Friday, 22 May 2015

Recent Events

Things have been slow here as the rot of exams has set in. Sadly there is not much scope for birding during my 14 hour a day shifts in the library. Having said that my traditional spot on the fourth floor window has allowed me to look out and enjoy the local peregrines hunting and generally blogging around. Its crazy to be on eye level with them, and it would be awesome had I my bins, but then I would get no work done at all. So far the male has been the bird predominantly flying around this area. He has hunted a few times but each time his intended pigeon has got away and they have yet to nail anything in front of me. I have to say, they are the only real bright spot at the moment.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Norfolk - dipping Citril Finch

It was too good to contemplate missing so as soon as news broke of a Citril Finch in Norfolk I made plans for a day out to see it. The day came, but I could not afford to wait on news and so had to set off at the absurd time of half 5 for my first train.
My spirits were lifted when news came through that it was still present that morning and I relaxed a bit more. I even got a yeartick from the train when a Grey Partridge flushed from one of the fields. Things were looking up.
It was so refreshing to be back on the coast hopper bus traveling through some lovely villages, in reasonably nice weather. As we drove through the countryside we passed more Grey Partridges as well as some Red Legged Partridges too. And the first birds I saw when I got off the bus? Grey Partridges. For a species which I do not see very much I was fair racking up the numbers today, and over the course of the day they became the real highlight, which says a lot about how wrong the twitching went...
-Grey Partridge
Thats the first time I have ever photographed Grey Partridge so I was pretty thrilled about that. I then set off marching through the woodland to try and get to the finch site. Along the way I picked up a few bits and pieces, such as Red Kite which was flying over and a few spring Migrants singing from the bushes, as well as a pair of Egyptian Geese on the fields.
Sadly the finch was not where it had been yesterday and had not been seen since the morning when it had been flushed. I was gutted but reckoned it would be back. Sadly, wherever it went, it did not think the same and despite 5 hours waiting it did not return making it my most significant and only real dip to date.
It was very disappointing, and there were not many other birds around to ease the pain either. A nightingale was giving brief and fleeting outbursts of song from a thicket just over the dunes but it never showed. I waited a little while for a chance and caught it in flight briefly as it dived from one part of the dunes to another but certainly not tick-able views unfortunately. A Spotted Flycatcher made an appearance which caused a stir among the assembled throng, the majority going over to wonder what the raised bins and pointed fingers meant, only to find out that it was a Spotted Flycatcher. Still, a yeartick though and something to show for the day.
The birding highlight from the wait was a nice Hobby that drifted over mid-afternoon. I actually ran to get a photo of it, but I need not have worried as it came back over about 10 mins later having caught something which it was now feeding on before flying back over towards me. Another yeartick in the bag!
I was joined by none other that Mick Turton and Andy Roadhouse who had made the trip down from Spurn and we settled down for the shift. They helped make it less of a blow that the bird was not playing ball as it was nice to see them again after not yet making it back to Spurn in 2015.
As the afternoon wore on into the evening the hundred or so twitchers dwindled to a last 7, when we agreed to withdraw together. I decided to walk back through the dunes to Burnham Overy and hopefully pick up a few bits along the coast where the others went back through the plantation to see if they could find the finch. Judging from the lack of news, they failed.
The dunes were quiet with only a Wheatear and a few Linnets and Meadow Pipits to show for it. However, once I reached the saltmarsh things got a bit better and I racked up a few more yearticks. The first was Brent Goose. There was a small flock feeding on the saltmarsh. I dunno, but I reckon that there are Pale Bellied and Dark Bellied in this mob, the bird on the far left being a Dark Bellied.
-Pale Bellied and Dark Bellied Brent Geese
Next were more of the real birds on they day when another Grey Partridge came and landed in the tall grass next to the path. I could see it moving so positioned myself where I would be able to see it cross an area where the grass was more flattened so I could get a proper shot of it, but it did not like my moving and it flew off over the dyke and into the adjacent field, followed by 2 more that I did not know where there at all. Once in the field it kept its head up for a short while before vanishing.
-Grey Partridge
The tide was out and there was not an abundance of waders, but there was good variety. There were 2 Grey Plovers in summer plumage, a single Black-Tailed Godwit and a single Dunlin as well as Oystercatchers and Redshanks.
I had almost finished my walk and entered the village when I heard an all too familiar call. I turned to see 2 Little Terns flying around the harbor. One landed on a sandbank a little far away but the other kept on flying and flew straight past me as well as doing a little fishing too. I would have loved to have stayed longer but I did not know the bus times and as it happened I arrived at the bus stop 4 mins before the bus was due-could not have timed it any better even if I tried.
-Little Tern
And that was that. Were it not for the lack of finch and the price attached it would have been a fantastic day, but it was still a lovely day out birding in a lovely area of coastline with reasonable weather and I really enjoyed it despite the obvious. Beats lectures any day!
It even continued on the train back as I spotted no less that 4 Barn Owls hunting over fields next to the train line at various points. A superb day out that's for certain!

