Friday, 13 November 2009

Two trips to Pegwell, 8th & 12th November

Since Sunday, I have visited Pegwell Bay twice.

Round One
I left Lincolnshire with punter's-favourite Will Bowell at around 23:00 on Saturday 7th, arriving at Pegwell Bay some time just after 02:30. A few hours' kip were had, and the day dawned bitterly cold, windy and overcast - perfect for seeing what has been an elusive bird at the best of times. Sure enough, in the time we spent at Pegwell (until c.10:30), the Shitting Zisticola failed to show - the only saving graces being time to sleep in the car and an excellent breakfast butty from the car park cafe (more on that later). In fact, we didn't see much at all. From the comfort of the car, I had two Swallows fly south (I think my latest ever), and the dregs of the recent Woodpigeon passage were in evidence - c.200 went south. We decided we couldn't be bothered to hang around, and headed home. A quick diversion to Grafham Water (Cambs) produced three Great Northern Divers off Mander car park, two adults and a juvenile:
Adult Common Loons rocking around Grafham.
Just as I walked in to the door, out came the pager message - "Cisticola again showing well this afternoon". Bugger. Even more problematical was a possible female Siberian Rubythroat in Fife, but that one was soon scrapped when it was reidentified as a Bluethroat(!).

Round Two

Seeing that the forecast for the morning of Thursday 12th was very nice indeed, I decided late on 11th to head back down to Pegwell for first light. I arrived just before 04:00, and managed a couple of hours' sleep in the same spot at Saturday night. Up for 06:45, I drove round to the Jet garage, parked up, and walked south to the country park. First surprise of the morning was this:

Local youths had decided to burn down the cafe overnight, ruining my chances of a substantial breakfast. Nevertheless, the sunrise made up for it:

And sure enough, the weather was stunning. Sunny, flat calm and pleasantly mild - perfect conditions for searching for that little bastard bird. For the first hour or so, I was the only person on site - magic. A Water Pipit showed extremely well by the hide early morning, and a few scummy Ring-necked Parakeets flew over. At least one male Brambling showed well in a big finch flock in scrub by Shore Hide, as did 3+ Twite (one colour-ringed). However, by 09:00 there was no sign of the beast, although a few more A-team twitchers had shown up.

Rather than standing by the hide like a lemon all morning, I regularly walked up and down the seawall, going up to half a kilometre either way from the hide. This eventually paid off - just when I thought time was pressing and another dip was on the cards, out popped the Zitting Cisticola, announcing itself with a few chipping calls some 200 metres south of Shore Hide. Views were brief, but I don't recall ever being so excited by this species before. By the time I had called the other gathered birders across, the Cisticola had buried itself on the saltmarsh. Thankfully, it wasn't long before it lifted up again, but soon buried itself once more. After c.15 minutes of toying with us, the boy decided to porn it, sitting in pathside bushes and occasionally showing to 10 metres, calling regularly:

To be fair, it was a decent bird. Nice buff tones, and lots of arousing streaks on the upperparts. Sadly (as is often the case in the human world) the body was let down by a rather plain-looking face which looked like it had taken a few hits over time. Still, a great relief to see it on a such beautiful morning with a decent supporting cast and in pleasant settings. Dare I say it, but I actually enjoyed myself, and even made it back to Sheffield for 13:30!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Ring-necked Duck

Adult drake Ring-necked Duck, Kirkby on Bain GPs (Lincs), 6.11.09

Monday, 2 November 2009

Blast from the past: 2

A couple from the archives.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

More dirty twitching, 30-31/10

On 28th, a Greenish Warbler was discovered lurking on the Lizard, Cornwall. My initial reaction, given that time was pressing on, was to suspect that this had a good chance of being something considerably rarer. So, it wasn't all that surprising when whispers suggesting it was a Green Warbler started to float around the birding community. Following a bit more gen, it seemed a trip southwest the following morning was not necessary, with nitidus seemingly being ruled out by many observers. Things took a twist during the afternoon and evening of the 29th, with newer news filtering through that numerous features fitted Green better than Greenish. Always looking for an excuse to drive long distances, I soon decided to get down to Church Cove for dawn the following morning, and hopefully make my own mind up on the warbler.

