Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Little Stint, cricket, cider & music

Video from Pophills
Little Stint & Ringed Plover
Best shot in dreadful light
Straight drive at Stourport
Dusty looking clearly shocked at his new opening partner
Nesting Lesser Black-backed Gull
Close up House Martin
Look I'm busy
Group shot
Oddfest in full swing on way home

An extended weekend with the bonus of a Bank Holiday, was a good job given the agenda of plans. Saturday mornings visit resulted in both the main pit & Pophills being very quiet. After passing the old workings I found a group of House Martins collecting mud so I sat myself down and just waited for the birds. I had a great hour enjoying these birds at close quarters that nest in Dunnington. As I watched the birds, an alarm call prompted me to look up where I could see our first Hobby of the year. In the afternoon we headed to Stourport to watch the lads open the batting together for Feckenham in their Worcester league game. The lads had a 75 partnership with Dusty cracking 65, his second fifty in four games. The game finished in a amazing tie with Gussy taking a very important ninth wicket & then running out the last man. 

Jon did the honours on Sunday but didn't record anything other than the normal but recorded 10 Lapwing, 7 pairs of Meadow Pipits, Grey Wagtail, 5 singing Sedge Warblers, 3 Cuckoo's,  of butterflies included Painted Lady, two Brown Argus & a Grizzled Skipper, first for several years. 

I didn't return until Monday morning where I was pretty hopeful of a wader of some type given the bad weather. I wanted to see how our pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls were progressing and evidence suggests they could be incubating eggs which would be a unique record away from the colonies in the big cities. 

After setting up my scope I picked up two Ringed Plovers on one of the islands & then our first Little Stint (our 127th species of the year after Terry recorded two Grey Partridges & Little Egret earlier in the morning). After sending a group text out the three birds took off but thankfully landed on Pophills were the Squire found them, Mike Inskip also joined us. 

Other sightings from last week included 4 Little Ringed Plover, a Ringed Plover on Tuesday (Mike Inskip). The Squire found a reeling Grasshopper Warbler by the river in Alcester, Andy Woodward found two Garden Warblers at Abbots Salford & three Mandarin ducks remain in the area.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Suffolk double - Marsh & Savi's Warbler at RSPB Lakenheath

Marsh Warbler - Video
Marsh Warbler
 Song time for Marsh Warbler
 Mooing about in Suffolk
Sedge Warbler
 Marsh Harrier
 Viewpoint (Marsh Warbler by trees on left of photo)
Cropped Stone Curlew
 Long walk ahead
 Stunning habitat
Savi's twitch
The chance of recording two lifers proved too much on Sunday as I headed to RSPB Lakenheath in Suffolk. Leaving around 4.45am the journey proved trouble free but a bit boring in all honesty, it seemed longer than 2 hours 40 minutes. On arrival, as I passed the visitor centre, a Nightingale burst in song and showed itself quickly which was a real bonus as I didn't know they were present.

As per usual the target birds were at the furthest point from the car park. The sun was out with a slight breeze so the thirty five minute walk was pleasant enough stopping for some splendid views of Sedge Warblers & Cuckoo's. 

From the viewpoint I could see where the Marsh Warbler had been reported. That took another five minutes to reach using the path along side the river. I was expecting both of the days targets to prove troublesome to locate however the Marsh Warbler was sitting up in the reeds giving up a real rendition of song. Binoculars gave me good views but the scope enabled me to see the bird in great detail. 

Satisfied with the views and a couple of record shots I then continued down the patch to where the Savi's Warbler could be heard and seen on occasions. This bird had been a real blocker for me and was reeling on and off during the hour I was present but it took forty minutes to get the view I wanted.

The reserve looked fantastic and it was great to see both birds well with the backdrop of flying Bitterns, Marsh Harriers and Cuckoo's. As I headed back towards the visitor centre I met a birder from Essex whom I shared a good rattle with before two Garden Warblers burst into song as we went our separate ways.

I then opted to make the short drive to Weeting Heath to see the Stone Curlews. I arrived at the same time as a RSPB group on a day trip who clearly enjoyed the company of each other more than the birds. 

The drive home was longer than expected as I had to divert to avoid a nasty accident but with two lifers in the bag the extra thirty minutes was worth it. 

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Cuckoo's in great voice


Little Ringed Plover

After a brilliant break in Dorset it was back to the real world of gravel pit & farmland birding this weekend. A Common Tern greeted me on Saturday on the main pit before flying south. Other than two Little Ringed Plovers the site was very quiet.

On Sunday I made two prolonged visits as I'm completing a survey for one of the farms. We appear to have an influx of Lesser Black-backed & a few Herrings no doubt looking for an easy meal. A single male Teal remains on the far side of the pit, now seriously late leaving for the breeding grounds.

