Saturday 6 July 2024

18th June - Martin Down

 On 18th June I visited the wonderful expanse of chalk grassland that is Martin Down National Nature Reserve. My main aim was to see the mythical hoverfly Doros profuges, a species about which very little is known and, until regular appearances at Martin Down in recent years, was rarely seen. Despite searching a few known spots on the reserve I had no luck and I was amazed at the general lack of insects on the wing, no doubt attributable to recent poor weather.

The spectacular hoverfly Xylota sylvarum

The rather bizarre looking Conopid fly Sicus ferrugineous

The robberfly Machimus rusticus

Large Skipper

Dock Bug Coreus marginatus

A stumbled across this large specimen of Frog Orchid, a species that is 
often very small and tricky to locate.

Tuesday 18 June 2024

First Clearwings of the Year

The weather has been poor so far this year and so I have not bothered putting my Clearwing lures out, however, with a few brighter spells during the week commencing 10th June I hang a few lures in the garden and captured two species, Red-belted and White-tipped.

Red-belted Clearwing

Red-tipped Clearwing

Thursday 3 November 2022

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly - 20th - 29th October

Sarah, Tobias and I booked a return trip to the Isles of Scilly when we were there in August earlier this year. We decided to stop off at Exeter and Salcombe en-route to Trowan as we had not visited these locations previously. I didn't really do any birding on 20th and 21st but on 22nd a short stop at Copperhouse Creek, as a diversion to shopping, on the afternoon of 22nd produced a long staying Lesser Yellowlegs

On 23rd I was up at 06:30 and after tea and coffee I headed to Porthgwarra. Arriving more or less in the dark at 07:45 I started with a seawatch on the headland until around 09:15 and then worked the trees and scrub at the head of the valley. During the seawatch highlights included at least 80 Great Shearwater, Sooty ShearwaterPomarine Skua and Arctic Skua but birds were very distant. There was very little to be seen in the bushes. My eBird checklist can be viewed here. We then walked into St. Ives and had a relaxed afternoon where an Osprey in off the sea at lunchtime being a highlight. 

My thoughts over the last few days had turned to a Blackburnian Warbler found on Bryher on 13th October and it was with a great deal of relief that on the day before we flew to the islands the bird was still present, so on the 24th the main quest on the day of arrival was to head to Bryher as quickly as possible after we arrived. We were up at 06:30 and by 08:30 we were at St. Just airport for our 09:35 flight to St Mary's landing at 09:55 after a bumpy flight in the strong SW winds. We checked into the Star Castle hotel and wandered around the Garrison waiting for the 12:15 boat to Bryher, there was no news of the bird as the 12:15 was the first boat across so we were on tender hooks. We boarded the boat and were soon making our way across to the west side of Bryher and to Popplestone Fields to the north of Great Pool. After a short search we were soon enjoying great views of this stunning bird as it fed in the Pittisporum hedges. Happy with our views we had lunch in the Hell Bay Hotel before heading out onto Gweal Hill and then back east to Church Quay for the 17:15 boat back to St Mary's. My eBird checklist for Bryher can be seen here.

Blackburnian Warbler- Bryher, Isles of Scilly

On the 24th I was up before breakfast and birded the pines on the Garrison beside the football pitch, past the tennis course and through the campsite before doubling back, I saw little but for a Black Redstart, eBird checklist here. After breakfast a Red-rumped Swallow showed just below the Star Castle before we were dropped at Higher Moors and walked out to Porth Hellick stopping at the Sussex Hide for a long staying Wilson's Snipe. The heavy rain forecast for the afternoon began to set in at around midday and we made our way through Holy Vale, out to Watermill, past Newford Duck Pond and at Telegraph dropped down to the coast to the south of Bant's Carn. By now the wind was strong and the rain torrential and we walked as fast as we could back south to Juliet's Cafe for lunch at around 14:00. After lunch we did a short walk through Lower Moors to Old Town in heavy rain and strong winds before retreating to the Atlantic for the late part of the afternoon. My eBird checklist can be seen here.

Wilson's Snipe - Porth Hellick, St. Mary's, Isles of Scilly

On the 25th, after breakfast we took the 10:15 boat to Tresco where we walked from the southern quay along the west coast of the island diverting inland at the Great Pool for an Olive-backed Pipit. We then headed north along the west coast to Cromwells Castle before cutting back inland for lunch at the Ruin Beach in Old Grimsby. The birding was very slow and we saw little. We then headed back to New Grimsby for the 15:30 boat back to St. Mary's. The late afternoon and evening was spent relaxing. My eBird checklist can be seen here.

