Tuesday, 19 November 2019

Eastern Yellow Wagtail puts end to poor Autumn

Eastern Yellow Wagtail 
 Eastern Yellow Wagtail 
Bearded Tit
Snow Bunting
Through the marshes
Snow Bunting
Wagtail crowd waiting

I've found this Autumn particularity frustrating with the pits being under water and very poor counts, whilst birds I've wanted to see elsewhere haven't stuck around. On top of this we have had the Lesser Kestrel and Paddyfield Pipit ID saga ongoing. We haven't had enough good days this year with the car full of friends, good birding taking in a rarity with good coffee or a pint pending time of day.

After doing the pits on Saturday, 3 Pochard were the only birds of note, I spent the afternoon researching the family tree and debating a jolly out on Sunday. Norfolk appeared favourite yet the reported Eastern Wagtail in Suffolk looked feasible as a pattern of it's appearance certainly gave hope.

Walberswick is a solid 3 hours 45 minutes from home so I was expecting a long day behind the wheel. However if I scored early there were a number of other local sites I could explore including Minsmere.

The journey was long despite being free moving. Parked up I duly headed towards the coast starting on heath land before the marsh started which then edged into shingle beach, where the Wagtail had been seen.

As I edged past the Windmill there was a flock of Bearded Tits pinging their alarm call. I'd never seen so many together. There must a have been a deer moving the reeds that was setting them all off. I managed to get a couple of photos but it wasn't easy as they were swinging on the reeds.

There wasn't any problem tracking down the Snow Buntings as I picked a couple up straight away when reaching the beach. This flock of about twenty were around the whole day feeding within 20 yards on many occasions.

The Wagtail had flown south an hour before I arrived and it was case of staying patient and hope that it returned. Whilst waiting I noted a Great White & Little Egret, 2 Snipe, 5 Dunlin, Great Black-backed Gulls, Meadow Pipits, Snipe, a Yellow Wagtail(my latest ever) and flocks of Wigeon on the sea.

After three hours of waiting my patience was wearing thin in all honesty. It was cold and I was ready for something warm to eat and drink. Just as I had the thought of "I'll give it ten more minutes" the Eastern Yellow Wagtail duly landed on the front edge of the pool showing well before heading to the grass to feed & fly catch. There was in all honesty very little yellow showing in it's current plumage, the upperparts were dark grey and underparts whiteish with a hint of yellow. Its dark ear coverts & dark lores which are the reported diffences to a Yellow Wagtail. It's call was a stand out difference being loud and raspy. 

Just after being completely satisfied with my observation the bird took flight again south down the coast. 

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Water levels reach new highs at pits

Stonechat

Stonechat
The main spit and stint island have now disapperared under water completely. In all the years I've been visiting the pits I've never seen the water level so high. Whilst this shoud be good for water fowl, the local shooting are having a genuine adverse effect on wintering ducks.

Bird of the week is a Short-eared Owl flushed by Mike Inskip from the channel between the old working and the central lagoon. A very valuable year tick for us. Mark did head down after work to try and relocate the bird but had no luck.

My own visit on Saturday was very disappointing and extremely wet.

The best counts over both days at weekend were as follows :- 21 Little Grebe, 25 Cormorant, 3 Grey Heron, 5 Mute Swan, 585 Greylag, 505 Canda Geese, 1 Greylag x Canada hybrid, 4 WIgeon, 2 Gadwall, 7 Teal, 370 Mallard, 1 Shoveler, 5 Pochard, 35 Tufted Duck, 6 Buzzard, 1 adult male Peregrine, 10 Water Rails, 105 Coot, 18 Lapwing, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 adult Caspian Gull, 4 Common Gull, 25 BHG, 120 LBBG, 3 Herring Gull, 1 Kingfisher, both Woodpeckers, 120 Skylark, 185 Meadow Pipits, 7 Pied Wagtails, 1 Stonechat, 40 Blackbird, 60 Fieldfare, 110 Redwing, 2 late Chiffchaff, Treecreepe, Jay, 4 Raven, 2 Brambling (1 Marsh Farm hedge), 30+ Goldfinch, 100 Linnets & 30 Reed Bunting. 

I also had a couple of visits to the fields down at Abbots Salford which host Lapwing & Golden Plover. My only birds of note were 18 Lapwing, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Jay & a flock of Redwing.


Sunday, 3 November 2019

Common Scoter at Tardebigge Reservoir

   

A bit of a bonus birding on Sunday morning on my summer cycle route when a female Common Scoter was found by Bromsgrove birder Gert Corfield on Tardebigge Reservoir.

Very jealous given how we are really struggling for any decent ducks at the moment. Other birds present included a Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Ducks, Mallard & Black-headed Gulls.

Scillies - Day 6 - Early depature needed

Black Redstart
Black Redstart
Black Redstart
Oystercatchers
Blyth's Reed Warbler (Whats App Group)
Whooper Swan
Tresco from the air
St Marys from the air

It always interesting to note how birds just appear on the islands. Reaching Portcressa there were four Black Redstarts whilst on all my previous days on islands I hadn't seen one.

A Whooper Swan had appeared at Porthloo which was in the bay close to the beach where the Oystercatchers were feeding.  I picked up a present in the town for Mrs D before waiting for the taxi to the airport. We swung past the recently found Blyth's Reed Warbler, found by Adam, before being dropped off. 

