Monday, 7 November 2016

Two Twitches Two Days

The week leading up to Friday the 28th of October, I had been keeping my eye on the news service about an Isabelline Wheatear at Burnham Overy Staithe in Norfolk, and had plans to go for it at the weekend - but them thoughts were drowned out when  I had a text message from my mate Dave Gray on the 28th, saying that a Hooded Crow was feeding on the shore of Swithland Resevoir. Brilliant! I thought -  a county tick! -  but then remembered that the Duchess was over at mums. 'So what?' I hear you ask. Well, the Duchess had the car, so I had to wait for over an hour for her to return. Another mate Neil Hagley did offer to come and pick me up bless him,  but my thought was that by the time he had come to fetch me, I would have my own wheels, and would be on my way. As soon as Sue had pulled up on the drive, I was clambering into the driving seat saying something on the lines of 'got to go - Hoody at Switho!' Don't think she had a clue what I was on about! On arriving 20 minutes later at the site, the lads had got the bird in their scopes - well they thought they had, but as they all turned to greet me and then looked back through their scopes,  the bird had disappeared! There were a few corvids flying towards the bridge - but not the bird I wanted. It was a good hour or so before the bird reappeared, flying around the resevoir for two or three minutes, before landing in a conifer tree on the far side of the resevoir. It then dropped out of view into a stubble field. Sadly, no images were obtained but a county tick was more important. Waking up on Saturday morning, the weather was not good, so I decided I was not going to drive all the way to Norfolk on my own, and  made other plans for the day - only to get a message by my mate Steve James that an Isabelline Wheatear had been found at Wardy Hill in Cambridgeshire. On the Sunday morning Steve called me early to see if I wanted to go for it, and by mid morning we were on site. The bird was fairly distant, but it wasn't long before it was back at a dried up pool it been frequenting earlier
                                                                  Isabelline Wheatear

The above images are heavily cropped, as the bird was always fairly distant, but what a great bird!
I did not realise how sandy coloured these birds are. We had a good hour with the bird before our stomachs said it was time for dinner. It was a big thanks to Steve for the heads up, and for doing the driving. It was not only a BOU tick, but a lifer as well! Two new ticks in two days can't be bad
As always thanks for stopping by

Sunday, 23 October 2016

The second Siberian Accentor for Britain

If you remember my last post, I mentioned a 'first' for Britain turning up on the Shetland Isles the day we returned home; that was on the 9th October. Well, on Thursday the 13th October, the news services were in melt down, as a Siberian Accentor had been found mid-afternoon in the village of Easington near Spurn, in Yorkshire. It was too late to go that afternoon, and after sorting out who could go and who couldn't, it turned out that from the usual crew, there was only Neil Hagley available - the others were either working or had something else planned. Keeping an eye on the the news service, the bird seemed  to go to roost early evening, so Neil and I set off at 2.30am on Friday morning, arriving at the site in readiness for first light. Well, after an uneventful journey, we arrived and parked up at the bottom of Vicary Lane - we even managed a few zeds before it was time to go to where the bird had been frequenting. On reaching the said area, we found that there were probably 300 other birders already there, and more turning up by the minute! It was not long before the bird had been seen - and for the first 20 minutes it was mayhem - but once the the volunteers from the The Spurns Obs got a queuing system in place, all the birders were getting superb views of a 2nd for Britain. In the subsequent days, more Siberian Accentors were being found along the east coast, and as I write this post, seven birds have been found so far in the UK, and well over a hundred in Europe! Having had our fill and taking some images of the Accentor, Neil and I went for a mooch around Spurn as strong easterly winds were still in evidence. It was just amazing to watch bird migration in action, as birds seemed to be filling all the trees and bushes - especially at Sammy's Point; from there we ventured to the Bluebell Cafe where a Olive-backed Pipit had been found, and also a quite showy Shorelark. After a few hours,we decided to go and have a last look at the Accentor before coming home. It was a bit strange going back, as there were only about 30 birders there compared to the 500 to 600 that were there when we left earlier in the day.All in all, we had a great day out. Below are some images of the birds we bumped in to throughout the day.
                                                                  Siberian Accentor
                                                                 Siberian Accentor

                                                                       Ring Ouzel


As always, thanks for stopping by, and any comments are welcome!  Until the next time....

