Monday, 30 January 2017

Dunnington twitching Pine Bunting

I finally decided it was time to go and dip the Dunnington Pine Bunting. The bird was so close to me in Halifax it would have been stupid not to go at some point, but it was not playing ball at all and a large part of me knew I would not see it, so had no ambition to go and sit in a field for a few hours for no reason. However, I decided to give it a go on the Monday after my awesome weekend out twitching. I did not have high expectations for the day or of my chances of seeing the bird.
I made it on to the site for late morning, and quickly found the location where people were watching the birds. There were good numbers of finches and buntings in the hedgerows and it was simply a case of filtering through them all in the hope of picking out the Pine Bunting. The main problem was the birds were extremely mobile, and there were both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk on site constantly moving the birds. At one point all the birds left to another field, so I headed round there only for them all to fly back round to the initial site. Once back at the initial site I learned that, of course, the Pine Bunting had shown briefly not minutes before I came back. Typical.
However, I did not have to wait long before it came back. As I was sifting through the buntings and finches the birder next to me announced that he had it in the top of a large Oak tree. I quickly got my scope to it and picked the bird out, the white cheek being obvious. I managed to grab two phone-scoped shots before the Sparrowhawk came bombing through and all the birds flew off. And that was that.
-Pine Bunting
I did not expect to see it, so the fact that I actually did see it was pretty exciting and unexpected. I could not face waiting for another appearance though, having already been present on site for a couple of hours. I headed back to make sure I was back in Halifax in good time for work. 
The Pine Bunting may have been a lifer and a mega, but the best part of the day was simply seeing so many farmland birds all in one place. Hundreds of Yellowhammers made up the most part, but with good numbers of Corn Buntings, Tree Sparrows and Bramblings in tow, as well as commoner species such as Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Reed Bunting, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and a solitary Siskin. It was a pretty incredible site, and some of the male Yellowhammers were unbelievable to look at, so bright and colourful. In addition to the finches and buntings there were good numbers of Woodpigeon, Stock Dove and corvids feeding on the stubble. Really it was something I have not really experienced before, so many farmland birds. Anyone thinking of going for the Pine Bunting should go just to appreciate the spectacle of commoner birds, especially the Yellowhammers. 
-Brambling & Yellowhammer

Species List:
Dunnington: Brambling, Yellowhammer, Corn Bunting, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Siskin, Reed Bunting, Pine Bunting, Tree Sparrow, House Sparrow, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Grey Wagtail, Great-spotted Woodpecker, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, 

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Skinningrove twitching Eastern Black Redstart

Working during the week has now reduced me to a weekend twitcher. Having been for the White-billed Diver yesterday I decided to have a look north for the Eastern Black Redstart thats been wintering on the south side of Tees. Its not a species, and is something I have seen before but that previous time the light had faded badly, and its just something I wanted to see.
Once I arrived on site it took a few minutes before the bird appeared, but once it had come out from the rocks it started showing obscenely well at incredibly close quarters on the rocks less than two meters in front of me. There were only a few other birders there so we were able to really get to grips with the bird and for me, try to learn as much about it as possible.
Its a cracking bird to say the least, one of the best I have ever seen and the way it behaved was fantastic. It gave me the chance to experiment with my photography, allowing me to test all my camera set ups;
-Eastern Black Redstart
-Eastern Black Redstart
and DSLR set up...
-Eastern Black Redstart
I have learnt not to trust my DSLR as it struggles to get things in focus. However it performed much better today, probably as a result of the bird being so close to us. The light was a big problem as the bird was always in shade, but as the afternoon drew on it did improve a little.
As for the supporting cast, it was very good. With the Redstart on the beach was a pair of very bold Stonechats and a flock of Turnstones that were equally confiding. On the cliffs behind us was a small colony of Fulmar and a Peregrine flew through. It was a really pleasant afternoon out birding. 
On the way back I got off the bus in Redcar and went to have a look at the Velvet Scoter flock off the cinema. In total I counted eleven birds diving around among the roost gulls. Its the first time I have properly seen these birds on the sea through my new scope, and not through my old scope. A nice way to wrap up the day, a fantastic days birding out in the north east.
-Velvet Scoter
Species List:
Skinningrove: Grey Heron, Eider, Red-throated Diver, Eastern Black Redstart, Robin, Rock Pipit, Stonechat, Dunnock, Pied Wagtail, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Fulmar, Jackdaw, Peregrine, Herring Gull, Black-headed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, 
Redcar: Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Turnstone, Oystercatcher, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull,

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Woodhall Spa twitching White-billed Diver

After my initial attempt to see this bird on Wednesday ended in failure after the bird decided to swim too far up river for me to reach in my limited time-frame, I knew I would have to go back and try again. My Wednesday attempt did get me a yeartick of Waxwing when a small flock of 8 flew over my head as I walked up the river, so thats something worth noting. 
Today's twitch was far more successful, the bird showing very well as soon as I arrived on site, and continuing to show for the three hours I spent with it. White-billed diver is obviously an extremely rare bird, but to see one inland like this is even rarer. Its gives the opportunity to see a bird up close in a way that you might not get otherwise. 
The bill is obviously the main feature that stands out from the first moment you see the bird. Its just so massive on the front of the birds face. The light was not ideal for photos but I managed a few that I am happy with, mainly using digiscoping. Its still a technique I'm working on with my new camera so I failed to get as many photos as I wanted, but I still got enough to be happy with.
-White-billed Diver
White-billed Diver is the final representative of the bird order Gaviiformes, the divers, meaning that it is the first bird order that I have now seen all global representatives. And I've had the fun of being able to see them all up close and really get to grips with. 
There was not much of a supporting cast, the best of it being a pair of distant Whooper Swans and a small flock of Yellowhammer on a garden feeder. Still a cracking day out though, and a great bird to see.

