Thursday, 28 June 2012

The Gann- Waders!!

Having completed our visit to our second site of the day, we then moved to another site nearby, one that i have never visited before, but one which often crops up with a few decent birds. I had 'scouted' the area on Google Maps (What an amazing tool) and was quite exited at the possibilites as 'The Gann' could produce, the habitat looked very good, and was only a small compact site, ideal for a quick visit!
The main reason for the visit to was to try and pick out some waders, however my hopes wernt exactly high as most waders would be back on breeding territory now.

Immidiatly upon arrival, a large flock of 48 Oystercather lazilly rested on the island within the pools. Infact, the largest flock of OYC ive seen!

There was a nice mix of plumages within the flock, ranging from 1st summers, non breeding adults, and breeding adults.

However, i was soon distracted by a multitude of Curlew calls as a flcok of 30 Waders took flight from rocks in the bay after being disturbed by walkers.
Closer and closer they flew, and i quickly latched onto 2 smaller waders within the flock. Still closer they flew, and as they neered, i was able to get a decent look at the smaller birds. Upturned bills, wedge up the back. RED!
Awsome, immidiatly the stop in was worth it, and i enjoyed crippling in flight views of these waders, one which is fairly hard to get on a year to year basis with my lack of coastal birding, hoping from an inland straggler.
The birds moved closer, and i was able to get a couple of snaps of the flock as it flew around, over and over, trying to land on the pools, but comtinually being disturbed by further walkers.
A few WHIMBREL were also in the flock, one of which is highlighted in the photo below.

And here is a size comparison between a Curlew, and one of the Barwits (Presumably a female)

In total, 6 WHIMBREL were in the bay area of the Gann, flying to and fro between the Sea and the small river estury, calling frequently, which allerted us to their presence as they flew past.

It was only now however, that we noticed that the pebbly beach in front of us had a small gathering of small waders on it!
There certainly was more waders about than i was expecting!
A DUNLIN took close company with a pair of RINGED PLOVER (My first for the year!), which shown incredibally well on the shoreline. Infact, the closest views ive had without being in a hide!
The gathering preformed brilliantly, and allowed for some photos and videos.

 I particuarly like the two above photos due to the 'mirroring' pose of the birds and the differential focus on the birds!

It was great just to be able to sit on the beach, watching these birds with the calling of Herring Gulls and the Sea lapping up the shore. Welcome to the seaside ladies and gents!

I tried to get a photo with a breaker wave coming in behind the bird, and this is all i managed!

The seaweed on the shore obviously held lots of food for them, as they spent much of their time picking from among it. Presumably feeding up on way to return to breeding territory.

The Summer plumaged DUNLIN kept very close company to the Ringed Plovers, and this too, allowed for some great views!

Again, i like this photo, and personally think its one of the best Dunlin photos ive taken!

And a bit of short video footage.

All in all, a very nice visit, and a great little spot to check out, another place to add to my list of places to go next year!

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Marloes Mere- Ibis takeover


After a seemingly eternal drive from Strumble Head to the small village of Marloes, we soon pulled into the car park, On arrival in the National Trust car park, we paid our fee and headed down to the 'barbed wire gate' which has been mentioned hundreds of times as i check about news of a flock of special birds which had been present for months!
On the way down though, we were met by this rather appealing (grusome?) image of a cluster of 'The Lackey' moth catapillars, which certainly made for a change. I was actually quite appealed to these, their bright colours obviously to warn off predators!

Continuing on, walking through a rather picturesque landscape, we soon came to the 'barbed wire gate', and after a quick scan around, our quiry was located, a flock of 3 GLOSSY IBIS!

As can be seen from the photo, they wernt exactly very showy while we were there, and the birds often only gave glimpses amongst the tussoks. Rather a dissapointment considering the views/Photos/Video that Jason K from Shenstone Birder had a few weeks previously (Here)
 These birds have been giving me constant nightmares since april, and i was glad to have seen them. They (twice) flew over to Ireland to visit Tacumsluin (Or however its spelt) and gave me fears they wouldnt come back, but the week before we were due to go over to wales, the birds returned, and as can be seen, Stuck around a little longer for me! So thankyou Glossy Ibis's.

