Thursday, 30 September 2010

A true migrant drops in unexpectedly!

A rather scruffy Redwing that we caught in Iceland this year for reference

The other day whilst walking from my halls of residence at Bangor university, on my way to my first lecture of the semester, a characteristic autumn sound rang out through my ears. 'Seep seep' and low and behold, a Redwing passed over rather high, but what happened next was rather shocking. Watching the Redwing fly over a nearby hall, it dropped suddenly for no apparent reason towards another building and headed straight for it! I was rather stunned when it flew directly into a student's window, bounced off and fell with a twisted action down to the ground and into a bush.

Now.. This may sound rather ridiculous to you but this is no joke! A brief investigation in the bush revealed no Redwing, however I opted for a few seconds look as the bird had landed below a student's room and they wouldn't have liked someone poking outsde there window at 8:40 in the morning I don't think.. I never went back for another look for the bird, with lectures literally from 9am straight through til 4pm each day, there wasn't time really. It may still be lieing there now or may have recovered but somehow I doubt it.

Further on, in my walk, another Redwing flew over, outside my lecture room, high again and kept on going.. It had me wondering what else had dropped in that morning..

Other news that has been on mind recently has been the several mega birds seen in Britain lately. The Alder flycatcher at Blakeney point in Norfolk and the Northern Parula in Tiree/Argyll. The Parula in particular being my no.1 bird to see In Britain and both birds could have been on my British list, but this year I opted to concentrate on university.. Both have now moved off and its back to looking for yearticks to catch up with my realistic target of 280 for 2010. Cheers for now.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

*Urgent help needed for Latvian Whooper Swan Research*

Last night I recieved an important email from Kane, regarding Whooper swan research in Latvia! Having worked with whoopers out in Iceland this summer, I thought it neccessary to help out with this project. An on-going study is underway in Latvia, unfortunately the funds for this are running low for next year. The study is run by Dmitrijs Boiko, the co-ordinator in Latvia for this colour-ringing project on the whoopers..

I am asking all blog follwers and anyone who keeps in touch with my blog, to help out and vote for Dmitrijs Boiko, so that the funds can be acheived, in order to carry out this much needed research on Whooper swans for the next few years. This is a really worth cause as there is still lots that we don't know about these whoopers and more can be learned with your vote! If you vote, you will be contributing to the future research of the latvian Whooper swans.

These funds, acheived with the help of your vote, will enable the study to carry out migrating swan counting in the spring and autumn, counting the breeding whoopers in the summer and swan ringing. Please take a few mintues of your time to vote, with these simple and easy to follow instructions below.

- All people who possess a mobile phone can contribute to the continuation of the project. Please click here

Once you have clicked on the link, a box will appear in Latvian writing like so..

Please then enter your mobile number into the black box and click it. Most importantly, you will need to add 0044 before your mobile number. Example - 00447893 657845, and then click the black box. The screen will then change and another box will appear like so, with your mobile number in the correct form. You will then immediately recieve a text message with a vote code. Please enter that code into ''Unikalais kods'' and click the black box again.

The screen will then appear with a green tick at the top of the page and you will have completed the voting. You will have successfully voted for the continuous research on the whooper swans in Latvia.

Huge thanks to all who take-part. Please feel free to leave a comment so that I can keep track and see how many people have taken part. Cheers for now..

Rarities driving me mad!!!

In Britain at the moment...

Northern Parula on Tiree - Argyll
Alder/Willow/Yellow-Bellied flycatcher - Norfolk - Blakeney point
Western Bonelli's warbler - Norfolk - Stiffkey
White's thrush - Shetland - Sandwick

I am currently trying to control the emotions running through my head at the moment! Northern Parula for a start, is my no.1 bird to see in Britain, the flycatcher species would just be idyllic to see, the warbler isn't annoying me too much as they seem to be quite regular these days and White's Thrush is no.3 on my top 5 birds to see in Britain.

After much heart-ache, they have been put aside for now and today has been a relaxed and non-stressful day for once.

So.... Early this morning, I was up at first light around 7am to check if the Alder, Willow or Yellow-Bellied flycatcher was still present at Blakeney point in Norfolk. This morning, it was rather shocking to see that it was still there after being reported last night, as 'no sign'! The familiar heart-ache soon hit home, realising that I could have seen this bird today. Now presumed to be a Alder/Willow flycatcher and still present in the plantation at Blakeney point/Norfolk; as I write this post! Today I could have seen Alder/Willow flycatcher, a Bonelli's warbler species and a Radde's warbler all in Norfolk. Sadly, I have been stuck in Bangor all day, getting various jobs done that I have been wanting to finish for a long while! I suppose an opportunity may arise sometime this week for me to twitch it, but we will have to wait and see what the bird decides to do.