The journey was a long one, including a 100-mile detour down the A1 to pick up Watford's keenest, Mick Frosdick. We finally rolled up at Church Cove at around 05:00, with sleep deprevation ensuring I was snoring within minutes of arrival. What was slightly perculiar was that ours was the only car present... a little odd for a potential second for Britain perhaps?

The day dawned much as it had been on the drive down - dense fog with occasional drizzle. Mick and I were the only birders from dawn until around 07:45, when Team Bonser arrived. Still, not exactly the sizeable crowd we half-expected. There were a fair few birds about, with a Siberian Chiffchaff and Yellow-browed Warbler in and around the churchyard. It was not until around 08:15 that the Green(ish) Warbler turned up, announcing itself with a series of bog-standard trochiloides-type calls. It went on to show well:

Phylloscopus mindf**k

Certainly an interesting bird that I'm glad I went for - really bright and fresh for a Greenish so late on. Upperparts were bright green with a broad greater covert bar; supercilium and throat were bright lemon-yellow, with a yellow wash to the flanks and (less so) the undertail coverts. More than one person commented on how it superficially resembled a Wood Warbler in colouration. A couple of Black Redstarts and a late Pied Flycatcher also showed up.

With news of its continued presence, Mick and I moved on to St. Levan where the Radde's Warbler eventually performed fairly well in thick scrub up the hill from the turning circle. A long-awaited lifer, it showed a typically strong ochre-tinged supercilum and underparts, dark brown upperparts, bright yellow legs and a broad bill, but remained elusive in poor weather. Unfortunately, I failed to enjoy it quite so much as I should have done as I managed to reverse into the 'collection box' in the 'car park', creating a few sizeable dents and scratches in the back right corner of my car. Bugger. The journey back to London was a tedious one, so staying with an old school mate in Epsom was a welcome relief from the crap that is Britain's road network.

Next day dawned bright and sunny, and after sleeping/pissing about in Epsom for much of the day, I eventually found myself at Staines Moor for late afternoon. The first-winter Brown Shrike was showing as I arrived, so I lifted my bins up to admire it for a few seconds - reddish-brown upperparts, dark facial mask and scaly underparts - nice. Pleased it was still showing, I decided to move to a position where the shrike would be unobscured so I could study it further and take a few images. So, I did. When I looked back, the little shit had done one - nor did it resurface before I left just after 16:00 - presumably it had simply gone to roost. So, after the ridiculously distant male at Flamborough last autumn, I still haven't had particularly good views of the species in Britain. But then again, at least it hung around for me to actually see it (albeit for about 5 seconds) before sacking it off for the day. Regular parties of Ring-necked Parakeets were flying over, making a horrible racket as they did so. A couple of Stonechats were happily flitting around the river, blissfully unaware that they will presumably become shrike food as the insect population dies off for the winter...

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Blast from the past: 1

Steppe Grey Shrike, Grainthorpe Haven, Lincs, November 2008.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

More like it...

Today, the second half of October saved itself from being brandished one of the worst for British birding/twitching in a long time. With such tasty delights as Caspian Plovers, Parulas, Long-toed Stint and a Chestnut Bunting thrown in for good measure, the rest of Europe has been outdoing Britain somewhat spectacularly since the middle of the month. You only have to look here, here or here for a mouthwatering array of tasty delights from elsewhere within the Western Palearctic.

So, just when you're expecting some monster bird from the west, Siberia and Asia seize the opportunity to remind us they're still there, and deliver an Eastern Crowned Warbler to the coastline of County Durham. Originally identified as a Yellow-browed, it's true identity was revealed when photos appeared on TurdForum showing a crippling, stripy Arctic Warbler-like beast.

