Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Short-eared Owl - Lower Test, Hampshire - 21st December 2015

After some frantic blogging of late trying to get on top of my Australia, Fiji and New Caledonia trip this will be the last post of the year so happy New Year to anyone who reads this post and have a great 2016.

On 21st December I stopped off at a rough grassy field at the junction of Gover Road and Test Lane in Totton, Hampshire where up to two Short-eared Owl have been present since 21st November. I arrived at 11:00 and within minutes one bird appeared and showed well as it patrolled up and down over the grassland. The winter has been a great one for Short-eared Owl with a significant invasion having occurred. In the north of its population the Short-eared Owl is strongly migratory and many of the birds that occur in the UK in the winter originated from Scandinavia and northern Russia. Influxes are linked to years of high owl breeding productivity when populations of microtine rodents are high, many of the birds that reach our shores being young birds.






Short-eared Owl - Gover Road, Totton

Pennington Marsh - 21st December

I hadn't been to Pennington Marsh since 4th October and with a free morning I decided to pop down for a few hours birding. On the marshes off the bend at the bottom of Lower Pennington Lane there were many Wigeon, Teal and Pintail, many displaying in the early morning sunshine. Waders here included 12 Ruff and around 250 Black-tailed Godwit. I walked on to the Efford Lagoon where there 150 Herring Gull, 15 Great Black-backed Gull and 200 Black-headed Gull. The latter included an adult colour ringed bird with an orange ring on the left leg with the combination 2LAS (or 2LA5), this bird appears to be from the Northern Ireland ringing scheme which can be viewed here http://bhgullsni.blogspot.co.uk, I have contacted the organisers of this scheme and will post here when I have an update on this individual. I walked out to the jetty, around Butts Lagoon and to Fishtail Lagoon seeing 250 Brent Goose, eight Red-breasted Merganser, six Bar-tailed Godwit, 25 Grey Plover and 300 Dunlin. A pair of Reed Bunting showed well as they fed on the path.

Wigeon - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Wigeon - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Oystercatcher - Efford Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Herring Gull (1st Winter) - Efford Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Dunlin - Butts Bay, Pennington Marsh

Brent Goose - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Brent Goose - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Reed Bunting - Fishtail Lagoon, Pennington Marsh

Edinburgh Weekend - 4th-6th December

Sarah and I spent the weekend in Edinburgh with our good friends Trevor and Julie Codlin, it was Julie's 50th Birthday celebration so we intended to spend much time having fun in the city. Trev and I did manage to get to Musselburgh Lagoons on the morning of the 6th. Information on the lagoons can be found here and here. The weather was good with intermittent sunshine but a fairly cold southerly wind, the tide was high for much of our stay. A male Surf Scoter had been present since 29th October and was our main target. We got a taxi from the hotel at 07:30 and was at the mouth of the River Esk by 08:15. We began by scanning the waders and gulls at the river mouth, these included Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed GullCommon Gull, Bar-tailed Godwit, RedshankCurlew and Turnstone. There were many Goldeneye (c.150) offshore and small flocks of Eider (c.70). We walked eastwards scanning the inland grassland and sea seeing relatively little but for a fine male Long-tailed Duck which was relatively close to shore. We then walked back westwards, around the River Esk and over the footbridge and as far as Beach Lane at Fisherow where scanning produced Velvet Scoter (around 50), Common Scoter (10) Long-tailed Duck (c.50) and eventually Trev picked out the Surf Scoter, asleep, at some distance with Velvet Scoter. Here there were also small numbers of Great-crested Grebe and three Slavonian Grebe. I had visited Musselburgh Lagoon previously in December 2013 when there were several thousand Common Scoter offshore and I was somewhat surprised to see that there were so few birds present at the site now. We walked to the small harbour at Fisherow and birded this area seeing nothing new and eventually got a taxi to collect us at 12:00 to return us to Edinburgh and lunch with Sarah and Julie.

View of Edinburgh from our hotel, the Balmoral Hotel

On 5th storm Desmond struck and so we did a whisky tour, the rest of the day is a bit of a blur!