Mid-afternoon and it was time for a break, so a short 4 mile along the North Wales coast for a few hours did the job. Having missed high tide, the waders were all distant and nothing much else was about. Although a flock of 25 Greenfinch moved north overhead and headed out over to Puffin island - interesting.

Worst of all was finding a dead Razorbill on the beach at Porth Penrhyn, which looked rather fresh I have to say and more than likely got blown in with these strong winds over the weekend.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Lapland Longspurs

Since seeing my first Lapland Bunting back in May 2005 at Crosby Marina, was something really special. After a dash from Ormskirk to Crosby with Mr M Bridge, the bird showed well upto 5ft at times, but soon, the forecasted thunderstorm hit, the bird flew off high and we got soaked through to the skin. At that time I owned no camera, that was never to be the case again! I have never seen one since up until today!

Trying to reach my target of 280 species for 2010, is going extremely well so far! In the last 2 weeks I have seen:- Whiskered Tern, Red-Necked Phalarope, Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper, Little Stint, Grey Phalarope and lastly Lapland Bunting.

Waiting patiently until Saturday, it was time to go and search for the 7 Lapland Buntings on the Great Orme in Llandudno. Having arranged to meet Zac Hinchcliffe at Bangor station at 5:45am this morning, it was soon clear that he had overslept! Oh well, maybe catch up with him later. Arriving in Llandudno at 7am, a short walk along the toll road which runs around the west side of the orme and I was on top, scanning the limestone pavements for these charismatic winter finches! Meeting Marc Buzzard was worth while as he had text me on the way up, that he had already had 1 Lapland on a nearby hill. In hot pursuit of this particular bird, it didn't take long for us to pick it up again, running along the tracks like a little mouse. It then decided to fly off and we lost it from view.

Quickly bought Rob Sandham's Nikon Coolpix P5100 camera for a respectable price, as a back-up in case the one I have packs in, just before they departed for brekkie.

Soon after, I relocated another individual further down on the pavements, still running around the paths like a little mouse. However, for 5 seconds only it perched on a rock before flying off again!
Quickly relocating it, all birders had dissapeared and I had it to myself. It duly took flight again and in searching for the bird, I flushed another 3 Lapland Buntings from nearby, later getting exceptional views of them. I was soon joined by Zac, who had finally arose from his pit. Picking up the birds in flight shortly after, led us to an extremely confiding individual, that stood bold and brass on a grassy clump for about 5 minutes, 5ft from us; enabling mega views and great digiscoping opportunities!

Leaving them to it, we hit Conwy RSPB for the Grey Phalarope and we managed to see it, but rather distantly this time.. Time to call it a day I think as our feet and backs were starting to ache!

A lifer for Zac and a yeartick for me, a great day for North Wales Birding!! To see more on our trip today, take a look at Zac's blog @

News has just reached me of a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher at Blakeney point in Norfolk! A 1st for Britain so who knows what lies ahead for me in the next few hours? Cheers for now..

Wilson's, Red-necked and now Grey!

Time doesn't half fly when your having fun, as they say! After meeting up with Kane and Ciaran to attempt to catch Meadow Pipits on their migration on Thursday. Early on Friday morning, it was once again, time to pack up my gear and move back into Bangor university, up until christmas anyway. Leaving on time was the best thing we could have done!

Today was Mrs Bridge's birthday, so a trip to North wales was the call of the day. Dropping me off at Bangor was next on the agenda. A quick lunch stop at Llanfairfechan where the waves were piling in, some almost 10ft high! No Leach's Petrels unfortunately!

A quick glance at my phone and a text off Alan Davies awaited. Hmmm...
'Grey Phal at Conwy RSPB from Benarth hide and showing well'

Holy ****!! A quick dash to Bangor, dumped my gear in my room, waved farewell to the parents and hopped on the next available train to Llandudno Junction. An hour later and the bird was still there and I was at that point, sprinting the short journey to where the bird was. Rather greatfully, Alex was keeping tabs on the bird and on arrival in Benarth hide; this is what awaited me!
Grey Phalarope under my belt! A fantastic looking bird and a great yeartick! Certainly one bird which I had hoped to connect with this year.. Presumed to be moulting from a Juvenile into a 1st-winter bird. Also seen included - Little stint and Greenshank.

