Sunday, 20 November 2011

Saturday 19th November - Northumberland

Last week as we were walking around Branston, we received news that a GREATER YELLOWLEGS had been found in Northumberland. We were actually looking for the Derbyshire GLOSSY IBIS at the time. We considered racing up for it, but then it started getting more active and flighty and we reconsidered; the problem being that if we headed up and then the bird disappeared, we would actually have ruined our planned day out and just spent the day driving up and down the motorway.

Of course, the GREATER YELLOWLEGS performed all day on Sunday but it just wasn't convenient to head up there (I didn't even dare to ask permission to be honest) and so began one of the fun parts of twitching - the week long build up. Sometimes when a rare turns up late on a Friday, there is no build up to the event, you just head off on the Saturday and jobs done - it can be a little bit flat on occasions. So with a week to wait, you have the excitement of waiting every day to see if its still present, dreading every time when it flies off high to the south (as the GREATERLEGS did on the Tuesday, only to return at 10-00!) but eventually, by Friday, you start to think it may just stay until Saturday (as we thought with the bloody Sandhill Crane - "as good as on our list" said Mr Jones). And with the finding of another EASTERN BLACK REDSTART on Holy Island, we not only had two decent birds to go and see, it also saved us a possible trip down to Kent where the other EASTERN BLACK REDSTART was.

And so with all the birds still in place on Friday afternoon, the finishing touches were put in place. PJ opted out of the trip, and so it was just myself, GAS and "Lucky Chris" who headed up north, setting off at 03-30hrs.

The GREATERLEGS had last been seen at Druridge Bay CP and so that's where we headed for first, arriving at 07-30hrs. There were a few birders arriving on site at the same time as us, and we all headed down to the lakeside. We started seeing birds almost immediately, with at least three Scaup (one a male) on the lake and four Red-breasted Mergansers. One birder started walking and checked to the right of the centre, and then he started checking the shore to the left. We just stood still, but we were well placed when another birder shouted to us that the GREATERLEGS had been found - at Hauxley. We headed back to the car and hurtled up the coast to Hauxley. We parked up, walked down the path to Eric's Hide, opened the door and there was ...........just one birder sat on the bench. He informed us that the GREATERLEGS had flown, and was probably showing from the other hide - the one we had just walked past.

We laughed at the thought that it could be one of those days, wandering up and down the coast chasing the GREATERLEGS from reserve to reserve. We entered the other hide, and everyone was crowded up the corner. The Greater Yellowlegs was literally feet away from the hide, but it was tucked right up the corner. I lent over and managed to glimpse it, but eventually it started to walk along the shore. I gambled and took a seat at the front of the hide, and soon enough, the GREATER YELLOWLEGS walk straight past me, only a few feet away. Incredible views were had in the early morning sun.

The juv Greater Yellowlegs

Video of the Greater Yellowlegs at Hauxley NR

We then headed up to Holy Island.

The safe crossing time was at 10-56hrs, but we arrived just after 10-00hrs. Several cars were already heading over, but the road was still quite wet. We sat in the lay by and had a quick scan around, finding a flock of c150 Pale-bellied Brent Geese. After only about ten minutes wait, the road was dry and we drove across, seeing a Merlin flying across, only to be chased by a Peregrine. We were soon walking into the town and down onto the beach. Two birders were walking from our right, and so we started walking in the same direction. I climbed down onto the beach, but by the time I was down, "Lucky" Chris had found the Eastern Black Redstart working its way along the seaweed. It really was an awesome bird - with its red belly it looked like a weird Redstart. We eventually had good views of it as it fed quite unconcerned in front of an ever growing audience.

The Eastern Black Redstart

As we stood there, we had flocks of dark-bellied Brent Geese flying past, plus in the channel there was a good sized Merganser flock, six Long-tailed Ducks (five were splendid males) and a few Eider. We also had a flock of 17 probable Tundra Bean Geese over as well. We walked round to the harbour where there were mixed dark & pale-bellied Brents plus a flock of 80 White-fronted Geese flew over.

Brent Geese in the harbour

White-fronts overhead

We weren't finish yet though. We headed south to see the LESSER SCAUP at Marsden Quarry. On the way, however, we had news that the two ROSS'S GEESE were still present. We headed towards Dunston Hill, and eventually we found the flock of geese. The two Ross's Geese were easily spotted, but we also had good numbers of Barnacle Geese, several White-fronts and 5+ Tundra Bean Geese in with the Pink-foots. A fine way to end a most enjoyable days birding.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Saturday 12th November

Westport was rather productive today with the first Goldeneye (a fem) of the Autumn, plus three Wigeon, fem Shov and the continued presence of the immature male Red-breasted Merganser. There was a surprise on the sewage works with the return of last winters female Pheasant. Digibinned shot below

Video thru my bins of the Pheasant at Westport

Then it was onto the pits. Branston was rather disturbed today. We were in quite early, looking for the Derbyshire GLOSSY IBIS, and so there were still workmen around. The Golden Plover was 450+ but it never settled. There were still Ruff, Dunlin, Green Sand and Redshank around, plus four Little Egrets. Another pit in the area saw good wildfowl numbers again and an adult winter Little Gull was with the bhgs.

Three of the four Little Egrets at Branston

Superb full frame Little Gull shot.

Friday, 11 November 2011

A Westport semi-Mega is found!

