Monday, 16 February 2015

Fudge, Blyth's, Shorelark, Rosy Pastor, Black Red and the rest of the highlights

So, 3 months behind, I think it is time we got this show on the road right?!
I will start by saying this will not be a run down of every days birding I had in November, but simply the highlights, or anything I think of note.

A break from coursework and revision led me around to Parkes Hall Pool, which, despite being quiet, I managed superb views of a Grey Wagtail feeding on the track

With the quarry on patch having flood it is quickly becoming one of the highlights from a visit to the patch (spring is approaching, watch this space!) and it has been producing a steady trickle of decent birds (mostly at a patch level). On my first scan I picked up 3 dabbling ducks on the forever increasing size of the water body. 2 Wigeon and a Teal, all females but all unusual on a patch standing. The Wigeon were only the 2nd and 3rd I have ever seen on patch so to say I was chuffed was an understatement! 

Wanting to check for the presence of the dabblers again, I quickly headed up to the quarry, but the ducks had disappeared. However, a Gull flock had started to develop, and a little bit of scanning pulled out a patch mega!
A 1st winter Mediterranean Gull had joined the flock!!
No less than a patch first, ecstatic! 

Gulls have featured prominently this winter. Most of my birding exploits have revolved around visits to Chasewater for the roost, and I have managed a number of highlights. On an evening at Chasewater, I managed to locate 3 Willow Tits among a tit flock on the eastern shoreline of the reservoir, a much enjoyed record considering how rarely I see them! The roost didn't hold anything that make your hair stand on end, but an adult Mediterranean Gull and 4 Yellow-legged Gulls were worth getting cold for!

Following a session on patch, I heard news that the adult male Black Redstart was still showing at the Birders Store in St Johns, Worcester, and it would have been rude to have not made the pilgrimage to see my first 'Black Red' of the drake variety! Great views were had as it flicked around St Johns church, never remaining still for more than a few seconds, making digi-scoping difficult! What a stonker of a bird though!

The next day was a dirty twitch down to Bristol where an adult Rose-coloured Starling had been residing. After a very unpromising start, being surrounded in dense fog for nearly 3 hours, eventually it cleared, and as soon as it did, low and behold, a striking black and 'white' Starling flew over our heads from some distance away. It dropped into the bushes next to us, where we had brief, obstructed, but good views in someones garden. Unfortunately, some t**t with a camera then thought the best option was to climb a fence on someones private property and flop their lens over the top, flushing the bird and it then not showing for a further 3 hours. Luckily he left a soon as he did honestly, I can imagine a few words having been traded if he had stayed more than 20 seconds after committing his offence. 

Nothing hugely of note, but there was a nice close female Goosander at Sheepwash.

A work party session at Upton Warren included some pre, and post work birding, where a Green Woodpecker showed insanely well from the hide. During our work, we undertook a Snipe count, in which 8 Jack Snipe were counted, among 20 or so Common.

A pair of Ring-necked Parakeets were showing 'rather well' at a local park.

A reconnaissance trip to Chasewater/ Stubbers Green for a forthcoming NGB day the following weekend turned out rather well! Stubbers had a good number of Gulls, including a fine adult Yellow-legged Gull, as well as a 2w bird.

But the main interest was witnessed from the south shore of Chasewater, where quite bizarrely, an adult Bewick's Swan was feeding/ roosting among the Mute Swan, dodgy domestic hybrid geese and ducks! My first for the WMBC region, and honestly something i really was not expecting to see on my visit that evening!

The roost was rather quiet, but of very large size, the highlight being the 4 Yellow-legged Gulls again.

The NGB Gulls day came, but Gull wise it was rather disappointing at the 'day sites'. A 'near adult' Yellow-legged Gull the pick of the bunch at Stubbers, but our day was to get much more interesting/complicated once we arrived at the south shore, Chasewater for the roost.

Pretty soon, James panned onto a rather strikingly obvious Gull, which seemed to show many characteristics of Ring-billed Gull! Significant discussion followed, and I don't think a true, and agreed answer was ever found. Was it 'the' hybrid. Was it a backcross? Was it a pure RBG? Who knows. You win some you lose some.
In my opinion, I believe it to have been A hybrid, but not 'THE' hybrid. But what do I know.

Our main aim for the day though was Caspian Gull, and we were obliged by a rather pretty and outstanding 2nd winter near the jetties, which we managed very good views of. For the 3rd visit running, we managed to pick up 4 YLG.

A rather 'spur of the moment' trip took place the following day as I decided to join 3 of my companions from the previous day (and another NGB) as we headed north. Spending the night at Zacs house, we made the quick journey to Rossall Point at dawn, where on our first walk down the beach managed to 'find' a female Snow Bunting, which was showing so closely from the concrete path the whole did didn't fit into the scope at minimum zoom!
An Eider was out on the mudflats when I got a call from the group who I had become separated with. They had found our target. A few seconds after, running across the dunes with 2 scope/tripod combos on my shoulders I lay it down on the bowling green/ picnic area to be treated to stunning views of the Shorelark that has been wintering there! What a way to start the day!

