Wednesday, 28 August 2019

A day at Applecross

Photo: Black-throated divers in Applecross Bay.
A quick day visit to Applecross for work today, but I was able to get in at least some birding in at either end of the day. Early morning it was dull and drizzly, especially at the top of the Bealach mountain pass but by evening it had cleared up quite nicely and the views over Skye especially were simply stunning. I spent about three hours in the evening wandering over boulder fields on Sgurr a'Chaorchain and had to be content with the views since the ptarmigan were not for showing, but still, not a bad way to spend the evening. On the way back to my hotel at Achnasheen I encountered an otter crossing the road.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker in Oxfordshire today.

The next two photos are a mature male southern hawker at Hope Carr in early September.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

A shield bug on the window

It's not often that I post something just because I love the photo, but this is one of those occasions. This shield bug landed on the outside of our window this morning. It almost looks as though it's stuck to the sky but it's shadow gives it away, the blue is the reflection of the sky in the glass.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Nightjar and Buff-breasted sandpiper, Frampton Marsh

Another amazing day at Frampton Marsh. An adult buff-breasted sandpiper was found this morning but proved very elusive all day. The problem with it was that it spent most of its time out in the middle of that grassland in the background of the photo rather than in amongst the flock of waders in the foreground. Even when it occasionally came out onto the mud it was usually around the edges rather than the open mud, so it was quite difficult to pin down and after a brief show it would frustratingly disappear behind some tall grass or rush and not be seen again for a couple of hours. Add to that the relative lack of birders present combined with the chilly strong winds which made viewing quite difficult and very uncomfortable and you can see why it was so elusive. Finally though I caught up with it in the evening when the wind had dropped a bit and saw it reasonably well. Like the commoner pectoral sandpiper, buff-breasted sandpipers are great birds and always exciting and a pleasure to see.

The highlight of the day for me though was something  which I really didn't expect and was, as somebody commented when I told them the story, birding gold. Just as I was arriving at the reserve this evening, I was about 50m from the reception hide when I saw a sparrowhawk chasing something down the road towards me. The bird it was chasing was about the same size as the sparrowhawk, and looked a bit like a kestrel but despite the speed at which the birds were flying  it was at times almost floating like a paper plane on stiff V shaped wings, a really strange way of escaping a pursuing predator I thought.  I instantly knew what it was and I slammed the breaks on, grabbed my binoculars as the pair continued towards me and flew past the car no more than 3m away. I couldn't believe it, it was a female nightjar! An absolutely incredible sighting. Whether or not the nightjar escaped the sparrowhawk I couldn't say because they disappeared behind the hedge, but actually it's strange manner of flight may have helped because it was so unpredictable and allowed it to change direction quickly. The sparrowhawk certainly didn't seem to be gaining on the bird and perhaps the odd flight pattern put doubt in the hawks mind as to what exactly this was that it was chasing!

Despite nightjars being nocturnal, sparrowhawks are listed amongst their potential predators so I guess that they must occasionally accidentally flush them from daytime roosts, especially when the nightjars are on migration as this bird undoubtedly was.

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

A few days at Frampton Marsh

Another week working in Lincolnshire, and most of my evenings and any other spare time I have is spent at nearby Frampton Marsh, just seven miles down the road from my hotel. Lots of waders still around, though not the numbers of a week or two ago.  Even so this week I've recorded 20 species of wader, plus spoonbill (10), black-necked grebe and turtle dove. There's a decent passage of yellow wagtails at the moment with at least 30 on the sea wall and nearby saltmarsh, and there are hundreds of sand martins over the reserve.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Little Bustard, Mickletown Ings

Today I finally succumbed to the lure of a little bustard in the UK. I'd resisted the temptation to twitch the New Years Day bird near Bridlington a few years back for reasons I can't remember, but probably because I was under the influence at the time, and I dismissed all thought of travelling to see a male at Slimbridge in Gloucestershire earlier this year because I didn't want to see just a distant head in the long grass through a shimmering heat haze. Other opportunities have been few and far between, often one day birds in remote corners of the UK and little bustard remained a bird which was high on my most wanted list. Yesterdays news of a summer plumage adult at Mickletown Ings near Castleford was just too much to resist.

It's a bird I've seen well in Portugal and not so well in Spain and it's always a major target species when I visit those countries, but it's eluded my British list until today. Yes it would involve an after work drive of 90 minutes in the direction of home and then the same back to Boston where I am based this week, but it was either that or go back for another evening at Frampton Marsh or Freiston Shore. There's always tomorrow for those places I told myself and off I went, 40 miles on the A17 and then 50 miles on the A1 and all of the time knowing that I would have to do the same return journey later. Great stuff....

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

Freiston and Frampton sandpiper fest

Just amazing numbers of waders on the Wash at the moment, with Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore leading the way. Headliners are at least four, probably five white-rumped sandpipers between Snettisham in Norfolk and Frampton Marsh and Freiston Shore in Lincolnshire, plus the long staying long-billed dowitcher at Frampton which is now in summer plumage. Probably more impressive though are the unprecedented numbers of wood sandpipers, with 21 on the reservoir at Freiston Shore and at least 19 at Frampton Marsh. I've never seen so many in the UK, not even close to this number. This week in total I've seen 26 species of wader between Freiston Shore and Frampton Marsh and that doesn't include non-waders such as spoonbill (11), great white egret (1) and little egret.

Monday, 5 August 2019

X2VA update

In the middle of July I posted a photo of a black-headed gull at Hope Carr with a black leg ring. Today I got a few more details about the gull from Hendrick Trapp, a German ringer. Here's what he had to say:

[It was ringed] as a breeder in the Western Baltic Sea some weeks ago on the island called Riether Werder. [This] is one of the largest colonies of [Black-headed gull] in Germany: just below 10.000 pairs in 2019.

Here are the ringing details: * Black X2VA + metal ring Hiddensee IA 190 780 adult, banded in a breeding colony.

RIETHER WERDER, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, North-Eastern Germany 53°42'00" N, 014°16'00" E

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