Throughout the hour I was there, the phalarope was constantly being harrassed by a Greenshank and was rather flighty at times, dissapearing to more distant islands as to where it was originally showing from. Great views were had from about 30ft or so infront of Benarth Hide!
At times the bird was showing on the water and on land as well, which I hadn't seen before. A Grey Phalarope on land and not making people dizzy; as is usually the case..

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Migrationless morning up on the fells

Hopeful for some good visual migration this morning, I set off from Ormskirk last night to meet up with Kane and Ciaran, in the hope that we would catch some Meadow pipits this morning up on the fells near Manchester.

On previous visits to this site, Kane and Ciaran have done well for mipits, but the weather conditions then were rather favourable, the case this morning was the total opposite. After packing all the gear into the van last night, an early start was in order so to arrive early enough to set up the mist-nets and be ready for the mipit migration to unfold. On arrival, the rain was pelting down and thick fog had descended onto the fells overnight - things were not looking good! Dissapointingly, the rain and fog forced us to head down from the fells and a decision was made to net one of Kane's several feeding stations. Things were looking up as the rain had stopped, but as soon as we had set the net and moved a safe distance away, the heavens opened once more. Sodding British weather!!

Many thanks to Kane for inviting me along and Ciaran for brightening up, what turned out to be a rather wet and dismal day.

To see a successfull attempt at catching Meadow pipits using tape-lures, take a look at Kane's last post - 'Mipit Control & Taking Stock' @

Wednesday, 22 September 2010


Deciding to have Tuesday and Wednesday this week free and just for twitching, was probably the best choice we could have made.. After seeing Whiskered tern and Red-Necked Phalarope in the last 2 days, I was rather intrigued as to what was going to turn up next!?

To my surprise, late on Monday afternoon, a report of a probable Bobolink down at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir in Glamorgan, soon had me itchin for a twitchin.. It was far too late to twitch it that day as there wasn't enough time.. The bird was showwing on and off, well into the evening but then became elusive which wasn't a good sign - this tends to mean the bird will dissapear overnight. A quick phonecall to Ralph that evening revealed 2 options for us - Bobolink in Glamorgan or Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper in Cleveland. What do we twitch??

After meeting up with Kane and Ciaran, {Thoray and Sverrir from Iceland} that afternoon at WWT Martin mere for a catch up, some birding, plus a lovely meal with them and Kane's family in the evening, it was time to leave and catch yet another 2 trains from Atherton back to Ormskirk.
On Tuesday morning, we awaited news of the Bobolink, sadly it had moved on overnight. However, the Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper was still up in Cleveland so we headed for that instead! A few hours later and a short detour with the sat-nav, we were stood on a small embankment overlooking a creek watching my 1st Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper!!! It was right next to Saltholme Pools RSPB, where I had had, in the last few months, a severe dip on a Broad-Billed Sandpiper - the sharpie sure made up for that though!

The Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper is the right-hand bird! Notable features include - The prominent white supercilium reaching beyond the eye, streaked breast pattern, arrowheads on breast-sides and the flanks and a rufous cap. A fantastic bird and one that I am very happy to have seen!
We also managed to see - 1 Black-necked grebe, 1 Yellow wagtail, 2 Curlew sandpiper, Spotted redshank. However, the best birds went to...
**1 Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper**
*1 Little stint*
Seeing the Sharp-Tailed sandpiper and my first Little stint of the year, brought me to 244 species for 2010!! Absolutely fantastic. Next target has to be the 7 Lapland buntings on the Great Orme in the next few days. Huge thanks to Ralph Jones for doing all the driving and to Eugene for the map reading and getting us to the right place. All I can say is a mega twitch and one I shall remember for quite sometime. Check back in a few days time..
Below; a selcetion of shots of the Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper.. Albeit with a heat-haze!
The 2 shots above were rather unexpected. They show a comparison with a Dunlin which was rather useful in the field! 1st Photo = Sharpie on the right and Dunlin on the left [Note: The sharp tail} - 2nd Photo = Sharpie on the left and Dunlin on the right!


Yearlisting this year as been extremely hard work and if I am to make my new realisitc target of 280 species for 2010, birds that turn up in the north-west need to be twitched in order for this target to be reached. So after twitching the Whiskered Tern yesterday with Alex, I was soon looking for my next species..

On Monday 20th September, I set off from Bangor around 5am as I had already planned on going home that day, a few hours and 7 different trains later, I saw myself at Fairhaven Lake in the Fylde cautiously scanning the lake for the Juvenile Red-Necked Phalarope that had been present here for the last few days. It soon became apparent that the bird was in fact swimming around the 2nd island and not the 1st island, in which I was looking at..