Olive-backed Pipit - Great Pool, Tresco, Isles of Scilly

On the 26th we hired golf buggies and spent time in the north of St Mary's in areas we do not explore often. After collecting our buggie at 10:30 we headed to the north-east and parked along the track to Deep Point. We walked a loop around Deep Point where a Yellow-browed Warbler was calling vigorously and showed briefly, then around Mount Todden and back along Pelistry Lane and Carn Vean looking for an American Buff-bellied Pipit but failed to see it. We then headed to Telegraph where we walked a short loop around Bants Carn but saw little. After lunch at Juliet's we headed to Trenoweth and walked a loop eastwards via Watermill and down Watermill Lane to Newford Pond and then back to Trenoweth again there was little to be seen. We drove around a little and then dropped the buggie off before heading to the Atlantic for a late afternoon bevvie. My ebird checklist can be seen here.

On 28th we were up at around 08:00, had breakfast and then packed our bags ready for the journey back to Cornwall. We wandered through Hugh Town and after a little shopping headed up towards the hospital, along Peninnis Lane and out onto the headland. We then wandered back north and into Old Town Bay where, after a little rockpooling we were collected and taken to the airport for our 13:50 flight back to St Just arriving at 14:10. We then headed back to the cottage at Trowan for a relaxed afternoon. On 29th we packed and headed back to Hampshire.

Sunday 16 October 2022

Shetland - 9th October

My final day today and I awoke to a strong wind once again with a F5-6 SW blowing, my hopes were not high and after packing my bags and checking out I headed into the field. I began the day at Wester Quarff where the only bird of note was a Yellow-browed Warbler. I then headed to Hoswick and back to Swinster Burn in the hope that it might be a little sheltered but the wind had increased to a F7-8 and the bushes thrashed around wildly. I had only walked a short distance when news of a White's Thrush broke at Lerwick, the bird was noted as being elusive and I questioned whether to go. I wandered a little way onwards and then realised that I was just thinking about White's Thrush and not actually birding so I headed back to the car and drove back north to Lerwick. The bird was in the bushes at the back of the school but had recently been seen flying to the bushes on the shore of Loch Clickimin. Birders milled around and scanned under the bushes with thermal cameras but there was no sign. After some time, and almost over my head the bird flew from the loch shore and returned to the original bushes to the NW of the school. Over the next 10 minutes or so the bird flew back and forth from these bushes to the loch shore and I obtained rather poor flight views. The rain started to set in and I decided to make my way slowly south for my 16:00 flight. I stopped in the hide at Loch Spiggie but it was so windy that it was not possible to look out of the viewing slots for any length of time. I then headed to the Pool of Virkie but the tide was largely high and I saw nothing to speak of. A stop at Scord produced a Great Northern Diver offshore and then it was time to head to the airport. My 16:00 flight eventually left at around 16:30, it was almost impossible to stand in the wind as we walked from the airport terminal to the plane and we were lucky to be taking off. I had a very narrow 50 minute connection time in Aberdeen but fortunately the departure to Heathrow was delayed and I made the flight with ease and I was a little surprised and relived when my bags appeared. I was home by 22:15 after a fantastic week on the islands with some really great birds seen. 

Wester Quarff

My eBird trip report can be viewed here:

Shetland - 8th October

It was the Cornell/eBird October Big Day today and I intended to try and see as many species as possible in the south of the mainland - without going crazy! I began the day at one of my favourite spots on Shetland, Wester Quarff, and birded the lower road down to the voe and then back along the upper road. The conditions were relatively calm compared to recent days and the winds had dropped down to around F3-4 with some brighter spells. My expectations were high but there were few birds to be seen although two Yellow-browed Warbler in the same bush and the King Eider offshore were nice to see. I then headed back north to Gulberwick where the 'Hornemann's' Arctic Redpoll had been seen again this morning, there were a few Common Redpoll buzzing around and I had brief views of the Arctic Redpoll perched on a fence near to the main road but after this initial view the bird failed to show again. I then headed to Gott for a Turtle Dove, a Shetland tick, it took almost two hours to find and was eventually located perching motionless in a willow on the site. 

