Friday, 30 July 2010

Pectoral Sandpiper and House Finch

East Prawle and Maer Lake NR
Firstly a bit of late news. Yesterday I spent a few hours at East Prawle and after a brief wait eventually found the long staying House Finch. This controversial yellow variant House Finch is in heavy moult and has now lost most of the yellow colouration and gained a red tinge to the breast. I'm not sure what my thoughts are on this bird yet, it has many good and bad credentials and I will leave it as a anomaly for now.

Maer Lake NR
Today I ventured over the border into Cornwall to have a look for the recent Sandpiper species which have been present at Maer Lake NR near Bude. Initially I managed to find 2 Common Sandpiper, 3 Wood Sandpiper, 5 Little Ringed Plover and 6 Dunlin, with no sign of either the Curlew or Pectoral Sandpiper which had been reported the day before. After about 2 hours the Pectoral Sandpiper revealed itself, flying from the near shore (which is not viewable) to the far shore, see above. I managed to watch the bird for 15minutes before it was flushed by a Peregrine Falcon, along with 2 Wood Sandpiper and a Green Sandpiper which I had not seen previously. A successful day with some great birds, good to see that so many waders are using this small coastal lake.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010


Fernworthy Reservoir, Dartmoor

Just a brief update today. I have been busy over the last few days with the website and writing my monthly article for the Costa Blanca News, nevertheless I managed a few hours early this morning at Fernworthy, Dartmoor. I walked the footpath leading from the car park (where possible, some bits were flooded) and then cut back through the plantation and back around to the car park.

The plantation produced 6 Redpoll and 14 Crossbill but otherwise was very quiet. However, the scrub adjacent to the reservoir was alive with birds, Long-tailed Tits and Chaffinch being the most abundant species. Other birds of note included 7 (all male) Reed Bunting, 9 Bullfinch, 1 Sparrowhawk, 1 Wheatear (in front of the car park) and a Grasshopper Warbler which despite singing on and off for 20 minutes, could not be pinned down.

I will be visiting Holden Hill this evening in the hope that the Nightjars will be active after numerous wet days and nights, I will update on how successful the trip was in the morning!

Friday, 16 July 2010

Berry Head Seawatch 07.30 - 09.30

Balearic Shearwater, photo by Joe Ray

Having decided not to go Berry Head with Joe yesterday and subsequently missing an Alpine Swift, I couldn't resist a couple of hours this morning. Will picked me up at 06.40 and having collected Joe en route we were in situ by 07.30.

Optimism was not high when we arrived, bright sunshine with clear skies was a huge contrast to yesterday's heavy showers and strong SW winds, which produced good numbers of Shearwaters. Nevertheless, after a slow start the weather eventually change in our favour and we managed some good results. All the usual suspects were present including Kittiwake, Gannet, Fulmar and numerous small rafts of Auks, giving us something to look at between the patchy trickle of Manx Shearwater groups. The moment of the day was when 2 Balearic Shearwater slowly passed through at a range of less than 100m, a single Storm Petrel was also an added bonus. Totals are as follows,

Manx Shearwater - 31
Balearc Shearwater - 4
Great Skua - 1
Storm Petrel - 1

Monday, 12 July 2010

9th and 10th July - Norfolk and Devon

Norfolk and Devon

Elephant Hawk Moth

Poplar Hawk Moth

Mike and I decided to have a day trip to Norfolk today and after the journey from Cheshire we started the day at Titchwell RSPB reserve. As we arrived at the visitor centre the RSPB staff were just starting to check the moth trap they had set the previous night, a number of species were caught including 9 Poplar Hawk Moths and 3 Elephant Hawk Moths, pictured above.

The walk to the freshmarsh produced a number of species including; Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting, 3 Marsh Harrier and 3 Bearded Tit. From the freshmarsh hide I soon located the Buff-breasted Sandpiper which had been on the reserve for the last few days. The water level on the marsh is superb for waders at the moment and other species recorded were, 100+ Black-tailed Godwit, 40+ Knot, 19 Dunlin, 2 Green Sandpiper, 1 Whimbrel, 2 Spotted Redshank, 50+ Ruff (below), 1 Spoonbill, Lapwing and Oystercatcher.


Our next stop was the raptor watchpoint at Swonton Novers where we hoped to see one of the Honey Buzzard which breed nearby. After an hour of scanning over the large plantation and seeing only Common Buzzard and Sparrowhawk, our luck changed. A Honey Buzzard was picked up high over the plantation performing a full display including large free falls and wing clapping. We watched this superb display for 15 minutes until the bird slowly drifted out of view, for anybody who has never had the privileged of witnessing this display, I highly recommend it!

River Warbler - Photo by Matthew Deans.

