Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Belated blogging

Just a quick post tonight folks as I have got a lot of university work that needs completing, before my next birding trip this weekend. I must apologise for the recent lack of updates to the blog, basically because I have been so busy lately in Bangor with work, amongst other things aswell.. Finding time for blogging in the evenings just hasn't been possible lately.

Unfortunately the next blog update is going to be the week beginning Monday 8th November once everything has calmed down and a full update will be available for the past 3 weeks or so!

I thought I would include a brief summary of what I have been upto over the last month:- Lots of birding trip reports and several twitches to add onto the blog, many yearticks have been achieved, several ringing sessions to update you on and quite a few other things too.. These will all have to wait for another week or so..

Bye for now..

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Jack Snipe footage from Spurn..

A quick post tonight just to show you what I was on about with the Jack Snipe's 'Bobbing up and down feeding habit'. Enjoy!

Millions of Migrants!!

Arriving back from mist-netting from Kane's on Saturday afternoon, I was somewhat frustrated to not be able to get a lift over to the east coast for the Sunday.. Looking at RBA when I had calmed down, it was clear that there were already some good birds at Spurn, but looking at the winds and conditions, I knew that there was going to be collossal fall of migrants overnight and I was not wrong!

When Mike Stocker sent me a text that evening saying that he was going over and if I wanted a lift, you can imagine the rest! Packed my gear and hit the sack for an early start on the Sunday morning. Picked up at 4am and on the east coast for 7am at first light!!!

The first thing that I have got to make clear at this point, is that this day has to be the best visible migration experience I have ever had and that is saying something.. The amount of times I have been to Spurn over the years {probably over 100 visits} I have never had a 'fall'.. Until Sunday morning..

With Mike's idea to head straight for Sammy's Point near Spurn, we were knackered by the time we got to the car-park. The road down to Sammy's point, takes about 5 minutes to drive from entrance to car-park, however there were so many birds in every available habitat that it took is half an hour to get to the shore..

I shall now give a summary of the birds we encountered at each site around Spurn

*Sammy's Point*
2 White-Fronted Geese {in off the sea}
Sparrowhawk {in off thesea}
30 Skylark
15 Swallow
5 Rock pipit
100+ Meadow pipit
10+ Pied wagtail
30+ Robin
15+ Dunnock
5+ Redstart
3 Wheatear
100+ Song thrush
700+ Redwing
50+ Fieldfare
20+ Blackbird
10 Blackcap
90+ Goldcrest
30+ Tree Sparrow
40+ Chaffinch
100+ Brambling
50+ Siskin
5 Lesser Redpoll
30+ Linnet
The next best thing was a call from June, to say that a guy had found a Palla's warbler further down from where we were standing.. We shot down there to find that the bird had been lost to view and hadn't been seen for the last 10 minutes. Well I wasn't having that and knowing that there was a yeartick some 100 metres from me.. Folk split up to find it and more people arrived through the news being put out. 30 minutes later, I was stood next to Mike and 2 other guys, a bird called and straight away we all knew, that that was the palla's.. Next minute it called again and flew straight towards me and for the next 20 minutes, we all enjoyed fantastic views of this gorgeous eastern warbler. Definetly a bird that I wasn't expecting to see this year.. Messing about with my Nikon Coolpix P5100 camera, {not designed for hand-held pictures} I snapped off 12 shots with the hope that the bird would be in the shot..
1st shot..
2nd shot..
3rd shot
This selecton of shots is just from 1 photo and realising that the bird was in view.. I was extremely chuffed with that and we moved off elsewhere.. What a stonker!!!

A quick stop to look for a Little Bunting just outside Kilnsea proved difficult and there was no sign of the bird since early morning..

*Kilnsea/Beacon Lane and ponds/Canal Scrape*
1 Great-Grey Shrike
1 Lapland Bunting
2 Jack snipe
5 Ring ouzel
100+ Goldcrest
300+ Redwing
100+ Fieldfare
100+ Song thrush
30+ Blackbird
2 Jack snipe showed extremely well infront of the canal scrape hide.. I witnessed their characteristic 'bobbing up and down feeding action' for the first time.
Getting on for early afternoon now so we headed for Spurn point seeing as though their hadn't been anything mildly interesting there all day, which was strange considering the amount of birds that were around..
*Spurn point*

