Monday, 9 March 2015

Brecks Birding

At last a full day out birding. Free time has been pretty scant so far this year, with opportunities to get out and spend some time birding limited. But Sunday I was free and I wanted to see birds, so where better to head on a sunny March day than the Brecks.

First stop was at the usual Stone Curlew site just off the A1065 but alas none could be located. A short hop up the road and we were at Lynford Arboretum. Here we had much more joy with at least 3 possible 4 Hawfinch providing good scope views as they fed on the floor among the fallen leaves. Brambling and Nuthatch showed well on the feeders and we were now on a roll.

Next we headed to Santon Downham where we had all too brief views of Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, before heading off to look for the long staying Great Grey Shrike. A lovely walk along the river adding Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher to the day list, before we arrived in the area we believed the shrike favoured. We walked along the river bank scanning fence lines and bushes without realising the bird was actually in a tree just in front of us, only noticing it when we accidentally flushed it just 30-40 yards in front of us. We spent the next 30 minutes watching as it caught plenty of beetles, all on our own, not a person in sight. It certainly was nice to have the bird to ourselves, quietly enjoying it.        

Marsh Tit

We headed to the local Goshawk view point which proved disappointing. Distant views were had which we were not happy with. We headed a mile up the road hoping to find a better view point and luckily managed to get one half decent view of a bird having a disagreement with a circling Buzzard.

The weather had now turned. It was windy, overcast and the temperature was steadily dropping. We ended the day at Mayday Farm, which was full of mountain bikers and walkers and empty of birds! We spent our final hour at the drinking pool watching common species at close quarters coming down to drink, hoping we'd be treated to a Crossbill, but it was not to be.        

I'm looking forward to many more bird filled days out in the near future.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

First tick of 2015 - you're having a laugh!

I am off and running. After dipping the Little Bastard on 02/01/15 it has taken 6 weeks to get on the tick trail (BOU 411). Lee (indoorstoomuch) and I have a pretty good twitching record (apart from the bustard) although that day we still got the Blyth's Pipit, which wasn't  a tick for me, but was a very good bird and a tick for Lee.   

Fifteenth of Feb is my birthday (yes today!) and a year ago on my birthday Lee and I headed north to Newcastle and connected with the Yellow Rumped Warbler that had been found on the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch. A year later, I got a pass from the Mrs to go out all day on Valentine's Day, and head to the north west. 4 hours after leaving home I found myself in New Brighton, Liverpool, within 100 yards of where I had spent some considerable hours looking for and not seeing a Little Swift a few years back. This time it was much more straightforward. 

We pulled up at the marina and there it was flying past the car. It disappeared for 20 minutes or so but then it was back posing for the birders who had come to see it. We watched it at close quarters for around 1.5 hours before heading off on the trail on more yanks.      

Two hours later we were in Nottinghamshire, thankfully half way home, where we spent around 1.5 hours with a few locals scanning at distance hundreds of Wigeon looking for a yank one. It must have been there but despite trawling through them over and over (and over) again, we could not locate it.

Next stop, Northants for a Ring Necked Duck. If the American Wigeon was tough, this yank was a bordering on impossible. We stopped for around 10 minutes viewing ducks from around 1/2 a mile through trees when we gave up and decided it was a waste of time.

Happy with the gull we headed home, satisfied with  our day's efforts. Hopefully the next tick wont be too far away and I am already wondering if I'll get another tick next year for my 48th birthday.            

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Little Bastard

Yorkshire and in particular East Yorkshire has been very hit and miss for me in terms of connecting with rare birds. A round trip from Essex/east London is a good 9 hours in the car and well over 400 miles so a twitch that far north has to carefully considered. In facr my first three twitches to East Yorks, all, yes ALL/100%, ended in dips. Pechora Pipt, Brown Shrike and Brown Flycatcher all ended in disappointment,  but at least I have seen a Brown Shrike (London) and Pechora Pipit (Unst, Shetland) since. My last two adventures to East Yorks have actually been very successful with a memorable twitch for Ivory Gull and just a few months ago, Masked Shrike, so when a Little Bustard showed up on New Year's Eve I was up for another long trip north.

My partner in crime on this occasion was Lee Brown. I could go on 1st Jan but had plans to see the New Year in with my family and close friends Jack Daniels and Stella, and anyway, I doubted it would still be there the next day, so it was decided, if it was still there at dusk on 1st Jan we'd be there for first light on the 2nd. I was toying with going on news but that is equally risky with limited day light hours at this time of year and it being a pig of a journey when jo public have gotten out of bed and are on their way to some shopping mall or other.

The added bonus of the trip was in the form of a mega eare Blyth's Pipit 90 minutes from the Bustard site in West Yorkshire. Easy, tick the Bustard by 9am, see the Pipit by midday and be on the way home by early afternoon.

Lee picked me up at 4am. I think I had about 30 minutes sleep so felt terrible, not helped by a cold that had been passed to me by my Mrs. Four and a half hours later via a trip the wrong way over the Humber Bridge we arrived on site. Already in position around 100 very cold birders. It didn't look good. Scopes scanned the field the bird was last seen in from all angles.  If it was there surely it would be obvious.  A very cold hour later it was obvious.  The bird was gone, dead, who knows. Bollocks.

We headed to the pipit site for a consolation prize. The Blyth's Pipit is very rare. I have seen one previously on Scilly in 2008 I think. The bird was supposed to be easy. Roll up, see bird, take some pictures and go home. On arrival we were told it had not been seen for a while since it flew to cover.  We set about refinding it. Checked various sites from various angles. No good. 90 minutes later we'd had enough.  Walking back to the car the group of birders huddled by the KFC appeared to actually be looking at something.  They were. The pipit was showing. We got in place and waited and there it was, standing proud in the wispy grass. Lee was not able to see it so I quickly called for him to move to where I was positioned. Out it popped again and showed well briefly. Thank bleep for that.

