Saturday, 27 June 2009

Barn Owl/Nightjar Surveying

I've been conducting some really interesting Barn Owl and Nightjar surveys at various locations in the UK this year, the Nightjar surveys were very interesting and were great fun getting to play around with a 35K thermal imaging camera and several Ks worth of image intensifying cameras.

A set of Barn Owl surveys in Beverley were particularly interesting providing some really good results and a hunting Hobby at just gone 4.30 in the am was a nice surprise! Not as nice as the lady police officer that pulled me at 3 in the am wondering what i was doing wandering round country lanes at that time in the morning!!! Got your number!!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Twitching ups and downs and run arounds!

Had some ups and downs twitching over the last couple of months (main,y downs), not bothering to go for the Collared Flycatcher(s) and Crested Lark - big mistake, gutted, the Great Not which was a load of balls (but lots of exciting year ticks, Curlew Sand, Greenshank, Little Tern - what joy!!) and dipping the Pallid Swift too, but the fun and games revolved around Pratincoles, the Black-winged vanishing the day before i could get down to try for it and the Collared giving me the run around the country - literally, as described below from my Bank Holiday birding log!...

Had a good weekend, in the end! Started with an early morning trip to Norfolk on Saturday that almost resulted in no birds, however a pair of breeding Montys Harriers (the best kept secret pair in the country!!) was well worth the 400 miles! Spoonbill, Hobby and several warblers (Cettis, lesser white etc) new year birds.

I heard a rumour of a Collared Praticole down there but the little F$%^er decided to bugger off before i could get it!! Nevermind, its only a bird!!

Managed the adult male Woodchat on the edge of sunny Wakefield on Sunday afternoon, showed really well catching bees!

On Bank Holiday Monday a 5am wake up bark by the dog (thanks Daisy) made me decide to go to Swilly, 45 mins later I was watching the Collared Pratincole and a Whiskered Tern - result. Back in bed with a bacon Sandwich and my beautiful wife by 7.30 am!!!! Jobs a goodun!!

After a fairly stressful weekend the Collared Pratincole finally gave itself up, before vanishing never to be seen again! Its quite amusing that I drove all the way from Yorkshire to see it in Norfolk for it to vanish and turn up just down the road from where i'd come from! Briliant!

Devonshire Wedding then back to work

I'm just back from a week down on the south coast of Devon, we stayed in some beautiful log cabins in the middle of some really nice woodland, with bird boxes and bird tables around all cabins and due to the great habitat birds were super-abundant, with lots of fledglings, being evident Bullfinch, Chaffinch, Robin, Blackbird, Dunnock, Chiffchaff and lots of Tits. A pair of Spotted Flycatcher were also present around the cabin for most of our stay which was nice. Highlight however was a nice male Cirl Bunting that showed really well on the cliff top footpath. Didn't really do a great deal of birding but it was nice just having lots of birds around the cabins - and the weather was awesome too. (The Wedding was good too!)

On Monday back at work a nice suprise was that my two pairs of nesting Little Ringed Plover had hatched their young, with one pair having 4 chicks, the other 3. Hopefully some/all will fledge in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Longtime no news - sorry!

Its not that I haven't been out birding recently, pretty much the opposite, it's just that I've also been really busy report writing in one form or another, however I'm going to try and update the blog over the coming days with my recent goings on, highlights including my Goa Trip Report from April and a few interesting twitches (Great Not, Collared Pratincole etc etc...). Keep your eyes peeled!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Cocks are like buses

Went out for a brief walk at a local nature reserve on Sunday with Jenny and Daisy and after driving all round East Yorkshire on Saturday with one of the main target birds being Woodcock it was probably no surprise that we had one on Sunday too! This bird was giving a nice flyby view which was cool. The site was heaving with Reed Bunting with a few Yellowhammer thrown in for good measure. A Black Swan was motoring about on the water and then a year-tick in the form of a singing Marsh Tit followed us along for a bit as we waded through knee deep mud!

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Shag in Beverley (Just for you James!!!)

Saturday was like going back in time as I spent some time driving round the areas in East Yorkshire that I spent 4 years living and birding in. First stop was North Cave Wetlands for the Green-winged Teal, which after a while finally showed itself in amongst the grass on one of the islands. When I used to go birding at this site it was a case of looking through the gap in the hedge trying to avoid getting hit by tractors or boy racers but now there is a car park and some really smart hides and a lot of site improvements for both birds and people! I look forward to returning!!

The drake Green-winged Teal is hidden in the grass, you can just about see the distinctive white line - honest!

