Sunday, 30 October 2016

Morning on gallops, afternoon in the pits

Top of the gallops
Schooling fences but not Shrike
Grey Squirrel
Plenty of deer all around the pits currently
Huge flock of Greylags & Canada Geese taking advantage of Snipe Meadow
West end of the reed lagoon
Another Stonechat look for a new home
Mute Swan

Fellow pit birder Chris Lane struck gold on Saturday when he found a Great Grey Shrike at near by Martley on the gallops. The bird showed on and off from around 2pm. Paul Hands managed to get up there to see the bird but as far as I know no one else connected. I did head up first thing on Sunday with three other Worcestershire birders but it looked like the bird was just moving through.

Sadly the bird hadn’t moved to the nearby pits which wasn’t the only disappointment. The reed bed lagoon had started to be flattened, we knew this was coming, but still sad given the Shelduck bred here this year with Reed Warbler & Reed Buntings. Very tragic.

The water level is perhaps the lowest I’ve ever seen it which is providing the increasing Cormorant flock some easy fishing. Sighting highlights were restricted to two Stonechats, two Green Sandpipers, 80 Teal, seven Shoveler, two Pochard, Sparrowhawk & a Buzzard. As I left over 900 Black-headed Gulls and a 60 large gulls (Lesser Black-back & Herrings) came into a pre-roost which was interesting. It was certainly the most gulls I’d seen together there. Could well be worth checking out again in future weeks.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Stonechats at Salford Priors

Arriving after Jon has left the site I rarely find anything new. Andy W accidently flushed a Water Pipit on the lower pools straight past Jon, typical but hey ho, you can’t see everything.  I did however find an additional Little Egret that were on the main pit initially before flying across to Pophills.  The Cormorant flock continues to expand, 94 were counted. Other sightings included a Pintail, 11 Lapwing, a Green Sandpiper, a late Wheatear and a single Chiffchaff. Wildfowl included just 18 Little Grebe, 7 Gadwall, 65 Teal, 280 Mallard, 8 Shoveler, 1 female Pochard, 36 Tufted Duck and 141 Coot. Some good passage included 115 Fieldfare and 22 Redpolls south.

I had a good walk around the Snipe meadow where three Snipe took flight and four of Stonechats remained showing really well despite the windy conditions. In all a pretty good weekend.   

I've decided to not to carry on doing the combined Warwickshire sightings for Bird Watching magazine for a number of reasons. Warwickshire remains one of only a few counties that lacks a combined sightings website unlike great examples in Worcestershire, Devon & Cornwall (list is endless) and is certainly something that should be addressed. It's a shame Salford Priors isn't a few more miles south in all honesty as the Worcestershire birding community there is much more open & friendly. 

Farmoor for Grey Phalarope & bacon sardie

I needed a later start on Sunday as I was feeling tired from the previous day & perhaps a glass too many on the evening. So once I was up and about I headed to Farmoor Reservoir to have an enjoyable hour watching a Grey Pharalope at very close quarters. 

For a while I was there on my own until I joined by a couple of jolly photographers from Swindon (Dave & Dave). This arctic breeding wader paid no attention at all to the audience and just went about it’s feeding without a care in the world.  

With the ears getting cold I retreated to the sailing club cafĂ© where the “Daves” tipped me off to a bargain. They weren’t wrong, £1.50 for a coffee & bacon sandwich (did lack HP sauce though) was just the job as I headed back to Salford Priors.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Return ticket to Easington for Isabelline Wheatear & Siberian Stonechat

Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
Isabelline Wheatear
View towards Spurn Point
Standing at Stonechat viewpoint looking across at Wheatear crowd
Siberian Stonechat

Welcome warm 
Looking towards Spurn Point
A single Golden Plover
Fantastic views of waders at high tide
Turnstone strutting out along shoreline
Two videos of the star videos (Alan Shaw)

With my second groin operation now approaching fast I’ve been determined to make the most of any opportunities to get some good birding under my belt. With the Alcester Squire back in circulation following his summer hiatus and two possible lifers on the East coast we duly set out at 6am. A traffic free journey was much welcomed as was the public toilets at Skeffling, the last village before Easington. As normal an army of khaki dressed middle aged birders were all taking advantage of these public services.

Parking up in the village in the designated parking area we made the ½ mile walk towards the shoreline & around the boat yard. With the waves crashing on the shoreline both of our target birds were within 200 metres of each other. First stop was the exceptionally rare Isabelline Wheatear. With scopes and large lenses set up I thought the bird was in the distance however it was feeding just 10-12 yards  from the edge of field.  Researching the meaning of Isabella I'm informed it is a pale grey & yellow or fawn/brown and the bird certainly looked very pasty.

Reading a few articles in books & online “Issies” are known as one of the most difficult birds to identify due to their similarities to Northern Wheatear. The bird certainly met the ‘pallid’ plumage description at first look and most certainly not like a buff warm Northern. The bird was very plain showing little contrast.

Edging over towards the coast the Siberian Stonechat was instantly on show varying with it’s distance from the birders & photographers.  I found this article online about Stonechats  which was an interesting read before I went. I can’t remember when I last bagged a double within such a short distance.

We just missed a early winter Waxwing but given the close proximity to houses we opted to head to Kilsea & Spurn for a coffee & shortbread, three large flocks of Golden Plover flying over us. Being the first customers of the day we even took all the benches off the tables to get our coffee quicker.

