Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tuesday 25th September 2012 - A Westport White's Thrush!

Whilst PJ & Mrs PJ were away for the weekend in Dublin celebrating Arthur Guinness day news came through of a White's Thrush on the Farnes back in England !! Not wishing to miss out PJ decided to go out and find one for himself and within 30 minutes - success, he'd located a fine individual perched up & showing well !! With a Belted Kingfisher as a notebook padder he retired to a local  hostelry satisfied with his mornings work.
Whites Thrush, Westport, County Mayo, Jan 1865
Belted Kingfisher, Dublin Museum of Natural History
On arrival back in Staffs there was just time to catch up with the three Common Scoters at Westport, Staffs, and watched them fly off at at 17.55pm

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Saturday 15th September 2012 - The Rainham jinx is broken

My first few visits to Rainham were quite good. In December 2005 when the reserve was still being developed and was in fact "closed", special arrangements were made when the Sociable Plover appeared there. We returned shortly after for a second viewing plus the added bonus of a few wintering Penduline Tits there. We returned again in Feb 2006 just to year tick the Penduline Tits.


Above Sociable Plover and Penduline Tit at Rainham in Dec 2005

Then things started to sour a little with two visits and two dreadful days for the putative SLATEY-BACKED GULL. And then last Saturday we dipped for the third consecutivevisit to Rainham with the elusive BAILLON'S CRAKE.

But the Baillon's Crake continued to perform during the week, and we planned a return visit. The reserve was being opened up at 05-00hrs on Saturday morning, and that meant a 02-00hrs departure time. My only concern was that instructions on the Birdforum thread kept saying that it was best to sit on the right hand side of the hide. I'd got visions of the hide tipping up as everyone stood on the same side. We had a good journey down, arriving at Rainham smack bang on 05-00hrs, and we parked behind the other ten cars already parked up. I walked at a brisk pace through the darkness to the hide, and managed to get a good standing place immediately behind those on the front row (and that just happened to be good old Brocton Ian). Then we all waited for it to get light.

At about 06-10hrs, mumblings came from the middle of the hide. The bird was on show. Walking in front of the reeds, behind the Coot. I couldn't see it. I scanned frantically. I then realised they had forgotten the key bit of the directions. It was on the far pool, not the near one that we had all expected it to be on. And there in the early morning light was the juv Baillon's Crake, standing in full view.

We watched it until a Coot chased it off, and as the light improved, there were two more fleeting flight views. At 07-20hrs, it came out and worked the stretch of reed bed straight in front of the hide. These were the views we wanted, and the click of the cameras was almost deafening. At 07-30hrs it went into the reeds, and that was time for a mass exodus of the hide. Those who had made the effort to get up early were well rewarded. Those late comers we passed on the way back to the car had a six hour wait until the next sighting.

A packed hide at 06-50hrs

The juv Baillon's Crake
 At 08-00hrs, we ha our breakfast, thanked Howard for his excellent organisation once again and headed back to Staffordshire. We arrived at Branston Pits at 11-00hrs and carried on our normal days birding. Two ticks in eight days isn't too bad a start to Autumn 2012.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Saturday 8th September 2012 - Lodmoor & Rainham