The flock consisted of 3 birds, a very colourful adult, which was absolutly stunning! Another adult, although slightly duller (and alot less showy), and an immature type, which still had white spotting on its head, and less of a 'glossy' look.
My first 'real' view out in the open (ish) was of this aformentioned immature bird.

But my main goal was to try to get soemething on that really glossy bird, and slowly but surely, it slowly (and i do mean very slowly!) worked it way through the tussoks to give great scope views. Annoyingly though, the tussocks were the downfall of all my photos, and i could never correctly focus on the bird as it always focused on tussoks in front of the bird, however, here are my attempts.

We then decided to move away from the bird for abit, as they were making very slow progress towards us. We headed up to the hide, where we sat for a while, A few Shoveler and a Gadwall were on the mere.
Time passed, and we didnt pick out anything, so walked back towards the Gate, noting a Common Blue Buttefly on the way. I looked up and noticed a Gannet flying over north! I shouted it out to my dad, and it was only then that i remembered that we were only a few hundered metres from the sea here.

Arriving back with the Glossy Ibis's, we noted that the colourful bird had walked in closer, and i started snapping away again!

The bird's were right bastards tbh, and only very briefly walked out between the tussoks, further hindering my chances of a decent photo. However, after a decent amount of time. one of the birds appeared in full view, at reasonable range, and i just blast fired photos, just in the vain hope of getting one decent photo. 

YEP! It still didnt work! So with us now being very Knat bitten, and suffering from mild sunstroke, we decided to retreat.
However, a quick video of the adult bird was needed!
Great bird!

These final 2 were proberbly the best photos i got though, but again, there are many 'faults' with them (No1 being too dark as my camera slipped from my lens when i took the photo, leading to slight vignetting around the bird, and No 2 the obvious downside being its facing away, despite it being the sharpest photo)

Anyway, they were great birds to see. With them being in summer plumage, and having only seen one bird previously (The 1w bird at Grimley) it made a nice learning trip (even though one wasnt needed for such a stunning, unmistakable bird)

However, that still wasnt enough, and we then switched to another nearby site.....


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Strumble Head and Goodwick Harbour, Wales 2012


As this was the only forcasted decent weather way of the week, we decided to make the most of it, and spent almost 9 hours 'in the field' at multiple locations around Pembrokeshire, Starting with Strumble Head, so i could get all the 'common' seabirds at once.
We had planned to visit Skomer today, and a very early get up by me (despite being violently ill the previous day) was insured in the hope of getting over, however, my dad got up late, and by the time we left, it was already too late, maybe next year. 4th time lucky!

The good thing with Strumble, is that you dont have to venture far from the car, you litterally park on the edge of a cliff face looking north into St Georges Channel, and being this far out from the 'main' landmass means seabirds pass at a scopeable distance, on sunny and bright days, very far off. and today was one of those 'very far off' days,
Immidiatly obvious was the ever present Gannets, with about c30 diving offshore, with many of them in a huge scrum above a pod of Dolphin and Porpoise. I dont get very much practise at cretations, so therefore my skills at id'ing them is extremly limited, however i was able to identify that about 10 Common Dolphin and 10 Harbour Porpoise were feeding offshore, as they often appeared at the top of the water and often broke the surface, however, it was a slight shame that the Dolphins never 'jumped' out of the water, which would have a made a good sight!

Eventually, a small flock of MANX SHEARWATER joined the meele of Gannets, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and proper 'seagulls'. However, all of these were very distant!
A little seawatching produced very little apart from the mentioned species, hopes of a skua never materialised,a nd despite favorable conditions later in the week, i didnt have any further time seawatching later in the week, which i now regret!
3 PUFFIN which flew past bears a remarkable similarity to a visit to the site last year,in which i also saw 3 Puffin fly past.
However, i was quickly distracted by 4 STONECHAT'S feeding in gorse just below the car park, giving stunning views down to 30ft, stonking views of a very interesting species, and one that i dont usually see in the home county of Worcestershire.
The female gave particularly good views, and i manadged this photo which i was quite proud off, well up there on my personal 'Favorite images' list.
The birds moved about almost constantly (as always with Chats), and with the wind, it made from some dificulties, however, i was happy enough to just sit and watch them, without the need for the scope.
Occasioanlly though, the birds would perch long enough for me to get some video footage.

Acompanying the female was also a stonking male, which similarly, gave absolutly stunning views, in almost perfect light, and with a backdrop of the sea, what could make a better photo?
(Apart from a better photographer!)