Not wanting to mess around, I got in touch with old favourite Marc Read, who promptly set off from Sussex. Arriving in Sheffield a short time after 03:00, we were soon on the road once more, and arrived in South Shields (Durham) shortly after 05:15. The skies weren't all that overcast, and I decided to prepare myself for the strong possibility of a dip - this species has previously been notorious in the WP as a one-day wonder. It was therefore a surprise when at 07:35, I was awoken by a call from Marc informing me that it was still in the same spot (I know, not on site for first light! What a joker I am), so I dragged myself out of bed (car) and down to Trow Quarry. Through sleep-induced blurry eyes, I had my first glimpses of this most attractive of phylloscs. Olive-green upperparts with lime-tinged wings, a heavy bill, off-white underparts, double wingbar and, most strikingly, bright creamy-yellow supercilium and crown stripe contrasting with the dark grey-green lateral crown stripes. Behaviourally, it was reminiscent of Arctic Warbler - sluggish for a phyllosc, reflecting it's large size. For the next two hours, it performed wonderfully (albeit on and off) in sycamores, at times porning it and generating a crescendo of "ooohs" and "ahhhs" from the gathered throng. A Yellow-browed Warbler was also knocking about, as were a couple of Blackcaps.


Filled with enthusiasm for the day, Marc and I decided it would be a good idea to go to Holy Island. My first Pallas's Warbler for about three years showed well at The Snook, and there were also a few common migrants about but no sign of the Radde's Warbler seen the previous day.

Marc Read in action on Holy Island

Back down at Druridge Pools, the day ended on a slightly sour note, with no sign of the Glossy Ibis making it the eighth I've missed since the influx began. But who cares, the warbler was the business - it's made it the autumn a bit less painful.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Pec, 18th October

This juvenile Pectoral Sandpiper, photographed at Eyebrook Reservoir, is the first I've seen in the Britain and Ireland for 3 years(!). It spent all its time creeping around at the inflow, not really doing all that much. A Rock Pipit was also rocking around with a typically-hyperactive bunch of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Another trip north, 3rd - 6th October

On 1st October, a Veery was found on Foula. "Shit the bed", I thought and, following a couple of conversations with my ever-charming friend Dan Pointon, we decided to see what happened the following day before making plans to head north.

Sure enough, the Veery was still present the next morning. What we weren't expecting was the arrival of a second, this time on Whalsay - a much easier place to get to. In the following few hours, news of the continued presence of Fetlar's Taiga Flycatcher and a couple of new Pechora Pipits had us booking flights from Edinburgh to Sumburgh for the following morning. And so the team was formed - an increasingly familiar line-up of Soar, Pointon and Jones, this time joined by Norfolk's Mark Rayment. Dan and I met Mark and Will somewhere on the A1 in West Yorkshire at around 03:00, and were soon heading poleward.

Dawn on the 3rd was greeted from the comfort of a McDonald's somewhere on the outskirts of the Scottish capital, where it was reassuring to see one of the team had not lost any of his phenomenal appetite when confronted with copious quantities of fast food. The flight from Edinburgh was not until 11:00, and a nervous couple of hours were spent in the terminal waiting to hear of the Veery's continued presence. Sure enough, it was still there, as was the nearby Pechora - perfect! All we had to do now was get there.

The flight went swimmingly, as the did the drive north through mainland Shetland. We managed to make it for the 14:00 ferry crossing from Laxo to Symbister, arriving at the latter location some time around 14:45. Plenty of birders on the ferry including the BBC's very own Garry Bagnell (who, for once, was not being followed round by his film crew - seems like he's rinsed their budget already). It wasn't too long before I had my first views of the Veery as it hopped about in its favoured garden - it rarely stood still for very long and seemed to be feeding almost constantly. A most impressive beast with bright rufous upperparts, a speckled throat and upper breast, faint grey cheeks and typical catharus underwing pattern, it eventually showed very well at point blank range.

Sumburgh Airport

With time not exactly on our side, Will and I (who formed the half of our team not having previously seen Pech) headed north up the island to Skaw. It didn't take long to locate the Pechora Pipit in the roadside ditch it had been favouring; it went on to show extremely well at times although could go missing for extended periods. I was most impressed with the species - wonderfully streaky and contrasted, helped by the fact that it was a particularly showy and well-marked individual.

Back on the mainland, a brief search for the Blyth's Reed Warbler at Voe scored a blank. And so, day one drew to a close - two superb birds, and an excellent start to the weekend. Accommodation was located up at Brae, where Will and Mark splashed the cash, and Pointon and myself simply slept on the sofas in the living room - an altogether cheaper option.

