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!

Friday, 23 March 2007

19th March - Snow Goose etc

I was sat wondering why society would force me to wear a suit, take my earring out, brush my hair and shave just so I could look the part for a meeting I had to attend later in the week. We do live in a society that does judge people by how they look. Still we have to do what we have to do sometimes.

My mind is often active with random thoughts, probably a bi-product from my miss-spent youth! I got to thinking about time travel, the ethics of this form of travel have been covered in great depth in such philosophical and educational infomercials as Timecop and the Minority Report. However to put this into a birding context if you had a time machine you could quite easily travel back in time to find rare birds before the actual finder finds them (I think that makes sense). So you armed with your time machine could potentially have a huge finds list. However this would of course be very unethical and in the end you would be branded a stringer. As who is going to believe you could have found a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker on Scillies before you were born? for thought or complete B**lcks I don't know!

.....................................................Meanwhile back in relative reality.................................................................................................................................I got a call from Craig as he was heading out to look for the Snow Goose that ad been present in the solway area for a few weeks. As I had an early start at work I was able to go with him! We visited the usual goose sites (Salt Coates, Anthorn, Border Marsh etc) to no avail. We then took the road along the edge of Skinburness Marsh where after a short time Craig picked out the Snow Goose in with c400 Pink-footed Geese. Although the bird was fairly distant, the views were fairly good!

Sunday, 11 March 2007

11th March - Erin's Birthday

Well it is around Comic Relief time again, in fact this time two years ago it was Comic Relief day! Quite apt really as this was when Erin was born.
So this years Comic Relief charity record I just don't get. 'Walk this Way' worked really well with the Run DMC v Aerosmith version due to the top talent and contra-genre artists involved. Seriously though The Sugar Babes v Girls what is the point?
Anyway, not much birding (well none) done today as it was Erin's birthday. Still a good day was had by all!

10th March - BIrding Briefly

Just had a quick tour out en-route to town. Not much to report except around 3000 geese near Anthorn, probably 50% Barnacle Geese and 50% Pink-footed Geese. Nothing unusual amongst them that I could see. Also nearby near Newton Arlosh there was 164 Whooper Swans.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

9th March - Port Carlisle etc

Purple Rain by Prince (or whatever he calls himself nowadays) is an awesome track, but then so is Anarchy in the UK by The Sex Pistols. However, that said, the two tracks are not comparable. This is a bit like the fact that Short-billed Dowitcher and Masked Shrike are both awesome birds, but surely although both have a similar rarity value they are not comparable. My point is I think Purple Rain is a fantastic track however Anarchy in the UK is far superior. Much like the fact that I think that Short-billed Dowitcher is a superb bird to see in the UK, but I feel that Masked Shrike is a far nicer bird to see!

Well what has this got to do with my few hours birding!

Derek picked me up early afternoon and we headed towards Anthorn to see what we could see. We were hoping for some geese on Newton Marsh, but apart from a very small group of Pink-footed Geese there were none to be seen! The estuary was fairly quite also, with just a few Redshank and Oystercatchers. We continued on around towards Bowness-on-solway and had a quick look on the scrape at Campfield, besides a few wigeon there was very little to see. Next stop was Port Carlisle Harbour where we got nice views of the wintering Greenshank amongst the throng of Redshank (also a few dunlin and know mixed in). There was two female Scaup feeding close inshore along with a few Red-breasted Mergansers. Five Pintail flew in over the water and a small group of Kittiwake flew upstream on the rising tide.

Next we had a look at Easton, still no geese! A run along to Oulten produced a flock of around 1800 Pink-footed Geese, a nice end to a couple of hours birding!

So I guess what I am saying is that the Masked Shrike is definitely in the 'Sex Pistols' genre of rarities.......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................

Thursday, 8 March 2007

A Successful Twitch to South Wales!

I hate thatched-roof cottages. This has been a pet hate of mine for years, not sure what sparked it off really. It is not just because they are so twee and chocolate boxy, it is more to do with the fact they are so pretentious! I am sure that there was a time when most houses had thatched roofs but that was before better more durable and more aesthetic materials were discovered. Nowadays people only have thatched roof houses as a status symbol, a bit like driving a mazda mx or using greenkat binoculars!
Anyway I was on the train 'n' bus on my way to Stockport where I was staying before heading onwards to a mega twitch with Tom and Dan! I got a taxi from the train station to Tom's house, as he and his partner had kindly invited me to stay before our big mega twitch the following morning.
We left at just after stupid o'clock (04:00hrs) and had to go via Lerwick to pick up Dan ( may have been Stoke). Once we had picked up Dan, we headed through mid-Wales to Ferryside.
We arrived just before 1000hrs, and quickly made our way to a suitable vantage point. I was amazed how many bird watchers were there. It was not long before Tom & Dan picked out our first target bird, a 2nd winter Med Gull (wow). Not long after that we saw our other two target birds, Red Kite (double wow) and Goshawk (treble wow). This had been an amazingly successful twitch!

