Thursday, 31 October 2013

Hermit Thrush, Porthwarra, Cornwall 2013

Thursday 31st October 2013
As Dave Abbot and I drove through the night to get to Porthwarra for first light, the star filled skies and light winds did not bode well for our chances of seeing the Hermit Thrush found at the foot of the valley the previous day. There were a lot of birders already there and we parked at the top of the hill as the car park appeared to be full. The bird had been seen in bushes and trees near the toilet block. As the light improved and it was possible to look into the strip of vegetation on either side of the stream the search began. Blackbirds, Chiffchaffs, Goldcrests and Robins were scrutinised but no sign of the Hermit Thrush. For 2 hours there was no sign of the bird. The weather and the light continued to improve and then movement. Not the bird but birders. Looking through the trees to the birders on the road beyond they were clearly focussing on something. It was time for me to move and join the throng, the bird was still present.
After a couple of false alarms the bird was finally seen. It had been flying up to pick Elderberries and was now sitting up in the bush preening, partially obscured at first but then in full view. Outstanding. There was no great panic after the initial positioning and re-positioning and birders were generally very helpful to one another, which was good to see. After being invisible for so long the bird gave further prolonged views much appreciated by everyone.

Monday, 28 October 2013

So near yet so far

Monday 20th October 2013
Another out of County excursion today if only just out of County. The Hoopoe at a fishery just outside Woodford Halse in Northants. was the attraction.The bird feeds in the car park of the fishery and I was told the owner has temporarily closed the fishery to minimise disturbance of the bird. I was glad to have the opportunity of thanking him for the gesture. With the small group of admirers kept back behind the gate the Hoopoe was amazingly confiding, coming almost right up to the gate in its never ending quest for food.
Hoopoe, Nr. Woodford Halse, Northants
Hoopoe, plenty of food amongst the Moss and short grass

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Great grey Shrike - Harrington, Northants.

Saturday 26th October 2013
Took myself off to a new venue this morning, Harrington disused airfield in Northants.  A former USAF base in the second World War there is now little of the base remaining except a few derelict concrete bunkers, piles of rumble and strips of waste land with grass and bushes. Ideal habitat for a number of species of birds which like wide open spaces with plenty of perches. A Great grey Shrike had been seen there recently so as the wind and rain beat down the search began. It was half an hour before I saw the bird on a concrete post in the middle of a field of winter wheat. After that the bird would be seen periodically usually close to one of the three bunkers on the site. The trick was predicting which of the three bunkers the bird would appear at next.
Distant, but typical view of Great grey Shrike on concrete pillar
Great grey Shrike
Great grey Shrike
Great grey Shrike
Red Kite, common in the area

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Patch Watch

Thursday 25th October 2013
Having neglected my 'patch' it was due for a bit of a bashing so I gave it a good going over today, making the best of a great day to be out. Didn't come up with anything particularly exciting but it was interesting to see just how many birds were in the fields. I reckoned on something like 60+ Skylarks, 40 Meadow pipits and 15 Reed Buntings. It took me nearly an hour to work a 300 metre stretch of hedge and recently planted crop fields either side. Nothing out of the ordinary but you never know with so many birds about. I also counted a flock of 120 Black headed Gull. There was very little on the Sheep fields and the embankment near the canal but with so many berries about things should liven up when the weather turns colder.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Second chance

Tuesday 22nd October 2013
You dont always get a second chance in Birding. If you miss seeing a rare bird you might well have to wait a few years for the next one. Having missed the Parrot Crossbills at Shoeburyness I was very fortunate in only having to wait a few days for another chance. Again I was busy over the weekend so my first opportunity to go for the Parrots in Hemsted Forest near Cranbrook, Kent was Tuesday. With heavy rain forecast for the South East at mid day I needed an early start.The journey down early in the morning was uneventful until I got to Cranbrook itself. Could I find the site, could I 'eck. I lost all sense of direction and kept finding myself back where I started, usually the local Golf course!
Eventually, having lost valuable time I found a group of cars at an entrance to a large clearing in the forest. In the distance were a group of birders on the track in the centre of the clearing. The large square of recently planted trees was surrounded by mature pines and these were the focus of attention of the 10 or so birders already there.
Various species including Crossbills flew over the clearing to disappear beyond the trees. It was nearly an hour before a small group of Crossbills landed and started feeding in a relatively close Pine tree. As the group checked through the birds that were visible it became clear that two birds were definitely Parrot Crossbill. What a relief. Other flocks of Crossbills came and went in other pines around the clearing and it was possible to make comparisons, but despite waiting over an hour there were no further sightings of the Parrot Crossbills. As the rain got heavier it was time to go.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Arctic Tern at Shustoke Reservoir

Tuesday 15th October 2013
A message from Dave Hutton had me hurrying off to Shustoke res. to see a juvenile Arctic tern which was being particularly obliging and giving good photo opportunities.
Arctic tern, Shustoke
Arctic tern
Arctic tern
Arctic tern
Arctic tern
Arctic tern
As the low cloud lifted a number of other species were seen flying over the reservoir : 6 Swallows, a Brambling and four Skylarks.

