Sunday, 25 July 2021

Western Rufous Turtle Dove on first trip of year to Spurn

Now thats a view, Rufous Turtle Dove

 Having a good preen
Video clip taken from below location
Dove perched high in central tree

Little Gulls with Sandwich Tern behind

Med Gull 

After a month of pure fantasy birding in June I was pretty sure the car wouldn't be needing any more petrol as historically July is statisically one of the worst months for seeing new birds. As I sat at Edgbaston watching Warwickshire receive a tonking from Nottinghamshire, news broke of Oriental Turtle Dove in Easington, Spurn.

I had a few plans on Saturday already so I hatched a Sunday plan which Mick T would hopefully give me some early news whether to head on with my journey. I'd done about an hour when positive news landed which made the rest of journey totally stress free. Whilst hoping I'd see the birds fairly quickly, I didn't actually need to get out of the car as it was sitting high in a tree just behind the bungalows. I'd actually seen a Rose-coloured Starling in the same tree a few years ago.  

Quickly set up with scope I enjoyed some fantastic views in some stunning morning light where you could study the birds features well. The species is "meena" Rufous Turtle Dove, and should become the 11th accepted record since the turn of the century. It's quite amazing how these vagrant birds make it here from breeding grounds of central Asia. All birders were very grateful of Paul French who found the bird in his garden and gave many birders access when the bird was not in public view. Birding near houses is never easy however it's pretty much a daily occurance in Easington.

It was nice to catch up with a number of Spurn locals and regular birders I see around different places on the circuit. 

After a nice session with the Dove I had a relaxing day around Spurn and recorded some excellent species including Little & Sandwich Tern, Little Gull, Spoonbill, Ringed Plover, Greenshank, Golden Plover, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit & Dunlin.

Spurn does it yet again............

Purple Emperor emerge at Oversley (& pits sightings)

                                         Purple Emperor - oh yes !

Silver-washed Fritillary
His Majesty sat high above us
Marbled White
Lots of colour all along the path
Silver-washed Fritillary

After a poor morning at the pits I decided to try Oversley Wood to see if I could find an early Purple Emperor. The car park has been closed and new fencing errected since my last visit so I was pleased that access to the car park was again possible even though there were huge pot holes by the gate. These pot holes would damage a car so please be careful.

The Squire joined me, first walk since recovering from virus, and we didn't need to work very hard as a stonking male came down for salts on dog excrement. From one angle simply no purple was on display yet when I walked to the other side we witness full purple wings. 

Also during our visit we recorded our first Silver-washed Fritillarys of the year, Large Skipper, Ringlet, Meadow Brown and Marbled White.

Jons Sunday count included: 6 pairs Little Grebe, 2 Cormorant, very close views of an almost tame Great Egret on the works pool, 2 Grey Herons, 11 Mute Swans and young, 11 Greylag, 51 Canada Geese, 280 Mallard (new broods took total to 20), 74 Tufted Duck, 9 Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 100 Coot now, 3 pairs of LR Plover - new brood of chicks out, 1 Ringed Plover heard flying over during shower, 27 Lapwing, 1 Curlew SW, NO sandpipers!, usual 3 spp of gulls, 1 male Cuckoo seen in usual tree near main pit but now silent, 80 Swift, 2 Sand Martin, 1 Treecreeper in plantation, 2 Corn Buntings in wheat field, all the usual warblers, Yellow Wagtails etc. Butterflies included Marbled White and Small Skipper. Nitgrass in flower. 1 Weasel seen.

Thursday, 1 July 2021

Black-browed Abatross flies into RSPB Bempton Cliffs

Black-browed Abatross (@owenbeaumont1 Twitter)
Black-browed Abatross (@owenbeaumont1 Twitter)
 Black-browed Abatross (@owenbeaumont1 Twitter)

With a big crowd on site my images are lacking in light & quality I'm afraid

Close to one year after the magficant Black-browed Albatross graced RSPB Bempton Cliffs I was heading back on the evening of 28th June. I spend all day debating whether to go or not. With Squire isolating to the virus, Mark working and the Captain purring with a sighting in Norfolk it was going to have to be a solo drive. I remember the previous year it did a morning of flying then never returned so I was dubious. Anyway the day passed without making a decision, finally I decided I'd go after my morning meeting and deal with the fate either way. I certainly wasn't going to see this species sat on my sofa. 

