Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Sociable Lapwing becomes Christmas bonus in Bude

                  Sociable Lapwing

Sometimes decisions made in the moment are the best. On Sunday morning at 9am Mrs D had gone to her Yoga class & was meeting friends in the afternoon and  as if by magic the Sociable Lapwing appeared on BirdGuides. With Storm Bella coming to an end over night this looked to be a good opportunity to try and see this species missed in Cornwall (Finders report) a few weeks ago. I'd been talking to Jake from the Scilly crew and he was convinced it was still somewhere in south-west.

Bude Marshes was punched into the satnav, podcasts downloaded and I was off down the M5. A complete closure on the motorway at junction 13 didn't stop my positive thinking, I was on a mission. I'd never been to Bude before so it was a case of sitting back and ticking off the 150 miles. It was a beautiful day and the drive went pretty quick given the distance. 

I parked at the ruby club and got fully geared up in wellies as advised. The walk only took five minutes when I reached the main marsh where the path split. A local birder saw me and advised to go left from better scope views or go right for closer views but be prepared for bird to go out of sight. I went left.....the path was very wet but rose slightly and gave good views over the marsh. The scope was quickly set up and there was the first winter Sociable Lapwing.  The bird was very busy feeding on the grass and seemed to call on occasions. The local birds chased the rare visitor on occasions allowing some flight views. The bird was active for around 45 minutes before flying to the roosting Lapwings. There was only three birders on the side I stood whilst there was probably a dozen on the other side of the marsh, all well distanced.

This was one rarity I was very keen to see given the worldwide population has fallen by 90% in the last fifty years hence UK records have really dried up. The last record was twelve years ago on St Marys, Scilly whilst the one previous was in Kent the previous year. Research suggests that it is not the breeding grounds that is the issue for the species, it's their migration routes. It was good to read there is a multi-national conservation project studying the species and hoping to reduce anymore fall in numbers. 

I'd hoped to get to Ham Wall on the way back but given it is now Tier 3 I knew that wasn't really an option. A cracking way to end the year.............


Review of the year 2020

The Covid pandemic has dominated the year for us all. We have all had to endure not seeing close family and adapt to new ways of working that are very often solitary. Two national lockdowns and the tiered system stopped some activity yet I was very grateful of a fantastic year with a couple of trips to north-east, Spurn and the Scillies. The lockdowns only really effected the start of the butterfly season and after that point I had some fantastic days in the sunshine. It has certainly helped having a wide range of interests when birding was limited. I really enjoyed the extra time around home researching the family tree of which I now have over 900 members, watching plenty of cricket at the club & on TV, and of course following the Saints. It seems that more people than ever are birding and taking an interest in nature.

It was a fantastic butterfly season thanks to some very favourable weather. I managed to record 53 species whilst my best find was a Clouded Yellow at Salford Priors. I have just four species left in the UK to see, fingers crossed we have the current travel restrictions lifted.

Salford Priors Gravel Pits Summary

Access remains very problematic yet I’ve still recorded over 400 hours on site this year, working from home and lockdown certainly gave me more time to visit early each day in spring & autumn. The land remains under lease to CEMEX and will do for another two years due to the slow speed of the restoration.

The water levels were too high during the spring, the lower levels in Autumn did help us record a number of passage wader species. High water levels prevented breeding of Oystercatcher, Shelduck, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Gadwall and Tufted Duck.

There was strong evidence that Common Redstarts & Wheatear both bred this year. Whilst no nests were observed very young juveniles were seen of both species. Other breeding successes included Cuckoo, Little Ringed Plover, Treecreeper, Sparrowhawk, Reed & Sedge Warbler. Two Turtle Dove was the maximum count of the year however we concluded that only one was a summer resident.