On then to Tophill Low Nature Reserve via Beverley, having not returned to the town since I left it in 2004 it was a little strange to be driving round it again! On arriving at Tophill I paid my entrance fee and met up with Lil Rich the site manager and James (Hotspur) who was busy volunteering. We spent a good half hour or so enjoying a warming cuppa and watching the very close range roosting Woodcock waiting for the birds to return to the feeders after a Sparrowhawk had been through (or was sitting there somewhere), eventually the birds started coming back and amongst the many Chaffinch (including a male double the size of the other males), Greenfinch, Tree Sparrow and Tits was a couple of smart male Bramblings, both targets from here scored!

A walk around the reserve looking at all of the site improvements underway resulted in the main targets, the two redhead Smew (presumably a female/1st winter and a 1st winter male), they showed really well, with other bits seen including Pintail and most of the common waterfowl. A possible day-roosting Tawny Owl almost got us all!!! A few winter thrushes were seen moving about, a sign of things to come??? Back at the visitors centre the Water Rail was showing itself under the bird feeders! This ended a really nice day out with 4 strategic year tick! Thanks to James and Rich for the company.

The two 'red-head' Smew at Watton Borrow Pits, fairly distantly just before they moved over to the far pool. One bird is considered to be a 1st winter male, the other is presumably a first winter female.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Same old same old...FOG

I hate fog. Another mornings birding screwed up by not being able to see more than 100m. A really frustrating start to the day with the only glimmer of light being a year tick Nuthatch (134) that was hunter gathering along the wall in front of my B&B window. This was pretty much the highlight of today's birding, other interesting observations included 7 Whooper Swan and a load more common waterfowl. A Grey Heron sat in a nest was a bit early but it looked like it was staking a claim in the immense structure. A few interesting Buzzards were noted, one very pale with another incredibly dark individual that looked more like a Black Kite when it was sat on the ground. Lets hope the weather improves tomorrow...

***Late night update, Tawny Owl (year tick 135), calling outside tonight's B&B in south western Scotland, coolio!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Duck Tales

Today a wander around a secret site in Scotland with Ade produced little of excitement at first, a few hundred Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank and Oystercatcher but little else, until a river tidal wave (or whatever they are called) came in and pushed in lots of interesting waterfowl, e.g. 5 Goosander, a male Red-breasted Merganser then a raft of Mallard (20), Wigeon (190), Teal (50), Goldeneye (4), Shoveller (1), Great-crested Grebe (1) and something slightly more interesting, a shedload of Pintail, 179 in total!!!! I'm pretty sure I've never had that many Pintail together before so was fairly pleased with that. Interestingly this was exactly the same place and tidal occurrence that I witnessed last year which brought almost 250 Greater Scaup up the river past me!!! In addition there was a nice big flock of Whooper Swans jobbing around, approximately 200 of them, another good count! Add to that all the Pinkies, Shelduck and 200+ Teal, 40 Wigeon and 20 Mallard on a little pond and it was certainly an interesting wildfowl day, just a shame it didn't stop drizzling all day. Oh just remembered, a Raven flying over calling was a nice suprise, but no year ticks.

A walk along a secret river did not produce the hoped-for otter, do they even exist???

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Back to work :-)

Well after 4 days of birding on leave it was time to go back to work, so I spent another 2 days birding, this time up at Blyth in Northumberland. It was unusually quiet with only Common Scoter being new for the year list. A brief glimpse of a hunting Peregrine was nice.

After surveys I made a quick late afternoon visit to Cresswell where I got really good views of 78 Twite feeding in the dunes around the cows, my best looks at this species for a long while. A look out to sea produced only two birds, both Red-throated Divers but another year tick. On the way back to the B&B a strategic stop gave 2 Greater Scaup and stunning views of 2 Barn Owls hunting.

Today I only added one year bird, but it was a good one! Red-legged Partridge!!! What a cracker! This takes me up to 133 for the year which I'm quite pleased with considering I've not had plenty of common birds yet, e.g. Grey Partridge, Little Egret, Marsh Tit and Green Woodpecker etc...

