Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Back to Spurn for Long-tailed Skuas

Long-tailed Skua (Chris Griffin) facebook.com/griffinwildlife

Long-tailed Skua (Chris Griffin) facebook.com/griffinwildlife
 A bit busy on east coast
Garden Warbler
Adam holding the GW

Red-backed Shrike
Waiting game
Red-backed Shrike
There was no way I was going to Spurn on Sunday however a late call from the Squire and the chance to finally see a Long-tailed Skua proved too much. I know from experience how its a hard drive on your own so I opted to jump in for the ride.

On arrival we saw Cliff, Chris & Adam who told us they had seen one go straight over their heads. This was a big opportunity we thought, we just needed some patience. It seemed like every second the Bird Guides alarm was going off with more sightings further north. However with sightings in Norfolk we remained hopeful.

There was a constant passage of Sandwich Terns which was nicely topped up by flocks of Common Scoter & Teal. Then the Skua action commenced. First a Bronxie bombed past, then a Arctic Skua which came close chasing a Tern and then at last two juvenile dark Long-tailed Skua's emerged. They flew out of the Humber and across the breach allowing us to pick them up at first in our binoculers and then our scopes before they headed further out to sea in a north easterly direction. The wait was very much worth it. Like anything with birding, you then want to see an adult in breeding plumage. 

The Squire had a full agenda of birds to see in the time we had when it wasn't pouring down. 3 Red-backed Shrikes on same hedgerow was nice before he recorded two more lifers with an Icterine & Barbed Warbler. We rounded the day off with 2 Whinchat, Pied Flycatchers, Redstart and a Wheatear. The drive home was very difficult given the conditions. See you in 8 days Spurn !

Massive shout out to Chris Griffin who kindly sent me these images of the Skua's for use on the blog. 

Wind and the willows

 Peregrine (Dennis Stinton)
                     Willow growth on north bank and below on east bank
                                                     East bank
                                                Purple Hairstreak
                                             3 Common Sandpiper
                                              Nightingale scenes
                              Summer storms approaching (Mark Clarke)

Last week was a funny week at the pits. Sadly the tern passage we were hoping for didn't happen except a single Common Tern and then all hell broke loose over the weekend with a succession of year ticks.

Weekday sightings were restricted to 2 returning Snipe, 200 Starling, Little Egret, 2 Green Sandpiper, 2 Common Sandpiper, Whinchat & 400 Black-headed Gull. However late of Friday when hoping for Terns I found our first Purple Hairstreak of the year. 

I had a late night on Friday so Squire took the early shift (15/8)and produced a female Mandarin & the second site record for a Nightingale on the edge of the old workings. I headed down to try and get some video or photo but I only got one brief view. There was no sign by late afternoon. Marion & Dennis had great views of local Peregrines from the top of the service road. 

On Sunday I'd headed east to leave Jon to do the monthly count. Francis was also on site and recorded our first Golden Plover of the year. This was not a Sunday to be missed given the weather but I've also been there in similar forecast which has produced very little. The full count was as follows:-

My count included: 46 Little Grebe, 5 Cormorant, 2 Grey Heron, 17 Mute Swan, 460 Greylag Geese, 370 Canada Geese, 1 female Mandarin Duck again, 5 Gadwall, 9 Teal, 740 Mallard (site record!), 5 Shoveler, 33 Tufted Duck, 95 Coot, 1 Ringed Plover on main pit, 1 Golden Plover (adult in breeding plumage) went through, 1 Dunlin (on old works pool), 2 Ruff (circled main pit), 3 Snipe, 1 Redshank (circled main pit), 2 Green Sandpiper, 4 Common Sandpiper, 1 Swift, 40 Sand Martin, 40 Swallow, 200 House Martin, 1 Tree Pipit through, 12 Yellow Wagtails, 1 Grey Wagtail, 2 Common Redstart, 5 Sedge Warbler, 20 Reed Warbler, 11 Lesser Whitethroat, 9 Common Whitethroat, a few Blackcaps, 1 Wood Warbler in willows by main pit early on with large tit/warbler flock - giving brief views before moving into plantation - not located later in morning but probably still there - 2nd for site, 80 (!) Chiffchaff at least but just three Willow Warbler, 28 Long-tailed Tits, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Treecreeper, family of Jays in plantation, 150 Starling and 40 Linnets at Marsh Farm etc including all the regulars.

The weekend produced two second records for site in Nightingale & Wood Warbler. Then five year ticks in the way of Nightingale, Wood Warbler, Golden Plover, Ruff & a Tree Pipit. Well done to all the team who contributed to an excellent week. 

On the downside, the willows around the main pits are growing at an alarming rate. The rapid growth is a genuine danger to this as a conservation area. We are very much stuck at the moment as the current lease holder wouldn't have any interest in managing the growth and Ragley still don't have the site back. 

