Friday, 28 December 2012

Farewell 2012 Part Two

June was wet, July even wetter (but not as wet as December!)
August and a holiday to Tenerife was vey successful

September saw two 90's grip backs with a long awaited return of a Short-billed Dowitcher

and finally a Baillon's Crake that was available to see from a hide and not a grade 2 listed building roof

October saw one of the best days birding of the year in Fife, where we ticked Eastern Olly, and also saw Red-breasted Fly, Radde's and Surf Scoter.
November saw my 3rd Staffs tick of the year with a White-rumped Sandpiper at Drayton Bassett

and to end the year, the fabulous Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll in Suffolk

So farewell 2012. A good year? A difficult year away from birding? Sometimes real life had to be put before birding, but whatever happens, the Clayheads will be up and running again in 2013. So on behalf of all the Clayheads (part time members included) we wish you a very Happy New Year and we'll see you all again in 2013. 

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Farewell 2012 Part One

January 1st and the year started off on the beach in North Wales

First tick of the year - Spanish Sparrow in Hampshire

and an excellent day was had with a Dark-eyed Junco to see as well

And the month ended with a Glossy Ibis at Sandbach

February and another big twitch, this time in Gwent

for the stonking Common Yellowthroat

and talk about stonking - this Glaucous Gull at Westport - the Golden Ponds bird of the year

March - a bit quieter, but a trip to Hungary saw some stunning birds - White-backed Woodpecker

and Black Woodpecker amongst the highlights

April saw Crane finally added to my Staffs list

and my bird of 2012 was also seen in April - at last!

May saw this stunning singing Bluethroat at Doxey

...and our annual late spring trip to Hartlepool Headland, this year for the Orphean Warbler

a few extra Jubilee days off in June saw a fine Roller in East Yorks

.......and a singing Marsh Warbler at Blacktoft

and a twitchable Little Swift on the Wirral

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Saturday 15th December 2012 - More than one Void in my life

It's been a strange week. Following the highs of the successful Suffolk twitch, the week simply petered out with very little birding done due to one reason or another. My house was full of colds and flu, and I was the only fit one left standing (who would have thought that hey!).

On Wednesday I popped in to see the gulls on the Void. The Gull-boys have been putting in some good sessions here recently, turning up one or two nice finds. The 1w Iceland Gull was present, but no sign of any of the Caspian Gulls.

1w Iceland Gull on the Void 12th December 2012

 I paid another visit on Saturday 15th, again seeing the Iceland Gull. It took nearly one and a half hours before DK spotted the 1w Caspian Gull. We also had three Yellow-legged Gulls.

The 1w Iceland Gull again

Above three pictures showing the 1w Caspian Gull on 15th December 

We also saw quite a few darvic rung gulls, most of which we found impossible to read. Its obviously far easier than reading metal rings, but dark red letters on dark blue darvics?

This one we nearly read, but then again it could have been upside down

Two darvics on this, the distance was the problem with this one

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Monday 10th December 2012 - Aldeburgh, Suffolk

News came through late on Saturday evening that someone had photographed a HORNEMANN'S ARCTIC REDPOLL in Suffolk. Its presence was confirmed on Sunday, and by all accounts it was showing extremely well as it fed on the beach. It continued to show all day, and so as we were both free on Monday, I made plans with GAS to head down. He picked me up at 04:00hrs, and we arrived at a dull, windy Aldeburgh at 07:50hrs. For a Monday morning, it was quite surprising that we had no delays en route.

There were only two other birders on site. We soon realised there was no sign so far this morning. We met up and discussed where we though the bird had been and where we thought it might be. I headed south down towards the Martello Tower, while the other birder headed north. GAS stayed in the middle just in case.

I was on the way back up when GAS started ringing and waving frantically at me. However, I'd already noticed the birder who had walked north was now kneeling down and pointing his camera at a bush. I'd got quite a long walk to get back, but I took my time. As I got closer, I thought I'd better have a quick glance at it through my bins in case it flew off. (I learnt this harsh lesson from costly mistakes before. We visited Inner Marsh once to see two Long-billed Dowitchers. All the waders were asleep in front of the hide. Instead of asking someone, I thought I'd test myself and find them all by myself. I started scanning through, and then a Merlin flashed past and flushed the whole flock. The Dowitchers weren't seen again!) As I lifted my bins, the Hornemann's flew off. I watched its white Brambling-type rump disappear off over the houses and drop out of view behind the boat yard. Everyone else had been watching it at point blank range, and I'd had a brief flight view.

We walked around a bit, and then just waited. There was no sign through the fence of the boat yard. Eventually, Rainham Howard refound it. He watched it fly from the boat yard, gain height and fly south down towards the Martello Tower. A few of us walked down, but again there was no sign. It certainly wasn't behaving like it did on Sunday.

I was knackered by this stage and so I just sat in the car. At about 10:30hrs there was still no sign. I stood by the car for a bit, but most birdwatchers were just standing around chatting. The birder in the car behind me started watching a bird high in the sky flying towards him. I managed to follow it and knew immediately it was the Redpoll again. It flew right overhead and carried on towards the boat yard. It landed on a mast, and I shouted to a group of Suffolk birdwatchers in front of me. They decided to walk up the path a bit. It soon dropped off the mast and landed out of view behind the houses again. There was a mass movement towards the town. A group managed to pick it up again on the ground. Some birders tried to find their way behind the houses, others stayed where they were. But it had been lost again.

We decided to stroll back to the beach. We made for the car again. GAS then spotted a birder lying on the beach with the bush just in front of him. It took me a few moments to realise what he was doing. We walked straight up to him and there was the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll feeding away. It was a strange few moments. I presume he was as surprised as the rest of us that it had suddenly returned to its favourite bush. He was snapping away, taking photo's and presumably had forgot to wave to everyone.  