Monday, 19 January 2009

Snowy old Cornwall

Well, it had to be done, the first twitchable Snowy Owl on mainland UK for a few years just HAD to be seen, with this in mind holiday time was book and Jenny and I set off with Ade in tow too, for sunny Cornwall, a mere 420 miles to our south with the added bonus of some potential good year-listing birds to be seen too…

We set off at 5.30am and made good time, getting to Hayle for lunchtime, a brief refuelling and toilet stop and we were off looking for the track to find the owl. We thought we were in the right place but turns out we were on a sheep track! After finding some helpful birders we were quickly pointed in the right direction and continued our march to our target bird, up a very muddy path/swamp. A male Merlin shot across the path in front of us and a couple of Ravens flew along a valley below us, we saw a guy low in the vegetation so cautiously walked up to him and sat on the ground where we enjoyed really satisfactory views of this breathtaking bird. We watched it for about 30 minutes before the weather turned and a deluge ensued. Before the bad weather we were able to observed the bird looking around (presumably for photographers???) it’s piercing eyes stood out at range. This was a UK first for me, and a lifer for Ade and Jenny so we were all happy with the start to our weekend! The only bad point was the weather turning and us not being able to really stay up there for any longer. We left the hill happy, wet and dirty, (some more than others……).

We’d headed to our B&B in Penzance – Elmsdale Guest House (highly recommended), very clean B&B, good breakfasts, very nice rooms and very nice people – can’t wait to return. After a good shower and getting warmed up we headed to town for some good food and a celebratory drink!

Next day we thought we would try and get some interesting year birds around the end of Cornwall, a cracking start allowed me (and Ade) to finally crack what can only be described as our embarrassing bogey birds – Grey Phalarope. Not one, or two even but 7!!!!! We had a group of 4, followed by a group of 2 and then a single bird, all seen from the same spot and all seen in one sweep so not double counted! In typical fashion they showed really well - a great start! Moving along the coast the birds were coming thick and fast, Black-necked and Slavonian Grebe, Great Northern Diver (c10+) and Black-throated Diver (c5/6), and a whole host of common seabirds/auks that were all year ticks, followed by 4 Cattle Egrets and a Juv Iceland Gull all before lunch. We went to Lands End but most of it was closed and by now the wind was picking up. We headed to a really nice bistro place for lunch in Helston where we caught up with a nice 1st Winter Ring-billed Gull. A trip down to the Lizard provided good looks at 4/5 Chough but by now the wind was at Gale Force 7/8 so we headed back to the B&B satisfied with our haul.

Another nice meal in Penzance, including some fish eyes for the more adventurous!! After a tremendous thunderstorm non of us had much sleep but we were ready and raring to go on after breakfast with our final destination of the day being Torquay.

We went back down to Marazion but there was no sign of the Phals but a single Water Pipit was a nice bird. We quickly made our way to Newquay where we got excellent looks at a very interestingly plumaged Rosy Starling, somewhere in between plumages. We then headed to Devon where we found a delightful road to a Cider place, and some scones with jam and cream just for Jenny.

We then decided to try our luck with the Penduline Tit that had been present in the area for a few days, we didn’t have to wait long for it to pop out and start showing off in the reeds at fairly close range, a cracking little bird. A look through the gulls on the sports fields here gave us a smart adult Med Gull but little else. We then went on to a secret location where we got fantastic views of at least 10 Cirl Buntings, a UK tick for me having never birded down there before.

We had a really nice stay in Torquay/Torbay at Fairways, again a very delightful place with great rooms, food and people. I wouldn’t hesitate to stay there again and we had a nice meal in town.

All in all a very good few days birding with a decent trip list (TBA). Big thanks must go to Jenny for being very understanding of two losers standing around looking for birds! Xxxxx Thanks too must go to Ade for finding a couple of the birds and sharing the driving – I can’t believe my little Peugeot made another long haul twitch, 1000 mile round trip!!! Big up the French (or whoever makes them!).

Cheers – ANDY.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Foggy South Scotland

Horrendous fog today really limited any birding activities, however about 10,000 Barnacle Geese, Greater Scaup and a Cackling Canada Goose were all year-ticks. Very little else of any note was seen today unfortunately. Hopefully by tomorow the fog will have gone!

Monday, 12 January 2009

Cumbria Birding - Canoe Required

A trip up to Cumbria with Ade for some work saw me driving through massive flooded areas and for a while i was thinking a boat may have been more useful than my car, however a quite day produced some more self-found Waxwings, and a few year ticks in the form of Whooper Swan, Dipper (!!!!- for those in the know), Pink-footed Goose and Sky Lark. An afternoon watch of the Gretna Starling roost was a little more interesting than usual, it turns out pulling up outside a Diesel Storage Depot doesn't go down well with the local Po Pos!!! Luckily one of them was a wildlife Liaison officer so brought our reason for loitering around!! After they let us go we found the roost over at Gretna Services which was as awesome as the last time i saw it in December, a Buzzard and a year tick in the form of an adult male Peregrine was a smart end to the day as they were both hunting the Starlings. Year list ton up, 102 now. Hopefully i might get some free time tomorrow in the PM in Dumb fries and Galloway for some more wildfowl...