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Shetland 2016

Well, the 29th of September came around, and it was time for my annual pilgrimage to the Shetland Isles with my birding buddies Steve James, John Waters and Dave Gray, for a 10 day stay on this archipelago of islands off the NE coast of mainland Britain.  I won't bore you with the travel details - just to say for the first time, both flights were bang on time - with the wind at Sumburgh  gusting, to say the least! -  hence our approach into Sumburgh airport was a bit hairy!  John didn't think it was funny though, as flying isn't his favourite past-time,  ha ha! We were staying at Garth Cottage at Aith,  the west side of Shetland mainland, where we stayed last year. Straight after lunch we went out birding, first calling in at Michael's Wood  just at end of our road as there had been a Greenish Warbler in the area earlier that week; after a while John saw what he thought was a Leaf Warbler flitting through some Sycamore. Calling all the lads to its' location, we soon got on the bird, and  realised it was the Greenish Warbler! Dave put the news out that the bird was still there, and we also had lots of Yellow-browed Warblers at this same site throughout the holiday. The easterly winds that had been happening for a few days prior to us arriving were set to continue for the rest of the following week. What were these easterlies going to bring to Shetland?
 Greenish Warbler
                                                                     Greenish Warbler

       Just a bit of useless information for your good selves -  the Aith lifeboat is the most northerly              lifeboat station in the United Kingdom
 We stayed around our local area for the remainder of the day, noting Raven, Hooded Crow (which are really common),  Gannet, Red-breasted Merganser lots of  Golden Plover and Lapwing, Curlew a Redshank and Turnstone feeding in the fields -  and the first of many Yellow-browed Warblers.
Over the next couple of days, we did our own thing, trying to find our own birds - well the lads did, as a foot injury prevented me getting into the plantations. A Shrike found in fields behind a council estate in Aith on the 30th turned out to be Brown Shrike! Other bird seen were Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff, Redpoll, Rock Pipit and Ringed Plover. The following day, on a walk around Aith marina Steve found a Barred Warbler - good start to the day! We headed towards Laxo, and like every other day, birding as you go. The Red-backed Shrike and the Bluthroat were still showing at Laxo and our first Pied Flycatcher for this trip was noted
                                                                 The Laxo Bluethroat

All I can say about October 2nd is it was a red letter day. We were out doing our usual stuff, when the news service burst into life  - there was a Lancolated Warbler at Boddam. The rules in our crew are that if anyone of us needs a bird for a 'BOU' tick, then we go.  Dave was the only one that had already seen one, so after a while we were with 70 or 80 other birders looking into a really well established garden, trying to get a glimpse of this iconic little mouse-like bird; after some time and a little patience, the 'Lancy' didn't disappoint the crowd, showing well, down at times to just a couple of feet away, and the three who needed to see it got great views!   Dave appeared at that point, saying he had got news of Orcas off  Sumburgh Head. None of us had seen Orca , part from Dave - but he had never seen them in British waters. We set off to view them;  they were distant, but never the less you could see that massive dorsal fin as they went slowly around the headland. On our way back,the lads stopped off for a Blyth's Reed Warbler at Levenwick and  on coming back up from there, we stopped to have a look over Levenwick Bay, only to see a large cetacean breaking the surface! It was to big to be a Harbour Porpoise so it could only be Minke Whale, giving us two British cetacean ticks in one day! Wow!  Fulmar, Sanderling and our first Redwing were also added to the list - what a day we had!
                                                                   Minke Whale

The 4th saw us on our first trip off the mainland to the most northerly isle of  Unst in search of a Paddyfield Warbler, which I needed. It didn't take long for Dave and John to find it in more or less the same place as a Pechora Pipit I ticked 2 years previously, in a Norwick garden. Two new 'BOU' ticks in two days -  I couldn'tt complain! We added Little Bunting, Twite, Spotted Flycatcher, Wigeon and Great Skua to the list. On our way home, the news service came up with a Swainson's Thrush on Fetla; Steve needed it, but it was too late to go that day, so we convinced him to make the trip tomorrow so the following morning, we  were all  up earlier than normal, in order to get the ferries over to Fetla. On reaching the site, 4 birders were already there and had been looking, but there was no sign of the thrush. Dave Fairhurst and Judd Hunt were also there with a group from 'Shetland Nature'.  Within 10 minutes, however, we were all getting great views of the American vagrant; where it had been is anyone guess, but Steve got a 'BOU' tick - though it was flying about and it did look like it had a damaged wing. We then decided to go and try to find some of our own stuff, but were intercepted by a very excited birder traveling in the opposite direction, telling us his mate had found a White's Thrush at Feal Burn, so dropping the lads off  halfway up the burn, I drove down to the bottom and parked up as my foot was still giving me grief. The lads had good views as it flew by them, but with now a few birders there, the bird had gone into thick vegetation; one birder slowly walked to where it was last seen  and suddenly, the thrush took to air, flew up the hill, circled and went back into the burn again but what a great bird in flight!  Robin and Song Thrush were also noted
                                                                   Swainson's Thrush
                                                                    Swainson's Thrush

