Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Bee-eater Bingo in Nottinghamshire

(European) Bee-eater reported sightings have been common this year with mostly being frustrating flyovers. It's been a species I've only ever seen in Spain so when 6/7 had been found at a quarry south of Nottingham I quickly arranged an early departure from work. The Squire & the Mayor of Warwick joined me for the pursuit up the M69. No reports on RBA & the Major announcing he had dipped Bee-eaters five times previously slightly dented our confidence.

The birds were first spotted on 25 June at East Leake Cemex Quarry which has very similar habitat at Salford Priors. Quickly parked up, a successful birder pointed us down a bridleway where we past many happy punters returning to their cars. The walk took about ten minutes to the prime spot where you viewed across the quarry to a large ash tree where the birds were showing very well. Just dropping off the large tree and catching dragon flies, bees and various other insects with a few seconds. One of the pairs looked to be on very good terms certainly giving hope they may nest in the quarry. Whilst the birds looked totally stunning when sat on the tree when in flight they were just fantastic to watch, some calling in flight .

A crowd mixed between birders & locals enjoyed great views and  a viewing area with car park has been set up for birders seeking the best views of the birds in the coming days if they stick around. This can be found at Lings Farm, LE12 6RG.

Colourful and unmistakable, Bee-eaters are rare visitors to the UK and normally nest in southern Europe. The last time they nested in the UK was 2015, when two pairs set up home in a quarry in Cumbria. They have also nested on the Isle of Wight (2014), Herefordshire (2005) and Country Durham (2002). These beautiful birds may stay for the next couple of months should they breed.

A quick return journey to Worcestershire with Coldplay on the IPOD rounded off a cracking jolly outing.

Purple Emperor's on a very quintessential english weekend

 Little Ringed Plover
Pyramidal Orchid
 Purple Emperor
 Purple Emperor
Purple Emperor
Silver washed Fritillarys
 Dusty walking off 
 Barn Swallows in the pavilion
Punch & Judy
Stunning Brass Band

With limited early returning waders at the pits it was a case of business as usual over the weekend. A Green Sandpiper was the first sign a change may be on the way but Saturday sightings were restricted to a Common Tern, male Teal (still), 3 Little Ringed Plover & 2 Oystercatchers.  Local butterfly expert Dave Williams offered to meet us at the local  Oversley Woods where he showed us a fantastic array of butterflies including the amazing Purple Emperors, White & Red Admirals, Silver washed Fritillarys, Purple Hairstreaks, Marbled Whites, Comma, Ringlets, Meadow Browns & Large Skippers.

The afternoon was spent watching Dusty crack a match winning 77 not out for Feckenham first XI on the day of the village wake. It was lovely to enjoy some of old traditions of England including the brass band, classic cars & of course Punch & Judy.

Sundays patch visit, which I did with Jon, included a Redshank, 4 LRP’s, 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Sparrowhawk, a Peregrine and a very nice Pyramidal Orchid.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Elegant Tern dictates the midnight hour

Elegant Tern (Brian Thompson)
The early arrives
The crowd grew as the news spread
The wait was too much for some
Pagham Harbour
91 pairs of Meditaerran Gulls breed here
Distance pic showing comparison of a Little tern to a Sandwich Tern
File photo of a cracking Elegant Tern

My final day of extended weekend was reserved for a bit of a catch up around the garden and a patch visit. This all went to pot when the Squire called and asked if I fancied going for the Elegant Tern in Sussex. 

The Elegant tern was found by patch watcher Andy Johnson on 7th June whilst trying to find an elusive Storm Petrel around Hayling Island. Reading the finders report on RBA, he had considered the American Royal Tern (which had spent the latter half of the winter and the spring in the Channel Islands) would visit the south coast, even end up on his patch. The Tern was ringed in France which made it much easier to confirm it was an Elegant Tern & not a hybrid. On this day just five birders connected but thankfully on Saturday 10th June, Alan Kitson found the Elegant Tern in the tern colony at Church Norton in Pagham Harbour, West Sussex. 
The ring combination on this Elegant Tern has identified it as 'bird C' from Banc d'Arguin, Gironde, France, an adult male which was first seen on the reserve in 2002. It has returned almost every year since then, breeding with a Sandwich Tern on numerous occasions at both this site and in the Noirmoutier colony. Recent DNA analysis has confirmed that this bird and two other orange-billed terns breeding in France and Spain are all pure Elegant Terns. Source RBA.

