Friday, 30 December 2016

Stow-on-the-wold twitching Blue Rock Thrush

I have done some brutal and ridiculous twitches by public transport, but this could be one of the hardest I have ever done. Usually a coach overnight involves a trip of a few hours where I arrive at my destination in the morning ready to begin having slept on the coach, but with this one I had to change at Birmingham at 3.00 in the morning. It took its tole and by the end of the day I was very worse for wear.
The bird I went for, a Blue Rock Thrush, a male of uncertain age and uncertain origin. Its worth stating from the off that there is no guarantee that this bird will get accepted, and I happen to be in the school of thought that think it won't. I do however think it is a wild bird, regardless of the decision, and whatever it is, its a rather stunning bird and well worth going for a look at in my opinion.
Upon arrival at the site where the bird was, a housing estate in the Cotswolds, I was greeted to the news there was no sign, and since it had already been light for two hours and the bird usually shows first thing, I began to have my doubts about seeing the bird. These were no eased as over two hours passed with ample birders on site looking and still no sign of the bird. I did get a Waxwing as some compensation, but at the time it felt like something of a lost cause.
It was half 11 when it was finally located, just as I had lost all hope of it been seen, considering it predated overnight or otherwise. It was on the rooftops of the houses in a small parking lot. There was a thin fog in the air and it made viewing conditions less than optimal, but there was no doubt as to the birds identity. It stayed there for a short while before it flew off towards its usual spot in the main part of the estate.
This was its pattern of behavior for the rest of the afternoon, with it frequenting the parking lot but remaining mobile and frequently moving to other areas. The light did improve during the afternoon so I was able to get some decent shots. Sadly though my phone died, meaning I could only use my DSLR, no phone-scoping insurance for poor SLR photos. In the end though the bird put on a good show, hopping about the rooftops in great fashion, really good value to watch and well worth going for, regardless of the outcome of its origins.
-Blue Rock Thrush
Species List:
Stow-on-the-Wold: Waxwing, Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Robin, Blackbird, Blue Rock Thrush, Dunnock, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Starling, Feral Pigeon,

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Beeley, Derbyshire twitching Dusky Thrush

When a remarkable Dusky Thrush turned up in Derbyshire on Sunday night, confirmed on the Monday, it seemed like a sure fire hit. The bird performed well for most of the Monday and apparently had been present for over two weeks before it got noticed. Seemed foolproof. Sadly 5 hours in the mist and fog only produced 60 seconds of bird. I can't complain as I did see it and other birders I know did not, but in all that time it was a little disappointing not to have got a little bit more.
The bird was discovered on a bird ID Facebook group, when a lady from the village uploaded three photos from the village of Beeley; a Starling, a Dusky Thrush and a Blackbird. It seemed remarkable but as the story unfolded it became clear that there was a seriously rare bird in a seriously bizarre location. The village was prepped, ready to be inundated with twitchers.
-Beeley getting ready 
The bird was confirmed on the Monday but I had not taken the plunge and at that point it was too late for me to travel and see the bird in daylight. I made my move the following day and arrived on site at half 10. The bird had not been seen for an hour, and such was the pattern of the day, it remained mobile and difficult to connect with throughout the day, hence why I only saw it for such a small period of time.
One thing is for sure though, should it winter, which it seems set to do, I will certainly be back for more, as it really is a smart bird. 
-Dusky Thrush
Species List:
Beeley, Derbyshire: Carrion Crow, Starling, Woodpigeon, Blackbird, Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush, Dusky Thrush, Siskin, Brambling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, House Sparrow, Robin, Wren, Sparrowhawk, 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Pembrokeshire twitching Masked Wagtail