We recorded 143 species in the year, an increase of six from 2019. Highlights included the first record of Cattle Egret (in late November) and second records for White-fronted Goose, Knot, Nightingale and Wood Warbler. Other highlights included Arctic Tern, Black-tailed Godwit, Cetti’s Warbler, Garganey, Great White Egret, Marsh Harrier, Pink-footed Goose, Ruddy Duck, Spotted Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and Woodcock.

Many thanks to all those who contributed throughout the year and special recognition to Jon who continues to undertake monthly counts and offers much needed encouragement.

UK Life List

I observed fourteen new species in the year on my life list, which contained Caspian Tern, Long-tailed Skua & Icterine Warbler, all of which have been on my most wanted list for a number of years.

1) Scottish Crossbill (Scotland) January

2) Black Scoter (Northumberland) January

3) Caspain Tern (Norfolk) June

4) Greenish Warbler (Spurn, East Riding) June 

5) Asian Desert Warbler (Northumberland) June

6) Icterine Warbler (Spurn, East Riding) August

7) Long-tailed Skua (Spurn, East Riding) September

8) Franklin’s Gull (West Yorkshire) September

9) Western Bonelli’s Warbler (Spurn, East Riding) October

10) Taiga Flycatcher (Befordshire) October 

11) Brown Shrike (Northumberland) October

12) Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin (Norfolk) October

13) Indigo Bunting (St.Agnes, Scillies) October

14) Sociable Lapwing (Cornwall) December

* Bearded Vulture (Derbyshire) August

Many thanks to the Squire, Butterfly Dave, Chris, the Captain, @1st Birdoftheday,  the Scilly crew, Mark & Lloyd for their company throughout the year. 

My Birds of the Year

My favourite ten birds of the 250 I observed in 2020 based on the experience & location are the following : 

1) Asian Desert Warbler - A cracking one day mega twitch to Holy Island, one of my favourite places.

2) Indigo Bunting - Right place, right time. Who says teachers week doesn't deliver anyone. The late ones are always the rarest ones. 

3) Western Bonelli’s Warbler - When winds blow from the east Spurn is always worth a gamble. Impossible to have a bad days birding there.

4) Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin - The mega UK blocker came up as an alert as we closed in for Holy Island's Brown Shrike. We were never going to change direction and had a cracking day. I did go the next morning once reported out of duty more than anything.

5) Icterine Warbler - This species has been on my wanted list for years and some how this year I saw three! Spoilt for choice.

6) Sociable Lapwing - Two attempts made it all the sweeter. A genuine Christmas bonus.

7) Brown Shrike - I missed a very showy Brown Shrike when on a weeks holiday in Devon so when this cracking bird game up on Holy Island a plan was quickly hatched.

8) Greenish Warbler - We earned this one with a walk to the tip of Spurn Point. We were rewarded with excellent views of the bird singing.

9) Collared Pratincole - A spring surpise down the M5. Who doesn't enjoy an amazing flying Pratincole.

10) Taiga Flycatcher - Part of the Autumn double. This little stunner showed perfectly before he headed further north for the Brown Shrike.

Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy and bird-filled New Year!

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

December WeBS count


Very quiet morning on Sunday for the count with Jon. Only visited once midweek where only difference were some additional Wigeon.

8 Little Grebe, 2 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron, 10 Mute Swan, 7 Greylag, 17 Canada Geese, 1 Wigeon, 16 Gadwall, 1 Teal, 220 Mallard, 5 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, 48 Tufted Duck, 5 Buzzard, 1 Water Rail, 77 Coot, 1 Woodcock, 1 Common Gull, 35 LBB Gull, 12 Herring Gull, 15 Black-headed Gull, 500 Woodpigeon.(Ennister Wood), 1 Kingfisher, Green and GS Woodpeckers, Treecreeper.

