Friday, 31 October 2014

A week in the Tame valley

Wednesday 29th October 2014
Where shall we start? After the excitement of Norfolk and Cornwall it was back to the reality of the local scene. Caldecote, Alvecote, Kingsbury and Middleton Lakes all had a winter rather than an Autumn feel about them. A few flocks of Redwing an increase in Duck numbers, Woodpigeons and Starlings en masse but very little else. When I start taking photos of Nuthatches and Robins winter isnt far away.You keep the fantasy alive by searching in little bits of N.Warks. and South Staffs. habitat for that little gem tucked away. Theres got to be a Yellow browed or an R B Fly somewhere.
Friday 31st October 2014
Today began on a far more positive note. The weather was much warmer and there was the possibility of a Shag at Shustoke Res. ? So that would be the starting point of the days birding. The Shag was still there when I arrived but I was lucky, as 5 minutes later it landed on the water and moved away out of sight. I moved on as well, I went to Kingsbury Water Park and took a stroll round to Sita hide. The water level had been lowered and had attracted 4 Green Sandpipers and 6 Little Egrets. Also seen during the week: Raven, 4 Black tailed Godwit, 4 Dunlin, Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail.

A selection of images taken this week in the Tame valley.

Stonechat, Middleton Lakes
Shag, Shustoke Res.
Meadow Pipit
Green Sandpiper, 2 of 4 birds present on Otter pool, KWP
Brown Rat, Broomey Croft - showing its climbing skills

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

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Shetland Isles - Another one of those days

Day 7
Overnight gales continued into the morning so it was a slow start to the day. When the rain had eased a bit we headed off to Eswick for another search for the Little Bunting.The bird had been seen on the sheltered side of a small wood at it wasnt long before it appeared in a ditch.
Little Bunting, Eswick
I can't remember where we all went after that. I remember getting good views of Jack Snipe and looking for a reported Corncrake but I do have a vivid recollection of what happened after the Mega alert went off. All we knew from a corrupted message, was that a Mega had been found somewhere on the Shetland Isles. The sensible thing to do was to head for the main road and wait. We didnt get to the main road before the lead car came to a sudden halt and Julian jumped out in a state of great excitement. The exact words can't be repeated for legal reasons, probably, but the gist was Siberian Rubythroat - Levenwick. Yes, the one every Shetland birder wants. In the excitement we or rather the driver set off in the wrong direction. We travelled half a mile before we realised. We were so close to Levenwick it didnt really matter. We joined the throng trying to get a glimpse of the bird amongst the dense foliage of a garden. I managed to get a position where I could view a small open area between two bushes. A couple of times a bird dashed across the open ground but the views were poor. It was sometime before I got the view I wanted. The bird stopped to feed, front on, showing its distinctive throat pattern which stood out even in the dim light under the bushes. Yes, brilliant. Several other birder got the same view so there was alot of clenching of fists and hand shaking. Many thanks to the finder, Dan Pointon. Many birders went home very happy that evening.
The bird relocated to a familiar garden the next day and I managed to get a couple of images.
Siberian Rubythroat, Levenwick

Siberian Rubythroat
To celebrate Keith prepared a few nibbles (which didnt last long enough to photograph) to go with a few beers, a sample of which is shown here.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

The Shetland Isles - Days 5 and 6

Day 5, 1st October 2014
We returned to Unst, as we had unfinished business. The Eastern sub Alpine warbler and the Barred warbler were soon in the bag, but the Rustic Bunting proved far more difficult and was seen by only one member of the team. At Norwick the Wryneck was still on the beach posing for photos in the warm sunshine. We also saw a Marsh warbler in a patch of nettles and got to grips with the female King Eider on the way back on Yell. For me though the bird of the day had been the Wryneck.
Barred warbler, Haroldswick, Unst
Wryneck, Norwick, Unst
Day6, 2nd October 2014
Target for the day was a Little Bunting at Eswick, we didnt find it so after lunch back at Lerwick we tried for the Pectoral Sandpiper at Clevigarth.
Pectoral Sandpiper, Clevigarth
Pectoral Sandpiper
We visited several likely spots but without success except near Spiggie where a Merlin complete with ready meal landed quite close to the car.
The Merlin was the Bird of the day, but the highlight of the day was the Chilli we had for dinner, lovingly cooked by 'Wimbo'.

The Shetlands, Days 3 and 4, The calm before a Mega day.

Monday 29th September 2014
A quiet day day both in terms of the weather and the birds. The plan was to head north and have a look for a reported Greenish warbler but when a message came through about another Yank, a  Myrtle warbler at Virkie we did a quick about turn. When we got to Virkie the news was not so good as the bird had been seen to fly off. We spent the rest of the day looking for birds around various sites in the South but only came up with regular Shetland wintering and passage species. However, late news that a White's Thrush had been found on the South Mainland made our plans for the following day pretty straightfoward.
Tuesday 30th September 2014
Day 4 turned out to be one of those 'special' birding days. News that the Whites Thrush was still present confirmed our intentions and we were soon peering into the garden it had bee seen in at Durigarth. The height of the wall proved quiet challenging for many birders and prime viewing spots were at a premium. Having seen the bird we decided it was a case of coming back later when it was less crowded. As we got back to the car news came through that the Myrtle warbler had been relocated in Grutness. Another Mega just down the road. Outstanding.
White's Thrush, Durigarth
Whites Thrush
Myrtle warbler, Grutness
Myrtle warbler
Myrtle warbler

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Shetland 2014, Day 2 Unst

We drove up to Unst in the hope of connecting with Rustic Bunting, which one of the low listers in the party needed and as there were other bits and bobs it seemed the place to be. We saw Temminck's Stint briefly and had a look for the Eastern sub-Alpine warbler before stopping for a drink and a bit of lunch. Having just placed our order the message came through that a Swainson's Thrush had been found just up the road at Norwick. Having calmly finished our lunch we were on site in minutes. The bird was in a walled garden and it wasnt too long before it popped up on a wall.
Swainson's Thrush, Norwick, Unst
We also had rather distant views of a Wryneck on the beach but failed to see the Barred warbler, Common Rosefinch, Rustic Bunting in the area and the female King Eider at Yell on the way back. It had however been an excellent days birding and we would no doubt catch up with the birds we had missed later in the week. Bird of the day - Swainson's Thrush