Sunday, 5 July 2015

Pennington Flash

Green sandpiper 1 Ramsdales hide
Cetti's warbler 1 singing from Ramsdales hide
Common sandpiper 1 on the spit from Horrock's hide
Common tern 3
Tufted duck 25

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Old Moor RSPB, Spurn and Leighton Moss

A busy day today started at Old Moor RSPB near Sheffield at 5:30am. We started at the Bus Stop viewing point overlooking the reedbed, hoping to see a male little bittern which has been seen and heard on several occasions over the past week. After a fruitless wait of 90 minutes we received news that it had been seen from the Bittern hide a couple of hundred metres away. We had another wait of about 90 minutes in the hide before finally we saw the bird flying over the reed bed in the distance. Not the greatest view in the World but about as good as most people were getting.

While we were waiting we were entertained by at least two kingfishers, but more importantly we received news of a white-rumped sandpiper at Kilnsea near Spurn on the east coast. The weather had been pretty grim up to this point, so as soon as we'd seen the little bittern we headed back to the car and set off for Spurn, about 90 miles away to the north east in the hope of finding both the bird and the sun. We were not disappointed.

The white-rumped sandpiper was on Beacon pool near Kilnsea wetlands. It was a decent view through the scope and we saw it fly a couple of times as it was harrassed by ringed plover and avocets. When it flew it had a very obvious white rump. It was a nice summer plumage adult bird, in contrast to the duller juveniles which I am more familiar with in autumn. After we had watched it for about 20 minutes it was chased over the shingle ridge and onto the beach by a ringed plover, and was not seen again for at least six hours. Breeding on the shingle at the side of the pool there is a colony of about 100 little terns which showed well throughout.

It was still only 13:00 and we were a bit unsure what to do next, but news of an adult white-winged black tern at Leighton Moss made up our minds. On hearing the news of the bird, we had initially planned to go tomorrow, but with time to spare today and with the bird still present and no gaurantee that it would be there tomorrow, we decided that we may as well make our way back over the Pennines and go to Leighton Moss.

I saw my first summer plumage white-winged black tern in the UK at Martin Mere earlier in the year, but they're always great birds to see. We saw it first today from the Public hide in good light but a little distant, and then we moved to the Lower hide where it was closer but the light was much worse. At least here it was on constant show though, hawking for insects and occasionally perching in a post in the middle of the mere. While we were watching it somebody pointed out three marsh harriers. I raised my bins to look at them, but almost imediately spotted a fourth bird higher up over the mere and hovering! Surely an osprey? It was right into the sun at first but soon it moved further to the right and I could see its head and underwing markings clearly. Definately an osprey! We watched it hovering and flyingover the mere for several minutes before amazingly a second osprey appeared from nowhere! At times we had both ospreys hunting together, occasionally mobbed by a marsh harrier, with the white-wwinged black tern hawking in the foreground. An amazing sight! I just wish the light had been better for photography, but how could I complain after a day like that?!

Year: 234 (Little bittern, white-rumped sandpiper)

Friday, 3 July 2015

Gull-billed tern, Burton Mere Wetlands

News of a gull-billed tern at Burton Mere Wetlands late afternoon meant a premature end to the working day and a dash down the M56 to the RSPB reserve. The reason for the haste was that the species notoriously doesn't hang around for long, and as it was a new UK bird for me, it was a bird I desperately wanted to see. My only previous gull-billed terns were at Canada de las Norias in Almeria, Spain in 1995.

The bird had initially been seen from the Inner Marsh Farm Hide but on our arrival we were dismayed to hear that it had flown to the reception hide where it had stayed for a few minutes before flying again in the direction of the IMF hide but there was uncertainty as to whether it had landed or continued past the hide and onto the saltmarsh. We needn't have worried though, as we made our way to IMF we passed birders coming back who confirmed that the bird had indeed landed and was still in front of the hide.

It was still there when we finally reached the hide, and after a brief look through a mates scope which was already on the bird, we were able to sit back and relax and watch the bird. Unfortunately it didn't do much, just stood with its back to us for most of the time, in amongst the black-headed gulls, but at least it wasn't asleep. Occasionally it changed position slightly or moved its head so that we could see its bill. It wasn't a bad view, but it could have been a little more accomodating I suppose, and given us better views, but at the start of the day I'd have taken any view of a gull-billed tern. This was a long awaited addition to my UK list, and is presumably the same bird which has been seen at several locations over the past couple of weeks, from Nottinghamshire to Yorkshire to Cornwall to mid Wales yesterday.

UK: 411; Year: 232 (Gull-billed tern). I've now seen an amazing 30 new species for the UK in the past 30 months.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Pennington Flash

Cetti's warbler 1 singing near the Tom Edmondson hide.
Coot 253+
Kingfisher 1
Tufted duck 20
Mute swan 50

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

My first visit to the reservoir for a couple of weeks and I was surprised to hear the garden warbler still singing in the same bush in the south-west corner. Not only that, but there were definately two birds. They've been there for a couple of months and it looks like they may have bred this year.

Apart from that, pretty quiet at the moment, 12 tufted ducks and several grebes with chicks the highlights.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Leed - Liverpool canal

Today we had a bike ride through Pennington flash and onto the canal, then turned right towards Manchester and cycled to Wolseley. There was a Cetti's warbler still singing near the Tom Edmunson hide and on the canal there was a female tufted duck with six chicks.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Hudsonian Whimbrel, West Sussex

I was up at 2am this morning and out of the house by 3am, on the road to the south coast and Church Norton at Pagham Harbour in West Sussex. A Hudsonian whimbrel was found here a couple of weeks ago, but due to the excitement of the Cretzschmar's bunting on Bardsey which more or less consumed all of my free time over the past two weekends, this was our first opportunity to have a go at seeing this North American wader. There was also the added lure of another North American wader, a greater yellowlegs at nearby Titchfield Haven, though this would not be a new bird for either of us.