Male Long-tailed Duck - Musselburgh

The River Esk at Musselburgh 

Monday, 28 December 2015

Australia, Fiji and New Caledonia - 29th November (Day 19 and Day 20)

We met Steve at 05:30 near to the entrance of the Royal National Park and drove 15 minutes or so to Wattamolla Road where we parked in the large car park at the east end of the road before walking north-east for a kilometre or so to a slightly shorter, less dense area of protea dominated vegetation. Here we saw Brush Bronzewing, Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo and good views of Southern Emu-wren before the rain started and we made a dash back to the cars. From the car park we then walked the trail south-east to the cliffs where a short swatch produced many Wedge-tailed Shearwater and a single Fluttering Shearwater. And on the cliffs here were two confiding Rockwarbler with a pair of Chestnut-rumped Heathwren in the scrub above. After a picnic of chicken sandwiches we headed back to the visitor centre and birded Lady Carrington Drive southwards from the visitor centre for a few kilometres. Here the habitat was taller forest with Eucalyptus and bird species included Australian King Parrot, a female Superb Lyrebird, Eastern Whipbird, Satin Bowerbird, Green Catbird, Australian Owlet-nightjar at a roost tree, Variegated Fairy-wren, Brown Goshawk and Azure Kingfisher. It was midday and time to say goodbye to the team and head for the airport. My British Airways flight left on time at 16:30 landing in Singapore for an hour stop over at 21:30 and landing back in the UK at 04:50 on 30th November.

Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo - Royal National Park, Sydney

Rockwarbler - Royal National Park, Sydney

Rock formation - Royal National Park, Sydney

Rockwarbler - Royal National Park, Sydney

Chestnut-rumped Heathwren - Royal National Park, Sydney

Superb Fairy-wren - Royal National Park, Sydney

Lewin's Honeyeater - Royal National Park, Sydney

Superb Lyrebird - Royal National Park, Sydney

Variegated Fairy-wren - Royal National Park, Sydney

Australian Owlet-nightjar - Royal National Park, Sydney

Rufous Fantail - Royal National Park, Sydney

Brown Goshawk - Royal National Park, Sydney

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - Royal National Park, Sydney

View of Royal National Park, Sydney from the plane

Links to other days of the trip

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Australia, Fiji and New Caledonia - 28th November (Day 18)

We were up a little late today and had a relaxing morning packing and even having breakfast at the  hotel - bacon, eggs, sausage etc. Fantastic! After checking out we headed out of Noumea and back northwards to the airport. Checking in in good time we relaxed in the airport and boarded our flight to Sydney pretty much on time departing at 12:40 and landing at 15:50. After collecting our car we met up with Steve Anyon-Smith, our guide for the next day or so. I had last met Steve in Borneo while watching a Whitehead's Broadbill on Mount Kinabalu in Borneo so it was nice to catch up with him again. Steve was to be our guide for the remaining part of the evening and for the last morning in the Royal National Park to the south of Sydney tomorrow. Steve has an unrivalled knowledge of the birds in the Sydney area, and in particular the Royal National Park, and has a very Australian sense of humour. We spent the late afternoon birding in the suburbs of Sydney seeing a range of birds with the highlights being a roosting pair of Powerful Owl, a roosting pair of Tawny Frogmouth and Satin Bowerbird. We headed to the park visitor centre close to Audley and walked the trail south from here on the west side of the river. After waiting in the park for the sun to drop watching Chestnut Teal, Brown Cuckoo Dove, Australian King Parrot and Scaly-breasted Lorikeet. Soon after sunset a White-throated Nightjar showed and the night walk produced Sugar GliderBrush-tailed Possum, Red Fox (introduced pest species), Tawny Frogmouth and the introduced Rusa Deer. We returned to our hotel at around 22:30 and after faffing with bags etc for tomorrow we crashed for the night.