Sunday, 11 January 2009

I love Sunday Bird-Watchers

Today I went to Potteric Carr with my wife Jenny and BFF Ade, what can I say, O.M.G.!!!!!!!!!!!!! I shouldn't go out on a Sunday, it's way too stressful!!! We did a little walk to the most important stop, the cafe, but first of all we dropped into Willow Hide for Water Rail and Willow Tit, both were new year birds and seen well at very close range. It was nice to be able to see lots of interesting birds so close.

After a cracking Bacon sandwich we moved across to Piper Hide, enjoying good views of a Kingfisher en route. Though we scanned and scanned we couldn't find the Bitterns, not sure if anyone did today? The only bird of interest we saw there was a nice drake Pintail. Then it was on to Huxter Hexagonal hide or whatever it's called... This was where it got interesting, we immediately got onto the Caspian Gull that was showing well, however, some in the hide seemed unable to differentiate it from Black-headed or Common Gulls, and thought they were still watching the Caspo 20 minutes after it had flown off!!! Never mind, and then there was the ones thinking the Caspo was actually a Ring-billed Gull...... and the ones claiming a self-found tick... you can't claim a self-found tick if the birds been there for over 2 months! That's just wrong! Though I was the first person to see it in my scope view so maybe i can have it as a self-found too???? Answers on a postcard......

All in all an interesting day, at least it was warmer than of late with a few new year ticks.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The year list gets going, and a 2nd look at the GWGull

It was a bit hard to decide what to do after the stonkingness of the Glaucous-winged Gull so I thought I better go down to Fairburn to look at the Long-eared Owls that were roosting there. After a brisk walk down to the bottom of the Lynn Dyke end I found 4 LEOs, two really obvious and then another two a bit better hidden in the scrub, a nice start! Other bits added to the start of the year list included Little Owl and Tree Sparrow, though i didn't really grill much other than the owls.

It was back to work on Monday the 5th, I didn't mind as I knew I stood a chance of adding Red Kite to my year list, which took no time at all to get, they always amaze me and I love driving past Harewood and seeing them when I'm in the office.

My first work trip of the new year took me up to Blyth, Northumberland this was the first visit to an estuary and coast of the new year so everything was new for the year however highlights included Water Pipit, Jack Snipe and 20 Purple Sandpiper.

On the way back home i had an hour or so of light left, it had to be done, I stopped in at Saltholme and within a few minutes of rolling up at the site was looking at the Glaucous-winged Gull again, this time it was closer than before, better light, less birders and with less other birds so viewing was much better than on the 2nd. I was really pleased to get further looks at this bird and may well go back again if I'm passing and it's still around as it's an awesome bird.

Poor quality phone shots below...

Monday, 5 January 2009

New Year Madness!

Late at night on the 1st of January I put on Birdforum to see a picture of a 'grey-winged' gull in Cleveland, and straight away thought it was something special, however the person that found it didn't have a clue what it was and so luckily put some pictures of in online, everyone quickly came to the conclusion that it was a Glaucous-winged Gull, a species I'd seen in Canada a few years ago. This was always a drop-everything bird so with the knowledge that I could be at the site in under an hour I decided to wait on news the next morning. Positive news arrived fairly quickly in the morning so I waited for my mate Dave to arrive and off we were, full of expectation to what would be a stonker of a UK tick (Year-tick self-found Waxwings were a nice suprise on the journey). We waited and waited by the ploughed field but nothing, apart from thousands of Black-headed, Common, Herring, Lesser Black-backed and Great Black-backed Gulls and an adult Mediterranean Gull. Hours were passing and it was getting colder and colder and spirits were fading until rumours quickly spread that someone was on the bird somewhere in the area, everyone jumped in cars, not knowing exactly where we were heading, was this going to be a wild goose chase was the thought that ran through my mind...!!! No, luckily not as we jumped out of the car and legged it across to the group of birders, anxious seconds passed before we got on it but then bash there it was, stood in the scope facing me, it turned showing its grey primary tips and over the next half-hour cracking views were had, finally even of it in flight as it made its way back to the tip. What a bird and a good job the pictures made it to the internet so that it could be correctly identified before it had departed!!! I don't think I'd been so cold for a long time but i didn't care!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