It was only when reviewing the photos later did i realise that the bird was grasping onto a wasp in its bill, a highly unlikely food source i would've thought?
The male, was a little lest restless than the female, and occasioanlly perched for longer periods of time than the female.

After a few hours around the lighthouse area of Strumble Head, we then dropped down into nearby Goodwick Harbour. On the drive down the steep hill entering the this picturesque harbour town i clocked onto a RED KITE circling above us, however, by the time we had stopped in the car park a few hundred metres away, the bird had dissapeared, and wasnt seen again.
A 1st summer MEDITERRANEAN GULL flew past, and out of the Harbour, which made for a Pemb's 'Tick', and again, this didnt come back and wasnt relocated. The tide was now rapidly receeding, and the newly exposed mud ment the flock of Oystercatchers were now moving in. Within a short period of time 15 OYC appeared.
In a walk along the breakwater, a single Common Blue Butterfly was noted, but very little else.

We then walked back to the car park, where for the 2nd year running, i enjoyed a superb Ice cream from the van that parks within the car park. Highly recomended if anyone is in the area, some of the best ice cream i've ever tasted!!
With the day having just passed Midday, we decided to move onwards, to Marloes Mere....

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Wales 2012

The yearly week holiday to the gorgeous country of Pembrokeshire was upon us!

I look foward to our yearly visit here, it is a rare opporotunity to get away from midland birding and see something different, and the place is just so stunning!
I usally get out to a few places out birding, my favorite on the 'list' being the Stackpole Head area, one with sheer cliffs and a stunning beach, and a good few decent birds. We also got out to a few 'rarity' hotspots and did abit of watching there, although being early june, we wernt going to get many migrants.

This year, im going to seperate locations apart from each other, so instead of doing a blog post on a day, i will instead do it on a site. This will make it a little easier for me at the formatting stage.

But to start off. the annual 'Big Red kite count'.
On our journey from North Worcestershire to Pembrokeshire, i counted 31 RED KITE in the skies above us, every single one after the welsh border, with the highest concentration being in the 20 mile radius surrounding Llandovery, which has always been the area i see the most.


Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker nest, From Chicks to fledging (Prt 2)

Breeding LESSER-SPOTTED WOODPECKER summary (Part 2)-
Undisclosed site
(May-June 2012)

A week at 6th form passed, getting occasional messages confirming that the male Lesser Pecker was still feeding the chicks. And that relieved me an awful lot.

I returned to check briefly late one evening, and could hear the chicks within the nest, however the male bird didnt appear, apparently already roosting in the nest hole (the time was about 9:30pm).
When i next visited the site, it was great to see the male bird immidiatly upon arrival at the nest, and i placed myself back into the position i had the previous weekend allowing the bird to visit the newst freely.
It was great to finally see the chicks within the nest, where i confirmed that there was at least 3 chicks within the nest at that point as they came to the nest enterence to recieve food. (One male with red crown, one female with white crown, and a slightly downy bird, which was worrlyingly less advanced as the other 2 birds)

The male was still bringing food extremly regularly, and still seemed to be following the same routine it was before, Many Mayflies and Craneflys were brought back to the nest, which seemed to be the staple diet the bird was bringing back for its chicks.
On a couple of occasions, the bird appeared with its bill entangled within a spiders web, which shows the birds were also eating spiders, but could also have shown that it could have been using the spiders to find its own food, and catch it?

As its chicks were now quite grown, i started wondering at the dates to try and work out the time the young may fledge. I had read into breeding times of LSW, and was quoted that the chicks usually fledge 14-17 days after hatching! As the previous week the birds seemed very small, and 8 days having already passed since i had found the nest (with chicks already hatched), that would put the fledging dates in the next week, when (unfortunatly in a way) i would be on holiday in wales.

However, another locla birder said they would have a check early the next week, to have a check up, and to have a scout around for anything else.

Unlike the previous week, no doubt because of the chicks increased maturity, the adult bird was increasingly ferantic with its food gathering. The previous week, the male bird would spend a long period (Up to a minuite) at the nest enterance feeding the chicks, however now, it was down to a few seconds. the bird would land at the nest hole, the young would appear, a quick food pass and he'd be gone, off to find more food,

This became frustrating trying to get video footage as the bird would only be present for a few seconds ( Scroll down/Read down for Montage)

In this montage of small clips, you can see 2 of the 3 chicks appear out the nest to grab food from their father.