Less than 24 hours after my departure from Spurn I was back in very familiar company. In my first evening back in Halifax I got a message from John Hewitt saying he had changed his mind on going for the Masked Wagtail in south Wales and was now going, asking if I wanted to come along. I agreed, and John said he was going to pick me up in Halifax at 4 the following morning. 
We arrived on site just after 10, Jonnie, John, another lad and myself. The Wagtail showed on and off for the two hours we spent watching it. Its preferred area was the sunny sides of the roofs of the houses in the village, which was the side we could not see from the road. But as the morning wore on it started feeding more and more on the side we could see, even coming down onto the road right in front of us.
Maksed Wagtail, the first record for Britain, is an eastern race of Pied Wagtail. Its black bib and white mask made it a really stunning bird, well worth the 12 hour round trip for me, and 16 hour round trip for the lads coming from Spurn. I took plenty of photos and was fairly pleased with what I got. 
-Masked Wagtail
A really enjoyable day out, in really nice weather with a cracking bird. The supporting cast was nice too, although nothing unusual, it was mainly common species that I have not seen for some time whilst at Spurn. Its what twitching is all about really.

Species List:
Camrose, Pembrokeshire: Rook, Jackdaw, Grey Wagtail, Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Blue Tit, Masked Wagtail, Herring Gull, Dunnock, Robin, Collard Dove, Pied Wagtail, Starling, Magpie, Goldfinch, Meadow Pipit, Common Snipe,

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Spurn Week 23

Spurn 21.11.2016
It rained…
All day…
Spent the afternoon watching films with Jonnie and Paul!

Spurn 22.11.2016
To make up for the day lost yesterday I spent most of the day out birding. I went round the triangle first, then up round Kilnsea Wetlands and finally round the triangle again. I managed a few bits and pieces although nothing exceptional, but it made for a pleasant days birding.
The triangle yielded a few passerines, but most of them were flyovers; Brambling, Siskin, Redpoll and Rock Pipit, and a Stonechat on the fence-line of Walker-Butts was an unexpected turn up. The wetlands was very quiet. The excessive rainfall of the previous day had raised the water-level to a point where there was no shoreline for roosting waders, and as a result the number of species on the site had markedly dropped off.

Species List:
Triangle: Stonechat, Brambling, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Blackbird, Redwing, Chaffinch, Wigeon, Mallard, Teal, Mute Swan, Greenfinch, Black-tailed Godwit,
Kilnsea Wetlands: Wigeon, Teal, Mute Swan, Mallard, Redshank, Curlew, Turnstone, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, Woodpigeon, Starling,

Spurn 23.11.2016
The morning was spent moving the ‘tern rafts’ from Beacon Ponds and onto Kilnsea Wetlands for the winter. Despite being up at the wetlands the best I could manage was a Song Thrush in the hedge.
In the afternoon Jonnie and I headed round to Kew to help clear out the sheds and garden. In the garden itself there were a few Long-tailed Tits as the best of it. However, Paul had the nets open and in them went 2 Blackcaps and a Siberian Chiffchaff. The Siberian Chiffchaff looked spot on but Paul, who has seen em all, chose to err on the side of caution and send off some DNA just to check that it was indeed a tristis and not another eastern race. The bird was much paler and greyer than any I have seen previously, and the wing had the glossy green sheen I had expected. It really was a stunning looking bird that’s for certain. Hopefully the results of the DNA analysis will confirm that it is indeed a Siberian Chiffchaff, as it’s a race I have never seen before.
-Siberian Chiffchaff

Species List:
Kew Villa & Churchfield: House Sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Blackcap, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chiffchaff,

Spurn 24.11.2016
After doing jobs yesterday and hearing of a fairly decent day on the sea, today I decided to make my way down that way for the first time in over a week. I enjoyed a fairly steady but not exceptional morning’s seawatch. There were not masses of birds moving but a steady stream of Red-Throated Divers and auks. The highlights consisted of a single Velvet Scoter going south and a Sooty Shearwater and two Pomarine Skuas going north. A few Eiders were also on the move close in, probably about 13 birds during the morning.
I also did the triangle there seemed to be a dearth of birds, the bushes being all but void of thrushes and very little flying around overhead. A couple of Snow Buntings flew overhead calling and then flew of southwards, and they were the highlight. The only other birds I wrote in my notebook were a Lapwing on the humber, a Rock Pipit flying over the saltmarsh and 8 Black-tailed Godwits off the crown.

