Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Upton Warren Sunday Spoonbills

 Black-tailed Godwit
Spot the Black Tern

A quiet hour watching Moeen Ali's superb century for England in the one day international was disturbed by a text from Lord Belsey that 5 Spoonbills had landed on the Moors at Upton Warren.

I'd parked up within fifteen minutes of the text & quickly marching round to the east hide where I was pretty sure the best views would be. The family looked to be made up of one adult & four juveniles with some of juveniles begging for food with a very strange call. This was the fifth record for the site & the first one since 2011 (P.Andrews)

Spoonbills are a species that continue to flourish with breeding now reaching as far up as Yorkshire where three birds hatched at Fairburn Ings this year. The sighting certainly attracted many visitors, the car park was full & there was the normal friendly banter in the hide. It was good to catch up with King Heath Phil who is off to Cornwall to live in the new year, good luck mate. 

Other sightings included a Black Tern, Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe, Lapwing and a Little Egret. 

Monday, 25 September 2017

Patch MEGA - Red-necked Phalarope

We have all been moaning about our bad luck at the pits of late but perhaps things were changing after last weeks Osprey. As I landed on the Wirral (13th Sept), Chris text "Grey Phalarope" main pit. Typical ! 

After my sea watching session I headed straight to the pits to try and see our latest visitor. Meeting fellow pitter Terry the bird had edged further towards Oystercatcher Island than where it had been seen during the morning.

I was a little surprised the bird wasn't closer so I had to satisfy myself with a few distant shots & a bit of video. After posting the images on Twitter (after we understood the bird had left the site) my phone started to burn as followers suggested that it could actually be a Red-necked Phalarope.

Looking closely at the images I had to agree to the fact it was a first winter Red-necked Phalarope with the very thin beak being the stand out feature. I called Jon for a second opinion who confirmed Red-necked, a first for the site. 

Sadly due to restoration being in full swing & confirmation from CEMEX who hold the existing lease on the land, news of the birds could not be shared on news services in case of people wandering off-piste. In all honesty this wouldn't have happened however to protect an existing fragile relationship these wishes were followed. Most of the regulars connected which was good & the Warwickshire recorder was kept informed as the bird stayed for an amazing 11 days.

Other sightings from last week & Sunday care of Jon, the Squire, Mark Clarke, Chris Lane & myself included an eclipse male Garganey on the central pool (which unfortunately flushed with the other duck and flew off separately towards the far lagoons, but couldn’t be relocated) and an immature female Scaup with the Tufties on the main pit 20 Cormorants, 235 Greylags, 10 Wigeon, the Chloe Wigeon, 11 Gadwall, 49 Teal, 1 (prob. eclipse male) Pintail, 15 Shoveler, 41 Tufted Duck, 1 Red Kite, 285 Coot, 1 late Little Ringed Plover dropped into main pit, a total of at least 14 Ringed Plover through, 12 Lapwing, 3 Ruff, 7 Snipe, 1 Green Sandpiper (on far lagoon, relocating to main pit), 2 Common Sandpipers, 1 adult Common Gull, 60 Stock Doves, 250 Meadow Pipits on the demolished bunds, 1 Yellow Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, pair of White Wagtails (with pipit flock), 2 Wheatears (on demolished bund by reed lagoon which has been destroyed), only 2 Blackcaps and 15 Chiffchaffs, 2 Jays, 4 Ravens, a Hobby, Greenshank (midweek) 2 Siskins & 150 House Martins(Saturday) through, 150 Linnets by Tothall Lane and 30 Reed Buntings.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

New Brighton's Leach's Petrel festival

Leach's Petrel
Sweeping over the Mersey
 Shelter with a view (of a kind)
Close flypast
 A growing audience
Those who braved the walk were rewarded
 Grey Phalarope
 Grey Phalarope
 Grey Phalarope
Atmospheric image of lighthouse 
You can have some bad idea's as a birder and this was going through my mind as I headed up the M6 through Storm Aileen to the tip of the Wirral to hopefully experience a real Autumn treat. 

Heavy rain greeted me at New Brighton but thankfully there was a space in the shelter that over looked the Mersey and the sea. Westerlies were battering the coast so it was a case of just biding my time before I could hopefully record my third lifer inside two days. 

A quiet first ten minutes started the session but then quickly changed with my first Leach's petrel flying out of the Mersey. Larger than a Storm Petrel, the bird's forked tail was distinctive along with the very strong wing beats. Over the next two hours I saw approximately 16 petrels at various distances. When the rain receded I walked
down to the beach when one of the Petrels came with 10 feet. I must say this was an amazing experience to see the birds at such close quarters in a very atmospheric industrial setting. The final day count was 50+. 

I'd picked up a Grey Phalarope avoiding a Peregrine from the viewpoint only to lose it in flight. When reaching the shoreline the Phalarope was sat on the waters edge not at all fussed with the attention from myself and one other birder. 

