Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Review of the year 2022

I've had a much quieter year on the blogging front that is for certain. With patch issues detailed below I've been spending time exploring new and different pursuits. Long-term I'll be concentrating my birding around spring & autumn, being chased off the patch by the game keeper to count 1 Heron & 6 Gadwall is now something I'd rather not do.

Salford Priors Summary

The least said the better despite our best efforts. Limited access, barberd wire on egress points made it very difficult. Everyones visits were reduced which in turn effected our total numbers. The total for the year was 129, three down on previous year but 15 down from 2020. The highlight was the Wryneck, what a bird. It was just a shame it was so illusive. Visits will continue when possible but long gone are the days of sightings daily. 

UK Life List 

Just the eight lifers in 2022 but some top grade quality birds many of which are once a decade sightings. 

1) American Robin (East Sussex) March

2) Eleonara's Falcon (Kent) June

3) Red-tailed Shrike (East Riding of Yorkshire) July

4) Cape Gull (Cambridgeshire) August

5) Common Nighthawk (Oxfordshire) September

6) Blackburnian Warbler (Isle of Scilly) October

7) Pallid Swift (Isles of Scilly) October

8) Alpine Accentor (Suffolk) October

My birds of the year

My birds of the year are never decided on the rarest. l. I like to assess the whole experience, views of the bird, journey, ease of experience & also habitat.
1) Blackburnian Warbler (Isle of Scilly) - My week on the magical islands delivered yet again. I was so pleased I resisted temptation not to twitch the stunning american wood warbler. It was all the more special I got to enjoy it with the Scilly house family.
2) Common Nighthawk (Oxfordshire) - After a disappointing Shetland experience in 2021 the twitchers cleaned up in 2022 making it a bitter pill to swallow espically as there was a Whites Thrush. However, compenstation was delivered with a Common Nighthawk. I'd never shut my laptop so quick. Even better I could enjoy the bird with both Ian & the Squire.
3) Red-tailed Shrike (East Riding of Yorkshire) - A no nonsence planned twitch that went to perfection with the Squire & Chris Lane. We all enjoyed some fantastic views of the Shrike feeding along a hedgerow on a private farm. The £10 fee to see the bird was money well spend.
4) Pallid Swift (Isles of Scilly) -  Twitching Swifts from the midlands is a road to madness so to see a Pallid whizzing over my head on the Garrison was a great experience. It was weirdly on the same day as the Blachburnian Warbler. What a double! Get the whiskey out.
5) American Robin (Eastborne) - I thought this species was over due & it became the first lifer of the year. It's never easy birding on a housing estate however on this occasion there were no issues as the bird popped out quickly allowing for some crowd pleasing views before I headed home to the midlands.
6) Eleonara's Falcon (Kent) - Since my interest in seeing rare birds, Eleonara's Falcon seemed to be just fly pasts that are impossible to twitch. So when this individual took up residence in Kent we organised a team twitch where we all had an excellent experience.

7) Dotterel (Gloucestershire) - Dotteral have remained a species I've always wanted to watch at close quarters. When three individuals stick on Cleeve Hill (Cheltenham), I finished early one afternoon and because of some heavy showers I had the pleasure to enjoy the birds completley on my own. Just magical.

8) Garganey (Worcestershire) - Well...well...well. a pair on Garganey on small pool just a mile from home! I'd never heard a Garganey call before and this male was in great voice. The pair stayed for around ten days. What a pair of birds.

9) Wryneck (Warwickshire) - PATCH GOLD ! - Many thanks to Francis Peplow who dug this beauty out on the service at the pits. A absolutley awesome find! 

10) Cape Gull (Cambridgeshire) - Mmmmm, first for Britain and yet only no.10 ! Well let's be honest this bruit of a bird was no oil painting. Take the tick, move on.

Sunday, 4 December 2022

Slimbridge in the mist

White-fronted Geese
Slimbridge is always a good destination for a change of scenery & with nothing of note on patch I headed down the M5 for a few hours. The early access for members is a real benefit for those of us are early birds.
Species recorded included :- Pintail, Bewicks Swan, White-fronted Geese, Crane, Golden Plover, Ruff, Spotted Redshank, Redshank, Teal, Wigeon, Lapwing, Knot, Manadrin, Shelduck, Avocet & Bittern. 

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Salford Priors GP (November)

Boat on main pit !
Grey Wagtail

Access to the pits continues to be difficult with dark mornings, early nights and an increased presence from contractors. Mark discovered one contactor in a dingy possibly checking depth levels for fishing.

