Tuesday 30 October 2018

Cotswolds - 24th-28th October

After a few days in Cornwall and the excitement of the Grey Catbird, Sarah, Tobias and I headed to our cottage in the Cotswolds for a few days to relax and catch-up with work. I didn't plan to go birding as such and with a dramatic fall in nighttime temperatures there was not a lot of moth'ing to be done.

With the cold and clear nights I experimented with some star trail photography following the tips provided on this website. I was fairly pleased with my first effort but it was difficult to frame the image I wanted exactly, I would have preferred the North Star to have been in the frame and further to the left.

I ran the moth trap for two nights and caught little, the highlights being a Feathered Thorn, December Moth and Green-brindled Crescent but temperatures were around 6c so I didn't expect much.

I spent a couple of hours at Slimbridge on 26th, there was not a massive amount to be seen. There were good numbers of Shoveler, Pintail and Teal, mainly in eclipse plumage and looking far from spectacular. From the Zeiss hide there were two Peregrine, Marsh Harrier, c.150 Golden Plover, 200 Lapwing and five Common Crane. I saw little else of note and the place was heaving with people enjoying their half-term breaks. I headed home and met Sarah for lunch in Cheltenham.

Star-trail from Cowley, taken using Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark ii on Live Composite mode at 45mm F8, 800 ISO with a three hour exposure and images taken every 25 seconds.

Feathered Thorn - Cowley, Cheltenham

December Moth - Cowley, Cheltenham

Shoveler - Slimbridge WWT

Lapwing and Golden Plover - Slimbridge WWT

Moulting Pintail - Slimbridge WWT

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Cornwall - 18th-24th October

Sarah, Tobias and I had a few days booked at our cottage between St.Ives and Zennor and with the Grey Catbird, first found on 15th October, still present come 18th I was anxious to get on the road to try and see the bird. Sarah was heading down at around 11:00 with Tobias but I couldn't wait that long and so the alarm went off at 03:30 and I was on the road by 04:00. By 08:15 I was arriving at the site of the Grey Catbird at Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End. I joined the small gathered crowd on the carpark site of the small area of Bramble and Gorse scrub where the Catbird had set up home and waited. Before long, it was evident that the birders on the opposite side of the scrub were watching the bird and so I wandered around to the north side of Treeve House. After around 30 minutes the Grey Catbird appeared low down in a willow and I had brief but fairly good views of this stunning little bird. Over the next couple of hours I obtained further fairly fleeting views but rather poor photographs. At 12:30 I decided to head off and birded at Porthgwarra until around 15:00, it was fairly quiet but I did see two Yellow-browed Warbler, a Black Redstart and four Chiffchaff. It was time to head to Penzance and get some supplies for the weekend but I just had time to stop for the three Ring-necked Duck at Drift Reservoir, they showed very distantly at the far end of the water and I didn't have time to wander any closer. It was time to head off to get some supplies and meet Sarah and Tobias at the cottage.

On 19th, Sarah was feeling a bit under the weather and so I headed out with Tobias to give her some peace and quiet. We headed to Paradise Park and then Tobias decided he wanted to see the Catbird so I took him to Treeve Moor where he got brief views as the bird perched on top of Brambles, but he was more interested in playing with my tripod and looking at the cows. Still. there cant be many five year olds with Grey Catbird on their British list.

On 20th I birded Cot Valley but saw relatively little, a Yellow-browed Warbler showed fairly well and there were four Chiffchaff and two Blackcap but little else. I then headed to Carn Gloose, just south of Cape Cornwall where four Vagrant Emperor had recently been report but I failed to see any but did see a Red-veined Darter, female Merlin and a heard only Yellow-browed Warbler. The afternoon was spent doing family things in St. Ives.

