Wednesday, 25 April 2007

25th April - Ring-necked Duck

I was busy working away at home when I got word that Darren had found a female Ring-necked Duck at the North plains bit of Campfield Marsh RSPB reserve. I had a very busy day with work, so could not get away until early evening. Craig was very excited about this small twitch, infact he ran all the way down the hill he was working on, jumped into his car and drove all the way to my house in reverse. Sounds a strange thing to do I know, but if you met him in person you would realise that this is quite normal behaviour. Anyway he arrived at my house several hours before he left and subsequently had to wait until I had finished work, Kath had returned home and the spider in the corner of the room had evolved into a jet propelled personnel carrier. We were going to head off to Campfield Marsh in this jet propelled personnel carry until we realised that it had to stop to feed on flies every two hundred yards. As this was clearly not an efficient method of travel we went in Craig's car instead.

We arrived at North Plains and after the treacherous hike to the second pool (many have attempted this and very few have returned) we were rewarded with nice views of the female Ring-necked Duck. I have managed to see many individuals of this species over my 192 years of birding and Craig has also seen several during the 2389902.5768 years that he has been birding, however this was the first female of this species that either of us have observed. The views were very good and we managed to get some reasonable pictures even though the light was terrible.

There was very little of note on the reserve, so we decided to have a quick look to see if anything was passing on the solway, it was fairly quiet.

We had to head back home as Craig had to go to his wool spinning and yoga class, whilst I had a another rapidly evolving spider to remove from my left nostril.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

21st April - A trip to County Durham

Tick hungry Craig was desperate to go to County Durham to see the White Stork that had been present during the week. So after much deliberation, meditation and fighting with my conscience and my inner chi I agreed to go. However I did say that I would only go if we could do some local patch work first!
Craig arrived at my house at about 0750hrs and we set off to the Solway to see what we could see. All we saw was a Peregrine and the usual mix of waders plus a small group of Barnacle Geese. So off we went to County Durham.
We arrived at
Bishop Middleham mid morning, and stopped at the roadside pool near the quarry. There was no sign of the stork here, but we did see Little Ringed Plover, Corn Bunting and Little Owl. A local birder present said the stork had not been seen so far that day but said that it would be worth checking the pool in the quarry and castle lake. After driving around for 1289 hours we failed to find either the pool or the lake. It was going to be one of those days! We returned to the roadside pool to give it another check and then were just about to give up and head up the coast to Northumberland. However just in the nick of time a birder turned up and told us that he had seen the White Stork on Castle Lake. He offered to show us where the lake was, but first we showed him and his kids the Corn Bunting and Little Owl. We then followed him up to Castle Lake, and he kindly gave us directions of where he viewed the bird from. We climbed the hill where we could see the lake, however there was no sign of the Stork. The lake was more of a flooded field than a lake and there was no sign of a castle......spooky! Andy who had tuned up in the nick of time informed us that there was a series of pools nearby, we checked these pools but still no sign of the Stork! Craig picked out a cracking drake Garganey along with Greenshank, Common Sandpiper and several Little Ringed Plover. There were also lots of Sand Martins, a few Swallow and several Swifts flying over the site. We were scanning over the lake when Andy picked out the stork flying distantly over the plantation near the moto-cross place. The bird appeared to drop down into the wood. We decided to try and get closer to the wood to try and locate the bird again. We walked several thousand miles and got brief but close views of the Stork again over the plantation, however the bird dropped back down out of view. We then headed back to the lake as we assumed the bird would return at some point in the next ten years! A Sedge Warbler singing in the hedgerow was nice bonus.
We sat back on the hill over looking the lake hoping the bird would return! We were about to give up when using my super powers I relocated the Stork feeding in a field around 2km away! So we headed back to the car to try and get closer views of the bird that appeared to be near Hardwick Hall. We followed the track to the quad bike centre and located the bird feeding in a field. We set up our scopes and managed excellent views.

The land owner gave us permission to view the bird at closer range from his field. We were able to get some half decent pics of the bird as is was feeding. At one point the bird was being mobbed by some gulls and it responded with a strange predator response display (well that's what I call it any way!). I managed to get a video clip of this behavior which through the magic of youtube can be viewed below!

On our way back home we stopped off at a site in County Durham where we saw 14 Black Grouse, we also jammed in on a further 15 across the birder in Cumbria!

Another cracking day out!

Friday, 20 April 2007

20th April - Fast Cars

A busy week at work this week, so a trip into Carlisle this evening was a welcome break! Not much bird wise in the city except lots of Lesser Black-backed Gulls! Anyway there was lots of fast cars driving through the city centre. I got talking to one guy and he challenged me to some illegal street race, I had to borrow his mates Car. We sped off and cained it around a multi story car park. Carlisle drift was a driving skill I had to learn fast. It entailed reversing around a corner, yanking on the handbreak whilst standing on my head and shouting "GERTROOD". Anyway I soon mastered it and won the race! Although this was an illegal street race, the King of Carlisle was so impressed she gave me the key to the city!

Errrr, ok, that was not entirely true...............but I did see some fast cars!

15th April - A Trip to Northumberland

Well Craig kneed me in the nuts and twisted my arm behind my back so I had to go birding with him to Northumberland! Saw two Swallows not far from my house before we were on our way east. First stop was just across the border at Grindon Lough where we saw four Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the shore line, very few other waders apart from a couple of Dunlin and a few Redshank and Lapwing. My first Willow Warbler of the year was singing nearby!
The next stop was Newbiggin. A scan through the gulls and Craig picked out a weird small 1st summer gull with a black hood. It was the size of a Black-headed Gull, structurally similar to this species also. However it was quite long-legged and and the bill structure was somewhere between that of a Black-headed Gull and a Med Gull. Weird! The upper wing pattern was spot on for a Med Gull, but the wing shape was spot on for Black-headed Gull. Freaky! I phoned it out as a presumed Med x Black-headed Gull, but after posting pics on Birdforum the general consensus was that it was just a runt Med Gull. Hmmm what do I know eh?

dmskjbhdbsnfkljowe'fkp[ewkf;mew,lf;,w. fekjwfnio'ew. Sorry about that, a cat just ran across my keyboard............strange, I don't have a cat!

