Saturday, 10 April 2021

Frampton on Severn and Crabtree Hill - 5th April

With a free day in the Cotswold's I decided to head out for the day to visit various local sites. First stop was Frampton on Severn sailing club lake where a 1st winter Bonaparte's Gull had been present since 31st March. I found the bird fairly quickly roosting on pontoon but unfortunately I was viewing directly into ths sun and so my views were rather poor - I later found out that I could have viewed the pontoon from the north which would have been much better. This was a lovely little spot with my first Willow Warbler of the year singing as well as large numbers of Sand Martin and Swallow present. It felt very spring like. My eBird checklist can be viewed here.

Bonaparte's Gull - 1st winter, Frampton on Severn Sailing Club Lake

Bonaparte's Gull - 1st winter, Frampton on Severn Sailing Club Lake

I then headed to Crabtree Hill in the Forest of Dean for the wintering Great Grey Shrike and after a short search was soon enjoying good views of this bird. As I watched the bird dropped to the ground and took a Common Lizard before flying to its larder. My eBird checklist can be viewed here.

Great Grey Shrike - Crabtree Hill, Forest of Dean

Great Grey Shrike - Crabtree Hill, Forest of Dean

Finally, I headed to Cleeve Hill Common to look for Ring Ouzel but other than my first Wheatear of the spring I saw little. My eBird checklist can be viewed here.

Walrus, Tenby - 3rd April

We had a week at our cottage in Cowley, Cheltenham and I could'nt resist a naughty twitch to Tenby to see the Walrus that had taken up residence on the lifeboat slipway. First seen on Valentia Island, County Kerry, Southern Ireland on 14th March,  it then appeared at Tenby on 27th March after being seen at various locations in SW Wales including St. Govan's Head, Saundersfoot and Monkstone Point. The animal regular hauls out onto the ramp of the lifeboat station but today I spent a pleasant couple of hours watching this beast of an animal feeding close in shore just off the lifeboat station. The animal was diving frequently for periods of approximately five minutes before spending a minute or two on the surface before diving once more - apparently there is a high abundance of Razorclams in the bay and presumably the animal is feeding on these.

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Odds and Ends from the 1st Quarter of 2021

Through this horrendous Covid-19 pandemic I have been fortunate in being able to continue to work and to travel for my work. During this time I have managed to make a few short detours to see a few birds. However, during this time I decided to cease posting on this blog, now that April is here and the Country is slowly easing out of lock-down I am planning to revive my posts. Here are some images from the very end of 2020 and into 2021.

Northern Mockingbird - I headed down to Exmouth for this bird at the end of March, not the best of twitches having to stand on a ladder and peer into someones garden.

Cirl Bunting - After the Mockingbird I headed to Labrador Bay RSPB Reserve where around 15 Cirl Bunting showed well

Baikal Teal - A short diversion during the school run got me this very wary bird at Sopley in Hampshire.

Garganey - Some time at Pennington Marsh either side of school drop off produced this fine male at the end of March

Dusky Warbler - I had great views of this bird at Siddington, Gloucestershire in early March

Grey Phalarope - School drop off also produced this bird at Pennington Marsh at the end of February

Bufflehead - I made a short visit for this bird at Lee Marston Lakes at the end of February

Dipper - A nesting pair showed well in Stroud at the end of February

Great Bustard - I dropped into see this bird in Oxfordshire from the Salisbury release programme 
in early March

Little Bunting - Showed well at Thursley Common in December

Rustic Bunting - A visit to Thursley Common in December produced good views after a long wait

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Crag Martin - Undercliff Road, Kingsdown, Deal

