Sunday, 15 October 2017

Pwll-du Rock Thrush on Friday afternoon twitch

Rock Thrush looking down at a growing audience
Nicely posing

Pwll-du hillside
Scope views were excellent but shots with camera was difficult
The Captain looking for a captive audience for his Albatross story
Interesting Fungi 

ID welcome please

The phone made that dreaded noise on Thursday afternoon and review showed a Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush had been found near Abergavenny. A check on Twitter revealed photographs by more than one birder so it was all systems go. A dental appointment kept me from going on Thursday so a planned was hatched to start early at work then go late morning upon positive news.

A clear night & no early news indicated the bird had moved on, however at 11.15am news emerged it had been re found. A quick scoff of the Friday morning cooked sandwich & change of clothes and I was bound for Upton Warren ready to be picked up by @1stbirdoftheday. 

The journey down the M5 took about ninety minutes and thankfully there wasn't any parking issues as we snatched a place in an ideal location. The walk took about 15-20 minutes dodging the puddles on the rough gravel patch to the edge of an old quarry. The views were stunning adding some extra pleasure to the trip. On arrival the news was the bird hadn't been seen for 20-30 minutes. After trying a couple of different area's we decided on the best place to scan from. This position came up trumps as we found the bird sat on one of the large rocks after a short flight view. I even managed to get a few distant record shots. There were about 50 birders present that kept increasing as we ended our stint. Those arriving as we left had to deal with driving rain on top of the very strong winds.

The male bird was certainly not in summer plumage when seen in the Mediterranean however it seemed most comfortable among the rock crevices on top of the escapement. You have to take your hat off to the finder of this super bird in this remote location. The same location produced a Marmora's Warbler in June 2010. This was certainly a species I didn't expect to see in the UK and comes on the back of the Blue Rock Thrush. Other sightings included the Captain from north Wales, two Wheatear & a number of Meadow Pipits. It's not been a bad Autumn has it ?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Creeping closer to 140

The gravel pit restoration has now reached the edge of the pits so all of us have to be careful to avoid the contractors who are progressing quickly. In a frustrating development the edges of the pits have been completed flattened wiping out the best butterfly area but also more areas used by nesting birds each spring. 

The Little Stint was present until Tuesday 3rd October before heading south. The most movement has been around the influx of Wigeon to a count of 36 & also gulls with 18 Lesser Black-backed Gulls being joined by 2 Common Gulls. The Teal count was 35 on Sunday which is well below the normal level given the time of year.

Midweek sightings included the regular Red Kite & five Ringed Plover.

Sunday produced a number of new sightings including a Redpoll(a first for the year) Crossbill heading south, female /eclipse Mandarin duck on far lagoons & the strangest sighting was an escaped adult Saker falcon (or perhaps a Saker x Gyr cross) in poor condition on mounds around the site.

The monthly count also produced: 22 Little Grebe, 33 Cormorant, 10 Grey Herons, 12 Mute Swan, 205 Greylags, 260 Canada Geese, 8 Shelducks (first on Pophills and later on main pit), 17 Gadwall, 245 Mallard, 2 Pintail, 6 Shoveler, 47 Tufted Duck, 1 adult Water Rail giving good views out in open at main pit, 247 Coot, a Ringed Plover, 29 Lapwing, 4 Dunlin, Ruff, 3 Snipe, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper (Pophills), 270 grounded Skylarks and 150 Meadow Pipits first thing, a Grey Wagtail, a Redwing south (first of autumn), 3 Chiffchaffs, a big tit flock in plantation included 15 Goldcrest, 25 Long-tailed Tits, 10 Coal Tits, 30 Blue Tits, Nuthatch and Treecreeper; 4 Jays, Raven, 50 Goldfinches on thistles and 105 Linnets in the oat crop. 

Autumn Dorset getaway

 Lulworth Cove 
Durdle Door
Spoonbill galore
RSPB Arne Cafe
Poole Harbour
Avoid the memberships sales 
Fly Agaric ?
Ring-necked Parakeet
Just a short blog to round up a terrific autumn break, ending with two fantastic days in Dorset. We hadn't explored this area before and we were not disappointed. The weather was very kind and it felt like mid August rather than October. 

Durdle Door & Lulworth Cove was our first port of call. Durdle Door is a limestone arch that is part of the amazing jurassic coastline. Bird wise we were restricted in Skylarks, Stonechats and plenty of Rooks after scraps on the car park.

We then made the 25 minute journey to RSPB Arne, host of BBC's Winterwatch. The car park was full and it took a while to realise that Arne was more than just a nature reserve. There were families, couples & a few birders on the reserve enjoying the fantastic habitat. 

The reserve overlooked Poole Harbour where we got great views of 25+ Spoonbill, 5 Swallows, Sandwich Terns, Little Egret, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Black-tailed Godwit, Wigeon & a single Spotted Redshank. Of the 25 Spoonbills we observed a Poole Harbour record was declared at 75 birds ( 40 at Arne & 35 at Brownsea Island)

We did use the cafe which I can recommend. Both our meals were excellent and served in good time despite the staff being run off their feet.

After an evening of over indulgence we headed into the New Forest for a couple of hours ride on mixed terrain, only notable sighting was a couple of Redwing passing over. 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Autumn form continues with Ryhope Scops Owl

September proved to be fantastic months birding, deciding to stay flexible certainly paid dividends. The question would be could my luck possibly continue. 

