Monday, 29 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.


Sunday, 28 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

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.

Sunday, 21 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.



Chough



Great Orme, Llandudno


Cistus forester moth.


Hoary rockrose

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Melodius warbler, West Midlands

On my way home from Wales today I called in for a quick look at the singing melodious warbler which has been in the West Midlands at Marsh Lane NR near Solihull. It showed very well and was singing heartily despite having been there for a couple of weeks without attracting a mate.

There's a short video of the bird here https://youtu.be/231kgfBTmK0

Year: 228 (Melodious warbler)



Friday, 19 June 2015

Nightjars

Another busy day ended at gone midnight with a nightjar survey and a very special, almost surreal  birding moment.  I could hear at least two birds churring nearby, and four others just a bit further up the track. As I listened, I suddenly heard a frog like croaking call close behind me as a nightjar appeared out the night and flew within 5 feet of me. I had my head torch on and it caught the birds eyes, which were lit up and shone like headlights on an otherwise completely silhoutted bird as it flew around me and called again. A real spooky, surreal moment! It was almost like it was powered by duracell!

It was obviously intrigued by me as it flew around a few times at close range. It felt like I could almost touch the bird it was so close and briefly it flew right through the light of my head torch which revealed much of the detail of its plumage. The whole experience maybe lasted 30 seconds, the memories a lifetime.


A couple of weeks after making this posting I came across this amazing photo of a nightjar taken by Elliot Montieth which though not at the same site as my nightjars was obviously a very similar experience.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Vale of Neath

I ate my lunch in the Resolven valley in the Vale of Neath today, a top spot for raptors and I was not disappointed with several species seen, including honey buzzard, goshawk and hobby.

Year: 227 (Honey buzzard)


Goshawk.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

A busy time of year

It's a busy time of year. Following last weeks otter and water vole surveys, yesterday I did an extended phase 1 habitat survey of an upland site in South Wales, and then later in the evening walked a bat transect at the same site, the latter taking 3.5 hours to walk up the hill, do the survey and walk back down again in the dark. I didn't get back to my hotel until 12:45am.

Today I was back again, this time to do a NVC (vegetation) survey. When I'd finished for the day I then headed over to another upland site nearby and did a nightjar surey (four churring birds recorded). Tomorrow I have two Vantage Point (bird) surveys to do at the first upland site and continue with the NVC.

Year 226: (Nightjar)


I found this perfect tussock of Hare's-tail cotton grass Eriophorum vaginatum growing in the middle of a patch of Sphagnum fallax.




Star sedge Carex echinata.


Pill sedge Carex pilulifera. It had a very long, thin culm which wasn't capable of supporting the weight of the inflorescence, as you can see in the photo below where I had to hold it up to take the photo.




Under attack!!! Millions of midges during last nights bat transect.

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