Sunday 31 October 2010

Update on the Greylag

Sunday 31st October 2010

As I sit huddled by the fire with my cocoa waiting for the first trick or treaters to ring the door bell I wonder what would happen if I really got into the 'spirit' of the thing, got dressed up in rags, wore green makeup -(bit like the way I look when I'm out birding) and made incoherrant goulish sounds as I open the door. The idea of scaring the socks of the little darlings and striking a blow for miserable old farts everywhere is quite appealing, and yes I was young once. Just a thought.

Anyway, more info has come to light regarding the neck ringed Greylag goose seen on the Hayle estuary yesterday, care of the Cornwall Bird-Watching and Preservation Soc. website. After being ringed in Southern Sweden in 2000 the bird has been sighted at various locations in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark over the years and has been tracked at various places in Eastern Scotland and eastern England this year before making its way to its present location on the Hayle estuary.

Nice to see both Hen Harrier and Great grey Shrike visiting the County over the last couple of days.

The total number of species reported in Warwickshire this year now stands at - 199

Saturday 30 October 2010

American Bittern in Cornwall

Saturday 30th October 2010

Haloween or not October is going out with a bang in a birding sense. An American Bittern near Zennor in Cornwall was the possible prize for an overnight drive to Trewey Common, 1 mile south of Zennor. Neil Howes had rung to ask if wanted to go and although there had been adverse reports of the bird being flushed and not being seen since midday we decided to go for it. We got a bit of sleep in the car as we waited till dawn. It was a cold, clear night and as more cars turned up we emerged to take up station on the roadside where we could view a pool the bird had been seen near, early the previous day. As the skies got brighter the silhouette of a bird was seen to fly from the pool and drop into some reeds. The view was inconclusive. The gallery grew and suddenly a Bittern got up from the reeds and flew over some conifers and across the Common, disappearing amongst the Gorse bushes. It had not been flushed. Birders spread out along the tracks around the Common and one or two found themselves in amongst the Gorse bushes. Again the bird flew up and gave prolonged flight views as it gained height and appeared to be heading well away before it was attacked by a Peregrine Falcon. In improving light as the Bittern tumbled and dropped to avoid the Peregrine it was possible to see the colouration of the upper wings and confirm we were looking at an American Bittern. The drama continued as the Peregrine made frequent swoops on the Bittern which was finally forced to the ground near some buildings with large gardens. Most of the birders including Neil and myself dispersed at this point well satisfied with the views they had had. It was time for Breakfast. Despite further searching the bird was not seen again for several hours. Other birds in the area included Greenland White fronted Geese (4), several flocks of Golden plover and many Raven.
After breakfast we had a brief look round Marazion and then the Hayle estuary. Star birds were a confiding group of Whooper Swans(2 adults and 1 juvenile) and a neck ringed Greylag goose from Sweden. Information courtesy of Lee Evans who with one quick phone call found out the origins of the goose. Impressive stuff indeed.
I would like to add that the behaviour of the hundred or so Birders at Trewey Common was excellent and self regulated, an example of Birding at its best.

Thursday 28 October 2010

Slavonian Grebe at Draycote Water

Slavonian Grebe, Draycote Water

Slavonian Grebe and Coot

Slavonian Grebe

Thursday 28th October 2010

Firstly thanks to those people who recommended good websites on Bird calls. One was particularly useful, with the flight call I was looking for. I am now satisfied that what I saw yesterday was a group of birds which included Lapland Bunting.
Started the day at Alvecote but not much to report, good selection of Garden birds in the bushes between Mill pool and the railway line including a Chiffchaff. The Magic mushroom brigade were out and about, complete with Rainbow Tea cosy and sad attempts at growing facial hair.' Its a bummer...Aint found nuffin, man'.