The species breed in three strongholds being Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island and Chile, so perhaps Yorkshire wasn't that far. The birds can live upto 70 years which is quite amazing and have wingspan upto 240cm.

The drive was traffic free both ways but the reports were less regular, just kept saying sat in cliffs. Surely not for 4 hours. Would he wait ! Yes he would, in fact the bird never moved other than an odd flap of the wings and a twist of the head as it watched the Gannets fly over. Sadly I wasn't treated to the flight views birders had seen the previous day. After around 90 mins and a mouch around I decided to head home which proved to be a good decision as the bird did not take flight for another three hours before landing on sea before flying off.  

I did feel for those who tried to twitch the bird the day after I saw it and was disappointed. There is nothing more frustating then booking time off from work and driving for a zero return. Seeing a few other birds on the day never really feels like compensation.

Many thanks to Owen Beaumont who kindly let me us a couple of his images for the blog. Pleas drop him a follow on Twitter & Instagram.

With the first half the year coming to an end, it's been pretty good to date for rare birds even given the lockdown period when we were all stuck on our local patches. To record nine new species in these six months has been really pleasing. 

Alarm call with Rutland Ospreys

With a big birthday approaching, Mrs D booked a fantastic weekend away to one of our favourite places, Rutland Water. Whilst not bathed in sunshine it was humid and dry on the Saturday when we visited the nest in Manton Bay where both chicks were growing well. We got some terrific views of the parents returning from hunting although some times unsuccesfully.

We stayed in lovely place and had a fantastic meal before retiring fairly early as an early present Mrs D had booked me a Osprey Experience which would require getting up at 3.15am for a 4am appointment. The light and weather wasn't great but I still got to see two differnet Ospreys perched and dive in front of us. Much too fast for my bridge camera so I just enjoyed the spectacle. Thankfully another guest, Peter "Moose" Jousiffe, took some fantastic photos that he kindly sent to me for use on the blog and to remember the experience.

As part of the weekend we also did a trip on the Rutland Belle and a nice walk on Sunday morning where we picked up two Ospreys together high above us on west shore line. Other sightings included Mandarin family, Common Terns, Cormorants, Greylag, Eygptian Goose, Grey Heron and Little Egret. Another great weekend.

Roll up Roll up ......finally a Roller

What a bird ! European Roller

You Tube Video

Roller in my first field guide

When I used to read my Shell Guide to Birds of Britain & Ireland the European Roller was one of those fantasy species. Do birds like this really come to our country I used to think. Since I became interested in seeing rarer birds there has never really been one close enough to go and see, or those found haven't stayed long enough to drive there. Looking at archive records, it really shouldn't have taken so long as they appear to be recorded bi-annually. There are over 300 records but a high percentage of those were pre 1950.

With work being ballistic, I dismissed the first report as soon as I saw location was Suffolk. On closer inspection, it was actually west Suffolk, Icklingham, only 2 1/4 hours so I planned to head on first news the next morning. The A14 is super road these days however I never like passing Newmarket without calling in. 

The birds location was close to the main road (A1101) and given the parking looked mad I drove past the location to a country park and just walked back approximately a mile to be safe. I did expect the scene to be a little crazy but it was very calm probably due to the Roller being very loyal to a set of telegraph wires and would fly to ground to catch various insects including dragonflies and worms.  There are some stunning photographs across social media channels of the bird.

The birds size was similar to a Jay, and was calling (when I watched it closely through my scope). The colours of the birds feather was as stunning as I'd seen in that first field guide many years before. 

With the first half the year coming to an end, it's been a pretty good year to date for rare birds even given the lockdown period when we were all stuck on our local patches. To record eight new species in these six months has been really pleasing. 

Large Blue on Green Down


Large Blue


Marbled White


Dave & Craig hunting for Large Blues

Professor Jeremy Thomas

Our second destination was Green Down close to Glastonbury. The temperature had risen so we knew this was against us. There are no easy walks when butterflying, this was no different with a stiff uphill walk taking us to the sheer steep chalk banks. 

The Large Blues were in single figures throughout our visit which were similar to what had been reported. When talking to a local, he informed us that numbers were generally double before 11am. The blues are stunning to see but proved difficult to photograph with conditions as warm as they were.

Other species recorded was first Marbled White & Ringlet, 3 Common Blue, 1 Painted Lady, good number of Meadow Brown, Small Heath & a Red Admiral.