I'd never flown on this service before and I must say I'd highly reccomend it. The 14 minute flight gave me great views of the islands, upon landing my transfer to Penzance was waiting for me. Top class service. I'd certainly consider this in the future. 

Another great break on the Scillies in great company for a very reasonable price.  Many thanks to house captain Paul Freestone for his continued hospitality. 

Scillies - Day 5 - Grey Phalaropes at sea & quiz night

Grey Phalaropes
Grey Phalaropes
Grey Phalaropes
Bishops Rock
 Shags
Adam & Paul
Brad
Sanderling 
Sanderling
ID round on the pool table
Anagrams proving too much for our Brad

I was on the boat yet again on day 5 with no new arrivals on the island. The boat was full indicating a lot of birders had the same ideas.

The best bird on the way out to Bishops Rock was a Sooty Shearwater which raced past the stern of the boat giving brief views. We saw two Grey Phalaropes at distance flying away from us but that was as good as it got.

Bishops Rock is in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest island with a building on it. The present building was built in 1858, which was an amazing engineering feat.

As we edged around the Western Isles we picked up a few Turnstones on the rocks and some Great Black-backed Gulls loafing on the waves.  Turning back towards the islands was when the Grey Phalaropes started appearing in good numbers.

Whilst I'd seen individuals on the sea I'd never flocks like this. We recorded 20-30 birds in total, as many as 15 together in one flock close to the boat where I was thankfully positioned.

Upon landing we headed straight to Pennis Head where there was a mobile Dartford Warbler whizzing around. The bird was much too mobile to try and get a record shot but it was a Scillies first for me.

I did my regular circuit during the afternoon seeing another Yellow-browed & Firecrest before heading to Porthloo. On the beach were a flock of Sanderling that I just watched from the bench behind the beach. After watching for around fifteen minutes the Sanderlings made an alarm call as a Peregrine dived into the flock to pick out an afternoon snack as easy as I had selected my lunchtime pasty.

Paul (Freestone) held the annual Quiz on the evening which our Lower Strand team finished joint 3rd. This was as always a good evening.

Scillies - Day 4 - St Agnes delights

St Agnes
Lapland Bunting
Lapland Bunting
Lapland Bunting
Pipit & Bunting search party
St Agnes views
Wheatear
Pint at the Turks Head
Red-throated Pipit
                                                    Yellow-browed Warbler

Time for a change of scenery. Having never been to St Martins and with birders reporting it being very quiet I decided to head over to St Agnes instead. It was nice to just wander about for the morning without chasing anything in particular. 

I took an early lunch sat on the beach just happy watching a distant pod of Common Dolphins through my scope whilst a couple of Wheatears dived around me on the large stones.

As I edged round the island I heard a zipping over head which then stopped as the bird landed in a field at the top of the hill. Thankfully as I reached the brow of the hill there were three birders watching this Red-throated Pipit. I'd only seen one previously so this was a real bonus. The bird look flight at regular intervals with the Meadow Pipit flock. 

In close proxitity was a Lapwing Bunting showing really well. As well as taking some decent photos I managed to scope the bird on maximum capacity allowing me to see every little detail.

A Red-backed Shrike got spotted mid afternoon but despite looking in all possible locations I couldn't repeat the sighting I had there last year.

A bird that I watched at very close quarters was a Yellow-browed Warbler. This little beauty was flying close to the beach. Birding is just amazing when you witness moments like this.

I wrapped up my afternoon with a pint at the Turks Head before heading back to St Marys.   


A Red-flanked Bluetail was found in the closing minutes before the boat left but sadly only 3/4 birders got lucky. The bird was not seen again.  



Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Scillies - Day 3 - Island crusing & a Citrine Wagtail

Spoonbill
Spoonbills in flight
Flock of Spoonbills
Great sailing
Lunchtime snack St Marys style
Basking Shark
Basking Shark
Basking Shark
Blackcap
Citrine Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail
Citrine showing inbetween cows legs
Firecrest 

With my dodgy sea legs getting a new level of confidence I decided to jump on Joe Penders trip around the western islands for the morning. £20 for three hours sailing seemed pretty good value.

Our first stop was Green Island where there was a record count of 7 Spoonbills that posed nicely before doing a circuit of the boat.  It is now difficult to remember how hard it was to see this species.

On the beaches of Tresco there were a large group of Ringed Plover and further along there were Great Black-backed Gulls & my first Shelduck of the trip. A Peregrine sat high on the edge of St Martins and we passed a group of Curlew on the waters edge.

It was very choppy around the Western Isles where there were 2 Purple Sandpipers & 4 Turnstone. As we returned to the cover of the islands we passed a Common Scoter (camera on wrong setting) & a Great Northern Diver.

As we edged back to St Marys, Adam picked up a basking shark from the rocks that he whatsapped to the group. As soon as news reached the boat we headed towards his sighting. After a little patience right in front of us was the Basking Shark. It came right beside the boat giving us amazing views. 

Our final sighting was unbelivable, the Blue Rock Thrush from the boat !! To be honest I got better views from the boat that I did walking around the headland the whole week.

After returning to dry land and having a very tasty pasty from the deli I headed to the north of St Marys. I was enjoying watching a Firecrest & Blackcaps at close quarters when news broke of a Citrine Wagtail just five minutes from where I was. It was a case of standing on my tiptoes to see the bird through the ferns as this little beauty flew around with the Meadow Pipits in a sheep field.