The 6th and again we were on the mainland doing our own thing. We were in Lewick for a while so we checked Clickimin Loch and added Whooper Swan, Goldeneye and Oystercatcher, and then slowly made our way back to Aith.  Swallow was noted. Again, late afternoon, news came through of Siberian Thrush at Uyeasound, Unst. Dave didn't need it but for his list, but we other  three did;  again, it was too late to get there, so Steve, being our 'transport logistics officer' sorted out the timetable for the crossings, and once again, we were up early to catch the two ferries to Unst. When we got there, there were lots of birders already looking for the bird, but sadly there was no sign of it. Second prize was an Olive-backed Pipit - a nice bird all the same! We stayed on the island for most of the day, seeing Whinchat, Fieldfare, Kestrel, another Bluethroat at  Norwick, and Osprey (a real good bird for Shetland) were noted, then just to finish the day off on the Unst, another White's Thrush was found at Skaw -at the last house in Britain - and this time great views!
                                                                Olive-backed Pipit
                                                                       White's Thrush

It's the last day, and again we were on the mainland, doing some general birding,  Pallas's Warbler was nice to see - couldn't remember the last time I had seen one! We did try for a Dusky Warbler in the same area, but Steve could only hear it 'tac-ing'.  Eider was added, as was Brambling> The amount of Yellow-browed Warblers  on Shetland this year is the most I've ever seen - they seemed to be everywhere, and long may it continue as they're great little birds!
We had a great 10 days on Shetland again this year, saw some brilliant birds, missed a couple, but best of all had some great laughs with some good mates. Special thanks to John Waters (catering manager), Steve James (transport and logistics) and last but not least, Dave Gray (News-service provider)  Just in case you're wondering - I was the chauffeur for the duration!
                                                                  Bluethroat at Norwick
                                                   Shetland Wren (islandicus zetlandicus)
                                                                     Pallas's Warbler
                                                              Yellow-browed Warbler
                                                               Yellow-browed Warbler
                                                                       Golden Plover
                                                                       Hooded Crow
                                                                Yellow-browed Warbler
                                                               Yellow-browed Warbler

                                                                     White's Thrush
                                                                    Whoopers Swan
This is the ferry 'The Good Shepherd' which is the lifeline to Fair Isle

As we landed in Birmingham, news broke of a first for Britain, found by Judd Hunt and Hugh Harrop - a Siberian Accentor! Just what you want to hear as you taxi towards the gate on the final leg of your trip home ...... But, I did feel more sorry for the lads that had just checked in at Sumburgh as this news broke!  This isn't the end of the Siberian Accentor story, so check out my next blog!
As always, thanks for stopping by, hope you enjoyed reading about our exploits.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

American Arrival

Just a quick post about the American Wigeon which turned up on a small pool on the Leicestershire Wildlife Trust reserve, at Cossington Meadow. The bird was found by Andy Forryan on Thursday 8th September - I have seen one in the County before, several years ago at Eyebrook Reservoir, but it's always nice to see another!  Sunday afternoon was going to be the best day for me to go for it, but my mate Steve James was going for a walk in the morning around the reserve, so I was going to wait on news from Steve - who incidentally bumped into my birding buddy Pete Asher, who was there also hoping to see the bird. It was not good news as there was no sign of it that day, so on Monday, I was really pleased when a message came through on the news service that the bird was still there at mid-day;  I made a quick a call to Pete to see if he wanted to go back for it, and that afternoon we went in search of it on 'Tern Pool' where it had been frequenting mixed in with with a small flock of Eurasian Wigeon. Within a couple of minutes, Pete had it in his new Swarovski Scope (got to put that as he reads my Blog!) The bird is an eclipse drake, and a very nice bird indeed. The light was not brilliant, the bird was distant and they are heavily cropped - what else can I think of? (hehe) - but I managed to get some record shots anyway.  Below are a couple of images of the Yankee Duck
                                                        American Wigeon with Shoveler

American Wigeon

Shoveler and 'the Yank'