On 21st I decided to head back to the Grey Catbird site but as I left home the fog was so thick it was difficult to see the road in front of me. Arriving at the Grey Catbird site the fog hung heavy and as my main reason to return was to get some better photographs I decided to head to Lands End for some general birding. I parked in the main car park and wandered through the willows, there were six Chiffchaff, two Reed Bunting and then a semi-familiar call, a Common Rosefinch which flew in and landed in the willows but I had relatively brief views in the fog. I wandered further around the willows and by 09:30 the fog had cleared and I headed back to the Catbird site and the area to the north of Treeve House. I spent the next three hours here and after some brief views and then prolonged but distant views as it showed in the open at the bottom of the carpark the Grey Catbird made a direct flight for my position and pitched in the Brambles no more than 10m away. Over the next hour or so, the bird showed exceptionally well, on and off, appearing on the Brambles and atop an Elder bush and then it spent at least five minutes on a moss covered Elder branch scratching and surveying the scene which is presumably unlike where it really should be now. The views were fantastic and I obtained the shots I wanted, the following all being taken on my Olympus OMD EM-1 Mark II with a 300mm lens and 1.4 converter. I even managed a little bit of video. Also here, a Short-eared Owl perched in the Gorse on Treeve Moor and gave good views.

On 22nd and 23rd I decided to relax with Sarah and Tobias and on 24th we packed up and headed to our cottage in the Cotswolds. I stopped for 30 minutes at Hayle Estuary where the highlight was a Great Egret on Ryan's Field. Otherwise there were good numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Lapwing, Curlew and Redshank and huge numbers of gulls but not a lot else. I decided it was time to head off and get to the Cotswolds before I ended up stuck in rush hour traffic on the M5.

Previous British records of Grey Catbird are as follows:

  • 1975 Jersey - Mid-October when trapped and kept in captivity until December.
  • 1986 Cape Clear, County Cork - 4th November only.
  • 2001 South Stack, Anglesey - 4th - 6th October.

Grey Catbird - Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End, Cornwall

Grey Catbird - Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End, Cornwall

Grey Catbird - Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End, Cornwall

Grey Catbird - Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End, Cornwall

Grey Catbird - Treeve Moor, Trevescan, Lands End, Cornwall

Great Egret - Ryan's Field, Hayle Estuary, Cornwall

Red-veined Darter - Carn Gloose, St. Just, Cornwall

I ran a moth trap at the cottage every night but after the nights of 18th and 19th the winds picked up and the temperatures dropped and my catch declined to near zero. On the 18th and 19th the highlights were Pale-lemon Sallow (my first ever), Scarce Bordered Straw, Vestal, Pearly Underwing and Dark Sword-grass.

Pale-lemon Sallow - Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Scarce Bordered Straw - Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Delicate - Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Feathered Ranunculus - Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Autumnal Rustic - Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Green-brindled Crescent - Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Red-line Quaker - Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Dark Sword-grass - Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Lunar Underwing - Trowan, St. Ives, Cornwall

Thursday 11 October 2018

Mainland Shetland - 9th and 10th October

I awoke to a still, foggy and drizzly morning and after grabbing some supplies I drove south and birded the Leebitten area. News broke of a Snowy Owl on Fetlar and I contemplated the logistics of getting there and whether I should go. I was very tempted but looking at the timetable for the ferries I realised it would be an all day event and so I decided to spend the day birding rather than chasing off in the car. I birded the area around Sand Lodge and the fields to the south. There were five Purple Sandpiper on the rocks adjacent to Sand Lodge and the strange sight of a Knot running around the farmyard here. There were large numbers of wader in the fields with at least 250 Golden Plover, 75 Turnstone, 125 Redshank and 35 Snipe. Scanning one flock of Snipe feeding in the fields a came across a Jack Snipe which was nice to see but a little too distant for photographs. Also here were around 75 Greylag Goose and nine Pink-footed Goose. Passerine migrants remained extremely thin on the ground, so thin in fact that I recorded precisely none! Even the trees and bushes of Sand Lodge were devoid of birds. Offshore, two Common Porpoise swam south and I spent some time scanning hoping for an Orca but with no luck. Back at the car I sheltered from the drizzle which had turned into light rain and I once again contemplated the logistics of getting to Fetlar for the owl. I decided against it and instead drove the short distance south to Sandwick and birded the gardens, fields and bay area here. I saw little but for a couple of Wheatear and I spent some time scanning the Golden Plover flocks for a 'Lesser' Golden Plover but with no luck. News broke of a Red-breasted Flycatcher showing well at North Town, Exnaboe and so I finished birding at Sandwick and headed the 20 minutes down the road. On arrival, the Red-breasted Flycatcher was showing very well feeding along a fence line and making regular sallies after flies. Also here was a male Blackcap, my first of the trip and a Goldcrest, only my third of the trip. I spent just over an hour with the Red-breasted Flycatcher, such smart little birds.

