Friday, 16 May 2014

The Mega Geese and the Hood

Taiga Bean Goose is a true mega.

Records in the midlands are so rare that even some 'true' national rarities have occurred on more occasions in our humble 4 counties, so therefore it was quite gutting to hear that the two 'Bean Goose at Kemerton' were late on in the day confirmed as both of the Taiga race!

I had not gone to see them as a Bean Goose is an irregular, but not unexpected discovery, that is in its usual 'Tundra' form, as birds can get latched onto Greylag flocks and hang around the region (such as the long staying Chelmarsh bird) or with the wintering White-fronts at Slimbridge.

With it now being to late to 'respond' to the news, it would just have to wait, and they left.

Luckily however, they didn't move far, and soon relocated to Slimbridge, where, while away in Cambridge with the Worcester crew, me and Neil made arrangements to drop in the next morning, with the added bonus of a rather smart looking adult Hooded Crow.

The great thing about being a WWT member is the ability for early access, and we chose to exploit that today, so, following a brief foray onto the patch to see the Mandarins (5) and Goosanders (2), we set off south.

It was great to see the car park and Holden Tower as empty as it was, as I'm sure many of you who bird Slimbridge can tell you, it gets rather scrum like up there later in the day.

Luckily, 4 birders had the hide to ourselves, and the small flock of Greylag the TAIGA BEAN GEESE had chosen to associate with were feeding remarkably close to the hide, giving rather stunning views of this rare race.
For an hour, we were treated to great views as they grazed close to the hide, before dozing off to sleep. While watching these, a flock of 14 Golden Plover dropped onto the Dumbles in heavy rain.

With the first people starting to arrive, we chose to head off to search for our other target.

Following some time in the rather aptly named hide, and still remaining Hooded Crow-less, we moved back around to the Zeiss hide for a wider view, and and soon after, Neil was shouting out that he had it!

It was showing in the field right next to the hide we were just in!
Following distant views, and getting the two birders we had been watching the Bean Geese earlier with onto the bird, we made the quick exit to hopefully reach the hide to get a good view. We got to the hide and it had gone!

A very showy Cetti's warbler kept me interested however in the Crows absence, which contrary to the rule, chose to sing from an exposed perch right outside the hide! To further emphasise the coming spring shown by out trip out east the day before , my first Swallow of the year hawked around outside the hide, always adding that glimmer of excitement as you remember late nights and Hirundines hawking above your head!

While watching that subtle brown warbler bird yell out its ear shatteringly loud song, the call went up the Crow was back, and soon after I was watching a rather snazzy looking HOODED CROW, the northern and western subspecies/Full species/ race or whatever you want to think it as.

No matter what its genetics tell us, this is a really smart bird! Infact I had forgotten just how good looking since I last saw them in Turkey!

All too briefly, and the bird flew back up into the Rookery, and with limited time, we ran away, happy at our outstanding success.

Not bad for a few hours birding on a Sunday morning!


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Out birding in Cambridgeshire with the Worcester crew

Road trip!
It was another day out with the Worcester crew, and with Mike, Jarad and Neil, it was going to be a good trip!
Having seen last years 'proven' wild Baikal Teal I wasn't in much of a fuss to see the bird that had chosen to appear at Fen Drayton RSPB in Cambridge, but when I was offered a lift, and with a rather mouth-watering array of 'rares', I just couldn't say no!
So, our first destination was Fen Drayton, and sadly, the day soon reached its low. The Teal had gone, and hardly any ducks remained whatsoever! We were joined by another foreigner to this 'distant land' when Hughie appeared along the path.
Infact, it was a struggle to be too exited by anything that was present, a single female Marsh Harrier made a brief fly through visit and decent numbers of Goldeneye were present on the many pools. Infact, it was the hybrids that were the best birds of the trip. A Tufted x Pochard was present on one of the pools, but the most interesting bird came in the form of a rather odd looking Wigeon, which showed characteristics of both Eurasian and American Wigeon. However, the crew had practically fallen asleep at the lack of birds by this point, and we chose to head on.
We moved to Pymoor, where a drake American Wigeon was being reported, but in our searching of the masses of ducks we failed to locate it. Later in the day it also became obvious we had also not picked up another duck......
Stunning females of both Marsh Harrier and Peregrine flew through, flushing everything in the process.
Despite the lack of yanks, I was amazed by  the huge numbers of ducks still present, Pintail, Wigeon and Teal all being represented by very large numbers, and a flock of 40 Whooper Swan remained, which I thought was quite late, and indeed proved that this trip would work out to be worthwhile.
It was while scanning we received news of a female RING NECKED DUCK just up the road, so a quick car journey and we were soon pulling up, and within a few moments an obvious female 'Ring Neck' could be seen distantly from the river banks. It really was very distant, but very good light meant that it was perfectly identifiable. Even on shape alone it stood out a mile!
From this viewpoint, it was also clear of the huge volumes of ducks that remained on the Ouse Washes! Literally thousands!

With the weather feeling so 'springish', it was also great to see, and hear a Yellow Wagtail as it bounced over our heads! Always a great bird to have so early in the year!
With limited time remaining before having to head back, news of a Spoonbill at Ouse washes RSPB had us making a detour, and soon upon arrival at the hides, we were greeted by stunning views of a rather beautiful looking summer plumaged SPOONBILL!
What was even more outstanding though, was the fact that the bird was awake THROUGHOUT our visit, and was constantly feeding, which made a rather refreshing change to most Spoonbill records!
Again, it was somewhat of a "Midlander meetup" as again Hughie was present, and we all enjoyed this rather scarce visitor to our home counties.


Perhaps more  impressive though, were the sheer numbers of waders that were present, mostly consisting of two species. Hundreds upon hundreds of 'islandica' Black-Tailed Godwit were roosting on a couple of the spits, creating carpets of red, and many Ruff were strutting around in fine summer garb! What could be better! We had 60+ of these rather gaudy waders as they waded their way through the shallow waters outside the hides
Our time here was as I said, limited, and therefore we had to leave, but my first taste of the Ouse washes certainly 'whet my appetite', and I can see a return visit coming on soon!