Species List:
Woodhall Spa: White-billed Diver, Cormorant, Goosander, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Moorhen, Coot, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Yellowhammer, Bullfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Druridge Bay CP twitching Pacific Diver

Winter is meant to be a steady time with not an abundance of new birds being found but a few long staying rarities. Over the weekend though a good few rare birds were found scattered across the north, and with my shifts at work now being moved forward a couple of hours for this week only I was able to get a few of said birds seen.
First on the agenda was a cracking Pacific Diver in Northumberland that was apparently showing exceptionally well. I made the trip up and was on site for half 10. As soon as I arrived I picked up the bird but it was distant and sleeping. Still not as distant as one at sea would have been but nothing like as close as it had been. However, during the morning, once it had woken up, it did come a lot closer and I was able to finally practice digiscoping with my new camera. 
-Pacific Diver
Overall I was quite pleased with the results, but still needs a lot of practice. I also took some insurance shots through Phone-scoping. Sadly the bird remained a little too distant to be able to get anything with the SLR, which is saying something really, as the bird was very close at times. The light was also quite poor, always being behind the bird and making it more difficult to get good photos of.
-Pacific Diver
The bird itself was a rather stunning beast. Its possibly the best views I've ever had of any diver species, which really allowed me to get to grips with its plumage features. The lack of flank patch is the most obvious feature. From photos there did seem to be some white there, but in the field there was obviously nothing. The chin strap was also more marked than it had appeared in photos online. Both diagnostic features of this species. 
It was a really nice day out. Additional yearticks included Siskin and Red-breasted Merganser. Sadly I diddnt have time to go to the coast and pick up any other species that have been linering around the area, but my pattern of work is such that it does allow me to get out birding like this and see this incredible rarities, so I can't complain.

Species List:
Druridge Bay CP: Pacific Diver, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Oystercatcher, Redshank, Pink-footed Goose, Greylag Goose, Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Siskin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Song Thrush,

Saturday, 21 January 2017

South Pennine moors

A really enjoyable day out with Jamie Dunning and Anna Temple Twite ringing on the southern half of the Calderdale recording area. It was good fun, my first time using a whoosh net to catch birds. Obviously I'm not a ringer but it was fun to see the birds close up and appreciate the Twite in their winter plumage. The flock was probably about 50 birds, and we caught about 20 different birds, including a couple of re-traps. Overall a really fun day out.

Species List: 
South Pennine moors: Twite, Goldfinch, Stonechat, Jackdaw, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, 

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Lochwinnoch twitching Hooded Merganser

For my firs twitch of 2017 I decided to finally make a move for the Hooded Merganser that had been residing in southern Scotland for the last few months. The location was Lochwinnoch just south of Glasgow. After testing multiple options, I decided that the best way to do it would be by train, going up from Halifax in the morning and returning the same day after a couple of hours at the bird. This method paid off, as I was rewarded with a nice afternoon out birding.
As soon as I arrived on site I connected with the Hooded Merganser. It remained distant throughout my stay unfortunately, on the far side of the Loch to myself, meaning only distant record shots could be obtained. Its a pretty stunning bird, although having seen Hooded Mergansers in collections before there was nothing overly surprising about seeing it. It did come a little closer when it came round the bank at the north end. I headed over that way but found it the same second it found me, so flushed it out again. However, it clearly flew no bother (not clipped) and was obviously wary, so I suspect this is a wild bird and should have no bother getting accepted by the relevant committees.
-Hooded Merganser
As for the supporting cast. There were a host of commoner year-ticks to be had but also some less common. A drake Scaup was unexpected, hanging out with the ample Tufted Ducks on the loch, and showing fairly well too, substantially better than the Merganser thats for certain. Unfortunately I diddnt manage to get a clear shot of it, meaning I still don't have a good photo of a Scaup.
But the highlight of the supporting cast were the Whooper Swans which were around. I headed onto the actual RSPB reserve after a while watching the Merganser and right in front of the hide was a family party of seven Whooper Swans. They were cracking birds, as Whoopers always are. 
-Whooper Swans
The light remained poor throughout the afternoon, with intermittent flecks of drizzle. For that reason I took no decent photos of any of the birds on the list. It was an awesome day out though, and well worth the effort.

Species List:
Lochwinnoch RSPB: Tufted Duck, Wigeon, Teal, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Cormorant, Hooded Merganser, Goosander, Mallard, Scaup, Whooper Swan, Kingfisher, Great-crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull,Coot, Pochard, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin, Nuthatch,