I was cursing the person that ran past at the opening of the film, as i had got the video quite well focoused, and it was the first documentation i had got of one of the juveniles (That particualar bird being the female)

Also, unlike the previous visits, the bird very rarely entered the nest now, only going in once while i watched, presumably because the young could now 'deal with' their own droppings.

The bird was as showy as ever, and again, was a huge pleasure to watch.
I left the nest site, knowing that i proberbly wouldnt see the birds again.

(Looking at an overflying Buzzard)

(peering into its nest hole having fed its chicks)

As already stated, the nest was checked during the week while i was away. And on the Monday, the chicks were still in the nest being fed.
This was the last i heard of the birds untill i dropped in an hour or so after returning from my holiday, to find a vacated nest, with no sign of any damage (ruling out a chance of predation). I checked the adjacent row of trees and came a blank.
However, when walking though a nearby thick wood on the bank off a hill, i heard the incessant tone of fledgling LSW's (At least 2),
A succesful fledging!
The wood where they have chosen to reside now though is almost imposisble to 'work' in the summertime, so therefore, i'd be suprised if i get any futher sightings of the birds, although i should be able to hear them.
Now the chicks are out of the nest, they face an even bigger challenge, trying to survive out there in the wild, lets hope everything goes ok for them!

We could do with a few more LSW around, and hopefully this will symbolise a regular breeding presence at this particular site, on which i was privialidged to find, and be able to watch the coming and goings of the nest of the Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker, an increasingly declining species within our country, and one which always gets the highlight within  days list.
A truily charismatic species, which would be a huge shame to lose from the area!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Patch, Club-tailed mass emergence

I agian walked to Blackstone to video the recently hatched Mandain chicks, and i was very relieved when i located the female sith all 4 of her chicks from the previous evening.
Sitting on the opposite bank i was able to get decent views of her chicks, but no-where near as intimate views as last year (Picture of chicks in header picture). However, i got the usual video, and i did chuckle slightly when in the video, the female Mandarin seems to kick her chick off the bank into the water a short distance below!

I checked the area to the south of the road bridge, but didnt see much else. So i walked back south. By now it was warming up nicely, the sun shining heavilly on the riverbank plants, which were now teeming with Demoiselles!
In the area adjecent to first Caravan site at blackstone, i paused as a Dragonfly 'got up' in front of me and flew a short distance away to perch on a small bush!
I peered over the bankside vegitation, and saw a CLUB-TAILED DRAGONFLY! Only my 3rd one, quickly following one the previous week! I text the news out to a few local interested folk and walked on...

Hold on!

Theres another one!

Awsome, 2 Club-tails, my first multiple record!

As i walked it became increasingly obvious that many flying insects had emerged this morning, and there wasnt a single plant along this 1-2 mile stretch that didnt hold a Banded/Beautiful Demoiselle, or one of their smaller cousins, Damselflies. They were litterally everywhere.

But as i continued walking slowly, i kept seeing more and more Club-Tails, including a party of 3 in one small area!
By the time i veered away from the river to go back to the garden, i had counted a mindnumbing 19 Club-tailed Dragonflies, almost 10 times the amount ive seen previously!
A few of these Dragonflies perched long enought for me to get a few snaps, although non were particuarly confiding.

Its always good on a quiet summers day birdwise to just switch to 'insect' mode. Being particuarly fond of the Dragonfly family it certainly makes a decent distraction!

Totals for walk:
19 Club-Tailed Dragonfly
c80 Banded Demoiselle
20+ Beautiful Demoiselle
3+ Large Red Damselfly
- Common Blue Damselflies
(Lots of immature's that were un-id'd)

In the evening after shopping, i again visited the patch, but added very little, the Insects had now all dissapeared, however, a drake Mandarin was a new addition, however sad news regarding the Mandarin chicks, as only 3 chicks remained, so one had been predated/lost in the 8 hours since i had left them earlier.

Patch Birding- Mandarin breeds again!