West coast of New Caledonia near to Noumea as we left the island

Powerful Owl - Sydney, Australia

Tawny Frogmouth - Sydney, Australia

Map of Royal National Park, Sydney is located to the north of Port 
Hacking and the park is a short drive from the city

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - Royal National Park, Sydney

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo - Royal National Park, Sydney

 Little Pied Cormorant - Royal National Park, Sydney

Eastern Dwarf Tree-frog - Royal National Park, Sydney

 Royal National Park, Sydney

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo selfie - Royal National Park, Sydney


Sugar Glider - Royal National Park, Sydney

Tawny Frogmouth - Royal National Park, Sydney

Links to other days of the trip

Australia, Fiji and New Caledonia - 27th November (Day 17)

Today was a day I had been looking forward to for some time, our pelagic from Noumea. We met with Vincent Ventrella (vincent-ventrella@live.fr) whose boat we had chartered. We paid Vincent 90, 000 CFP (£556) for the full day, Vincent supplied 20 litres of chum for the trip which I had provided some guidance on and we added bran flakes and cod liver oil, the latter we had brought from the UK. Vincent was very well organised and professional and his boat was fast and stable and ideal for the trip. It took around one hour to steam out across the reef (known as the lagoon) to the deeper water where it became somewhat rough as the boat powered out to sea. We travelled south-east from Noumea, past the island of Ile Ouen. The lagoon supported species such as Black Noddy (we saw an estimated 800 during the course of the day), Wedge-tailed Shearwater (500), Bridled Tern and Roseate Tern. We headed eastwards out past the reef edge and into deeper water where we deployed the first load of chum using approximately half of it. We stayed with this slick for around 1.5 hours and attracted at least three Wilson's Storm-petrel,  up to five White-winged Petrel and a single Tahiti Petrel. We then headed a little closer to the reef edge seeing further White-winged Petrel (23 in total), Tahiti Petrel (five in total), a single White-necked Petrel and five Short-tailed Shearwater. We chummed in this area but with little success but for a Red-tailed Tropicbird high over the boat. Having decided that this chumming session was going to be unsuccessful, I believe we were too close to the reef edge, we decided to head back to the harbour birding occasionally en-route, we passed many Wedge-tailed Shearwater heading back towards the harbour, presumably they breed on offshore islands. Highlight, at last light was a small shoal where hundreds of Roseate Tern were roosting and displaying. We arrived back at the harbour in the dark after a fantastic day.

Route of pelagic, the marker to the east shows our main chumming area (-22.37074, 167.3214)

Vincent's boat

The crew on-board

Terns (Greater Crested Tern, Roseate Tern and Black-naped Tern) in Noumea Harbour, New Caledonia

Roseate Terns with Black-naped Tern to left - Noumea Harbour, New Caledonia

Roseate terns with Black-naped Terns (11), note the left hand Roseate Tern is colour ringed and appears to have a white ring with a flag on the right leg - Noumea Harbour, New Caledonia

Displaying Roseate Tern with Black-naped Tern in background - Noumea Harbour, New Caledonia

Black Noddy - Noumea Lagoon, New Caledonia

White-winged (Gould's) Petrel - Noumea Pelagic, New Caledonia

White-winged (Gould's) Petrel - Noumea Pelagic, New Caledonia

Tahiti Petrel - Noumea Pelagic, New Caledonia

Wilson's Storm-petrel - Noumea Pelagic, New Caledonia

Wilson's Storm-petrel - Noumea Pelagic, New Caledonia

Wilson's Storm-petrel - Noumea Pelagic, New Caledonia

Wilson's Storm-petrel - Noumea Pelagic, New Caledonia

Wilson's Storm-petrel - Noumea Pelagic, New Caledonia

Wilson's Storm-petrel - Noumea Pelagic, New Caledonia

Wilson's Storm-petrel - Noumea Pelagic, New Caledonia

Red-tailed Tropicbird - Noumea Pelagic, New Caledonia

Wedge-tailed Shearwater - Noumea Lagoon, New Caledonia

Wedge-tailed Shearwater - Noumea Lagoon, New Caledonia

Greater Crested Tern -  - Noumea Lagoon, New Caledonia

 Roseate Tern and Crested Tern - Noumea Lagoon, New Caledonia

Roseate Tern  - Noumea Lagoon, New Caledonia

Roseate Tern - Noumea Lagoon, New Caledonia

Links to other days of the trip