Sunday, 25 October 2015

American Golden Plover - Eyebrook Reservoir

American Golden Plover
American Golden Plover
Eyebrook Reservoir
Happy twitchers

No less than ten American Golden Plovers reported last week around the UK and with one landing at Eyebrook Reservoir in Leicestershire made it a definite target over the weekend. Eyebrook is about 1 hr 15 mins from home and sits right on the border between Leicestershire & Rutland.

I was all set to go on Saturday morning however there was no early news reported until the afternoon giving hope that it would be worth going on Sunday. With the weather looking much better on Sunday I decided I'd arrive at the same time the Plover did on the Saturday. With the clocks going back that morning it wasn't as early.

On the way over I passed a small roost of six Red Kites which took off as I passed. The reservoir was picturesque and around 30-40 birders were all stood waiting for the Plover to arrive. With the scope set up we didn't have to wait long until Golden Plovers started to land on the mud at the end of the reservoir. Watching the flocks closely I then picked up the American Golden Plover coming into land. After landing for a few seconds the flock took off before most birders saw the bird but thankfully the full flock landed again to allow everyone some great views. 

The bird couldn't be missed and was very distinguishable standing out well from it's cousins the European Golden Plovers. The birds plumage looked to be adult moutling.

Other sightings included a Goldeneye, Greylag, Wigeon, Shoveler, Red-legged Partridge, Canada Geese, 2 Dunlin, Lapwing and Great Crested Grebes. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Salford Priors missed opportunities

 Me on Sunday looking for Bearded Tit
The former old works reed bed

Starting with the good news ! Chris Lane found a Corn Bunting on Friday & Jon then found a Bearded Tit on Sunday. The bad news is I didn't see either. Myself and Paul searched for the Corn Bunting on Saturday with out luck. On Sunday I finished earlier than usual as I needed to do a cricket taxi to Malvern. You can only imagine my horror when I read the below email from Jon.

I had fantastic views of a male Bearded Tit at the big reed lagoon after you had gone! I was standing along the side hedge by the reed bed after I had heard a couple of quiet “twangs”. Nothing showed so I started to wander on thinking I had just imagined it, when a bird flew into the reeds just next to me and started to climb up the reed! I immediately saw that it was an immaculate male Bearded Tit and to cap it all it start pinging when it got to the top. It then towered up high into the sky pinging before dropping down into the reeds at the back of the pool. On two more occasions I saw it towering up pinging – the last time it flew off high towards the west – but could not see whether it circled back around and dropped down again. At this time you must have been back at the car or just left. I thought I heard a couple of quiet twangs later so it could just be still there, though it looked as though it had just arrived and may have moved quickly on. Still an excellent sighting, and much better view than of my first bird here.

I duly put the news out and four of us searched in vain as the light faded. Gutted is an understatement. Another great find from Jon.

Other sightings included :- 2 Pintail, Kingfisher, 4 Wigeon,  9 Gadwell, 32 Snipe (mostly on the bund), 1 Green Sandpiper, 75 Fieldfare, 120 Redwing, 1 Chiffchaff (Pophills) and good numbers of gulls in on the main pit – including 70 LBB, 5 Herring, 2 Yellow-legged and 1 Common Gull.

Sadly the area where we recorded our large Jack Snipes counts is practically all but destroyed following the installation of more drainage work. 

Final stop Titchwell - Norfolk October Day Trip (Part 5)

Parrinder Hide
Grey Plover
Golden Plover
Brent Geese
Brent Geese
YouTube video clip of Titchwell

I opted to bypass the Red-flanked Bluetail and head for a couple of hours at Titchwell before heading home. The site was pretty quiet probably due to everyone else looking for rarities. 

The light had improved so I did manage to take a few digiscoped images which was a nice way to round off the day before heading home. Sightings included Brent Geese, Spotted Redshank, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Avocet plus many more.

Blyth's Reed Warbler - Norfolk October Day Trip (Part 4)

Goldcrest data from BTO
Blythe’s Reed Warbler Video - Oriolebirding

I opted to then head to Wells Wood where I’d never been to before despite many visits to Norfolk previously. A large pay and display car park (£3) was the only option to park which was busy with dog walkers, holiday makes and birders. 

First stop was a Blythe’s Reed Warbler. These birds winter in India but visit Finland in summer months. The bird hadn’t been seen for over an hour however within 20 minutes of my arrival a photographer thought he had captured it on some brambles near the main patch. We duly relocated some 100 yards further east and after a brief poor view the bird worked it’s way up the twigs to show very well to please the gathered audience. It appeared there had been a huge fall of Goldcrests over night, there were thousands everywhere.

