Friday, 18 November 2016

Hooded Merganser Kilbirnie Loch, Ayrshire

On Saturday 12th November, we made a quick dash up the M6 / M74 to Ayrshire to see the relocated drake Hooded Merganser, arriving just west of Glasgow by 08:30hrs. We both did think that this was a bit of a mad-one, but a tick is a tick, and we both needed it for our various lists. For me, it was a welcome Ayrshire tick. This fine drake was feeding with a small flock of Goosander, always keeping its distance from us.

Kilbirnie Loch

At 09:00hrs we headed back home (as I had to be out by 17:30hrs), calling in Carlisle on the way south to see a flock of 31 Waxwings. Amazingly, these are only my third ever Waxwings outside of Staffs, and my first since 2012 (#Octogontastic #painsinchest)

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Cliff Swallow in Suffolk November 2016

It was late Friday afternoon and I was trying to organise a trip for the following day. CJW was working till midnight and so the usual plan was to head off after I'd done Westport. The idea was to try and find some LITTLE AUKS somewhere.

Then it all went crazy. First news came from Minsmere that a possible CLIFF SWALLOW was present near to the Sand Martin colony. It was later confirmed and was seen to go to roost in the reed bed. 

Then moments later, a photograph was posted on Facebook of an EYEBROWED THRUSH in Northumberland. 

So it became a simple toss up between a tick in the north, or a tick in the south. Luckily, CJW had seen the 1964 Eyebrowed Thrush on St Agnes when visiting Aunt Hilda (Quick). He was also heavily involved in the 1983 Cliff Swallow sighting on St Mary's. Apparently, his birding pal Cliff Waller was on the Garrison but CJW couldn't keep up with him as he was walking too fast. So he used his radio to try and get him to wait and shouted Cliff Waller on the Garrison. Unfortunately this was misheard and everyone charged up looking for a CLIFF SWALLOW. CJW panicked and just pointed to a Herring Gull in the distance and everyone was happy. 

Anyway I digress. It was a tough decision but in the end I felt there was a better chance of seeing the CLIFF SWALLOW than the thrush. It's not often you have to choose between two ticks. I picked CJW up at 04:00hrs. He was sat on his doorstep dressed in his favourite gnome onesie having not even been to bed.

We headed off into the darkness. The car was soon full of the sound of snoring. I looked at CJW, he looked at me and we realised that we were both awake. I suddenly checked my mirror and there, sat asleep on the back seat was the Clayheads No.1 stalker, aka The Stalker! We couldn't believe it. He'd somehow managed to get into the car unnoticed. We made a plan to stop at a service station and roll him out while he was still asleep.

The journey was fantastic, and it was soon getting light as we hurtled across Suffolk. I was a bit concerned that we were due to arrive at 07:45hrs, well after it had become light. Then my fears were confirmed. It had been seen at 07:20hrs over the visitors centre but then had flown south. 

I expertly drove us through the lanes which were fortunately quiet, allowing me the choice of either side of the road. We screeched (not true - just for dramatic effect) into the car park and birders were running. We quickly got our stuff together and were soon walking briskly down to the far end. All the birders were stood in the Stone-curlew field and the Cliff Swallow was perched in a bush. After a bit of manoeuvring, we eventually clapped eyes on this North American waif (reading too many blogs i guess).

Early morning and it was sat in a bush

Quite a decent turn out

CJW and The Stalker

Spent much of the time facing away from us

Cliff Swallow at Minsmere
In the cool morning air it sat still for some time, but as the morning warmed up, it became more active and eventually started flying around. It looked like a huge Sand Martin on steriods and with its obvious pale rump, for most it was easy to pick out from the eight Swallows it was flying around with.  

It flew off south again, and following a quick refreshment break, we headed onto the reserve to do a spot of birdwatching. We had already met up with Dr Steve Richards (and @CWG Ian were the only Staffs birders we met!) and so the four of us (yes The Stalker was still with us) enjoyed not a bad walk around. There were five Bewick's Swans knocking around, a Purple Sandpiper, a Snow Bunting flew up the beach plus a few waders - Grey Plover and Spotted Redshank. All quite pleasant. We wandered back to the Stone-curlew field and enjoyed more excellent views of the Cliff Swallow as it flew overhead.

Third tick of an excellent Autumn - you can't complain at that.

Video by CJW and background comments made by various people stood around.

We wish to congratulate Dr Steve Richards on his new title of Doctor would you believe and we hope that you will all address him now in the correct way. As a special favour, he requested his favourite song. Enjoy listening and have a great dance around the room to this! Let's rock. 

(Not sure if this is the official video or not. Don't remember seeing this on TOTP).

Eastern Black Redstart in Cleveland October 2016

Well just when we though Autumn was fizzling out and we'd had our last tick, it suddenly went busy again. On Sunday 30th October, I made a solo trip to Cleveland where I saw my second British Eastern Black Redstart at the odd coastal village of Skinningrove. We'd passed through this place previously in 2014 or 2015 en route from Spurn to somewhere and was struck by this place then. You'll have to pop in and see for yourself. The EBR was showing quite well on the rocks. I was going to see the Co. Durham ISABELLINE SHRIKE as well but it was over an hour away so I headed for home.
Eastern Black Redstart in Cleveland
On the way home, I popped into Blithfield following a phone call to Richard "Dickie" Powell to confirm the Grey Phalarope was still present. Amazingly, this was my first Grey Phal in Staffs for eight years. 

On Monday 31st October, CJW having worked all weekend headed off to Cleveland to repeated my trip. Unfortunately the PIED WHEATEAR had disappeared in the night, but he did see the EBR. As he was watching it, news came on of a BROWN SHRIKE at Spurn. CJW decided to make the short journey down the coast. After a journey of nearly six hours, stuck for the entire trip behind a cyclist who refused to let him overtake, CJW arrived at and managed to get another tick. He also saw little Tommy Ticker there - the ticker who goes for every giga that comes on but doesn't do any other birding at all. What a fantastic effort by Tommy! (we'll chat about the Woolston White-crowned Sparrow one day Tommy don't worry).

The first after work twitch since the clocks changed was to Tittesworth on 2nd November for the Purple Sandpiper there - a nice addition to my North Staffs list. Unfortunately i headed over to Blithfield when a Velvet Scoter was reported but it didn't stay long - exactly like the last one. I'm stuck on 199 species still for Blithfield!