Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Todd's Canada Goose, Knott End-on-Sea

Todd's Canada goose 2 probable
Barnacle goose 6
Pink-footed goose 5000
Bewick's swan 1
Whooper swan 100
Twite 2
Black-tailed godwit 20

The Todd's Canada geese were in fields behind Knott End library with most of the Pink-feet and five barnacle geese. It was a large flock of geese, with 5000 an absolute minimum, and we were lucky that the Canada geese were in the right place for the sun, because large parts of the flock were straight into the sun making viewing very difficult. Todd's Canada goose Branta canadensis interior is currently considered a race of greater Canada goose. It's relatively smaller with shorter neck than the feral birds we see in our parks, and is browner overall, especially on its breast. It's of particular interest because it's a potential wild vagrant to Britain.

The Bewick's and whooper swans were a couple of miles outside Knott End, on the road to Pilling.

Todd's Canada geese.

Barnacle geese.


Long-eared Owl, Marton Mere, Blackpool

Long-eared owl 2

Year 2014: 285 (Long-eared owl)

One owl.

Two owls!

Monday, 29 December 2014

Thayer's Gull and Blyth's Pipit, Pugney's, West Yorkshire

We had excellent views of both the Blyth's pipit and the Thayer's gull at Pugney's Country Park today. First off we called in for a look at the Blyth's pipit. It showed really well today, on the ground for most of the time, and perhaps due to the icy conditions, it was more out in the open than in previous weeks. I guess that the ice on the pools is allowing it to walk further out or even walk across the pools rather than around the edges,  which means that it is inevitably on view more. We watched it at quite close range for 20 minutes at least. It flew once and called and then landed in a willow tree for a few minutes before returning to the ground to continue feeding.

Then news broke of a Thayer's gull at Mirfield, about 10 miles down the road from Pugney's. When we got to the site, it was quite a depressing experience, an industrial estate, we were basically looking for gulls on the roofs of the units. Most of the gulls were feeding on the ground and  hidden from view except when they flew, many others were out of view on the wrong side of the roof, and those that did show themselves were usually against the bright sunlight. There was no sign of the Thayer's gull, but we did at least see a juvenile Iceland gull here. After about two hours we gave up and headed back to Pugney's in the hope of catching up with a Caspian gull, of which there have been up to three present at the evening roost  in recent days.

It was still quite early when we arrived back, so in an attempt to thaw out we headed first for the café and a cup of tea. We'd just sat down to enjoy the brew and the warmth of the café when news came through that the Thayer's gull had been relocated at Pugney's, barely 100m from where we were sitting! Two quick slurps of tea later and we were out of the door, back into the cold, and dashing up the bank to the small group of birders who were looking out over the water. A few quick directions from them and we were onto the bird, it was sitting half way out on the water surrounded by several herring gulls and a few black-heads. Having seen the bird so quickly and so well, we briefly considered going back into the café to finish off our tea, but decided that was one step too far on the road to "dudeism", and we stayed where we were.

Over the next hour or so the bird swam closer and in the end we got excellent views and were able to compare it to many of the other species of gull of varying ages.

Thayer's gull is a white winged gull like Iceland and Glaucous. Juveniles look superficially like herring gulls, but like the other white winged gulls they moult later than herring gull, and at this time of year all of the herring gulls have moulted their juvenile scapulars to first winter. Thayer's gulls at this time of year still have juvenile scapulars. Other features are the small bill size, the forward position of the eye in the rounded head and the long primary projection. On the water the bird appears to have dark brown primaries, yet when it flaps its wings it has Iceland gull like pale primaries on the underwing. It's also a browner looking bird with little streaking on the breast. The washed out colour of the bird in the photos is a bit misleading due to the fading light at the time, it was in fact a fair bit browner than it appears here.

There's some great photos here.

A great day. We never did catch up with a Caspian gull though....

UK 404; Year 2014: 284 (Thayer's gull)

The worst photo of the lot, but at least the colour of the bird is a bit better.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Donna Nook, Lincolnshire

Black brant 1
Lapland bunting 1
Pale bellied brent goose 1
Dark bellied brent goose 800
Peregrine 1
Merlin 1
Little egret 5

Year 2014: 283 (Lapland bunting)

Black brant.


Thursday, 25 December 2014

Blyth's Pipit and Smew, Pugney's, West Yorkshire

This morning I took the opportunity to call in at Pugney's Country Park at Wakefield, West Yorkshire, to look for the long staying Blyth's pipit. It's not that I've been putting off going, it's just that for most of its stay I was in Cyprus.

The bird is generally seen only in flight, but today I was lucky enough to see it perched in a willow tree for several minutes and had decent views of both its front and back. I managed to get four other birders onto it before it flew, and this was the first time they had seen it perched up in four visits.

It's a large pipit, quite similar looking to Richard's pipit with a long hind claw, which I could clearly see when it turned around to show off it's back. When it did fly, it gave a characteristic yellow wagtail like call "pshiu".

Also at Pugney's today, a cracking drake smew.

UK life: 403; Year: 282 (Blyth's pipit)

I've lost track of how many new species I've seen this year, but it will be something like 10 in the UK and another 8 in Cyprus. I'll have a tally up at New Year.

Through the scope it was actually a very good view of the bird, but I guess there's too much background for this to ever be a good photo!

Monday, 22 December 2014

American wigeon, Marshside

The American wigeon was again at Marshside today, and showed well at quite close range, but spent much of its time asleep. The light was also pretty poor, which didn't help from a photography point of view.

Year 2014: 281 (American wigeon)

This is probably about a third of the wigeon flock.

Rossall Point, Fleetwood

We called in at Rossall Point today for a look at the long staying shorelark which showed exceptionally well in the picnic area next to the café. Then we  had even better views of the snow bunting which was on the beach near the lookout. Supporting cast included three purple sandpipers, turnstones, ringed plover and three red-breasted mergansers.

Year 2014: 280 (Shorelark)

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