The final stop of the day was to see the River Warbler which is holding territory near Thorpe on private land. Access had been arranged from 19.00 and we arrived soon after, it was lucky we arrived early as by 19.20 there were at least 100 cars in the makeshift car park. Arriving early also gave us an excellent viewing position at the front of the crowd. The large crowd waited until 19.40 when the River Warbler broke the silence with its distinctive song. Although the bird sang on and off all evening, it wasn't until 21.30 in fading light that I managed to locate the bird, much to the delight of the frustrated crowd. We watched the bird for as long as the light allowed and managed to get as many other people on to the warbler as possible. Seeing the bird (albeit in low light) made the 4 hour journey back to Cheshire much more endurable and ended a fantastic day birding perfectly.

10th July - Return to Devon
After a great week with my family in Cheshire, I was looking forward to going back to Devon and seeing my partner Lucy. However, en route I couldn't resist calling in at Exton to see the adult Gull-billed Tern which had been lingering in the area for about a week. After a short wait I found the bird feeding over the back of the estuary and watched it for 15 minutes. It was nice to see this species in Devon after seeing so many in Spain.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

White-tailed Plover

Rainham Marshes RSPB

White-tailed Plover

I was in Spain when the recent Seaforth White-tailed Plover was found a few weeks ago; so I couldn't believe my luck when the Blackberry went off this morning informing me that, presumably the same bird, was showing on the Aveley pools at Rainham Marshes RSPB.
Mike picked me up at 14.00 and we set off from Cheshire in the direction of London, the traffic was bad near the capital but we eventually arrived at 18.00.

After a short walk we were watching the White-tailed Plover, initially through reeds but eventually out in the open. The bird made 2 short flights in the hour and a half we were on site, allowing the upper wing and tail to be clearly seen. Other species seen on the main pool included, 4 Common Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Greenshank and 1 Little Ringed Plover. We also managed to relocate one of the two Wood Sandpiper found earlier in the day by the reserve warden at the top end of the Aveley pools. The walk back to the car produced another year tick in the form of Ring-necked Parakeet. An excellent days birding and a contender for bird of the year alongside the Marmora's Warbler.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Late News

Late News - 3rd and 4th of July

3rd July - Leaving Spain

With the heat and in particular the heat haze increasing daily now in Spain, I decided I would return to the UK for a few weeks with the aim of visiting some favourite birding locations and doing some sea-watching at the end of the month. Before leaving for the airport I made a visit to the south end of El Hondo to check if the Western Olivaceous Warbler was still present. After about 10 minutes the male bird began singing from the Tamarisk bush and was shortly joined by a second bird (presumably a female), both birds showed well together briefly before the Male's attention was focused on chasing away a nearby Reed Warbler. The female bird disappeared into the Tamarisk and was not seen again, although the male was very active patroling his territory during the following 30 minutes. Although my time was spent trying to video the Western Olivaceous Warbler (in vain!) I did manage to see a few other bits, 3 Squacco Heron, 15+ Collared Pratincole, 1 Male Moustached Warbler and a single Great Egret.

As many birders will know; when arriving at a new destination there is always some debate within the group as to what species will be the first you see! Despite all optimism it usually transpires (in the case of Alicante airport) that House Sparrow or Spotless Starling take the number 1 spot on the trip list. It is for that reason that I was over the moon to see 3 Red-rumped Swallow feeding over the long grass as we taxied along the runway for take off, a good bird to tide me over while I'm away.

4th July

Today I spent a few hours out with my dad Mark Powell visiting Inner Marsh Farm and Frodsham Marsh (Cheshire). Inner Marsh Farm's main pool held a good wader group despite the tide being low on the salt marsh, Redshank, Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwit were all present in good numbers along with a single Ruff and Little Ringed Plover. A few juvenile Black headed Gull remained on the pool and 6 Teal were joined after 20 minutes by 3 drake Wigeon in beautiful eclipse plumage.

Frodsham was alive with Goldfinch, Linnet and Reed Bunting especially around the edge of number 6 tank where Sedge and Reed Warbler where also very vocal. The tank itself held numerous Ringed Plover and a nice find in the form of 2 Avocet. After we had finished watching number 6 tank we moved down to the weaver bends; birds of note here included, 8 Common Sandpiper, 4 Ringed Plover, 6 Redshank, 50+ Black-tailed Godwit and over 40 Shelduck Chicks.

Friday, 2 July 2010

La Mata 1st July

La Mata

I went for a stroll around La Mata yesterday evening to see how the Red-necked Nightjar were doing. A minimum of 18 birds were recorded singing or in flight; however, this was a conservative estimate and numbers could easily have been over 30. A Scops Owl broke the usual trend of hiding by sitting on a fence post for a few minutes just before the light faded, many Little Owl were also seen. About 20 minutes before dark I found a Spectacled Warbler which was singing from a small stand of scrub, the bird continued singing until 10 minutes after dark. This is the first time I have noted Spectacled Warbler singing into darkness, a Cuckoo also sang until almost dark.

Ringing of the Slender-billed Gull and Little Tern chicks at San Pedro Salinas on the 29th was very productive with aprox 30 of each species ringed. Hopefully the colony will continue to grow from strength to strength.