Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Skomer Island, West Wales

Just back from a weekend away in west Wales. Before I get onto the birds I need to mention the journey! It took 5 hours to get to Swansea, where we (me, Julia, Sophie and Jamie) met up with my cousin Patrick and his wife Emma, before we continued west for another 2 hours! A long journey but well worth it.  

We stayed over night stay at a great little B&B, and enjoyed a nice meal out in a pub in the picturesque coastal town of Littlehaven. In the morning we were up bright and early for a full Welsh breakfast, before making the 5 mile journey to the coast to get a boat over to Skomer. With blue skies and calm waters we were not the only people who wanted to get onto Skomer. There was a considerable queue for tickets but after an hour we were in and on the 10.30 am boat. By 11.00 am we were there! 

Like most people our main reason for our visit was to see Puffins, and Skomer currently has around 12,500 of them! As well as Puffins (lots), we also had good views of Chough, Razorbill, Guillimot, Gannet, Peregrine  Falcon, Buzzard, Wheatear and Stonechat. 


Razorbills - stunning up close

The clan crossing the island (on a path!) cutting through a  blanket of pink and blue  

There's not many places in the UK to see Choughs and I had my best views ever of these birds on Skomer 

Showing distantly at around 6 inches

Many thanks to Patrick and Emma for putting us up for a couple of nights and being great company!       

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Dusky Thrush, Margate, Kent

My 1st life tick of 2013 has finally arrived, and it was worth waiting for. The UK's first twitchable Dusky Thrush since 1959. Handily the bird decided to take up residence in Margate Cemetery, Kent, which is less than 1.5 hours by car from home.

Hawky was working until midday so I waited for him rather than join the crowds at silly o'clock in the morning. We arrived at around 3pm after a sat nav hiccup to find around 300 birders, from all over the UK still on sight enjoying the bird that was on show almost immediately. Unfortunately due to the numbers and people chasing it round the thrush never left the safety of the trees to feed on the deck, which would have provided even better views.

On the way home we had a quick stop at Reculver where we failed to find the Monty's Harrier but did get great views of a showy Cuckoo. Happy days. Hopefully May has another tick in it!

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A tick-fest in Suffolk

Unfortunately it wasn't a tick fest for me, but it was for Shaun's 12 year old Nephew, George, who I believe came away from a mere 5 hours birding with 16 ticks! Ah those were the days.

We started at Lakenheath RSPB where the Golden Orioles are still to arrive. The previous day an adult  male Red Footed Falcon had been on site but the last report the night before was that there was no further sign. But as our day out was to get George as may ticks as possible we decided Lakenheath was still probably as good a place as anywhere.

We were very pleased to see as we were just 20 minutes from the car park that the falcon was indeed still present, as was an elusive Purple Heron. Both would be fantastic ticks for George if we could see them.

Things started off well with a cuckoo (tick), then 2 Common Cranes (tick) but spotting the falcon up high with at least 10 Hobbys (tick) was proving tough at a distances of around 1/4 mile. After all it's a small bird! And that is what gave it away, one bird was markedly smaller than the others and after 30 minutes or so it balled ball as started hunting over our heads!

A blurry cuckoo

Common Crane

Red Footed Falcon 

We gave the Purple Heron a try but apparently it was extremely elusive often only being seen in flight once a day, so the 20 minutes we gave it was only ever going to be unsuccessful. We counted at least half a dozen booming Bittern hidden in the reed bed but all were heard and not seen.

We headed off to Weeting and duly paid our £4.25 to the Nolfolk Wildlife Trust to add Stone Curlew to George's list where he also added Tree Pipit and Yellowhammer.

We were flagging by 2.30pm. The sun had been beating down on us all day so we decided to call it a day. On the bright side I was home in the garden, feet up with a cold beer by 4pm. So still no ticks but certainly some enjoyable birding.

Watch this space for an update in the coming weeks from Lakenheath as I must get back up there and see the Orioles when they arrive.