I do have to apologise for the shocking digiscoped picture, but the wind was blowing and trying to minimise the shake on the scope was unbelievable tricky. Anyway, that was one more bird to add to my yearlist and 242 for the year! Realising that I had now drawn with my 2009's yearlist total and it was only September 20th! Last year I finished on 242 and that was right up until December 31st!

What is going to be the next one I wonder?

For better pictures of the Red-Necked Phalarope, see Zac Hinchcliffe's blog @ Cheers for now!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010


In the last post there was a slight hint! Once I got back into my room in Bangor; late evening, I phoned Alex to see if he wanted to go for the tern and it was a pretty abrupt yes. However, I was supposed to be leading a fieldtrip on the Great orme in Llandudno with Mr M Bridge for the RSPB Southport group, but finding out that there were no trains from Bangor - Llandudno until lunctime, it was clear that I wasn't going to make the trip. The small group that did end up going got absolutely drenched {typical North wales weather} and managed to see 1 Meadow pipit and 1 Stonechat! Woops... Anyway, after several phonecalls here and there, the plan was to wait on news and then go for the tern in the morning with Alex.

In the morning around 10am, the tern came on the pager, a quick hop on the train to Rhyl where Mr Jones picked me up and we were on our way for our first Whiskered tern!! On arrival, the bird was still showing outside the hide on the pools - great!! A quick dash to the hide and there on the far side of the pond was our first Whiskered tern for Britain and a great yeartick for both of us, esp myself.. My 241st bird for 2010 and only 1 more bird was needed to draw with my 2009's yearlist total..

The bird showed well on and off, often flying round over the pools for 20 minutes and then coming to an island in front of the hide to have a rest and a bathe and then flying off for a feed once again. It did at one stage fly off and disappear due a Peregrine that shot through, but duly returned.. Not much else around the reserve, but a report of a Buff-Breasted sandpiper had us ready to race off but that also flew off high south, a few mintues later after being found..

Next stop was New Brighton for a seawatch for the chance to pick up a straggling Leach's Petrel but even this was not to be. The rain from North Wales had reached us and we soon had to shelter under a overhang by the castle at New Brighton. In the middle of the afternoon, we decided to call it a day as the weather had closed in completely. Can't complain with a Whiskered tern though!

Disastrously, we tried getting to Bromborough train station where I could catch a train back home, as I planned on staying at home for the week once I had put all my stuff into my room at univeristy. However, the line from Chester - Liverpool was shut so we went back to Rhyl where I caught another train back to Bangor and came home the next day, somewhat tiring as you will find out!

Some video footage of the Whiskered tern when it landed to have a rest and bathe..

!!! Bangor university - year 2 begins !!!

Since passing my re-sit exams at the end of august, it has taken long for the days to pass on by, in which I was soon to move back into my new room at Bangor for my 2nd year of university. Luckily, this year I am in the same building as last year but just 2 floors higher up.

Leaving the North-west and heading to North wales, a text off Steve revealed that there was a planned catch of Black -tailed godwits at Porthmadog cob in the afternoon and he had invited me along. Mr bridge soon had to put his foot down as I needed to do a quick shop for food for a few days, collect my key, fill in a few forms, move all my stuff up into my room and be at morrisons for a pick up around lunchtime.

Unfortunately after much rushing about, the end result of the Blackwit catch was zero. The net was set perfectly, the birds were around but they just didn't want to play ball for us. A failed catch to put it plainly. This has also happened with Wigeon this previous winter, but not to worry - they say 3rd time lucky?? Best was 2 Curlew sandpipers on the pools..

News then reached me from Alan davies of a probable Whiskered tern at Inner Marsh farm.. Can you guess what happened the day after?

Summary of Scotland

That's one more amazing holiday up in Dumfries and Galloway to remember. After being there from 10th - 17th September, it was time to move off and head south back to the north-west. An early start on Friday morning was needed as I needed to get home and pack all my things ready to move into my new room at Bangor on Saturday 18th.. Below is a picture of our lodgings for the week. It was so typical that the day we were leaving, the weather was glorious all day.. On clear days, the Isle of Man is visible from the top of the road. I woulde highly reccommended the lace for those who want a relaxed and 'touring' holiday around the area.

On the way home it was too tempting not to stop at Leighton moss where there were 2+ Black terns. Whilst Mr and Mrs Bridge went and some lunch, I nipped into Lilian's Hide to find both terns rather distance and hunting the flies over the far side towards the Lower hide. So with a rather sore leg, I hurtled over to the lower hide from Lilian's hide along the road and through the wood in less than 20 mintues.. Arrived in the Lower hide, took a few photos and moved off. Then walked the route to the Public hide and all this was done in under an hour, as well as photographing the terns.
2+ Black tern
Green woodpecker
Water rail
Marsh tit
7 Greenshank
These were all seen on my quick walk around the far part of the reserve.. The Black tern was rather confiding on a post just out from the Lower hide and enabled me to get shot of it's wing before it duely took flight.

