Saturday 31 May 2014

Bee-eaters and back to St Mary's

So I had been out on a dawn survey in the middle of nowhere. This meant I had to get up at 3.15am. I was wrapped up with work just after 11 and started the trip back to Yorkshire. Realising that breaking the journey in half would stop me sticking the car in a ditch, Yorkshire's northernmost outpost, South Gare, came to mind. I hadnt seen any updates for the day but went on-spec hoping for an Icky or such like. I certainly wasnt aware of anything from the previous day so after 10 minutes when I saw a long-thin banana shape in a tree 800m away I got a funny feeling and took a shot with the SX50... Here is the result.

When I saw this I nearly soiled myself
The colours! The little alarm bell in my head that went off about the shape was confirmed and I legged it up the road bumping into the warden on the way up who told me three had been present the previous evening. Eventually three of them popped out, a pair and a spare with two always close and a third bird which went missing occasionally. I watched them for an hour from about 70m away and got some terrible photos and video. Bee-eater is a UK and Yorkshire tick and takes me on to 347/302 respectively.

I also managed a few trips to St Mary's now that I am based back in Newcastle. Four visits on three days over the last fortnight added 50 species and 57 Patchwork Challenge points. Best bits have been a Goosander south although it had fishing tackle wrapped around its legs sadly, a singing Grasshopper Warbler and best of all a Spotted Flycatcher which was around the scrub and was twitched by a couple of locals. A juvenile Stonechat had presumably not come too far but hadnt been raised on the patch. I also bumped into Jack Bucknall and he gave me some cracking gen which will hopefully yield results.

Saturday 17 May 2014

Busy Times

A super busy few weeks have involved plenty of birds both on patch, at work and further afield. Working in Scotland has produced the odd opportunity to sneak away and see some of the charismatic birds of the area and I have had the fortune to bump into some of them whilst working too. Mammals have also been significant in their presence and aside from the Monarch of the Glen I managed a couple of lifers. I completed my UK deer collection with some smart Sika Deer after some indecision on animals in the south west seen at distance. The penultimate addition to my UK mustelids was a stonking Pine Martin shuffling along a forest track at 4.30am. I dont know who had the bigger shock!

Terrible quality due to keeping my distance. Its a Red-throat ;-)
A day trip across Wester Ross and into Sutherland didnt produce a heap of sightings as hoped but was amazing with the mountain An Teallach proving a definite highlight as was a sky dancing Hen Harrier. Up at Findhorn we managed to see a couple of super distant Golden Eagles which were pretty rocking. Various other locales have variously produced Black Grouse, Black-throated and Red-throated Diver, Slavonian Grebe and Capercaillie with several types of Crossbill encountered.

My commutes to and from Scotland have been punctuated with a handful of decent birds with a Lesser Yellowlegs at Beadnell last week and Wood Sandpiper, Spoonbill and Garganey yesterday in Druridge Bay.

On patch it hasnt been quite as successful but I have managed to get the ball rolling quicker at Barmston with 92 species now and 103 points for Patchwork Challenge. Mostly it has been the expected migrants but some of the scarcer passage stuff has been pleasant. A trio of Whimbrels early morning were brilliant, especially as they were proceded by a Little Owl, a patch tick. The flood by the sewage outfall occasionally gets waders and this months triple bill of Common Sandpipers and a breeding plumaged Dunlin were great. Terns returned with fifty-odd Sandwich Terns and 3 Common Terns foraged offshore. After last months Gadwall setting up on patch, a couple of pairs of Tufted Ducks were on the drain with one pair hanging on and looking interested. An immature Mute Swan probably hadnt come far but was a welcome addition on a flood after torrential rain last weekend. Passerines were in relatively short supply with no groppers or ouzels for me but I finally added Rock Pipit and a cracking Greenland Wheatear.

We have also started the CES season of ringing at Tophill Low with several Lesser Whitethroats. Check out the ringing blog for write up

How birds and brains become mutually exclusive

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