1 Male Hen Harrier
1 Short-eared Owl
500+ Meadow pipit
15+ Brambling
50+ Goldcrest
50+ Robin
Overall, that day we must have seen in excess of 2,000 birds of a wide variety of species. I mean, seeing Chiffchaffs, Redstarts, Siskins in large numbers creeping around on rocks right next to the sea, hundreds maybe thousands of Redwings in every available hawthorn bush feeding on the berries, Fieldfares, Continental Blackbirds, Ring ouzels mixed in with them too.. Several decent birds like Lapland bunting, Great Grey shrike, Palla's warbler, Hen harrier, Short-eared owl; knowing they were migrants and had literally, come in off the sea from some far off place.. Goldcrests, Robins, Dunnocks and Meadow pipits in massive numbers - the greatest I have ever seen!
All I have to say is that I want to keep on writing abut this exceptional fall of migrants but this is a long enough blog post as it is! A huge thankyou is in order to Mike, June and Pete..
What an absolutely fantastic days birding and one that I shall never forget! Just 1 yeartick - Palla's warbler bringing me to 252 for the year..
Cheers for now...

A net full of tits

Before I go any further with this post, the idea of trying to make a catchy title with the word 'tits' combined within, proved rather tricky, so... a plain and simple title for this post..

If I wasn't already knackered from the cornish Green heron twitch a few days ago, arriving back into Bangor at 2am last Friday; at least gave me the chance to have a lie in, or did it? Amazingly, a brief lie-in was acheived but yet again, it didn't take long for me to be on the move again.

An invite from Kane to do some ringing on Saturday morning at one of his feeding stations was more than enough to tempt me out of my pit. Yet again, it involved catching 3 more trains and soon I was back home in Ormskirk. Friday afternoon, just 1 more train to Atherton and all was over and done with and the thought of catching another train soon, made me feel somewhat sick.. Kipping overnight at Kane's on Friday night and up early for a few hours mist-netting in the morning - a shorter lie-in this time, but well worth getting up for..

Arriving on site, a slight breeze drifted through the woodland edge and with the sounds of birds at the feeders, the net was set quickly and effieciently to increase our catch rate that morning.

A total of 35+ tits were caught that morning including Blue, Great and Coal, aswell as 2 Chaffinches and 2 Nuthatch..

Several net-rounds were done and at times, the catch was rather impressive..

Myself with a lovely catch of mixed tit species and a Great tit ready to be ringed and processed..

Late morning we went off to Crompton lodges to catch some Canada geese, resulting in 5 new birds being caught..
Many thanks to Kane for inviting me along, for a pretty productive morning's session..
A quick note:-
Just 2 more trains were needed to get me back home on Saturday afternoon. The thought of the hundreds of autumn migrants over on the east coast, any guesses as to what happened on Sunday 10th October?!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

***Green Heron in the Lost Valley***

Since my last post concerning my 250th yeartick for this year, each day since then, has been what I can only say as being extremely busy! I haven't been able to find time for a blog update, so here 'they' are.. Apologies to anyone who has been awaiting for this particular trip's post..

The 4th October saw myself and Zac watching the Yellow-Browed warbler up at Soldier's point on Anglesey, but little did we know what we were going to embark upon on the Wednesday night that week. Lectures from 9am-5am for the first 3 days of the week and Thursday and Friday off..

A long-staying Juvenile Woodchat Shrike up at Hartlepool Headland in Cleveland was supposed to be our destination for early on Thursday morning. However, on Wednesday night when we called a meeting at my flat to discuss tomorrow's itinerary, logging onto RBA {Rare Bird Alert}, it was soon apparent that there was a Green Heron down in Cornwall.. The last time this american heron turned up, I was unaware of it's presence due to the lack of rarity news at the time and the fact that I wasn't twitching then didn't help matters.. When the next one turned up I was determined that I would twitch it! So I did but with some company this time!

On the Wednesday night it took us 20 mintues if that, to turn our attentions to Cornwall instead of Hartlepool and rather sharply shall we say, checked train times down to St Austell etc.. I have to admit when asking Zac if he wanted to twitch it, his words were:- ''I'm up for it''. That was that and we were off!

Running round like a headless chicken sorting my gear out, we met 5 mintues later outside my flat and sprinted down to Bangor station in order to catch the 9:07 train to Crewe that evening.
On arrival in Crewe at 11pm that night, we settled down in a warm waiting room with some comfy seats, as we were going to sleep overnight and catch the 5am train down to St Austell in the morning. A change at Birmingham and Exeter was all it took. Although our night at Crewe station was rather eventful. It was spent lying awake listening to folk snoring like hogs, a drunk guy kicking chairs about in an attempt to make a bed for himself for the night and at 3am on thursday morning a rather 'mad' bloke mopping the floor and cleaning the tables!! Come one were trying to sleep here people! End result was no sleep, but we managed an hour or so on the journey down south..