Dumfries and Galloway trip list:

  1. Red-Throated diver - Little grebe - Great crested grebe - Fulmar - Manx shearwater - Gannet - Cormorant - Shag - Little egret - Grey heron - Mute swan - Pink-footed goose - Greylag goose - Canada goose - Brent goose - Shelduck - Mallard - Wigeon - Teal - Eider - Common scoter - Red-breasted merganser - Osprey - Buzzard - Sparrowhawk - Kestrel - Hobby - Peregrine - Red-legged partridge - Pheasant - Moorhen - Coot - Oystercatcher - Ringed plover
  2. Golden plover - Lapwing - Knot - Sanderling - Turnstone - Dunlin - Curlew sandpiper - Green sandpiper - Redshank - Greenshank - Black-tailed godwit - Bar-tailed godwit - Curlew - Whimbrel - Snipe - *2 Great skua* - B.H.Gull - C.Gull - H.Gull - L.B.B.Gull - G.B.B.Gull - Kittiwake - Sandwich tern - Common tern - *4 Black Tern* - Black guillemot - Guillemot - Razorbill - Feral pigeon - Woodpigeon - Collard dove - Tawny owl - Kingfisher- Green woodpecker
  3. G.S.Woodpecker - Skylark - Sand martin - Swallow - House martin - Rock pipit - Meadow pipit - Pied wagtail - Grey wagtail - Wren - Dunnock - Robin - Wheatear - Stonechat - Song thrush - Mistle thrush - Blackbird - Willow warbler - Chiffchaff - Goldecrest - Blue tit - Great tit - Coal tit - Long-tailed tit - Nuthatch - Treecreeper - Magpie - Jay - Jackdaw - Rook - Carrion crow - Hooded crow - Raven - Starling - House sparrow - Chaffinch - Linnet
  4. Goldfinch - Greenfinch - Siskin - Bullfinch - Reed bunting - Yellowhammer = 111

The yearticks are in red which put me on 240 for 2010. Cheers for now...

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A friend for 10 years..

During the past 10 years, Dumfries and Galloway has been a 'must' for a holiday. We always stay at Castle Creavie, situated in the lovely coastal villiage of Kirkcudbright. This is a lovely base for a holiday in D+G The pictures of myself with the dog below are really quite significant. I first met 'Flynn' when I was about 9 and I was scared to death of him, soft as anything though.. Now that I am 20 years old, I can't stop thinking that he will soon be leaving us as he is getting older every day.. These photos were taken for memories really. Also for the folk who attended several birding weekends here in the past, from the Southport RSPB group in which myself and my dad lead the fieldtrips each year.
Just another matter that I would like to clear up: The moth pictured below is rather beautiful, but the I.d of it is still not been solved.. I haven't had much time free so anyone have any ideas as to what it is? Comments more than welcome...

Roving raptors

Seawatching anywhere in the United kingdom can be either, rewarding or damn right dissapointing, today was one of those days when the birds just didn't want to pass by..

On Wednesday 15th September, we visited the beautiful coastal headland of the Isle of Whithorn. I was hoping for another good seawatch and maybe a Leach's petrel but to no avail. Actually, I didn't see one good bird during that seawatch except 1 Manx Shearwater - then the rain dropped it's load. I was also on the look out for Leach's Petrel, but after scrambling around on some rocks, my back foot slipped and I fell head first into an incoming wave and straight onto some sharp rocks. I currently have a large hole in my left shin but is healing quite nicely now. Several bruises are slowing coming through. Hurt like a ******* at the time..

A rather interesting visit to St.Ninians cave was well worth while. After a large gull appeared over the crags, it soon loomed on me that this was no gull and everyone on the beach turned around abruptly - poor soles. The words that lept out of my mouth were - OSPREY!!!! This was the latest Osprey that I had seen in Britain .. With only a Nikon coolpix P5100, it is not the best camera for taking distant flight shots, but believe it or not this is an Osprey..

Over the wooded area a Hobby shot through after the last remaining Swallows.
Singles of Peregrine and Sparrowhawk, a few Kestrels and Buzzards drifted over making a total of 6 species of raptor over this small beach, all in less than an hour! Great birding! Another surprise was that of House martins nesting just above the entrance to the cave. Amazingly, the adults were still feeding young! Best shown with video footage I think..