I then got talking to some other birders present, and they were apparently looking for a Glaucoma-winged Gull, Britain's first, no less! This bird had allegedly (sorry, apparently) been seen for 20 minuted the previous day by seven well known birders that nobody knew. When we left at around 1800hrs the gull had not been seen, there was hundreds of disappointed birders! Not us, we had a thoroughly successful day having seen all the birds we had come to see. Seriously, we would not have travelled such a vast distance to see a bird that had only been seen for 30 minutes the previous day, that would have been silly..............................................................................

Sunday, 4 March 2007

4th March - Snow Goose!

Well we were fueling up at the local garage ready to head down to Pilling in Lancashire to look for the intermediate morph Snow Goose that had been present the last few days. Then I got a phonecall from Craig informing us that Darren had found a white morph Snow Goose in with the Pink-footed Geese on Newton Marsh, viewable from near Anthorn. This was excellent as it would safe us a fair trip to Lancashire and it would be a county tick!

We headed off towards Anthorn and Darren phoned me whist we were en-route. Darren gave me directions to where the bird was best viewed from and within fifteen minutes or so, we were there! Darren was still watching the bird and it was not long before I could see it! As can be seen by my very crappy pics the bird was fairly distant, not allowing very good photographic opportunities! However despite the distance good scope view could be obtained and all the salient features seen !! The bird was seen in flight on several occasions, but stayed in the same general area.
There were several thousand Pink-footed Geese and huge numbers of Barnacle Geese on Newton Marsh.
Also in the area was a female scaup amongst the usual species present.
A nice surprise of a day all in all!

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Dark-throated Thrush......wahey!

Dark Throated Thrush, what one of them? Well actually it is a Black-throated Thrush, but they are called Dark-throated Thrush. It does make sense if you think about it, after all black is quite a dark colour isn't it? To put it into context if you saw somebody with a black beard, you could describe them as having a dark beard couldn't you? Anyway, I think you get the gist of where was I? Oh yes the Dark-throated Thrush!
The Black-throated Thrush had been present in some gardens in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, for some time. However the bird was very difficult to see. I finally cracked, especially as the bird was quite east to get to. So the following day Craig and myself were on our way up the M74 toward Glasgow and then on to Wemyss Bay where we boarded the ferry. From the ferry port we could see several Black Guillemot, Eiders and a few Shags! The ferry trip was a rather wet and cold 30 minutes (all that for just £5.45 return)! As soon as we landed at Rothesay we made our way to Church lane where the bird was favouring some gardens.
On arrival there was a birder already looking for the thrush, he had been looking for a couple of hours but had not seen it! He also informed us that another birder at been looking for the bird and it had not been seen for at least three hours - this did not bode well!
I made my way down to the corner of the walled garden where there was a big chunk of concrete that I could stand on and peer over the walled garden. After about ten minutes, a bird perched up into a deciduous bush next to a leylandi tree. I could not believe it, it was the 1st winter male Black-throated Thrush - Amazing. I called Craig and the other chap and managed to get them onto the bird. We got excellent views of the bird as it sat just 15-20yrds away. However before I could set up my camera properly it flew down into a garden and out of sight! About 20 minutes later we got brief flight views as it flew into the leylandi. The weather turned grim and it lashed down with rain, we waited it out but to no real avail. Once the rain subsided we only got brief views of the thrush as it preened in the back of the laylandi tree! Still we had already got fantastic views, just a pity no decent pics were obtained! Other bird seen in the gardens were the usual common garden birds including siskin!
We made our way back to the ferry port and as we were waiting I picked out a 2nd winter Iceland Gull as it flew over. This was a superb bonus on a pretty successful twitch!

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

28th February - Hi folks I'm still here!

Sorry for the dearth of postings of late, but the simple reason is I have not been out birding lately Workload has been very high, but more importantly my poor dog Phoebe has been very ill. For those of you who have met Phoebe will know that she is such a likeble dog full of boundless energy. However she took ill on 17th February and by the 20th she was needed a blood transfusion! Yep serious stuff, she has been diagnosed with a blood disorder called Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia (IMHA), this is basically where her immune system attacks her red blood cells. Worrying times at the moment, though she is stable at the moment. For those interested, you can keep up with her progress on her own blog called Phoebe's Progress.

