Sunday 25 September 2011

Should I stay or should I go? Go you f@cking idiot, go!!

Oh dear, sometimes everything just goes to pot and this weekend has been a prime example. Earlier in the week the Scillies was ram jammed with yank rarities and Hawky and I had hatched a plan to day trip the beautiful islands hoping for at least one or two of Black and White Warbler; Northern Waterthrush, Solitary Sandpiper, Baltimore Oriole, Red Eyed Vireo and perhaps a splash of colourful Bee eater. By midweek half the birds had buggered off leaving by Thursday just the Waterthrush and Solitary Sand, with both playing hard to get a lot of the time. Should we stay or should we go? With no new arrivals we felt it too risky that either one or both birds would disappear or could not be pinned down during the short 4 hour window a day trip would allow. We needed a plan B.

Plan B duly arrived in the shape of another yank mega, this time a much bigger one, in the form of the Sandhill Crane found in Aberdeenshire! Our initial enthusiasm was significantly dampened when it dawned on us it was almost 550 miles away, equating to a 10 hour+ drive each way. We agreed that although the bird was rare, it was not work 20 hours in a car! We decided to do the sensible thing, stay at home and hope something would be found nearer to home. Much to my delight, come 6pm on Sat, I had the choice of 2 life ticks; a semi p in Hants or an Arctic Warbler in Norfolk. For me no choice, I have already missed out on one Arctic Warbler when the A12 in Essex was closed meaning we couldn't make the relatively short trip to Landguard.

The next choice was do we go on no news or wait? Well I'd had enough of sitting in doors, waiting until half the day had gone, to find out if a bird was still present. I hadn't had a full day out birding for a couple of weeks, and after all it is late Sept and there's already an Arctic Warbler and a Pied Fly at Burnham Overy so what else is there. So that was it a day birding in Norfolk!

At this stage I am going to cut a long and BORING story very short:

1. There was no sign of the Arctic Warbler :o(

2. There was no sign of hardly any birds in AT ALL in Norfolk

3. The semi p showed well all morning in Hampshire

4. The waterthrush and Solitary Sand showed pretty well all weekend

5. Ditto the crane

Anyway here are some pics of what little we did see.

Long tailed Duck - Titchwell

Convolvulus Hawkmoth

Sunday 18 September 2011

Pallid Harrier, Colne Point, Essex

Yesterday afternoon I continued the trend of going with Shaun to get him a tick, this time, for a juvy Pallid Harrier, in our home county of Essex. After eventually finding the site we had an anxious wait of around an hour until the bird, which had been resting, out of site, on the ground in a field, decided to give itself up and provide good scope views. It was my 2nd Pallid Harrier after catching up with a smart adult male a couple of years back in Cambridgeshire.

It must be my turn for a tick next? We'll see.

Monday 12 September 2011

Olympic Park Visit

Had a quick tour of the Olympic park site this afternoon. We had to stay on the mini bus apart from one stop off at the handball arena. To be honest it made me even more annoyed that like many, many people I didn't get any tickets to a "proper" Olympic event. I don't count football!

Sunday 11 September 2011

Another Cornwall weekend

With very strong south westerly winds forecasted this weekend, myself, Shaun and Hawky, headed down to Porthgwarra, Cornwall for a sea watching session. It was my 3rd session there in 6 weeks and both previous occasions having seen Cory’s Shearwater, I was hoping for some Greats this time. Not as much as Shaun though who needed it for a lifer.

We left Essex at 10pm and drove through the night arriving in Penzance about 4.30am. Having stocked up in the 24 hr Tesco we headed to our digs; the McDonalds car park, where we tried to sleep for an hour before grabbing some breakfast at 6am. By 6.45am we were at Porthgwarra setting up our scopes, along with a dozen or so others.

Over the next 6 hours or so we enjoyed steady streams of Sooty and Balearic Shearwaters; loads of Manx’s, a few Puffins, and half a dozen Arctic and Great Skuas. As usual Storm Petrels were proving difficult to latch on top at distances of up to a mile, with only 1 seen well. Then after about 4 hrs at last we had Great Shearwater; prolonged views of it inside the Runnelstone helped us check out the differences between it and Corys, with its straighter wings and more direct flying pattern.

The highlight for me though was a pair of Choughs that joined us for 5 minutes mid sessions. I’ve only ever had poor views on one previous occasion.

After another couple of hours and the conditions worsening for sea watching i.e. blue skies and sunny, we headed off to see what else we could find. Around Porthgwarra we looked unsuccessfully for the now long staying Wryneck; unsuccessfully. We headed off to Drift Reservoir where Pec Sands had been reported when mid journey the pager said Black Kite a Polgigga; where we had been 15 minutes earlier. 20 minutes later we were back scanning the fields in all directions. Unsurprisingly eagle eyed Hawky picked it up distantly further inland, so we jumped back into the car and set off in pursuit. 5 minutes later we located it again, with 3Buzzards, thermaling over a near by ploughed field. It never really came close but we had good scope and bin views.

Next it was on to another Wryneck, near St Just. Again after a good look it could not be relocated, but a smart Peregrine provided very good views. Back at Drift the Pectoral Sands showed down to a few feet (see Shaun’s blog for cracking pics from someone who had more patience than me).

Next it was off to Hayle to try for the Buff Breasted Sandpiper, but again we had no luck at high tide. It was now 6pm, and we were starving and tired. After lovely fish and chips we headed to Penzance to find a bed for the night. Unfortunately, every B&B was full; there was not a single room to be had. So that was it, we had to drive home. 6 hours later, and very, very tired we arrived home at 1am. Cornwall and back in a day. Madness? Perhaps. But it was well worth it.