Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Pembrokeshire -Part 2 - Seabirds and Waders

Aghh, it wouldnt be the yearly holiday within the whole week being forcasted as rain and wind, so, with the only day that was judged to be a decent day being the day after we arrived, we decided to head out and do our yearly 'mop up' of the Pembrokeshire specialties.

In fact, we had done the exact same route last year, starting at Strumble Head, before dropping into Fishguard Harbour, then shoot across county to the Marloes/ The Gann area.

Even before reaching our first destination, we saw a RED KITE fly low over the road just outside Goodwick, always a good start!
Arriving up on Strumble in glorious sunshine was greeted with gratitude, and we parked up with the stunning view out across the Sea. With the famous lighthouse to the left, and the equally famous 'Seawatching shelter' to the right.

As you would expect, our main objective was seabirds, and we were initially quite disappointed with the range present, with only Gannets and a few Kittiwake being the highlights. However, just prior to the passing of the Fishguard to Ireland ferry a large influx of Cetacean's offshore also brought a huge dose of new excitement! An estimated pod of 100 combined Common Bottle-nose Dolphins and Harbor Porpoise joined us, and that is always the precursor to seabirds!

And i was not wrong!

First we were joined by around 40 Kittiwake, as well as hundreds of other Large Gulls, and countless Gannets, with almost constant streams of Guillemot and Razorbill, and in quick pursuit was a single PUFFIN.

While scanning through the Gulls i noticed 2 birds flying east (or left), picking up a black hood, and large red bill. An alternating black and white primary pattern was also evident and i was soon calling out that 2 2nd summer MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were flying offshore!
The crazy fact about this though was not the fact that 2 Med Gulls were flying past, but that despite the half mile+ range the birds were flying at, you could hear them calling as they flew past, their loud 'YEAH' call puncturing the sound of Herring Gulls and the sea lapping onto the steep cliff below us.

Scanning through a pod of surfacing Dolphins, accompanied by diving Gannets, i scoped a few birds, to want of a better phrase, shearing low over the waves!


I love seeing these birds, so graceful in flight, and i am always completely awestruck that these birds spend practically their whole lives out at sea!

Onland, we were entertained by a pair of STONECHAT, which would often perch upon a barbed wire fence nearby, as i said in the last post, they are stunning birds!

A single CHOUGH flew past, which was hardly a satisfying view!

With most of the morning gone, we decided to move on, and dropped into Goodwick Harbour, where we happened to chance upon 2 SANDWICH TERN which were feeding within the breakwater. 15 Oystercatcher were feeding on the exposed mud, and a single female Wheatear was flitting along the walkway.

Another RED KITE was found just north of Haverfordwest airport hunting over roadside fields.

Our arrival at Marloes was full of anticipation, but sadly it failed to produce any of the hoped for birds, with the Glossy Ibis remaining hidden for the entire visit, so, with the birding day drawing to a close we drove the short distance to The Gann, one of my favorite birding spots in the county!

And i was soon rewarded with a stunning, incredibly late 1st summer GREAT-NORTHERN DIVER!

The bird was hunting in the bay, and after some time it actually came in fairly close to the shore, constantly feeding, and very hard to get a photo of!

A single WHIMBREL and BAR-TAILED GODWIT were in the wider bay area, and other waders were represented by 5 RINGED PLOVER, 30 OYC and 10 Dunlin!

The Diver however did end up starting to preen, and i had cracking views, including a few in which the bird would rear up out of the water and have a flap.

With the family now calling, it was time to leave, so i grabbed a few last pictures of the Diver and left.

I really love this little spot!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

And so it begins! Pembrokeshire 2013

I make no reasoning for why i love Pembrokeshire.

Being such a stunning county, with endless miles of sheer cliff edge and great habitats, its no surprise as to why i look forward to my yearly visit here!

Our journey was rewarded by a total of 24 RED KITE, but perhaps more surprisingly 62 Buzzard! as well as a single Kestrel and a pair of Yellowhammer.

Upon our arrival at where we were staying, i bode farewell to the family to immediately start scouring the cliffs!
And would you blame me on a stunning day like this!

