Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Saturday 7th June - Bonaparte's Gull at Topsham, Devon

Not much around in Staffordshire so we popped down the M5 to Devon, mainly because the places we visited involved very little walking for GAS. The 1s Bonaparte's Gull showed quite well towards the end of the day. It was a relief to see this gull, as my last three attempts at seeing one in various parts of the country had all ended in failure.

Monday, 9 June 2014

2nd June 2014 - June produces the goods again

Early June is turning out to be a very productive time indeed. And it seems so much more relaxed than the Autumn headless chicken times. Its light till 21:00hrs for a start.

In recent Junes, we've had this
.......on a Monday morning!

...a beautiful Wednesday evening

.....a pleasant Friday evening
....and the unforgettable Monday evening

I thought that it would go quiet again following the Short-toed Eagle twitch. To be honest, I struggled a bit on Monday as I was still tired from Sunday but I coped. I'd completed the work I'd been given and was sitting in the office. My boss then asked if I was owed any time, and at 12:45hrs I headed for home. Just before I set off, I sat in the car and checked my phone. There was a singing SPECTACLED WARBLER in Norfolk. 

Again, I mulled and thought and headed down to Westport. Then, I again thought, what did I do on past twitches, past summer evenings of glory? What was I doing sat at Westport? I rang the good lady wife to see if there was anything planned during the evening, and then I rang GAS to discuss the situation. The week ahead was busy. I'd already dipped a single day SPECTACLED WARBLER in Suffolk in 2008. We decided to head off to Norfolk.

The journey was interesting with the sat nav taking us on a variety of roads to get past Leicester. We arrived at Burnham Overy at 18:00hrs and took the half hour walk to the dunes via the sea wall. We passed plenty of returning birders but there was a small crowd still stood in the distance.

The Spectacled Warbler showed well on occasions during the evening, but for the majority of the time it was out of view and skulking. It did sing several times but by 20:00hrs, we knew we had to head back home. We arrived home at just before midnight, and with work the following day, I knew I would be absolutely knackered. But two ticks in two days - just like the old days again!

The Spectacled Warbler

The distant crowd

The harbour at Burnham Overy

As for the rest of the Clayheads. CJW finished work at midnight on Monday, and stayed up until positive news came on, then he set off. He also survived the scare of it flying off before it returned to its favoured bushes again. PJ had to wait all week until the Saturday before he went down, along with Phill Locker and "Stalker" Ian Burgess.  

Sunday, 8 June 2014

1st June 2014 - Mega Mega white thing

During Saturday morning while we were driving from Spurn to Cleveland, we received news that a SHORT-TOED EAGLE had been photographed in a tree in Dorset. There had been one or two reports of Short-toed Eagles in recent years, and along with multiple BOOTED EAGLE sightings, you tend to just put them to one side and forget about them. Then we saw the photo of it on twitter - it was a genuine sighting this time, but there was no further sign of it after it had flown off at 10:10hrs.

Then, at 14:30hrs, it flew over the site, Morden Bog, again. It was still in the area. Finally, at 17:00hrs, it was found perched in a tree. And there it stayed. We drove all the way back from South Gare with reports of it still sat in the tree.

Now having been out all day on Saturday, I knew there was no chance I would be able to go out on Sunday as well. You just have to accept these things. But on the lonely journey back from Cleveland, you start to think. There was, after all, a SHORT-TOED EAGLE sat roosting in a tree, and almost certainly it would be there in the morning, at first light at least. 

I thought about the CRAG MARTIN error in April when I erred on the Sunday morning. I started to think. What would I have done in the old days? What did I used to do in order to get my list to the size it is today? (300+ if you're interested). Then it came to me. I would try and get permission to go on Sunday. The plan was hatched.

We didn't leave South Gare until 18:00hrs, and it was 22:00hrs before I arrived home. My good lady wife was still up. I'd already prepped her with a little text saying "something had gone and turned up in Dorset." And then gritted my teeth and I just came out with it. I actually told her I was going down to see it, but we'd be back by 10:00hrs, so it wouldn't affect the rest of the day.