On a more positive note, Through the magic of Youtube I have just added a video clips section to my website. Don't get too excited the clips are not that great (taken with the Nikon Coolpix 4500) but you can tell what they are supposed to be!

Anyway, I hope to have some birding to report soon as I am off work all next week yae!

Sunday, 18 February 2007

18th February - Bean Goose

Well I was sat at home feeling sorry for myself as I had not managed to get out birding so far this weekend, then my phone rang. It was Craig, he was phoning to tell me that Darren had just found another Bean Goose in with the Pink-footed Geese flock at Anthorn (of course had I checked my phone messages I would have already known this!). Anyway Craig was on his way to pick me up so we could go and see the bird!
...................meanwhile I received another text from Darren to say the farmer had just deliberately flushed the geese (I swore)! Anyway Craig was already on his way, so when he arrived we went to look anyway!
We decided to check Oulton first, nope no sign! Then Saltcoats, nope no sign. We did see 20+ Whoopers Swans in a field between Lessonhall at Saltcoates though! Next we decided to check the fields around Newton Arlosh. Still no sign of any large numbers of geese, though there were 160 Whooper Swans in the usual field between Anthorn and Angerton. This was becoming a wild goose chase (sorry, I know - just couldn't resist it!). We did a quick scoot around the Whitrigg Triangle, still no geese!
We took the road towards Anthorn and then wahoooooooo there was a pile of geese in a field viewable from the Longcroft - Anthorn road.
We jumped out of the car and started scanning the 1000 or so Pink-footed Geese. There were a few Barnacle Geese amongst the Pink-footed Geese. I found that there was a Pink-footed Goose with a neck collar. Then as if by magic Craig picked out the Bean Goose. The goose stood out quite strikingly with its darker back and bright orange legs! We has reasonable views of the bird before it sat down and began to roost!
We began scanning through the rest of the geese, when Nick turned up. After a short time Nick was also watching the Bean Goose as it woke up and began feeding! Nick also located one of these odd genetic throw backs, a Pink-footed Goose with orange legs!
Another car pulled up alongside us, it was one of those small 4x4 jeep things. I thought it was going to be the farmer coming to give us a bollocking (for no particular reason, I just have an innate guilty conscience). Anyway it wasn't, it was a just a local bloke who was interested in what we were looking at. Nice fella too!

Sunday, 11 February 2007

11th February - A family day out!

Not much birding done today! We had a family day out to Trotters Animal Park. Not many wild birds there, but I did see a Treecreeper in the Eagle Owl enclosure!
Next up we went to Whinlatter Pass for a walk and so the kids could have a play in the play area. Not much bird-wise here, though a flock of Siskin feeding in the larches was pleasant. Also several Crossbills were a bonus, year tick in fact!

10th February - Lesser Scaup

After another stress-filled week at work I had to get out birding! With no serious rares to go for we ( me and the family) decided to take a trip to Caerlaverock WWT for the afternoon.

We saw some Barnacle Geese and Whooper Swans in fields en-route. On arrival we made our way to the observation hide that over looks the Whooper Pond. Here we got excellent views of Wigeon, Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Ducks Mute Swan, Greylag Geese and funnily enough Whooper Swans!, Oh yes birding on the edge!! It was not long before I picked out the female Lesser Scaup that was present for its second consecutive winter. This bird showed exceptionally well as it dived, preened as roosted on the pond. I managed to get some reasonable shots of the bird, despite the crappy light! We had a brief look around the reserve before heading to the visitor centre for our lunch and then off home

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

4th February - Frozen Gonads - Part II

Well after a marginally better nights sleep in the car, I stepped out of the car and did a few star jumps to help thaw out my balls! After a toilet stop I and a brush of my teeth I was ready for another days birding! First stop was Titchwell, hoping for Black Brant. On arrival there was no sign of the Brants, but plenty of other birds to see. The pick of the waders were Avocet, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and Spotted Redshank. A nice Marsh Harrier gave some good views. A brief seawatch produced three drake Long-tailed ducks.....nice! The Cetti's Warbler gave a burst of song (note I say The, like there is only one, or I know him personally - I think his name is Cedric, though I am not really sure as I think the conversations I thought I had with him were in my sleep deprived head). I met a birder who had travelled down from the North East, though there was no sign of the Little Gull (hmm)! We got nice views of a Brambling on some nuts (not mine) by the visitor centre.

