Friday 30 April 2010

Swine Moor revisited

Well the photos anyway...thats last years Temmincks Stint on Swine Moor late may. I paid my first visit to this venue for 2010. A productive look in with my first Swifts and Reed Warbler of the year. I had managed my first Little Grebe of the year on Wansford canal - a bit bizarre as I have managed at least 12 Slavs. Back to beverley and my pre-work trip almost hit pay dirt - a group of small waders flew in. Hoping for Pec Sand I was disappointed to see three Ruff. My radar wasnt too far out as North Cave pulled in a couple of these pseudo vagrants. Oh and im officially fit! Well enough to go to sea overnight and to score against our brothers in arms at HiFi in 0ur end of season friendly at the staff football. Good times.

P.S. Izzy can now crawl and got her first two teeth this week!!!!!

Multiple Mammal Lifer

Had a corking survey on the moray firth this past week. Very high numbers of birds were seen on site with over 30 Bonxies across the two days including a group of 6 and one was seen taking a Kittiwake out in mid-air. It then plunged on the water after the Kit and nothing was seen of the maritime going gull again. Red hot action. A few tysties and Manx Shearwaters joined the throng and a small skua was seen prior to survey but no id was managed from below deck. This was all well and good but I had already scored my first mammal lifer of the trip even before arriving in Buckie. About 20 Fallow Deer were amongst a larger group of Red Deer near Huntly on the train from Aberdeen. I have seen Fallow Deer before but only when I lived down south and im not sure they were outside deer parks. They are also largely absent from Yorkshire. A check of British Wildlife conveniently had a set of maps showing distribution of all six British deer species with a small blob east of the Cairn Gorms.

Back on the boat and the second of my mammal lifers quickly showed on a flat clam sea. We had seen a number of Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seals amongst the assembled gannets and auks but the leviathan revealed itself. Actually leviathan may be overcooking it a little as a very small Minke Whale surfaced having a good look at us with its head up at 100 m range. In fact an hour later we managed views of a bigger beast a very large Minke with a seemingly endless back. We were really pleased! The day was finished with a Common Seal catchig fish at our feet in Wick harbour. No cetaceans were managed the next day as the weather was interesting with persistant rain and choppy seas making it far from ideal. I did manage a year tick in Wick harbour amongst the Swallows(?) were 4 sea swallows calling away. Common Terns. Awesome. Rather bizarrely an enclosure in north Wick held 30 Wood and Mandarin Ducks plus Japanese Quail, rosellas and Cockatiels. Outdoors. In Wick. Brr. Also a bit bizarre back at Buckie the next evening a walk revealed the House Martins were back in...although it wasnt a year tick they arent in down here - what are these crazy birds doing? Its still winter on the firth. I did get a corking picture of a Bonxie but am waiting to edit it before it appears here. On the way back on the train from Keith to Glasgow we saw the Fallow Deer again including a quality stag with antlers on.

Thursday 29 April 2010

Black-tailed Godwit

View Black-tailed Godwit in a larger map

This is the history of the Black-tailed Godwit I saw at North Killingholme, Lincolnshire last week. It was ringed as a pulli in eastern Iceland in 1999 making it nearly 11 years old and was seen in Portugal on rice fields in December 2008. 11 years old! Blimey.

Thursday 22 April 2010

En Masse Migrants

Spent the day surveying at North Killingholme, Lincolnshire and it was a veritable feast of year ticks. A breeding bird survey found unseen Sedge Warblers newly in around the pits. A couple of Avocets were kicking about on the pits, the first I have managed all year. A single smart Dunlin in summer dress and a few Redshanks were also pratting around. Linnets and Tree Sparrows amongst the car parks of the port were a bit incongruous. Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers were calling all over and a pair of Stock Doves flused from vegetation.

The best was to follow on the second leg with 4 smart Yellow Wagtails knocking about including a singing male. A Mistle Thrush was singing with vigour from a tree top - presumably an unmated bird. A Yellowhammer sang its merry tune from a hedgerow and its cogener of the Reed Bunting variety 'sang' from the small ditch. As I was walking back to the car a couple of Whitethroats chased around a small reed stand. Two Sand Martins whizzed past overhead and to complete my hirundine set a House Martin circled the port as lorries were boarding the container ship. There were tonnes of Swallows bobbing about.