I then headed east through the wood to locate a Humes Yellow-browed Warbler. At the time I thought it was my first of this species until I remembered I had seen one before in Warwickshire a couple of years ago. Throughout the woodland  there were hundreds of Goldcrests. I'd never seen so many in my life. These tiny birds that are the size of a 50p and weight around just 6 grammes have arrived from Scandinavia and the Continent.

Salthouse & Cley - Norfolk October Day Trip (Part 3)

 Cley Visitor Centre
 Got to be done
 Salthouse beach
Water Rail heading into hiding - taken with phone

Next stop was Salthouse and Cley. The sea was very rough at Salthouse so I had 20 minutes sea-watching but the only birds I picked up was Gannets that were being forced to fly much closer to the shoreline than normal. 

Two Water Rail greeted me as I opened the hide window on Cley Marshes. In all honesty there wasn’t really anything of great note so I retreated to the visitor centre for a coffee and a ginger slice. Whilst stuffing my face I picked up a Short-eared Owl coming in off the sea being harassed by two gulls. As I picked it up early I managed to get other people sat by me on to the bird including a small travel group. The guide was well happy and duly thanked me.

Muckleburgh Hill Olive-backed Pipit - Norfolk October Day Trip (Part 2)

Olive-backed Pipit -Stephen Whayman

                                    Olive-backed Pipit -Stephen Whayman
Dave Carter - YouTube Video

With a great start to the day I knew that the Olive-backed Pipit on Muckleburgh Hill could prove a little more troublesome as reports were very on and off. On the positive note a local birder gave me some specific instructions about where he has seen the bird the previous evening. 

Once on site I duly followed the instruction and found two birders in the location at the top of the hill despite there being many more in the vinicity. We all picked up a Pipit among the bracken but none of us got a great view. Suddenly the bird popped up to the edge of a scrub where you could see the stunning olive back on the bird. The birds supercilium was very clear and really was quite stunning. I never thought I’d find a Pipit something of such beauty.

Besston Isbelline Shrike - Norfolk October Day Trip (Part 1)

Isbelline Shrike - Chris Boyd
Isbelline Shrike - Chris Boyd
Isbelline Shrike -
Isbelline Shrike - Stephen Whayman

Video - The ID Bird Company

With the winds looking favourable I hit the road early on Friday at 4.30am to the East coast. First stop was Beeston Common which would be my furthest point from home before working back along the coast. The journey took around 3 ¼ hours, a couple of podcast& some new music certainly helped. 

Beeston is near Sheringham and a layby at the foot of the common was a perfect place to park. Not knowing where to head didn’t matter as soon as I was on the common I could see my first target bird an Isbelline Shrike perched to my right on a Hawthorn Bush. The light was very poor but the handful of birders got some fantastic views. 

Digiscoping was very difficult but thankfully Stephen Whayman (Website Flickr Stephen Whayman2015)& Chris Boyd (Twitter ChrisDipperBoyd) kindly provided me with some fantastic shots for the blog of both the Shrike & Pipit. 

Isbelline Shrikes are related to Turkestan Strike and breed in Mongolia and West China. The bird was around 200 metres away during my time observing and could be seen catching bees and flies.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Slow Autumn movement at Salford Priors

 Looking east from main pit
 Four Grey Herons

A double header of patch birding this weekend with visits on Saturday & Sunday. We have received some very disappointing news in terms of pits surviving in the near future from the land owners Ragley Estates who are pushing ahead fast now with returning the land to agricultural use. West Midland Bird Club were very interested in putting forward a financial proposal to take over the site however it seems that this will not be considered at all much to every ones disappointment. At the end of the day the land is owned by Ragley Estates and they are under no obligation to do anything other than what they want however it would be a real shame if all the great wildlife moves on from this area of Warwickshire.

After checking around the normal area's Paul and I headed headed down to the river and walked a circle of the area towards Wixford. The area by the old station was full of Goldfinches and Tits. The scrub area looks very promising for a potential Firecrest but this time we had to settle to watch good numbers of close Goldcrests. There wasn't much to note on the river except a few Mallard, a Kingfisher fly pass, singing Chiffchaffs and about five Bullfinches. When reaching the fields we picked up a nice flock of 11 Yellowhammers.

Despite the easterly winds the pits remained quiet on Sunday. The Pintail's are edging closer to their breeding plumage on the main pit that were in the company of 96 Teal, 35 Little Grebe, 22 Tufties and a single Wigeon & Pochard. A Stonechat could be observed on the bund by the main pit. 

A Little Egret was a welcome sight on the old workings lagoon and it wasn't long until we found two very smart Wheatear enjoying the freshly ploughed Snipe meadow. The Skylarks were singing again above the meadow whilst 4 Grey Herons had found something of interest in the same area. 

