Thursday, 30 September 2010

Fair Isle - Day 4

The morning dawned grey and overvcast with the rain still falling, however perhaps more importantly the wind had dropped to no more than a gentle breeze. As the group enjoyed a superb cooked breakfast, news filtered in of a 1st-winter male Ring Ouzel which had been trapped by one of the assistant wardens and was being brought back to the observatory for ringing. After the bird had been processed, it was shown to all birders present, allowing some excellent views of this scarce migrant.

Ring Ousel
Following breakfast the rain had eased off somewhat, and the group headed out optimistic of potentially encoutering some of the more interesting species possible on the island at this time of year. There was clear evidence of new migrants, filtering through these over the course of the day produced the following:
Buff-breasted Sandpiper (1)
Common Rosefinch (2)
Merlin (1)
Blackcap (5)
Willow Warbler (4)
Hen Harrier (1 juv)
Greenshank (1)
Ring Ouzel (1)
Whinchat (4)
Sparrowhawk (1)
Little Bunting (1)
Jack Snipe (5)
Goldcrest (6)
Lesser Whitethroat (3)
Barred Warbler (1)
Brambling (120+)
Peregrine (1)
Short-eared Owl (2)
Wheatear (4)
Swift (1)
Swallow (5)
Spotted Flycatcher (2)
Siskin (45)
Mandarin (1, first for Fair Isle!)
Yellow-browed Warbler (3)
Redstart (2)
Sedge Warbler (2)
Lapland Bunting

Common Rosefinch

Little Bunting
The most interesting moment of the day occured when a call on the radio told the group that the 'Wood Duck' seen briefly twice the previous day had been seen again in the gully near the observatory. All birders on the island were rounded up and gathered above the gully, creeping slowly forward in the hope that the bird would not be disturbed. Indeed it wasn't, and this allowed everyone present to get good views of the bird, only to reveal it was a female Mandarin Duck! As disappointed as many of the birders present may have been, this bird actually represents the first record for Fair Isle in nearly a century of recording.

Mandarin Duck

Other birds on the island today which the group did not manage to catch up with included, Hawfinch, Arctic Redpoll, Great Grey Shrike, Olive-backed Pipit and a Red-throated Pipit which the group heard but did not see! With lots of birds dropping in to the island in the late afternoon, we will be trying hard to find some more good migrants tomorrow.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Santa Pola

Spent the afternoon along the N332 between Santa Pola and El Pinet plenty of Flamingos but not too many waders had a flock of 36 Slender-Billed Gull - note the bird on the right has been ringed the ring number is 8FF also present 2 Adult Mediterranean Gull, 6 Audouins Gull, 14 Marbled Duck, 5 Glossy Ibis and a single Mute Swan. If anyone has any information about where the Juv Slender-Billed Gull was ringed please let me know - MARK

Fair Isle - Day 3

The day dawned to the sound of the wind howling round the roof of the obs, and clear evidence of overnight rain. With spirits dampened a little by the liklihood that the very strong SE wind would make most birds difficult to observe, we headed out after breakfast consoling ourselves with the fact that at least it was from the right direction and the rain may have forced a few tired migrants to make landfall.

Birding was very hard, with most birds choosing to keep very low in what little vegetation there is on the island, but despite the driving afternoon rain, the group worked hard to find what birds might be on the island, and recorded the following:
Corncrake (1)
Ring Ouzel (4)
Barred Warbler (2)
Common Rosefinch (1)
Buff-breasted Sandpiper (1 juv)
Redstart (1)
Wheatear (5)
Lapland Bunting (100+)
Sooty Shearwater (1)
Arctic Skua (1)
Long-tailed Duck (2)
Purple Sandpiper (2)
Whinchat (4)
Barnacle Goose (25)
White Wagtail (1)
Jack Snipe (3)
Pied Flycatcher (1)
Brambling (120)
Greenshank (1)
Curlew Sandpiper (1)
Hen Harrier (1)

Evidence of new birds was certainly clear, and also seen on the island was a Little Bunting, the -Buff-belled Pipit, and a controversial juv Wood Duck. Hopefully the wind will drop a little for tomorrow and the birding will become a litte easier, though the forecast may suggest otherwise!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Fair Isle - Day 2

The day started very early, in fact before dawn, as I and another group member made our way down to some of the favoured areas for migrants before the sun had fully risen. The wind was strong and from the east, and it was clear a lot of birds had left during the night, although a deluge of Redwings gave us hope for something new. We managed 2 hours birding before breakfast, and recorded a good selection of species given the short time scale, these included: Yellow-browed Warbler (5), Pied Flycatcher (2), Whinchat (2), Golden Plover (9), Jack Snipe (1), and many Lapland Buntings.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