I had been given a heads up about the pits being a Black-tailed Godwit roost so I gave the pits another scan prior to starting my WeBs count. About 500 of these leggy beauties were present and I found one which was colour ringed - I shall report back when I find out the details. Also present were my first Little Ringed Plovers of the year. By this time I was expecting some gross rarity but it became more mundane quickly. Aside from bog standard Ringed Plovers on the beach and two Red-legged Partridge on the sea wall (that seemed wrong - especially when they flushed off toward the beach...they quickly returned to terra firma) it was as you were with the godwits decamping to the beach about half tide. Last gasp was a Snipe swimming across a ditch on the pits - I didnt know they could!

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Monday 19 April 2010

Cricket List Lifer - Common Crane

I was padding up to bat yesterday when I noticed three birds circling to the north-west...and they werent the gull sp. as I expected but three long necked soaring birds. This left Crane or White Stork. The build was all wrong for storks - wings too broad, neck too long and thin. They were three glorious cranes and as they circled towards me a fourth joined from the west. I couldnt let slip to my team mates why I was taking ages to get my gear on for my first knock of the season but I was glowing inside. A self found first, a year tick, a village tick but who cares about that - Cranes are awesome birds. My feeling is that these are different birds to those which were around Tophill last week as they seem to have been tracked to Scotland. These birds were passage birds forced low by a sudden formation of storm clouds in a cloudless sky, huge anvils who no doubt bedevil migrating soaring birds. They drifted off to the northwest after about ten minutes and I managed a terrible practise innings.

Oh and included below are the promised pictures from the last beatrice survey.


The islay shots will follow tomorrow

Sunday 18 April 2010

Spring on the Sunny Sea

Again the pics will follow (I get access to the work photos tomorrow...). This week I have been mostly in the lovely warm inner Hebridean sun of Islay. On the way up we had a good haul of raptors with a few Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, multiple Buzzards, a Red Kite over the A1 again and a marauding Peregrine scaring the bejesus out some skanky Rock Doves in the southern uplands. Other runners and riders from the trip included a few Swallows and plenty of Curlew and Oystercatcher seen along the A66.

We landed at Kinnacraig for the ferry late afternoon and I quickly picked up two year ticks. Plenty of Willow Warblers were trilling away and I finally laid my peepers on a couple. Better than this was a vocal group of four Lesser Redpoll in the birch that surrounds the ferry site. On the ferry we had about 50 Great Northern Divers and 25 Black-throated Divers as we left West Loch Tarbert. Apart from a few Red-breasted Mergansers and Black Guillemot it was steady. Nothing much else was seen bar one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever had the privilege to witness.

An early start was required on Wednesday as we were doing two days surveying in one. We quickly saw good numbers of Manx Shearwater and a couple of probable Greenland White-fronted Geese were seen leaving Islay for more northerly climes as we started. A few passerines bobbed overhead with Meadow Pipit being the only put to species (nothing seems to call at sea). The sea was very calm but we managed no mammals. Sightings quickly dropped off and we had a slow day without anything of note even on the trip back. That night I had the pleasure of seeing Tottenham Hotspur beat Arsenal whilst supping a single malt...what could be better.

The second days survey was even slower than the first...the only decent birds were small numbers of summer plumage Great Northern Diver moving north up through the sound. A Skylark was seen 2 miles out at sea but the effects of the ash cloud reduced the visibility encouraging it to turn around and head back to Kintyre. We had quite a few contacts with Porpoise and a bigger cetacean turned out not to be a Bottle-nosed Dolphin as hoped but a log in a wave. Booo. We did manage to get back into port mid afternoon and three of us went on a jaunt up to Ardbeg distillery. We managed lots of Ravens, a circling Peregrine, a couple of Wheatears, some buzzy Lesser Redpolls and one of the showiest Pied Wagtails this side of christendom. We managed the three miles quickly and only just got to the distillery before closing time. No chance to sample their wares but a few minitures were acquired (Ardbeg costs a minimum £40 a bottle - on my wages no chance). We stumbled back, past Lagavulin distillery which was closed but a very generous woman offered us a lift. Nice. Upon returning we were gripped by a fellow surveyor who had a couple of feeding Arctic Terns in the harbour, the only ones of the trip. In order to sample our whisky we had to try the bar rather than open the minitures which stayed firmly full.

The trip back was least eventful bird wise probably due to observer fatigue but we managed 5 summer plumage Slavonian Grebe in West Loch Tarbert along with 65 Great Northern Divers, 20 Black-throated Divers and a couple of Red-throated Divers. No White-billed but we will persist! The Redpolls were still at the ferry station along with the Willow Warblers. And that was it...homeward bound.

Monday 12 April 2010

Spring stuff

3 Swallows over my parents house, a brimstone in the garden and 4 Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk being obvious on the 5 mile journey up to my parents. Nice - also on my way to Islay tomorrow so will update when Im back. Green-winged Teal on Swinemoor which is a bummer as it will have buggered off by the time im home. Nevermind - will have to make do with seabirds.