On Wednesday 10th November, veteran Westport stalwart "Super" Jeff Jones found an immature Red-breasted Merganser, and it was still present on Friday 12th at least. It's an astonishing 23 years since I saw my last Red-breasted Merganser at Westport, the over wintering female bird in 1987/88. This is the 10th record for Westport, and the first for eight years. The first site record was as recent as 1987.

1987 Westport Lake An immature male from November 12th to 15th.
1987 Westport Lake A female from December 29th to February 22nd 1988.
1988 Westport Lake An immature male on April 16th.
1996 Westport Lake Three males and two females on February 1st.
1996 Westport Lake A female on November 15th to 21st.
1997 Westport Lake A female from February 21st to 27th.
1999 Westport Lake A female on March 15th.
2002 Westport Lake Two females stayed briefly on October 12th.
2003 Westport Lake A male and three redheads flew low through on January 30th.
2011 Westport Lake An immature male from November 9th to ....

For far better pictures of the Merg, check out the Seal's blog.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Saturday 5th November 2011 - Spurn and Attenborough NR

Another decent days birding had been planned. The idea was to go and see the Shropshire STEPPE GREY SHRIKE first, then probably to Rutland for the WHITE-RUMPED SAND and finishing off at Attenborough for the SQUACCO. Myself and CJW had seen the Squacco last weekend as it came into roost on the Saturday, but while we were there viewing was slightly restricted.

Birders lying on the floor trying to see the Squacco at Attenborough last Saturday

Then, as per usual, another bird came along to upset the apple cart. Late on Friday afternoon, news came through of an ISABELLINE WHEATEAR on Spurn. I had managed to see the Anglesey bird in 2006 but GAS hadn't. Despite it having a fat score of zero when it was trapped and rung, we still decided to go on news in the morning. We could have risked it, but we decided on the safe option. We headed for Westport to start off with, but we had only just finished playing with the Coots when the news came through that the ISABELLINE WHEATEAR had bucked the recent trends and had decided to stay for a second day. At 07-40hrs, we set off, and arrived on Spurn 2-40mins later. We paid our £3, joined up with those ASBO boys and made the long walk down to the beach. We could see the crowds standing on the beach in the distance, but before we had reached them, the Isabelline Wheatear had flown up the beach to where we were. We carefully stood on the dunes, and there it was feeding on the beach. It was quite unsettled, and spent most of the time flying up and down the beach, but on occasions it landed very close to where we were standing. Having had our fill, we headed back to the car. Spurn was surprisingly quite quiet apart from the main attraction.

Isabelline Wheatear at Spurn

The heaving masses jostling for position

Video of Isabelline Wheatear on Spurn.

We drove back and called in at Attenborough. The juvenile Squacco was showing well underneath the bridge, but the light had faded and digiscoping was quite tricky.

So that was the end of a decent days birding. A fairly straight forward tick in the end for GAS, and now Autumn is nearly over, our second successive succesful trip.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Thursday 27th October 2011 - Filey and Greatham Creek

I had been off all week, and today was to be my big day out. There were a few tempting birds still around, such as the PIED WHEATEAR in Gloucestershire and an ISABELLINE SHRIKE in Norfolk, but the forecast was for rain all day in the south. Then, during Wednesday afternoon, an OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT was found at Filey. The later report suggested that there were two birds present. Unfortunately, there was not much else up there to see. I knew I would have to travel up there but I didn’t hold out much hope. At least, we would be above the line where rain was predicted. So, I arranged to pick GAS up at 05-30hrs to see a bird I expected to have gone, and with no back up species either. When I arrived at GAS’s flat, it was all in darkness. He had set his alarm for Saturday. We headed off a little later than planned, at 06-00hrs.
Filey CP, North Yorkshire – It was a straight forward journey up, and we arrived at a damp Filey at 09-00hrs. We drove straight up to the small crowd gathered in the corner of the Top Shrub. There had been no reports of the OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT yet, and the birders just seemed to be hanging around. Two birders then came from further down the field, and they intimated that they had seen the OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT and it was moving up through the vegetation towards us. It suddenly was on show in front of us in a tree, but I wasn’t quick enough to get onto it. It then dropped out of view. I was told it was calling, and I could hear a Robin-like ticking. In a flash, the Olive-backed Pipit was flying above us, calling away. Twice we had flight views, and quite long flights too, and eventually it dropped back into the scrub. One birder went into look for it, and as I watched him walking, he suddenly stopped and got his camera out. I slowly walked down and realised he was watching the Olive-backed Pipit. Before I had reached him, it had move out of view again, but we waited as he walked round, delicately trying to flush it. Eventually it flew up, and I managed to see the Olive-backed Pipit perched in a small tree. We had several later views of it sitting in another tree, but by 09-45hrs, with more persistent rain, we lost track of it. GAS was sitting in the car, and so I had a walk round. I heard a Chiffchaff calling, and eventually I located a very vocal Yellow-browed Warbler calling away, but I only managed brief flight views. At last I had managed my first tick of the Autumn.

GAS at Filey

There wasn't much else to see at a wet Filey, and when the SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER came on in Cleveland, we decided to head up there. It was an hour and a half journey up, but when we arrived the Semipalmated Sandpiper was showing among a flock of 100+ Dunlin.

The Semipalmated Sand at Greatham Creek