Tuesday, 26 May 2015

23rd May 2015 - Dukes in Gloucestershire

With summer nearly upon us, it's time to revert to a bit of butterfly ticking again. First on the list this year was the Duke, and local butterfly site guru DK kindly staked a site out in Gloucestershire for us. The forecast was touch and go all week, but it the end it turned out to be warm and sunny. Within minutes we were watching a male Duke sitting on a bramble with wings spread. There was a female nearby too plus plenty of Brown Argus and a few Common Blues. 

Duke of Burgundy

Common Blue
Brown Argus
Next stop was at Strawberry Banks where this year there had been a bumper crop of Marsh Fritillaries hatched. In fact, there were so many you had to be careful and not tred on them. Also a Green Hairstreak here.  

Amazing numbers were seen

Strawberry Banks

This one may have seen better days but was still able to fly
Just the one Green Hairstreak present

Sunday, 24 May 2015

The rest of May 2015

A quick blog to cover the rest of May, which following the recent fairly hectic spell during Spring, quietened down a bit.

My first butterfly tick of the year was this Dingy Skipper at the Void
A trip out on 16th May to Blacktoft Sands in Yorks to see the breeding Montagu's Harriers

We had to wait over an hour before the male came in to feed the female

Another excellent video below, this one has a nice commentary in the background by a typical visitor to an RSPB reserve. 

Next stop a Temminck's Stint at the impressive North Cave Wetlands

There was also a Wood Sandpiper, shown here with the Temminck's as well.

CJW, "Grizzly" and pops. The other bloke chatted to us but was not part of our group

Last stop was at Anglers CP, Wakefield for a special Lesser Scaup that slept most of the time

Special because its my first one since it had the official BBRC rare status removed

and when it woke, it revealed its nasal band added to it on a trip to Portugal

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Citril Finch, Norfolk - May 10th 2015

After the recent hectic period - one trip to the Scilly Isles and two trips to Somerset - things quietened down a bit over the Bank Holiday weekend. I wasn't able to go for the Manchester/Derbs Red-throated Pipit which would have been nice to see but you just have to accept these things. 

On Saturday 9th May we had our first trip in Staffordshire for almost a month and it was incredibly hard going. The highlights of nearly ten hours in the field were a Lesser Whitethroat at Westport (5th record in ten years) and eight Dunlin at Branston. These were the only new birds we found during the day.

And so Sunday started off as normal with a visit to Westport. I'd got a busy day planned, with my usual Sunday jobs plus finding my lawns again following a few weeks of damp weather. We'd also discussed going to Wrexham to look for butterflies when I'd finished. Just as I started to think about going outside to set my mower up, I decided I'd better have one last look at my phone. One message caught my eye. It was a CITRIL FINCH in Norfolk. Calmly I texted the news to PJ and CJW. CJW replied with an "Argh". And that's exactly how it felt. A quick ring round to all concerned, permission from the boss obtained and within about thirty minutes of news breaking we were on the road.

This was all for a bird that up to now, had only been seen briefly in flight. It was a huge gamble, but the Clayheads new motto is "He who dares...". As PJ drove, there were a few more flight views messages and long periods of no news, but it wasn't until about 11:00hrs that it was finally seen on the ground. All the while, I just kept thinking that it was Norfolk, and it would soon have a large crowd tracking its every move. At 12:00hrs, it finally showed well, but we didn't arrive until after 13:30hrs. We made the long walk past Holkham pines and to the start of the dunes again knowing it had been showing, but it had flown off again.

We stood in the dunes and there were birders milling all over the place. We hadn't been standing there for long when a crowd started walking towards us. Apparently the Citril Finch had flown over our heads and dropped down. We all gathered round a large valley and the group on the opposite side were soon pointing. Just in front of us and down the slope was the male Citril Finch feeding away in the sand. We were having views that we only dreamt about while we were travelling over. The only problem I was having was people in front of me blocking my view. I eventually walked down into the valley and had slightly better views but still with people getting in my way.

