Sunday, 20 April 2014

Happy Hour at Shustoke Res.

Sunday 20th April 2014
Got a call from Dennis W. first thing saying a few Arctic terns had dropped in at Shustoke Res. With overcast skies and rain in the air I decided it was worth a go even though I didnt have alot of time. No sign when I got there though, I checked out Coton on the off chance but nothing doing there either. I'd just returned home when a call from Dave H. said 2 Arctic terns had just dropped in to Shustoke. Cash in or cash out.  Do you - Dont you? Guests were not arriving till later than I'd thought so off I set again. Having parked up it was clear what Terns there were, were down at the far end. Great, a brisk walk was called for. I could see 3 birders on the far bank so I headed off round the west bank. I was half way round the bank when something almost surreal happened. I was suddenly surrounded by Arctic terns flying low only just above head height against the strengthening wind. I reckoned a flock of about 20 birds. It reminded me of a scene from the film 'Tora, Tora, Tora', about the Japanese attack on Pearl Habour. A young lad was having a flying lesson when his little plane is surrounded by Japanese Zero fighters coming in to attack.
Anyway, I continued around the reservoir to where the flock was concentrated. Dave H. Martyn and Kay were already there, watching the flock of 26 Arctic Terns and a single adult Little Gull. It s always a great sight every spring to see these long distance migrants in such pristine plummage. On the way back to the car park I saw my first Swift of the year. So it had been a quite productive visit.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

More summer migrants at Middleton Lakes RSPB

17th April 2014
Having spent time in the southern end of the Tame valley on Tuesday I moved to Middleton Lakes on Wednesday. Coton pool had provided the only new migrant, a Common Whitethroat, on Tuesday but there had been an apparent influx of migrants overnight at the northern end of the Tame valley at least. For a start there were more Willow warblers about and several Lesser Whitethroats. A Cuckoo was heard at Fishers Mill and a Reed warbler also heard from the Silt lagoon. It was too late in the day to hear Grasshopper warblers but I was told there had been 2 or 3 reeling earlier in the day. I caught a brief view of the Glossy Ibis in the small bays on the Jubilee Wetlands and the Black tailed Godwit was still present. Not a bad day at all.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Pied billed Grebe, Rutland Water

10th April 2014
A couple of images of the Pied billed Grebe in the Sailing Club bay at Rutland Water.

Pied billed Grebe, Rutland Water
Pied billed Grebe
Pied billed Grebe

Other birds seen Red Kite, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow pipit.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

More local stuff

7th April 2014
Had a very enjoyable walk thru the Tame valley with Steve C. It had started off quietly at Coton and Cliff pool, Kingsbury but then picked up with Swallows and a House Martin at Hemlingford Water, Kingsbury. News of a drake Garganey had us walking the wetlands trail. There was a mixed flock of Ringed Plover, Little ringed Plover and Dunlin but no sign of the Grey Plover reported earlier. Eventually Steve found the Garganey asleep on one of the islands.
8th April 2014
Change of scene today. A visit to Brandon Marsh proved very rewarding with an Avocet on East Marsh and 2 Lesser spotted Woodpeckers in Horsetail Glade.
Lesser spotted Woodpecker, Brandon Marsh N.R.
Lesser spotted Woodpecker
They're back!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Local stuff

A few images from last weeks local birding. Quite a quiet week for me with a Red Kite over the M40 near Kingsbury, and  probably over 100 summer plummage Golden Plover near Hurley the highlights.
Scaup, Shustoke
Mediterranean Gull, Middleton Lakes
Fox with Canada geese

Friday, 4 April 2014

Sleeping with Petrels - Not

Day 6 cont. We had stuffed ourselves with Pizza for lunch, but now it was time to head back to the coast. We drove along an endless sandy track until we got to a bay with a couple of small boats, a shack and the remains of a large number of fish. Getting into the boat was a challenge but that was the easy bit. Most of us had stripped off, some more than others but this was not a time for modesty. It was practical to get as few clothes wet as was possible. Especially as you were going to sleep in them. Our guide and his girlfriend were great, as were the boatmen, in loading and unloading our kit and food.
It was a short ride out to the 'Petrel' island but quite a lively one, with huge waves breaking on the outer rocks.
Getting on board - the easy bit
Setting off and yes thats me in the corner losing my religion
Getting off the boat was a good deal more hairy if not downright foolhardy

 The island itself was only 6ft above sea level, flat and almost circular, perhap70-80 metres across at the widest point. It was actually getting on to the damn thing that was the problem. The boatmen manouvered the boat as close in as they dared but the water was still chest high as one by one we disembarked. We linked arms to support each other as we struggled over the slippery rocks but many of us got as ducking if a big wave hit us as we waded ashore. Much to the amusement of the wimps onshore. Anyway we made it and no harm done. Our guide put down a trail of wooden planks for us to follow, avoiding the Petrels nests and leading to a central area where we would spend the night.
The island was partially covered by sparce vegetation only some 4 inches high, underwhich the entrances to the White faced Petrels nest burrows could be seen.We set out our sleeping bags on the stone covered crusted sand and had our packed dinner as the day turned to night. It was some time after dark that the first White faced Petrels came in. Flying low, picked out in the red beam of a single torch the birds surrounded us, as more and more came in. It was a magical birding experience. The birds started to land on the patches of vegetation, very ungainly on land as they moved to their nest sites but beautiful little birds nonetheless.
All too soon it was time to switch off the torch and climb into the sleeping bags. Sleeping though was almost impossible, for me at least, trying to get into a comfortable position on the hard ground. As soon as you moved there was another rock sticking into you somewhere you didnt want it. And then it was dawn and then it was time to strip off all over again and then we had to wade up to our armpits and try to scramble into the boat as it heaved up and down. Everyone helped everyone else though, which was good and we were soon heading back to dry off on dry land. All together what you might call an experience!
On the drive back to the hotel we encountered an obliging flock of Black crowned Sparrow Larks and a photogenic Hoopoe Lark.
Hoopoe Lark
Black crowned Sparrow Lark - All photographs in this post courtesy of Michael Baker

After lunch, it may have been Pizza, we saw an Egyptian Vulture, a first for the trip. It was then back to the airport for the final time after what had been an extremely successful and enjoyable tour. The White faced Petrel was my 700th Western Pal bird, a personal landmark but more importantly it was great to meet up with some old friends and make some new friends. Thanks to them and to Vaughan for his organisation and tireless good humour.

Cape Verde - Day 6

The group drove out to a Lighthouse for a session of Seawatching, a much more sensible way of watching seabirds, keeping your feet firmly on dry land. As we approached the Lighthouse several Bar tailed Larks were seen as well as 3 Cream coloured Coursers. The sea watching got under way and it was clear there were a good many birds passing but mostly Cape Verde Shearwaters with a couple of Fea's also seen breaking the horizon. A few of the guys on the 'team' were experienced Sea watchers and the calls soon started coming in thick and fast. A couple of the Fea's petrels passed quite close giving great views as did a South polar Skua. Several Brown Boobies passed by as well as an Osprey which landed on the shore nearby.
Bar tailed Lark, Sal
Brown Booby
Cape Verde Shearwater
We returned to our hotel before the drive to the airport for our flight back to Boa vista where we had a good lunch before preparing for our overnight island adventure.