Birds of prey were restricted to Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Common Buzzard. Two good mornings of patch birding in good company but nothing to get the heart racing.

I finished the weekend by visiting Upton Warren for the Sunday gull roost where I recorded my first Upton Warren Barn Owl.

Pipits on the move

Meadow Pipit on Snipe Meadow
Meadow Pipit on Snipe Meadow
Nice surprise in the landfill area
Mute Swan family
Can you spot the Stonechat ?
Fun on the bunds
Pano shot of main pit

After a session of birding with hundreds on Saturday at Slimbridge, thankfully it was back to the peace and quiet of Salford Priors on Sunday. Lee & Paul teamed up with Jon and I for part of the patch walk before leaving us to explore the bunds. Pophills was once again very quiet, we really need some rain to increase the water level as its not attracted any notable waders for weeks.

As we crossed over the road a Golden Plover past over calling heading north east.

The plantation held a remaining male Blackcap, 5 Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests plus the normal selection but despite our best efforts we couldn’t find a Yellow-browed Warbler.

Our two visits to the main pit resulted in finding the two Pintail which have been with us for 2 weeks, 4 Shoveler, 56 Coot (down from a high of 185), 83 Teal, 57 Lapwing, 3 Green Sandpiper, 12 LBBG, 20 Little Grebe and 20 Black-headed Gulls. A Jay, not a common sighting at the pits, flew south over migrant hill towards Evesham.

As we reached the old workings it became clear there was plenty of movement of birds, most probably happening very high above us in clear skies, as there were Meadow Pipits every where. There were also a flock of 30 Linnets and a dozen Goldfinch feeding around the fringe of the area. 13 late Swallows were recharging their batteries on the wires before continuing their journey south.

Migrant trap was busy once again with Starlings, Yellowhammer, Goldfinch and Greenfinches.

Drainage works continues to gather pace on Snipe Meadow however the Meadow Pipits & Skylarks were loving exposed mud. It was hard to conduct an accurate count however both myself and Jon estimated there must have been over 300 Meadow Pipits.

I then picked up a male Stonechat on the south bund which was nice. This was the first of three birds discovered during the morning as we found another on the main bunds and Lee had discovered one to the east of Pophills. Also on the main bunds we found another five Snipe to add to the eight we had discovered already, a very close adult Sparrowhawk, 2 Green Woodpecker and a Kestrel.

As we headed towards the car I counted an amazing 17 Common Buzzards enjoying the excellent thermals and as we counted a Tree Pipit flew west high above us.

Late note - Mark reported 2 Common Gulls & Red Kites 3/10/15

Rutland Ospreys 2015

Thought I'd post these great videos of the Ospreys we visited earlier on in year on the Birdfair week. The videos show you the highlights from the summer at Manton Bay. The Rutland Osprey blog is also worth a read and you can follow the birds migration south. Great birds !

Monday, 5 October 2015

Slimbridge's Semipalmated Sandpiper

Morning mist at Slimbridge
A Crane on show with the many wildfowl
Screen photo of Slimbride Warden's Twitter Feed (@JamesSLees)
Hide before it got busy
Collins Guide

Last week bought a Semipalmated Sandpiper to Slimbridge however after being first reported on Tuesday the question would be whether it would stay until the weekend for the working birders. 

I arrived in plenty of time and spent some time in the hides on the Holden walkway. To be honest it was fairly quiet but it was good to see 20 Russian White-fronted Geese. In addition there was 150+ Barnacle Geese & three Grey Plover but viewing was difficult due to the early morning mist/fog. Two Skylarks were showing very well on the edge of the scrape.

I reached the Ziess hide an hour before high tide to find an already packed audience had assembled. The upper part of the hide was two deep with birders and twitchers. 

Next job was try and find the Sandpiper among 200 Dunlin and 2 Little Stints. Initially things were looking a bit bleak until a small Stint like was picked up in the Dunlin flock. We all had to wait until the Teal and Dunlin moved aside to get a clear view to confirm findings. Personally I was much happier when the bird woke up and started to feed. It was only then you could make out the stout shorter beak and less bright colouring on the back. Semipalmated Sandpipers are ground nesting waders from Canada & Alaska and are long distant migrants taking the long flight to costal South America. They can migrate in their thousands however on occasions single birds do arrive in Western Europe.  I found the above video online about Sandpipers on their breeding ground. The calls sound brilliant. As Slimbridge visits go it wasn't the best.

Other sightings included a Peregrine, Little Egret, 5 Common Crane, Grey Heron, 5 Greenshank, 8 Ringed Plover, 500+ Teal, 20 Black-tailed Godwit, 20 Knot, 10 Snipe.