Sunday 11 April 2010

Name Dropper

Last week I spent wednesday to saturday in the surrounds of the Moray firth. With Dave White. Dave was the new marine mammal observer (MMO). He is a rock'n'roll victim of the 1970s being a former drinking buddy of Keith Moons. He moved from almost making it as a rock star to being a driving instructor in Glasgow teaching Deacon Blue and Sharlene Spiteri to drive. Somehow this led to a move to Moray where he started working as an MMO. He is mad as a fox and looks like a cross between rhys ifans dad and bill nighy's brother. He is basically a legend. He illuminated the week and we giggled endlessly at his scurrilous stories. None of which I can reveal sadly.

Onto the birds...

On the way up we had around 1000 Pink-footed Geese west of Aberdeen (we went on the train for a change). We also managed a Red Kite here along with good numbers of Buzzards. We arrived at dusk at Buckie and promptly hit the pub for some dinner.

An early steam out of Buckie meant that I woke up in the middle of the Beatrice oilfield. A few bits and pieces out there on the first day included overflying Pinkfeet, Meadow Pipits, Carrion Crow & a few probable Redpoll. A handful of Puffins were seen on survey along with the regulars. Large numbers of Kittiwakes were on site. As we finished and headed to Wick we managed a few Tysties and a Long-tailed Duck guarding the harbour. A party of Goldeneye froliced on the river. We had a walk up so that Ray could see some Estuarine Sedge - very rare apparently. It didnt really spark my botany interests. We did manage a couple of Hoody hybrids along with a few Teal, Wigeon, Oystercatcher, Redshank and Grey Heron.

The second days survey was more interesting as we had 4 Golden Plover, 2 Greylags, some unidentified passerines, large numbers of common stuff and big movements of Pinkfeet. The best was at least two Bonxies who kept bothering the Kittiwakes. Porpoises were seen regularly throughout the trip and both species of seal made the mammal count a healthy three. At the end of the survey I headed below for a nap as we had a three hour steam back to Buckie. I woke up to whoops and hollers as I missed the last of three sightings of Minke Whale - a mammal lifer to be as I have only seen a brief probable. I did manage about a dozen Great Northern Diver including a few in summer plumage. More summer plumage fare was to follow with 3 Red-throated Divers with red-throats and a pair of very brown looking sumplum Long-tailed Duck. A few Eider were bobbing around the harbour with a Grey Heron surveying the scene. We legged it in the morning early doors and thus saw very little.

BTW over my house(ish) in the last week there have Common Crane(3), Osprey(multiple) and White-tailed Eagle(uncountable even for the garden list). How many have I seen? Zero obviously. Doh.

Photos to follow as they are on the work DSLR. On the way to Islay on tuesday for 5 days.

Sunday 4 April 2010


Went up to the northern dales today with my birdforum cronies. Was only an hour late...slight detour but what it did bring was a ridiculously close Black Grouse. Also wonderful views of Golden Plover, Oystercatcher & Curlew. Red Grouse were everywhere. We eventually arrived at the Black Grouse site via Cumbria & Durham... As we climbed through the woodland onto the moor 2 Jays gave good views.

Myself and my co-pilot Mark rolled up as the group were looking at a Ring Ouzel. It flew before I got on it. A consolation of several male Black Grouse made up for it. Despite being by far the warmest day of the three I have spent at this site I was FREEZING. Snipe were drumming all over and a number of Greylag bobbed about. 2 Wheatears were furtively bobbing about - it turns out loads were back. The Ouzel was a meet tick and this was followed by another - A Raven appeared over the ridge.

Due to massive cold we moved onto a wood for Goshawk and failed miserably. We did manage a number of Buzzards and a few Crossbills were picked up in flight. We mooched into the wood from our watchpoint and as we pulled up a Goshawk shot overhead after briefly circling. Despite this most of the party caught up with it. Pretty soon we were getting pornstar views of Crossbill and Siskin in the crowns of the trees.

The party split up and we returned to the grouse looking for Ring Ouzels but failed miserably. We hit Langthwaite and managed Dipper, Meadow Pipit, Treecreeper & Grey Wagtail plus loads more wheatear but still the rouzels didnt appear. Time had marched on so we gave up. Sort of. We went for seconds in the wood and managed a lovely male Crossbill and as we left a perfect adult Goshawk circling 25 metres over our heads. Great days.

P.s. if anyone else decides to unfollow the blog you will get receive a fate worse than death. Probably.

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