Saturday, 25 October 2014

Yellow billed Cuckoo, Porthwarra

Friday 25th October 2014
Travelled down to Cornwall with John Terry to hopefully see one of my 'most wanted' birds. We drove down to Exeter and waited for news.When news that the bird was still there and still alive we got moving again. As on many twitches we had a few delays. Driving through the centre of Penzance is not a good idea at 10.00am on a Friday. Several agricultural vehicles posed challenges to our progress and to top it all we had to wait for an entire herd of cows to make their way across our path. As we approached Porthwarra the low cloud seemed to get even lower reducing visability to a few yards.Not an encouraging sign. We parked up and prepared ourself for a hike onto the moors. As we set off a happy group of West Mids birders reached the car park, flushed with success and the look that says - seen it, in the bag. We trudged on wishing we had set off 1/2 an hour earlier. The drizzle continued as we reached the point where it was last seen. An area of Willow scrub and Bracken. Now and again the cloud lifted and visability improved but still no sign of the Cuckoo. There were now only a handfull of birders on site, surrounding the area it was thought to be in. After over an hour a couple of birders on the far side seemed focussed on something, and then the wave.They'd got it. After a lung bursting walk/run I was in position. Directions were being given but it seemed an age, but probably only a matter of seconds before I was on the bird as it sat on a wall giving great views. For once I hadn't got my camera with me which was turning out to be a huge mistake. I checked that John was getting a good view too but as the bird lingered on the wall everyone was content with the view they were getting at relatively close range.
Yellow billed Cuckoo, Porthwarra, Cornwall - photo courtesy of Pete Forbes

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Quiet in the Tame valley.

Wednesday 22nd October 2014
After the strong winds of the previous day it was good to get out and about. It was possible there might be the odd displaced migrant about but in the event it turned out to be a quiet day in terms of weather and birds around. At Shustoke Res. there was no sign of the two Red crested Pochards but a female Goldeneye was seen flying over the water. There was also a Common Sandpiper reported but little chance of seeing it with so many uncontrolled dogs about. At the back of the fisherman's pool a Willow tit was seen briefly with a small tit flock. Kingsbury was equally uninspiring although I did visit Sita hide and was surprised to see just how much work had been carried out around Otter pool. On the way back there was a late Willow warbler and Chiffchaff with another tit flock.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Just looking

Monday 20th October 2014
Went out for a bit of Patch bashing in the morning. Only Reed Buntings, Stock doves, flocks of Goldfinches and a few House Sparrows were seen on the outward stretch of the route but the inward leg was far more rewarding with a pair of Stonechats on the rough ground along the river and a Kingfisher near the cottages. In the afternoon I went to Earlswood lakes on the off chance the Yellow browed warbler, seen there earlier, might be relocated. If there was any relocating to be done though it would have to be done by me. I did try though, walking round as much of both Engine pool and Windmill pool as I could. A good walk but that was about it. I saw one small flock of mixed tits (can I say that?) but it was a needle in a haystack job. I'd have done better looking round Shustoke reservoir.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

North Norfolk Coast - Oct. 2014

16th-17th October 2014
Had a very enjoyable couple of days mid-week in the company of Steve Haynes on the North Norfolk coast. An easterly wind had brought in a considerable number of migrants, and there were good numbers of common migrants: Goldcrests, Robins, Thrushes on the ground with Redwings, Skylarks Starlings, Bramblings and Chaffinches flying over. There were also several reports of Short eared and Long eared Owls coming in off the sea but unfotunately we didnt see any. Rarer migrants were sprinkled along the coast. Yellow browed warblers and one or two Pallas's warblers were relatively easy to find, as were Great grey Shrikes but the real crowd pullers were an often elusive Isabelline Shrike and a ridiculously confiding Steppe Grey Shrike. Still one or two outgoing migrants about, Northern Wheatears on the beaches and a few Blackcaps and a Common Whitethroat in bushes bordering the sea. Add the Geese and Shorebirds and it was just a great place to be.

Pallas's Warbler, Holkham Dunes
Pallas's Warbler
Pallas's warbler
Pallas's warbler
Steppe Grey Shrike, Burnham Norton
Steppe Grey Shrike
Steppe Grey Shrike
Steppe Grey Shrike
Isabelline Shrike
Not all the incoming migrants make it. A case of so near yet so far for this unfortunate Redwing.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Bonxies at Draycote Water

Tuesday 14th October 2014
Draycote Water is about as far away from the sea as its possible to get, so when a pelagic species turns up its usually worth seeing. Steve H. contacted me to say there was a Bonxie at Draycote Water so I was soon on the road. I'd seen one a couple of weeks earlier but with a strong passage of pelagic species down the east coast and big weather systems around the UK there was a good chance of something else turning up. I hoped this bird might prove a little more obliging than the last one which stayed out in the middle of the reservoir.
When I caught up with the bird it was attacking Coots near the inlet and putting on a great show. Bob H. and Tim M. were already there. I took a few shots from Rainbow corner before the show was over. The Bonxie sat on the water a bit further out. Apparently that was its routine: sit on the water and periodically haress the groups of Coots and Ducks around the res.
After some time Bob and I wandered back towards the visitors centre stopping on the way to photograph 3 Dunlin. I kept checking the Bonxie and was amazed to see another Bonxie flying around Rainbow Corner. I checked the original Bonxie was still on the water. It too was now flying but there were definitely 2 birds. I yelled at Bob that there were now 2 birds. As we watched we became aware that there were in fact 3 birds flying around the reservoir. They eventually all landed in Biggin bay.
There was also a passage of Kittiwakes and a single Arctic tern which I unfortunately managed to miss, but I was pretty chuffed at seeing the Bonxies.
Bonxie mobbed by a Crow and Black headed Gull, Draycote Water
3 Bonxies feeding on a fish

Common Crane at Blithfield Res. Staffs.

Took a day off from the usual rounds to go and see the Common Crane in Tad Bay, Blithfield Reservoir. The bird remained on the far side of the bay while I was there. Duck numbers were clearly increasing but waders were represented by a lone Ruff, in Tad bay. My intention was to visit some Tame valley sites but as it got quite dark late afternoon and with things to do in Tamworth I decided the Crane would have to be it for the day.
Common Crane, Blithfield Res.
Common Crane
Common Crane

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Shetland Isles - good birds to the end

Days 8 & 9
Saturday was wet, we did go out to look for a Rose coloured Starling but gave up as the heavy rain continued. After lunch back in Lerwick we set off again as the rain eased. A Bluethroat showed very well in the same area we had explored in the morning and then news that the Pallid Harrier had returned to Tingwall had us jumping back in the cars for the short drive to Tingwall. The Harrier was sitting on a post near to the airfield and attracting the attention of a Merlin. So despite losing a good deal of the day to the weather we had ended up with 2 excellent birds for the day.

Our final day
After packing up we went back for another look for the Rose coloured Starling. This time we were successful as the bird was seen flying into the same Sycamore 'hedge' the Bluethroat had been in.
Rose coloured Starling
A distant Rose coloured Starling

We drove back to the Sumburgh area to see what we could find before heading for the Airport. The 'boys' found a Lesser Whitethroat, while I amused myself trying to photograph another Yellow browed warbler,
Yellow browed Warbler, Sumburgh Head