Lunch at Orton on the Hill was definitely up market with black olives added to the vegetable Samosas and Hula Hoops. A feast, but not regards birds, the flocks of Skylarks and pipits were too far away to scrutinise properly. So what to do next? I pondered the next move but as the flavour of the last morsel of Hula Hoop faded a message from the pager sent be back to Draycote again. To hopefully see a Slavonian Grebe reported on Farborough Bank. Ur, what I really meant to say was off Farborough Bank.

Close inspection of the birds off Farborough bank revealed nothing out of the ordinary, as I scanned from Farborough spit I was beginning to have doubts. I had to walk half way down Toft bank to find the Slavonian Grebe(176), a rather scruffy individual but a Slavonian Grebe non the less.

Wednesday 27 October 2010

Probable Lapland Buntings in Warwickshire

Wednesday 27th October 2010

Yesterday's birding was confined to a tour round the housing estates on the eastern side of Nuneaton. If I'd been looking for cul de sacs I'd have been well chuffed but looking for a reported flock of 30 Waxwings was a different matter. They'd obviously moved on in the few minutes between the pager message and getting on site, a near miss.
Today Lady Luck was smiling. I decided to have another crack at Draycote Water. As I said a couple of days ago birds ARE still moving. My good friend Tony Shepherd saw a Gannet yesterday following the river at Walton a few miles east of Stratford upon Avon. So Draycote seemed as good a bet as anywhere. The luck bit was that for once I was in the right place, just beyond the inlet going towards the valve tower to see the birds in question. I'd just left Kevin Grewcock and had just been looking at a Common Sandpiper at the inlet. When I picked up a distinctive call I didnt recognise. No surprise there, my knowledge of calls isnt as good as it should be, but I knew it was something I wasn't familiar with. I counted 7 birds. They certainly were not Skylarks, but a similar size. I carried the sound round with me for the rest of walk round the reservoir. At various points I stopped to phone people up who might be able to help. Pete Forbes tried to play the call through his mobile phone but it didnt work. I even went to Brandon Marsh for some advice but although the receptionists tried their best to help their computer wasn't wired for sound, so not much good. I had a quick look round the reserve (Green Sandpiper and lots of Common Snipe) then I went home to check out calls. 2 hours later I hadnt found a satisfactory clip of the flight call, just the song. But, looking in various books, the rrrrrt quite loud rasping sound perfectly described what I heard and strengthened my view that I'd seen 7 Lapland Buntings flying over Draycote Water. Its just a shame I was the only observer of this very rare visitor to the County. I shan't submit the record until I've heard a better recording of the flight call, but I'm pretty sure it will confirm the ID.

Monday 25 October 2010

Double take

Whooper Swans, Draycote Water, (2007)

Monday 25th October 2010

Another beautiful autumn day. Jan and I had a walk round Draycote Reservoir, we both needed the exercise. I took my bins , I don't feel dressed without them, but there wasn't much to look at. Very few ducks, a handful of Meadow pipits and 3 Swans out in the middle. I hardly raised my bins the whole way round but we were enjoying our walk There were very few people about which surprised me as its half term. On returning home I checked the pager, 'Waxwings, Waxwings, Lapland Bunting, 2 Whooper Swans, Draycote Water '. What, **!!!** 'ell. Miss ID? Seen early morning and flown off? Or just maybe 2 of the 3 Swans seen distantly. Arghh, what to do? If they were still there I'd seen them, tick, thank you very much, end of story. No wouldn't be right I had to ID them to tick them. So off I goes again. With scope at the ready I scanned the area I'd seen the Swans before. Not there but it wasnt too long before I had 3 Swans in view. Sure enough 1 Mute Swan with 2 Whooper Swans (174) in tow. The effort had been worth it. All that remained was to go back to the car park swop the scope for the camera and get a record shot. Ooops, no Memory card - I was making hard work of this but luckily I'm able to delve into the achives and include an image of a couple of Whoopers at Draycote I took earlier - 2007 to be exact. Could even be the same birds.