Several hours later at 11am with a short change at Exeter St.Davids station, we pulled up to St Austell train station in Cornwall! A quick taxi journey to 'The Lost Gardens of Heligan', a £10 entrance fee, 1 mile walk and we were greeted by a large group of fellow twitchers! Soon after, the heron showed and we couldn't believe what we had accomplished until we caught sight of...our..first.. Green Heron!!!

This little pond was the site where the Green heron was showing. 'A rather herony site if ever I saw one'.

The bird wasn't showing well at all when we first got there but at least we could see that it was a Green heron and the views were now tickable!

During the afternoon, the bird dissapeared several times; half an hour being the longest, but when we were about to leave, the bird showed extremely well on the far side of the lake for about 20 minutes! Most stunningly, it was in the open at this point and seeing as though I hadn't managed to digiscope this bird at all and was photographless, it walked onto a log in proper american heron fashion, enabling me to snap off a few shots, these ones being the best! The bird being in heavy wing moult too!

This bird has to be the best twitched bird of 2010 and was an absolute stonker! Thinking about it now, this particular journey has to be my longest train twitch yet.

The afternoon passed quickly and soon it was 3pm and it was time to leave. A short bus journey from the gardens back to the station and then back on the train, arriving back into Bangor at exactly 2am on the Friday morning! Thankfully I had the day off to recover...

Overall, a rather expensive twitch but one that will stay with me forever. A fantastic bird and 251 for the year. What's next I wonder?!

To see Zac's account of this eventful and hugely successfull twitch, plus slightly better images of the Green Heron, visit http://zacswildlifeblog.blogspot.com/

Monday, 4 October 2010

Yellow Browed Warbler makes 250 milestone!

On January 1st 2010, my day was spent birding from dawn til dusk to get a good start on my yearlist for this year. Now, 10 months later on, on the 4th October, my 250th bird turned up at Soldier's point on Anglesey, circa 1 mile north of Holyhead..

Rather unexpected was a text in the middle of a lecture from Zac, the text read:- ''Anglesey Yellow-Browed Warbler near Holyhead at Solider's Point by metal gate at entrance to breakwater''
After finishing the lecture, I knew that this bird would still be there, so met Zac 20 minutes later at Bangor station, paid a respectable £4:80 and headed for Holyhead. Was I really going to see my 250th bird for my 2010 yearlist, today? On arrival, not a single birder in sight, so a bit of relocation was in order and after an hour or so, there was no sign of the bird. However, just as we were about to head for home, a bird flitted from a bush and luckily Zac caught a glimpse and shouted - ''There it is''! To my relief, there was a Yellow-Browed Warbler and my 250th bird for this year!!! I can tell you now, it was such a relief to see this bird as it was only my 4th record for Britain, surprisingly! Thanks Zachary!

Thinking that I was going to blog out this later on when I got back to Bangor, I needed some pictures so set about digiscoping whilst Zac used his larger camera... So better pictures were obtained by Zac.. After 5 mintues and some of the most stressfull digiscoping I have ever had to accomplish, I came up with several record shots but at least you can make out what it is!

Included this shot to emphasise the eyestripe and the diagnostic wing-bars, present in all the scandinavian phylloscopus warblers..

Another shot that would have been an absolute stonker, but as usual the bird didn't turn round and on the second shot it flew to another tree..

A fantastic bird and one that I was confident in seeing this year! If anyone is thinking of going to have a look, the bird is at the large entrance gates to Soldier's point on Anglesey, literally at the end of the road before you turn off for South stack. On the wall in Ivy and Sycamore bushes by lamp post 2A.. If anyone needs any more info, please feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to as soon as possible.

See Zac's blog for slightly better pictures and his account of today @ http://zacswildlifeblog.blogspot.com/

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Mist netting at its finest hour!

Some much needed kip was needed last night as yesterday morning was to be a classic example of mist netting at a site with a variety of habitats. Woodland, wet and dry scrub, reedbed and marsh are all covered in this new ringing site near Caernarfon. A few visits have been made previously already this autumn by Steve, in which I have been unable to make. This morning, my hopes were set high for several months of autumn and winter ringing! Picked up from Bangor at 6:30am from the usual place and at the site for 7am. A total of 6 nets were set efficiently in a variety of places to improve the variety of the catch this morning.

This site really has great training potential for progression towards C permit stage, with just Steve and myself this morning, it was a great morning.

Between 60 + 70 birds were caught this morning of a wide variety of species.