Day two (4th October) started early; we were keen to be on Fetlar as early as possible and so we caught the 05:50 ferry to Yell, followed by a 06:45ish ferry from there to Fetlar. Our destination, Manse garden at Tresta, was reached some time before 08:00 and it didn't take long for Will to pick up the 1st-winter Taiga Flycatcher. A welcome grip-back from the Flamborough individual in 2003, a full suite of features was noted to confirm this subtle species. The uppertail coverts were jet black, and the bird altogether greyer than Red-breasted, with warm tones restricted to the flanks. The face was very grey, and the grey and brown tones were somewhat different to those expected on Red-breasted. The bird was rather vocal in the time we spent with it, particularly when nearby Chiffchaffs got too close for comfort. A Red-breasted Flycatcher-like rattle was the most frequent vocalization, but a Blackcap-like tacking was also regularly used. In the same plantation, we picked up our first Yellow-browed Warbler of the trip, a few thrushes were gallivanting around and two female Merlins bombed through.
Having enjoyed excellent views, Pointon and I headed off around the island, birding between the regular squalls. In short we saw very little, and soon returned to Manse where the flycatcher was still porning it, on and off. Keen to catch the 11:30 ferry to Unst, we reluctantly left Manse and headed back towards the ferry terminal. We stopped off by a promising-looking burn with a fair amount of vegetation in. The only bird we kicked out was a Yellow-browed Warbler, which was very keen to bury itself in the iris beds with weather conditions being far from ideal.
First port of call on arrival on Unst was Uyeasound at the south end. Here, it wasn't long before we kicked the Pechora Pipit found the previous day, which went on to show extremely well in the field with the stream running through near Easter Loch. It did however tend to be rather flighty. The bird also called a couple of times, which was useful to hear. Birding around Uyeasound failed to reveal the Arctic Redpoll, but a Yellow-browed Warbler and a few Chiffchaffs were noted. Keen to try and connect with a hornemanni, the team headed north. A brief stop of Baltasound to grill a flock of Twite led to a chance encounter with a 'Northwest' Redpoll (presumably rostrata), which flew off shortly after.

Uyeasound, Unst - the Pechora Pipit favoured this field

Our next stop was our most northerly - Lamba Ness, at the northeast end of the island. An Arctic Redpoll had been seen here the previous day, although it didn't take long for us to realise finding the bird was going to be a phenomenal task with no details forthcoming. Sure enough, the bird was not located but a flock of c.100 Snow Buntings formed an impressive sight against a spectacular geological backdrop.
Back at Norwick, we set aside our twitchiness and got down to some proper birding. Not long after getting out the car, a 'buzzing' pipit had us thinking rare, but it was not to be - Tree Pipit, and not even an Indian one. The long-staying Common Rosefinch was blogging about with the local House Sparrows, and a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers were in the crop. Other migrants here included a Lesser Whitethroat, a few Chiffchaffs, Brambling and Reed Bunting.

Norwick - beautiful scenery and enjoyable birding.
Encouraged by a decent selection of birds, we headed back south to Halligarth plantation, which delivered another Yellow-browed Warbler, as well as a few Chiffchaffs. It was at this point we learned that the Arctic Redpoll was again showing at Uyeasound, so the twitching instinct kicked in and we bombed back down there. Needless to say there was no sign, but a drake Scaup and 10 Whooper Swans were on Easter Loch, a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers were seemingly new in and a Garden Warbler had me momentarily fooled. Light was running out fast, so we sacked it off and ferried back to the mainland via Yell, arriving in Lerwick late evening just in time for a curry and beer.

Next morning, our flight back to Edinburgh was delayed by some time. For one member of the team, this turned out to (indirectly) be a blessing in disguise. For the other three, it was the start of a torrid 36 hours which eventually saw three of us dipping an Eyebrowed Thrush on North Ronaldsay (one member connected after getting on an earlier charter), and Mark also managed to fill his (diesel) car up with unleaded. So, an expensive end to the trip which I don't intend to go into in detail....
North Ronaldsay - wish I'd never gone...

