Sunday, 24 August 2014

A Cheeky Seawatch

So today I decided to sleep in, do nowt and then play away from home with a trip to Flamborough. Old fall flash revealed nowt so I went for a seawatch between 1520 and 1930. Aside from a sore back and cold arse I managed a few decent birds. First up was a dark morph adult Pomarine Skua giving a juvenile Great Black-backed Gull hell. Aside from that very little was doing other than triples of Arctic Skua and Manx Shearwater. Craig Thomas then found a Caspian Gull on the sea in front of us. A very sexy juvenile and a much overdue Yorkshire Tick...


Then Brett came along and 2 different Cory's Shearwaters went north. It is almost five years to the day since my last Yorkshire Cory's in the same place. Below is perhaps the worst picture of a large shearwater ever... In my defence it was about 2 miles out.


Both birds tracked north slowly and were on show for 15 minutes each although the second bird kept putting down on the water. All said a successful day!

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Stilt Sandpiper

I managed to catch up with the Cresswell Pond Stilt Sandpiper the other week. This bird gave me the run around with a dip early on in its stay followed by it going missing for 45 minutes whilst we were at Cresswell. My photos are crap so I have just stuck the video up here. It was found roosting between a Lapwing and a Redshank which were stuck together. Sneaky bugger.


Also knocking about were plenty of other waders including Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Common Sandpiper and lots of Dunlin. The Stilt Sandpiper was UK tick 348 - can I get to 350 this year?

Bonkers at Barmston

I came home from work yesterday after surveying in D&G. Ma famille are in Spain so I went for a seawatch. It was bonkers. I watched from Ulrome and the whole of Bridlington Bay was full of terns and gulls. A Manx Shearwater early on was not a portent of a big movement. Instead it was the commic terns and Sandwich Terns which were the stars. My first Barmston Arctic Tern was followed by loads more... A juv Black Tern was amongst the Sarnies with its headphones on. The first of three Arctic Skuas was nailing terns out in the bay and the second, a dark morph, flushed plenty of gulls including three Little Gulls. After this Little Gulls seemed to enter the bay in huge numbers. Several hundred were noted in all directions and distances. One even managed to evade the third Arctic Skua by doing tight circles and rising higher. The skua gave up, mobbed a Kittiwake which eventually disgourged its fish only for another skua to snatch this. The Arctic got on its bike and chased the second skua which was a light morph obviously, 4/5 the size of the Arctic and with a single long tail streamer. Long-tailed Skua! Brilliant. Late on an obviously brutish juvenile gull with a white rump and a masked head went past. My first Barmston Yellow-legged Gull. Sadly the camera was charging so I havent got any shots. The YL Gull, LT Skua and the Arctic Tern were all full patch ticks.


This morning at Ulrome was also pretty productive. The bay still had some terns and Little Gulls as well as plenty of larger gulls. Not a lot was passing though and so I started looking at the bushes. A Yellow Wagtail  was expected year tick and a number of juvs flew over. A small bird was calling from a sycamore - naked eye views suggested a warbler and the sound recalled a swallow or pied wagtail. I got the bins up and it had disappeared. It called a few more times but never showed and the incumbents of the caravan and tent started giving me grief so I gave it up. Potential Greenish Warbler binned. Aside from a few more wagtails there wasnt much more until I got to Barmston drain. Here an adult looking Cuckoo sat in vegetation before flying north. I managed to rattle off some shots and got one that showed mealiness on the upperwing showing that the bird was a juv.


As I walked along the drain a Greenshank flew over calling. My second record for the site after one migrating north in 2013 along the beach. Some kids playing in the woods at Barmston ensured there were no migrants resting up there as they had stick fights but the sight of 6 Buzzards circling overhead indicated that it was a successful breeding season here. The rape had been harvested around Barmston and birds were busy feeding in the margins of the field. Amongst the Tree Sparrows, Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds a smaller bird worked through the ivy adjacent to the methodist church - a Lesser Whitethroat. Yet another patch tick! Rain was starting to threaten so I pegged it back to Ulrome but not before I picked out a juv/1st winter Yellow-legged Gull amongst the large gulls. It is seemingly the same bird that was at Flamborough over the last few days. Now if I could get one of their Caspians it would be good... This slightly crackers run of 9 patch year ticks including 5 patch ticks takes me on to 109 species and 133 points for Patchwork Challenge. Last year I finished on 121 species and 155 points and by the end of August I was on 111 species and 136 points at the end of August so still a chance. It is the first time this year I have been within touching distance of last years score and the low effort level from the autumn means I am in with a chance of beating the 100%.

More Somerset

Here is a crappy shot of the Noah's Lake Black Tern and a Ham Wall RSPB Bittern from the other week.



On my last visit I visited a butterfly reserve called Green Down. Here there was a plethora of butterflies and despite failing to see the Large Blues and Brown Hairstreaks there was plenty to enjoy. Clouded Yellows were all over with plenty of Common Blues and my first UK Brown Argus. Cracking - I will be back when the Large Blues are flying.





Saturday, 16 August 2014

Somerset

Last week I was working in Somerset which is again set to be a regular occurrence. I had a little downtime and managed a couple of visits to Ham Wall/Shapwick and also my first visits to Blagdon and Chew Valley Lake.

As per usual Great White Egrets were in abundance at Ham Wall with several seen. Estimates of numbers are tough as the most I have seen simultaneously is 5 but I would be surprised if the true number wasn't in the teens. No bitterns but a Hobby over Noah's Lake was pretty decent. No sooner had I told a colleague that the conditions looked perfect for a Black Tern then one appeared, a juvenile which seems to have stuck about. 


A Lesser Scaup was at Blagdon as was a male Ruddy Duck. The Lesser Scaup was in almost identical plumage to the surrounding Tufted Ducks aside from some grey scaps just moulting in and a chestnut sheen to the breast. The small nail and half wing bar confirmed it's ID but very subtle. The Ruddy Duck was my first for 4 years and testament to the success of the cull. A very smart duck but undoubtedly a threat to White-headed Ducks.


One surprise was a handful of Clouded Yellows flying over the meadow from where the Lesser Scaup was watched. Aside from a Greek one a couple of weeks ago these were the first I had seen since one at Flamborough when the first Brown Flycatcher was there.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Flutterbys

Whilst on Thassos I noticed plenty of non-avian delights including a few butterflies. I have a passing interest in this sort of thing at home and so took a few shots. There were a handful of Swallowtails knocking about and a large white type was regular in the gardens. On the flowers were two main species - Long-tailed Blue and Grecian Copper. The other species that I noted around and about was Clouded Yellow. Here are a couple of shots of the Long-tailed Blues and Grecian Coppers.



Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Bird Fair 2014

The Bird Fair cometh and I rather unbeliveably am working there on the Sunday as part of the Patchwork Challenge team based on Forest Optics stall. I will be there to talk all things PWC and hopefully meet some of the contestants from this season and encourage others to take part. I will also be having a go with some of the optics on display and having a general mooch. If you fancy it come and say hello and if you are interested in taking part in 2015 then let us know and we can fill you in about the competition.



Ornithological Idiocy

How brains and birds become mutually exclusive