Monday, 26 January 2015

Hare watching, Belfast International Airport

I had briefest of visits to Northern Ireland today, I arrived at Belfast International at about 9am and left at 3:30pm, and barely moved out of the airport all day. However, the day wasn't quite as grim as it might seem, because Belfast International has one of the largest populations of the endangered endemic, Irish hare Lepus timidus hibernicus, and I managed  to see at least 19 of these animals. The first five were from gate 11 in the terminal building (fortunately I had my binoculars with me) and the other 14 were together alongside the runway as we taxied into position for take off.

Despite being quite numerous at the airport, Irish hare is actually a race of the mountain hare that occurs in Scotland and parts of the Pennines. One of the major differences between it and the Scottish hares is that L.t. hibernicus does not turn white in winter. In fact it may even be different enough to warrant species status in it's own right.

Also of note, especially when it comes to totting up the year list, there were several hooded crows flying around the airport.


There is more information on these hares on the Belfast International Airport website here, which is where the photo is borrowed from.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Pennington Flash

 Water rail


 Long-tailed tit

 Willow tit



Nuthatch

Saturday, 24 January 2015

A Day out in North Wales

Todays episode of Last of the Summer Wine was set in North Wales. We started out at Llanbedr-Y-Cennin in the Conwy valley. The hawfinches were very difficult today, but Ray and Dave managed to catch a glimpse of one, but I had to be content with a distant view of a red kite.

Llanbdr-Y-Cennin church

Next we moved to Old Colwyn, where there were large numbers of scoter showing distantly on the sea. There were perhaps up to 5000 common scoter here today, though they stretched as far as the eye could see and given that there were 20,000 earlier in the week, 5000 is probably a conservative estimate. With them today were at least 20 velvet scoter and three drake surf scoter which were seen together and displaying to what appeared to be a female surfie. A fourth drake surf scoter was on the other side of the flock. The scoter flock on the North Wales coast is always impressive, though a telescope is essential if you want to see anything more than what appears to be a black and distant shadow on the water. However, with the help of the scopes, the bright sunlight today allowed us to pick out even velvet scoter on the water, and we could clearly see the white fleck under the eye of the males. Normally the distance of the flock means that even through the telescope they are only identifiable when in flight, thanks to the white patches on the wing. In this light the surf scoters almost glowed like beacons when you found one, with great big white patches on the front and back of their heads, but they also spent incredible amounts of time under the water, and even when on the surface they often disappeared for long periods in the swell, and it was quite easy to lose them for several minutes at a time.

Also on the water today, two red-throated divers, drake scaup and a few guillemots, but perhaps the most remarkable bird of the day was a distant tern, almost certainly a Sandwich tern. It's not as unlikely as it might seem, there have been 10 records of Sandwich tern in the UK so far this January according to Birdguides.


Looking towards Rainbow Bridge, Old Colwyn.


We ended the day at Conwy RSPB where we spent a lot of time searching for the firecrests which have been present all winter. Unfortunately we couldn't find them, but we did have the unexpected bonus of nine chough flying over.


Conwy RSPB. Is there a more scenic RSPB reserve?


Choughs.



Conwy RSPB


St Helens birders in action.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Some of Dave's photos

Dave Owen recently sent me a disk with some of his best photos of 2014. Up until now I've only very rarely put other peoples photos on this blog, but things are going to change on the blog this year, as will become apparent as the year goes on! So here we go.... these are some of my favourites.

Juvenile pallid harrier, Steart WWT 28th October 2014. What a cracker! I've only ever had a dodgy 15 second view of a pallid harrier, but this is an incredible bird which I'll have to make more of an effort to see well this year.

I mean, this is nothing like a ringtail hen or Monty! Talk about falcon like!

American buff-bellied pipit, Denhall Lane, Burton marsh, Dee estuary 16th January 2014. This was my last lifer of 2013, I saw it for the first time on Christmas Day! Thanks Santa! This cracking photo clearly shows the birds pale lores, which are one of the features which distinguish it from water pipit.

Crag martin, Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire 12th April 2014. I was with Dave when he photographed this. A very difficult bird to photograph, great photo.


Grrrr! I've never seen this bogey bird. Olive-backed pipit Roker, Sunderland, 22nd October 2014. I dipped on one at Spurn in September but at least had the consolation of a masked shrike.



American coot, Loch Flemington, Inverness-shire, 13th March 2014. I've never even come close to seeing one of these in the UK, but I have seen them in Central Park, New York.



First winter American herring gull, Campbeltown, Mull of Kintyre, Argyle, 9th March 2014. Nice white head!


Eastern crowned warbler, Brotton 1st November 2014. About time to! I saw this species in the UK five years ago, but it took Dave, Ray and John until 2014 to catch up.


Ring-necked duck, Newton Lake. Grrrr again! Found by Peter Loydell, I was in Hampshire when this beauty turned up. I don't think I've ever seen one that look this good. Nice one Dave, nice one Peter!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Appleton Reservoir, Warrington

Pochard 2 m&f
Gadwall 2 m&f
Tufted duck 15
Great crested grebe 15
Grey wagtail 2
Sparrowhawk 1 m


Male sparrowhawk.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Great Northern Diver, Parsonage Reservoir, Blackburn

Juvenile great northern diver.

It was a freezing cold, dull day at Parsonage Reservoir.

Long-tailed Duck, Crosby Marina


This female long-tailed duck has been at Crosby Marina for a week or two and was showing very well in the northern corner of the marina.


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Pilling Pom

For the past few days there has been a juvenile pomarine skua on the salt marsh at Cocker's Dyke, Pilling. It's been feeding on carcasses of ducks and gulls, and it allowed quite close approach. It was holding its left wing as if it was damaged but it was able to fly and looked quite powerful when in flight. Apparently the wing looked ok on Wednesday, so perhaps something has happened to it since then. Ironically pom skua was another species I didn't see last year, following last weeks harlequin.







Shore Lark, Rossall Point, Fleetwood









Friday, 16 January 2015

Marbury Country Park

Poor views of the Bittern in my lunch break today, but it was nice to see this Jay so well.


It was very difficult to get a clear shot of the bird without a branch in front or without a shadow on it.