Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Oxford inverts

A cloudy but warm day near Oxford today produced a decent array of inverts including a few beautiful demoiselles. Also a good selection of butterflies, hoverflies and beetles, amongst many other things!

Monday, 24 June 2019

Ythan Dread and a Newburgh Blonde

If Carlsberg did dreads.... today I called in at the Ythan estuary near Newburgh, just north of Aberdeen hoping to renew my acquaintance with the drake king eider but no sign today. I did however see this blonde bombshell, a fabulous leucistic female eider. A really stunning bird, one of the best looking females I've ever met in stark contrast to the more typical female eider which I find quite an ugly looking bird.

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Blue-winged teal, Frankfield Loch

On my way up to Kirriemuir in Angus, Scotland today I called in at Frankfield Loch, Glasgow for a look at a blue-winged teal which has been present for a couple of weeks. My first ever blue-winged teal was at Pennington Flash on 21st September 1996 and I've seen a few since then but this is my first breeding plumage drake. It's a cracking bird, not showing much sign of eclipse despite the tatty looking mallards on the loch.

I wonder if this might be the same bird as that which was at Mellon Charles on Loch Ewe earlier in the year. That was a bird I particularly wanted to see because Mellon Charles is where I stayed with my Mum and Dad when we regularly visited the area back in the 1980s. There's a few hundred miles between the sites but this bird appeared shortly after the long staying Mellon Charles bird disappeared.  I hope that it is the same bird.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Black-winged Pratincole, Frampton Marsh

I got lucky today and dropped on a black-winged pratincole at Frampton Marsh. I'm working just about 8 miles down the road on a marsh harrier survey and when the bird appeared on Birdguides as pratincole sp. at Frampton I took an early lunch and got there in about 15 minutes.

Fortunately it was best seen over the marshy grassland viewed from the road so I didn't need to spend too much time trying to find it. It performed brilliantly, hawking over the marsh at close range and flying right over our heads a couple of times. A stunning bird as are all pratincoles, it was my first black-winged pratincole since the Martin Mere bird in 1997. Good job I did go this morning, by this evening the morning sunshine had been replaced by persistent rain and surprisingly perhaps given the weather, at 6:15pm the bird was seen flying strongly north and was not seen again all evening.

It was actually a pretty decent day all round at Frampton today, apart from the pratincole I also saw summer plumage black-necked grebe, two Mediterranean gulls, a pair of red-crested pochard, spoonbill, short-eared owl, 100+ avocets, 200 knot, marsh harrier and a variety of other commoner marsh birds.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Steel Rigg and Grindon Lough

Grindon Lough is in Hadrian's Wall country and surprisingly perhaps given its location gets it's fair share of birds. A red-necked phalarope has taken to visiting the place in recent summers and though it was a little distant, a summer plumage female is always worth a look. There has been an American Wigeon here recently as well, but no sign of that today. There were however several dunlin and redshank.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

A few plants from Worms Head

Greater knapweed Centaurea scabiosa was one of a number of beautiful plants in flower on the limestone cliffs near Worms Head on the Gower Peninsula today. Most of the plants were understandably limestone loving species but there was an unexpected surprise.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Llanelli WWT

More spoonbill action today, this time involving four immature birds at Llanelli WWT near Swansea. I know that immature spoonbills are a pale shadow of the adults, compare this bird with the adult from Burton Mere Wetlands in a previous post, yet they do have a certain charm all of their own. I particularly like the black tips to the flight feathers. Also today, at least 11 Mediteranean gulls, adults, 2nd summers and 1st summers, and a dark-bellied brent goose.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

An unseasonable short tailed Long-tailed duck at Frodsham Marsh

A drake long-tailed duck in (nearly) summer plumage on the pool at the western end of No.3 tank was my first at Frodsham in 29 years. Pity it's missing its long tail but still a smart bird and unsurprisingly my first June record of the species.

Little Terns, Pennington Flash

Four little terns at Pennington Flash this morning were a site tick for me. They were flying around mainly in the centre of the flash but occasionally came closer. It was quite interesting to see them flying in amongst the swirling mass of swifts. When you see birds like these at colonies such as Gronant in North Wales, it can be hard to appreciate just how small they are because there is often not much else to compare them with, but here at the flash they looked barely larger than a swift and were certainly dwarfed by their cousins the common terns.

Speaking to some of the other regulars, nobody else could recall such a large flock before. It was a drizzly morning which no doubt is what brought them down at the flash, and typical of the species they didn't stay long, just about 90 minutes, which actually is probably a bit longer than normal. They departed west.

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Black-headed Bunting, Flamborough Head

Photo: Black-headed bunting Flamborough Head.

My first holiday abroad was in May 1985 to the resort of Hanioti on the Halkidiki peninsula in North East Greece. It was a birding holiday and we arrived at our hotel in the middle of the night. The following morning we were up at dawn and virtually the first bird we saw when we opened the curtains was a stunning male black-headed bunting. I was hooked! Talk about first impressions, I can't think of a better way to have started my overseas birding adventures and the image of that bird has stuck with me ever since. Whenever I hear mention of black-headed bunting it always takes me back to that moment in Greece in 1985.

Also from that hotel balcony on that first morning we saw red-rumped swallows, cirl buntings, hoopoes, rock sparrows, golden oriole and lesser grey, red-backed and woodchat shrike. In scrub near the hotel we saw many species of butterfly including Queen of Spain fritillary, Southern white admiral and scarce swallowtail. Reptiles included snub-nosed viper, Hermann's tortoise and various lizards. I have lots of happy memories from that holiday and they all come flooding back when I think about black-headed buntings.

Thanks goodness then that my first in the UK did nothing to spoil the memory!

Great Reed Warbler, Wintersett

I've seen a few great reed warblers over the years, initially they were all in Europe but in recent years I've also managed to connect with a few in the UK, including the latest bird which I saw last week at Wintersett reservoir at Angler's Country Park in West Yorkshire. It was a decent enough view on the edge of a reed bed, very much like many a great reed warbler I've seen in the past, but typical of the species it was all about the song, a loud far carrying cross between a reed warbler and a nightingale, with lots of repeated harsh notes intermingled with croaks and whistles. In otherwords it was a standard great reed warbler year tick and not much more.

However today I got the opportunity to go back for a second look, and this time the bird performed much better. For starters it was much closer, half the distance I would say, no more than about 20m away. Best of all it was associating closely with reed warblers which were tiny in comparison. I'm not sure why these birds were associating, perhaps the smaller birds thought that the larger bird was a predator and they were trying to drive it away, but their behaviour didn't seem aggressive. It was almost like watching a young cuckoo being attended to by its surrogate parents or an older child who never grew up still playing with the toddlers. Quite comical almost.

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