Species List:
Train Journey: Grey Partridge, Common Buzzard, Pheasant, Swallow, Mallard, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Feral Pigeon, Collard Dove, Rook, Starling, Coot, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Yellowhammer, Black-Headed Gull, Blackbird, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Kestrel, House Sparrow, Shoveler, Cormorant, Stock Dove, Jackdaw, Cuckoo, Lapwing, Jay, Barn Owl,
Holkham Pines: Grey Partridge, Red Kite, Common Buzzard, Tufted Duck, Chiffchaff, Egyptian Goose, Swift, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-Tailed Tit, Jay, Hobby, Kestrel, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, Blue Tit, Cormorant, Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull, Woodpigeon, Dunnock, Mallard, Graylag Goose, Mute Swan, Shelduck, Swallow, House Martin, Red-Legged Partridge, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow,
Burnham Overy Dunes: Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Wheatear, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Graylag Goose, Little Egret, Redshank, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Common Tern, Little Tern, Brent Goose, Grey Partridge, Moorhen, Black-Tailed Godwit, Shelduck, Pheasant, Swallow, Swift, House Martin, Skylark, Cormorant, Herring Gull, Black-Headed Gull,

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Blacka Moor and Padley Gorge

So for today, as my first full day out for a while I decided to head into the peaks to yeartick all my summer migrants and hopefully tick off my second biggest tart tick in the form of Wood Warbler. One has been setting up in Blacka Moor Plantation for a few days and had been seen regularly, though the amount of information I was getting was not overly helpful and I was not confident that I would be able to find it. It was a pretty grim morning, with the cloud covering varying between thick and not as thick with occasional drizzle, with a reasonable breeze. I was not optimistic to say the least. 
I got the bus to the site and set off down the hill to the first track that ran straight through the plantation and hopefully the warbler would be trilling somewhere near the path where I would be able to find it.
There were many birds calling as I made my way along the path, including tree pipit, which I decided to leave as it was distant and I assumed I would see one at Padley Gorge. Tree pipit was in fact the only one of my 6 targets I did not see, which was unexpected given it is by far the most abundant.
Not much longer after I entered the plantation I thought I could hear a trill, but it was too distant and with all the other birds calling I could not rule out wren. However, as I got closer the sound became unmistakable just off the path. I made my way through the wood and quickly got eyes upon my target.
It was a very vocal bird but also very mobile and did not like to sit and show well, more often flitting around in trees that were themselves obscured. I spent about an hour watching this superb little bird as it moved around. Within the last 5 mins of my watch it came reasonably close and even sat above my head but light proved an issue for getting good photos, though I have some reasonable record shots. Sadly light was an issue all day and I did not get many good photos. Nevertheless I was thrilled to have caught the bird and been able toe enjoy it for a reasonable length of time. Fantastic!
-Wood Warbler
After and hour or so the bird stopped trilling for a little while so I decided to move on. My plan was to walk across the moor, through Longshaw estate and then into Padley Gorge to hopefully gather up all the migrants. Along the back of the plantation I got Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff, and I'm pretty certain I heard garden warbler but I did not see it and cannot rule out blackcap.
The plantation thinned out into moorland, and then it became pasture. As I wandered through the pasture I put up many Meadow Pipits, but little else. I scanned the walls for anything else and set my eyes upon a fantastic looking Whinchat which was flitting around. I tried to get closer but it was difficult to approach. Having said that, with a little patience I managed to get my best ever shots of this species and I am very happy with the results. Not a bad way to year-tick these little beauties.
Also along the fields was a Wheatear and a Reed Bunting, the latter being somewhat unexpected. I failed to find a path through the moors so really ended up walking alongside the road to Longshaw in the hope that I might land on something good. Opposite the Fox House pub just before Longshaw I spotted a lovely male Stonechat just over the wall. Sadly he also saw me and moved away but not too far, so I managed to get some decent shots of it.