She said OK.


I texted CJW, who I'd only just dropped off. I told him my plans. What the hell he said, I'll join you. Then I texted GAS. He agreed as well. We were going to set off at 02:00hrs, and then meant about three hours sleep. Oh my word, the things you do. We'd just been out for 17hrs birding, I'd been driving all day since 05:00hrs, and I was going to have three hours sleep. I'd get over it...eventually I hoped. 

My alarm went off at 01:45hrs. GAS picked me up, and CJW was ready, having not been to bed. I set the sat nav up as I hadn't had chance to do it and hadn't really looked where we were heading, and our arrival time was 06:00hrs. That was a bit later than I hoped; nearly 90mins after sun rise. I told CJW I would do something about it. 

As per usual, the M6 was closed so we headed down the M6 Toll.  The rest of the way was clear, and we arrived at Morden Bog at 05:20hrs. Somehow, I'd managed to knock 40 mins off the estimated travelling time. I wonder how that happened? We parked in the field already full of cars and made our way towards the viewing area. The first birder was already walking back. Don't worry, he said, it was still sat there. Oh, and fog has descended making viewing tricky. Just another thing to worry about!

We joined the crowd of 300+ birders, standing with Stevie Richards, Phill Locker and Phil Andrews. The fog wasn't too bad, and there, sat in the tree, was the SHORT-TOED EAGLE. 

And it just sat there. We were stood about half a mile away. The light slowly improved. It moved its head occasionally, and then it went to sleep. We stood and chatted, started to get bit by the midges, reflected on the crazy last few days and then at 07:00hrs, we headed for home like I'd promised. 

We arrived home only seven minutes late. I was slightly tired later in the day. But it was bloomin well worth it.

The crowd at Morden Bog

The Short-toed Eagle - the 3rd for Britain


Friday, 6 June 2014

Saturday 31st May 2014 - Spurn and Cleveland

The 31st May always traditionally means the end of the month of May, and so we decided to have a trip out of the county to celebrate it. There were, for a change, plenty of destinations to choose from. But the decision was a tough one, so I left it to CJW to ponder, agonise and stress over. There were two ticks for CJW; a ROSS'S GULL in South Devon, but apart from CIRL BUNTING, there wasn't much down there to see, and probably not much chance of a mega turning up in the area. The second tick was the BLACK-HEADED BUNTING in Norfolk. It was a female but again, there was very little else to see in Norfolk. 

The third area, and eventual destination, was the East Coast. There had been a bit of a fall on Friday, with RED-BREASTED FLYCATCHER, 5+ singing ICTERINE WARBLERS, GOLDEN ORIOLE, RED-BACKED SHRIKES, a WOODCHAT SHRIKE and several BEE-EATERS along the coast. It was certainly a good selection, and in the end we decided on quantity over quality. 

We were going to head to Cleveland first for the BEE-EATERS, and work our way down the coast. But I decided that they would probably not appear until it had warmed up a bit (like on the previous day when they appeared at mid day and stayed around all day). So we headed to Spurn first.

As we headed east through Hull, we started to receive news from Spurn. There was an ICTERINE WARBLER still and a GOLDEN ORIOLE at Sammy's Point. As that was where the RBFLY had been, we headed there. 

The car park wasn't full at all on Sammy's Point, and we walked along to the paddocks. We spoke to several of the birders, who all said the GOLDEN ORIOLE had flown off into the distance, and there was no sign of the RBFLY. Not the start we wanted.

We walked back to the car, seeing very few birds at all, and met up with the Clayheads No1 stalker, Ian "the stalker" Burgess. He then told us that as they had driven into the car park, the GOLDEN ORIOLE had flown over their car. We stood around and waited again. We realised that we were only going to get flight views of the ORIOLE. It was going to be just a matter of how long we were prepared to wait.