The walk to the beach was rather interesting. Scrub covered the hillsides and the only birds that moved were a couple of Willow warblers and chiffchaffs, a single Blackcap. With the right conditions and this little valley could be alive with migrants. Certainly a worth while site to patch if I ever move up north..

My evening was spent at the badger set - no badgers but my first Pink-feet of the winter cackled overhead and hopefully on their way to Martin mere..

The Ken Dee Marshes

Since the last post, with the wet walk around 'Doach woods', the holiday has finished and I am back in the rather wet north-west; so I shall give a brief update in a few more posts for the last few days of the holiday..

On Tuesday 14th September, we went for another walk, this time to Loch ken and the marshes surrounding the loch. Not surprisingly it was raining still, but thankfully we didn't get that wet.
With the rain pouring, the birds were rather far and wide bewteen and there was nothing exceptional seen, but in the hide the feeders were alive with woodland birds, the usual you know.. An ideal opportunity for a bit of digiscoping.

After a day of continuous rain, the sunset back at the farm where we were staying, was rather promising - could that be the last of the rain?

Monday, 13 September 2010

*Exam results*

Today was the big day, in which I was to find out whether or not I had passed my 2 re-sit exams which I took in late august this year. These were Ecology and Evolution and Key skills.. So having just got back from a rather wet and windy 3 mile walk around Doach woods, seeing absolutely bugger all, except the odd Buzzard here and there, it was time to check my university emails and see what lay in stall for my future.

{Inbox 1} - The email read...

''Dear Christopher,

Following the Senate Examination Board this morning, I am pleased to inform you that you have passed your re-sit module{s} and can now progress to the next year of your degree programme.

You will recieve an official confirmation via letter from the Academic Registry this week''

As you can imagine with this news, there was nothing else that mattered at that moment in time! How on earth I passed Key skills I do not know, but the revision obviously paid off..

Tomorrow it is back to birding and I shall be in search of Crossbill which I still haven't managed to see yet this year.

Cheers for now..

Bonxies and Manxies

I am currently sat at the dining table in our steading, munching on a box of match-makers, looking out across the surrounding farmland fields, the rain pelting down, wind howling and everywhere is slowly dissapearing. A day for inside jobs I think..

Finding the unexpected Black tern off Carrick beach on Saturday, as well as a Hooded crow, was sure not enough excitement for what was to happen in a 2 and half hour seawatch the following day.

More importantly, on Sunday 12th September it was my 20th birthday and what a day it turned out to be! A nice wadge of cash greeted me in several cards in the morning, Roy dennis's book on 'A life of Ospeys' and several other presents. Added bonus of finding a Black tern yesterday and a week's holiday in scotland free, the day got off to a flying start! Oh and a Red kite from the kitchen window whilst having our breakfast, I couldn't complain..

It was time to head for my favourite birding hotspot in south-west Scotland - Loch ryan. A sea loch situated a few miles north of Stranraer and a haven for birds and birders. Highlights included 3 Juvenile Curlew sandpipers mixed in with a flock of Golden plovers on a clump of seaweed on the incoming tide. These were more than likely passing through on migration, they soon took flight and dissapeared over the other side of the loch.

A quick lunch stop and time to head for Corsewall point for a few hours of seawatching. {NW wind at 18mph} A nice Stonechat in the car-park was a surprise and several Wheatears on passage in the surrounding fields. Time to pick a nice spot with a 180 degree round view - the seawatch began.. Unfortunately Mr M Bridge had only brought his bins away with him on holiday, so it was down to me to find whatever was out there in the Irish sea.

Seawatching totals included:

  • 7 Red-throated diver
  • 3 Great-Crested grebe
  • 3 Fulmar
  • 150+ Manx shearwater
  • 500+ Gannet
  • 23 Cormorant
  • 8 Shag
  • 5 Common scoter
  • 5 Red-breasted merganser
  • 1 Black-tailed godwit
  • *2 Great skua*
  • 30 Black-headed gull
  • 25 Common gull
  • 40 Herring gull
  • 5 Lesser-Black-Bakced gull
  • 3 Greater-Black-Backed gull
  • 55 Kittiwake
  • 5 Sandwich tern
  • *1 Juvenile Black tern*

All things considered it was an extremely successfull seatwatch, seeing as though the wind veered from a nice north-westerly gale to a complete standstill turning the sea into a millpond. Still, the Great skuas passed following the Gannets. Great stuff! Great skua was a yeartick aswell bringing the total for 2010 to 240 and on my 20th birthday too! Believe it or not, the picture below is a ridiculously poor digiscoped shot of one of the Great skuas that flew past - the brown blob more or less at the bottom of the picture but centred...