The Autumn suddenly burst into life during the week, and by Friday there were two ticks waiting for me. One was a SEMIPALMATED PLOVER up on South Uist - a very nice part of the world, but not a place I would shoot off to at the drop of a hat. It's also at best a two day trip. The other tick was a long awaited return visit by a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER, another catch up tick from the 90's when I had my birding sabbatical. It was conveniently placed down in Dorset, and was showing on and off during the week, but it did on occasions disappear for hours at a time.
So a straight forward day was on the cards. Not exactly. GAS had decided, as it was an Autumn Saturday and three months since a tick, to book a dinner date for 19-30hrs. With a four hour journey to Weymouth, we only had until 14-30hrs to see the DOWITCHER. If the bird decided not to play ball, we could have problems.  
PJ, having already seen the 1999 SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER, decided to stay in Staffordshire and get a few mammal ticks. We arranged to pick up "Lucky" CJW at 02-30hrs. However, as has happened previously with Lucky, a late change in circumstances meant we had to bid him farewell as he stood in his street, sweeping up the glass from his front window that some t*** had put through.
The journey down was quite quiet, apart from large areas of fog as we headed south. As we drove down into Weymouth, the sky cleared and we were met by the beautiful sight of a superb clear morning. We parked up in the wrong car park and faced quite a walk. A quick check of my phone reveal the news that the SBD was already showing (Well done Birdguides for such an early posting). We eventually reached the reserve and made our way along the path. At first, it had walked out of view, but we didn't have to wait long for the juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher to walk out into view. It fed in view for about twenty minutes before it moved again out of view.
Britain's 2nd Short-billed Dowitcher in the early morning sun
The RSPB warden at Lodmoor keeps a careful watch on those present.....
 Now, although we were extremely pleased at being able to walk up and get our tick minutes after our arrival, we had yet another problem looming. During the previous evening, news of yet another mega broke. A juv BAILLON'S CRAKE had been photographed at Rainham, Essex. As we stood at Lodmoor, news came through that it had been seen at 06-30hrs and again briefly at 07-06hrs. It was a tough decision to leave the SBD, but we knew we had to go across to Rainham for a possible second tick of the day. We headed off at 07-30hrs.
It was about a three hour journey, and we lost a bit of time due to one car being parked on the hard shoulder on the M25 following a shunt earlier. All the time we were driving, there had been no further sign of the crake at Rainham. We parked up, stripped off several layers (22C already) and made the half hour walk round to the Shooting Butts hide. It was standing room only, and it was clear most birders had been sat here for hours.
Due to GAS's dinner date, we only had until 15-00hrs, just over three hours, for the crake to show. We started the vigil. There were a few birds on show to pass the time. We had a distant Marsh Harrier, and excellent views of up to three Hobby as they whizzed past the hide. Then we had the moment of excitement. A birder to the left spotted movement in the reeds. We all latched onto it, and soon it was clear we were watching a Water Rail. It slowly moved into view and then flew to the edge of the reeds to feed. Next moment, those in the right hand side of the hide were jumping up and down shouting that the BAILLON'S was on view. We started scanning frantically, following directions, only to realise it was the Water Rail we'd been watching. A comical moment and at least it all ended in smiles and laughter.
Inside the Shooting Butts hide - very similar to the Parrinder at Titchwell
We were fast approaching departure time, and hours previously I'd predicted that as per usual, it would probably show as we were heading back up the motorway. With heavy hearts, we walked out of the hide and headed for home. Every message on the journey home was read, but, surprisingly, it wasn't seen again all day.
So one tick, one dip, but at least we hadn't messed up on missing the BAILLON's by leaving early. That was until the following day when it showed on and off all day! Oh well. There's always next Saturday when the Clayheads ride again.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Saturday 8th September 2012 - Mousing with the Clayheads

While some members of the Clayhead gang were out of the county today, back in Staffs PJRS and AMJ (a female clayheader!!) spent a pleasant morning with the Staffordshire Mammal Group checking the Rodent traps which were put out last night at Aqualate. In total two Yellow-necked Mice were trapped; a species which is at the northern most part of their range. They are identified from Wood Mice by their yellow ' vee neck jumpers' . Two Bank Voles, six Common Shrews and numerous Wood Mice were also trapped. Field Vole, Pygmy Shrew and Harvest Mouse (rare) failed to put in an appearance. All photo's below are by PJ.

Bank Vole

Common Shrew

Yellow-necked Mice

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Saturday 1st September 2012 - You can always tell it's a good twitch when.......

Its the 1st September and Autumn has arrived. We started off at Westport, where there was a flock of eleven Wigeon to herald in the new season. An AMERICAN BLACK TERN had been found near St Helens and we half considered going for it, especially as GAS still needed it. When negative news came from Eccleston Mere, we headed off down to Blithfield.

Two MARSH HARRIERS had been present for most of the week, and so the plan was to sit in the hide in Tad and wait. The Osprey was already sat in the tree waiting for us, and gave me an opportunity to repeat the photo's I took of it last year, when it was sat in the same tree.

Osprey at Blithfield

We sat for about an hour, seeing a couple of Raven, a Buzzard, a Sparrowhawk, and I counted 363 Tufted Duck in the bay. Then news came through that the AMERICAN BLACK TERN had been refound at Pennington Flash in Greater Manchester. We decided to head north. The journey up the M6 was a little bit slow, but it took us less than an hour and a half to get to Pennington.

Luckily, as we arrived, the juvenile American Black Tern was sat on a buoy, but it soon flew off. We then had to quickly remember the id pointers of it in flight, but the dusky underwing was quite obvious once you had your eye in.

Above - 3 pictures of the AmBT. (Bottom one by PJ)

The first twitch of the Autumn was a nice straight forward one, and a Lee tick for GAS. We headed over to Frodsham afterwards, but there wasn't much on show.

And finally, you can always tell it's a good twitch when.....

.................there's an ice cream van on site!