Saturday, 24 October 2009

Eastern Crowned Warbler, South Shields

Possibly the birding event of the year (the finders of the Tufted Puffin might disagree!), an Eastern Crowned Warbler at South Shields was identified from a photograph on Thursday evening, and was relocated yesterday and again today. A first for Britain and only the fourth ever in Europe, I decided that it would be rude not to make its aquaintace.

I took it at a leisurely pace, only leaving home this morning at 8:45 once I was certain that the bird had been seen again today, and spurred on by positive texts (thanks John) I arrived at South Shields at noon. Though it was dull and breezy, the forecast rain and gales had not arrived yet.

I saw the bird about five times, twice through the scope, but the best view of all was through the bins at a distance of about 10m for about 2 minutes. The bird had flown straight towards me and landed in a bush next to where I was standing! I saw all the relevant features, crown stripe going down to its nape, broad eye stripe, yellowey / green fringed flight feathers, couple of wing bars, white underparts with yellow vent and generally a bulky bird, not unlike a vireo. Easy to dismiss this bird as just another Leaf warbler, but it's actually quite a nice bird, in the same way that Pallas's Warbler is a nice bird.

Also flitting around was a Yellow-browed Warbler.

Yellow-browed Warbler: Year 221
Eastern Crowned Warbler: Year 222

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Rainford Mosslands

Pink-footed Goose - 8,000
Barnacle Goose - 1 juv.

Not quite the spectacle of yesterday, but still plenty of activity around the flock which today (this evening) was in fields along Dairy Farm Road. The Barnacle Goose brought the goose species count on the mosslands this weekend to four, following Greenland-white front, Greylag and of course Pink-foot yesterday. It's always nice to see unusual species in the flock, and though we can never be sure that any Barnacle in St Helens is wild, a juvenile with 8,000 Pinks is surely just about as wild as it gets.

If you go to see these birds, please be aware that Dairy Farm Road and the Old Coach Road are private, with no access to vehicles. You can walk or ride a bike, but no cars please.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Awesome Pink-feet eclipse even a dowitcher!

Today I found my new local patch. It’s called North West England! I covered it from dawn until dusk and did it all by push bike, a grand total of 55 miles! I’ve seen some great sights this year, and been to some fabulous places, but today is my best birding day of the year so far.

As a confirmed lover of geese, it’s not unusual for me to spend a lot of time watching these birds at this time of year, but never have I seen them so well or so many. Breathtaking is the only word for it!

My route took me first north along the Old Coach Road, a farm track which is devoid of cars, but ideal for the birder on a bike. This is a good spot for Pink-footed Geese, and in recent years there has been a roost here of over 10,000 birds. Soon I could hear their calls, and eventually I found the flock, feeding in a field at the side of the road. I abandoned the bike and almost crawled through the under growth and into a ditch alongside the field. Here I sat patiently and waited, with just my head showing above the ditch. It really felt like pioneering work, it seemed to me that this was the sort of thing that Peter Scott must have done in the early days just after the second World war. As I watched, more and more birds landed in the field, and many where now quite close. I estimated about 6000 Pink-feet in the flock. Then, just to my right, I noticed a bird which was different. It was altogether darker, and bigger, and had a large bright orange bill. A juvenile Greenland Whitefront! Exactly what I was hoping for! A few minutes later I had also located a Greylag. I watched these wonderful birds for an hour, and then slowly crept away and back to my bike.

I continued north, through Bikerstaffe, Aughton, and Halsall, and across Plex Moss, which was disappointingly quiet. Finally I reached the traffic lights at the start of Southport marine drive, which I followed to the Birkdale roundabout. Here I stopped for a while. It was just on high tide and there were good numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits, Sanderling and Oystercatchers.

I pressed on, with just a brief stop at Marshside, where I found both hides packed and not much to see from either. I wasn’t in the mood for being sociable, so I decided to head for Banks marsh.