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Sandhill, 23rd September

In late September, South Ronaldsay came up trumps with this stunning adult-type Sandhill Crane (here photographed on 23rd September):

What a boy, and the start of a fantastic run of rarities in the Northern Isles - plenty more to come from the past two weeks (with all the ups and downs included) to follow....

Monday, 14 September 2009

Baird's Sandpiper

A couple of portraits of the juvenile Baird's Sandpiper which graced Davidstow Airfield, Cornwall during early September (images taken Sept 7th). I never tire of seeing this fantastic species, particularly so when in such fresh plumage - they really are subtle yet stunning. At times, it showed down to four metres alongside its Dunlin escort.

Monday, 31 August 2009

American Black Tern, 30/8

Late on 28th, news broke of an apparent juvenile American Black Tern (surinamensis) at the slightly unexpected setting of Farmoor Reservoir (Oxon). Due to various reasons, I sacked off going on the 29th, playing it cool and eventually going on the Sunday morning.
The bird wasn't exactly difficult to find. Farmoor is great; it's really easy to see everything on a couple of concrete bowls. Sure enough, the obliged for the next hour or so (albeit at distance) as I viewed from the causeway, along with my fellow Bank Holiday Sunday dudes. The bird itself was splendid; a wonderful marsh tern with dusky flanks and underwings, dark grey rump and upperside and grey (as opposed to black) crown. What helped (and indeed made the record so remarkable) was that both confusion species, both 'European' Black and White-winged Black Terns, were present alongside it:

Left to right: leucopterus in flight, niger (middle) and surinamensis

I guess it will be some time before (if ever?) such a trio will ever show up on the same body of water again. Being able to compare the three side-by-side revealed a few things, not least the size and structure of surinamensis appearing more akin to that of leucopterus. In flight, it also seemed to resemble its White-winged cousin more than Black, and spent much of it's time associating with the former. This allowed for fantastic comparison between the clean, crisp White-winger and the much darker, duskier American Black. So, perhaps not a good candidate for a split (you only have to look at the DNA to realise that), but certainly a charismatic and distinctive subspecies that I would certainly recommend seeing.

Above: Upperside...
... and underside

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Ireland, 22nd - 28th August

And so it was time for what has become an essential in my birding calender - the annual end-of-August pilgrimage to the west coast of Ireland with the primary focus being seawatching off the Bridges of Ross (Co. Clare). The first weekend of the trip was spent with my mother in Dublin and Cork, with very little birding done at all - best of the bunch were 8 Ruff on Swords Estuary on 22nd.

Mid-morning on the 24th saw me up at Shannon airport to meet the team, who had arrived on the morning flight from Stansted. The 2009 line-up consisted of old favourite Richard Bonser, Little Shear king John Archer, the ever-pleasant Marc Read and Bridges virgin Dan Pointon. The first notable bird of the drive west towards Loop Head was a Common Buzzard over the road c.4 kilometres east of Lisseycasey, an Irish tick for yours truly!
Eventually, we found ourselves at 'The Bridges' by mid-afternoon, and a seawatch until mid-evening yielded an adult Sabine's Gull, Balearic Shearwater and c.30 Sooty Shearwaters amongst others. Further seawatching sightings over the following four days will be listed below.

Other birds were quite difficult to come by during the week, though a 3CY Ring-billed Gull at Spanish Point regularly broke up the monotony when the seawatching got dire; plenty of juvenile waders about too but nothing particularly spectaclar with water levels still very high.

25th August; moderate SW wind with showers:
Wilson's Storm-petrel (1) west @ 07:35
Sabine's Gull (9) adults
Grey Phalarope (2)
Pomarine Skua (2)
Long-tailed Skua (1) adult
Sooty Shearwater (c.70)
Storm-petrel (8)
Arctic Skua (7)
Great Skua (3)
Arctic Tern (25)