Ferries were continuously travelling back and forth from Ireland, with many seabirds following them, which improved the chances of something different, but sadly no sooties were picked out. Maybe on wednesday when the next seawatch is due?

It was soon time to call it a day and with a Great skua on my yearlist at last, I was quite intent with my efforts. It was September and I was wearing gloves.. Next investment though is a new stand as the one pictured below has had it's days, a foot and several parts missing, although about 10 years old, it has done me well..

A meal in the evening, followed by several glasses of wine and a slideshow of the icelandic pictures to Elaine and Charlie {The folk that own the farm in which we are staying at, friends for 10 years now!} It was time to hit the sack and pray that my efforts regarding my re-sit exams in late august had paid off. Update in the next few days..

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Juvenile Black tern off Carrick beach

For the next week I shall be based up in Dumfries and Galloway in south-west Scotland, staying in the lovely villiage called Kirkcudbright, doing some birding and a bit of sight-seeing. To start the trip off, on our journey up north along the A75, a raptor flew across the front of the car. Hmmmm... what was that? I saw it again briefly and it soon became clear that it was a Hobby after the numerous Swallows, that were buzzing around in the nearby fields - a great start!

Today was an even better day with a trip out to our local beach at Carrick, near Gatehouse-of-fleet, where we were in for quite a surprise. We came across a recently built veiwpoint over looking several bays; a flock of Common scoter far out was nice with 3 Great-Crested Grebes mixed in with them, but then I spotted a bird of unknown identity about half a mile out towards an island. It was perched on a log bobbing about in the waves and I had know idea what it was?! The sight of seeing a bird, on a log, in the middle of the sea?? I was thinking rarity at the time, but after 5 mintues of looking intently at the bird, it soon clicked that it was a tern species. Common, Arctic, Little and Sandwich tern could all be ruled out immediately, but I was not expecting what was to unfold next.

The bird flapped it's wings and didn't fly off. Oh shit! The wings were black! Running down from the viewpoint and nearly falling flat on my arse, I reached the beach and quickly relocated the bird again, sat on the log and it was clearly a tern, it then took flight and the alarm bells started ringing as what I was actually watching was a Juvenile Black tern! It then flew around for a while and then dissapeared round the next bay. In hot pursuit running across the car-park and staright through a herd of cows, the bird was feeding in the next bay on arrival. Good scope views were had quite close in but there wasn't enough time for any pictures unfortunately!

The Black tern was a Juvenile with a black cap, small black bill, brown saddle on it's back, sooty black wings and a grey tail. The flight was very characteristic almost with no effort at all, very bouncy and quick wingbeats.

As if the bird had come in on the tide, it soon went out on the tide and began to head out further out to sea, out beyond an island and dissapeared over the horizon. Luckily Mr bridge senior obtained views of the bird and the identity was nailed! A Juvenile Black tern and a nice 239th species on my yearlist! Great stuff! A Hooded crow then flew over making it a rather successfull day!

Check back in the next few days for another update..

Thursday, 9 September 2010

My next trip to south-west scotland!

Just a quick post this afternoon. From tomorrow I shall be away in Dumfries and Galloway in south-west scotland for a week, doing some birding with the family. The laptop is about to get packed so I shall update once up in the north.

Several swallows still buzzing around the garden this morning, soon these will be on their way to africa and the Pink-footed geese and our icelandic whooper swans on their way to us. Please keep an eye out for any Whooper swans with red darvics on this winter as these will be the birds that we caught and ringed in iceland this summer. Please send sightings to Kane @

Bye for now and bring on scotland!

The Swallows kept on coming..

Over the past couple of weeks, the east yorkshire coastline has certainly had it's fair share of autumn migrants, with the odd mega here and there. So with 3 consequetive trips made, it was time to have a rest from the place and do some ringing back home.

On Tuesday 7th September, in the late afternoon, I met up with Kane Brides, Stephen Christmas, Craig Brookes, Ciaran Hatsell and Jenny for a night at their swallow roost site. Arriving around 7pm, 5 nets were erected surrounding the roost site and with the tape recorder set, it was time to stand back and watch the roost descend from the skies and down into the roost. It didn't take long for the swallows to arrive, with an estimated count of around 200 swallows, hopes were high for a sufficient catch tonight.