Species List:
Seawatching: Great Skua, Pomarine Skua, Gannet, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Kittiwake, Sooty Shearwater, Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Guillemot, Razorbill, Golden Plover, Kestrel,
Triangle: Snow Bunting, Lapwing, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Shelduck, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Mallard, Wigeon, Mute Swan, Skylark, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Redshank, Dunlin, Blackbird, Redwing,

Spurn 25.11.2016
The morning started with a walk round the triangle. I figured rather than head down to the Seawatching hide, I would enjoy trying to kick something out of the bushes on what was a really nice day. As it happens I failed to kick out anything that different. In fact it was extremely quiet. The best of it was a nice flock of 17 Black-tailed Godwit.
After lunch John Hewitt announced there was a Black Brant in the Brent Goose flock on Easington Straight, so I made my way up there. By the time I got there John had picked out a second bird but had then left. I filtered through the flock and soon picked up one of the birds, but it was a short while before I managed to locate the second one. They remained distant all the time but I was able to get pretty sound views through the scope. Pretty nice to see this rare subspecies.
-Black Brant

Species List:
Triangle: Black-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank, Shelduck, Snipe, Wigeon, Mallard, Mute Swan, Little Grebe, Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow,

Spurn 26.11.2016
The morning was planned to be spent at the Seawatching hut, but upon arrival at the warren we found that there were a few birds moving, so ended up spending it at Numpties instead. The passage was steady but a few bits and pieces came through. A blogging party of as many as 12 Snow Buntings and a Long-tailed Duck were the best of it. Tim also picked out a unusual Shelduck on the Humber, which after much discussion is thought to be a Australian/Common Shelduck Hybrid. A bit of plastic fantastic to kick start the day with.
-Australian/Common Shelduck Hybrid
 And that only got expanded on in the afternoon when we headed up to Easington to have a look for a Ring-necked Parakeet that had been blogging about the village for the last few days. We soon connected with the bird, although viewing was difficult as the bird was against the light. Perhaps if viewing was better we might have noticed that the bird had an aviculture ring on it, so won’t be getting counted on the Spurn list anytime soon…
-Escaped Ring-necked Parakeet

Species List:
Numpties: Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Starling, Snow Bunting, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer, Tree Sparrow, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Shelduck, Brent Goose, Greylag Goose, Mallard, Wigeon, Eider, Common Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, 

Spurn 27.11.2016
I did the triangle a couple of times today, with the weather being nice and bright it made for a pleasant way to spend the day, even if it did lack a huge number of birds. The best of it was probably seeing the Black-tailed Godwits on the Humber again. Overall though it was a very quiet day! In  the afternoon we did some reading up for the Oman trip we have in February. Whilst we were doing this Tim picked up a Great-northern Diver flying across out to sea. Quite an unexpected addition for the day.

Species List:
Triangle & Obs: Redshank, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull, Great-northern Diver, Little Grebe, Moorhen, Mallard, Wigeon, Blackbird, Robin, Mistle Thrush, Dunnock, Robin, Woodpigeon, Carrion  Crow, Magpie,

Spurn 28.11.2016
My morning walk took in the Triangle, Beacon Lane, Beacon Ponds and Kilnsea Wetlands. The weather was nice and it made for a pleasant walk, even if there remained a limited number of birds. The best of it was a squad of five Goldeneye on Beacon ponds which included 2 drakes. I also jammed in on four Velvet Scoters going south whilst walking along the shore. They were the only birds during my short stretch along the coastline.
In the afternoon I took to fixing bikes, followed by a drive with John Hewitt and Jonnie to Stone Creek to look at Hen Harriers. We saw probably 2 ringtail Hen Harriers quartering fairly close over a set aside field in glorious evening light. Majestic! Short-eared Owls were also present, as was a perched up male Merlin. We headed on to Welwick after in the hope of catching the pallid harrier but not joy on this occasion.
-Hen Harrier

Species List:
Triangle & Beacon Lane: Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Dunlin, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Mallard, Wigeon, Velvet Scoter, Mute Swan, Brent Goose, Greylag Goose, Woodpigeon, Collard Dove, Blackbird, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull,
Beacon Ponds & Kilnsea Wetlands: Redshank, Dunlin, Brent Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Goldeneye, Woodpigeon, Kestrel, Short-eared Owl, Blackbird, Reed Bunting, Wren, Robin, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull,