Shetland subspecies (zetlandicus) of Eurasian Wren - Wester Quarff

Turtle Dove - Gott

Heading back south I visited Hoswick and birded Swinster Burn and the Sycamores around the Orca Inn but saw little but for a Yellow-browed Warbler and a Common Redpoll. In need of seeing a good bird for the day, I headed back to Bigton and spend around an hour with the Yellow-rumped Warbler which showed well. The day was now drawing in and I headed for Geosetter for one last try at finding something rare myself with no luck. It was a good day but given the still conditions it was remarkable how few birds were around with very low numbers of common migrants.

Common Redpoll - Swinster Burn, Hoswick

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Bigton

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Bigton

Links to the Days eBird Checklists

Friday 14 October 2022

Shetland - 7th October

I began the day heading north to Lunna as this is such a beautiful location but also because a Barred Warbler had been present for a few days. I soon had rather brief views of the warbler in very windy conditions but saw little else. I then headed to Vidlin and birded the field behind the Common Wealth War Graveyard but despite the shelter afforded by the trees there was little to be seen. Next was Voe and a similar story, very little to be seen and very windy. So I decided to head south lured by the temptation of a second Yellow-rumped Warbler having been found today only 700m from the first and the chance of seeing two in a day. So I headed to the Bigton bird, the second to be found, which showed very well in the pines and occasionally coming down very low into the grasses and Yellow Iris stands. I then headed over to the first bird and had rather brief views (but sufficient to say that I had seen two of this mega rarity in the UK in one day) when news broke of a possible Least Bittern 15 minutes away at Scousborough Beach Carpark at the north end of Loch Spiggie. I grabbed a lift back to my car which was parked a mile away and then sped south. Fortunately, one of the first to arrive a grabbed a parking space outside the RSPB hide at Loch Spiggie and headed the short distance to the carpark and there, amazingly, and clearly exhausted and fresh in off the sea was a Least Bittern. I got good views of the bird in the Marram Grass and then gave way to the increasing numbers of birders in the very limited viewing spot. Numbers swelled to around 150 and eventually as the light began to fade it was announced that the bird would be taken into care. The hordes of birders retreated and a local birder moved in and captured the bird which was remarkably tiny when seen in the hand, it was briefly paraded to the admiring birders before being whisked away to be fed and cared for, sadly the bird died over night only 50g, 35g below the average weight for the species. Despite this sad end it had been an absolutely amazing day.

Shetland subspecies (zetlandicus) of Eurasian Wren - Lunna

Yellow-rumped Warbler - The second bird at Bigton

Least Bittern - Scousborough Beach Carpark. Showing in the Marram Grass before 
being captured and taken into care where it sadly died overnight.

Links to the Days eBird Checklists

Shetland - 6th October

Once again I awoke to heavy rain and a strong wind and so delayed my departure from the hotel. My first stop was at Gulberwick where a 'Hornemann's' Arctic Redpoll has been present for a couple of days. I wandered down the road and a flock of Common Redpoll flew into a nearby tree, unfortunately I did not get onto the Arctic until the birds took flight and disappeared into the adjacent gardens showing its pale plumage and white rump in flight only. I then headed south and birded the Levenwick area but it was very slow going with no birds of note seen in the strong winds and squally showers. I needed fuel so headed south to Dunrossness and then headed to Pool of Virkie but the tide was high and there were no waders present. I then decided to head to Quendale Mill where a Bluethroat had just been found alongside the long staying Siberian Stonechat. Both birds eluded me for some time but, after a very heavy squally shower in which I was caught in the open with no shelter, the Siberian Stonechat appeared and showed fairly well along a fenceline. Wandering back I then found the Bluethroat which had moved from its original location and was working a fenceline before flying into a Creeping Thistle bed in the middle of a field where there was also a Yellow-browed Warbler

Yellow-browed Warbler - Quendale

Siberian Stonechat - Quendale

Heading back to the car I decided to visit Ellister for second views of the Yellow-rumped Warbler. I enjoyed fantastic views of this bird as it fed on the ground from time to time and showed down to around 3m on one occasion. A fantastic bird. I then headed south to the Pool of Virkie where a range of common waders were visible on the falling tide before heading to Loch Spiggie for a female Scaup to add to the trip list. It was now 17:10 and so I decided to head north, a brief stop to try to get better views of the Arctic Redpoll at Gulberwick drew a blank and so I headed back to the hotel in Lerwick.

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Ellister, Maywick

Links to the Days eBird Checklists