26th August:
Sabine's Gull (3) adults
Leach's Storm-petrel (1)
Pomarine Skua (1)
Balearic Shearwater (1)
Storm-petrel (17)
Arctic Skua (11)
Great Skua (3)
Common Scoter (10)
Arctic Tern (7)
27th August, mid-afternoon to dusk, wind moderate WSW:
Sabine's Gull (5) adults
Leach's Storm-petrel (1)
Balearic Shearwater (5)
Sooty Shearwater (46)
Storm-petrel (9)
Great Skua (25)
Arctic Skua (6)
Arctic Tern (32)

28th August, 06:30-09:00, wind brisk WNW veering NW:
Sabine's Gull (23) one juvenile
Grey Phalarope (16)
Leach's Storm-petrel (8)
Long-tailed Skua (1) juv
Pomarine Skua (1)
Storm-petrel (75)
Sooty Shearwater (c.100)
+ good numbers of Arctic & Great Skuas

Arctic Skua, Bridges of Ross (Co. Clare)
Pomarine Skua, Bridges of Ross (Co. Clare)
2nd-summer to adult (3rd-)winter Ring-billed Gull, Spanish Point (Co. Clare)
Cow, Kilbaha (Co. Clare)

Great Spot, 4th August

A photo of what was a new British bird for me (after missing at least two in recent times), it was remarkably elusive in the couple of hours I had spare to look for it. Feeding avidly on caterpillars, it was often accompanied by a juvenile Common Cuckoo. Perhaps more spectacular than this worn adult was the massive influx of ladybirds; some pockets of the coast looked orange at a distance! Closer study revealed a remarkable amount of cannibalism going on - the live ladybirds were feasting on their less-fortunate brothers!!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Mirror Images..

Having spent an unhealthy amount of time on computers (and the internet) of late, it appears that some of our very own British birders have their own lookalikes across the North Sea. In Sweden, to be precise:

... and just for fun, it's Aslan from Narnia:

Finally, can you guess this big lister?

More to come, probably.

Summer Doldrums

It's been a tough few weeks - the summer doldrums, if you like. Last Tuesday, I went to Cornwall on spec with Marc Read, only to be let down heavily by the weather - we managed a single Sooty Shearwater amongst other crap in a long, long seawatch (granted I spent most of the time asleep). I eventually arrived home in the early hours of Wednesday morning, but was rudely awoken by news of a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater in Kent, which I went on to dip. 1300 miles in two days, for a Sooty Shear - I found myself questioning "why bother?!"

Today (27th July), I kicked myself out of bed and the house for 11:00, and decided to do some local birding. First port of call was local gull mecca (by national standards it's shite) Dogsthorpe Tip. Amongst the few hundred Lesser Black-backed and tens of Herring Gulls present, five Yellow-legged Gulls (two adults, 4th-s, 3rd-s and juv) were picked up, as well as about five Great Black-backed Gulls:

Adult michahellis in typical setting

With not so much as a sniff of a cach, I quickly got bored and headed off.

The once-great Maxey Pits complex looked a shadow of its former self today (it has become ludicrously overgrown and water levels were very low), and all I could muster was a juvenile Greenshank being bullied by a Black-headed Gull. My old favourite, Baston & Langtoft Pits, looked even worse - here water levels are far too high and there's too much vegetation. Two Green Sandpipers seemed slightly perplexed to be feeding amongst the rocks on ARC Pit (the only available margins), but later looked more characteristic when they flushed from 300 yards and pissed off.

I wish autumn would hurry up - July birding is crap!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Recent Shenanigans 29th June - 4th July

It seems like an age since I wrote anything on here and, to be frank, it has been. After a lull in birding activity for much of June, the past week has been comparitively hectic. It all kicked off on Monday (29th June), when I finally pulled my finger out and went to Somerset to see the male Little Bittern, which has been singing at Ham Wall RSPB all month. The bird was heard soon after arrival on site (at around 05:00), but it took another eighty minutes for brief flight views of the bird. With weather conditions far from ideal (bucketing rain), my good friend Will Bowell and I decided to leave and, after being delayed by a slight mess on the M42, we were home early afternoon.