The mid-month count was as follows:-
15 Mute Swan, 472 Greylag, 2 Canada Goose, 80 Mallard, 46 Tufted Duck, 3 Gadwall, 10 Little Grebe, 13 Cormorant, 20 Linnet,1 Jay, 1 Merlin, 4 Black-headed Gull, 3 Meadow Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Pied Wagtail, 60 Redwing, 240 Redwing, 2 Buzzard, 1 Great Spotted & 1 Green Woodpecker.

Additional sightings 1 Goosander (16/1), 1 female Blackcap, 4 Wigeon, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Stonechat (19/11).

Red-throated Diver on Upper Bittell

 Red-throated Diver
 Red-throated Diver
 Red-throated Diver

Sunday morning sailing

The only time I can remember seeing a Red-throated Diver was in Penzance before sailing out to the Isles of Scilly, so a morning up at Upper Bittell was just the ticket.

The Squire picked me up and on route we called in at Tardebigge, no Hawfinches but lots of thrushes. Tardebigge is always a nice place to spend an hour among the Yew trees.

The weather was beautiful at Bittell, sailing boats out & plenty of birds to worth through. An annoying dog of another birder did prove an annoyance to everyone but he was blindly unaware as he spouted continual rubbish. We moved away to save our ears from more pain.

The Diver showed fantastically well for us. While it seemed to be feeding well, I'm not sure how the bird's actual health was. This bird was very happy among the large number of Great Crested Grebes. It seemed the population of Worcestershire grebes were present.

The Squire picked out the Bean Goose that had been hanging around for a number of months and a Kittiwake was a nice way to round off the morning. 

Thursday, 3 November 2022

Alpine Accentor - From Scilly to Suffolk

 Apline Accentor (Cliff Smith) Photographed before the crowds arrived
Welcome to Slaughden
Pictures above (viewing from correct place, below viewing from private land)

Purple Sandpiper

Messy, Messy, Messy

As my plane landed at Land's End from the Isles of Scilly, I switched airplane mode off on my phone to get a stream of messages saying there was an Alpine Accentor in Suffolk. Without being harsh, it was a fancy Dunnock that clearly got pushed to Britain by the strong southerly winds. I thought I'd check in with Squire on my drive home and he revealed it would be going the next morning. I did have the day free so I agreed I'd go with with him once there was news confirming it was still there. The route was pretty simple but the last 35 minutes seemed very slow due to small lanes, as we edged closer to the coast.

The Alpine Accentor breeds in the south Mediterranean as far as Greece and can be found in mountain ranges. This was the 40th record in Britain and the first for 25 years.

A birder we passed on the walk along the sea wall warned us that the bird was being chased. That was a small warning of what had happened. The bird had been pushed away from the tower so much so, it had flown onto some private land owned by the National Trust. It was clearly marked NO PUBLIC ACCESS, so we got the best views we could from the fenced area. We both observed the bird a number of times distantly, as it moved to feed on the path, but we had to settle for scope views.

Suddenly photographers and then birders broke rank and went into the private land to walk behind bird, from one or two, the group built quickly to probably sixty. We wanted to stick to our principles, everyone wants a great view but sometimes it just doesn't work out. We just didn't want any part of this organised flush, the crowd got closer & closer flushing the bird even further away.

At that point we were done, we headed back towards the car where he had some nice views of Brent Geese & a Purple Sandpiper on the groynes. This was by far the worst twitch I'd ever been on. I felt embarrassed individuals that share the same interest would be so selfish. As it turned out the bird returned to the Tower to roost but flew off early the next morning. An Accentor was found on Blakeney Point a day later so perhaps the same bird. 

Wednesday, 2 November 2022

Isles of Scilly - Day 5 - Love a Firecrest !

Yet another stunning view
Old Town Church yard
My only cake & coffee breal of the week
Ring Ouzel
Black Redstart
Flight home over Cornwall
Bush Cricket

As it turned out, this would be my last full day as I needed to return home earlier than scheduled. The best bird reported on St Marys was an American Buff-bellied Pipit. I'd tried the area a few times on my walks but we tried again as a group. Whilst we were confident we heard it fly over, we just couldn't find it on the ground despite a lot of searching. We did find two Black Redstarts, 5 Skylark, 30 Meadow Pipt and a cracking male Ring Ouzel.

I decided to try again for the Firecrests at Careg Du Gardens. I love Firecrests and it varies year on year how many you see. The good news was I'd seen them the day before, so I knew I just needed to find the right spot and wait. Although it was windy, you could still hear them, making it fairly easy. Getting a couple of record shots did take a bit longer but I really enjoyed watching this stunning species at close quarters.

Many thanks to my housemates and all the other birders who made it an enjoyable break. 52 weeks to go.