After some scran, we made our way to Thornham again to get more spondicious views of the Lesser Yellowlegs.

Next up was the long trudge to the pumping station at Snettisham. I estimated it was about a 375000 mile walk, as I wore out four pairs of boots and one pair of knees by the time we got to the pumping station. The long walk was worth it (sort of) as we got amazing (ly distant) views of the long staying Black-eared Kite!

After more views of the Kite we decided to head back towards Cley to look for Black Brant. I had been reliably informed by super birding information service Birdnet that there had been regular Black Brant on the Pitch 'n' Putt course at Wells. On arrival there were no geese on the course, however a quick scarper up the banking revealed that there was a largish flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese on the saltmarsh. We begin scanning through them to try and locate the Black Brant. Before we could check them all, the flock took flight and they landed on the pitch 'n' putt course. It was not long before Craig picked out the Black Brant amongst the flock. We got excellent views of the bird and a good opportunity to get some half decent pictures! This was an excellent finish to our birding for the trip, all that was left was the journey back home!

Monday, 5 February 2007

3rd February - Frozen Gonads - Part I

After a freezing night trying to sleep in the car I got up defrosted my balls and we headed up to Chosley drying barns. Here we had nice views of at least 50 Corn Buntings, plus a few Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting and a single Brambling! Next up was a trip to Thornham to look for the long staying 1st winter Lesser Yellowlegs.

On arrival there was no sign of the Lesser Yellowlegs in the areas that the bird had been favouring. However a flock of c30 Twite was quite good, until some numpty with a long lens flushed them! We checked the flooded fields nearby for the Lesser Yellowlegs, most of the floods were frozen and there was still no sign of the bird. The high tide had probably pushed the bird into some creeks on the salt marsh out of view. I decided to go back to the car for some grub and then decided to check the creek next to the road. After a few minutes I heard a wader calling not to dissimilar to a Greenshank, the bird landed in the creek just 10 yards or so from me, it was the Lesser Yellowlegs. The bird showed exceptionally well in the creeks both sides of the road, allowing some really great photographic opportunities! Also in the area was a sizable flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese.

After we had watched the bird for some time, we headed off to Titchwell. Here we saw the usual assortment of waders, including Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff. We also had nice views of Marsh Harrier and Little Egret. On the sea there was a small group of Common Scoter. On the passerine side there was a singing Cetti's Warbler, Siskin and Long-tailed Tits along with the commoner species. A flock of Dark-bellied Brent Geese came into the pools, but there was no sign of the two Black Brants that had been frequenting the reserve. The bonus was when Craig picked out a 1st winter Little Gull!

We then headed along the coast and visited a few sites, including Saltholme where we got some nice views of c30 Snow Bunting!

To round off what had been an excellent days birding we went back to Thornham for another look at the Lesser Yellowlegs!

A nice meal in the Lifeboat Inn and a couple of pints before heading back to the car for a nights sleep was a very pleasant end to the day!

2nd February - Pacific Diver

Kath dropped me off at Craig's just after 0745hrs and we soon left and were on our way to Penrith. We had a quick stop off at Penrith and were then on our way to Farnham Gravel Pits near Knaresborough. It was a tense drive until around 0930hrs when news on my pager confirmed that the Pacific Diver was still present. TFFT! After a fairly traumatic drive through Harrogate we found the car park at the Gravel Pits, paid our tenner and legged it to the waters edge. There was a fair few birders present, and it was not long before we were watching the UK's first (and possibly the Western Palearctic) Pacific Diver. Again TFFT!

I was quite amazed how distinctive this bird was. It was a very small diver, appearing not much bigger than the Great Crested Grebes that were also present on the Gravel Pits!

We got excellent views of this bird as it ranged all around the gravel pit, the bird would show to 10ft or so at times. I managed to see all of the distinguishing features on this bird including the vent strap!

This bird was great to watch, I even managed some reasonable record shots with my digiscope set up!

Aside from the bird in question, it was nice to see some familiar faces, that I had not seen for a while! We continued watching the bird until about 1600hrs. Amazingly we had been watching the bird for over five hours! Well we got our moneys worth that's for sure!
We were on our way south to Norfolk for the weekend, hoping for some more rares to feed our rarity obsessed mental condition!
We arrived at Holme in Norfolk just after 1900hrs, Craig set his tent up on the luxury camp site (well a field with a small shed in it anyway!). We then found a pub for some food!
The pub was the Lifeboat Inn at Thornham. The food was excellent and the beer went down well too!