Monday, 14 October 2013

A day at the Seaside

Monday 14th October 2013
I took myself off to the seaside today. Southend on Sea or to be more exact Gunner's Park, Shoeburyness. The purpose was to see my first Parrot Crossbill. My journey was in vain as I missed the birds by an hour. Lots of ifs and buts about taking a different route, leaving earlier etc. but I dipped pure and simple. The birds had been in trees just behind the sea wall in what used to be park land on an MOD site now a mere remnant of a park eroded by housing developments. There were a few other migrants about though. Blackcap and Chiffchaff and the almost inevitable Yellow browed warbler. A Ring Ouzel was good to see, part of a massive movement of this species on the East coast today. While small groups of Swallows flew south through the park.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Shetland Isles 2013 - Best of the rest.

A selection of images for last weeks trip to the Shetland Isles - birds that didn't make the headlines!
Purple Sandpiper, Lerwick
Willow warbler, Lower Voe
Rock pipit
Yellow browed Warbler
Cat and Mouse, Grutness
Grey Seal

Friday, 11 October 2013

Local Birding - Whooper Swans arrive

Friday 11th October 2013
Still a few bits and bobs from Shetland but with a big movement of Gannets and Bonxies overland it was time to get back to the local scene. Unfortunately, Warwickshire as with most of the West Mids missed out on most of the action. There were no reports even from Draycote Water and a vigil at Shustoke by Steve H and myself failed to produce any birds of great interest. Some winter migrants in the form of 7 Whooper swans did drop in at Mill pool, Alvecote, however.
Whooper Swans, Alvecote pools
Whooper Swan
Whooper Swans with Mute swan
Yesterday saw the arrival of my first winter thrushes in the form of 11 Fieldfare at Coton and 5 Redwing at Merevale near Atherstone.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Shetland Isles - 2013 - Mega days

2nd -5th October 2013
Over the next couple of days the weather deteriorated with very strong southerly winds and heavy rain at times. The team concentrated on the more sheltered spots on the Mainland but it was hard going. On Thursday we went for the Hudsonian Whimbrel which had been found near Mid Yell but with conflicting information on where and when it had been seen we drew a blank.
On Friday the winds eased although there was still heavy rain as we drove to Lerwick harbour with the main intention of photographing Black Guillemots.
Black Guillemot, Lerwick harbour
We also saw a Velvet Scoter before heading back South again. I cant remember exactly where we were when the news broke but I can remember we weren't very far away and we jumped back into the car pretty smartish. A Thick-billed warbler had been identified at Geosetter. After some careful parking manouvres from Julian we joined the small group of birders already assembled on the roadside. The bird was in a crop field next to the road and extremely elusive. During the course of the next couple of hours the bird was seen to fly low over the crop field 3 times and perched briefly in the Willows alongside the burn just before dusk. Thick billed warbler is one of THE most sought after 'Shetland birds' and by good fortune the team was in the right place at the right time.
We visited the site next morning and eventually, in better light, got a good view of the bird in flight. News that another eastern goodie had been found filtered through the assembled group. There was an Eastern Olivaceous warbler in a garden at Hoswick. As the sun broke through on the trees and bushes at the back of the garden a number of warblers : Blackcap, Garden warbler, Yellow browed warbler, Chiffchaff and the Eastern Olivaceous warbler were seen.
 Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Hoswick
Eastern Olivaceous warbler
As if that wasn't enough, Shetland had another nice little surprise for us at Sumburgh in the form of a Greater Short-toed Lark which favoured a horse paddock next to the airfield.
Greater Short toed Lark. Sumburgh

Otters, Waders and Warblers - Shetland 2013

Tuesday 1st October 2013
 We set off on a mission to locate a Lesser Yellowlegs which had been seen at the pool of Virkie but which spent more of its time on some boggy pools at Clevigarth. After a bit of a trek we found the pools.The other lads heard a number of wader flight calls but it wasnt until the birds landed on the hillside that the Lesser Yellowlegs was identified with a Ruff and a Wood Sandpiper. Eventually the Lesser Yellowlegs dropped into the pool again as did a Pectoral Sandpiper which appeared from nowhere and disappeared into the vegetation.
Lesser Yellowlegs, Clevigarth
Great Skua, Clevigarth - A common sight around the Shetland Isles
With the wind strengthening we moved on to Voe. After some searching we found an elusive Arctic warbler, along with Great spotted Woodpecker and Willow warbler. At Lower Voe an Otter gave some great photo opportunities in the harbour which was more than could be said for the Arctic warbler.
Arctic warbler, Voe
Otter, Lower Voe
Great spotted Woodpecker

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Shetland Isles - 2013

Monday 30th September 2013
With strong S.E. winds continuing the prospects for more 'good' birds looked promising and anticipation of something Mega was high. We took ourselves off to Yell and Unst for the day and it was clear birds were coming in. As well as flights of Barnacles and Pink footed Geese overhead there were good numbers of Snow Buntings and Bramblings as well as more common migrants such as Robin, Meadow pipit and Goldcrest. At Mid Yell we saw an Eastern Sub-Alpine warbler before moving on to Unst. It was now a beautiful sunny day and a joy to stroll around Haroldswick where we failed to connect with an O.B.Pipit but saw Merlin and a large flock of Snow Buntings and Norwick where we saw Common Redpoll, Common Redstart and Lesser Whitethroat. A few Swallows were making the most of the weather to 'stock up' at the most northerly point of the British Isles before starting their long journey south.

'Eastern' Sub-Alpine warbler, Mid Yell
Eastern Sub-Alpine Warbler
Brambling, Unst
Snow Bunting
Merlin, Unst
Common Redpoll, Norwick, Unst
Common Redpoll
Lesser Whitethroat, (PEF), Norwick
Lesser Whitethroat