sun. It hadn't been seen half an hour prior to our arrival but, it came out and showed really well just after we arrived, feeding and even fly catching! It showed pretty well on and off showing its surprisingly large size, blueish cap and wonderful supercillium. What a bird! Also on site, we managed to see three flocks of Whooper Swans - a flock of 22 on the sand, 35 south and another 5 south too. Magic.

This is a bird I've wanted to see for years and one I didn't think I'd get in the north west ever! Good to see Andy Kinghorn, Scott Reid, Paul Brewster, Tony Disley, Stu Piner, Andy Holden, Ian Fleming and Mike Ainscough onsite too.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Great Grey Shrike - Lytham Moss - 2nd November 2014

I woke up this morning to news of the Fylde Great Grey Shrike still present on Lytham Moss. As I still needed this for the Fylde, yearlist and also only ever seeing two previously, I felt it was rude not to! I set off from Preston and was parked at the Animal Sanctuary in 25 minutes. I hopped across the road and set my scope up, seeing the bird in less than ten seconds of arriving. Wonderful!
It showed surprisingly well, surprisingly close and just saw on top of brambles performing very well to the assembled crowd of c20 people. A stunning bird that I had embarrassingly, previously written it off as 'uninteresting' because of having previously seeing a couple. When I locked onto it with the scope, I instantly was reminded just how wonderful these northern birds actually are!

Spurn - 1st November 2014

After having a two-lifer day, we headed to Spurn, because when in doubt...Spurn! We knew there had been a Black Brant around, so we were eager to find the Brent Goose flock. It was off Beacon Lane between Westmere Farm and Crown and Anchor, so we set up scopes and tried to find it. It took maybe four minutes before I spotted a brent sp sat down with a seemingly enormous neck collar. It suddenly stood up and revealed a black belly with really white flanks. It was so obvious, especially when it was walking around causing trouble with the locals!
Once happy, we moved onto the Warren and had a mini seawatch, but little was moving. We walked round the triangle and then back along the beach. Once almost back at the Warren, we came across a 'long-staying' Snow Bunting which showed incredibly down to 10 feet! Wonderful! A lovely way to end a great day!

Rough-legged Buzzards - Sleddale, Cleveland - 1st November 2014

It's been an almost lifelong ambition to see a Rough-legged Buzzard. As the Autumn starts every year, I always say 'Right! This Autumn/Winter, I will see a Rough-legged Buzzard!'. Having seen species like Amur Falcon, Scarlet Tanager and Short-billed Dowitcher, it might seem odd to some that I've never seen Rough-legged Buzzard, but they're really hard to get on the West Coast!
We turned up at Sleddale in Cleveland after a report of three showing well on the moor! When we turned up, there were three birds in the air. The first one I got on to....Common Buzzard. The second...Common Buzzard. I got a little worried, but as I got on to the third, it was skinnier, with longer wings and a pale base to the uppertail...ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD! Finally! We had super views of at least two hunting in the wind as they hung motionless on the wind.
When we decided to move on, I asked Matt to move along down the road just a little to have a chance of getting closer views and before long, we saw a Rough-leg right close to the road. It put on a real show as it played with a piece of turf/soil. Incredible views of a wonderful bird! Second lifer of the day.