Saturday, 27 January 2007

27th January - West Yorkshire

Well it seems like ages since I have been out birding! Anyway today was one of those great days, when everything goes according to plan!

Craig picked me up at 0800hrs and we were on our way to Bingley in West Yorkshire. We arrived at the site just after 1000hrs and we were immediately watching a superb American Robin! However the views were brief and we had to wait a good hour before the bird showed well again, The views were amazing, as the bird hopped in the grass in front of us! The bird was really enjoyable, it was a brighter individual than the one I saw in Grimsby a few years ago. This was an excellent bird to see and a nice addition to my Yorkshire list!
Besides the American Robin, the area was quite rich in birds. We got excellent views of Nuthatches, Jays, Long-tailed Tits, Redwings and Fieldfares amongst the commoner species. The non-birding highlight of the day was when a good looking lass asked me if she could take my photo! Of course the lass worked for the local paper, so Craig and myself had our pics taken - whether we were published or not we may never know!!
A short walk along the river was worth while as we got nice views of the overwintering Firecrest, I forgot how fantastic these birds are!

We then made our way to a site at Pule Hill, just North of Halifax where we eventually got good views of a Shore Lark. This was an amazing inland record and another nice addition to my Yorkshire list!

What a superb day!

Monday, 15 January 2007

14th January - More Little Gulls!

A trip to Parton was not as good as I had hoped, the Grey Phalarope present the previous evening had dissapeared! Still there were plenty of gulls and waders to search through......! Next stop was Low Harrington, to let my kids play on there bikes for a while. It was a bit of a brisk wind, so we did not stay long. Not much bird wise here apart from a Raven!

From here we headed to Workington Harbour for a bit of a seawatch. It was a bit quiet for a while, but soon picked up when I saw an adult Little Gull fly south. This was followed by another seven (5 adults & 2 1st winter) plus 1 Great Northern Diver and 1 Red-throated Diver (the latter being county year tick number 114)! Also several Lesser-Black-backed Gulls!

After a quick stop off at Tesco's for some lunch we decided to go to Siddick Ponds. The kids whizzed up and down on their bikes whilst I had a look on the ponds. There were at least 10 Goosanders showing nicely on the ponds, along with small numbers of Teal and Goldeneye. Three Raven flew over the ponds. As the afternoon went on a Barn Owl was hunting in the opposite giving some really nice views and amazingly two otters put in an appearnce for a short-time. To finish of a pretty decent day a Bittern gave excellent views as it flew over the reedbed!

Friday, 12 January 2007

12th January - Ruff etc

Today I managed to get out for a few hours with Derek. Whilst looking for the Greylags and Whoopers at Oulton we found a small group of Pink-footed Geese in a roadside field. Some of the Greylags were in a flooded field further along the road!

Anthorn was fairly quiet due the crappy weather, though a small flock of Golden Plover did put in a brief appearance.

There were loads of Wigeon and Teal from the first screen at North Plains RSPB Reserve, also there was lots of Lapwing and a few Curlew, Redshank and Golden Plover. There were also at least two Ruff (wahoo another county year tick!).
Highlight of the day was from the hide at the end of the lonnen, over 1500 Barnacle Geese feeding on the grassland. Always great to see! Judging from the the immature-adult ratios in the flock it has been a really productive breeding season in Spitzbergen during 2006!

Thursday, 4 January 2007

10th January - Ring-necked Duck etc

Happy New Year to one and all!

I had originally planned to start this Blog from the beginning of the year, but time has not allowed!

So far this year my birding activities have been pretty slow besides reccying (is that even a word?) for the Cumbria Bird Race.
However I did manage to spend a couple of days at Lowmill near Dalston looking at a couple of abientinus-type Chiffchaffs (short article about these coming onto my website soon). Lowmill is an excellent site with up to four Chiffchaff present along with Siskins, Lesser Redpolls, Goldecrests, Long-tailed Tits and a couple of Kingfishers amongst the commoner species!

The bird race was a success with our team ' The Northern Orioles' drawing 1st place with 'The Walney Wanderers', reaching a total of 107 species. Our highlights were Med' Gull, Little Gull and Great Northern Diver!

Since the bird race I have not managed to get out much, due to work commitments However due to and early start today I was able to scarper out to Grasmere Lake for an hour this afternoon to see the returning drake Ring-necked Duck. This was my 112th county year tick for 2007..............not that I am year listing this year...........well probably not anyway! I even managed a record shot of this bird, despite the poor light and strong winds!

Anyway I hope to have some more exciting updates to my Blog coming in the near future!