Sunday, 15 May 2016

Great Spotted Cuckoo in Dorset - May 14th 2016

A GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO was found on Portland on Friday 13th May and was present all day, feeding on newly emerged caterpillars. CJW was in charge of trip co-ordination this week as following his week at work, he could still think logically whereas I was frazzled. He decided to play safe with his decision, and we headed to Westport at 05:50hrs.  

We had only been walking around the lake for about half an hour when news came that it had stayed overnight and was still present. CJW hastily made the decision and we set off for Dorset, leaving Westport at 06:45hrs. The motorways were quiet and we made good progress. However the problem was the total lack of news coming from Portland. After this initial sighting, there was no news at all until 08:50hrs, by which time we were already in Somerset. 

We made it safely onto the Isle of Portland, reminiscing about our last visit here in 2013.  We parked up on a small housing estate and walked along the footpath to view the paddocks, along with c40 other birders. We were soon watching the Great Spotted Cuckoo as it perched in view on occasions before dropping out of view. But it wasn't until a bit of clever marshalling of those dastardly photographers that allowed the bird to fly to its favoured feeding area and we had excellent views.

We had been watching the Cuckoo for over an hour, and we decided to head off down to the Bill for a spot of sea watching. Apart from a few Razorbills, Guillemots, Gannets and Fulmars going past, it was extremely quiet. We did have very good views of a Whimbrel though as it fed just in front of us.

We made a quick visit to Lodmoor to see if the RED-RUMPED SWALLOW was still knocking around, but there had been no sign for well over an hour. We did enjoy seeing a full summer plumaged Grey Plover and a s/pl Knot that were on one of the pools. Amazingly, this is my first ever visit to Lodmoor without a tick!

And so completed another succesful day for CJW. In fact, he has now seen all the British Cuckoos. And for those hell bent on just seeing a bird once and then never ever seeing one again because its been ticked off, here are a few more photos for you to slobber over.

My first Great Spotted Cuckoo on Spurn in July 2003
My second in Norfolk in August 2009

And now my third in Dorset in 2016

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Rufous Turtle Dove in Kent - 7th May 2016

The trip to see the Kentish Plover in Manchester was unplanned, but our trip to Kent for the RUFOUS TURTLE DOVE had been thought about for quite sometime. Eventually it had been pinned down and was showing on a regular basis. However, once it showed it had a tendency to disappear for the whole of the day and not return until early evening. We hoped to be successful at the first time of asking. I picked CJW up at 03:30hrs; not bad going for someone who'd finished work at midnight. 

The journey down had the same difficulties as usual. We had to come off the M6 and divert through Penkridge, then with another section further down closed as well, CJW suggested we headed down the toll road instead. This saved about fifteen minutes off the journey and we arrived in Otford, Kent at 06:45hrs. We were told the Rufous Turtle Dove. had been seen already, and we'd only waited about five minutes for it to reappear in the tree. A tick for CJW and the gamble had paid off. A bitter sweet moment for me as well, after dipping the Rufous Turtle Dove on Orkney in 2002. We watched it for about half an hour and then it dropped out of sight. Birders were still arriving (why not do a bit of homework you novices), but there was no further sign of it again until 16:45hrs

First views were similar to those we had in Oxfordshire for the Oriental Turtle Dove

Rufous Turtle Dove in Kent - the closest I've had to a tick so far this year.
It's always nice to get the day off to a good start. We now had two choices. Either stay in Kent and visit a few sites or head up to Bedfordshire. It was an easy choice and we were soon heading up the M1 to Lidlington in Bedfordshire for the now very well known site for the LADY AMHERST'S PHEASANT. On my last visits to the site in 2012, it was a totally different story. The site was only known to a small few and you had to "be in position" under the cover of darkness. It was an amazing bit of fun though. 

We were soon up to date with what had happened on site already, and basically it had just been seen once and was possibly heading up the slope to the ride. That's where we positioned ourselves and waited. Then it started calling frequently and we were able to pin point the rough area where it was. With a bit of scanning and field craft, one sharped eyed experience birder managed to see the Lady A's and the majority of the crowd were able to get on to it; including CJW for his second tick. It was so good to see the Bedfordshire Lady Amherst's Pheasants again - so much better than the released and sustained Welsh birds at Halkyn which still had the price tag on from PheasantsRUs from where they were bought.

Next stop was a little further up the motorway. Cheshire actually where two Whiskered Terns had spent the day at Elton Hall Flash. It was quite a journey, and we were started to flag a little bit by this stage. But we arrived at 13:25hrs and we were the only birders who'd made it from Kent on site. (I'm guessing this bit but it's a safe bet). The terns did show quite nicely indeed.

Whiskered Tern Elton Hall Flash Cheshire

Kentish Plover at Audenshaw Res

Well hello everyone. It's nice to be back and thanks for the many thousands of letters and emails asking when the next blog would be done. To be honest this spring I've found birding a little bit difficult and I haven't really seen much. I've been out every sodding weekend trying to see birds but this spring has so far been like flogging a dead horse. Just too many unproductive weekends. 

Take the recent WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW at Woolston Eyes. We were heading to North Wales when news broke and so we carried on up the M6 and popped in. We only just missed a sighting but we stood around waiting and watching. Then a young lad turned up and found it. He shouted out mumbled directions and someone else then took over with detailed directions to one bird moving up through the tree. We all spotted this bird, and pointed out it was a male Blackcap. And that was it. The twitch faded and we left. Headed home having seen nothing. Here's one I saw earlier.

White-crowned Sparrow at Cley. January 2008
So what actually did I see in April? Well there was a Spoonbill in Shropshire, a self found Black-necked Grebe at Branston and a fabulous full summer plumaged Black-throated Diver were the highlights.

Black-necked Grebe at Branston GP 9th April 2016
S/pl Black-throated Diver at Blithfield 10th April 2016
And so to May. The first bank holiday weekend was limp. Then on Friday 6th, the Audenshaw KENTISH PLOVER mysteriously reappeared. PJ offered me a lift and off we tootled on a Friday afternoon up to Manchester. The journey up wasn't too bad to be honest and we even had the thrill of climbing through a fence to get into the permit holders only reservoirs. This was more like it. A bit of excitement and a Manchester tick to boot. We walked past the adult s/pl Little Stint and carried on round  past No1, then past No2 and along to No3. Well actually someone pointed where the Kentish Plover was on the far bank. And when we arrived it was showing a real treat. An excellent addition to my Manchester list.

Kentish Plover at Audenshaw Resvs

Little Stint