Stone Creek & Welwick Saltmarsh: Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Barn Owl, Merlin, Kestrel, Stonechat, Goldcrest, Reed Bunting, Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Meadow Pipit, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Rook, Pheasant, 

Spurn 29.11.2016
For my final day at Spurn we headed back to Welwick Saltmarsh in the hope of seeing the Pallid Harrier again. We did see it, but due to the light we struggled to make out if it was actually the bird at first. It was already evening at this point and as a result I failed to improve on my previous photo efforts of this bird. 
-Pallid Harrier
There was a tremendous supporting cast; Hen Harrier flying by close, plus Short-eared Owl and Merlin a little more distantly. A Lapland bunting flew over calling but I failed to pick it up. A fantastic evening for my last night at Spurn.

Species List:
Welwick Saltmarsh: Pallid Harrier, Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owl, Merlin, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Linnet, Goldfinch, Goldcrest, Redshank, Snipe, Curlew, Lapwing, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Reed Bunting,

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Spurn Week 22

Spurn 14.11.2016
With the autumn continuing to slow down I had booked my interview at the passport office for today. As a result the day was spent out in Leeds doing odd bits and pieces and finally getting my passport. All in all a productive day if it did mean getting no birding done…

Spurn 15.11.2016
The autumn continues to draw to a close, with bird numbers dropping off daily. The bushes felt really quiet today, but I decided to make a real fist of it and see if I could find something. I first headed up round the Wetlands, Ponds and Beacon Lane followed by the Triangle and Canal. Variety was a little thin on the ground, with nothing really different being in the area. A small group of Black-tailed Godwits on the Humber was nice, and a flushed Woodcock flew straight at me whilst I was in the triangle.
After lunch things started to pick up a bit. I headed round Sammies point to have another look at the Richards Pipit at Long Bank Marsh, but on my way across I picked up a few skeins of Pink-footed Geese going south. In the end I probably had somewhere between 200-250 birds going south. It feels quite late for them to be moving, but perhaps this is the first really ideal conditions. Wildfowl was on the move generally, as I also picked up two flocks of Whoopers heading south when I went round Wetlands a second time.
-Pink-footed Geese
-Whooper Swans
The Richards Pipit was still present but continued to be mobile and not particularly easy to work with. I did manage to get a few more photos as it sat out in the open a bit, just a bit distant. Naturally though they continue to need work…
-Richards Pipit

Species List:
Kilnsea Wetlands, Beacon Ponds & Holderness Field: Gadwall, Greenshank, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Wigeon, Teal, Mallard, Sparrowhawk, Little Grebe, Blackbird, Redwing, Snipe, Goldcrest, Greylag Goose, Whooper Swan, Redshank, Dunlin, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Gull, Little Egret,
Beacon Lane & the Triangle: Little Grebe, Stonechat, Stock Dove, Black-tailed Godwit, Woodcock, Skylark, Moorhen, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Blackbird, Redwing, Robin, Reed Bunting, Wren, Skylark, Meadow Pipit,
Sammies Point & Long Bank Marsh: Pink-footed Goose, Shelduck, Lapwing, Peregrine, Kestrel, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Meadow Pipit, Richards Pipit, Redshank, Dunlin, Bar-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Blackbird, Redwing, Reed Bunting, Robin, Wren, Carrion Crow, Magpie,

