Thursday 22 October 2015

Cornwall - 16th-18th October

We had a blank weekend so rather than lounging around the house and watching the rugby I pushed for a short jaunt to Cornwall, with only Friday, Saturday and Sunday available this was going to be a weekend where only Saturday was to be spent settled in our cottage. So, we set off on Friday at around 09:00 and by 12:30 we were at South Huish and while Sarah dealt with an overly tired and screaming Tobias on the beach I enjoyed a lovely Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike that had been present since 13th October. The bird showed well feeding on wasps mainly from around Ivy blossom and returned frequently to a telephone wire beside the road where, unfortunately, the bird was back lit and so photography was not the best. The shots below are taken with the Swarovski 85/TLS and Canon 7D2 combo. The top two in subdued, semi-overcast conditions and the final two with the sun shining - notice the apparent change in tone of the bird from cold buff grey buff to a warm ginger grey.

Isabelline (Daurian) Shrike - South Huish, Devon

With Tobias in a grotty mood we headed west, gathered some supplies, popped out for dinner and then relaxed in the cottage for the evening.

On Saturday I was up early and drove the 45 minutes from the cottage to Lands End, it was still dark when I arrived at 7:15 so I stood outside the car and listened to what was moving around in the gloom - small groups of Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, a Redpoll, Redwing, Fieldfare and Pied Wagtail were all audible. Once the light was up I slowly walked the main trail southwards through the Willow, the main target here was a Dusky Warbler that had been present for a couple of days but had always been elusive. I was not particularly confident that I would see this bird as the Willows here are quite impenetrable and i did not know exactly where the bird had been seen. But after a while a distinctive soft tacking was heard and the Dusky Warbler appeared low in the Sallow and Bracken. It was moving around actively but showed very little mostly being tracked by movements in the vegetation and that distinctive, repetitive call which to me sounds slightly synthsized. I only managed to take a single shot of this bird. Also here were a Siberian Chiffchaff, 6 Chiffchaff, Firecrest, 6 Goldcrest and 2 Blackcap. Overhead there was a steady passage of Fieldfare (35) and Redwing (20) plus small numbers of Siskin and at least 50 Chaffinch.

I wandered over to the Lands End complex and fairly quickly came across the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling that has been present with the Starling since 28th September. It was at first with the Starling feeding on grass but then flew into the carpark and then towards Bramble where it fed on the ripe fruit for a while. I heard it call on one occasion, a fairly Starling like churr. I then headed to Kenidjack for a quick walk before heading back to the cottage at Kenidjack there were 3 Chiffchaff and a Siberian Chiffchaff plus a handful if Redwing. It was time to head back to the cottage to collect Sarah and Tobias, we spent the afternoon on Sennen beach where there were 8 Mediterranean Gull and then went to Porthgwarra for a walk where little was seen but for 6 Stonechat.

Dusky Warbler - Lands End

Siberian Chiffchaff - Lands End

Rose-coloured Starling - Lands End

Rose-coloured Starling - Lands End

On Sunday I popped out briefly first thing for the 2nd winter Ring-billed Gull that had been on the Hayle Estuary since January 2015. I quite quickly located the bird distantly near to Leylant Saltings along with a Spoonbill. I didn't have much time so was only able to achieve rather distant views. Also present were 28 Mediterranean Gull, good numbers of the commoner gull species and many Wigeon and Teal, 3 Greenshank and a range of common wader species. It was time to head back to the cottage, load the car and head-off. We stopped for a walk at the beach at Marazion but I spent most of my time chasing Tobias with seaweed and throwing stones into the sea rather than looking for birds!

Ring-billed Gull  2nd winter Hayle Estuary

Wednesday 7 October 2015

Pennington Marsh - 2nd, 3rd and 4th October

On 2nd October I was surveying near to Christchurch and couldn't resist quickly popping into Pennington Marsh on my way to site for a quick try for the Long-billed Dowitcher that had been present since 23rd September. In addition, I had just purchased the Swarovski ATX 85 with a TLS APO DSLR digiscoping adaptor which was attached to my Canon 7d Mark 2 and wanted to trial the scope and the digiscoping set-up. I was on site at around 09:00 and bumped into Pete Durnell, a friend of 31 years and the site warden, we had a bit of a chin-wag and then I headed off with time to bird Shoveler Pools and Fishtail Lagoon only. The usual range of birds was present with the highlights being the Long-billed Dowitcher, although this showed rather distantly at the back of Fishtail Lagoon, and a single Spotted Redshank.

I was back at Penningtoon on the morning of the 3rd with around four hours available so I wandered a route around Shoveler Pools, Butts Lagoon and Fishtail Lagoon taking my time in the early morning light and playing with the new set-up. Wildfowl numbers are starting to climb rapidly now with 25 Pintail, 30 Shoveler, 150 Wigeon and 225 Teal - most of these birds either juveniles or eclipse plumage males. My first Brent Goose of the year were present with 15 birds seen. Wader numbers were fairly low with the highlights being 15 Snipe, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Spotted Redshank and the Long-billed Dowitcher again, this time asleep at at the back of Fishtail Lagoon and showing poorly. A single Tree Pipit flew high south overhead and around 250 House Martin and 30 Swallow were present in the area.