It was my first visit to the Longshaw estate and I was not blown away to say the least. Having heard good things I expected to see a few bits and pieces but there were only really garden birds. The only real surprise were 3 male Mandarin on the ponds. They, of course, looked lovely, but the light was playing absolute havoc with most things and I think the photos reflect that...
It was my first visit to Padleys of the year and it felt good to be back, despite the weather. No sooner was I back on the soil did I start to pick out the summer migrants with a fantastic pair of Whinchat. Sadly they did not show closely and I was restricted to record shots but the male looked nothing short of suberb, the best I have ever seen this species looking. What a beauty.
I had heard a Cuckoo whilst at Blacka but nothing since. However I started to pick up a few stray calls and was hopefully of possibly seeing one. I was in luck as just round the corner where the moor and forest meet I caught one flitting among the heather. My curiosity as to why it was there was quickly solved when two Meadow Pipits came charging it to mob it, obviously their nest had been targetted by the Cuckoo. I can only wish I had got a better shot as my record shots were woeful but the bird was not easy to approach and constantly kept moving away even when I remained still.
There were no tree pipits singing on the woodland edge, which is possibly the first time I have not seen this species here. And the wood itself was bare of pied flys and redstarts, I was unable to find any in the usual spots. The highlight was a singing Siskin, which was nice, but it was from the tops of the tree and I could get nothing on it.
I caught up with a small birdwatching party that had come for the day to look at the flycatchers but they too had not seen any. We headed on up the valley as I hoped that there may be some in the birch scrub up at the top end. What I found was much more exciting.
I was wandering along scanning when I noticed a small greyish blob in the birches. I wondered if it were a plant or unusual fungus so raised the bins to have a closer look and was blown away to see that it was actually a Tawny Owl fledgling. It had begun to develop primaries so was obviously quite well developed but was very docile. I did not want to approach too close so stayed well back but managed to get some decent photos of this really unexpected sighting.
-Tawny Owl
It was while we were checking out the owl that a few other bits and pieces started to appear. A male Redstart was obviously holding a territory in this area as he came around singing a couple of times. He was always at the top of the trees though and the light continued to make photos pretty much impossible but I did manage a record shot for the year. When he did come down he was a spectacular bird to look at, and the song was very distinctive to listen to as well.
-Common Redstart
It was also while we were here that I caught Pied Flycatcher for the year, with a brief appearance from a pair high up in the trees, again very difficult to photograph. They did not stick around and there is little else to say about them, but I spotted another young bird later on back on the woodland fringe and I managed a slightly better shot of that. Also while we were here 2 Cuckoos flew overhead through the trees, but they did not stop at all.
-Pied Flycatcher
I took the birders to look at the Whinchats before they headed off into Longshaw. After they left I headed back round to try and get tree pipit again, but no joy. I got an additional Pied Flycatcher and another male Redstart, but the real highlight was a big patch tick.
I saw a bird with a similar profile to cuckoo coming towards me, so raised my camera in anticipation and began snapping. However, as it got closer it became clear this was not a cuckoo and so I began to wonder, possibly Kestrel? but as it came closer again it was clearly not a kestrel as it was so big, but by now it was pretty clear what it was, a Peregrine. I did not expect to see one here, that's for certain. It only flew over my head and I lost it behind the trees but it was certainly something to see and ended an exceptional day on a massive high.
I failed on tree pipit but got all the other migrants I wanted including life ticking Wood Warbler. It really was a great day out birding, and were it not for the weather, could have got some decent photos too. I covered a lot of sites, including some I have not been to before but will keep and eye open in future, they certainly have potential for some good stuff.

