Tuesday 31 August 2010

Adding Cory's Shearwater to my UK list - Norfolk in chance

I've seen quite a few Cory's Shearwaters. It was a number of years ago on a whale watching trip in the Bay of Biscay, but I've never really come close to adding one to my British list. So when Mr BBC weatherforecasterman informed me that on Monday there would be gale force northerly winds battering the north Norfolk coast, I thought I would have a good chance of adding the large shearwater to my list.

"Wake me up when something happens"

"Wake me up when something happens"I was not the only person who had this thought. I made the 2.5 hours journey alone arriving at Sheringham at 7.00am to find the shelters packed to the rafters with Cory hungry birders, including fellow Essex birders; Messers Bradders Jnr and Jono "The Leth" Lethbridge. With the skies grey and the waves smashing in against the shore, things looked very promising. It didn't take long to add shearwaters to the day list with both Sooty and Manxs passing through west. Unfortunately the constant steam of Arctic and Great Skuas were not interrupted by any Long Tailed or Poms though. Good views were had of a relatively close Storm Petrel, which got the Norfolk birders excited, being a tough bird to catch up with in the county.

As we reached late morning, the skies began to clear, the grey clouds replaced with blue skies. Birders started to drifting off (to sleep) Coryless. The pager was quiet so I decided to head home early and bag a few brownie points rather than hang about and bash a few bushes or twitch a juvy type Red Backed Shrike or two but with hopeful a good autumn about to kick off I'll save that for another day soon, hopefully. As for Corys, there's always next year!

Monday 23 August 2010

Vange Spoonbills

Off work today looking after the kids I managed to convince them that a quick visit to Vange RSPB after lunch would be more fun than watching the Disney Channel or playing on the Wii.

Their enthusiasm (dragged them kicking and screaming) was for some reason not heightened by the news that they could possibly see 3 Spoonbills and a juvy type Red Backed Shrike! Kids!

30 mins after leaving home we parked on the grass verge by the entrance and off we set. 10 minutes later I located the 3 Spoonbills fast asleep. The grey skies seemed to get much greyer very quickly and rain began to fall (I am sure I saw the kids do a rain dance) The kids looked at them for at least a millisecond look through the scope and I tried unsuccessfully to take a couple of distant digiscoped shots. With the rain falling and kids moaning I decided it best not to suggest we walk round for an hour to try and locate the shrike and headed back to the car. By the time we got home 30 minutes later the sun was shining and no doiubt the shrike was sitting up on a bush providing cracking views to someone.

Broad Billed Sandpiper - East Mersey Essex

Just as our friends arrived for lunch yesterday by phone vibrated to let me know that a text had arrived from Hawky. "Broad Billed Sand...East Mersey". Three hours later I was putting my scope, bins and camera into the boot and was heading east on the A12. Half way through the 80 minute drive and other text from Hawky confirmed it was still there.

Parking up I hooked up with 2 friendly fellow birders from Suffolk and began the long walk to the bird, and it was a long walk. What seemed like ages later we arrived to double the number of birders on site to 6!

The bird was showing distantly (approx 200yards) across the river on the mud with Ringed Plover and helpfully with Dunlin, which when close showed the size and plumage difference nicely. (life tick #372)

Picture from by Sean Nixon - thanks

Thursday 12 August 2010

California Trip Birds - Poor and record shots - help with ID required

Ok, here a few shots that I need some help with. Some are ok, some are distant and some are blurry. Please let me have your suggestions via the comments or at martin.blow@rocketmail.com. Thanks.

Chipping Sparrow?

Help? Townsend Warbler?

Purple Finch?

Sage Sparrow?

Juv - White Crowned Sparrow?

As above?

Taken by Sophie. Savanagh Sparrow?

Orange Crowned Warbler?

Northern Mockingbird - it doesn't look quite right to me?

Belted Kingfisher?

Monday 9 August 2010

California - more pics

Sea Otter - unlike a River Otter these beauties are much bigger at 1.2 metres in length - this was one of a handful found early morning in the harbour in Monterey.

Columbian Black Tailed Deer

Sea Lions - lots of smelly Sea Lions - Monterey harbour, many more than at the famous Sea Lion haunt at Pier 39, San Fransisco

Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel - not a chipmunk - thanks Ryan for the info

California Highlights - Elephant Seals

Around 75 miles south of San Fransisco off Highway 1 is the Anu Nuevo State Reserve. Each summer for about 6 weeks Elephant Seals arrive to shed their hides and skin. With each one weighing in excess of 3000lb they really are a very impressive sight as they males jostle in the surf!

California Whale Watching in Monterey Bay

On Friday 5th August we went on a half day (morning) whale watching trip in Monterey Bay. A detailed account of our fantastic trip will follow in the holiday trip report on ELBF (http://www.elbf.co.uk/tripreports/htm in a week or so.

We were lucky to see 2 Blue and 26 Humpback Whales, 100+ Rissos Dolphins and double figure Northern Right Whale Dolphins, as well as 3 Black Footed Albatross', Cassin's Auklet, Red Necked and Red Phalaropes, Sooty Shearwaters, a probable Pink Footed Shearwater and many Common Murre.

A Humpback 20 feet from the boat!

A mother and calf.

The largest creature to have ever lived on earth, bigger than any dinosaur, the Blue Whale.

With a passing Sooty Shearwater

California Highlights #4

Rock Wren

Black Necked Stilts & Snowy Egret

American Goldfinch

Red Tailed Hawk

Turkey Vulture


Chipping Sparrow

Clark's Nutcracker
Great Blue Heron

Snowy Egret

Bush Tit

Western Gull

American Robin

Sunday 8 August 2010

California Highlights #3

Black Footed Albatross (wow!)

Black Footed Albatross

White Crowned Sparrow


Commom Murre (adult and juv)

Red Necked Phalaropes

Pigeon Guillimot

Heermann's Gull

Black Crowned Night Heron

Brown Pelican