2008 A Summary

2008 will go down as my best UK year list to date, though I've only ever really done one or two year lists, both finishing around 220ish. I finished the end of the year on 263 species, (excluding things like Feral Pigeon, Black Swan etc etc...). I was particularly happy with this, my target had been 250 and I had totally got washed out on my only Scottish highlands trip which resulted in none of the specialities! I also missed some very embarrassing migrants that I either ran out of time for, or, in the majority of cases something more 'important' turned up!
Everyone will have had many special birds during 2008, I added a decent amount to my UK list and had some wonderful birds, my top 5 were:
  1. Brown Shrike: I was present at more-or-less first light (what happened to work that day?) so had great views of the bird. I stayed up on the road as all the numpties ran off into the field (not sure if they had been given permission), they flushed the bird from the bottom of Old Fall right up to me! Cheers for that!! It then flew over the road and vanished for a while before being relocated several hundred metres away. I'd always wanted to see a Brown Shrike in the UK (after disappointingly brief views in Borneo) so was happy to get one so close to home! Other good birds seen that morning included Red-backed Shrike, 7 Yellow-browed Warblers, Red-breasted Flycatcher and a self-found Richard's Pipit.
  2. Bluethroat: Not here because it is rare, as it isn't particularly but here as it is one of my favourite birds and the first one that I have actually found myself, plus it was on the Northumberland mainland, so not particularly common up there either. Was twitched by quite a few birders which was cool. The story of this is strange to say the least! I was out surveying a stretch of beach when some of the local chavs had set light to some tyres, the plume of smoke was bellowing out to sea over the dunes and areas of scrub and forced down a group of migrating birds. On checking out these birds nothing but glimpses, then a pish and bamm it was sat in the top of some scrub, Bluethroat!!! Awesome! I had a feeling something good would be around, I'd already found a Wryneck the day before (and one later that day too) and a Black Redstart and the area was humping with common and scarce migrants.
  3. Red-footed Falcon: Again not particularly rare but it was the fact that i saw 5 different birds in a week as I was shooting all around the country with work at the time, and these birds were very close to where i was working. Birds in all kinds of plumages were observed. In a way this was quite a sour point as because I'd seen so many Red-foots in the spring I didn't bother with the bird at Tophill that turned out to be an Amur Falcon, even though my good friend Rich kept asking me to come and see it! I should have made the effort!!
  4. Lesser Grey Shrike: A bird a had always wanted to see, and probably should have/could have if it wasn't for those damn Sparrowhawks!!! This bird showed really well and was even singing and even made it onto my pissing list...
  5. Black Stork: A good addition to my list, this had become a bit of a bogey bird for me and i almost missed it again somewhere in deepest Yorkshire after having dipped it up somewhere near Newcastle. I was about to leave the site when someone found it - about 2km from where it had last been seen, it must have walked as it certainly wasn't seen in flight.

Other birds I was pleased to see during 2008 were Red-flanked Bluetail, Steppe Grey Shrike, Canavsback, Two-barred Crossbill, Desert Wheatear, Pied Wheatear, White-crowned Sparrow, Stilit Sandpiper, Wilson's Phalarope, Snow Goose, Blue-winged Teal, Lesser Scaup, King Eider, Tawny Pipit, Hume's Warbler (2), Hooded Merganser, Cattle Egret (2), Marsh Warbler (7), Icterine Warbler (2), Sub-alpine Warbler, Wryneck (2), Hoopoe, Red-rumped Swallow, Pallas's Warbler, Radde's Warbler, Siberian Chiffchaff, Yellow-browed Warbler, Red-breasted Flycatcher (2), Black Redstart, Red-backed Shrike (2), Great Grey Shrike, Black-crowned Night-Heron, White Stork, European Storm-Petrel, Black-winged Stilit, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper (2), Glossy Ibis (2), Common Quail, Rough-legged Buzzard, European Golden Oriole (3), Common Crane, 'Black-bellied' Dipper, Tavener's and Cackling Canada Geese and lots and lots of self-found Waxwing.

Lets hope 2009 lives up to 2008!!!

Some phone-scoped pictures from 2008 (sorry for the poor quality for most of these):

(Great Grey Shrike, Desert Wheatear, Cattle Egret, Canvasback, Blue-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, Hoopoe, Iceland Gull, Lesser Grey Shrike, Snow Bunting, Pied Wheatear, Red-rumped Swallow, Steppe Shrike, Tawny Pipit, Waxwing).


Welcome to my shiny new Blog, all the kids seem to have one nowadays so thought I'd join in and fill you in on all of my birding adventures...