Next we went to Linton Ponds to look for a Glaucous Gull that had been present the previous day. No sign but lots of nice ducks to look at and some entertaining graffiti to read!

Cresswell was a bit disappointing as the water levels were quite high, however a female Smew was a pleasant surprise. No sign of the wintering Shore Lark though!

East Chevington was also a bit of a disappointment with very few birds of note.

Once back home after a bit of a poor days birding what should turn up, but a White Stork at Linton Ponds!

Thursday, 19 April 2007

10th April - Lesser Scaup again!

The Lesser Scaup was still at Holyrood Park and I had to head up to the office again. The weather was brighter than the previous visit, but it was a lot breezier, in fact there were a few thirty footers swelling up on the loch. Once I had finished surfing I got some excellent views of the Lesser Scaup again. Despite the difficult light I managed some more reasonable shots of the bird. It was time to head back to the office, this time I managed to take the correct turn. Amazingly I made such good time that I arrived in 1926, though no sign of the office, just nowt but fields!

3rd April - Lesser Scaup

Rare birds on the way to work, whatever next! Yes it is true, a very showy 1st drake Lesser Scaup was at St Margaret's Loch in Holyrood Park in the middle of Edinburgh. This was just a few miles from my office which I actually positively definitely had to visit today! I arrived at St Margaret's Loch and it took me all of half a second to locate the Lesser Scaup feeding some five yards from the loch (pond) side! The bird was feeding actively with the Tufted Ducks. Although this was the 560,938,222 Lesser Scaup I have seen this month It was the first drake I have the opportunity to photograph (or should that be digigraph?). It was a cracking bird and gave excellent views.

I couldn't spend too much time watching the bird as I had to get back to the office for work. Of course I took a wrong turn and we ended up in the middle of the city! 72 hours later that day I arrived at the office and for some unknown reason I was wearing clogs and a top hat!

Sunday, 1 April 2007

31st March - A Trip to Lancashire/Mersyside

Craig picked me up at 0800hrs and we headed South to Lancashire. First stop was the Lancaster Canal just South of Bilsborrow near Myerscough Quarry to look for the adult Ring-billed Gull that has been present on and off for the past week. However there was no sign of the bird anywhere in the surrounding area. Craig was particularly annoyed and frustrated with this as the bird would have been a tick for him, it was the 8,987,452nd Ring-billed Gull that he had dipped in the 41 years he has been birding (he is still hoping to see one on his 28th birthday later this year)! All was not lost as we still had a chance of seeing the Crosby bird later in the day or failing that we would have another look back at this site on our way home!

We re-joined the M6 (I had been a member for 15 years, Craig had been a member for 52 years, but we had both let our memberships lapse) and headed South to Warton Bank. I was navigating so we ended up in Penzance before we realised we had missed our turn! Once we finally got back on track, we found Warton Bank and began looking for the long-staying Glossy Ibis that has been touring Lancashire! At first there was no sign, it was looking like it could be one of those days! After while Craig picked out the bird as it was feeding in a juncus filled ditch. Views were good, though the light was not ideal for photography. Once we had watched the bird for some time we left and made our way to Marshside RSPB Reserve.

On arrival we made our way to the main hide where there had been a very confiding drake Green-winged Teal. As soon as we were in the hide we could see the Green-winged Teal as it actively fed just c5 yards from us. We watched the bird for ages and managed to get some reasonable photographs. Also from the hide amongst the commoner species was a drake Ruddy Duck, female Scaup, a Little Egret and lots of Black-tailed Godwits. As we were on an RSPB reserve we got superb views of Avocets! The first of the summer migrants were in evidence as a trickle of Sand Martins flew over the marsh. The Golden Plover were being harassed by a Peregrine! After an hour or so we decided to look on another area of the reserve for Little Stints which had been reported. From the other hides we saw big numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, good numbers of Avocet and Redshank. Amongst these birds were a few Ruff. After a short-time Craig picked out a Little Stint as it flew in with a single Dunlin.

Craig heard that there were had been a Wheatear seen on another part of the reserve, so desperate for another year tick he ran as fast as he could! I had another look at the Green-winged Teal before looking for the migrants. As I was looking along the bank for passerines a Merlin scooted past me. There was a cracking adult male and 1st summer male Wheatear present in this area. The only down side to this site was the amount of small-minded hoody wearing boy racers that felt it was entertaining to beep there horns as they drove past hoping to scare the birds we were watching. This really annoyed me and after the 175th car load passed us beeping their horn I flagged them down and had an in depth discussion about gull taxonomony with them. They then apologised as they could see the error of their ways, they also promised they would give me a call if the Glaucous-winged Gull turned up at Southport. However they did say that the taxonomy of Glaucous-winged Gull was quite complex and that the bird seen in Gloucestershire and South Wales was at the darker end of the spectrum which could indicate that it had some Western Gull genes! I appreciated their advice but told them after much research that I would only tick it if I saw it!

We decided not to to go to Crosby as we had heard that there were no gulls present, so it be a fruitless visit. We got some lunch and then headed North back to the Lancaster Canal where yet again we failed to see the Ring-billed Gull!

Despite this it had been a pretty successful day all in!