I was a little nervous about our chances of seeing the Hud, it was only reported once yesterday and once the day before, and it seemed to be almost fading away as these long stayers sometimes do when the majority of birders have seen them. Also I had read various accounts and heard at first hand from friends how difficult it could be. One person waited 11 hours for a 20 second flight view, whilst others have commented on how distant or obscured the bird was for long periods. So I wasn't overly confident.

We arrived at the car park at Church Norton at 7:15am and made the short walk to the shore. There were a handful of other birders already present, but they hadn't seen the bird. However, within 15 minutes of our arrival somebody picked up a likely looking candidate with a pale looking face and long bill, at the relatively close distance of about 150m. It looked good but we needed to see its rump and underwing, both of which are brown on Hudsonian rather than white as is the case with Eurasian whimbrel.The bird walked around for a bit and then stopped to have a preen, and there was no sign of any white on the rump, unlike a nearby Eurasian whimbrel which clearly showed white when it preened. We were 95% convinced but still wanted the conclusive flight view. Unfortunately the bird now decided it was time for a sleep.

Fortunately after about 15 minutes it woke up, had another brief preen and then flew a short distance across a channel giving us excellent views of its brown rump. It then when back to sleep. We waited for another hour and a half, but the bird remained mostly asleep, with just the occasional preen or short walk.  Finally, just as we were packing up to leave it woke up and started feeding. After a short while it flew towards us onto some closer mud about 75m away and continued feeding with a Eurasian whimbrel for comparison. Eventually it flew away from us for some distance, giving us another great look at it's brown rump, and landed on mud further out in the estuary at which point we decided to call it a day. It was hard to see how we could get much better views than that.

On the way home we called in at Titchfield Haven, but the long staying greater yellowlegs had gone AWOL yesterday and had so far not returned. Still, I have seen the species before in the UK, at Rockcliffe in Cumbria, so it was not too disappointing. At least we saw the main bird.

The singing melodious warbler in the West Midlands made for a decent halfway home stop.

UK: 410 (Hudsonian Whimbrel); Year: 231 (Hudsonian Whimbrel and Little Tern)

Hudsonian and Eurasian whimbrels. Notice the paler face, more distinct face pattern (almost sedge warbler like I thought) and longer more curved bill of the Hudsonian.

Hudsonian whimbrel. Notice the completely brown underwing. Eurasian whimbrel would have white underwing coverts and axillaries.

Notice the brown rump of the Hudsonian whimbrel. Eurasian, of course, has an unmarked white rump.

Twitching Hudsonian whimbrel at Pagham Harbour.

There were a couple of cracking summer plumage spotted redshanks near the visitor centre.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

More bits and pieces from South Wales

Pregnant female common lizard.

Round-leaved sundew.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Purple Heron, Kenfig Pool

There's been a 1st summer purple heron at Kenfig Pool near Porthcawl for the past day or two, in fact it turned up just as I was leaving South Wales last Friday, but I was unable to do anything about it having various work commitments to attend to first (doh!). However I was back today and the bird has been seen intermittently over the weekend, so I decided to give it a go. Fortunately after just a few minutes it flew across in front of the hide and landed in the reeds out of view. Then after about 10 minutes it flew again and landed briefly on top of a bush before finally flying into the reeds on the other side of the pool.

Year: 229 (Purple heron). This time last year I was on 260.

Dark-green fritillary.

Despite working in South Wales quite a lot recently, my last visit to Kenfig was 28 years ago when I twitched my first pied-billed grebe there.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Twitching Teloschistes flavicans, Bardsey Island

Nine days ago I'd never been to Bardsey but I've now been three times and feel like one of the regulars! The Cretzschmar's bunting has apparently become a little more eratic in its behaviour in the past day or so, and yesterday went missing for about four hours. We were on the third boat to the island today and our delight at hearing that boat 1 had connected was tempered slightly by the news that it had only been a very brief sighting and that boat 2 had so far been unsuccesful. However we hadn't been there more than 20 minutes when the bird flew onto the lighthouse compound wall for a few seconds before dropping down onto the floor and seed. We watched it for several minutes on the ground before it flew off over the roof of the lighthouse building. An excellent performance and fully justified my descision to go again. Last time I saw the bunting I had binocular only views, this time I had it in  the scope for most of the time.

Then we moved away to let the next boat load in, and we went for a walk around the island.The weather closed in a bit for an hour or so, with thick mist and heavy drizzle, but eventually it cleared and it became a nice sunny day. There were a few choughs including a family party, and plenty of the usual seabirds on the water.

Cretzchmar's bunting

A big twitch Bardsey style. Everybody waiting patiently, getting great views of a stunning bird and then moving on when they have seen it to let the next boat load in, and all organised perfectly by Bardsey Bird Observatory, boatman Colin Evans and our leader Lee Evans. No big camera lenses waiting all day at the front for yet another record shot and no driving through the night only to find you can't even get on the boat. Young and old, sane and insane, everybody was able to enjoy the bird and the island, not just a select few who are young enough or fit enough or mad enough to not mind camping out all night on the boat slipway. Thanks to everybody concerned.

Having succesfully twitched the bird, we then went on to twitch a lichen, Teloschistes flavicans or golden hair lichen. This is a rare species in the UK being largely confined to south west England and a few western parts of Wales.