Sunday, 29 March 2015

27th March 2015 - Iceland Gull and Surf Scoter North Wales

Having earned enough Brownie points during my week off to last me until the end of the month at least, I made a quick trip to North Wales with my friends Jack Jones and Bill Nomatez. First stop was at Pensarn for the Iceland Gull that comes to bread in the car park. At first it was on the beach acting like a real gull, but as soon as more cars arrived, it came closer and showed rather well. So in true photographer fashion, here are 40 photos of an Iceland Gull. Skip through when you get bored.


  Iceland Gull at Pensarn

Next stop on my mini tour was Old Colwyn Bay, just down from the Rainbow Bridge. The light was good today, the sea was calm and amazingly the Scoter flock was close in. I've never seen such a large flock so close before. A quick scan through revealed ......then I had a better look. I soon found a drake Surf Scoter but it quickly disappeared. Later, I found two drakes and a female and these allowed better views. Eventually, the whole flock flew, revealing five Velvet Scoters.  As they showed so well, I managed to video the Surf Scoter. Hopefully this video will give you hours of fun and replicate what it's like to grill the North Welsh scoter flock.

Also I managed to take some stunning photos, almost to the same standard as the Surf Scoter off Filey earlier this year that showed so well.


 Surf Scoters showing well of North Wales coast

 Final stop of the day was at Cop Mere in Staffs for the drake Garganey. Unfortunately it was quite elusive at the far end, but I did manage the one "Steve Seal" full framer. 

Any of the photographs that appear in this blog are available to buy. Just send a cheque for £50 and I will print them off for you on white A4 paper bought from Morrisons.

Monday, 23 March 2015

20th March 2015 - Harlequin in Aberdeen

CJW and I were fortunate to have a few days off and we fancied a short break in Scotland. We made plans, came up with a few ideas, then we changed them and decided to day trip Aberdeen again. The HARLEQUIN had started to show again on a fairly regular basis and following our unsuccessful trip to Aberdeen at the end of February, we set off an hour earlier than before.

I picked CJW up at 01:00hrs and getting up at this time of day really does hurt. The journey up this time was so different to last time. On our first trip, we couldn't get on to the M6 at J16 or J17, and so we had a tour of Crewe and Sandbach at 03:00hrs in the morning. Then, once we got going, the M6 was shut around Preston. These slight detours added about 40 mins to our journey. Today, the M6 was completely incident free. I drove up to Perth and after four hours driving, CJW took over and completed the journey. We arrived in Aberdeen at 07:10hrs.

Oddly enough, we were the only car parked in the car park in Seaton Park, and we were the only birders on site. There was no sign of the HARLEQUIN on the river around the toilet block, and so we made our way downstream. This was where most of the sightings had come from at the start of the day. Around every bend we scanned expectantly, but there was still no sign. We came to the last bend before the path climbed up and away and I climbed down on to the beach so that I could look round the final bend. Two Mallard swam out of some vegetation and on my next scan I saw a bluish duck with white spots on his face. He was just sitting there and had seen me. CJW was some way back and so I walked back up on to the path, hoping the Harlequin would settle and not fly off. Unaware that I'd seen it, I waved to CJW and tried to ask him to bring my scope down to me. Charades aren't my strong point but he eventually twigged on. As he walked towards me I punched the air with delight. We'd finally caught up with the Harlequin.

We were surprised at how wary the bird was, and within a few minutes it took off and flew upstream. We were worried that it would totally disappear again like last time, and as we walked back up to the toilet block, there was no further sign.

CJW went back to the car and drove to Papermill Drive, and I walked upstream towards the rapids. Again, my first scan drew a blank. I decided to climb around the security fence put there to stop you climbing round and I was able to look further up stream. And there was the 1w drake Harlequin feeding away, swimming against the flow and diving frequently. Again, he was very wary, and so I backed off and waited for CJW to arrive. It fed for a short while longer then swam up the rapids and sat with only its head showing.

And so it remained. From 08:30hrs until 10:00hrs it never moved from that spot. During this time, we had the amazing double spectacle of watching the solar eclipse downstream or a roosting Harlequin upstream. The eclipse was quite spectacular. Unfortunately it was a little bit cloudy, but that made it possible to view the sun when the clouds were thin. As we were so far north, the eclipse was 98% complete.



 It sat here for at least an hour and a half.

   The River Don

 The solar eclipse at Aberdeen.

Now I took the following photo and I was going to label it as the big twitch, showing the crowd on site while we were there......

....and it suddenly dawned on me. When I saw my first Harlequin, I took the following photo showing the crowd that was present on that day too....

...and there you have it. Both Harlequins I've seen were in a crowd of just two people.

and the Lewis female Harlequin seen in March 2004. 

And by special request, a song for everyone to enjoy.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

14th March 2015 - Penduline Tit in Devon

Despite finishing work at midnight on Friday, CJW was still desperate to go on another trip so he could get closer to that mythical magical @NGBirders200 Club. We'd only had one trip since the Laughing Gull trip, and that was a harsh dip in Aberdeen when the HARLEQUIN DUCK decided to fly upstream earlier than usual and did not return all day. We spent 8.5hrs walking up and down the stream. We took the dip on the chin because we're hard seasoned birders and we've dipped before. 

We'd also dipped on the wintering PENDULINE TITS in Devon earlier in the year, but with frequent reports during the week, we decided to pay another visit. We arrived at Darts Farm RSPB at just after 08:00hrs and set ourselves up and waited. Most reports during the week were for mid-morning, and we were prepared to wait. First up was a flock of eight Sand Martins which we thought would herald the start of summer migrants whizzing through the site. However, they were the only ones we saw at the site.      

Next big surprise was when Ian, the Clayheads No1 Stalker turned up with his crew. North Staffs boys easily outnumbered Devon birders in the hide from then on.

At 10:45hrs, I spotted some photographers (who had been kindly asked if they could come away from the edge of the reed bed!) getting agitated and the two Penduline Tits had finally appeared. They showed incredibly well and they were worth waiting for.

 This Water Rail showed well in front of the hide


 Penduline Tit at Darts Farm RSPB
  The reed bed as from the hide/shelter

We headed down to the Bowling Green Marsh but we couldn't find anywhere to park. We drove round to Exminster Marshes instead. We found the last space in the car park and walked down the river bank to the Turf Hotel. Here were found the 600 Brent Geese, and together with a local birder we scanned through looking for the BLACK BRANT. There was no sign, and to make matters worse they kept getting flushed by some invisible force. Eventually they all decided to fly and land on the water. We searched again and we finally found the Black Brant swimming at the front of the flock. The flock slowly came closer and we had good views. Amazingly, this is my first ever Black Brant....outside the county of Norfolk!


 Black Brant in Devon

CJW taking a photo of his scope

The Brent Goose flock showing quite well off the Turf Hotel.