Things then slipped back into the midsummer doldrums for a couple of days, until a call at around a quarter to nine on Thursday morning from twitching's foul-mouthed bad boy Dan Pointon alerted me to a River Warbler singing the previous evening in the unusual yet magnificent location of Applecross, Highland. Realising that this was only 11.5 hours from home, and seeing as I had 24 to play with before I was due on shift for BirdGuides the following morning, I figured that if the bird played ball then it would be doable. So, off I set, picking up DP at 11:45. We made good progress, passing Glasgow by 15:00. Anyone who knows the road from Glasgow up to Kyle of Lochalsh will agree that the scenery is stunning, and I left Pointon to do the photography whilst I tried to concentrate on the road:

We finally reached the bird by around 19:30. The River Warbler was giving short bursts of song from thick gorse until it was provoked by a wandering Whitethroat; it reacted in such a way that it sat right up on top of the bush and proceeded to sing constantly for the next fifteen minutes. I was fortunate to get a couple of decent shots before it moved to its favoured perch in a nearby sycamore:

River Warbler, Applecross, 2nd July

Somehow, I managed to drive back to Glasgow, and Pointon took over for 150 miles or so. Remarkably, I was back home in Langtoft for 06:30, a full 90 minutes before my BirdGuides shift began - nicely timed...

And so the third chapter of the week involves a Caspian Tern, which graced Welney WWT's Buxton Scrape on the morning of Saturday 2nd. Waking up late, I was greeted with messages concerning the bird's presence, and so I stumbled out of bed and in to my car, and was down at Welney by 13:00. Sure enough, the bird was still present (and asleep), ending a run of dips I've had with the species. Judging by the incomplete hood and 'mucky' cheekys, as well as immature-type primaries and coverts, it seems this bird is presumably a 2nd-summer. After it got it's conk out for me, I left. And that was about it:

not-so-Royal Tern, Welney, 4th July

A busy week then - but when's the Royal going to be back to shaft all us dippers again?

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

A Royal Dip

Today (16th June), I went to northwest Wales, or more specifically the Lleyn peninsula, with reborn twitcher Marc Read, RBA slave Will Soar, and Dave Holman of BLEA. Certainly a stunning backdrop for a stunning bird which had been present the previous evening (a Royal Tern). To cut a long story short, the bird had done one, and was not seen despite searching as far away as Cemlyn Lagoon by some.

Still, a rather nice day out - lovely weather and brilliant scenery, and we also had a few Choughs which were nice. Here's a photo of Abersoch harbour:

So, not exactly the best reintroduction to birding (I haven't been out due to Uni/festival-related commitments) but I have a feeling we are to hear more of the orange-billed beast before the summer is out! See you all at Dawlish next week.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Kent again, 16/5

Another trip to Kent today. Leaving Lincs at around 06:00, I picked up Werrington duo Chris Orders and Leon Smith (not a couple I hasten to add) and caned it down to Grove Ferry for about nine. Finally found Marsh Hide, and watched the Black-winged Pratincole for a further two hours at the back of the pools, generally obscured and often totally out of view. In that period, it flew once (I had a split second view through my bins before it disappeared behind the duffer standing in front of me) - very unusual for a pratincole, so I thought. It spent much of its time waddling around, not really doing alot. Occasionally, it would dart after an insect or get upset by the local Greylag Geese. Still, a very pleasant bird to look at, and the experience was greatly enhanced by twitching guru Garry Bagnell arriving and struggling considerably to get on to the bird for several minutes.

Black-winged Pratincole, Stodmarsh, 16th May - note the black wings. Erm...

Nevertheless, I decided to move on some time just before 11, and headed back to the viewing ramp with the crew. A Wood Sandpiper shot about at the back of the pool, and there were also a few Blackwits and Avoshits on the scrape. Then we left, just before a Red-footed Falcon flew through. And that was about it!

Local bits, 14-15th May

I decided to have a break this weekend and head home. Naturally, this usually means copious amounts of birding crammed in to the limited time available. Sure enough, I got out on the patch as soon as I could on the evening of 14th. The recent Spotted Redshank (a splendid summer-plumaged bird) was still on the New Works, and a nice bonus was a Black Tern on the Ocean.