Sunday 24 October 2010


Sunday 24th October 2010

LGRE has suggested 'a premature end to Autumn ?' and perhaps a few stalwarts visiting the Scilly Isles this week might agree with him if the NW winds persist.
Ok, maybe not the headline birds to go shooting off to the East coast for and maybe wader passage is petering out and local reservoirs are quiet BUT there's still plenty of bird movement and plenty to see. I woke this morning to see a strange shape pass by the window. No it wasn't a flash back of JA in his under garments on some dawn mission in the Shetland Isles. This shape moved with everchanging grace across the skyline. It was a flock of birds, well over a hundred or so but far too distant to identify. They held a distinctive broad cresent shape, similar to flocks of waders over the shoreline. My guess would be Golden plover, I dont think Starlings would hold such a well defined shape for so long.

Did I say 'plenty to see' ? - I did a local walk around Merevale/Grendon area. It was a beautiful day and, according to the pager the cloudless skies should have been full of birds. Waxwings dripping from every bush, Rough legged Buzzards drifting by. Yeah, yeah, I didn't even see any Redwings or Fieldfares in the bushes, and the stubble fields were empty; except for the large number of game birds wandering from one feeder to the next. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

Wednesday 20 October 2010

Katie and the missing tit.

Kestrel, Draycote Water
Meadow pipit

Wednesday 20th October 2010

A quick look at Cliff pool, Kingsbury W.P. yesterday produced a Green Sandpiper, 5 Little Egrets, 2 Kingfishers and wet feet. Today I managed to keep my feet dry at least but saw very little bird wise. I started at Napton Res. the sun was out and so were the birders, no doubt excited by my stunning action shots of the Beared tit or maybe the poor prospects of seeing a decent Warwickshire bird anywhwere else. Anyway we were all disappointed as the fresh northerly breeze kept the bird down, if indeed it was still there. Warwickshire's finest were on parade and speculation and general gossip was rife. Its amazing what you can find out about this and that on a sunny day with a couple of hours to kill. In the end Terry and Mo and Me (cue song) went for refreshments at the local Garden centre. I settled for a coffee as I'd recently purchased a brace of meat pasties at the give away price of £1.50 from a stall on Nuneaton's Wednesday market. Anyway Terry and Mo went for the very dignified Tea a la creme Napton style. After more revelations about the seedy underworld of Warwickshire birding we went our separate ways: Terry and Mo to check out Napton on the hill and me to trudge round Draycote Water.

Nothing much had changed at Draycote since Monday. I enjoyed the walk, carefully checking the various groups of Tufted duck as I went but no sign of the Lesser Scaup. Counted 3 Goldeneye and that was it apart from a female Kestrel called Katie which demanded to be photographed.

Monday 18 October 2010

Bearded Tit at Napton, Warks.

Bearded tit, Napton Res. Warks. - I know, I know but the little blighter was quite nippy.

Monday October 2010

Bearded Tit is an infrequent visitor to West Midland counties. So when one was found at Napton Reservoir in Warwickshire I was eager to add it to the County year list which had again ground to a halt. Conditions were good when I arrived with watery sun and only a light breeze. I had to wait almost half an hour before the first brief flight view. I was joined my Mark Phillips who heard the bird call as it flew again. That was it for the next 4 hours. We were joined by Terry Southgate and Mo, Dave Hutton, Colin Potter and Andy Hale but as the wind got up the bird refused to show. People had better things to do than to stare into a Reed bed for 4 hours and only Andy and myself stuck it out for the duration. We were rewarded with some excellent flight views of an adult male Bearded Tit (173) in the early afternoon.
There was also visible migration to enjoy with two large flocks of Fieldfare and Starlings going over. One flock had well over 100 birds. Skylarks were also seen in ones and twos. The only other bird of note was a solitary Raven.

On the way back I stopped at Draycote Water but it was very quiet with just a handful of Meadow pipits on the banks and a single Goldeneye seen on the water but I only walked to Toft bay and back so there may well have been much more along the North shore.

