Friday, 30 September 2011

Scilly Trip Report

I, like many others spent the early part of last week watching the birding news services with baited breath with mega after mega dropping into the Isles of Scilly: Solitary Sandpiper, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Oriole, Red-eyed Vireo with a supporting cast of other scarce migrants such as Bee-eater, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Melodious Warbler and Woodchat Shrike etc...

I'd got some major EIA reports to finish so I couldn't drop everything to go straightaway so had to sit it out. By Thursday morning it appeared as though some of the birds had gone but there was still a fair bit of interest down there so I booked a flight and talked Dave into coming with me for the trek. Dave got to mine at 9pm on Thursday evening and we drove through the night, getting down to Lands End Airport for first light. We were both taken aback by how cold it was down there and were worried we'd not got enough cold-weather clothes! We needn't have worried though as the Scillies was like another country!

A poke around St Just didn't produce too much, a few Meadow Pipit, alba Wagtails and that was about it. A couple of Wheatear were noted on the airfield. While checking-in and going through the H&S information I glanced outside and saw a smallish wader flying over the airstrip, Buff-breasted Sandpiper! A good start to the day/trip and hopefully a sign of good things to come?!? The buff-breast circled about while we made our way to the tiny 8-seater plane and could be seen as we flew off to St Mary's.

On arrival at St Mary's airport (while waiting for my bag to arrive on the next plane!) we were treated to excellent views of the first summer Woodchat Shrike sat next to a Wheatear on a wire fence.

After dropping our bags off at the B&B we headed round to check out Higgo's Pool and the Dump clump to make sure we were in the right place for when/if the Waterthrush/Solitary Sand would show again, we then headed into Lower Moors to try and re-find the Black-and-White Warbler, which didn't result in much at all. After a fruitless couple of hours we made our way back to Higgo's Pool and staked it out for the afternoon. By this point the sun was raging down, it was baking hot and I was totally exhausted, so much so that I fell asleep standing up! After a 4 hours wait we were rewarded when the bird dropped in calling. It then showed well for the next 40 minutes as it fed along the edge of the pool, occasionally calling. A great bird!

The next couple of days saw a steady stream of good birds and saw us walking miles and miles. Saturdays highlights included the Solitary Sandpiper showing to about 12 feet, Ortolan Bunting showing to about 20 feet, Buff-breasted Sandpiper to 30 feet, 2Pectoral Sandpipers to 1 foot (they walked out from under the hide we were in!), Water Pipit, Whinchat, Stonechat, Wheatear and lots of other common birds.

Sunday was a difficult day, we walked miles and miles in search of the Bee-eater covering all the areas in which it had been favouring, but with no joy whatsoever! The only bird of note we had was a Lesser Yellowlegs that was sat on the beach next to our B&B! Hard work!

Monday was our last day on the island and the weather had closed in somewhat, we started out early and headed down to the dump clump, after an hour of watching the tree tops we were rewarded when we picked up a Red-eyed Vireo feeding in the Elms, it gave great views as it moved through. We didn't get much after that, save a showy Pectoral Sandpiper and a brief view of an Icterine Warbler both down at Lower Moors.

Unfortunately (or fortunately as it turned out) the fog prevented us from flying back to the mainland so we got on the Scillonian III, this resulted in a good afternoons birding with the highlights including 6 Balearic Shearwaters, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 1 Sooty Shearwater, 1 Sabines Gull, 2 Leach's Petrel, 35+ Storm Petrel, 4 Bonxie with Minke Whale, Common Dolphin and Sun Fish also seen. The sea was fairly calm which enabled me to get my scope up which certainly helped with the ID of the above!

Overall it was a great trip, it was a shame the Oriole and Black-and-White Warbler had gone, and also that the Bee-eater had flown off the day we arrived but that can't detract from the Waterthrush, Solitary Sand and Vireo that showed off nicely.

I didn't get many photos, and my blackberry zoom wasn't working for most of my trip which was a shame/pain, however I met a few birders who should hopefully be sending me some photos soon and I have a few better pics of the Pec Sands to put on.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Scilly Update

Just a quick one to say the lack of recent posts is due to my recent trip to the Scillies. I will put a 'trip report' up in the next couple of days but I've got quite a lot on at the minute with work so will try and catch up at the weekend.

Needless to say it will be packed full of decent rarities and hopefully a few decent pictures!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

American Black Tern, Lincolnshire

After a busy day on Saturday of painting and shopping news of the American Black Tern in Lincolnshire went straight past me, maybe it was because I kept seeing Black and White Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Solitary Sandpiper and I couldn't contemplate another mega out of my reach so it wasn't until late at night when I sat down with the laptop that I realised I may have missed a localish Mega! Unfortunately I'd got several plans and meetings scheduled during the day so had to wait my time and hope it would hang on.

Luckily the bird was still present on Sunday, and even better, it was still there when I could get across so as afternoon approached I met up with Dave and we shot across to Covenham Reservoir in Lincolnshire dodging a few hefty thunderstorms en-route.

On arrival we were straight onto the bird, we dodged another shower and moved along the dam wall for a closer look, the bird performed brilliantly and showed well for the duration of our stay. I didn't get any photos but there are loads on the Lincolnshire Bird Club Website such as this cracker by Robert Hardy

Also present were tonnes of Pied with a sprinkling of Yellow Wagtail lots of Great Crested and two Red-necked Grebes. Interestingly, the two grebes showed a great deal of yellow on the lower mandibles, could this be potential for the US holboellii sub-species? Check out Russel Hayes photo below, again with more photos on the Lincolnshire Bird Club website.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Local YL Gulls and a bit of other stuff...