About half a dozen Song thrush and a few Blackbirds, some still in post-juvenile moult. Bullfinch, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Nuthatch and 6 or so Juvenile Goldcrest were a nice surprise thanks to the tape-lure. A long-awaited Jay found itself into a net and was certainly a species that I have been wanting to ring and process for a few years now.. Also tape-lured included an adult male Lesser redpoll and a juvenile Grey Wagtail.

A single 40ft net was then erected in the garden to boost this mornings catch, with large industrial feeders, it soon filled up with 20+ tits, of Blue, Great and Coal..
Lesser Redpoll
Aged as a {4} adult, male with lovely rounded tail feathers and a bright pink chest. If this was to be a juvenile bird, the tips of the tail feathers would come to a point.

Grey wagtail

Aged as a {3} Juvenile. Classic Juvenile plumage. Juveniles this time of year can't be sexed.

Jay Aged as a {4} adult. This is determined by a few factors. Classic square-shaped tail feathers were evident, the bird was still in moult and the outermost greater covert will have 10 black bars as well as being distributed with regularity - these all contribute to adult plumage.

In the afternoon once we had finished ringing, myself and Zac went for an evening's seawatch off the Little Orme/Llandudno which produced zilch! An early night and a sufficient lie in was awaiting. Cheers for now..

Almost forgot to mention that my 249th species of 2010 flew over our ringing site yesterday in the form of 10 Crossbills! Mega!!

500 miles and 2 ducks later!!

Seeing that unexpected migrant Redwing, literally drop out of the sky on Thursday, I was keen to get out there and do some proper birding wherever it may be.. The main task for today was to try and reach the 250 mark for my yearlist, but after a worthy attempt, it wasn't quite reached. It would have been rather good to get 250 on the 1st October but it just wasn't going to happen.

Luckily I had a 4-day weekend with Thursday and Friday off, so after much debate on the thursday night, myself and Alex decided to do a bit of long-distance twitching for a change. Spending the day getting sorted for lectures on Monday, a short train journey to Rhyl, a few hours sleep at Alex's house and we were up at silly o'clock on the Friday morning.

First stop was Draycote water in Warwickshire for an eclipse Lesser Scaup, which after a few mintues of searching, it appeared mixed in with a group of Tufted ducks, some 20ft from the nearby banking.. This was a British lifer aswell as a yeartick for Alex but not for me - still a nice bird to see and my 2nd this year. It was rather disheartening to find that the gates to the reserve didn't open until 8am but we only had a half-hour wait which wasn't too disastrous! Nearly slipping onto my arse on a wet grass bank was..

This is the Drake Lesse Scaup I digiscoped using my Nikon Coolpix P5100, at Penarth back in late March this year. The eclipse drake we saw was similiar to this, but in eclipse plumage so slightly duller markings on the back, but you get the idea. I was able to take a few shots of the eclipse bird, however it was raining, light conditions were awful and plainly speaking, they were shit pictures so included this for reference.

Next stop was going to be Dowdeswell Reservoir for a Wilson's Phalarope which Alex needed for his British list and a yeartick, but unfortunately there was no sign of it this morning, having been present for the last couple of days. More than likely it would have moved off last night before the heavy rain set in!

Dissapointed with this, we made the mad decision to travel down to Chew Valley Lake in Somerset in search of a Ferruginous duck which we both needed for the year as well as being a British tick for Alex. On arrival, the rain was pelting down as it had been all day, at times extremely heavy! Luckily, we had a window of about 30 minutes when the rain had stopped, enabling me to pin down one of the Fudge ducks mixed in with hudreds of Tufted ducks and Pochards.
This is the view we were greeted with. The Ferruginous duck is more or less slap bang in the middle of the picture, slightly on it's own. This was also in eclipse plumage so I have included a picture of an adult that I digiscoped back in Catalonia/Spain this april. Alex then picked me out another yeartick nearby on another lake in Somerset, that I can't really name.. A clue for you:- 'Stiff-tailed duck' and that's all on the matter...

Getting on for 3pm in the afternoon now, the rain had been pelting down since leaving Rhyl, 2 British lifers for Alex and 2 much needed and welcomed yearticks for myself, we headed back to North wales. An extremely long day, more than 500 miles covered just for a few ducks. We managed to get back to Rhyl for around 8pm that night; then I had to catch a train back to Bangor, grabbed a 12'' Margherita pizza and collapsed into bed just before midnight..

My life since university has been so damn busy, with 6 hours sleep, I was up again the next morning bright and early!

To see another account of this journey, see Alex's new blog @ http://birdingnorthwales.blogspot.com/