Tuesday 31 May 2011

Yeah ok we dipped

Badly. No sign of the Terek Sandpiper at Hauxley NWT today. We (Jack, Tim, Chris and me) sought solace in Roseate Terns off Amble and a smart fledgling Stonechat - see below. So the third time I have dipped Tereks. I need to go sooner clearly...

Awww how cute. Seems my new £50 camera works well too!

Monday 30 May 2011

Pesky twitching

So, my third crack at a UK Terek Sandpiper looms tomorrow morning. This time at Hauxley in Northumberland. Last two attempts, resulting in a dip have been in Kent and Norfolk. 'Bout time I nailed one. Keep your fingers crossed good buddy!

Saturday 28 May 2011

Grafham MEGA

Apparently Mark Hawkes had a Pallid Swift at Grafham Water the other day, my old patch. What an awesome find and due reward for all Mark's efforts over the years - nice one!!

Bonaparte's Gull on Lewis

Here is a photo Martin Scott took down my scope on 20th May at Melbost Borve on Lewis of the first summer Bonaparte's Gull, which has been hanging out for a little while. As usual, quite dainty, being 20% smaller than accompanying Black-headeds, with a much lighter flight action. Flashing white underwings very obvious in flight, with neat black trailing edge to primaries. Black tips to the outer tail feathers, white in the centre enhanced a slight diamond shape to the tail. On the deck, the pale grey nape and black bill gave quite a different look. The legs were pink, but less bright than other individuals I have seen. A smart bird.

Thursday 26 May 2011

More spoonage

A good find by Russell Slack on Saturday was a Spoonbill at Wheldrake Ings. Got down there with the family on Sunday and saw the bird fly over from the refuge, landing out in front of Swantail. My first for the York area. Sadly, my camera took a battering in the Hebs and the zoom has packed up. Therefore, the photo below is the best I could manage.

Check out the spoons on that

So, finding myself with a couple of birding colleagues on a westerly facing headland on North Uist in late May in a big westerly I was somewhat surprised not to be able to find any skuas. This was quite disappointing. A big white swan-like Glaucous Gull on the beach did little to cheer us up, having got up at 6am, barely having slept due to anticipation. Too soon it was time to get back to our bunkhouse and prepare for our morning of meetings.
Later, we visited Balranald where we were met by the RSPB site manager. I had a quick chat with their membership officer who said "are you the bloke who got up at 6am to look for skuas?" I said yes and she replied that it apparently had all kicked off at 9am with strings of Poms coming in really close. I could have burst into tears! Anyway, I made my way back to our little group, where the RSPB guy was just about to start explaining their work with crofters to manage the machair. I was waiting for my chance to mention to Tony how unlucky we had been, when over his shoulder I noticed a flock of birds. Putting my bins up I could scarcely believe my eyes - Pomarine Skuas! As politely as I could, I blurted out, "excuse me, there are some skuas" and we all turned round to watch a flock of 19 fully spooned-up Poms cutting the headland off just behind us. Awesome!

Even better was to come. We headed north, on to Harris where we met a ranger for a look at his patch. It was early evening and the light was stunning, though the westerly wind was still strong. I had dropped back to have a pee in this somewhat tree-less landscape when I noticed Tony and Ant waving at me frantically from the dunes ahead. At first I thought this was a wind up but not taking any chances, I sprinted over to hear Tony saying "skuas!". There on the sea in a small bay was a tight-flock of Pomarine Skuas, huddled up out of the wind. Shortly the 27 took flight, and loitered around seemingly sussing out where to head, before gliding very close overhead. Absolutely awesome views were had for the next few minutes as they drifted around before heading northeast. Apparently all I could say was "Check out the spoons on that!". Fantastic.

Spoon appreciation society

Some better shots of the Pomarine Skua flock at Northton, Harris taken by Tony Martin.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Outer Hebrides part one.

Black Guillemot, Eriskay

Raven, somewhere.

23 Pomarine Skuas. Part of a flock of 27 found resting in a bay off south Harris. More photos to come...

Manx Shearwater, The Minch

Arctic Tern, South Uist

Arctic Tern, South Uist

Arctic Skua, Balranald, North Uist

Saturday 14 May 2011

Rare birds are rare, shocker

Birding a bit frustrating recently. Male Collared Flycatcher finally turned up within striking distance, c3 hours, at Holme in Norfolk. Sadly, I couldn't get there. Loads of other stuff turning up all over the place, including Rock Bunting (no, really) at Bolton Abbey, Calandra Lark at Gib Point, Great Snipe at Cley, Black Stork in Northants, and even a SOS Red-rumped Swallow at Bank Island, really inspired me to get out.