We returned to the obs to meet up with the other two members of the group, who had spent the morning following the wardens as they did their daily rounds of the bird traps situated at various points near the observatory. Unfortunately there had been very little, with only one Song Thrush trapped, but this early morning option can often provide a rare opportunity to examine birds in detail at close range. Following breakfast the team again split up in to two pairs, one heading north and one heading south. Shortly after leaving the building, we found the Buff-breasted Sandpiper while scanning the fields in the centre of the island, feeding with a small flock of Golden Plovers. Fortunately the flock were fairly close to the roadside, and we enjoyed superb views of this charismatic trans-atlantic vagrant.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

The rest of the day was spent covering the whole of the island, and despite the near gale force winds meaning most birds chose to lie low, the group still recorded good numbers of common migrants with some more interesting bits thrown in. These included:
Hen Harrier (2)
Red-breasted Flycatcher (2)
Barred Warbler (1)
Yellow-browed Warbler (2)
Long-eared Owl (1)
Brambling (80)
Whinchat (5)
Ring Ouzel (6)
Lesser Whitethroat (1)
Pied Flycatcher (10)
Redstart (4)
Spotted Flycatcher (1)
Jack Snipe (1)
All in all a good days birding, and the whole group returned to the observatory weary but satisfied, if not a little hungry for the fantastic observatory food.

4 Buff-Breasted Sandpiper El Hondo

I spent late afternoon early evening in the Hondo/Vista Bella area where there are now three Buff-Breasted Sandpiper in the same Field and a fourth bird on the lagoon viewed from the hide with the "mising"walk board. Also present with the single Buff-Breasted Sandpiper were 3 Marsh Sandpiper along with the usual Kentish Plover, Black Winged Stilt, Redshank and Greenshank. Also present were 5 Purple Swamphen and 2 Little Bittern. Tried to get all 3 Buff-Breasted Sandpiper in the same picture but they just didn't want to play !

Monday, 27 September 2010

Fair Isle - Day 1

We arrived at Tingwall airport at 08:20 in preparation for our morning flight on to Fair Isle. Within 2 hours we were in the air and enjoying spectacular views over the archipelago in glorious weather. Less than half an hour later we were on Fair Isle, a new experience for two of the group members, and our attention quickly turned to the many rare and scarce birds already on the island.
We quickly headed over for a Red-throated Pipit which had been seen earlier in the day on the western side of the island, as this would be a new bird for 3 of the group. Upon arriving it was apparent the bird hadn't been recently seen, but many Meadow Pipits were present, interspersed with Rock Pipits and some other migrants. Whilst walking the cliffs around the area we encountered the follwing species; Pied Flycatcher (3), Chiffchaff (2), Willow Warbler (1), Wheatear (4), many Twite, and perhaps best of all good numbers of Lapland Bunting and smaller numbers of Snow Bunting (picutured below).

Lapland Bunting

Snow Bunting
Garden Warbler (left) and Barred Warbler (right)
After a fruitful 2 hours birding on the west cliffs, we took advantage of a minibus courtesy of the Observatory staff back to the brand new FIBO base to move in to our home for the next 5 days, and restore energy levels with some much needed lunch. Whilst waiting for the stop a quick check of the shop garden produced a juvenille Barred Warbler which was enjoyed by all the group. Upon arrival back at the new observatory we quickly settled in, and briefly checked the garden recording Lesser Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler. Just before lunch, we heard another Barred Warbler had been trapped in a gully near the obs, and was being brought back for ringing. The bird was held on display for all to see, the simultaneous trapping of a Garden Warbler allowing for an excellent opportunity for comparisin of these potential confusion species.

Barred Warbler

After a hearty lunch we wasted no time in getting back out in the field. With the wind strengthening from the east and news of more fresh migrants around the island, there was no time to sit around. No sooner had the group left the obs than the red flag, which is produced when an extreme rarity is found, was being paraded round the island attached to the back of the obseravtory van. Pumped with adrenalin we ran to the reported site, and it was not long until we were watching a stunning 1st-winter male Red-flanked Bluetail as it fed in the neigbouring gully which held Bluethroat and Barred Warbler. The bird was shortly trapped and brought back to the obs, where it was shown to all before being released back into the garden.

Red-flanked Bluetail

With clear evidence of new arrival of migrant birds, the group was quickly out in the field again in the hope of finding such a bird for themselves. The easterly wind had clearly strengthened, and the group split to opposite ends of the island. I headed towards North Light, as this was the site where an American Buff-bellied Pipit was currently frequenting, and this would be a new bird for myself. The bird showed extremely well (see below), but the elation of a new bird was possibly eclipsed by the barrage of migrants seemingly appearing out of nowhere at the higher points of the island.