Given the Squire could only get a day off he hatched a plan, inspired by Phil Andrews, to leave Alcester at 1am, see the bird early and be home for his afternoon shift.  Not needing any encouragement I duly agreed and met him as planned at 12.45am. The journey took a brief 3 hours which I spent dosing on and off. There were already three cars parked with birders ready to go. We walked down to the harbour with a Tawny Owl calling and set up ready for an easy tick. Under the moonlight there was no sign but as sun started to rise the Squire picked out the Elegant Tern with his new Swaro scope sat on the pier structure to the right of the island preening. With ice cool precision he led myself and another birder (520+ lister) to see the bird before finding the Pacific visitor ourselves. The Tern then took flight undertaking an extended circuit before heading out to sea.

There were plenty of other super species to observe in the four hours until the bird returned. These included a second summer Little Gull, Little Ringed Plover, two Pergerines with chick, large number of Mediterranean Gulls, Sandwich / Common & Little Terns and Little Egrets.

This Elegant Tern became my tenth new species of the year therefore reaching my annual target with some ease. I might be pushing my luck for another ten before the year end. 

Many thanks to Paul for his excellent driving at this mad hour, I certainly couldn't have done it on my own at that time. 

In search of the Yorkshire Honey Buzzards

Honey Buzzard (Martin Loftgren)
Wykeham Forest
Georgous gannet
Tree Sparrow
Ahh bless photo
Gannet colony
Not much room on cliffs
And stretch
Scarborough Peregrine

Honey Buzzard is a species that I've never seen or got close to seeing as there is so little information available. I'd tried twice for them at Acres Down in New Forest when in the area without even a sniff so I spread my wings looking for any help. Spurn birder, Steve Routledge came to my assistance and offered me some good tips, plenty of excellent reading and the offer of a meet up. So Friday morning I left home at 4.30am to go to Wykeham Forest on North Yorkshire Moors. As I arrived Steve was already set to go so we headed up to the raptor point and was joined by Tim Cowley.

The view of the canopy was excellent, the lads were very hopeful of a couple of sightings. A Garden Warbler & five Crossbills kept us entertained whilst we waited and waited. Plenty of Common Buzzards & Swifts but no Honeys ! At 9.45am we got our first sighting which was perhaps our worst but as the morning progressed the views improved. We may have seen two birds however the one we recorded in the same area a number of times and only strayed west once. Whilst you could see them with binoculars you needed you a scope at all times to confirm the ID's. Wing clapping was only witnessed once which was a shame & you can always wish for a perfect flyover . These secretive raptors arrive in the third week in May before leaving mid to late august with juveniles following in September. 

As the morning progressed there was plenty of good banter between sightings and other sightings included a Raven, two Red Kites and 2/3 Goshawks. Many thanks to Steve & Tim for their help. I left the forest around 1.30pm as sighting had gone quiet & headed to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Whilst I've been there twice before you can't miss the chance to see sea birds so close. There were more Puffins than I'd seen previously whilst there were the usual high number of Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwakes & Gannets. Bempton must be the best place to now see Tree Sparrows, they were everywhere. As I left the reserve I found two Corn Buntings by the farm. 

Thankfully I'd booked to stay over and the next morning I found one of the famous Scarborough Peregrines when I passed the cliffs when out running. I returned after breakfast to get some breathtaking views of the bird hunting the cliffs. 

Sunday morning Gropper

Red Kite
Greater Spotted Woodpecker
You shall not pass
Couple of Oystercatchers

Saturdays patch visit sadly resulted in no change. The heavy rain had increased the water levels but it won't have any effect for the early returning waders unless we have a lot more.

