Sunday, 28 September 2014

BirdTrack Update

This years pursuits have taken me all around England and Wales and I've been to some fabulous places many of which I'd never visited before. I've managed to record 245 species on Birdtrack and 246 on the UK400. My target of 250 is within reach and should be reached given a bit of luck and no cricket commitments bar a couple of Saturday morning for my next umpiring exam.

Next port of call will be the Scottish Highlands where I'm hoping to experience some great wildlife and hospitality. 

I've got 10 target birds to see before the year is out 1) Golden Eagle 2) White-Tailed Eagle 3) Ptarmigan 4) Capercaillie 5) Pomarine Skua 6) Short-eared Owl 7) Snow Bunting 8) Crested Tit 9) Black-throated Diver 10) Black Redstart

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Masked Shrike tops the bill at Spurn

Masked Shrike
East coat
Masked Shrike
 Barred Warbler
Red-Breasted Flycatcher
Looking towards Spurn Point
Deer beside the Sea
Sea Watching
Spurn Point
Spurn Location Map
The first Saturday out of the umpiring cricket season restricted me as I had to drop the eldest in Warwick as he was off to Lords to support Warwickshire in the Cup Final and I was supervising my other sons 13th Bubble football birthday party in Bromsgrove (brilliant party I might add). With an 8am drop off complete at Warwick parkway I headed a junction up the A46 to Brandon Marsh. 

As I drove down the long drive a Green Woodpecker skimmed the pasture to start the day off well.  The marsh held a 40+ Wigeon that had returned and were in the company of the normal suspects of Greylag, Canadian Geese, Shoveller, Lapwing, Gadwell, Little Grebe, Teal, Snipe and 3 Ruff which did not hang around very long. On leaving the reserve I had a quick check on Twitter to see a Great Skua had been reported at near by Draycote Water. I did make the short journey over but sadly the fisherman and sailing boats had moved the bird on.

Once home RBA revealed a juvenile Masked Shrike had been reported at Spurn in East Yorkshire. Despite it being 3 hours away and there had only been two previous records in the UK and the fact I’d always wanted to visit this unique peninsula the draw was extreme. In additional there had been Olive-backed Pipit, Red-breasted Flycatcher and Barred Warbler reported. Local photographers Vern and Phil had let me know they had been during the day but the weather was shocking and were well up for a return visit the next day.

We decided to wait until the Shrike was located on Sunday before setting out on the journey north east. Having control of the IPOD I opted to blast the lads with Bowie, the Killers and the Rolling Stones to keep us going. Vern was clearly distressed with no Rhianna or James Blunt whilst “Sauntering” Phil grooved in the back. Vern was most proud that I over took a police van above the speed limit !

On arrival in Kilnsea the boys kindly dropped me by the field where the juvenile Shrike had been showing whilst they went to park the car. Much appreciated lads ! The short range migrant was showing very nicely in the hedgerow and I managed to squeeze into a nice gap which a twitcher had vacated. The Shrike moved closer and closer allowing some great views and great shots for the photographers. There were probably about 200 people watching the bird at this time. Further down the hedgerow there were numerous Redstarts and a Stonechat.

This was my first major twitch as I’m not a fan of big crowds yet the Spurn Bird Observatory had done a super job organising the crowds and parking and respecting the bird so often forgotten. Once satisfied on the great views on offer we headed up the road to the Crown and Anchor pup where we didn’t have to wait long to see the Barred Warbler. I was all set to get a nice digiscoped image until a grade A *ickhead stood right in front of my scope. Thankfully the lads both got good shots, at least I did take in some nice views.

We only got brief views of the Red-breasted Flycatcher at our next stop but we did locate a Garden Warbler and Chiffchaff.

Reports of the Olive-backed Pipit were very sketchy but try as I did this elusive skulker failed to show in the canal area and with nothing else to stare at except grass and reeds I opted to search for more Red-breasted Flycatchers. The walk back along the beach produced many Wheatears, Redshank, Dunlin, Whinchat, Swallows, Little Egret and Golden Plover.

Looking back into the hedgerow I located a lovely Red-breasted Flycatcher feeding close to the ground which I watched for five minutes before a local cheeky Robin chased him off.

The lads opted for another chance to watch the Shrike but I headed to the east shore line for an hours sea watching before heading home. A good few birders had the same idea. Highlights were 5 Sooty Shearwater including one that came really close showing his silver underwings, 50 Little Gull, 4 Grey Plover, 3 Red-Throated Divers, 3 Manx Shearwater and 10 Gannets (sadly no Skua’s)

Although tired the returning journey was full of good laughs even the 20 miles of restricted speed limits and road works couldn’t dampen spirits from a serious days birding. Thanks to Vern for great images kindly captured that I couldn't digiscope.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Upton Warrens Temminck's Stint

 Stint with Ringed Plover snapped by Vern Wright
Stint on far side of the Flashes

I hadn't been in a mad rush to get to Upton Warren to see their own Temmincks's Stint (after such a recent observation at Clifton) however a cancelled appointment gave me time to visit on Thursday afternoon. 

The bird was quickly located by one of the LRP cages allowing some very nice views. It was very interesting to note the size compared to the other waders present such Ruff and Ringed Plover. The Temminck's Stint then took flight to the far side where as a work party we worked hard last winter. 

The bird arrived had on Monday 15th September and lasted a record seven days before being taken by a hungry Sparrowhawk. A sad end to a great bird at Worcestershire premium reserve. 