Year listing will become increasingly desparate as the months slip by but, as I missed a lot of 'winter' species early in the year; Geese and Owls for example, I'm hoping to top the 180 target for Warwickshire

Total No. of species reported in Warks so far this year = 195

Friday 15 October 2010

Round up

Rock Pipit, Shustoke

Or not, Furnace End

Friday 15th October 2010

A round up of Birding North Warks this week. I have to say very disappointing, and I'm not making any comparisons. For the middle of October its very flat. The Tame valley has seen little activity this week, the highlights being Stonechat at Dosthill, 2 Green Sandpipers on the river at Kingsbury, a Rock pipit at Shustoke and several Chiffchaff around Coton pools. In coming winter migrants have included several flocks of Redwing (21 at Coton on Tuesday, and over 30 at Legion Wood, Grendon yesterday). There was also a mixed flock of mainly Lesser Redpolls and Siskin at Legion Wood yesterday. 2 Cetti's warblers were heard at Coton and at Middleton.

Other birds seen during the week have included. 6 Mistle thrush and a Grey wagtail on the Caldecote walk and a single Little Egret at Fishers Mill. Green Woodpeckers and Jays seem to be everywhere at the moment.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Red flanked Bluetail at Geosetter.

Red flanked Bluetail, Geosetter, Shetland Isles

Red flanked Bluetail

Red flanked Bluetail

Pallas's warbler

Pallas's warbler

Friday 8th October 2010

Our last full day on Shetland began with a search round Sandwick, Hoswick, Channerwick and Loch Spiggie. We didnt add any species to the trip list until we got word that a Red flanked Bluetail had been found at Geosetter by Rob Brookes, an Unst birder who had found the Lanceolated warbler. We were on site within 5 minutes with some impressive navigation from Julian. The bird had been seen in the steep sided Burn but was not showing at all when we got there. A bit of clambering up and down the grassy slopes was called for before the bird was refound. It showed really well often coming on to the grassy banks. It was a bit frustrating if you were on the wrong side of the burn but everybody got good views eventually. Another highlight of the day was the sight of 3 Long tailed ducks at Grutness, 2 drakes and a female, superb birds. We also added Lesser Whitethroat to our trip list back at Channerwick to complete another excellent days birding.
Saturday 9th October

Our last day began as every other; Bran flakes, toast and Marmalade and Coffee, very civilised. even sat at the table. What made this breakfast a little different though was a Ring tailed Hen Harrier which flew across the field in front of us. I shouted to Julian who was doing something personal in the toilet. In true birder tradition he nipped his ablutions in the bud and scrambled into the lounge to get a look at the bird before it disappeared.
We had time to add Pallas' warbler to the list at Sumburgh farm and have one last scan of Grutness bay, where Julian picked up a Grey Plover, before we headed for the airport. We had noticed a definte movement of Redwing coming in off the sea and with Easterly winds forecast prospects for the coming week looked good. It had been a great week, seen some special birds, met some nice people, seen the Autumn Watch Otters and many wonderful views.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Unst revisited

Lanceolated Warbler, Skaw, Unst

Lanceolated warbler

Lanceolated warbler

Lanceolated warbler

Blyth's Reed Warbler, Fetlar

Blyth's reed warbler

I'm no good without me lunch, even if I have just ticked Lancy
Thursday 7th October 2010

The domestics had gone quite well, the accommodation was comfortable and well situated and Julian and I had similar ideas about what we wanted to see and do and how to go about it. My supply of Pork pies and Pasties was holding up well, the weather was generally good and getting better, so morale was high. It came as a bit of a surprise then on Wednesday night when Julian came into the lounge with a face like 4 pence. He looked like a bloke who'd lost a shilling and found 10p. 'They've found a Skaw'. Where we'd almost been that afternoon. Somehow the thought of going to the most northerly point in the British Isles you can get to by car didnt seem to fill Julian with much excitement. Me, the chance of a lifetime opportunity to see a Lanceolated warbler, one of my must see birds and one of the reasons for going to the Shetland Isles in the first place WAS exciting. Of course it might not be there in the morning etc. etc.
We made a reasonably early start next morning and as we arrived at Skaw we could see about a douzen folk milling about. My usual pessimism kicked in, they were looking for it, it hadnt been seen. Getting out of the car my fears were alayed. Yes it had been seen that morning but was in a patch of reeds and long grass. It was just a question of waiting for it to emerge - and emerge it did, showing well on the short grass before scurrying back into cover. Wow! I've been lucky to have a few unforgettable birding moments but that ranked with the best. Quite emotional.