And that was that.  worth a mention is a nice a touch made by the KFC staff who provided free hot chocolate to the freezing birders, which went down well.

And finally,  as the day wore on I heard rumours from a few people that the farmer who owned the field that the Bustard had been in had deliberately flushed the bird after dark after poor behaviour from a small minority of birders on site the previous day, including blocking the  entrance to his farm with inconsiderate parking and then his wife being verbally abused when she asked for the car/s to be moved. Who knows if this is true. If it is I just wish he'd told people he was going to do it to save me a long journey and another East Yorkshire dip.
Crowd at the Blyth's Pipit Site

A Bustard free zone

Sunday, 9 November 2014

If you do not like Desert Wheatears, look away now

Go see a Desert Wheatear down to 20 feet or spend  5 hrs in the car to tick a roosting gull (Franklins) - no choice really. Desert Wheatear smart, Gull boring. Hawky and I waited on news before heading to Reculver, Kent to pap the smart showy bird.  

The wheatear (my 3rd in the UK) showed fantastically well as you will see below. I have to warn you there is Desert Wheatear overload below, so be warned. It was a shame it was overcast and dull but you can't have everything.


Not a Desert Wheatear phhoto - Shore Lark 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Shetland 2014 round up

Shetland 2014 certainly was a trip to remember. Many of the cracking birds we saw and found have been detailed in previous posts, but there were plenty more birds and episodes that took place that'll be remembered:

  • The evening Lanceolated Warbler twitch at Quendale
  • Finding a Long Eared Owl at Sumburgh Farm
  • Finding an Olive Backed Pipit at Wester Quarff
  • Little Bunting-gate in the lighthouse garden - was it or wasn't it, the jury is still out
  • RB Fly at Toab
  • The cracking Pallid Harrier
  • Black Redstart, Brambling, Ring Ouzel, Twite, Yellow Browed Warbler, Jack Snipe all in and around the lighthouse garden (where we stayed)
  • Tony leaving his rucksack containing his camera, passport, drivers license and wallet on a bench at Sumburgh hotel and realising over 2 hours later it was gone! It was still there when we got back - it is Shetland not London!
  • Tony then hilariously falling over in pure comedy style, then again realising an hour later he'd lost his phone and walkie-talkie in the process and having to go back again to find then sitting in the long grass where they had fallen out
  • Great Grey Shrike at Virkie
  • Northern Bullfinch at Geosetter (that I missed - grrr)
  • Horny Redpoll for the 3rd Shetland trip running
  • Thrashing our birding buddies Andy Lawson, Gary Bagnell, James Hanlon and George Kinnard on the listing challenge - they cried foul play, we cried "Losers!" - lol - it was just a bit of fun
  • All in all it was probably my favourite Shetland trip to date, and don't get me wrong the previous ones were great, but we had such a laugh, saw some great birds and of course who can forget the Siberian Rubythroat! I am already looking forward to next year's trip. 

The Long Eared Owl we found at Sunburgh Farm - pic by Hawky 

Photo: Lanceolated Warbler, Quendale, Mainland
The Lancy showed well the next day, we saw it the previous evening 
 picture by the bird's finder Chris Griffin, great find by a really nice bloke

Pied Flycatcher at Geosetter

 Blurry Little Bunting at Boddam

 Pole Cat at Geosetter

Great Grey Shrike at Virkie 


Monday, 20 October 2014

Eastern Bonelli's Warble -a MEGA way to end our 2014 Shetland trip

When news broke of a Western Bonelli's Warbler at Scalloway on day 6 of 7 of our holiday, we immediately set off knowing assuming someone had heard it call and therefore had nailed it as a Western; a good bird but nowhere near as rare as its Eastern cousin.

As is quite often we arrived in a residential area to be told it hadn't been seen for quite a while and was very elusive. We gave it around 2 hours with no further sign before we decided to head off and twitch a couple of near by Olive Backed Pipits.

OBPs in the bag and with an hour and a half day light to play with, we headed back to Scalloway, where on arrival we had been told by Baggers, Andy and crew, that it had been seen well just 10 minutes earlier. After another 30 minutes if searching we had a brief flight view as it appeared in front of us flying across the road from tree top to tree top. Still no one to our knowledge had heard it call and still it was being put out as a Western BW. And that was that for that evening.

That night many of the birders on Shetland met for a curry in Lerwick and there were a few people sceptical that the bird was a Western, given the winds of late.

The flollwing morning with just 4 hours to play with before we headed home, we found ourselves back at Scalloway, via a Little Bunting and a group self found OBP (yay!) at Wester Quarff.

On route we checked birdguides to read that it had been reported that the bird was now believed to be the rare (4 previous British records) Eastern Bonelli's Warbler. Based on what we did not know. We desperately needed it to call, and be heard by a few people.

On site again it played hard to get, but after an hour or so it eventually gave it self up. Initially skulking up in the canopy but in the end providing pretty decent views. By the time we left we had not heard it call, but with it now being reported as an Eastern all of Shetland's resident birders were on site, and by the time we got to the airport, it had been MEGAd, Boom! It had called and the ight people were there to hear it. A great way to end to the trip.  
Playing hard to get a first

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Brambling, a Shetland beauty

There were hundreds of these smart birds on Shetland, including some very large flocks. We never tired of seeing them.