I've not done masses of birding lately, mainly due to continued decorating, nasty weather, a flu/cold and lots and lots of report writing so I've mainly been making do with what I can find while out walking the dogs.

The number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the LDV has been steadily increasing over the past couple of weeks. I've seen a couple of flocks locally and have been focussing on a flock near home which last weekend peaked at around 300+ birds. This flock contained a decent scattering of Great Black-backed Gulls (the first real flock noted by me locally) and also included at least 2 Yellow-legged Gulls but unfortunately they got flushed by a farm vehicle before I could get my scope sorted. Also at the weekend, 2 Yellow-legged Gulls were seen in the north of the valley, with another bird in the east of the valley.

The numbers of gulls in the field appear variable with some days none been present but other days quite a few about. Yesterday there was only 35 Lesser Black-backs and 1 Yellow-legged Gull but today there was approximately 100 Lessers, with at least 4 Yellow-legs present.

© David Iliff 2007 Yellow-legged Gull (note this is not the actual bird(s) seen!

The House Martins in the nest on the neighbours house appear to be very close to fledging (hopefully they will make it this time!). There has been a decent passage of Swallows over the last few days locally with a fair few Yellow Wagtail and Meadow Pipit passing over too.

There has been a few passage Common Whitethroat and Chiffchaff noted on the local dog walk circuit and the number of Starlings are rocketing up too.

Of note on my dog walk this morning was a Water Vole that gave decent views. While in the office today I added an 'office tick' in the form of Snow Goose!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Some Great Birds in Finland

At this time of year I regularly check out whats going on around northern Europe in the hope that some of the awesome birds reported may make it over here. Last week Norway was my feature. Today it is Finland.

There has been reports of dozens of Pallid Harrier over there this autumn but it has been hotting up over the last few days, peaking with a cracking Isabelline Shrike and a first for Finland in the form of a migrating adult Sandhill Crane in amongst the Common Crane this evening. The photos below show the birds fairly well!

Isabelline Shrike presumed nominate isabellinus in Finland (September 2nd 2011 Nakkila, Leistilänjärvi, Finland © Mika Bruun)

Isabelline Shrike presumed nominate isabellinus in Finland (September 2nd 2011 Nakkila, Leistilänjärvi, Finland © Mika Bruun)

Adult Sandhill Crane (September 5th 2011 Espoo, Laajalahti, Finland © Joonatan Toivanen)

Adult Sandhill Crane (September 5th 2011 Espoo, Laajalahti, Finland © Joonatan Toivanen)

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Is it April?

I wasn't sure if it was April this morning. I was greeted by both Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler singing in the garden which was cool! I took the dogs for a walk behind the house and came across a flock of at least 15 Yellow Wagtail feeding amongst the cows and horses feets. Nearby I had a brief Wheatear on the muck heap with at least 40 Meadow Pipit and 9 Skylark feeding amongst the freshly cut bean field. Several small flocks of Swallows were recorded, all heading strongly low north. All of the above, and what with the showers throughout the day it certainly felt like April!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Heslington East early am (Sat 3rd Sept)

Had an early am walk around the local wader hot spot that is Heslington East in the hope of connecting with the Little Stint that had been present for a few days. No such luck as there was no sign of the little one.

It was a surprisingly mild morning as the sun came up which was a pleasant surprise. The Little Stint had either gone, or was out of sight but 2 Greenshank, 1migrant juvenile Little Ringed Plover, 3 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper and 2 Snipe were recorded.

Highlights however came in the form of a Garganey and Kingfisher, the latter showed very well (not that my rushed picture shows this!), the former not so well unfortunately.

Kingfisher at Heslington East

Other waterbirds recorded included 2 Tufted Duck, 1 Pochard (when is the Ring-neck going to turn up?!?!), 2 Teal, 100+ Mallard, 1 Cormorant, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 20 Snow Goose, 65 Barnacle Goose and loads of Canada and Greylags.

Several passerines were also noted, including over 100 Swallow and 1 Sand Martin flying high south. Also heading south were 20 Yellow Wagtail, 2 Mistle Thrush, 30 Meadow Pipit, 1 Grey Wagtail and 150 Starling. There was also loads of Linnet, Goldfinch and Pied Wagtail feeding around the site.

Still hoping for a Yankee wader!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Lista Bird Observatory - Norway Birding!

I've been ill for a few days but back in the office today to get on with some report writing so no birding for me for the last few days so thought I'd tell you about one of my mates birding days - as it sounds pretty good!

Lista Bird observatory is approximately 600 Km Northeast of my favourite UK birding destination - Flamborough Head (where incidentally I now have my caravan set up!) separated by the North Sea. Knowing what is going on at Lista (and other such locations in Europe) can prove for a) some interesting reading, and b) some food for thought...

Some of the better birds at Flamborough come from the east so it is logical to assume some of the birds that get recorded over at Lista may make it over here given the right weather.

A couple of weeks back Lista recorded Norway's first Grey-necked Bunting, there shortly followed another bird in the same country a week or so later. Grey-necked Bunting has not yet been recorded in the UK (to my knowledge). There has also been a Pallid Harrier recorded over the last few days over there which seems to fit in well with records of birds in the UK and Ireland over the last week or so.

Today my mate Rich Cope (Richbirder) has had a fairly decent day with 2 Pallid Harrier, 1 Hen Harrier, 1 Black Kite, 1 Rough-legged Buzzard, 2 Honey Buzzard, 100 Sparrowhawk, 2 Barred Warbler and a Wryneck! A sign of what may be heading this way over the coming days??

Rich has also been having decent numbers of Two-barred Crossbills since 27th July, with 8 seen yesterday, hopefully some more will make it to the UK in the coming weeks and months.

Rich is providing daily accounts (internet/time permitting etc) which I really recommend.