Thanks as always to Vern for the superb image. It was good to hear that he had been approached to supply images to one of the major birding magazines. Great to see this local photographer get some over due recognition on a wider scale.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Temminck's Stint at Clifton Pits

 Spot in Stint ?
  Spot in Stint ?
 Picture care of Vern Wright
Snipe at Upton Warren

One of my target birds in Autumn is a Temminck's Stint so when photographer kindly text me one was reported at Clifton Pits in Worcestershire I duly booked an early finish at work to pick both Vern and Phil up at Upton to make the small journey south of Worcester. I hadn't been to the south pit before so it was at the second attempt we found the destination we wanted. 

A high bank allowed us some cover as we observed the bird at a distance as shown in the first two images. There were 2 Kingfishers, Lapwing and Green Sandpipers present. The bird quite often flew to either end of the muddy bank so we needed to keep a close eye on this juvenile. I then noted the bird take flight, only to land within 30 feet. Vern and Phil took up position on the bank quicker than two paratroopers taking cover under fire and both managed to get some great shots. 

We observed a large flock of Goldfinch and Linnets on the walk back to the car to round up a great couple of hours. 

On Saturday I was on umpiring duty at Belbroughton which allowed me a few hours over at Upton Warren supporting the All-dayer. Upton bagged a very respectable 86 species in the day. Highlight of my own session was watching the Snipe at very close quarters at the Flashes.

Cricket 1 Birding 0

        Blue-winged Teal or Blue-winged Teal x Northern Shoveler ??
 Slimbridge Ruff
 Green and Common Sandpipers at Slimbridge
 Evening at Morton Bagot
 Swallows at Frampton

August brings the peak of the cricket season so opportunities to get out and about are very limited. I'm afraid my family is number 1 ! Locally it was business as usual and no sitings to get the heart racing. 

When I did get a free day the weather was appalling so much so I never ventured out until late Sunday evening when Brian Stretch had located a Blue-winged Teal on his patch at Grimley. With the weather subsiding a little I headed over to see duck. The bird was easily located but it was hardly a stunner as it was in Eclipse plumage. I returned home happy that a new bird had been seen only to see the bird was then accused of being a hybrid. With no DNA possible we will have to let the various committees decide. A great find by Brian either way !

I had a mid-week evening at the delightful Morton Bagot where I was more than happy to find 2 Green Sandpipers, Yellowhammers, Teal, Lapwings, Buzzard, Tawny Owl, Grey Heron and a large flock of 120 Greylag. 

Unfortunately when a Marsh Sandpiper had been found in Frampton in Gloucestershire I was tied up on cricket duties and as expected it duly departed by the time I could head down on the Sunday morning. It was nice to see 15 Ruff and 5 Greenshanks taking advantage of the nice flash riverside. There were plenty of Swallows, House and Sand Martins and they put on a real show feeding above the canal. A Common Sandpiper and Kingfisher also kept the disappointed twitchers happy.

It would have been rude not to call in a Slimbridge and a slow walk around the reserve produced Black-Tailed Godwits, Redshank, Shelduck, Lapwing, Ruff among the highlights. To be honest it was very quiet. No doubt next time I return the wildfowl would be returned in bigger number and the first of the Bewick Swans could well have arrived. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

Day return to Norfolk

Wolferton Traingle Car Phone Shot
 Sea watching at Titchwell
 Parrinder Hide at Titchell
 Digoscoped Ruff
Spoonbills at Titchwell
 More Spoonbills this time at Stiffkey Fen
Stiffkey Fen
 Marsh Harrier hunting the reeds at Cley

On Thursday I headed to Norfolk rather than my original selection of Minsmere that were pretty much the same distance away. An early start gave me some clear passage and given   the time saved I opted to turn into the Wolferton triangle to try and see a mystical Golden Pheasant. I have tried a number of times before and I so nearly just carried on however as I was leaving the triangle a Male bird was strutting round ! Lifer. I did get a poor distance photo shot but I was very pleased to cast my eyes on one of these birds.

It was then on to Titchwell. I headed straight down to the beach but the wind was blowing in the wrong direction so sightings were 2 Arctic Skua's, Sandwich Tern, 15 Common Scoter and a handful of Eider ducks. I did note my first Kingfisher at Titchwell, seen just behind the beach and then moment later a Hobby was giving chase to a late Swift.

Stone Curlew at Weeting Heath

Weeting Heath was only ten minutes from our holiday cottage so I took the opportunity to visit and make use of my Norfolk Wildlife membership. The Visitor Centre was closed so I headed up to the West Hide and for 30 minutes there was no sign of the Curlews until I heard a call fairly close. A pair were about 300 metres in front of the hide and showed well for about 10 minutes before settling down in the long grass. I did have a good walk around the woodland on the hope of a Little Owl or Wood Lark but no luck with either. 

Summer stop at RSPB Lakenheath


It was destination Suffolk for our family holiday so it would be rather rude not to stop in at RSPB Lakenheath. Despite it being the middle of August with little wader movement we all had an enjoyable walk around the reserve. 

The first notable sighting was a Kingfisher who took flight by the new Mere Hide.I managed to hear Bearded Tits but did not see any of these masked beauties. We got lucky from the furthest viewpoint as a Bittern took flight as we arrived. Over head Common Terns and Marsh Harriers could be seen without forgetting the F15 fighters from the local American Airforce base.

On the walk back along the river there was a stunning Great White Egret and 2 Little Egrets. 

Stormy visit to Berry Head

At the end of the Taunton cricket festival week we stayed on for an extra couple of days on the coast. After a great day at Lyme Regis in the sunshine, a large storm was forecast for the Sunday morning so I headed down to Berry Head in Devon.

A good number of birders were present to see a great set of sea birds pass the coast at various distances. Sea birds are an area I've striving to improve with my identification skills so was glad a number of local birders were on hand to help the sea bird novices. The storm was not as bad as first forecast however sightings included a Great Shearwater, a steady flow Manx Shearwater and Gannets, 4 Balearic Shearwater, 1 Arctic Skua and many Fulmars.