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

Wednesday 12 October 2022

Shetland - 5th October

Due to the wet start to the day I decided to head to Loch Spiggie RSPB to add a few waterbirds to my trip list. Starting at the southern end a scan from the roadside layby produced a Short-eared Owl and some common waterbirds. I then headed to the north end of the Loch and spent a little while in the hide here. 

Whooper Swan - Loch Spiggie RSPB

Twite - Loch Spiggie RSPB

It had started to brighten a little and so I headed to Sumburgh, a walk to the quarries and the garden at the start of the entrance road produced little and so I decided to head to Toab for an Arctic Redpoll but soon after my arrival news broke of a Yellow-rumped Warbler at Ellister near to Maywick and so I jumped in the car and sped the 15 minutes or so northwards. I ditched the car on a rather soft verge and headed to the small Sycamore stand in which the bird had been found. There were only around 20 birders present and it was not long before I had reasonable views of the bird as it fed in the Sycamores. Numbers of birders began to build and the farmer from the farmyard opposite became increasingly irate, the road was blocked by a crowd of birders meaning drivers could not pass and the situation was becoming ugly and so I decided I would leave the scene. 

Yellow-rumped Warbler - Ellister, Maywick

I headed north to Scalloway where the eclipse drake King Eider, which I had previously tried for at Wester Quarff, was now in the harbour here and I soon found the bird with a small flock of Common Eider. I birded a few areas around Scalloway before heading to Asta to the north where at last I found a Yellow-browed Warbler, a species thin on the ground this year. I then headed back south and birded the Leebitten and Sandwick areas until the light began to fade but saw little. I then headed back to Lerwick and was back to the hotel for around 18:00.

Eclipse drake King Eider (left bird) with Common Eider - Scalloway harbour

Oystercatcher with Limpet - Leebitten

Links to the days eBird Checklists

Tuesday 11 October 2022

Shetland - 4th October

It was an extremely wet and windy start to the day and so I headed out a little later and began the day at Fladderbister at 09:05, even then when I eventually emerged from the car after a coffee it was still very wet and it was not long before I was drenched and with very few birds to show for it, the highlight being an Otter running around in the field just below the ruins and a small flock of Redwing. I then headed to Wester Quarff for a long staying King Eider and while the rain had eased a little the birding was still slow and tough going and I failed to see the King Eider. I then headed back to Lerwick where a 2nd winter Glaucous Gull has been present for a while, at least this is a species little effected by the weather. 

Glaucous Gull - Second winter bird in Lerwick Harbour

Shetland Ponies enjoying the weather

As I was leaving news broke of a Lanceolated Warbler at Wester Quarff and so I headed back south and enjoyed fantastic views of this mouse like bird in the grassland alongside the road near to the bay. Having failed to see the Great Grey Shrike (possibly of the subspecies homeyeri which would be new for the UK) I headed back north to Hillswick. After a bit of a run around the bird showed reasonably well in one of the gardens near to the cemetery. Satisfied and the light fading I headed quickly to Eshaness Lighthouse where a flock of 46 Snow Bunting were feeding on the grassland south of the light. At around 18:00 I began the drive back south to my hotel in Lerwick.

Lanceolated Warbler - Wester Quarff

Wester Quarff

Great Grey Shrike possibly of subspecies homereyi, Hillswick. Note the extensive white wing panel

Great Grey Shrike possibly of subspecies homereyi, Hillswick. Note the extensive white in the tail

Snow Bunting, part of a flock of 46 at Eshaness

Links to eBird Checklists
Wester Quarff here and here

Shetland - 3rd October

Its been a long time since I posted on this blog and a recent excellent trip to Shetland has inspired me to attempt to revive it. All of my records have been going into eBird and adding photos etc takes some time particularly as I have been entering four recent foreign trips, see bar to right. But anyway, here is a revival.