Moving east, we drove to Pugneys C/P where we waited for our target to come out of the grass. With some coercing from the local patchworker and finder of the bird, up came the bird with a loud and very obvious call from the tall grass. A couple of further flight views were had, but to say I was impressed would be a lie. I would have much preferred to have studied it on the ground. However, there was no doubting what it was, it called like a Blyth's Pipit, was smaller and lest robust than a Richards, and had the 'dodgy' tail that made the bird so distinctive among the Meadow Pipits
Me and Matt met up to try to refind the hybrid Gull from a few days previous, starting at Stubbers and finishing at Chasewater. In between these two sites, we dropped into Ryders Mere, where an immature Great-Northern Diver had been found earlier in the day. A first visit for me to the site and I left impressed.
The roost at Chasewater was decent, we managed to locate the 'known' RBG hybrid quickly, which destroyed any optimism over our find a few days before, but the roost held a 2w Caspian Gull (not the same as we had seen), an adult Mediterranean Gull and 3 Yellow-legged Gulls. Not too shabby!
I had not visited Chelmarsh reservoir for some time, so with a free evening I headed over. The Gull roost was very impressive, being the largest I have ever seen it, with the flock extending almost 3/4 of the length of the reservoir on the opposite shoreline. A little bit of scanning paid of with 3 Yellow-legged Gulls. It was while scanning I heard the rather bizarre sound of a Ring-necked Parakeet calling in the woodland behind us, and as we left, the corvids flushed out of the woodland, and so did the Parakeet!
See the below photo, the left hand bird out of the top 2 is the Parakeet, trust me!
I was scanning the quarry on the patch when some commotion behind me had me noticing a small brown falcon motoring across the paddocks behind me. On getting my bins onto the bird, it quickly showed itself to be a stunning fem/juv Merlin! A first for patch for me. A flock of mixed winter flushed was feeding in the paddocks, and once they re-settled gave really great views in the sun.

The last 'day out' of the year. A female Ferruginous Duck had been found at Slimbridge the day before so I headed down with Mike in the hope of catching up with it. Catch up with it we did as it warily swam and circled on one of the captive pens after being relocated by one of the reserve wardens. It flushed off to the south lake later.


It however does seem to enjoy being among its close relatives on the captive pen as it associates with Baer's Pochard and its behaviour has changed somewhat since it first arrived. Many people are binning it as a plastic but I can't help but wonder if it is just a case of 'copycat'? Would you leave if someone was throwing you free food at regular intervals during the day?

A rather enjoyable bit of winter birding was had around the site, with all the regular species, including this rather menacing looking Buzzard!
My last birding  exploit followed on the way back, as we dropped into the somewhat of a rarity hotspot of Pitville Park, Chelthnam, where we managed stunning views of a male Dartford Warbler, which was showing uncharacteristically well! Much to both mine and Mikes delight, as our previous bird at Arne RSPB earlier in the year had been nothing more than a glimpse of a female in the dark shadow of a gorse bush! What a treat!


Monday, 2 February 2015

Norfolk Surfie!

Skipping a fair number of days birding locally, my next 'full day birding' was in mid November, when with the usual crew we again headed east, and found ourselves in Cambridgeshire, scouring some rather birdless agricultural fields (admittedly with a large area of set aside adjacent) for the Richards Pipit that had been knocking around. After a good while searching, we decided to head off further east, via Guyhirn where we managed views of a superb flock of 8 Common Crane as they fed in roadside fields. It was just a shame the fog had started to descend and it hindered viewing somewhat! 

We continued east, passing into the equally superb birding county that is Norfolk and to Cley Marshes!

Walking the east bank we were soon clocking up the birds, Bearded Tits pinging and showing well in the reedbed, Brent Geese and Marsh Harrier a permanent fixture in the sky, and a loud drawn out wheezy call overhead led us onto a single Twite as it flew over east.

Our main target however (as with many of our recent visits) was the sea and we soon started scanning for Auks and Skuas. Well, we found 5 Auks, however non were particularly small and it was clear that their Arctic cousins just weren't moving today. The swells had its usual and ever-present Red-throated Divers, but things were livened up by a drake Eider flying past and the appearance of 2 adult Little Gull, always a great addition to any day list! 

 A rather pointless visit to Salthouse followed before we headed back west to Holkham, where following a very long and sandy walk we eventually found a large flock of Common Scoter loafting and feeding offshore. We set about scanning, and soon found multiple Velvet Scoter, including some absolutely stunning drakes. Eventually we setted on a total of 10+ of these stunning seabirds!
 With time, among a party of Velvets we picked out our 'yank' target. A drake SURF SCOTER! Nice! 
Personally not even a year tick for me having seen 3 off Pensarn earlier in the year however the views off Holkham were significantly closer! That bill and the white patches stood out a mile, however with sea fog arriving, it was good we arrived when we did and not any time after! 

Drake Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter among Velvets and a few Commons

With the light fading, I tried to make a last minute race to the end of the wood to look for the long staying Rough-legged Buzzard, but as we neared the end of the wood the crew decided to turn around and I dipped for the 4th time this year. Maybe one day.