Buff-bellied Pipit

Whilst sifting through the many birds flitting around any area of potentially suitable habitat, a wide variety of scarce and interesting species were recorded. The group in total saw no less than 10 Yellow-browed Warblers, with views of less than 6 feet easily possible as these tired birds sought much needed rest on their immediate arrival on the cliff top. Other birds seen amongst the commoner pipits and resident birds included many Pied Flycatcher and Garden Warbler, Whinchat (3), Redstart (2), Barred Warbler (1), Common Rosefinch (1), Ring Ouzel (4), and many Brambling. Best of all, was yet another Red-flanked Bluetail, this time a 1st-winter female at the radio mast, which showed extremely well as it fed around the metal compound.

Yellow-browed Warbler

The group returned to the observatory weary but elated after a superb days birding, the sheer sight of migrants 'falling from the sky' being something few of us had experienced before. The forecast continues to promise more birds, and following the fall that occured this afternoon, the group will certainly be out with high ambitions of a special bird tomorrow.

Sunday 26th September - Shetland Mainland

We arrived on in Lerwick at 07.30 after a calm sailing, the short wait at the ferry terminal giving us chance to have a look around the immediate vicinity which although quiet, did produce 9 Golden Plover. Our first port of call was the ferry terminal for Yell at Toft whilst waiting for our boat. Here we managed to see a small selection of birds including 9 Snow Bunting, 8 Pink footed Geese, 35 Wigeon, 2 Bonxie and lots of Black Guillemot on the crossing.
We drove straight across Yell in order to catch the next ferry to Unst where we headed to Norwick where most of the islands migrants had been seen the previous day. We spent over an hour birding the main garden and crop field here and were rewarded with the following; 1 Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll, 9 Greenland Redpoll, 6 Chiffchaff, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 12 Brambling, 1 Pied Flycatcher and 2 Blackcap.

Melodious Warbler
Moving to a differant part of the village we quickly located a Melodious Warbler which showed extremley well for all the group, pictured above. After such a brilliant start to the day we were overjoyed, however shortly our enjoyment of the Melodious Warbler was cut a little short with news of a White's Thrush which had been found on mainland Shetland about 10 miles south of Lerwick.
We arrived on the site within 3 hours of receiving news, which gave us plenty of time to hopefully locate the bird. Once out of the car we quickly discovered that there had been no sign of the bird in the past 2 hours, and it had disappeared into the thick cover of some inaccesible gardens. After an extensive search we had still not seen the bird, however when most people had left and we were beginning to give up hope one group member located the bird along the burn in which it had been originally seen. Over the next half an hour the whole team obtained good views of this stunning Siberian vagrant, and the atmosphere was electric as we left the site ecstatic. What a start to the tour; and with the weather set to get better, what might tomorrow bring?

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Cabo de Palos Murcia

Sunday 26 September

We took the short journey to Murcia today to the lighthouse at Cabo de Palos. With a steady on shore wind we were hopeful of seeing Shearwaters and we didn't have to wait long. We had superb views of a Cory's Shearwater as the bird passed very close. Also five Balearic Shearwater all in an hours seawatching. Half an hour around the lighthouse provided an impressive list of spieces to add to the sea birds.

Cory's Shearwater 2
Balearic Shearwater 11
Gannet 7 juv
Crag Martin 2
Redstart 2
Spotted Flycatcher 3
Winchat 1

Shetland Trip Day 1

I am currently sat on the North Link ferry on the way to Shetland for this years trip to the Northern Isles. The planned itineray for the trip consists of a single day on Shetland mainland either side of a 5 day stint on the migrant rich Fair Isle. The forecast is promising with strong SE winds predicted for the foreseeable future, and with an already respectable cast of rare and scarce birds on the islands, the trip promises to be eventful.

Whilst waiting for the ferry in the Aberdeen area earlier in the day, the group spent approximately 3 hours searching for scarcer species of sea duck, and any other seabirds of interest which may have been on show. The usual suspects were easily located in good numbers, with Eider, Kittiwake, Common Scoter, auks and Red-throated Diver all being numerous. Amongst these the following more interesting species were noted at close range:

Velvet Scoter - 10+
Arctic Skua - 20+
Pomarine Skua - 3 (2 ad + juv)
Long-tailed Skua - 1 (juv)
Sooty Shearwater - 1

Shortly after departure from Aberdeen, we encountered further seabirds with good views of both Sooty Shearwater and Great Skua being obtained.