The crowd at the Citril Finch twitch


Citril Finch, Burnham Overy Dunes, Norfolk. May 10th 2015
Citril Finch by Phil Jones

Eventually it flew off and we had a leisurely walk back to the car, watching all the red faced walkers on their way to the twitch. We reassured them that there were only another two miles to walk.

A sign of a good twitch
 Following a short break, we headed over to Choseley Drying Barns where we saw 18 Dotterel in a field to cap off another fine, but totally unexpected day. Its turning out to be quite a decent spring.

Full frame Dotterel photos from Choseley
Chris, Philip and Richard all basking in the late afternoon sun watching Dotterel
PJ performed magnificantly was doing all the driving. The conversation eventually turned to Haircut 100 as it usually does on long journeys. And so here is a song by them.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Hudsonian Godwit, Somerset April / May 2015

It all began while we were waiting for the ticket office to open in Penzance for our crossing over to the Scilly Isles for the Great Blue Heron. As we sat there, news started filtering out of a possible HUDSONIAN GODWIT in Somerset. It was the first news of the day, and we all thought that maybe nothing would come of it. I think it was RBA who mega'd it first, and then it started to dawn on us all, there was a HUDSONIAN GODWIT in Somerset, and we were all going off to sea.

We had other things to concentrate on while we were on Bryher, but at the backs of our minds, we knew all the mainland birders were ticking their very own mega. We decided that if it was still present at dusk, we would pretend the Scillonian had landed even later than planned, then drive up to Somerset, kip in the car and wait for first light. We would be home, hopefully, at about 09:00hrs. We were all agreed on the plan

Then as we were wandering to Lower Moors, we caught up with Mick Hurst and crew again, and he told us that the HUDWIT had flown off. Slightly gutted by this, we then had to make the decision as to whether we still went or not, hoping that it would fly in again. As CJW had seen the 1983 bird at Blacktoft, he left the decision to me. On the crossing back over to Penzance, I checked all my options, did my research, listened to the other birders on board (including Somerset birders who said the Godwits always return to that scrape) and decided I risk it and head for home. 

Following just over three hours sleep, I did my usual walk around Westport. Only this time, everytime my phone beeped I was dreading what I was about to read. But, as the visit went on, there was still no sign of the HUDWIT. There were mixed feelings I suppose. Firstly I made the correct decision not to go, but on the otherhand, it looked like we'd missed out on a very good tick.

And that was the end of that. 

Until Wednesday 29th April when news started filtering through that it had returned mid morning. Eventually it was confirmed and I started making plans. I knew I had to move quickly before it flew off again. However, Wednesday was a work day and I was busy after work. It flew off again at 20:05hrs, but it returned again on Thursday morning. I managed to leave work at 14:45hrs, arriving in Somerset at 18:00hrs. It was a cracking drive down; full of tension with periods of no updates and then stuck in traffic with less than 20 miles to go. 

I parked up and walked briskly to the scrape, meeting Hughie King walking back to his car. He reassured me that it wasn't going anywhere but I didn't slow down; not even for Hughie (sorry if I appeared abrupt hughie!).

And there is was, feeding away. The Hudsonian Godwit showed well for most of the evening, feeding away, and later on it flew even closer to us. It was a beautiful sunny evening. Cetti's Warblers were singing all around and a drake Garganey on the same pit was a nice addition. It had been a busy few days and two ticks in April was my first time in ten years.

Drake Garganey - a must on a Spring evening

Meare Heath NR

Nice pic with a possible confusion sp - a fem Gadwall

Hudsonian Godwit showing well late evening

Nice to see young Chris there tonight

Post Script

The reason I  was unable to go down on the Wednesday evening to see the Hudwit was that I was picking GAS up from hospital, having spent a few weeks or three having his meals cooked for him in a nice ensuite room. We had a practise walk around Westport on the Friday, and once news came through on Saturday I picked him up and we headed back down to Somerset (my 3rd time down the M5 in 8 days). It was quite an easy twitch, and the Hudwit was asleep with the flock on our arrival. Pop's 2nd tick of the year and his first trip out since the Laughing Gull at the beginning of February.