On the 4th October I took Tobias across on the Isle of Wight ferry to stay with his Grandad for a few days and on the return I stopped at Pennington Marshes again for an hour or so. Birds were much as yesterday. I counted 87 Coot on the Efford Lagoon, they really seem to like the lagoon with a big increase in numbers since this time last year, in addition there were 5 Mediterranean Gull and good numbers of commoner gulls, I scanned the flock for ringed birds but there appeared to be none. As I scanned Fishtail Lagoon I noticed the Long-billed Dowitcher a little closer to the path and feeding on the island in the middle of the lagoon with around 50 Redshank. The batteries on the 7D Mk2 had died so I hurried back to the car to grab my 1DX and 400 DO Mk2 with 1.4 extender, this is my favourite photography combo. A rattled off a few shots but the Redshank, being the nervy birds they are, took flight taking the Dowitcher with them.

So, these are the best of the ATX85 and Apo plus 7D Mark 2 combo tested early in the morning when the light is perhaps not the best giving a rather orange cast. I am fairly pleased with the results, my favourite image being the Mute Swan. I used the camera on TV setting with the shutter speed at 800-1200th and ISO at 800 and played around with the zoom on the scope. The bottom four images were taken with my Canon 1DX, 400mm DO Mark 2 and 1.4x extender.

Greenshank in the early morning sun at Pennington Marshes. Taken with the ATX combo at 25x

Curlew in at Butts Bay, Pennington Marsh. Taken with the ATX combo at 35x

Mallard - Fishtail Lagoon. Taken with the ATX combo at 25x

Wigeon - Fishtail Lagoon. Taken with the ATX combo at 35x

Pintail - Fishtail Lagoon. Taken with the ATX combo at 45x

Mute Swan - Fishtail Lagoon. Taken with the ATX combo at 25x

Coot - Fishtail Lagoon. Taken with the ATX combo at 40x

Kingfisher in the early morning sun and fog. Taken with the ATX combo at 40x

Reed Bunting, female - Butts Lagoon. Taken with the ATX combo at 35x

Long-billed Dowitcher - Rather distant on Fishtail Lagoon. 1DX and 400 DO plus 1.4x extender

Long-billed Dowitcher - Rather distant on Fishtail Lagoon. 1DX and 400 DO plus 1.4x extender

Grey Heron - Fishtail Lagoon. 1DX and 400 DO plus 1.4x extender

Redshank - Fishtail Lagoon. 1DX and 400 DO plus 1.4x extender

Tuesday 6 October 2015

Isles of Scilly - 24th-28th September

Sarah, Tobias and I were back on the Isles of Scilly for a four night stay on my favourite archipelago. We travelled down on 23rd, a five hour drive from Hampshire, to our cottage at Trowan and just to the west of St. Ives. After getting some supplies we went for a short stroll at Godrevy Point where we went to show Tobias the Grey Seal colony. There were 14 animals on the beach including at least one bull and three young animals, presumably from the earlier breeding season. There were few birds to be seen, four Stonechat, Rock Pipit and good numbers of Meadow Pipit. We headed to the cottage and spent the evening relaxing and catching up with some of the Rugby World Cup.

On 24th we were on our way to St. Just Airfield at 08:30 for our 10:15 flight to St. Mary's. I did a little birding around the airport but saw nothing and now the airfield has been resurfaced and the flower rich runways seemingly lost the numbers of pipits and finches seem to be a great deal lower than in previous times. After landing we transferred to the Star Castle, gathered our stuff and went for a walk around the Garrison seeing little. Lunch was calling and so we headed out to Juliet's for a seafood much. After lunch we walked through Lower Moors to Old Town Bay, around Old Town Church Yard and up over Penninis Head head. In the warm sunshine and fairly stiff north-westerly wind there was little to be seen, 4 Wheatear, 2 Willow Warbler, 6 Chiffchaff, a couple of Blackcap, Kingfisher and a Spotted Flycatcher were the highlights.

Peninnes Head from the Garrison

Hugh Town - St.Mary's

The 25th dawned early, it was my birthday and as always I try and maximise my birding time so I was up at 05:45 and was out early onto the Garrison. A Bonelli's Warbler had been reported yesterday evening and I was hoping to see this but it was not to be. Still, it was a beautiful morning, an early Redwing over the Star Castle, a Willow Warbler, eight Siskin east, three Chiffchaff, two Blackcap and 15 Sandwich Tern were the highlights. After breakfast we were off to St. Agnes, the targets here were a Red-eyed Vireo at the church which was found yesterday and an elusive Grey-cheeked Thrush at Warna's Cove. I decided on the vireo considering that I didn't want to spend an age waiting for the thrush if it had gone, so see the vireo, hopefully the thrush will be reported and then head there. I bumped into an old friend from Fair Isle, Keith Pellow, and had a bit of a chat and then we began looking for the vireo. Keith one side of the church, myself another. Birding on Scilly in recent years has all but died with very few visitors now. At the vireo there were four of us looking, okay, its not a mega bird but you would expect more - Spider suggested that there were probably only eight visiting birders on the islands currently. Anyway, enough waffling, eventually the Red-eyed Vireo showed very well in the now brilliant sunshine and sunny conditions. We watched it sunbathing and flycatching in the beautiful weather. This was my sixth Red-eyed Vireo in the UK, all on Scilly, three of which i have found myself. They are fantastic bird with their silky white underparts and their grey crowns neatly edged black.