So, yesterday I took Sol down to Hes East, hoping for a good wader, or at the very least a Turnstone or something. Nope, 4 Dunlin.

Today, went back up there in the evening, full of anticipation, especially since the Broad-billed Sandpiper that was in Notts yesterday had gone... Nope, 2 Dunlin - even worse than yesterday. Feeling a little dismayed, I headed to Wheldrake.

The fun was being had near the bridge where some people had erected a gazebo and were blasting Grand Master Flash across the meadow. Surely there must be something on the Ings? Yes, a Ringed Plover. Not the Temminck's I'd hoped for. Peak season and I haven't even had a yeartick in over a week. Who is finding all the good birds? Not me, that is for sure. :-(

On the bright side, the skua passage has been incredible in the Outer Hebs and I will be there in 48 hours...

Sunday 8 May 2011

a few bits

Worked again at a very quiet Spurn Point Saturday afternoon. Highlight really was a male Brown Argus, quite a cracking little butterfly.

Today went out to Flamboro' to work on the boat with Kat, but sadly it was cancelled. A lovely afternoon was had nevertheless, doing beach and rockpool stuff on North Landing beach. Very pleasant. Kids loved it too.

Tonight went to Wheldrake. Bit gripped by the news of a Grey Plover at Hes East! Greeted by the sound of a Corn Bunting singing from a bush just north of the bailey bridge - my first at WI. Scanning from the Tower area, I picked up two Greenshanks on the bund, followed by three smaller waders roosting on an island. I couldn't make these out really as they were facing me and in a heathaze, but by the time I got to Swantail they had gone, or were out of sight. Noted my first York Lesser Whitethroat on the way round, plus several Swifts. From Swantail, I picked up several Yellow Wags walking about on the vegetation, one of which was quite interesting, being very grey, with dark ear coverts, big white supercilia and white underparts apart from a bit of yellow around the legs. Presumably a female Blue-headed. A few Whimbrel were about and one Ringed Plover, but sadly it appeared Russell's Little Stint had gone. I walked back round picking up four waders in flight - Wood Sands! Cool. They dropped in and began feeding out from Tower Hide. One Gropper reeling and a smart Barn Owl ended a lovely evening. Nobody mention Collared Flycatcher!

Friday 6 May 2011

All work and no play, not necessarily bad

Too busy for any birding this week, but work gave me the chance to see the first summer female Subalpine Warbler at Spurn today, where I spent the day with some of my team, implementing the new admissions system. A nice bird, very showy at times usually when quiet, feeding along the sunny edges of the bushes near the warren. Very pale bird, with bluey grey head, though hard to judge in bright light. Very white underneath, and pale eyering and red orbital visible. Despite being trapped, overlap in biometrics has not made it possible to nail the bird apparently. Check out Martin Garner's site for more info
A steady passage of Swallows noted all day, with at least several hundred in the six hours I was there. Several Whimbrel over, plus 6 Yellow Wags south and my first Little Terns of the year (I don't get to the coast much!). And sunburn...:-)

Monday 2 May 2011

Old haunts, new haunts

29 April
Spent a few hours at my old patch Grafham Water, with my old mate, Mark Hawkes on Friday morning. The previous afternoon, I dropped in and picked up three Arctic Terns over the reservoir off Mander CP. 25 Bar-tailed Godwits over the A1 at Tempsford (Bedfordshire) was a good start and nearly made me crash the car, which would have been a bit embarassing.
My hand eye co-ordination continued to be slightly awry as I dropped my phone when I got to the dam and smashed the screen. I have only had it a month - doh! I met up with Mark and we started to bird the res. Soon, I picked up 8 more Barwits overhead, followed by a further three on the deck in the lagoons, including two stonking males.

Barwit. Thanks to Mark Hawkes for the photo.

Also present here were two fine Greenshanks, two singing Cetti's Warblers and 9 Avocets. Did Grafham used to be this good?! No sign of any Ring Ouzels in the usual spot, but we did pick up our first Swifts of the year, with several over Marlow. I left Mark to his patch and headed back south, feeling slightly melancholy.
2 May.
The last day of the hols. It has been cracking. A fair bit of birding fitted in around meeting lots of old and new friends, good times. Nipped up to Heslington to twitch a Wood Warbler found by John Lawton, but there was no sign in the brief period Solomon and me were there. Had a chat with Tim, and he sent me a text to say it had showed again later. Doh! Started my new 10km training regime tonight and added Swift to my York yearlist, with several over the river by Naburn bridge. Unbelievably, Willow gave up running after 10 minutes - slacker!