Saturday, 15 August 2020

Bearded Vulture does the honours on journey home


Amazing footage 

I've never actually been birding in the Peak District before. The area is well known for bird persecution so it's never really taken my fancy. After cleaning up in Spurn during the morning we all fancied giving it a go as it was only thirty minutes from our route home.

The birds record was reported as only a second for Britian and was a second year bird from a re-introduction programme in the Alps.

Once we were happy we were in the right location we starting scanning the hill tops. A walkers was kind enough to come and inform us she thought she had seen seen the bird to the east of where we were looking so we thought we would give it a go. We were having a cracking chat about how well the day and gone when this monster of a bird came into view high and swing round to perch on a set of rocks about half a mile away. 

The raptor had a good preen but always looked unsettled before taking off to the air to give us a stunning view as it flew right across the valley. 

Whatever the status of the bird it was magnificant to witness and is well worth a visit. 


The mighty Icterine Warbler finally falls on UK list

Icterine Warbler - Kilsea Churchyard (Mark Clarke)
 Icterine Warbler - Kilsea Churchyard (Mark Clarke)
Icterine Warbler - The Warren 
 Collared Flycatcher
Collared Flycatcher
 Collared Flycatcher (Mark Clarke)
Scenes at the Warren
Red-backed Shrike
Pectoral Sandpiper (right)
Pectoral Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper

When I first started to see birds further afield I drew up a list of a dozen birds I really wanted to see above anything else. Most of those have been seen yet Icterine Warbler remained the one I just could not get near. I'd dipped two and also missed one in Spurn by a day, oh the pain.

Roll on to this Monday and the easterly winds had blown a number of great birds into Spurn including 4 Icterine Warblers. Surely this was the chance to finally see one. A plan was hatched for the following day, Mark Clarke joined me and @1stbirdoftheday as the Squire was stuck at work. 

Twitching a bird can be very painful, long drive, waiting around, brief views, it's all part of it. Yet sometimes things just fall into place. First of all, the Icterine was reported at the Warren as we headed up the M1 and once parked we walked calmly down to the Warren and the first two birds we saw was a majestic lemon coloured Icterine Warbler and first calender year Collared Flycatcher. Unbelievable scenes!

I'd seen so many photos and videos of Icterine Warblers of the year, it was a genuine delight to see one close up and observe it working around the cover of bushes. The species breed in central europe and then winter in the sub-saharan Africa.

The Collared Flycatcher has been rung and retrapped where these great images were taken and they show the slight differences to a female Pied Flycatcher.  We really enjoyed both birds before skipping away to the canal scrape where we observed a female/imature Red-backed Shrike, which was another lifer for Mark.

Our next stop was Kilnsea church yard where Mark picked up some movement high in the trees. It was another Icterine Warbler. This one was a juvenile and photographs taken confirmed this. We also noted our second Wood Warbler of the morning.

Our final stop was Kilnsea Wetlands where yet again the birds were on a plate. We didn't even need to walk to the hide to see a Pectoral Sandpiper, 2 Little Stints, Dunlin & Sanderling. We even bumped into our Scillys skipper Paul Freestone from Cornwall birding. Now that's birding...........


Wood Sandpipers at Grimley

 Wood Sandpiper
                                Distant image of pair on east shore line

I couldn't resist the temptation of the short drive over to Grimley to see a pair of stunning Wood Sandpipers found by local birder Dan Northside. The birds had been flushed off the Hippo pool by a runner to the east shore line and views were a bit distant. I stuck with it though and a Lapwing pushed them to fly around the pit giving great views and calling throughout. The birds landed on the west side which allowed me to grab a few shots and some video through a small gap in the hedgeline. Nice way to spend a hour late on a Sunday.

Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Silver-spotted Skippers close Butterfly season


On Sunday I had a cracking morning down with Lloyd in Oxfordshire observing which will probably be my last species of 2020. The Silver-spotted Skipper took a bit a finding to start with (we practically started in the dark) but as the sun emerged we were treated to huge numbers along the Chalkhill Blues.

Red Kites soared above us during the whole morning and seemed only too aware of those sandwiches possibly being left behind by visitors.

I will do a summary of my butterfly year in a future blog.


It's another double at the pits

                                  Wheatear family still in old workings
                                                From top fields
                                     Mediterranean Gull (Mark Clarke)
                                           Female Common Blue
                                                Common Redstart
                                    Juvenile Wheatear growing well
                                           Peregrine (Mark Clarke)
                                              Black-tailed Godwit
                    Quick fire 56 from Gussy made good watching Saturday
                                                Redstart close up
                                             More Wheatear fun
                                           Now that's a plumage


Another excellent week at the pits with two additions, a Mediterranean Gull & 3 Black-tailed Godwits.

The gull roost has built up to 700 birds so it was only a matter of time before a Med Gull was found. A nice find by the Squire. Peppers recorded 14 Common Gull midweek in addition to two Little Egrets.

All the godwits appeared on the same day. First of all there was one in the morning what looked to be in moult and then when I arrived later that evening there was two in stonking plumage on the west shore line. 

The site's year list now stands at 118.