The Squire was having his first visit to this unique part of the country so I showed him around as best as possible. We walked down to the south end of the breach where there hundreds of waders feeding as high tide approached. Birds included Dunlin, Knot, Redhank, Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover, Brent Geese & Shelduck.

We also had a session of sea-watching where we recorded a Black-throated Diver, good numbers of Red-throated, flock of 20 Scoter, 6 Eider & 2 late Swallows heading south.

It would have been nice to catch up with the reported Waxwing and Shorelarks for the Squire but we will have to get them on our next visit.  Another good day on the east coast and it was interesting to note that both birds were not present on the following day !

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

White-fronted Geese provide Autumn surprise at Salford Priors

White-fronted Geese on main pit
White-fronted Geese
White-fronted Geese
Video of White-fronts
Meadow Pipit

Saturday proved to be mega day in the pits history as myself & Chris Lane found five adult White-fronted Geese on the main pit. At first glance we doubted ourselves as the birds were mixed with a large flock of Greylags and the sun made viewing difficult.

Whilst most of the Greylags took flight two remained to keep an eye on our autumn visitors. Ensuring not to flush the birds I used the willows as cover as I tied to take a few record photographs and some video. White-fronts had never been recorded at the site before so it was a great record and a bit of reward for us slugging round for hours with little reward. The birds looked to be of the Albifrons european race as their beaks were very pink and the chests contained black patches.

This was our 140th species of the year at the pits and 194th for the site (excluding sub species) since records started. The birds were present up to 4pm but had gone by 5pm.

Other Saturday sightings included eight Lapwing, two Wigeon, a Common Gull, a Grey Wagtail & a Green Sandpiper.

Heavy rain greeted Jon & I on Sunday and made birding very uncomfortable for the first 90 minutes of our session. Around 50 Cormorants were feeding on Pophills a record number in this area. Over the road on the main pit a drake Pintail in eclipse plumage was on the spit but there was no sign of the White-fronts. We did however pick out a smaller goose flying round with the Greylags which we identified as a Pink-footed Goose. (Paul Hands reported the Pink-foot on the main pit at 1.00pm). 

There have been more gulls on recent visits on this was the case on Sunday as there were 20 Lesser Black-backed, 4 Herrings and 30 Black-heads. Other counts included a Lapwing, 67 Teal, 37 Tufted Duck, a Pochard, 5 Shoveler, 100 Meadow Pipits, 25 Linnets, 3 Jay, 4 Redwing,  a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Green Sandpiper, 2 Grey Heron and 30 Little Grebe. 

Eight Golden Plover past over head as we past the central lagoon where there are now five Stonechats. Sadly my camera had stopped working completely perhaps linked to how wet it was. Hopefully it was just a one off. In all a pretty good weekend on the birding front.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Wonders of Spurn

Brent Geese fly past
Olive-backed Pipit crowd
Lee Evans noting down the days sightings
Spurn Lighthouse

With the Siberian Accentor in the bag I headed down to Spurn where there appeared to be thousands of birders checking every bush, tree and piece of grass of a rarity.

The eagerly winds ensured a constant flow of thrushes coming in including my first Fieldfares of the winter. As I headed down the lane the first of my four Ring Ouzels was in the far hedgerow. With no reception on my phone it was a case of listening to other birders to try and find out what was being reported. 

A single Shorelark was pleasing an audience near the shoreline until a Olive-backed Pipit was discovered causing a surge of birders across the car park only for the bird to take flight and close in the long grass in front of me. A five minute wait was needed for the bird to show itself before returning to it's original position. 

Whilst looking for a Pallas Warbler in the church yard the first of two Firecrests teased the photographers by flirting at the top of the hedgerow. Moving up to the pub car park you realised how many Goldcrests were present. I just edged towards going to look for waders when a Pallas Warbler was located showing briefly then retreating out of view.

On the shoreline there were a great selection of birds including Brent Geese, Dunlin, Knot, Grey Plover, Wheatear and the top it all a Woodcock came in off the sea for a valued tick for the year list. 

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Siberian Accentor causes east coast MEGA twitch

Siberian Accentor
Siberian Accentor
Siberian Accentor
Siberian Accentor
Siberian Accentor
The only destination this weekend
Every viewpoint being taken
Room for everyone
Sun rising as I pass through Hull

I took an emergency days leave on Friday to head to Easington, close to Spurn, to see a Siberian Accentor, a first for the UK main land. Historically I always give first day twitches a wide berth but after seeing the stunning pictures online of the first UK's Accentor discovered on Shetland on 9th October and how birders had flocked at great expense, I had to go. 

My tactics of 6am departure paid dividends as when I arrived one of the brilliant volunteers directed us to a space within 500 metres of the site as most of those who had arrived a dawn had seen the bird and moved down to Spurn. Some people had parked over a mile away. 

Expecting to queue to see the bird I was very surprised to get a great viewing spot within five minutes right on the front row with no fuss at all. I'd never seen so many grinning middle aged men in one place just loving how close the Siberian visitor was. Some times is was within 4/5 feet of the fence taking no notice of the audience at all. The bird had probably never seen humans before and it's only hassle came from a Pied Wagtail that chased the Accentor a couple of times as I watched closely.

Reading the various news articles it seems the species records have been increasing in Scandinavia for a number of years. Very similar to the every day Dunnock, the bird showed a deep yellow supercillia and throat, dark ear coverts and maroon-tinged upper parts. Its natural breeding down is in Siberia on both sides of the Ural mountains. The bird was a classy individual and will surely take the bird of the year title for many.

Recognition must be given to all the fantastic volunteers on site who made the whole twitch a very pleasurable one.