Purple Sandpiper - Leebitten, Mainland Shetland

Common Redshank - Leebitten, Mainland Shetland

Grey Seal - Leebitten, Mainland Shetland

Knot - Leebitten, Mainland Shetland

Common Porpoise - Mousa Sound, Mainland Shetland

Twite - Sandwick, Mainland Shetland

Twite - Sandwick, Mainland Shetland

Red-breasted Flycatcher - North Town, Exnaboe, Mainland Shetland

Red-breasted Flycatcher - North Town, Exnaboe, Mainland Shetland

Red-breasted Flycatcher - North Town, Exnaboe, Mainland Shetland

Red-breasted Flycatcher - North Town, Exnaboe, Mainland Shetland

I then headed down to the Sumburgh area and birded Pool of Virkie, Grutness and Grutness Voe. At Virkie there was the usual selection of common wader with 30 Dunlin being the best present and a Lesser Black-backed Gull which was my first of the trip. At Grutness Voe there were half a dozen very smart juvenile Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Turnstone. Out in the bay I picked up a flock of four male and five female Long-tailed Duck. On Grutness the only bird I recorded of any note was a single Wheatear. It was now 15:30 and I decided to head north a little and spend the last hour and a half or so birding Upperton and Netherton, the latter being one of my favourite spots on the island. But I saw little, a single Chiffchaff at Netherton was the highlight - remarkably this was only my second of the trip, a real reflection of how sparse common migrant passerines are on the islands currently. I headed back to the hotel for 18:00 pleased with the Red-breasted Flycatcher but somewhat regretting having not headed for Fetlar and the Snowy Owl.

Lesser Black-backed Gull - Pool of Virkie, Mainland Shetland

Long-tailed Duck - Grutness Voe, Mainland Shetland

Long-tailed Duck - Grutness Voe, Mainland Shetland

Ringed Plover - Grutness Voe, Mainland Shetland

Turnstone - Grutness Voe, Mainland Shetland

Sanderling - Grutness Voe, Mainland Shetland

Sanderling - Grutness Voe, Mainland Shetland

Sanderling - Grutness Voe, Mainland Shetland

The 10th October was my return home, my flight was at 09:25 from Sumburgh to Edinburgh and then onto London Heathrow and so I needed to check in at 08:25. Leaving the hotel at 07:30 I drove through thick fog until I reached the Levenwick area when remarkably I emerged from the fog into sunshine. I birded a little around the Pool of Virkie and Gutness Voe picking up the same Long-tailed Duck flock from yesterday and 12 Sanderling. I headed to the airport, dropped off my hire car and headed for my flight to London Heathrow via Edinburgh. All flights departed more or less on time and I landed at Heathrow at 13:35. I drove straight to Lymington to collect Tobias from school and had 45 minutes of spare time to have a wander out to Fishtail Lagoon where a handful of Teal, Wigeon and Dunlin plus an adult Mediterranean Gull and a Spotted Redshank were the only birds present.