I was up at 03:00 and after a clear drive to Heathrow Terminal flight I had time to relax in the lounge. My flight with British Airways left on time at 07:25 and landed in an overcast and gloomy Glasgow airport at 08:50. My 10:45 flight eventually departed at around 11:00 and landed at around 12:15. Collecting my car from Bolt Car Rentals I was heading northwards at around 12:30. My first stop was at Scord where I scanned the bay here picking up my first Black Guillemot of the year. I then doubled back a little to West Voe Beach where a Velvet Scoter had been present for a couple of days but the bird was rather distant over on the Sumburgh side of the bay. I then headed north towards Lerwick where a stop at the Burn of Sound for 'Hornemann's' Arctic Redpoll produced only distant flight fews of a small flock of Common Redpoll. I then headed north through the remote and wild Shetland landscape to Hillswick in the far north of mainland. Here a Great Grey Shrike possibly of the subspecies 'homeyeri' had been present for a few days. I spent some time looking for the Shrike with no success but a couple of birders I had been chatting to while looking for the Shrike (Jake Gearty and Drew Lyness) wandering through the marsh around the Commonwealth War Graves cemetery flushed a Pechora Pipit which they managed to see briefly on the ground and managed to get a couple of flight shots. We wandered around a bit and I flushed the bird from my feet and it flew a short distance before dropping into a Yellow Iris bed. The news went out and after a small group arrived we organised a flush and saw the bird a couple more times. We then waited for the masses to arrive before several more flushes were organised and reasonable flight views were obtained. Leaving the bird after around 1.5 hours I went back to look for the Shrike once more but with no luck. At around 17:45 I headed back south to Lerwick to check into my hotel, the Lerwick Hotel.

Pechora Pipit, Hillswick - Flight views only were obtained but, as in these 
images, most of the key features were visible

eBird Checklists from the Day

Tuesday 15 March 2022

Somerset -12th February

 On the weekend of the 12th February we were staying in the Cotswolds, Sarah had a pre-birthday bash with her sisters arranged and so I headed out on a mini-twitch, First stop was at Greylake RSPB where a male Baikal Teal has been present since 9th December 2021. The bird showed well but was asleep for much of the time that I was there. Having seen a flock of 450,000 in South Korea in January 2020 I did question why I had driven for over an hour to see a single bird, see photos and video here. However, this is a fantastic site with large numbers of wildfowl present, I also saw Marsh Harrier and up to seven Great Egret. My eBird checklist for the site can be viewed here.

I then headed to Weston Airfield where I had good views of two Penduline Tit feeding on Greater Reedmace seed heads with a third bird heard nearby. There have been up to three birds present at this site since 21st December. My eBird checklist for the site can be viewed here.

Monday 7 February 2022

Warblington - 7th February

After a survey for work I popped into Warblington near to Havant to year tick Cattle Egret. The fields around Church Lane are a regular wintering site for these ever more common birds and I quickly found five birds feeding with cattle and giving good views. My eBird list for the site can be viewed here

Sunday 6 February 2022

Blashford Lakes and Normandy Lagoon - 4th February

I made a quick visit to Blashford Lakes and specifically to the Ivy Lake North hide this afternoon. A wintering Bittern has once again taken up residence in the small Reed and Reedmace bed in front of the hide. I arrived to find around six people in the hide and the Bittern 'on show' just to the south. The Ivy Lake North hide is one of the worst hides I have ever watched from. There are only a couple of open viewing slots the others have, inexplicably, been fitted with a lightly purplish tinted glass which overtime has become distorted and marked. This makes viewing almost impossible and photography worthless - its an absolutely terrible hide, why the glass is simply not removed I do not know.

Anyway, the Bittern was showing but was keeping hidden in the Reeds and Reedmace, it did climb one of the stands of Reedmace when it showed a little better but still rather obscured. I got some rubbish views from inside the hide and then left to view from the small screen just outside the hide where views were far more satisfactory. My eBird checklist for the visit can be viewed here.

I then headed down to Normandy Lagoon for an hour or so before school pick-up, the tide was very high and there were few birds on the lagoon and I failed to see my two main targets, Slavonian Grebe and Little Stint. The highlights were one Spotted Redshank, five Greenshank, four Goldeneye and 16 Avocet. My eBird checklist for the visit can be viewed here.

Goldeneye - Normandy Lagoon, Lymington

Avocet - Normandy Lagoon, Lymington