Species List:
Blacka Moor: Willow Warbler, Wren, Chaffinch, Robin, Mistle Thrush, Blackbird, Wood Warbler, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Great Tit, Woodpigeon, Song Thrush, Coal Tit, Chiffchaff, Meadow Pipit, Whinchat, Wheatear, Reed Bunting, Skylark, Curlew, Kestrel, Stonechat, Magpie,
Padley Gorge: Magpie, Mallard, Jackdaw, Chaffinch, Pied Wagtail, Woodpigeon, Mandarin, Carrion Crow, Blue Tit, Meadow Pipit, Whinchat, Cuckoo, Willow Warbler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Blackbird, Coal Tit, Wren, Siskin, Treecreeper, Robin, Nuthatch, Tawny Owl, Redstart, Pied Flycatcher, Curlew, Feral Pigeon, Peregrine, Kestrel

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Orgreave Lakes

Its been a while since I was last on patch what with work and excessive twitching but today I dragged myself out of bed and headed over for a look to see what has changed. I set off at half 7 and arrived on site for half 8. Still reasonably early but I expected most things to have moved off or flushed by dog walkers. A twitter report of 7 whimbrel was of interest in the early morning but I expected these to have been long gone by now.
As soon as I arrived at the lakes I was mobbed by a pair of Lapwings. Initially I assumed there must have been a nest but then spotted 2 small dark bundles of fluff hunkering down in the sedge, so I quickly made my way past. I have to say, I am not optimistic for those chicks, as I imagine someones dog will probably make a meal of them. Of interest though, one of the adults pretended to be injured as I hurried past, which is the first time I have seen this behavior.
It was quiet to say the least, with numbers of ducks low and not much else around. There was a Yellow Wagtail on the island and spectacular numbers of Hirundines and Swifts, the latter giving a really good show as they whizzed past me all day. The only other birds with good numbers seemed to be waders, with 3 Common Sandpiper, around 13 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover, 4 Common Redshank and at least 5 Little Ringed Plovers.
-Little Ringed Plover
As I passed the plains I added Wheatear to my list but numbers of these seemed to be down on the last time I was here too.
However, all that changed when a dog walker letting his animal run free across the plains put up no less than the Whimbrels that had been reported earlier. I was surprised, and quickly went for the camera to try and grab a shot of them in case they flew off, but I had no reason to fear as they landed on the shoreline of the large lake, allowing me to stalk them as they fed on the bank and get some reasonable record shots.
As I got closer they moved over the crest of the hill and onto the far side. I continued on the path hoping to encounter them feeding on the bank there and get some more shots, but the view I had was even better as they had all lined up along the edge of the water, and some were even having a wash. This was pretty special. I got some great views and some pretty decent record shots of 8 Whimbrel. It would have been nice to get a shot with all 8 in at once but they were just too spread out in the end. 
They were fantastic birds and one of the best birds I have ever seen on patch. They are a patch tick and only the second time I have seen Whimbrel inland, so it was a good decision to come down to Orgreave today.
The Whimbrel flew back onto the plains at half 10. I had tried to avoid flushing them all day by going back on myself and avoiding paths they were close to, but in the end they just flew off. I imagine they will stick around all day now, and probably leave overnight. They certainly made my day