First seen on 21st November, a 1st year Crag Martin settled at Kingsdown, Deal, Kent proved too much of a temptation come the weekend of 29th November. The bird has been commuting between Kingsdown and Samphire Hoe a distance of some 7.6 miles. Generally speaking, it has settled into a routine of roosting at Kingsdown before heading to Samphire Hoe and although there is variation to this pattern the bird appeared to be fairly reliable in its daily pattern.  I was up at 03:15 and by 07:15 was on site waiting for the light to increase on the chalk cliffs at Kingsdown. At around 07:45 the Crag Martin appeared flying around the cliff face and soon settled on a flint projecting from the chalk. I watched the bird with the small group of gathered birders while it stretched, preened and watched for passing insects, its long scythe-like wings the most noticeable feature of this rather plain looking Martin. After around 10 minutes it gave a few calls, took flight and disappeared over the cliff top. Satisfied, I decided to head for home where early season Christmas tree decorating was on the cards. 

To the end of 2018 there had been 11 accepted British records of Crag Martin the first being as recently as 1988. Of these, only three have stayed for more than one day and the previous longest staying bird was at Chesterfield, Derbyshire in 2015 which stayed for 12 days from 8th to 19th November. Still present on 1st December the current bird has a fair chance of breaking the previous long staying record. A second bird seen on 19th November 2020 in Kirkwall, Orkney appears to be a different bird to the current bird.

1st year Crag Martin - Kingsdown, Deal, Kent

Warblington and Portsmouth - 17th & 18th November

With winter upon us I have been busy completing the first tranche of winter bird surveys at work. A visit to Warblington to the east of Portsmouth on 17th November produced a nice flock of four Cattle Egret feeding in coastal grassland with 17 Little Egret. The Cattle Egret consisted of two adult birds and two juveniles and I suspected that they were a family unit. My eBird list for the morning can be viewed here.

Cattle Egret - Warblington, Hampshire

Cattle Egret - Warblington, Hampshire

Cattle Egret - Warblington, Hampshire

Cattle Egret - Warblington, Hampshire

After a bird survey in Dorset on 18th November I popped to nearby Portland for a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling at Easton. The bird has been present since 3rd September when it was seen in the south of Portland but has since settled with the large Common Starling flock at Channel View Road, Easton. My eBird list for the site can be viewed here.

Rose-coloured Starling with Common Starling - Channel View Road, Easton, Portland

I then made a brief stop at Ferrybridge where a scan of the harbour produced two Great Northern Diver.  At Ferrybridge the small flock of Dark-bellied Brent Goose held the long staying Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Black Brant. But most remarkable was the large flock of 1,600 Mediterranean Gull loafing on the mudflats as the tide fell, a large proportion of these birds were adult. My eBird list for the harbour and ferry bridge are here and here.

Pale-bellied Brent Goose - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Black Brant - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Dark-bellied and Pale-bellied Brent Goose - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Part of flock fo 1,600 Mediterranean Gull - Ferrybridge, Weymouth, Dorset

Sunday, 15 November 2020

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - 23rd to 30th October

It was time for our annual holiday to the Isle's of Scilly but this year we were fearful that, with increasing Coronavirus cases, we may have to cancel as a result of a second national lockdown. But 22nd October arrived and we were free to set-off to Cornwall, the drive was relatively traffic free and we arrived in good time. But during the drive I had a call from Skybus saying that due to the poor weather our flights on 24th had been cancelled and did we want to fly on 22nd instead, I checked that we could book an extra night at our hotel and agreed to bring the flight forward which turned out to be fortuitous.

On 23rd I spent a couple of hours birding at Zennor walking south up the valley and then north towards the sea. It was fairly slow going but a small passage of 110 Redwing north and a single Firecrest in the willows by the road were good to see. My eBird checklist can be viewed here. In the afternoon we headed to Land's End airfield for our late flight to St. Mary's landing at 17:00.