And i tell you, it felt great to be out! A Rock Pipit towered above me before plunging to the earth, with Linnets and Meadow Pipit's on the Gorse, and Gannets, Fulmars and Shags flying offshore!

The Mipits in particular were showing incredibly well, actually, down to around 6ft!


Once  had reached the highest point above the sea along the cliff, i unfolded my chair, and sat, scope facing towards the sea in the hope of a seabird flying past. Numerous Gannet were the only birds of note for almost and hour, until i clocked 2 SANDWICH TERN flying west offshore.

Around this point i was distracted by a male STONECHAT which started singing and displaying in the Gorse, before flying up for a song flight with a backdrop of Stackpole and Freshwater East. Stunning!

Wanting to move on, i headed further east along the footpath, and quickly found another male STONECHAT, but this bird was acomponied by a female, and were showing nicely adjacent to the track, and with the sun behind me, the scope came our rather quickly!

There are few birds that look more smart than a male Stonechat in summer plumage! Further still, and i was lucky enough to find yet another pair of Stonechat, but this time they were joined by two juvenile birds!

One of the short cropped Cow fields held 5 Wheatear, 3 of which were stunning male birds.

An ADDER was also found basking in the sun around and area of dunes, and a Wall Brown Butterfly was found along the clifftop footpath


Sunday, 23 June 2013

Summer Birding!

(Note- I just spent the last hour on a detailed and intricate post for these days, but a simple slip of the finger and the whole of the post was deleted, so at the moment i am in no mood to be repeating it, so this post will be little more than the bare basics)

Wyre Forest
SPOTTED FLYCATCHER was one of the hardest birds for me to find last year, so i was incredibly happy to find two birds down by the brook, singing and calling constantly.
9 WOOD WARBLERS were found in numerous location around the Wyre, including 7 singing birds.
Redstarts were also well represented, as 5 were located, including a couple showing well!

My main reason for visiting however was to find a stunning butterfly! 


I found at least 10 of these stunning butterflys along a short section of grassy verge along the railway line.

A patch visit was rewarded with 10 Reed Warbler, a Reed Bunting and a breeding pair of Grey Wagtails.

The male PIED FLYCATCHER was still showing in the undisclosed site, but again, has failed to attract a mate, poor sod, A Cuckoo was singing nearby.

I found a Red-legged Partridge at Sheepwash which was incredibly unexpected. Completely surrounded by Urban sprawl, it is the most unlikely of locations to find one, but this obvious migrant bird spent the afternoon on the mound, disappearing overnight.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Unexpected wader migration at Upton Warren!

Walking into the hide at Upton Warren was rewarded immediately as a flock of 5 RINGED PLOVER were feeding on the waters edge, apparently having only just dropped in a few minutes previously. After only 10 or so minutes the flock of 5 took to the air and flew off north, Vis-mig in action!

However, the real reason for me dropping in was to get my 'fix' of one of my favorite Gulls, a stunning 2nd summer MEDITERRANEAN GULL, which was showing fairly well the entire visit, strutting its stuff around one of the main islands. As always with these early summer Meds, it was very aggressive towards the breeding BHG, and as you will see in the video's, it spent much of its time displaying and calling loudly to any  of its Black-headed companions that got too close!

In my mind, Med Gulls are one of the most stunning of the Gulls, with that stunning blood red bill, jet black hood and clown 'eyelids'. The particular attraction with 2nd summers being the alternating black and white pattern on the primarys. This particular bird had little black in the pattern, giving a very adult like look, particularly in flight.

A stunning bird right!
Just wait until the fresh autumn juveniles start appearing in your local roosts, those are equally stunning!

Friday, 21 June 2013

Some fill in's

A single Common Tern was showing, and that was the only real bird of note.

The patch was slightly more interesting, with a singing male Garden Warbler around one of the usual territories at the north end of the patch and also 2 drake Mandarin on the river.

Unseen by me, it seems like both Mandarin and Goosander have bred on, or very near patch this year, with both having been seen with very young chicks, however still to this day i have not had a sniff of any of them!

Very glad to finally year tick Little owl at a local site, and we had decent views of one of the birds sitting out on the tree. A Red-legged Partridge was also seen in the nearby fields.

