Monday 20 February 2012

An early contender for bird of the year (un)Common Yellowthroat - Newport, Gwent, South Wales

2012 is looking like it's going to be one of those years! The year is only 50 days old and I have had 4 life ticks (see previous posts). If this continuous I'll smash through the 400 BOU barrier with ease this year.

Common Yellowthroat is anything but common here in the UK. The recently found individual inhabiting bushes around fields not far from a housing estate in Newport, South Wales is only the 10th UK record and the first twitchable on the mainland. Not only is a Common Yellowthroat very rare, but it is also very smart.

On Sunday myself and Shaun joined both Bradders Jnr and Snr for the journey to the land of my fathers. (I am half Welsh you know). We were all somewhat releaved when the pager confirmed the bird was still there, just after we crossed the River Severn and entered Wales, just 20 minutes from our destination.

Arriving on site we walked the short distance to join the 150-200 birders already lined up, enjoying views of the bird as it worked its way up a line of hedges. Slowly it got closer and closer, although rarely staying still for more than a second or two. We stayed on site for around 90 minutes, enjoying the bird, and the sun that was warming our backs. Eventually it got to within 20 to 30 feet providing some cracking views.

Along with everyone else we moved west to Penarth, Cardiff, to see only my 2nd Lesser Scaup bobbing around a park lake. On site was also very confiding Whooper Swan.

Our final stop was Cardiff Bay for a Bonaparte's Gull. Again, I had only seen one previously, just last year. This time we struck out. No luck. For pics see Hawky's blog via the link (top right). But were we bothered? Er, no. The Common Yellowthroat was a cracking little colourful bird. One if I'm honest I thought I may never get on my UK list and one I wont forget in a long time.

2012 has so far been full of suprises so what is it going to be next?!

Sunday 12 February 2012

Separated at birth? Elton John seen birding in Barking Bay

Paparazzi, decended on Barking Bay in East London last week when 2 school girls reported seeing Elton John birdwatching at the usually quiet birding hotspot. I think they may have been mistaken?

Fieldfares in my garden

My plan of cutting up a few apples and putting them on the snow covered lawn ,with the aim of enticing the Fieldfares down, worked a treat, with 2 visiting the garden this morning. I'm getting right into the garden watching, so I went out and bought more fat balls and seed yesterday, and added an upside down dustbin lid full of water to the help yourself bird buffet at the end of my garden.

Saturday 11 February 2012

Strange birds in our garden?

That is what the text said from my wife (non birder) at 5.00pm last night. I immediately called home to get a description to be told, "there's about 6 of them, I think they might be Waxwings". Whaaaat! Describe them". A couple of years ago Julia called me at work to describe pretty accurately a single Waxwing in the tree outside our house, so it was not beyond the realms of possibility.

Anyway, after a description contained the words, big white eye strip, white underneath with a red patch, I breathed a sigh of relief, Redwings. Still very nice and an all too infrequent visitor to our garden.

This morning over breakfast we checked the tree through the patio doors and I nearly spat out my cornflakes! Redwings, loads of them, and hang on, what's that, a Fieldfare, no 3 Fieldfares! 2 minutes later they were off. Over the next 2 hours hundreds of Redwings flew over and landed in our garden. I counted around 30 Fieldfares over the same period, the biggest party being 13 birds, although interestingly the Fieldfare were more wary and never actually landed in my garden again, always visible in trees 3 or 4 gardens away.

I also had of note 3 Long Tailed Tits (my first ever in the garden) and a Goldcrest showed well briefly.

I'll be checking again tomorrow AM.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Two Tick Day!! - Parrot Crossbill and Paddyfield Warbler

The January birding blues have been firmly banished and replaced with fab Feb birding! I really needed a good day out with a few of the lads on the trail of a rarity of two to re-initialise my enthusiasm, so the prospect of 2 life ticks in West Sussex and Sussex, was just what the birding doctor ordered.

With The birds just an hour apart, on Friday night we had to decide which bird to go for first. Both birds have on previous days been reported first thing, and until about 10am and then disappear. Based on that, and a combination of plummeting temperatures, snow forecast and that there had been no sign of the recently found Paddyfield Warbler the previous day, we thought getting both birds would be a tall order, so better than dip both we'd go for the one we thought would we'd have the best chance of getting. Perhaps the warbler was frozen to a tuft of grass by now! Therefore we ( Me, Jono, Nick and Bradder-jnr) decided to go for the Crossbill and play it by ear.

On route the temperature gauge in the car reached -7.5c, so I was pleased I had put my full thermal body suit on. Arriving on site around 2.5 hours later we made our way to the spot close to a now frozen pool where the Crossbills regularly first thing come to drink.

We joined a smallish group of around 20 birders and bagan looking and listening. Crossbills were in the area and could be heard and a regularly up to a dozen fly between the tree tops. Checking out every female, none looked like our target. Half an hour passed and we began to wonder whether our day out would mirror the British economy with a double dip on the cards. To rub salt into the wounds, pagers beeped to smugly tell us that the Paddyfield Warbler, was in fact not frozen solid but fit and showing well down at Pagham Harbour NT. The law of sod, crossed our minds, with much discussion along the lines of, whatever one we'd have gone for first we'd dip it and the other would sit up pouting for the birding paparazzi in attendance. Another 15 minutes passed and again the pager confirmed the so called elusive far eastern Warbler, was STILL performing well.

This time a larger flock of 30+ birds flew to the trees by the pool. One bird stood out distinctly from the rest, not only did it have a deeper less crossed bill, but it was generally much bigger and bulkier bird. When the flock flew it could be picked out on size in flight pretty easily. Tick! During the 90 minutes or so on site we also had a smart Woodlark, a few Siskin, Redpolls, calling Nuthatch and a fly by Great Spotted Woodpecker.

There had been no further news on the Paddyfield Warbler so we headed to Pagham Harbour happy with the Pirate loving Crossbill but not confident we'd also bag the rare warbler. We arrived about an hour later, after a stop for a much needed and much appreciated, bacon sarnie and a coffee at a roadside van.

At Pagham we were advised that the bird had not been seen for a couple of hours after it was flushed out into the reed bed by a photographer. Never! Now there's a shock. 5+ Water Rails kept us occupied running over the frozen water in front of us, while we waited, and searched the reed bed. There were probably 40 or so birders on site in 2 main groups. To be honest we'd almost written off our chances when we detected a buzz coming from the other group 50 or so yards further up the path. They had seen IT, well seen something, about 250 yards away. They were pretty convinced it was the bird. They described a pale bird with a darker cap, in the grass below the reed bed. Now there were 30 telescopes scanning the area, looking for movement, trying to relocate whatever it was. Some of those who had seen it were convinced it was the Paddyfield, but then again most on site were convinced a Greenshank was a Greater Yellowlegs, eh Jono!

More movement was detected much closer to us, probably 75 yards away, just the other side of the water. Then "That's it!" shouted Bradders. The bird was scrabbling (is that a word?) around in the grass at the bottom of 3 bushes, allowing directions easier i.e. "it's on the ground in the darker green grass at 7 o clock from the middle bush etc". The bird then showed for about 15 minutes, occasionally right out in the open. Tick 2. It was smiles all around as we really hadn't expected to this tricky bird.

With snow on its way and Jono wanting to be home by 4.15pm, we quickly tried and dipped near by Great White and Cattle Egrets. Who cares! Before heading home. Birding enthusiasm now fully in tact I went straight to a now frozen Berwick Ponds to see if I could find the Bittern that had been reported a couple of days earlier. Alas no joy, but I enjoyed looking.

I spy with my little eye something beginning with B.