View of the fog-bank over Shetland from main road just before Levenwick

Trip List (British ticks in bold)
Willow Grouse
Mute Swan
Whooper Swan
Greylag Goose
Pink-footed Goose
Long-tailed Duck
Common Eider
Red-breasted Merganser
Tufted Duck
Eurasian Wigeon
Common Teal
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Rock Dove
Common Woodpigeon
European Turtle-dove
Eurasian Collared-dove
Common Moorhen
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Northern Fulmar
Grey Heron
Northern Gannet
European Shag
Great Cormorant
Eurasian Oystercatcher
Eurasian Golden Plover
American Golden Plover
Common Ringed Plover
Northern Lapwing
Eurasian Curlew
Bar-tailed Godwit
Ruddy Turnstone
Red Knot
Purple Sandpiper
Common Snipe
Common Redshank
Black-legged Kittiwake
Black-headed Gull
Mew Gull
Lesser Black-backed Gull
European Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Arctic Tern
Great Skua
Black Guillemot
Common Raven
Carrion Crow
Eurasian Skylark
Melodious Warbler
Blyth’s Reed-warbler
Marsh Warbler
Barn Swallow
Yellow-browed Warbler
Willow Warbler
Common Chiffchaff
Eurasian Blackcap
Barred Warbler
Northern Wren
Common Starling
Eurasian Blackbird
European Robin
Red-breasted Flycatcher
House Sparrow
Pechora Pipit
Meadow Pipit
Rock Pipit
Grey Wagtail
Citrine Wagtail
White Wagtail
Common Rosefinch
Eurasian Siskin
Reed Bunting

Tuesday 9 October 2018

Shetland Mainland - 8th October

What a difference in a day after yesterdays almost un-birdable conditions, the wind had dropped there were just occasional showers and all in-all it was pleasant to be out. I started by heading to Lunna to try and see the Melodius Warbler that I had dipped few days ago, I thought that, if the bird was still around it wouldn't take too long to see. Arriving at 08:30, four hours later I had achieved a fairly brief view in the Sycamore hedgerow west of Lunna Kirk and a distant view in the hedgerow to the north of Lunna House. I headed back to the car for a snack determined to get a decent view before I left, in the car park I bumped into some people, not birders, who asked 'do you know anything about birds? we just saw this bright yellow little bird hoping around on the ground in the Kirk and then it went into the tree over there'! Oh dear, I was about five minutes late. I had a snack at the car and cursed my luck. Just then a lady birdwatcher who had been watching the garden of Lunna House began waving from the skyline and I legged it up a very steep hill to eventually get decent views of the bird as it fed in Willows, Sycamore and Fuchias. Good views in the bins but a little distant for the camera, still record shots and good memories.

Melodius Warbler - Lunna, Mainland Shetland

Melodius Warbler - Lunna, Mainland Shetland

Ominous storm approaching - Lunna, Mainland Shetland

Rock Dove with a dodgy bird watering down the genes of the 
pure birds - Lunna, Mainland Shetland

I had spent some time birding Lunna and had seen little, 15 Wigeon, five Snipe, a fly-over Red-throated Diver, two Wheatear and lots of Rock Dove including a worrying number of impure birds. As I headed off I birded a few of the gardens and Voes that line the road to Lunna but saw little. But, this is a beautiful part of Shetland and I enjoyed the simple fact of being there. I pulled into a lay-by over looking Laxo Voe, across the Voe there were a handful of Wigeon, Redshank and Ringed PloverHooded Crows were calling aggravated behind me and I turned to see them mobbing a large white, Buzzard sized falcon - a white phase Gyr Falcon. Bloody hell! Grab camera from car take some shots. I then watched the bird as it flew north-east. My mind then had flash backs, some birders I had met the other day had seen a Gyr with jesses and zooming into my images this was clearly the same bird - bells and all, an escaped falconers bird. A quick search on the internet indicated that such a bird may sell for in the region of £10,000, someone must be very unhappy that they had lost their bird.

Escaped Gyr Falcon - Laxo, Mainland Shetland

I then headed to Lerwick, grabbed a coffee and decided to bird the Seafield area of Lerwick. The foreshore produced a Purple Sandpiper and lots of StarlingRock PipitTurnstoneHerring Gull and Great Black-backed Gull but the bushes produced nothing. I headed to Fladdabista for the last hour or so birding, it was deadly quite, two Redwing were the only birds worthy of note and a Minke Whale passing south fairly close to shore added some interest. At 17:30 the light was fading and the birding provided diminishing returns so I headed back to my hotel.

Adult Great Black-backed Gull - Lerwick, Mainland Shetland

1st winter Herring Gull - Lerwick, Mainland Shetland

2nd winter Herring Gull - Lerwick, Mainland Shetland

3rd winter Herring Gull - Lerwick, Mainland Shetland

Purple Sandpiper - Lerwick, Mainland Shetland

Rock Pipit - Lerwick, Mainland Shetland