Monday 27 April 2015

Not a bad weekend...

Planning to visit family in South Lincs on Friday night and Saturday, I could resist calling in to Broom Gravel Pits near Biggleswade on my way up. A White-winged Black Tern had been found there earlier in the day and was still present on arrival, showing well over the pit - if a little distantly for photos. the bird was characteristically restless, rapid and unpredictable as it fed over the pit; occasionally it would head down to the south end of the pit and rest on the spit for up to ten minutes before recommencing feeding. I haven't had chance to check yet but I think this may be the first White-winged Black I've seen in Britain since 2006!

It was a pretty grey evening in Bedfordshire and photo opportunities were limited, this being the only half-decent shot I managed. There are a couple more on my Flickr page.

White-winged Black Tern

The pits at Gypsy Lane look great and it's no surprise to see that good birds are regularly reported there; best of the rest in the hour I spent on site was a Black-tailed Godwit plus the usual Little Ringed Plovers, Redshanks, Yellow Wags etc.

Saturday dawned bright and warm, and I was out early shovelling gravel on mum's drive. Needless to say I didn't go back inside and look at my phone until almost half past 8, by which time news of a Hudsonian Godwit in Somerset had been floating around the airwaves for an hour. Twitching never has been a sociable pastime and plans to meet family instantly went out the window. Four hours later and I was looking at this:

This meagre image hardly does the 'Hudwit' (to give its beautiful name an ugly abbreviation) any sort of justice. It really was excellent and although others had great flight views of the bird wheeling around with the Black-tailed Godwits, I was happy enough to see it wake up, walk around for a bit, kindly flap and then wing stretch to reveal the startling black underwings. There are loads of better shots here.

With news that it flew off a few hours later and didn't return, the decision to leave family behind was justified - in the mind of a twitcher, at least. Off to Azerbaijan on Sunday - hoping that's it for spring now, or at least until we return on May 17th.

Sunday 19 April 2015

Great Blue Heron

Had a brilliant day trip to the Isles of Scilly on Friday. There were quite a few nervous souls during the morning Scillonian crossing - many of those on the boat had dipped either on Wednesday, Thursday or both, and they were understandably apprehensive about connecting. As it turned out the Great Blue Heron played ball on Bryher throughout the day, favouring Big Pool and giving excellent views from the Hell Bay Hotel.

This was my first visit to Bryher and I can only echo what everyone else says - it's a bloody picturesque island that still looked great despite the bouts of early afternoon drizzle. The heron, on the other hand, didn't look so thrilled about life but soon perked up as the rain abated. A typically imposing individual with long snaky neck, the neck and underparts were washed with a rustiness not normally seen in Grey Heron. The thighs were quite a bit paler but tinged rufous on close views, while the neck and upperparts were a mix of dark greys and blues, and the crown obviously dark. A couple of shots below, more on my Flickr pages:

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

After almost an hour in its company half-a-dozen of us decided to charter the Falcon over to nearby Tresco to try the wintering American Black Duck. Tresco is another island that I'd not previously visited before and, like Bryher, is really very pleasant. There were a bunch of hirundines over Great Pool and it really looked ripe for a Red-rumped Swallow, but alas it was not to be. A 15-minute yomp round to Abbey Pool produced the Black Duck right away, showing near to one of the close islands and loosely associating with a couple of Mallards. It soon powered off towards the centre of the lake at the sight of a group of over-excited NGBers (for some of whom it was a tick) and with time at a premium, we bid farewell to this most glorious of dabblers and headed back to the quay.

Black Duck

Rather than slog around St Mary's for the final 45 minutes we retreated to the Mermaid for a celebratory pint before boarding on the Scillonian. It always impresses me how much you can fit in to these day trips to Scilly, and indeed see with a slice of luck. The crossing back produced a Basking Shark off the Cornish coast between St Levan and Mousehole and, bar a stop to dip the Hayle Ring-billed Gull, our next port of call was fish and chips in Indian Queens.

Sunday 12 April 2015

Easter Lapland Bunting

I don't really see that many Lapland Buntings and this male at Weybourne, Norfolk, on 5 April was the first I've seen in anything approaching summer plumage. This cracker was characteristically confiding yet continuously on the move, shuffling around among the wheat and thus rarely staying still for a good shot. By the time I'd found it the sun was already low and time was against me - images aren't as good as they could be, but I'm still happy to have managed a few given that I hadn't seen any of these birds, present several weeks, published anywhere else.

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting

Saturday 11 April 2015

France, Belgium & the Netherlands trip report

A brief report from our trip to France, Belgium and the Netherlands in early March 2015. You'll find details on Black Swan, Bar-headed Goose, Reeves's Pheasant, Chilean Flamingo, Black and Middle Spotted Woodpeckers etc. If anyone wants a copy, please email me.