84 Swallows caught including 2 controls, 2 Sand martin and 1 Yellowhammer. With this catch, the total number of swallows caught by Steve and Kane this autumn, comes to 558 new birds. Well done guys! See Kane's blog for more info @

The following morning, myself, Ciaran and Kane went to set up one of their feeding stations ready for this winter. A secluded site with a lot of potential. Nettles were cut down with a net pole, several branches lopped out of the way and it soon became a rather interesting net ride. Cereal fields at the back and woodland all around, it sure looked the part. You can more or less see where the feeding station will run.
After finishing helping them with the feeding station, it was time to go and have a look for 3 Black terns {1adult+2 Juvs} at Seaforth LWT. After spending an hour looking for them, both on Seaforth and Crosby, it was clear that they had most likely moved on. Yellow wagtail and a 1st-summer Little gull over Crosby was rather nice, with the odd Common tern, but still no more yearticks since the Wryneck at Spurn point.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Autumn migration at Spurn point

Getting back from the east coast late on saturday night after a disastrous dip with Ralph and Jason, I was really quite curious as to how long it would take for me to be back birding in east yorkshire. To be truthful, it didn't surprise me in the slightest; with a day's rest on the sunday, it was soon time to pack the gear once more and head off to the east coast. It was to Flamborough head again for a Brown flycatcher that had turned up on the sunday afternoon.

Early on Monday 6th September, I set off from Ormskirk with Mike stocker and June, in the hope that this rare flycatcher would hang around for us to see. News came through around 8am confirming that there was no sign of the flycatcher and that it had moved on somewhere else, as per usual. We later found out that the bird was present that morning but was only showing on and off for a few lucky individuals but then dissapeared around 10am. Never mind...

Brown flycatcher are generally regarded as 2 day birds, so it had most probably come in on the saturday, rested up, stuffed as much food in as possible and moved off.

We never even got to Flamborough head so we headed to check a site where an Ortolan bunting had been present for the past few days, that too appeared to have moved off in the strong winds so we headed for spurn point in the hope that we would bag something there.

Arriving around 11am, a quick peek in the hide around the canal area revealed a Golden plover that was showing ridiculously well, an opportunity not to be missed!

Throughout the day, the east-south-east winds continued to blow, forcing even more migrants to arrive at spurn. A walk around the warren and a few hours down at the point produced impressive numbers of Pied flycatcher, Redstart, Spotted flycatcher, Wheatear, Whinchat, Yellow wagtail and a skulky Garden warbler. Despite a failed attempt for yet another Barred warbler, all was not lost.

A walk along Beacon lane revealed much of the same migrants but in good numbers. The whole of East yorkshire was forecasted with extremely strong easterly winds and as you can imagine, more or less every bird had it's head down and out of the wind. However, a secluded garden down beacon lane harboured several Spotted flycatcher and a ringed Juvenile Blackbird, but despite my best efforts to get a digiscoped shot of the bird's leg, the bird flew off and out of sight.

We also managed an hours seawatching in the early afternoon, but the best we could manage were 2 Dark-phase Arctic skuas. Alex jones and Mike duckham were also at spurn the same day and we managed to catch up with them briefly looking for the Barred warbler down at the point. They had much better luck in the line of seawatching in the late afternnon passage period. resulting in 30 Arctic skuas, 3 Great skua, 1 Pomarine skua and 1 Sooty shearwater.

Several wind-blown Whinchats took shelter in the small dells and showed pretty well, enabling shots like this to be taken using my Nikon coolpix P5100.

As the day drew nearer to an end, it was time to hit the Crown and Anchor pub in Kilnsea for a pub meal and a pint of guiness. A quick 15 mintue watch in the car-park and surrounding trees revealed there to be many sheltering Spotted and Pied flycatchers plus the odd Redstart.

It wasn't until 7:30pm when all hell broke loose. After finishing our meal, a last minute look in the car-park to see if we could pick anything else up. Mike comes pelting over asking if I needed Wryneck for my british list! The answer was an abrupt yes and why and it turned out that a Wryneck had been mist-netted at the Warren and was due to be released there at 7:50pm. Racing across the car-park, past a few folk having a nice leisurely pint and jumped into the car quite literally, hurtled down to the warren, shortly followed by a juvenile Wryneck!

A truely amazing bird to see. I had dreamed of seeing a Wryneck in Britain, but today the gods redeemed themselves. Not only a brtish lifer, a fantastic yeartick too bringing my total for 2010 to 238, drawing with 2008 total. Apologies for the darkness of the picture but my camera was playing up at the time and it was getting on for 8pm.
Before we could head for home, an unconfirmed report of a Booted warbler down at Riverside hotel just past Kilnsea got the hearts racing again, but after a 20 mintue search in a small ditch where the bird had been seen briefly during the afternoon, it had obviously moved off.
Many thanks to Mike for checking his pager at the time he did and for June for all the driving.