Saturday, 17 June 2017

Rudi, a message to you

Till next time...

Monday, 12 June 2017

He who dares....

The first week in June is when the not only do the megas strike, but it's the time when the giga's strike - yes they come big this time of year. The birds I've ticked in the first ten days of June trip off the tongue like a mouth watering list of good birds.This year however was slow going. Westport had slipped into summer mode week's ago. There wasn't much to see. 

Last Sunday, 4th June, we popped up to the small village of Davekelsall in Cheshire to see the Iberian Chiffchaff. We weren't disappointed and it sang for us. Nice song.

Iberian Chiffchaff at Davekelsall, Cheshire. By CJW
And so to Saturday 10th. We discussed a few birds to go for and year tick but there was nothing much else nearby for us to create a decent day. So we decided to play safe, stay local and see what happened. The day started off at Westport. And then we went back to the car. To put summer patch working in context, we were quite pleased to see the Greylag Geese had risen from six to eight birds. That was the highlight.

We then headed to the "Chase" to do our survey on our selected area. Sir Roger, for some reason chose Patch 1 for us (for obvious reasons really that I don't really need to go into. Actually Sir Roger has an amazing sense of humour because originally I was paired up with one of the Snake twins!). Patch One has proved tricky this year with only a few highlights. Today, however we struck gold with a pair of Mandarin flying over the bracken. Fantastic sight/site.

As we were walking back to the car following our survey of the area, we received news of an interesting wader species at an RSPB reserve in the SE of the county. Just what we had hoped for. Quick drive down and a nice early finish we thought.

We managed to get down to Middleton Lakes without using the sat nav; quite an incredible feat don't you think. We walked past the Jubilee Wetlands to the next small area of water and sharp eyed CJW found the spinning female Red-necked Phalarope. We stood and watched it until Lord Lichfield decided to go into the "hide" so the he could stand with his photographer mates and discuss light, ISO and shutter noises.

Red-necked Phalarope at Middleton Lakes by NJS

As I stood all alone with no one to chat to cos I've only got one friend now, I received a message. The ELEGANT TERN had been seen again. It was one we'd considered but it was a long way for a bird that had not settled down and had only shown briefly so far.

It was 1200. I ummed, CJW arghed. We pulled faces and then I played the Clayhead motto card. It's not one we use often. But we have on occasions. "He who dares" I said.

We headed off midday on Saturday to the south coast. News was scratchy and infrequent and we went long periods without any updates. We had the bird flying out to sea, lost behind the island and no further signs but we plodded on. CJW exhibited the full range of moods during a tense frantic drive. I just cruised at 85-90mph. Yes it was one of those drives.

As we were only about 20 mins away there was still no further sign in Pagham Harbour. We made a decision to head to Hayling Island instead. We crossed the causeway only for me to spot a message. It was back in Pagham Harbour. We screamed onto the nearest petrol station. Pasties and sausage rolls went flying. We were left with several ice creams on our windscreen. But we didn't care. It was back.

It was only about 20 mins drive away but we knew the car park was full and it was s 10 mile walk from the RSPB car park. We just couldn't risk it. I hurtled through the lanes. It was now CJW's turn to get scared and tell me to slow down. We just kept going. Down the lane, straight past several potential spaces. But we kept going to the full car park.

As we drove in, a car was coming out. Unfortunately someone else dived in. But there was just one more space. A white faced CJW fell out of the car. I gathered my stuff together and hurtled down the path to see a vast crowd stood on the edge. I managed to find the adult Elegant Tern sat on the breakwater and slow CJW ambled along. Bingo. A hand shake. A slap on the back. Grins. Another lifer for CJW and a fine year tick for me. Sorry, didn't I say I've already seen an Elegant Tern in Britain. Oops sorry.

Despite showing rather well on  the breakwater, within seconds it flew back to the island and dropped down into deep vegetation. And that was the pattern for the next two hours or so. A few flight views, a few beak shots and one final fly past for us.