The 24th was a stormy day with strong west winds and some very heavy downpours and we stayed on St. Mary's wandering around Peninnis, Old Town, Lower Moors and Porthloo with a lunch stop at Juliet's. The highlights were a self-found Olive-backed Pipit at Old Town, a Mandarin Duck at Lower Moors, Dusky Warbler and Black Redstart at Porthloo, a Nightingale at Porthcressa and Yellow-browed Warbler at Lower Moors - not a bad list given the weather. My eBird checklists for the day can be viewed here and here. In the evening news broke of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak found at the end of the day on Gugh and with a special ferry laid on for first thing in the morning I opted to catch this and meet Sarah and Tobias a little later from the normal timetabled ferry on St. Agnes.

Mandarin Duck - Lower Moors, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

Black Redstart -  Lower Moors, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

On 25th it was an early start, and with no breakfast, but by around 09:00 I was on Gugh looking for the Grosbeak with around 30 other birders. Unfortunately, the bird seemed to have departed and as the tide began to cover the Gugh bar I decided to bird on St. Agnes for the last hour or so before I was to meet Sarah and Tobias. Just as we met, news broke of a Red-eyed Vireo at Lower Farm and so we decided to pay this bird a visit and the bird showed well as it fed in an Apple tree. This was my 8th Red-eyed Vireo that I had seen on the islands having found three of these. We spent the day wandering around this beautiful island, probably my favourite of the archipelago, but saw relatively little. At 14:15 Sarah decided to head back to St. Mary's as she wanted to get some work done but Tobias and I decided to stay on Agnes. Good job we did, at around 14:20 news broke of an Indigo Bunting at the bonfire site beside Big Pool, Tobias and I were at Cove Vean and a short dash and we were on site and watching this mega rarity, only the 4th for the UK assuming its accepted. My eBird lists for the day can be seen here and here.

Red-eyed Vireo - Lower Farm, St.Agnes, Isles of Scilly

Indigo Bunting - Big Pool, St. Agnes, Isles of Scilly.

On 26th we headed over to Tresco and as we were waiting for the ferry to depart, news of a Lesser Yellowlegs on the Abbey Pool broke. We landed at New Grimsby and decided to wander along the north edge of the Great Pool birding on the way but didn't see a great deal. At the Abbey Pool the Lesser Yellowlegs showed very well down to around 15m and was feeding avidly. Other than three Yellow-browed Warbler and a Black Redstart we saw little for the rest of the day. My eBird list for the day can be viewed here and here.

Lesser Yellowlegs - Abbey Pool, Tresco, Isles of Scilly

The 27th was our last day on Scilly and we decided to stay on St. Mary's for the day. I skipped breakfast and birded Peninnis, Old Town area and Lower Moors before meeting with Sarah and Tobias and walking the Garrison and then to Juliet's for lunch. We saw little but for two Yellow-browed Warbler and a Firecrest. After lunch we wandered through the centre of the island and back to the airport. At Parting Carn I picked up the Glossy Ibis that had been present for much of our stay feeding in a pig field and enjoyed good views of this bird before heading to the airport for our 16:55 flight back to Lands End. My eBird checklists for the day can be viewed here, here and here.

Glossy Ibis - Parting Carn, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

On 28th in strong NW winds, I started the morning with a seawatch at Pendeen with large numbers of Gannet, Auk and Manx Shearwater passing. Highlights were a Balearic Shearwater, Great Skua, two Puffin, Red-throated Diver and seven Great Northern Diver. My eBird checklist can be viewed here. A short stop at Cot Valley produced a single Yellow-browed Warbler but little else, my eBird checklist can be viewed here.

On 29th October I started with a seawatch at Porthgwarra but despite the strong SW winds there was little to be seen. The bushes produced a couple of Yellow-browed Warbler but were otherwise it was very quiet. My eBird checklist can be viewed here.