Red-eyed Vireo in the Pittosporum behind the church on St.Agnes

Linnet - St. Agnes Churchyard

After the vireo I decided to head to the thrush even through it had not yet been seen, I decided that I would give it 30 minutes and then head off birding. I walked via Troy Town and spent some time looking in the beet fields, some pishing produced 4 Willow Warbler and the usual Wrens and Dunnocks. At Warnas Cove there were four birders, one of which had been waiting for the thrush for  two hours with no luck so I gave it 30 minutes, there were 6 Blackcap and a Reed Warbler but no sign of the thrush. I birded back along Barnaby Lane and towards the Turks Head to meet Sarah and Tobias for lunch. Beer in the sun. After lunch we wandered the island, we didn't see a great deal but had views of a Yellow-browed Warbler in the beet fields at Troy Town and had another look at the vireo. Back on St. Mary's I had a wander around the Garrison before dinner but saw little.

Willow Warbler - Troy Town, St. Agnes

Yellow-browed Warbler - Troy Town, St. Agnes

On 26th I was up early for a pre-breakfast walk around the Garrison, again, I didn't see a great deal but for a Willow Warbler, 22 Sandwich Tern, a Whinchat and around 40 Swallow.

Kestrel - Garrison, St. Mary's

Kestrel - Garrison, St. Mary's

Whinchat - Garrison, St. Marys

Today we decided to head to Tresco, there had been a Glossy Ibis on the island but I was not to fussed by this and was not fussed when we didn't see it. It was pretty slow going with around 25 Goldcrest, Peregrine, 32 Greenshank, 3 Willow Warbler and 2 Whinchat the highlights. While a bit of rock pooling with Tobias produced a Squat Lobster and a fine Edible Crab.

Goldcrest - Tresco

Squat Lobster - Tresco

Great Green Bush-cricket - Tresco

Great-green Bush-cricket - Tresco

On 27th I decided to head to the golf course for a pre-breakfast walk and to see if I could catch up with a Dotterel that had been present for three days. I spend 1.5 hours wandering the golf course, no Dotterel but I did have a Short-toed Lark on the golf course which I only saw well in flight and alas no photographs were obtained - I put the news out but don't think it was seen again. Otherwise there were 6 Wheatear and small numbers of Meadow Pipit and Linnet.

Wheatear - St. Mary's Golf Course in the early morning light

Our plan today was to head to St. Martin's but Sarah wasn't feeling well so Tobias and I decided to head up St. Mary's. We birded Lower Moors, Old Town up past the airport and to Porth Hellick but saw relatively little, a couple of Whinchat, Snipe, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and that was about it. A bit of rock pooling produced quite a few Mauve Stinger jellyfish in the shallows. We finished the day at the Garrison but again saw little.

Mauve Stinger - St. Mary's

The 28th was the final day of our time on Scilly and I headed up to the airfield pre-breakfast to look for 3 Lapland Bunting and a Richard's Pipit that were reported here yesterday evening. As I approached the airfield I saw the distinctive flight silhouette of the Lapland Buntings which fortunately pitched down and showed well by the wind sock.  These seemed to be a female, male and a 1st winter bird, the male was quite a stunning looking bird with a good chestnut collar and dark throat and upper breast. It was not long before i heard the Richard's Pipit and it circled above me but unfortunately pitched down in the middle of the airfield so views were poor. Other birds included many Meadow Pipit and 6 Wheatear.

Lapland Bunting, a female I think - St Mary's Airfield

Lapland Bunting, 1st winter in foreground and female behind I think - St Mary's Airfield

The three Lapland Bunting, the male is the middle bird - St. Mary's Airfield

Richard's Pipit - St. Mary's Airfield

Richard's Pipit - St. Mary's Airfield

Rock Pipit - Porth Minnick, St. Mary's

Ringed Plover - Porth Minnick, St. Mary's

I walked back via Porth Minnick and Old Town Churchyard and then back for breakfast. We packed our bags and decided to walk to the airport via Peninnis Head for our 12:30 flight to Land's End after a very enjoyable stay on Scilly, the weather was a little hot and settled for anything major but Scilly is always very enjoyable. We spent the afternoon at Marazion wandering on the beach and watching Tobias dodge the waves, 22 Pale-bellied Brent in the breakers just offshore were noteworthy. We spent the evening in the cottage and headed for home at midday on the 29th.