Friday (15th) saw me gripped off by local birder and butcher, Will Bowell, who managed to find a Temminck's Stint at Maxey Pits in between slaughtering local livestock. Keen to get back on level terms, I went down to BLGP - 3 Black Terns were nice on the Ocean, and an Arctic Tern was on the Jet Ski Pit. A Common Sandpiper flitted about on North Pit, and the Spotted Redshank was still in residence on the New Works. Other bits included a Hobby over, but there was no sign of that real bit of quality I was after.

Black Magic @ BLGP

I moved on to Maxey, where Bowell's Temminck's eventually showed rather nicely, along with a few tundrae Ringers and a Dunlin:

Temminck's Stint, Maxey, 15th May

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Crazy days in the south, 30/4 - 2/5

Dungeness at dawn, complete with expectant hordes
Since arriving back from Morocco, things seem to have gone a bit nuts in the UK. Nothing spectacular in terms of quantity, but quality is certainly there. News of a Collared Flycatcher at Portland broke on 29th, and then later in the day a Crested Lark was found in Kent. So, at 02:20 on 30th, in the pitch dark, I rolled up in the area north of the new lighthouse at Dungeness, where the only other birders present were Will Soar in a suspiciously steamed-up car and Richard Bonser, who had already been on site for c80 minutes. Finding it hard to contain my excitement at the prospect of a dull brown bird I had seen hundreds of in Morocco over the previous week, I decided against sleep and stood in the darkness with Marc Read (and later Dan Pointon and Mick Frosdick). Interestingly Marc, then I, heard the Crested Lark calling a little after 03:00 (my ears sharpened after repeatedly hearing them in Morocco). It therefore came as no surprise when the bird was located flying from the direction in which we heard it some time before 06:00. Though generally flighty and elusive, it did show well on the odd occasion, although the rather large crowd didn't help in the plight to gain extensive deck views. A somewhat darker bird than those observed in Morocco, it was also quite strongly streaked on the breast. Unfortunately, my views were not good enough to observe the chestnut underwings but apparently they were present...!

Crap photo of a crap bird
With no news forthcoming on the flycatcher, I had a brief seawatch off Dunge. Not alot was happening; a couple of flocks of Common Scoters headed east as did several Arctic Terns. Then, at around 08:20 on it came - and so I got on with the arduous drive west.

The drive to Portland was, in essence, appalling. It was capped off by a crash at Ferrybridge, which temporarily delayed the journey further. Finally, some time in after 13:00, I rolled up at Southwell and was greeted by the usual midweek brigade, getting excited over every Blue Tit moving through the garden the flycatcher had been favouring. After some time, up popped the boy - a fantastic first-summer male Collared Flycatcher. A remarkably smart bird, the only real difference from an adult being the brownish primaries and fairly restricted white patch at the base of the primaries (for Collared). Being the miserable recluse I am, I soon got bored of the crowd and so decided to call it a day and battle through the traffic back to Lincs, arriving back in the mid-evening.

Next day (1st May), the flycatcher was still present, and was joined nearby by an Eastern Bonelli's Warbler. Setting off on initial news, I reached Thrapston before turning home on negative news. What a schoolboy error that turned out to be - no sooner had I got home then the bird came back on as there. To cut a long story short, it cost me the bird - I arrived at a rainy Portland some half an hour too late for the bird, and the rest is history. Spell it out: D -I -P....

Morocco, 24th - 29th April

A few images from a recent trip to Southern Morocco; in the region of 160 species were recorded and I had no less than 28 WP ticks...! A trip report will probably be available at a later date.

male Rock Thrush, Oukaimeden, High Atlas

Seebohm's Wheatear, Oukaimeden, High Atlas - surely a candidate for a split!

Curlew Sandpiper, Barrage El-Mansour, Ouarzazate

Black-winged Stilt, Barrage El-Mansour, Ouarzazate

Black Tern, Barrage El-Mansour, Ouarzazate

(Long-billed) Crested Lark - Galerida (cristata) macrorhyncha

nest, desert 37km south of Guelmine

Kelp Gulls (5 of 10 adults), Kheniffis Lagoon

Black-eared Wheatear, Oued Massa

'maroccanus' Cormorant, Oued Ksob, Essaouira

House Bunting, Smimou village

Heron sp., Oued Ksob, Essaouira