Other sightings included a Common Scoter & Arctic Terns. 

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Big Autumn Lodmoor double

 Stilt Sandpiper
Avoiding a Godwit 
Least Sandpiper 
Comparison with Green Sandpiper 
Great White Egret 
Least Sandpiper with Starling in background

After getting back from Monday's pursuit down the M5 news broke that two rare north american sandpipers had been found at RSPB Lodmoor in Dorset. A Least Sandpiper was on my most wanted list whilst a Stilt Sandpiper I'd only ever seen reported once since I started birding seriously. 

Whilst hopeful they might stick overnight I decided to wait for news which emerged at 7.30am that both birds were still present. I broke the journey into thirds each time checking twitter - the news was still positive. 

Quickly parked I marched around to the west path where the Stilt Sandpiper was teasing the audience of birders & twitchers on the edge of the island. After a solid identification the bird went round to the back of the island so I walked round to the bandstand where the Least Sandpiper was showing superbly. This juvenile was such a tiny wader and you didn't realise how small until a couple of Starlings landed behind the bird. This bird was a fantastic find. A Great White Egret watched the action for the reeds over looking the scrape.

After enjoying the bird I walked back to the west scrape where the Stilt Sandpiper was showing much better but was still getting occasional grief from the local Godwits. This bird had a very distinctive body shape for a small wader yet longer brown/green legs. 

After a few record shots I headed back home with the Coldplay playlist blasting. A double tick day is always a good day. 

Missed opportunity but Woodchat compensation

Prolonged westerlies & a week off set me up for a trip up the M6 to hopefully see my first Leach's Petrel however an afternoon trip for high tide didn't really motivate me as I'd of had a shocking return journey in heavy traffic. Instead I picked up Chris & the Squire to follow up a report the same species were at the much closer Severn Bridge. 

Despite a quick journey it was all in vein as all the action had happened in the previous hour. As hard as we looked our sightings were restricted to 3 Manx Sheareater, a Sparrowhawk, Common Gull, 40 Dunlin & 80+ Turnstones. Not even a cup of tea & cake would improve our luck so we headed back up the M5.

The Squire was snoozing within minutes (as normal) when I remembered the reported Woodchat Shrike wasn't far off the motorway at Chipping Sodbury Common. The Squire had been the previous week so he duly marched us across the common to the Shrike hunting area. For the first fifteen minutes we had to settle for good views of several Whinchat & two Wheatear. 

After a bit of head scratching the juvenile Woodchat Shrike was duly located and treated us to some superb views. Paul thought the birds crown seemed more brown than on it's first visit. It will be interesting to see how long this mediterranean visitor stays given how comfortable it looked. 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Double Osprey please

Two Ospreys visited Salford Priors this week as Autumn swung into gear. Our first Osprey was picked up by Ann & Noel on Tuesday in Bidford heading towards the pits harassased by a party of gulls. Thankfully I managed to get the news out quickly to our fellow pitters enabling Mark Clarke to get on site and take to great photos including the one shown above. This bird was wearing a blue ring (5). Terry managed to see it at Abbots Salford before heading south.

The following day Chris Lane text me at 12.24pm saying juvenile Osprey (unringed) was sat on top of the Little Owl tree. The Squire was on hand this time for a patch tick before the bird flew west at 1pm. Chris also recorded a Hobby, Little Egret, 4 Little Ringed Plover, Pochard, 2 Swift, Green Sandpiper & 6 Lapwing. I did call down after work but there was no sign however an escaped Chiloe Wigeon was on Pophills. 

Fridays visit was very quiet but the Chiloe Wigeon was present again with an addition of a Dunlin, 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 Green Sandpiper & 39 Lapwing. 

There was no sightings on Saturday however Jon had a very interesting day on Sunday when he recorded the second site record of a Blue-headed Wagtail, appearing on the main pit during the rain, with at least 2 White amongst 15-20 Pied and 4 Yellow Wagtails. After the rain had stopped most departed again leaving just a few Pied.  Highlights included 1 Little Egret, 9 Grey Herons (the best for some time), 225 Greylags, 1 escaped Chiloe Wigeon on the main pit, 1 eclipse male Wigeon, 10 Gadwall, 22 Teal, 300 Mallard, 1 Shoveler, 1 male Pochard, 26 Tufted Duck, adult male Hobby chasing martins, 1 Grey Partridge calling by main pit, 3 Little Ringed Plover, 4 Ringed Plover, 40 Lapwing, 2 Dunlin, 1 Green Sandpiper, 3 Common Sandpipers, 1 adult Yellow-legged Gull dropped in for a while, 1 Kingfisher, huge numbers of hirundines milling about in the rain with an estimated 550 House Martins, 120 Swallows and 25 Sand Martins, 1 Tree Pipit and a few Meadow Pipits flew south before the rain.

There has been a lack of posts of late as sightings have not really changed until this week.