We enjoyed fabulous views of it as it fed a few metres in front of us. Taking photo's was difficult due to the freezing temperatures, and you couldn't take your gloves off for long. It had taken me nearly four hours to see the bird after missing it's first showing!

A few pictures of the Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll in Suffolk

The crowd were quite well behaved except for the one who moved right in front of my scope. I whistled him. He looked at me and carried on snapping away.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Saturday 8th December 2012

Well not a bad week at all. Bored by sitting at home all day, we decided to head to the North Wales coast on Tuesday 4th, not for any thing in particular, just to have a day out. We started off on Anglesey at South Stack. It was incredibly windy, so windy that it almost blew my bins into my eye sockets when I tried to put them up to my eyes. We did see two Chough in the fields on the way up. We saw a Black Guillemot in Holyhead Harbour, but four birds were showing far better in the Fish Quay.

Black Guillemot in the Fish Quay, Holyhead

The tide was on its way in at Penrhos/Beddmanarch Bay, and the only birds of note were two Pale-bellied Brent Geese and two Slavonian Grebes. We popped into Llyn Penryhn at Valley and eventually found the female Long-tailed Duck, but the water was choppy in the strong wind and views weren't great as it dived frequently.
Pale-bellied at Beddmanarch

Then it was back to the mainland for another session at Llandulas in my quest for the SURFIES. I headed straight for the high road this time. Viewing was good, the sun was out, female Common Scoters were easily picked out from the flock and the flock was nice and close in. But there was no sign of any SURF SCOTER for some reason. And worse was to come as we finished the day at  Rhos Point for the PURPLE SANDPIPERS. We planned the day around the high tide just before 14:00hrs. We waited for over an hour but there was not a single wader on the rocks where they usually roost. All the waders were on the breakwater, but not the PURPS. They could have been on the other side of the breakwater, but I'm not up to swimming yet.  

Westport was quite good again this week. On Wednesday 5th, I found a female Common Scoter. Not my first in December at Westport, but when it was still there the following day, it was the first time I'd ever seen a Scoter stay overnight. Eventually it became the longest staying Common Scoter ever at Westport (not hard, as there had only ever been two records previously of birds staying two days). Goosander were also increasing this week, highest count being 16.

Common Scoter by Dave Kelsall

and Goosander by Phil Jones

And so onto Saturday. Unfortunately, yet again, we headed out of Staffordshire. Now I appreciate I haven't been pulling my weight in Staffs recently, but we had a nice tripped planned for Thursday or Friday, and for one reason or another it didn't come off. So we decided, as Staffs was a little bit quiet again, to head to West Yorkshire for the AMERICAN WIGEON.

We were led to believe it was easy to get to Anglers CP near Wakefield, but our sat nav thought differently and it seemed to take ages to get there, twisting and turning through endless country lanes. We finally parked up and walked round to view a fairly smallish lake, only slightly bigger than Westport. In the week, there had been 15 species of duck recorded here, so the challenge was on. We soon found the female Long-tailed Duck(1), plus the drake American Wigeon (2) was feeding with Wigeon (3) on the bank. An immature drake Scaup (4) was asleep with Pochard (5), plus there were plenty of Tufted Duck (6), Goosander (7) and Goldeneye (8) around. We walked round to the hide to get closer views of the American Wigeon, adding Gadwall (9), Teal (10) and Mallard (11) to the list. We did see 11 species in all.

Above two pictures show the American Wigeon

Female Long-tailed Duck

An awesome sleeping Scaup

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Week commencing Sunday 25th November - A review

Well that was my third week off, and towards end I felt that I was walking slightly further now, and in fact I'd managed to visit both of my favourite gravel pits by the weekend.

Being at home for most of the day means I can keep my eye on the garden. On Monday afternoon, I opened the back door and heard a familiar sound - the trilling of 14 Waxwing in a neighbours tree.

A proper photo of Waxwing - not one of your arty-farty berry eating ones!

Westport this week wasn't too bad without being spectatcular; just enough to break my walk up to give me a rest. There were daily records of Goosander, first returning Goldeneye of the winter and Pochard numbers finally reached double figures. On Thursday 29th Nov, a female Mandarin was showing well, swimming around with the Mallard. 

Mandarin at Westport - 3rd record for the year.

On Friday afternoon, we headed to Branston GP's, primarily for the gull roost there. It was my first attempt at walking across the fields there and all went well, although I was pretty tired by the end. That's the most frustrating thing at the moment - walks I used to knock off with out much effort now leave me jaded. Anyway, at Branston, we met up with pits stalwart Jon Woodcock. Unfortunately, the gull roost didn't materialise, but there was a very nice drake Pintail and a Branston GP tick with a magnificant Black Swan! You know you've had a good visit when Black Swan is the highlight.

Black Swan at BGP

On the way back to the car, we witnessed an excellent sunset. Hopefully, the camera managed to capture the tones. It was very atmospheric though.

Sunset looking towards Small Meadows

And so onto Saturday. We decided to plan a full day out again, and the plan was to visit another gravel pit, but I had to watch the amount of walking I did during the day. Westport was alright again, and then GAS came round to pick me up. As I was waiting, news came through from Tittesworth that Steve Gibson had found a GREAT NORTHERN DIVER. This trip filled the morning nicely and we were soon standing on the point in front of the visitor's centre with SG, Bill Brydges and Paul Shenton watching the GND diving frequently. It did eventually come fairly close in and show quite well. This is only the second ever record for GND at Tittesworth, the first record was back in 1985.

The best I could do with the Tittesworth Great Northern Diver

We had a quick drive over the moors, seeing several Red Grouse, but that was all really. The rest of the day was quite quiet with not much to see at all.