Last Wednesday a Eurasian Scops Owl had been discovered in Ryhope, County Durham by local school teacher Tom Middleton. There was the normal stampede however I was at work and a planned visit was aborted on the Friday when it wasn't reported. I was still hopeful of it being reported again and it duly was from Saturday onwards bar Monday. The strategy would be to go on next reported morning news being fairly confident the Owl would stay in its roost position for the day.

After a day of local birding Monday, news broke Tuesday of the Owl roosting in view. With the Squire at work & Chris with his phone off, I headed up north plotting my way up the M1 / A1. Thankfully the traffic was very kind and I was parked up by 11.15am. 

A walk of less than two minutes through an underpass took me to a small rough valley on the seaward edge of Ryhope Village. There were around 50-60 birders present all enjoying great views of the Scops Owl that was roosting in an elderberry bush. 

Scops recorded sightings are rare (40 post 1950 records) and I believe the last one was in 2007 in Thrupp, Oxfordshire. It is also the first record in the north east for over 100 years. This Scops should be heading towards the sub-Saharan Africa on its migration from the Mediterranean. 

The tiny nocturnal Owl measuring just 20 cm seemed pretty comfortable in its temporary surroundings and looked to rotate which eye it used to watch the growing crowd. You can fully understand how the bird isn't seen some days due to it's heavily streaked plumage. These Owls have a very distinctive call that is best listened to on this page link

Pec Sandpiper & Rock Pipit become Autumn additions

Little Stint
Sunday brought more Autumn interest to Salford Priors when the site recorded it's second Pectoral Sandpiper (juvenile) . The bird must have come down in the westerly winds and heavy over night rain. Sadly the bird took flight as soon as the rain stopped so not all of us couldn't connect. 

The Little Stint, the star of Saturday, was still present on the main spit all day. The islands were pretty busy with waders including 4 Ruff, 5 Ringed Plover, Snipe, 15 Lapwing, 2 Green Sandpiper & 2 Common Sandpiper.

Our Pintail was joined by another drake whilst other wildfowl included 13 Wigeon, 7 Gadwall, 52 Teal, 300 Mallard, Chiloe Wigeon, 27 Tufties, 6 Shoveller, 5 Mute Swan, 320 Greylag, 275 Canada Geese and a Domestic goose.

Whilst other sightings included a Rock Pipit (136 for year) on puddles of restored ground near Snipe meadow, 33 Little Grebe, 28 Cormorant, 7 Grey Herons, 4 White Wagtail, 30 Pied Wagtail, 9 Swallows & 5 Chiffchaffs. 

On Saturday, Chris recorded a pair of Stonechat on the fence line at Pophills but these were not present on Sunday.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Suffolk double raid for Red-throated Pipit & Radde's Warbler

Red-throated Pipit
Landguard Point
 Landguard Observatory
Radde's Warbler (File image)

This time last year I spent four days birding in Norfolk seeing not a lot and just getting frustrated with rogue reports of Radde's Warblers. This Autumn my plan was not to fix myself to one place giving me more flexability but perhaps a few more miles on the car. 

The plan on the day was to head to Durham for the reported Scops Owl but negative news early diverted us to Spurn but unfortunately there had been a clear out over night restricting our sightings to a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling, Scaup, 2 Great Skua, 2 Red-throated Diver, 20+ Gannet, 5 Sandwich Tern, 30 Common Scoter. 

Saturday was a new day so when the Red-throated Pipit was reported in Suffolk again at 7.15am I took this as a good sign & worth the risk. A smooth passage across to Suffolk was easier than expected and I was quickly parked at Landguard Fort. Negative news greeted us on the car park that the pipe had been flushed by a dog but after a brisk walk and a five minute search myself & @1stbirdoftheday were watching the white mantle stripped pipit with its distinctive red throat. There were a huge number of Meadow Pipits on the ground and with them were Wheatears and two Redstarts. 

With tasty views of the Pipit in the bag we thought we would try again for an elusive Radde's Warbler at Bawdsey about 30 minutes to the north. There were plenty of buoyant birders who had reported short views of the bird in the previous hour so we were hopeful. Those early hopes were dispelled as we didn't get a glimpse for over 40 minutes, even then a flight view with a positive identification wasn't possible. We then switched sides of the hedge line where a fellow birder continued to "trump" loudly whilst waiting for the bird ! After about 90 mins we picked up another bird calling territorially & upon checking a bird moved quickly left, as it perched we both got on the bird to ID it as the Radde's ! the bird flew another five yards to the first where we got amazing views & alerted other birders. What did surpass us was how strong & distinctive the super cilium was. We both spent a serious amount of hours trying to see this species & it was a fantastic feeling driving home having finally seen this elusive species.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Upton Warren Sunday Spoonbills

 Black-tailed Godwit
Spot the Black Tern

A quiet hour watching Moeen Ali's superb century for England in the one day international was disturbed by a text from Lord Belsey that 5 Spoonbills had landed on the Moors at Upton Warren.

I'd parked up within fifteen minutes of the text & quickly marching round to the east hide where I was pretty sure the best views would be. The family looked to be made up of one adult & four juveniles with some of juveniles begging for food with a very strange call. This was the fifth record for the site & the first one since 2011 (P.Andrews)

Spoonbills are a species that continue to flourish with breeding now reaching as far up as Yorkshire where three birds hatched at Fairburn Ings this year. The sighting certainly attracted many visitors, the car park was full & there was the normal friendly banter in the hide. It was good to catch up with King Heath Phil who is off to Cornwall to live in the new year, good luck mate. 

Other sightings included a Black Tern, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Lapwing and a Little Egret.