Spurn 16.11.2016
Another bright but breezy day to be out and about birding in the Spurn area. As my days here draw to a close, it makes you realise just how privileged I have been to spend the year here. I got up early and headed to wetlands for high tide, but the waders were already beginning to move off when I arrived there. Nothing much different from previous days; but still good numbers of wildfowl, plus a flyover Peregrine and at least 2 Black-tailed Godwits in the roost.
I made my way up Easington Lagoons, through Easington village and then down towards the riding school and Sammies point to make a circuit of my walk. Whilst passing Easington Lagoons John Hewitt announced over the radio that he’d had a ringtail harrier down the Humber, that looked like a Pallid but it had been lost over the Humber. I was a bit peeved to have missed the bird, but it going missing helped disperse thoughts of being gripped off. No matter anyway, as whilst on the beach I picked up the bird quartering the fields on the far side of long bank. Views were not exceptional, but I managed a few pics of the bird over Easington before it drifted further north and apparently out to sea.
-Pallid Harrier
On the rest of the walk there were a few nice bits but it felt generally quiet, with many of the October thrushes already gone. A couple of Kingfishers at Sammies was nice, flying fairly close in the ditch right below me. The Richards Pipit continued to be present in the field, but in blustery conditions it’s a wonder I saw it. The bird was clearly not inclined to fly and was keeping a low profile in the field, but a scanning with the scope through the grass I was surprised to pick out its head poking out from the grass. First time I got to see it through the scope, showing the facial markings much more clearly.
In the afternoon I went round the triangle but that produced absolutely nothing of note, or much at all really!

Species List:
Kilnsea Wetlands, Beacon Ponds & Easington Lagoons: Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Greenshank, Grey Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit, Black-tailed Godwit, Little Grebe, Teal, Wigeon, Mute Swan, Mallard, Greylag Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Pallid Harrier, Peregrine, Pied Wagtail, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Linnet,
Easington & Sammies Point: Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Kingfisher, Richards Pipit, Lapwing, Little Egret, Brent Goose, Shelduck, Curlew, Redshank, Dunlin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Redwing, Blackbird, Pheasant, Collard Dove, Woodpigeon, Little Egret, Meadow Pipit,
Triangle: Shelduck, Brent Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Mallard, Teal, Wigeon, Blackbird, Redwing, Curlew, Little Grebe, Redshank, Dunlin,

Spurn 17.11.2016
The westerly wind greatly intensified today, making birding harder than it had been all autumn. At some points it was even difficult to stand up in. As per I headed round to the wetlands first thing to try and catch the high tide waders, but I was stunned to find no waders present, despite the tide still being high. It’s possible a predator or otherwise flushed them before I got there.
There remained decent numbers of wildfowl, but the overall totals had dropped from the previous day. Sadly though there was nothing different to the previous day. I finished off my walk by making a loop down Beacon Lane and the top road of the triangle, but saw very little. Once back at the obs I was not inclined to go out birding again, with the wind continuing to be extremely unpleasant.

Species List:
Kilnsea Wetlands: Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Mallard, Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Brent Goose, Little Grebe, Little Egret, Reed Bunting, Blackbird, Redshank, Curlew, Dunlin, Knot, Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, Woodpigeon,  

Spurn 18.11.2016
Rather than waste time trying to bird in the howling gale, I headed straight down to the Seawatching hide in the morning. It was a good move, as there were good numbers of Swans and Pinkies moving. In total we logged 80+ Whooper Swans flying out at sea and a similar number of the Pink-footed Geese. A few divers also were on the move, and there was a drake Long-tailed Duck that flew south past fairly close in.
-Pink-footed Geese
-Whooper Swans
-Long-tailed Duck

Once Seawatching had dried up I spent the rest of the day doing odd bits in and around the Obs, the continued wind making birding extremely difficult and not much fun at all.

Species List:
Seawatching: Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Geese, Wigeon, Teal, Common Scoter, Red-throated Diver, Guillemot, Razorbill, Long-tailed Duck, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull,

Spurn 19.11.2016
Continuing from yesterday, the wind remained extremely strong and difficult to bird. As a result I headed off down to numpties in the hope of a few birds moving past. A few swans and geese were on the move, with a few divers also thrown into the mix, including a few sat on the sea. On the whole though it was a fairly quiet affair! A few passerines were moving overhead, but not in any real numbers. As with previous days, the wind was making birding a bit of a challenge and most of my time was spent in the Obs.

Species List:
Numpties: Goldfinch, Siskin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Linnet, Tree Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Brent Goose, Meadow Pipit, Wigeon, Red-throated Diver, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Great Black-backed Gull,

Spurn 20.11.2016
Today was a complete write off as a result of the previous night’s celebrations of the autumn. As a result the entire day was spent in bed and no birds were seen today