On 30th we were heading home but I spent a little while birding at Copperhouse Creek and Hayle before I had to head back to pack. Needles to say, there was little to be seen here, the highlight was a Firecrest. My eBird checklists can be viewed here and here.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Stiffkey and Shuart Lane Twitch - 18th October

On 17th October I had promised Sarah and her Sister's that I would provide a taxi service so that they were able to go to a restaurant for lunch and indulge in a few glasses, but when I switched my phone on at around 08:00 news had already broken of a mega rarity in Norfolk - a Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin and I began to feel decidedly unsettled. I dropped the girls off and was to spend the day with Tobias - he wanted to head to the New Forest to look for Red Deer and Fallow Deer and particularly wanted to see stag's of the two species. Luckily we saw the deer fairly readily and managed to find a fantastic bellowing male Red Deer with a harem of around 35 hind's. Satisfied, Tobias and I headed home and I began to consider my options for getting to the Scrub-Robin, with Tobias encouraging me to do it! Now, I would not normally drop everything to travel for a bird, largely because of work and family commitments, but with such a mega rare bird - the first on mainland UK for 40 years, and with Sarah with her Sister's for company I had the opportunity. I booked a hotel and then headed off with Tobia's to collect the girls at 16:00, I announced that I would drop them at home and then leave for Norfolk, the plan was now secured. 

I arrived at my hotel in North Elmham at around 21:30 and after a swift glass crashed for the night, now only 30 minutes from the bird. The alarm went off at 06:00 and by 07:00 I was driving to Stiffkey through heavy rain; the rain did not bode well but at least the overcast conditions probably meant that it had not departed. But, the bird looked a little tatty from images posted yesterday so the big question was 'had it survived the night?'.

I need not fear as within around 15 minutes of my arrival, and with barely time to don my boots and coat, news of the birds continued presence broke. The tide at Stiffkey was exceptionally high and the bird had been picked up flying from the saltmarsh, which it frequented yesterday, to the stubble field to the west of the car park as daylight broke. When I arrived the bird was feeding along the edge of the stubble field and showing well. Over the next couple of hours I watched this mega rarity feeding in the stubble and bordering Alexander's and occasionally flying into the adjacent hedgerow and showing itself well. Let's be honest, this bird is not a looker with it's tatty tail and drooping wing's, but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in rarity value, this is the first bird on the UK mainland since 1980's. With the following accepted records from the last century and with a further four records from the 1800's, before yesterday, there were very few UK birder's that had seen this species on home territory;

1998 - Jersey with no location given, 7th June.

1980 - Prawle Point (Devon), 9th August.

1972 - Flamborough Head (Yorkshire), 5th-6th October 1972.

1968 - Cape Clear (Co.Cork), 20th April.

1963 - Butlin's Holiday Camp, Skegness (Lincolnshire), 2nd-9th September.

1959 - Gammon Head, near Prawle Point (Devon), 20th October

1951 - Great Saltee Island (Co.Wexford), subspecies C. g. syriacus, 22nd September - 4th October.

1951- The Wicks, Dungeness (Kent), 12th September.

My eBird list for Stiffkey and additional photograph's of the Rufous-tailed Bush-Robin can be viewed here.

Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin - Stiffkey, Norfolk

Rufous-tailed Scrub-Robin - Stiffkey, Norfolk

So, with the Scrub-Robin under the belt I checked the rarity news and to my relief another UK tick was still present and showing well, and so after a three hour drive, roughly southbound, I arrived at Shuart Lane near to Birchington, Kent and after a 20 minute march was watching a fine 1st year Masked Shrike as it fed on flies and wasps along its chosen hedgerow. There are actually fewer UK records of this species than the Scrub-Robin with only three accepted UK records plus two additional birds (including this one) in 2020. But, with the first record of this species being a long staying bird in 2004 and further records in 2006 and 2014 this species lacks the mythical status of the Scrub-Robin.

My eBird list for this site can be viewed here.

After spending around 30 minutes with the Shrike I decided to gather some Brownie points and headed home in time for Sunday roast and a celebratory red wine with the family. A fantastic day was had.

Masked Shrike - Shuart Lane, Birchington, Kent

Masked Shrike - Shuart Lane, Birchington, Kent