Eastern-crowned Warbler - Cleveland - 1st November 2014

When I missed the opportunity to twitch the South Shields Eastern Crowned Warbler, I thought I'd have to wait a long time to get that back. When the bird was caught and ringed in Hertfordshire, I was amazed that a second British record turned up so soon! At no point did I think that would lead onto another record in the next few years. Much to my surprise, on Thursday 30th October, I got a text of Matthew Bruce asking me if I was up for Cleveland this weekend because of an Eastern Crowed Warbler! Blimey!
I got the train to Leeds and I joined a car of Matt and Daniel Branch on the trip north. Onsite, it took about 10 minutes before someone called the bird as being on show. As was a running theme through the bird's stay, it turned out to be a Chiffchaff. After the crowd settled down again, I got chatting with a St. Helens birder, who has seen the bird the day before and on the morning, there was a whistle that it had been refound. Initially I spotted movement and then got decent views of the bird at the top of a sycamore, but right into the sun. I held out for a little bit and tried to learn about the bird in the field whilst I was in a position where I could see it well. It was very long. Much longer than the Arctic Warbler I saw at Donna Nook two weeks prior, and the slight up turned bill with luminous orange lower mandible was very obvious. Despite being subtle, the wing bar stood out quite well against the very dark green upper body. The extensive supercillium was also obvious and in certain angles, the namesake crown stripe was also obvious. Much more so than the crown stripe on the Yellow-browed Warbler also present.
I moved round to where the light was brilliant and was rewarded with the bird sitting right in the open for at least two minutes. A wonderful bird and birding royalty well and truly on my list!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ring-necked Parakeet - Brockholes NR LWT - 20th October 2014

It's been a while! I've now finished my masters and back in Preston searching for a job. Yesterday, Jim Beattie was filling up the feeders at Brockholes when he heard a calling Yellow-browed Warbler which he then saw in flight. This is the first record for Brockholes and potentially well overdue given how many make it into the UK in the Autumn these days! Anyway, I didn't have the highest hopes that it would be seen again because of the vast amount of potential cover in the Brockholes area including 3 ancient woodlands!
I decided to give it a couple of hours late afternoon and joined 6 other pairs of eyes and ears in search for the Siberian Phyllosc. Unsurprisingly, there was no further sign of the warbler, but whilst I was stood at the Bramble patch in the eastern corner of Boilton Wood, I was recording a flock of tits passing by hoping that the warbler was in with them. Whilst I was still recording, a bird flew over making two very loud screeching noises. It was instantly apparent that this was a Ring-necked Parakeet which I soon caught sight of whilst it flew east along the edge of Boilton Wood. Green and skinny with very long tail, narrow wings and extremely erratic flight.

A patch tick for me and only the second record for the site. Talk about killing the wrong bird with one stone (not sure that's a real metaphor...)

Ring-necked Parakeet records Brockholes NR LWT:
30/03/2012, One > NE over main path to Visitor Village, 13:00 (Bill Gregory / Mike Foley).
20/10/2014, One > E over Boilton Wood from brambles, 16:37 (Zac Hinchcliffe)

Monday, 28 July 2014

Aston Rowant and Otmoor RSPB - 27th July 2014

Day 3 of my 'day out' saw us head to Aston Rowant for the 2nd year in a row for the two main targets being Chalkhill Blue and Silver-spotted Skipper. Both were very much evident on the reserve and gave fantastic views. We met up with Sam Viles onsite and he was kind enough to lend me one of his macro extension tubes which allowed for much better photos than I would've otherwise been able to get.
 Chalkhill Blue male
Chalkhill Blue male
 Silver-spotted Skipper underwing
Silver-spotted Skipper upperwing
 Brown Argus upperwing
 Large White underwing
 Meadow Brown underwing
 Chalkhill Blue female underwing
 Chalkhill Blue female upperwing
Chalkhill Blue - showing how pale they look, especially in flight. Very noticeable in the field.
 Essex Skipper. Just about see the black underside to the antennae tips.
Final stop of the trip was Otmoor RSPB to look for Brown Hairstreaks. Here we met back up with Sam Viles and I met Paul Brewster for the first time. We managed to see at least 3 basking on Ash trees. Not quite as showy as you'd wish your first Brown Hairs, but the views through a scope of the hairstreak below walking around on leaves was just brilliant. It was also educational to see one fighting a Purple Hairstreak as the larger size of the brown was evident.
 Brown Hairstreak (Scope views of this wonderful butterfly were much much better!!)
After pleasing views of the hairstreaks, we went to look for the onsite Glossy Ibis which eventually was showing well from the screen.
2 Turtle Doves were seen after going to see the Glossy Ibis including this purring individual. The first time I've EVER heard the purr! So happy I got to see one as I was starting to worry I'd never see another one. My last sighting was 2009 at Spurn! A superb way to end an amazing weekend.

Thanks Steff for driving, Alex for the invite and both for the company!