Thursday, 10 December 2020

Cornwall & unsocialable lapwing

Purple Sandpiper

View of the bay
Pasty time at St Just
Morning walk on a Sunday
Purple Sandpiper
Not many benches beat this view?
Song Thrush
Ringed Plover
This photo is a good summary of the weekend weather

With lockdown lifted we both fancied a trip to the coast and with a reported Sociable Lapwing in Cornwall we opted to head this way for a change of scenery. The Lapwing had been around for a few days but then hadn't been seen on Friday afternoon so it was no surprise there were no reports on Saturday so we headed to coast and did a walk at Bollatack where we saw our first Chough. Passing through the area there were numbers of Lapwing & Golden Plover in flight.

The weather was very mixed and that would be an understatement. A lunchtime pasty in the car warmed us before we headed to Mousehole which was very pretty. A dozen Turnstones were feeding in the harbour and there were good number of Lesser & Black-backed Gulls on the island.

We then drove round to Penzance and walked along the front, again sunshine, wind and rain continued but I did get to watch a dozen plus Purple Sandpiper, 2 Ringed Plover, a Black-throated Diver, 25 Common Scoter and more Turnstones. This rounded the day off nicely.

On Sunday we walked around the edge of Hope Cove in barmy winter sunshine. St.Micheals Mount looked particularly impressive the closer we got to it. A Black-throated Diver flew out of the bay probably given the extra activities taking place as it was so calm. There were huge numbers of Goldfinches all along the path having a feeding frenzy. From here we drove round to Porthleven where were found Mrs D's old family holiday home and lovely coffee and cake. Rock Pipits were the only bird of note. At 12 noon we set off north up the M5 only to get news the Lapwing had been relocated! Fading light would have made it impossible to get back so we cracked on towards home. Its been a fantastic year and we did have a fabulous weekend with plenty of laughs. 

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Cattle Egret - NEW site record at Salford Priors

                                          Cattle Egret (Francis Peplow)

                                          Pinkie edging towards it
                                         Just a few of Saturdays gulls
Reed Bunting

Yet another decent weekend despite some dull foggy weather.  On Saturday we opted for an afternoon shift whilst on Sunday we just waited for fog to lift. 

The best birds on Sunday where when Squire picked out a Pink-footed Goose and it was as we were watching them that we saw the White-fronts we'd previously seen last weekend.

Francis Peplow found a Cattle Egret roosting on the main pit on Monday morning (no sign since) when he called in hoping to see the geese. This is a first record of the site (201st species excluding sub-species). With very few cattle fields around us we are wondering where it has flown too. This takes us to 142 species for the year.

Best counts of the weekend was as follows:-8 Pochard, 14 Gadwall, 4 Teal, 15, Shoveler, 3 Wigeon, female Goosander, Pink-footed Goose, 8 Russian White-fronted Geese, 2 Common Gull, 1200 Black-headed Gull, 800 large gulls including 1W YLG, LBBG & Herring, 80 Linnet, 400 Starling, 300 Fieldfare, 100 Redwing, 2 Buzzard, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 20 Skylark, 30 Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail and 2 Pied Wagtail.

Monday, 30 November 2020

Heart of England forest morning walks

Barn Owl
                                           Fantastic habitat here
Tawny Owl
                                                  Better views
Lets make it a pair
                                                 Lesser Redpoll

I am are always pleased that habitat is being left to support wildlife by farmers at various locations. The farm by the pits and at the Hen Harrier location are great examples but I wonder if there were any hidden areas closer to home I am not aware of. The Heart of England Forest continues to expand so it might be best to try areas between Studley & the forest.

After a bit of mooching I found two super fields that looked brilliant for wildlife. After recording 20+ Lesser Redpoll & a pair of Stonechat I picked up a Barn Owl in flight which landed in the hedgerow between myself and the castle. The public right of way skirts the field which is good and viewing is possible for a central gate.

Good numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing were flying over and the hedges had attracted Goldcrest & Long-tailed Tits. On the far side of the field I found a roosting Tawny Owl. I took a couple of record shots before moving on. Certainly an area that is worth checking more often.