The gambled paid off this time. It's hard to keep going on negative news but we just kept on going.

Never tire of seeing these pictures from Blackdog, Porthmadog in July 2002. In fact, I laminated the sand bank of the above photo and its been my book mark ever since. In the top three of birds I saw in the 00's.

Now then.  As we started to wander away, our leader LGRE shouted me. "What's all this about you supressing loads of stuff and falling out with everyone". They were his words. We explained the one time recently that SBN (of which now I am no longer involved in at all. I've just had enough) did suppress something as part of a group decision with the finders but that was all. So if you have the balls to talk about me to LGRE why not come and talk to me or ring me and I will put my side if the story. You know my number.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

3rd June 2017 - WMBC outing to Somerset

We decided we wanted to close the gap in the big year listing competition with Tony "Big List" Jackson and "Big" Dave Robinson, as the gap was nearly up to 70. We planned a trip down to Somerset, where we hoped we would add a few to our list and catch the retired boys on the hop.

CJW agreed to drive and I was stood outside my house waiting for him to arrive. Another car came down the street. It was driving quite slowly and was looking at all houses, as though he was looking for someone. Then I saw his face and instantly recognised him. It was The Stalker! He stopped and sat there. I carefully gathered my gear together and managed to sit in the back without him noticing. Then CJW drove down. I attracted his attention and we were both sat in The Stalkers car without him even knowing. Finally, we were stalking The Stalker!

We were hoping he was going out birding and not to work, and we were quite pleased when his first stop was at a secret site. We followed him down a path of some sort, through some sort of habitat and there was the target bird. A good start to the day. The sky was blue, and it was warming up nicely.  

We managed to get back in the car, and waited for the next location. It was Alvecote Pools and we stood behind The Stalker as the Corncrake started rasping away. It was all going too well.

The Stalker then headed down the M5. Just as he entered the fast lane and hit 70mph we decided to jump up, shout, and announce our presence.

We managed to get the car off the embankment and back onto the motorway and carried on down to Somerset and a return visit to Ham Wall. Our forward party of Phil, Phil and Ged were already on site, staking the birds out so we didn't have to do any work ourselves. We parked up, marched down to the far end and following a lengthy session of barking, the male Little Bittern came to the top of the reeds and showed well.

Lord Lichfield at his best

First year tick in the bag, and as usual, the birding at Ham Wall was fabulous. We saw a fly over Cattle Egret, a Bittern in flight and a Bearded Tit. It really is up there on par with Westport. We headed back towards the car and disaster struck. We already knew from our drone cam that "Big List" Jackson and err Big Dave had been to Gloucestershire to see the Hoopoe. We didn't know where they were heading next. Imagine our horror when we saw the pair, along with third member Gladwyn walking along the path. We stopped and spoke briefly. They had already seen the Red-footed Falcon from the car, but we just blurted out we didn't need that as we were already on 310 for the year. The look on their faces was a treat. Off they ran, squabbling amongst themselves.

Following a call from Martyn Yapp, we met up on the car park with Mrs Yapp, Jules and "Tame" Tom Perrins and started looking for the distant RFF. We did have two Hobby and a glimpse of the RFF, but it wasn't until Jules rang us to say it was showing from the bridge that we had corking full frame views. Second year tick in the bag.

The immature female Red footed Falcon sat on the branch on the right

We had a quick check on the Meare Heath pool, dipping the Glossy Ibis but seeing two crisp drake Garganey. Finally tally was eight GWE, a Little Bittern, a Bittern, a Cattle Egret, two Garganey and a Red-footed Falcon. Not bad at all.

We headed back up the M5 towards Gloucestershire. We got stuck in a bit of traffic as it was the end of half term, but we were soon on site at Cranham Common. It looked like a classic butterfly site like ones we'd visited before, but there were none to be seen. We did see a few orchids, but as we were looking, someone whistled from up the slope, and the Hoopoe had been refound. Five target birds - five birds seen. But more importantly, we'd reduced the gap on "Big List" Jackson by one.