Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Buntings and violets on the Great Orme

I had an early morning visit to the Great Orme today on my way to a job in the Conwy Valley, hoping to see the lapland and snow buntings which have been present for a few days. It took a while, but eventually I found a female Lapland bunting just north of the cairn. What made it so difficult was the fact that the bird was so approachable, I only found it because I saw it fly in and land. Once on the ground it virtually disappeared and wouldn't fly even if you walked quite close by. 

Saturday, 27 March 2021

Early spring migrants at the Flash

Almost three weeks since their first arrival at Pennington Flash, today I finally caught up with sand martins for the year, with a flock of around 100 off the ruck this morning. Also today a pair of garganey and a black-tailed godwit in Ramsdales and two little ringed plover.

Thursday, 25 March 2021

The south Cumbrian coast

Six shoveler were a site tick for me in south Cumbria today, a sure sign of spring, and 18 whooper swans flew over heading north. Otherwise not much sign of migration at North Walney today.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Spotted sandpiper, Croy

Another week and another trip to Scotland for work put me within striking distance of this wonderful spotted sandpiper on the beach at Croy. It was first seen for a few days in mid-October last year, but then went missing until the end of January. I've been keeping my eye on it for a few weeks but despite numerous work trips to Scotland this year I've not really been close enough to justify it, until today.

It's an incredibly confiding bird and these were easily my best ever view of the species. I stopped to photograph the grey wagtail at the bottom of this post and suddenly saw the sandpiper walking behind it. It looked tiny amongst the rocks on the shoreline. It just kept coming closer and closer and eventually walked right past me at a distance of about 2m! In fact it didn't just rush past, it was feeding and going back and forth as it walked, not concerned by me at all.  

It's a 1st winter bird but is starting to show a few spots and presumably will be in full adult summer plumage within another few weeks. A really smart bird.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Green sandpiper at the horse paddocks

There's been a green sandpiper knocking around the horse paddocks for a while, perhaps all winter, but it's not always around and probably also spends a lot of time on the nearby brook or even some of the flooded fields or ponds further down the valley. Anyhow today I finally caught up with it on the same fields that the little ringed plover were on yesterday, though the plovers themselves were nowhere to be seen. Much less activity around the floods today, with a single shelduck about the best.

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

First little ringed plover of the year at the horse paddocks

This is the first of what will probably be a series of posts from a site that I am going to refer to as the horse paddocks. It's a place which is just a 10 minute drive from home but which has a surprisingly decent selection of birds. However it's not a place which I want to attract too much attention to so I won't be giving out any more information than this as to it's exact location.

This was my second visit of the spring and it came up trumps with my first little ringed plover of the year with male and female birds present. This is my earliest ever record of the species in the UK, beating the previous record by five days.

Also today in amongst the 200 or so black-headed gulls, two cracking summer plumaged Mediterranean gulls. In summer plumage this has got to be the most beautiful of all gull species.

Yellow-legged gull at the horse paddocks

While I was looking through the gulls at the horse paddocks today, I came across this gorgeous summer plumaged large gull at the back. Clearly it's a big bird and it's far too dark to be a British herring gull Larus argentatus argenteus but it's also quite a lot paler than the nearby lesser-black backs.

In the field my immediate reaction was yellow-legged gull, and this seemed to be confirmed when I looked at the photos later and saw that the bird had yellow legs. Notice also that it's quite slender looking bird with long wings.

However this wing pattern had me confused for a while because yellow-legged gull is meant to have a black tip to primary feather p10, but in this case it appears to be completely white, which made me consider first Caspian gull and then yellow legged omissus-type herring gull L.a. argentatus. It doesn't quite fit either of those species though, either in wing pattern or jizz and further research reveals that actually some male yellow-legged gulls can have an all white tip to p10 (Olsen 2018).

Also, on closer inspection p10 does appear to have a black notch near the end and after a discussion on the facebook group Western Palearctic gulls, the general consensus is that this is indeed a yellow-legged gull, and a very smart individual at that.

Monday, 8 March 2021

Snow bunting, Winter Hill

There's been a cracking male snow bunting on Winter Hill for a couple of weeks, hanging around the trig point. It was surprisingly elusive today, but I did get some decent views of the bird. To me it looks like an adult male in winter plumage and most likely of the race P.n. insulae. My photos aren't that great, but it's a male because it has white lesser and median coverts, black tipped white primary coverts and square edged black centered scapulars. It's insulae because it has black tipped white primary coverts and in the field I saw clearly a brown rump with dark centers to the feathers.

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