We moved on but not before seeing a flock of 17 Lapland Buntings and our first Fieldfare of the trip. The weather was beautiful with warm sunshine and light winds, but birds were clearly coming in with a noticable increase in numbers of Redwings and Song Thrushes.

Moving on again we popped on to Fetlar. It was only slightly out of our way and had the attraction of having a Blyth's Reed warbler. The bird had favoured a Dock plantation otherwise known as the garden of a Bod, which we were told was some kind of Hostel. Anyway it provided suitable habitat for the Blyth's reed warbler which we duly saw with the help of a local birder.Now I have to say at this point I was getting seriously dehydrated and to make matters worse there had been a cock up on catering front as my supplies of pies various, but mainly pork, had been exhausted AND, would you believe it, the only shop on Fetlar was closed on Thursdays.
Arghh! Still couldn't complain, It isnt every day you get to see Lanceolated warbler and a Blyth's Reed warbler.

Snowball at Unst

Arctic Redpoll, Carduelis hornemanni - Norwick, Unst

Little Bunting, Norwick Unst

Presumed 'Greenland' Redpoll

Lapland Bunting

Lapland Bunting, through the car windscreen. From this image its easy to see where the name Longspur comes from.

More Lapland Buntings

Brambling Fest. - part of a flock of eighty or so.

Wednesday 6th October 2010
A trip to one of the other islands was long overdue and with the prospect of seeing a real Arctic Redpoll we headed North for the ferry to Unst via Yell. We arrived at Norwick in the North of Unst to find a handful of birders searching some weedy strips of cultivated land. We soon found a pair of Little Buntings but the Arctic Redpoll proved to be far more difficult. As the search widened a presumed Greenland Redpoll landed on the track next to us and more Redpolls were found near the Graveyard but not the 'Snowball' we wanted. As we split up to look round the cottages I came across a Barred warbler which showed briefly in a ditch. The same ditch the Arctic Redpoll was eventually found in by another team on the case.

We had heard there were a flock of Lapland Buntings at Skaw but as we set off we found 4 Lapland Buntings on the road in front of us. So time for a long overdue coffee but not before we had checked out fields around the Heritage Centre near Baltasound where there was a small flock of Barnacle Geese. We also found a Ring Ouzel which had been in the area for a while and a large, 80+ flock of Bramblings around a potato field which held Blackcap and Yellow browed warbler. It was non-stop birding but Julian, who thinks coffee breaks are for wimps, finally relented and I got some much needed refreshment before we set off back.

Monday 11 October 2010

What's in a name?

Red breasted Flycatcher, Channerwick, Shetland

Sykes' warbler, Channerwick

Yellow browed Warbler, Channerwick

Shag, Grutness

Eider, Grutness

4th and 5th October 2010
Again we spent the day checking out sites on South Mainland. The wind was still South to South East but the low cloud soon cleared. Migrants were still about but not particularly abundant. Pied and Spotted Flycatcher were seen, a few Swallows moved through, even a Turtle Dove at Grutness and the odd Arctic tern battled against the fresh Southerly winds. One Arctic tern had to contend with the attentions of a Peregrine at Voxter, but there was only ever going to be one winner. Back at Channerwick the 'Booted' warbler was officially renamed as Sykes warbler and immediately became an A list celebrity. B list birds or scarcities, included Red breasted Flycatcher and Yellow browed Warbler. At Levenwick the Leicester boys were at it again finding another A list Shetland speciality, a Pallas' Grasshopper warbler. The bird was in several Iris beds and flew from one patch to another. Various people claimed to have seen various key features of the bird in flight. In the event it emerged they hadn't, and the bird was later deemed to be a Grasshopper warbler. At least a tick for the trip list.
A visit to Grutness produced a pair of Red throated Divers, a female Eider and the memorable sight of a Northern Wheatear flying out 150 metres over the sea to take an insect and fly back to its original perch. Birds just never fail to amaze me.