Species List:
Orgreave Lakes: Whimbrel, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Dunlin, Lapwing, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Gadwall, Mallard, Canada Goose, Graylag Goose, Mute Swan, Tufted Duck, Coot, Moorhen, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Common Whitethroat, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Black-Headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Reed Bunting, Kestrel, Blackbird, 

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Anglers CP and Wintersett Reservoir

Having been working on Monday and a very busy day on Tuesday, today was the first chance I got to try for the Lesser Scaup on Wintersett Reservoir. I decided to go after my lecture and spend the afternoon up there as reports suggested it was far more active in the evenings than during the day.
I set off around 12 under gloomy skies and frequently changing weather. That said, it was a very pleasant afternoon. As soon as I got of the bus at Anglers CP I knew it was going to be a good day as the sky was full of Swifts and Hirundines, but especially the former. There were hundreds, flying really low over the lake.
I had a quick look in the hide hoping to pick out the resident yellow legged gull but it was not in for the time I was there. I had a quick scan but only spotted usual things and so headed off quickly to try and get the Lesser Scaup.
I picked up another birder along the way, but he said he had not seen it, though he had no scope. As a result I began to doubt that it was as a forgone conclusion as I had imagined that I would see it. I had no reason to fear, as soon as I had set up the scope I had picked out the bird on the far side of the reser with some tufted ducks. Alas, it was quite a way away so we headed round to try and get a little closer.
On the far side the view was better but the bird had moved out into the middle of the lake where it spent around half an hour fishing. The other birder thanked me and left after about 15 mins, but that was a mistake to make, as after a while longer the bird took flight and came to chill with the tufted ducks on the near side where I was viewing from. It began preening and swimming within 10 meters of my viewpoint allowing me fantastic views of the bird, clearly showing the purple sheen on the head and the peculiar head shape that distinguishes it from greater scaup.
This particular individual has more than just his Lesser Scaup features though. He has an orange tag on his bill which makes him stand out quite significantly. This tag has allowed this bird to be identified before and he has quite a history. The code on the patch is VH and he was trapped and tagged as a juvenile drake on the 20th December 2013 in Sao Jacinto Dunes NR in Portugal where he remained until the 3rd February 2014. He was next seen in Llangorse Lake in the Brecon Beacons, south Waled from the 17th October 2014 to February 2015 when he dissapeared again. The next time he turned up was 4th May 2015 when  he was spotted on Wintersett Reservoir, West Yorkshire, which is where he is right now. Stories like this remind you of just how cool birds are.
-Lesser Scaup
-Blurred Flight shot showing half bar
After showing close for a while it then moved out into the middle of the lake again, so I headed off back to Anglers to see what was about. There was not a great deal around still but there was a Black-Necked Grebe reported so I headed for a look at that. I bumped into Mick Turton who was back home to do some things, so that was nice. He picked out the Grebe but it was very distant and hard to get a photo, but it was a super summer plumaged bird to look at. It was also a yeartick...
-Black-Necked Grebe
In the hide there had been little change in the scenery, though a Common Sandpiper dropped in, as did an Oystercatcher. There had been good numbers of Common Tern throughout the day too, and some of these were perched up on the rocks near the hide. I had a scan through for arctics but could not find any.
So that was that. Lesser Scaup is my sixth duck lifer this year alone. I can't imagine any other bird group is going to top that, especially with the views I have had from most of those lifers, pretty incredible.
Species List:
Anglers CP: Black-Headed Gull, Common Tern, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Moorhen, Coot, Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Common Sandpiper, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Gadwall, Common Teal, Black-Necked Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Willow Warbler, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Jackdaw, Blackcap, Blackbird, Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Lesser Black-Backed Gull, Pied Wagtail, 
Wintersett Reservoir: Tufted Duck, Lesser Scaup, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Sand Martin, Kestrel, Common Buzzard, Common Tern, Whitethroat, Blackcap, Starling, Woodpigeon, Mute Swan, Great Crested Grebe,