Only a short post this time. as always, thanks for stopping by

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Gannet Twitch

Last weekend I spent 3 enjoyable days at the British Birdfair - on the Sunday I had spent the morning helping to man the LROS stand with Andy Smith, who had traveled with me to Rutland. Having had a really good last day at the show, we arrived back at my house at 6.15ish pm, absolutely shattered from walking around all weekend. Andy picked up his car and headed for his home at Thornton.  I was looking forward to tucking into my salad which the duchess had made for me - which is what I was doing - when I was interrupted by a call from Dave Gray;  he was hollering down the phone and obviously in an hurry - ' do you need Gannet for your county list?'  'Yes'  I replied, thinking he was still at Rutland ( I certainly wasn't driving all the way back there again that night!) 'Well, there is one at Thornton Reservoir -  see you there!'  was the reply. A quick call to my mate Pete, and I was on my way! Apparently,as Andy left my house, he thought he would just check the reservoir from the dam before going home - and the rest is history, as they say! A few us had good views of this adult Gannet before bad light stopped play; I returned the following day and took some images. It's obviously exhausted,  but hopefully it will eventually make it back to the coast where it should be. It was still there on Tuesday evening and has been flying about and has even been seen eating fish, so fingers crossed it will be able to leave the reservoir soon.
                                                              Adult Gannet
Gannet thinking its a Swan

As always thanks for stopping by!!

Monday, 22 August 2016

The elusive Tawny Owl

I can't remember if I told you about the Brascote Tawny Owl-its my age I think!! Anyway,  there has been  tawny owl at Brascote for probably for the last four years, and it always roosts in the same Horse chestnut tree - well most of the time, but it seemed that this wise old owl knew when I was carrying my camera and it was nowhere to be seen, but every time the owl was showing I didn't have it with me...... lesson to learned there?  Although the car was not that far away, I was just too lazy to go back and get it, but a couple of weeks ago it let its' guard down! As Pete and I were giving the tree its' usual once over, Pete called 'here it is!'  and unbelievably, I had my camera with me, so below are a couple of images of the camera-shy Brascote GP Tawny Owl
                                                              Tawny Owl

As always, thanks for stopping by

Saturday, 6 August 2016

A few days in Devon

   The duchess and I spent a few days down in Dartmouth in the beautiful county of Devon from the 31st of July to the 3rd of August. On the day we travelled it was really sunny and warm, so we decided to do some butterflying at Aish Tor -  a good site for High Brown Fritillary. We parked up and walked for a while up one of the paths; although there were loads of bramble and lots of Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns on the wing, there was no sign of our quarry, so we walked back to the car where Sue asked a family that had just parked up if we were at the right place. Luckily, they had an OS map which showed the Tor as being another 500 meters to the west so we drove further down the track and we parked at the Tor. As luck would have it,we bumped into a group of locals that were doing the same as us and they informed us that there were High Browns in the bracken just a few yards away; we soon found a female - egg laying, I think - as she spent a lot of time walking around on the ground in among the bracken and twigs. The group also told us of a site for White Admiral at Bovey Tracey, so after we left Aish Tor, we headed back up the A30 to the woodland at  Bovey Tracey                                                                 
                                                         High Brown Fritillary

                                                            High Brown Fritillary

We parked at the entrance to to woodland and followed the directions we had been given; we spent a good couple of hours searching all the brambles for the Admirals but with no luck - but there were lots of butterflies about - Peacocks and Brimstone which were in superb condition and also there were lots of Silver-washed Fritillary - we even found two mating! We went back to the car to get ready to continue our journey down to Dartmouth and whilst just sitting in the car having a drink, Sue had noticed a butterfly flitting over some bramble just the other side of the gate so she got out for a closer look.Within a minute she was beckoning me over to the bramble and sure enough she hadn't found one but two White Admirals. Though they were fairly worn,it was still a nice insect - and within 15 meters of the car! Still, it was a nice walk around the wood anyway!

                                                         Mating Silver-washed Fritillary
                                                             Silver-washed Fritillary
                                                                       White Admiral
                                                                    White Admiral

The weather was not very kind to us on the Monday so we went on the steam train into Paington - certainly recommend it! We had a great day despite the drizzle. The weather on Tuesday was overcast but with out the rain.  I had told Sue about a Dalmatian Pelican that been roaming around the South West coast and it had been reported at the Hayle Estuary RSPB and bless her she said instead of moping around Dartmouth,  lets go for it!  Two and half  hours later, there we were watching this fish-guzzling beasty hunting and seeking out its' prey - and luckily on a rising tide - so the bird came quite close at times, and even better -  the sun came out and it ended up being quite a nice day in Cornwall! All in all, despite the weather not being too kind for us, we had a great few days.
                                                               Dalmatian Pelican

                                                      The Pelican in hunting mode

We left a sunnier Dartmouth on Wednesday morning but decided to call in at another butterfly site - Preston Down Fields - where Brown Hairstreak were frequently seen. Unfortunately, although it was warm and sunny, it was quite windy, and despite our best efforts, we didn't see any - but we can leave them for another day - gives us a reason to go back again!

As always thanks for stopping by and as usual any comments are welcome