Monday, 17 June 2013

#TheMidlandersAreComing Part 2

Once we had our fill at the two Breckland sites, we decided to head North, with our destination being Titchwell RSPB.
On the way however, we were distracted occasionally. A brief stop around a small pool in the middle of a country field resulted in a Common Sandpiper, Oystercatcher, Yellowhammer and Shelduck.
Our next stop resulted in a shout from one of our group of "Partridge". Naturally, we stopped, however it proved to be 'only' a Red-Legged. Nice views of Hare's were had here also. Moving onward again, we stopped at some pig fields, where a large flock of 30c 1st summer Common Gulls were present, and a drive past of a town pond resulted in a pair of Egyptian Goose.

By this point, a journey that should have taken around an hour was nearing double that, but a couple of Red-Legged Partridge running along the road prompted another stop, which proved to be the 3rd lucky decision of the day. Jumping out of the car we spied a small pool, which we decided to have a quick look at, and in doing so two small Doves flushed out from the Hawthorn and Gorse. A brief view got us interested, as a very obvious brown tinge could be seen on the birds upperwings, but they dropped down again. A short time passed and they flew up again, confirming the suspicion that we were watching a pair of TURTLE DOVE!
Our 'quick stop' plan was abandoned as we enjoyed flight views of these birds before they flew to the opposite side of the field. And while searching for them again, we went on to find 3 GREY PARTRIDGE along the same field edge! Awesome, both of our targets from the same field! 4 Red-legs were also present, as was Oystercatcher, 3 Shelduck and 2 Greylags.

Then it was onto Titchwell. We arrived during a massive rainstorm so retreated to the Cafe before heading out.

The first marsh was heaving with birds. My own personal highlight being 2 stunning LITTLE TERN. 32 Brent Goose flew past, with a small number dropping onto the pool, all being Dark-bellied birds. A pair of Red-crested Pochard were showing.
Waders were very well represented, around 80 Bar-tailed Godwit also had 2 Knot and a Grey Plover in the flock, with Turnstones and small numbers of Dunlin also present.

Moving to the new Parrinder hide we had stunning views of Grey Plover....

 Little Tern.....


 And a mass of Bar-tailed Godwit.

It was while standing here i scanned the freshmarsh and saw a large white bird flying in from the west.


Elation! One of my biggest UK bogeys, having dipped 5 or 6 birds in the last few years, it was finally great to catch up with one of these birds. An obvious full adult, with fully white wingtips and a strong yellow throat patch.

Waders on the brackish marsh were a little harder, but good numbers of Grey Plover were welcomed, all in summer plumage and looking amazing! A Little Stint was calling as it gave a stunning flyby at close range and a Greenshank was showing distantly. A very good smattering of year ticks!

We moved onto the beach for a spot of seawatching, and were quickly rewarded with a pair of COMMON EIDER among a small flock of Common Scoter all showing fairly nicely inshore.

 Way offshore however were much larger (in the hundreds) numbers of presumed Scoter, but just to distant to ID as anothing other than black blobs flying. A load of Little Tern were fishing, and we saw 2 Sandwich Tern offshore, as well as multiple Common and 2 Arctic. Great Black back was logged, as was a Gannet, which was very distant.

Closer however, large numbers of Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover were hunting and probing the tidal edge on the upcoming tide, with a few Grey Plover and Barwit intermixed.

 Moving back, we had further stunning views of Turnstone in summer plumage.

 And views of the Red-crested Pochards.

We then decided to tally the day list in a nearby pub in Brancaster, with a combined list o f 109, with my own personal list being 108, the only bird i didn't get which others did was a Kingfisher which was calling at Titchwell.
Anyway, i have no reason to complain, my first ever 100+ day!

Friday, 7 June 2013


At the unearthly hour of 5am, a group of 4 dreary eyed Midlanders met on a quiet residential road in the center of Redditch, the objective?

To absolutely thrash the North Norfolk coast in a day of hardcore birding.

In reality, 'Hardcore' is really not the word to describe it, but more of a relaxed 'mop up' of  a variety of superb birds that us as Midlanders are deprived of in our home county of Worcestershire. We reached the county of Suffolk by 7 to be greeted with superb sunshine! At Lakenheath just after 7:30, and walking the path to the New Fen viewpoint soon after. A Cuckoo could be heard calling from near the visitor center, and proved to be one of MANY around the site. At least, i would guess that 5 birds were on site, and we had many views of the birds, including some stunning views!