Combined weekend sightings from myself, Paul & Jon included :- a Red Kite, 8 pairs of Little Grebe (new brood on reed lagoon), 4 Cormorant, 2 Grey Heron, 16 Mute Swan, 12 Greylag (and 2 young), 89 Canada Geese (and 8 young), 4 Shelduck, 15 Gadwall (plus a brood of six small ducklings on the main pit), 1 male Teal, 122 Mallard, 1 male Shoveler, 54 Tufted Duck, 1 Red Kite, 1 Sparrowhawk, 10 Buzzard, 3 Kestrel, 30 Red-legged Partridge, 6 pairs of Moorhen, 123 Coot and many broods, 4 Oystercatcher on main pit (1 came off apparent nest in herbage on “High Island” – not the Texas one!), 4 Little Ringed Plover, 4 Lapwing, 53 LBB Gull (one nest), 6 Herring Gull, 3 Green Woodpecker territories in area,  300 Swifts over main pit, 5 Sand Martins, Meadow Pipits feeding young, 2 juvenile Grey Wagtails at Pophills, 5 pairs of Sedge and 25-30 singing Reed Warblers, Treecreeper in plantation, good view of a Nuthatch in the oak tree by the main pit entrance (rare at the pits), c.15 pairs of Reed Bunting and a Corn Bunting around the former site of the central lagoons, probably the wandering male from the spring – it has also been singing at Bidford. 

The bird of the week was a Grasshopper Warbler reeling on the side of main bund by “hidden pool” found by Jon on Sunday. The Squire did try and see it in the evening but the wind made it near impossible. Let's hope its on territory and seen again.

Also two Roe Deer fawns and a Pyramidal Orchid in flower by the main pit (not seen every year here).

Wyre Forest & Grimley birding

Spotted Flycatcher
Tawny Owl
Little Gull
As close as it got
Different angle
Flight shot
Only time witnessed together

An extended weekend was on the agenda and I was certainly ready for it. A new fitness campaign has started which certainly gave me more energy but also a few aches. There is no cheating as all the sessions are recorded through a heart rate monitor. Anyway on to the birds. I started with a long session of monitoring on Thursday afternoon & evening at the pits but nothing new to report. 

On Friday I thought I'd have a few hours in the Wyre Forest near Bewdley. I did my normal circuit but had to work pretty hard to find some species. I didn't see any Pied Flycatchers which was odd but did record three different Spotted Flycatchers. Only a single Tree Pipit was in the top field but a male Redstart was in good voice before flying into the forest before I could raise my camera. Three Wood Warblers were singing on territory and my only additional find was a Tawny Owl which was getting mobbed by a party of Jays.

A good evening of live music at Feckenham Cricket Club made it a slower start on Saturday feeling the effects of the Cloudy Cider. After doing the patch (seperate blog to follow) I went to see two showy second summer Little Gulls at Grimley. The patch watchers there have had a great spring. One of the Gulls stayed loyal in the same location whilst the other didn't stop feeding for the full duration of my visit. 

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Little Egret's top the weekly sightings

 Little Egrets (Mark Clarke)
  Little Egrets (Mark Clarke)
 Little Egrets (Mark Clarke)
Main pit Chiffchaff
Two Redshank & distant Dunlin
360 from top of the bund
Main pit views
Brown Hare (Butterfly Dave)
Fallow Deer (Butterfly Dave)

It’s that time of year when I’m spending a lot of time in one area of the patch to ensure the breeding birds are left alone. Some times these periods of time can go quite slowly but its good to be part of some great conservation work with other like minded people. Taking this aside there was very little movement over the week except four Little Egret found by Mark Clarke. Highlights were two single Ring Plovers that past through, then on Saturday I had two Redshanks & a Dunlin which I found on Pophills before flying over to the main pit. The water levels are the best we have had for many years so you have to remain hopeful of a good wader when the Autumn passage begins.

On Thursday afternoon I was asked if I could show Butterfly Dave around the patch as he was intrigued to see Salford Priors for himself. The weather was very kind & we recorded two Painted Lady butterflies, Fallow Deer & the normal selection of Brown Hares. He was really shocked about the size of the place and gave him more understanding to how it takes us so long to bird properly. Dave took a few images which are displayed above.