I was glad to see on an evening walk along the patch to find a female Mandarin Duck escorting 4 ducklings around on the river. the 2nd year in a row a pair has bred on patch!
Please excuse the quality of the video, Digi-binned at 9:30 pm! MB

Thursday, 14 June 2012

WaderFest- Summer Plumaged Ruff

Upton Warren has been rather quiet on the Wader front this year. The complete decimation of the flashes during last years drought completly dried the flashes to salt plains, and this has had obvious detrimental effects on both the birds, and the food sources.
Breeding Waders at the start of the spring were very reluctant to settle down, due directly to this lack of food (Recent water tests reveal it may be around half the level it was last year food wise), and things took a very slow start. The usual range of common migrant waders passed through, small flocks of Dunlin etc, but (combined with the weather) tales of the legendary last spring were not going to be repeated, and if there was any waders, they wernt going to stay for long!

However, Upton Warren suddenly sprung into life when one of the Upton regulars found a stunning summer plumaged male Ruff on the flashes, along with a small selection of other wader species.
As ive never seen a sum plum Ruff, i was enthusiastic of going to see it.
And i was glad that when, on the Saturday, we finally got to the flashes at just after Mid-day, to the news that the bird was still present, although not showing!

An Oystercatcher kept me busy feeding below the hide:

And the marvelous 1st winter LITTLE GULL was still giving stunning views very close to the hide, being very vocal, and very vicious towards the BHG!

However, the main attraction was Waders. 2 BLACK- TAILED GODWIT fed at the back of the flashes, but soon dissapeared (presumably to the moors), a Common Sandpiper, a single Dunlin, and also the usual cast of Upton Breeders.

It was great when the summer plumaged RUFF emerged from behind the island, and i was sble to get some great views of the bird, as it was quite close in. The pictures however, were odd, so we decided to return later in the evening when the sun was lower, and behind the hide.

As said, we returned later in the evening, to find the RUFF still present, and now the light was better, and i started snapping away untill by battery died!

(This is my favorite photo from the 'set')

The bird preformed brilliently on occasions, even coming into the 'Basin' area in front of the hide on the near shore. It was quite a nice bird to catch up with, having never seen this plumage before.

The BLACK-TAILED GODWITS had returned again when we came back, however, once again, remained too far away to even try for any photos.

As the RUFF's plumage isnt the commonest you get in the midlands, i got many photos and videos. Although, i didnt get one which had its 'ruff' open, which is what i had hoped for.
Never mind, still a great bird!

I spent most of the night just watching the Ruff, Godwits, Dunlin and the Wader chicks, which lead to a nice night wader watching.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Club-tailed Dragonfly

With the patch having produced those mesmorising Hobbies the night before, i was keen to get out early morning and work to the patch agian. And after only a couple of hundred metres up the river at the riverside fields, i was again treated to views of a HOBBY, however, this time, it was only very brief, and the bird was, unfortunatly, not seen again.
After walking to Blackstone and back, i noticed a small emergence of Demoiselles, so it took some time to watch and photograph them, 10+ Banded and 5+ Beautiful were on show.
But the non avian highlight came again, while walking adjacent to the riverside fields, when i noticed a small Black and Yellow Dragonfly perched on nettles.
My first on the patch this year, and only the 2nd one iver ever seen as i completly missed them last year! So it was great to be reaquainted with this species, one which is locally scarce!


Monday, 11 June 2012

Patch- Hobby suprise

An after shopping visit to the patch was rewarded in a couple of ways, firstly i found a Kingfisher nest nestled up against a bank, which was a nice reward.
But by far the highlight, was when walked past the riverside fields, i clocked onto 3 small falcons swooping above me.
Only earlier in the day had i been complaining about the lack of Hobby i get on the patch, so now here i was, standing awestruck and 3 HOBBY hawked flies above my head, giving amazing views. Just me and 3 Hobby.
The sun was now setting, and i spent over 1 1/2 hours watching the birds constantly as they worked their way around the sky and above Ribblesford wood.
As they were constantly on view, i even grabbed the scope, and got a few record shots.

This shot contains 2/3 Hobby

And this Picture demonstrates the agility of these superb summer migrant falcons, just as it swopped upwards to catch an insect.

I eventually tore myself away from the birds around 9:30 PM, with the birds still hawking above my head.
Also a nice suprise was while watching the Hobbys, a drake Mandarin flew south, and i had the Mandarin, a Hobby and the Moon in the same field of view.