On Sunday the birds of the day were two very showy Cuckoo's observed on the edge of the main bund and also on the farm. The last couple years sightings have been very fleeting however this pair seem to have settled and are determined to cause breeding bedlam. The angle of the sun made it difficult to get a decent photo. 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Lyme Regis Dippers

My favourite shot of an adult
Hungry juvenile
Final morning shot in better light
Recently fledged juvenile
Get set
Ready to dive
This juvenile on a garden fence
Distant shot of young family
Dipper outside shop taken with phone
Grey Wagtail
Water Vole
Pied Wagtail
The Cobb at Lyme Regis
House Martin

To be honest I've never had time to go looking for Dippers when staying in Lyme Regis as my schedule has been busy enough with birding & family pursuits outside the town. This break I decided I'd spend the time even though I expected a long walk up hill out of the town. Turning right out of the cottage I had to take a whole fifty yards before seeing my first of four adult Dippers ! With the adults were a number of juveniles of various ages, I couldn't get an accurate count of juveniles as they were flying around endlessly chasing food from their parents. Within the location of the Dippers were two families of Grey Wagtails. This is bar none the best location I've ever seen Dippers, a huge advantage is the River Lym is only a couple of feet wide & also sneaks past in local Brewery which we made a habit of frequenting. 

Other species noted around the town were Swifts, House Martin, Herring Gulls & Pied Wagtails.

Eastern Subalpline Warbler at Dawlish Warren

Eastern Subalpline Warbler (first view)
A tough place to bird but rewarding 
Eastern Subalpline Warbler 
Local Devon birders
Key ID features
Meeting up with Wilson
Juvenile Stonechats
Land of the Dartfords
Dartford Warbler

Agenda on day 2 was going to see the Dartford Warblers however this changed as I was taking a couple of photos of the House Martins in Lyme Regis. Within a minute I got three different message SUBALPINE WARBLER - DAWLISH WARREN. Within minutes the postcode was entered in the satnav and I was heading west. The journey was trouble free and parking was easy (£3.60 for 3 hours).

The directions said east of main path, no knowing the reserve that well I'd planned to just look for other twitchers but didn't have any idea whether it would be a 5 or a 40 minute walk. As I edged towards the visitor centre I saw a small group of birders all looking up towards my direction. Picking up there line of sight there was the Eastern Subapline Warbler singing in a less scratchy tone than a Whitethroat high in the scrubery. I quickly snapped a couple of handheld images after watching in the scope. How easy was that ! (6th lifer of 2017, first since February)

Next job was to refind it as the bird had gone to ground. I headed round to where it was originally found and after another 50 minutes it re-appeared giving stunning scope views. It was much whiter than expected but it's throat was very rich and dark red with a blue & grey on top and a striking white sun-moustachial stripe. The bird was very striking and a real buzz to see so well.

Timing was prefect as I'd then arranged to meet cousin Sara & new dog Wilson for a short walk and a hot chocolate. We had a nice walk and quick catch up before heading off in different directions. 

My destination would be Aylesbeare Common Nature Reserve where I had to struggle for an hour before finally finding three Dartford Warbler (plenty of Stonechats including young. 

Quite a day, which was celebrated with the customary Coldplay in the car and a fine Itialian meal with a couple of local ciders. 

Dorset Double - Golden Oriole & Short-toed Lark

Golden Oriole
Twitchers grew as news spread
Golden Oriole was very comfortable feeing in this bush
All ready !
Portland Observatory
Traditional cake & coffee
Pesky Short-toed Lark
Nestled down nicely but difficult to see
Cogden Beach

An early start saw me heading to Devon for a day in Dartmoor but as I reached Seaton, about 20 minutes away, thick fog had swallowed the road ahead so I decided to turn around & head back and put together a new plan. After deciding I'd going looking for the Dippers again my phone flashed "Golden Oriole - Portland". I then applied my twitching risk assessment strategy - two reports & a photo on social media. Satisfied with both I set out but still had reservations that many Orioles move on very quickly. 

I made good time & a quick pull in as I past a couple of birders by the Observatory confirmed the bird was still present. With the car quickly parked I marched back across towards a group of around twelve birders who were watching the bird. As soon as I'd set my scope up & lined the bird up in view the bird took flight and flew around the fields opposite before going out of sight. I was very pleased but longer views would have been better. Another birder & I searched around the direction without any success so I headed down to the lighthouse for a bit of sea watching. I was hopeful I'd see a Pomarine Skua passing but had to settle for two Sooty Shearwater, a dozen Manx Shearwater & the normal Gannets.

I was considering leaving then I noticed a single birder concentrating hard, he had relocated the Oriole. A few of us headed up the path for a view from a different angle & that proved a good idea as the Oriole was sitting on this side of the bramble feeding well on a feast of caterpillars. It was difficult to confirm whether the bird was a first summer male or a female bird. It was great to watch this stunning bird through the scope & take a couple of record shots. My second lifer on this short break & the first record on Portland since 2016.

As I left Portland a probable Short-toed Lark appeared on the bird news at Cogden Beach which was actually on the way home. Surely not another lifer on the same trip. About an hour later the sighting was confirmed and I was quickly parked up at the beach. What it didn't say on the reports was the birds last sighting was 3/4 of a mile down the beach through thick shingle. To make matter slightly worse it was raining hard but that did stop thankfully when I reached four other birders but the bird had not been seen for an hour. The habitat was very difficult to see any bird so we spread out across the beach and walked south. After another ten minutes we got a possible sighting, then at last the bird showed well in the open. How on earth Mike Morse @Bexbirder found this bird I have no idea, it was the 270th recorded species at the site.