Day 4

We added a few more birds to the trip list with the first skeins of Pink footed Geese coming in plus Knot, Sanderling and a 1w Little Gull but generally a quite day.

Swainson's Thrush nailed

Typical Shetland scene - Bonxie over Sumburgh Airport

Siskin, a confiding bird on Shetland

Great grey Shrike(honest), Virkie

Sunday 3rd October 2010

The strong S.S.East wind continued to bend the Irises in the field in front of our chalet. The view extended across more fields out to the sea. We could watch Redshank, Dunlin, Curlew, Greylag geese and even saw a Ringtail Hen Harrier and Merlin as we were eating Breakfast. We started our first full day with a stroll round the tracks in Gord and we were almost immediately rewarded with our own Yellow browed warbler in garden bushes.
After our walk it was back to Levenwick to get better views of the Swainson's Thrush. The bird never showed well but I did manage to watch it on the ground for a few seconds at close range. Spent the rest of the day exploring sites on the South Mainland. At Channerwick we got brief glimpses of an elusive 'Booted' warbler but we were advised to take the opportunity to get a good look at the bird while there were only a few observers as it was being suggested that the bird might well be a Sykes' warbler. The advise was duly heeded.

Sunday 10 October 2010

Day 1, just got better.

Radde's warbler, Sumburgh Farm

Radde's warbler

Radde's warbler

Saturday 2nd October 2010 - Part 2

After a great start to the week things got even better when a Radde's warbler was found at Sumburgh and then my friends from Leicester' John Hague and Dave Gray and the rest of their crew found a Swainson's Thrush in the quarry at Levenwick. By the time we got there the bird had relocated to a garden and had become extremely elusive. We got some very unsatisfactory flight views so it was clearly a case of having another go next morning. It had been a memorable first day on Mainland Shetland and with continuing strong winds from the S.E. the prospects for further excitement looked good.
A note of caution though, when I saw my first Swainson's on Fetlar in 2007 there were 3 people watching the bird with Julian, Tom and myself. In 2010 there were maybe 50+ running around the garden. Their behaviour was exemplary and the locals were curious and friendly, long may it remain so.

Shetland Chronicles - Day 1

American Buff bellied Pipit, Eshaness Shetland Isles

Buff bellied Pipit

Buff bellied Pipit

The cliffs, Eshaness

Buff bellied Pipit

Buff bellied Pipit

Buff breasted Sandpiper, Eshaness

Buff breasted Sandpiper

Buff breasted Sandpiper

Buff breasted Sandpiper

Buff breasted Sandpiper

Buff breasted Sandpiper

Snow Bunting, Eshaness

Saturday 2nd October - Part 1

I travelled up to the Shetland Isles with Julian Allen for a week's birding based at Gord just outside Cunningsburgh, South Mainland. We touched down at midday and headed off to Eshaness on the North west tip of the Mainland where a tick awaited Julian in the form of an American Buff bellied Pipit. We faffed about looking through fields full of Meadow pipits until we noticed a guy 50 yards behind us taking photos. He eventually drove up to us to say the pipit we were looking for was on its own right next to the road. Sure enough there it was, tick 1 for JA. I took a few shots from the car before we stretched our legs and had a wander around near the Lighthouse. It wasn't long before we came across a couple of very confiding Buff breasted Sandpipers, a photo opportunity not to be missed. There was also a flock of 19 Snow Buntings in the vicinity and a lone House Martin flew around the nearby cliffs. We also saw a Whinchat.