Sunday 31 January 2010

Das Med Gulls

Here is AAZU as photographed by me today. It is an adult male, ringed at a nesting colony in May 2007 at Pionierinsel Lühe, Landkreis Stade, Niedersachse, Germany (53° 35' N 09° 36' E)

Thanks to Andreas Zours for the info.

Here are a few more shots of Meds today at Yarmouth.

Adult ringed 39V2

Two second-winters, showing varying amounts of black on primaries.

First winter.

Rough-legged Buses

Doing the Dad bit, headed over to B&Q in Yarmouth for paint yesterday and then swung by the marshes on the way back for a look at the Rough-leg. Very icy and snowy following Friday's dump, but beautifully sunny. Adelaide quickly decided she was turning into an ice cube and promptly screamed the woods down. We arrived at the viewpoint to be told the buzzard had just flown out of site. Fortunately ham sandwiches took our toddler's mind off frostbite for ten minutes, just long enough to see the Rough-leg fly up on to a post. A typical bit bulky buteo, with a frosty gold head, and big white tail base. Shortly, the screaming restarted with renewed vigour, so I had to cut short out trip and head back through the woods.

Sunday dawned bright and frosty, so picked up Reg and headed back down the marshes. Chris Baker was there on arrival and had already seen the Rough-leg in the usual area. After a few minutes, it flapped up off the ground and on to a fencepost. We had reasonable views for the next hour or so, but frustratingly the bird preferred to sit on the grass, and was often obscured. The best views had were in flight really. Mid-morning as my fingers and toes were virtually falling off due to the biting wind blowing straight in our faces, the Rough-leg decided to go for a fly. It headed east past the little copse and to our surprise pushed an unseen Buteo off the deck. This bird then flew round past the copse, revealing a big black belly and carpals, and a screaming white tail base. It was a dark and frosty unlike it's buffy mate. It pitched on to the grass, exhibiting classic shaggy trousers, the typical 'tent shape' (as Reg put it). Bird One landed nearby in an ash tree. This bird then flew past the second bird and landed nearby on a gate. The new bird wasn't having this and flew after it, culminating in a talons out scrap in the grass. The new bird was left sitting in the grass and the original bird flew off south a short way. Meanwhile a smart Hen Harrier flew past close-to. Awesome! The new bird looks like an adult male, as it is small and dark, with barring on the tail, though I am not expert in ageing and sexing Rough-legs.

Rough-leg #1

Rough-leg #2

The fight

Following this fantastic action and a new bird for my self-found list, we headed to Yarmouth to note Med Gull ring numbers and take a few photos in the stunning sunlight.




Tuesday 19 January 2010

Lunchtime twitching is the way forward

Two work lunchtime trips out followed the Waxwing twitch, both to Whitlingham, which seems to be on top form at the moment.
On 13th, we fought our way through the hordes of other birders* and found a spot on the bank where we quickly located the monster Great Northern Diver right in front of us. A redhead Smew was nearby and a female Ruddy Duck.
Our second visit, on Monday this week, revealed a fine Red-necked Grebe and even higher numbers of birders. An interesting Aythya was present which seems to be being reported as a 1w Scaup. To me, the bird looks like a hybrid. It has a wrong headshape, with quite a sloping forehead. The bill is smallish, with a white subterminal band and a fair bit of black on the tip. The bird generally was still very brown. Most 1w m Scaups I have seen recently are much more advanced than this bird, though Im not sure about the significance of this.

Some good quotes today:
"Have you got the Red-necked? You will have to put me on it, as I don't know what they look like".

"Do they have crests like Great Crested Grebes? No? Well, do they have red necks then?"

"Is this the Smew or the Ruddy Duck?"

* in the loosest sense of the word

Morrisons, Birding Mecca

Having given up on finding a mega on the river I walked over to Morrisons for a sandwich. As I passed the bushes lining Koblenz avenue I noticed a load of desperate Redwings scuttling among the foot high pyracantha, searching for berries. I thought how nice an Eye-browed Thrush would be, when suddenly a bird flew up on to the fence next to me - a Waxwing! Cool! Ok, so not an EBT, but Waxxers have been pretty thin on the ground this winter, so this was quite a nice find. For some reason I had left my moby on my desk, so ran back to Bewick House to grab phone and colleagues. The bird was still there and so successfully twitched by several colleagues, including Reg and Nick. It remained in the area until the weekend at least, allowing quite a few birders to catch up with it. Here is a photo by Rob Wilson I nicked off Surfbirds. I hope he doesnt mind! Have a look at his excellent website:

Weather Bad = Birding Good

Lousy weather on the 10th Jan but I had an hour before dark so I shot down to Buckenham. Well worth it with two patch ticks by way of a reward. Firstly a Dark-bellied Brent with a modest flock of Pinks feeding on the grass. Shame it wasn't a Pale-belly, but never mind. Next, a scan from the riverbank revealed a fine ringtail Hen Harrier quartering over Claxton. This was presumably the bird I had seen with Reg on the dark side of the river yesterday afternoon.

Thursday 7 January 2010

The Queen of Iceni

Braved the elements (snow and ice) at lunch today to go and find the hordes of seaduck, sawbills, scarce grebes and divers hiding on the Wensum in Norwich. Walked down as far towards Trowse as access would allow, but not a sniff of anything. Retreated to the Queen of Iceni to watch out for any bird passage along the river, and was rewarded with two Mute Swans east, two Cormorants west and several Black-headed Gulls. Cack. Keep trying though.

Third Day of the Year

Family day out to the marine zoo that is the sealife centre at Yarmouth. Apart from the Thornback Ray taking a liking to Adelaide’s fingers which she was dangling in the water with Dad’s help the whole thing was uneventful and a bit pricey. Pleased to see WDCS represented in there though and happily signed their petition. Awesome Med Gull action outside too, with up to 30 coming to the few chips I could spare from my lunch. Too blinged-up birds which I will try and identify later.

Had a quick stop at Haddiscoe on the way to catch the Reedham Ferry, but being a plank I had forgotten my scope – didn’t think we would use it in the seahorse enclosure. Too fine Short-ears were flapping around nonchalantly but no sign of any big white-arsed raptors in my brief spot of scanning. A few birders were walking up the railway line and were presumably having great views of all sorts. On the other side of the ferry, a big flock of pinks were grazing in the fields by the road one of which had a white neck collar, but sadly I couldn’t make out the code through my bins.

Saturday 2 January 2010

Second day of the decade

Went to Buckenham first thing. No sign of any Beans, but 125 White-fronts. Usual Peregrines, again hunting. This time a pincer movement on a Woodpigeon ended in a high speed level chase across the marshes, with the Woodpigeon outmanoeuvering the falcons and getting into cover ahead of them. Beardies still present but not on view. A Siskin flew over near the station and a Chiffchaff was hweeting in the bushes.
Later, had a walk at Whitlingham with the family, and enjoyed good views of the Great Northern Diver (below), plus redhead Smew and a Black-necked Grebe, showing usual powder puff shaped bum and glowing ruby eye. A couple of redhead Goosander present and a lot of common ducks, especially Gadwall, with over 50 counted.

Happy New Year

Well 2010 came in with a flurry of snow. Enjoyed Horsey Gap mid-morning with my hungover friends and departed before the chaos began as thousands queued to get in for a squizz at the seals. Later, Reg and me went down to Buckenham, where 78 Taiga Beans fed out on the marsh, and the Peregrine pair put on a fine show stooping at Teal against a dramatic sky. A fine way to start the year, enhanced by a flyover Water Pipit and pinging Bearded Tits in the reeds opposite the pub.