It’s been fairly dry recently, and I was able to bike it right along the sea wall from Crossens pumping station to Old Hollow Farm. Lots of Little Egrets seen along the way, I counted at least 40. I could see another birder in the distance and when I got to him he told me that he had just relocated the Long-billed Dowitcher which has been in the area on and off for a couple of weeks. I had a look at it through his scope, and also managed to see Peregrine, two Spotted Redshanks and a Stonechat, before I put the bins down and had my lunch. How could the day get any better?

I knew that it was going to be a special day at Martin Mere, because before I even got in, I could see geese flying around, and the noise was incredible. I went first to Swan Link, and the mere was just covered in birds. Somebody said that there were 20,000 and I have no reason to challenge that! I was in United Utilities hide when they all took off . The noise was deafening, the sky was black, like a huge cloud had just covered the sun. An awesome spectacle. Three Barnacle Geese with the flock.

Finally I decided to head home. I was going to go straight home, but something in the back of my mind told me to head back down the Old Coach Road. I think that I just wanted to be sure that the birds I had seen earlier were still there, and had not joined the Martin Mere birds.

Sure enough they were there , but now there were even more, at least 10,000 birds I estimated. I watched them in awe as the sun started to set, and I saw a 1000 Peter Scott paintings. Then they took to the air, in one huge mass, and just like at Martin Mere the sun was blotted out, and the noise was deafening.

Half an hour later I was home, worn out, and not just physically. All of my senses had been stretched to their limits today. And the total cost for today was £1.30 for a cup of tea at Martin Mere!

Greenland Whitefront - Year 219

Yes the sea does occasionally come in at Southport!

Pink-footed Geese Old Coach Road

Banks Marsh

Juvenile Greenland White-fronted Goose, Old Coach Road

Turn your speakers on and the volume up before clicking on this video! Pink-footed Geese, Old Coach Road. Hard to believe that this is St Helens!

Even more geese at Martin Mere.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Santa Claus releases Christmas album following a night on the town!

So Bob's done it again and surprised us all! His first ever Christmas album was released on 13th October and contains such Christmas classics as "Here comes Santa Claus", "Little Drummer Boy" and "Hark the Herald Angels sing". It's all for charity of course, you can read more about it at Dylan is donating all royalties to help homeless people.
The reviews have been generally good and some have made me laugh, such as "it sounds like he just smoked 20 ciggies before going into the recording studio", "....Bob Dylan's Christmas album is here, its arrival harkened by the 68-year-old legend's fearsome wheeze —a sound more Beelzebub than Jolly Old Elf", and my personal favourite "Dylans voice adds menace to these chirpy old Christmas favourites."
But the point is, despite some fans wanting him to become a greatest hits artist, he's ALIVE and well and continuing to surprise and shock. Two studio albums this year, the first of which was all new material and reached number 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, 150+ gigs this year all over the World with more to come, a radio program (Theme Time Radio) and rumours that his voice is to be used on a SAT NAV system! What will he surprise us with next?

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Hilbre Island

It's been a relatively quiet autumn on Hilbre following an excellent spring, but I'm never disppointed, because there is always something to see.

I set off from West kirby at just after 7am and it was still almost dark. I'd barely gone more than 100 yards across the beach when the heavens opened and within seconds I was soaked. However there were breaks in the cloud so I kept going undeterred and full of hope, and soon the rain stopped, and by the time I reached Hilbre the wind had almost dried me out.

This is peak migration time for Rock Pipits on Hilbre, a species I had never previously seen on the island and there have been birds present all week. Today we saw one, or possibly two birds at the north end of the island, and one of these was caught and ringed, the first ringed on the island for two years.

Other highlights today included a decent selection of ducks, with four Pintail, three Teal and 20 Wigeon. Six Pale-bellied Brent Geese were my first of the autumn, though there have been up to 20 in recent days.

By the time I left at 12:30 it had turned into a lovely warm day, and there were even butterflies flying, with Red Admiral and Small Tortoiseshell seen.

Rock Pipit


Popular Posts