We soon headed off over to the Warren where the ICTERINE WARBLER had been seen earlier. We met one of the locals (and a very nice man he was too, actually chatted to us), only to be told the ICTERINE WARBLER had been seen earlier in the nets, and not the bushes. Things were slowly unravelling on us. News of a Black Redstart from the canal scrape hide meant that finally we had seen something decent, and it was a fine adult male in full glory. We also saw a Spotted Flycatcher, but that was about it. It was an easy decision to head north to Cleveland, where the BEE-EATERS and WOODCHAT SHRIKE were showing.

The journey north took over two hours, but we were able to enjoy the scenary as we drove past Bridlington, Flamborough, Filey and Scarborough. We headed straight for the Woodchat Shrike at Hummersea. A fine 1st summer bird, showing well on the slopes below us.

A Yellowhammer also showed well

With no further sign of the BEE-EATERS at South Gare, we received news of a RED-BACKED SHRIKE at Saltholme. At least it was something to see and still remaining relatively close, so we headed off to find the Calor Gas pool at Saltholme. Despite being given directions from the visitors centre, we still struggled to find it. By a stroke of fortune, we found a bunch of local birders hidden up a track, and they kindly pointed us in the right direction. We were soon on site, and found a single birder in the distance. As we approached him, he walked further away, so we decided to wait until he walked back to us. We were pleasantly surprised when he did come back and announced that he had indeed been watching the RED-BACKED SHRIKE.  

We followed his directions and stood there. About an hour later, the male Red-backed Shrike finally reappeared. By this stage, there was a crowd of about 20 birders stood with us, including a volunteer from a well known birding organisation. It was quite amusing to watch her as she suggested we cross the railway line and enter the area, then she asked if anyone had a tape of its call. Maybe these large bird organisations are changing their stance a bit! It was certainly a stunning bird to see, and we even had a bit of singing from it. 

We wandered back to South Gare, hoping the BEE-EATERS were going to return, but alas they didn't. We did have a nice flock of 50 Sanderling to watch on the beach, but at 18:00hrs, we headed for home. The journey back was fairly straightforward, and we even stopped and had tea at a service station. Whilst driving there was plenty of time to think and muse.....after all, a mega had turned up in Dorset.  

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

End of May springs into life

Following on from my rather depressing last post, things started to pick up over the Bank Holiday weekend. A LITTLE BITTERN turned up in Greater Manchester, a BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER in North Yorkshire and an adult LONG-TAILED SKUA inland in South Yorkshire. 

I was allowed out mid morning on Bank Holiday Monday, and I devised a plan to see all three, starting off in South Yorkshire. As I was nearing Hatfield Moors, news came through of a BLACK STORK circling around, and I realised I was over the area I was heading for. I decided the skua wasn't going anywhere, so I headed off for the BLACK STORK. Three times I received news as to where it was circling over, but each time, by the time I arrived on site it had drifted off. It was last seen flying north up the river Trent, and that was where I called it day. It was fun to chase it though. 

I headed back to Hatfield Moors, and had received a few directions where to head for. On the way into the car park, I stopped a car and asked him which path to take. I parked up and followed his directions. I walked round Hatfield Moors for nearly one and a half hours before I reached the skua. At one stage, I could see the birders watching the skua, but I still couldn't find the path. Eventually, I saw the full summer plumaged adult Long-tailed Skua. It flew a few times, but basically it just sat there, looking quite moribundish. It was good to know that it did eventually fly off.

The most irritating thing about Hatfield Moor and the total lack of signage, was that it only took me 30 mins to walk back. Unfortunately, due to my BLACK STORK chase and my tour of the entire Hatfield Moor, I'd run out of time and headed home, completely knackered! 

During the week, I finished work early and popped up to Frodsham, where there was a LESSER SCAUP and a summer plumaged RED-NECKED GREBE. Both birds were showing well, and it was an easy, quick trip. At last, there were a few birds around to see. Roll on the weekend, and the last Saturday in May.......

the Frodsham Lesser Scaup (the Tittesworth bird?) 

and the fine s/pl Red-necked Grebe