The View from the New Fen viewpoint was stunning!

And it wasn't long until a personal favorite of mine flew into view, an absolutely stonking male MARSH HARRIER. The bird quartered the reeds at very close range, giving stunning Bins views, before moving a little further away where i took a few photos as it flapped low along the Pythagamites. A female soon joined it, and both hunted the beds.

Eager to move on we moved to the path adjacent to the river, but while doing so heard the deep, quiet booming sound of a male Bittern! Again a species that we had a cumulative total of 5!
Standing on the raised track overlooking the reedbed and the river, a GRASSHOPPER WARBLER could be heard reeling, and managed to get brief views of this elusive Locustella warbler. Infact, one of very few actual 'sightings' I've had, as most are usually deep within a reedbed and refuse to show.

4 HOBBY were picked out perching on the edge of the woodland, one in particular giving great views, all waiting for the day to warm slightly so the insects take wing. There is something just 'not right' about seeing a Hobby perched up, don't get me wrong, it is a stunner of a Falcon, one of the best, but to see Hobbys doing 'what they do', that is, catch, eat and show the immense agility that is part of their trait all 'on the wing' is just magnificent!

Walking up the track further, one of the party picked up a stunning COMMON CRANE as it flew past us, quickly followed by a 2nd bird, and we had decent views as they circled over the reserve. Only on the return flypast did they give truly decent views.

Joist Fen was quieter, a couple of MARSH HARRIER quartering the reeds, and a further flypast of the CRANES, as well as insanely close Common Swift flypasts.
The male at this end of the reserve was even better than the New Fen bird, i mean just look at it!

Our main target however was still refusing to show and, as far as we knew, hadn't been seen. Being very conscious of the time, we decided to walk back to the visitor center, dropping in at New Fen again to ask one of the RSPB staff if anything had been seen. Literally a few minutes before, they had seen our main target for the reserve! We went over to check where it was seen flying to, but we had nothing, although the first flying Hobby of the day was nice to see. Sitting in the visitor center, we took a vote, to Norfolk, or stick around, with an absolute deadline of 1pm. We chose the 2nd, and it chose to be a superb decision. Back at New Fen, we joined the crowd, and after about 10 minutes a 'commotion' stirred at the other end of the crowd, a few muffled 'At the back' or 'behind the bush........ Now' remarks and i got onto the stunning male RED-FOOTED FALCON!!

Even from this distance, it brilliant silvery primary s stood out like a beacon from the many Hobby that it was hunting with, and with the sun, blue hues could be seen from its dark plumage, with occasional glimpses of its Red under tail. We knew the path we had walked along was much closer, and we hot footed it over there, and again, a superb decision, and we had stunning views of this beautiful Falcon as it sped low across the Reeds with at least 7 Hobby. At this range, you really could admire this stunning eastern European Falcons plumage. Almost entirely slate blue/grey body and upperwing, with incredibly pale primary s (at times, almost white), contrasting to an almost black underwing and tail as it jinked its way after one of the many St Marks Fly.

 With the incredible speed of the Falcon, it proved almost impossible to digi-scope, but a few 'lucky' aim and  burst fire shots came good with a couple including the Red-foot!

(RFF on right, Hobby on left)

The Falcon refused to land so i could get some 'proper' shots, but a few Hobbys did, only confirming them as a stunning species!

After a decent time savoring this beauty after out long 4 hours worth of effort, we bode farewell to Lakenheath to move to another Breckland location. Weeting Heath.

Without introduction, you know what our objective was here. Stone Curlew, and we were soon treated to clear, but somewhat distant views of these unusual wading birds as they slowly made their way out of a furrow. Only two could be found however, the late cold spring obviously having had the effect we feared before visiting, as many had been picked up dead around the Brecks. Despite this horrible fact, we enjoyed the views of this enigmatic bird, and one that is exceptionally rare in the Midlands!

We didn't want to hang around too long, already being behind schedule, so we quickly moved off, towards North Norfolk.....
To be Continued....