Unfortunately due to a lack of internet over the next 36 hours it is unlikely there will be any more updates from the Shetland trip until we reach Fair Isle, but with the forecast set to deliver hoardes of migrants to the Northern Isles, the next post may well be worth the wait. In the meantime, updates from Spain will continue to be regular, as my Dad continues to enjoy the superb passage birding currently available right on our doorstep.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

EL Hondo

Both Buff-Breasted Sandpiper present at Midday although at the time i left the farmer was ploughing the field that both birds were in

Friday, 24 September 2010

Evening at La Mata

With the temperature well into the 30's again today I left it until early evening for a stroll with the dog down to the top hide at La Mata. We had a productive couple of hours starting with the Osprey from yesterday. Other birds of prey included Marsh Harrier (pair), Kestrel (pair) and a female Sparrowhawk. Heading for home as the sun was setting we added Iberian Grey Shrike, Wryneck, Hoopoe and Whinchat. To round the day off amongst the many Common Swift feeding over the reedbeds were 6 Pallid Swift.

Swallows on the move again

This was a typical view from the villa today with 35 Red Rumped Swallow amongst the 1500+ that flew South between 10am and 4pm whilst I was recording garden species. A Lesser Whitethroat was added this morning also 13 Bee Eaters feeding above and below the villa providing us with a very special moment.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Osprey La Mata

Thursday 23rd September

Spent the morning at La Mata enjoyed watching the Osprey fishing for half and hour before it settled on the platform and allowed me to get a distant but record shot. The only other species of note was Turtle Dove x 13.

Late afternoon - Vista Bella Road came out on top again as the 2 Buff Breasted Sandpiper are still showing well along with 9 Hoopoe in the same field. Also recorded female Marsh Harrier and a single Iberian Grey Shrike. From Vista Bella I stopped over at Santa Pola Salinas where 25 Collared Pratincole, 2 Gull Billed Tern and 5 Slender Bill Gull rounded off the day.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Twitch on

El Hondo Wednesday 22nd September 2010

Late afternoon/early evening trip to see if the Buff-breasted Sandpipers were still present on the Vista Bella road and I'm pleased to confirm they were. Picture shows twitchers viewing the bird which is just below their feet ! Biggest twitch I've seen whilst I've been out here. For those of you following our Garden Bird list today we added Booted Eagle and a steady number of Red Rumped Swallow amongst the Barn Swallows heading South.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

El Hondo Tues 21st September

Buff-breasted Sandpiper - El Hondo

We have finally got settled into our home in Spain - Mark and Tracy (Ashleys Mum and Dad) and wanted to share some of our news. Whilst Ashley is still working in the UK we will try and get out and about as much as possible to keep you upto date with what's happening birdwise here in Quesada. We are fortunate enough to have found somewhere that overlooks La Mata - nice to have Greater Flamingo and Black Necked Grebe on our garden list !! Others on the list are:- Red Rumped Swallow, Black Wheatear, Spotless Starling and Bee-eater. We will post some pictures of the accommodation on the next post.

Mark - Yesterday, early evening we took a drive over to San Pedro Salina's where we recorded 53 Black Tern, 3 Whiskered Tern, 8 Little Tern and 2 Curlew Sandpiper.

Today was my first proper outing since we arrived last Thursday and I was eager to check out El Hondo. I visited the hide on the South side of the reserve and recorded the following birds of note:- 1 Drake Ferruginous Duck, 3 Purple Swamp Hen, 15 Glossy Ibis and lots of the usual waders. The fields in this area are always worth a look and I am glad I took the time to scan the area as I was rewarded with 2 Juv Buff-breasted Sandpiper amongst the many larks and flava wagtails on display.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Wednesday 15th September

4 Cheshire lifers and another few days in Scotland

Great Northern Diver

On Tuesday I had arranged to do another 3 days survey work in Scotland; but as we were not due to depart until 3pm on Wednesday, I decided to do a few hours on the Cheshire coast in the morning. I arrived at Leasowe Lighthouse shortly after 10am in search of a Wryneck which had been seen earlier that day by Phil Woollen. After a 20 minute wait the bird showed on and off for about 5 minutes but was elusive. With time against me I gave up on the idea of getting better views and headed to New Brighton - 2 hours sea watching here produced; 13 Leach's Storm petrels, 2 Manx Shearwater, 1 Sooty Shearwater and 1 Sabine's Gull. A true smash and grab raid! 4 Cheshire lifers (highlighted in red) and I made it in time for my lift to Scotland, what a day!

My survey work in Scotland takes up most of the daylight hours, resulting in very little birding time. I did manage to get a shot of a stunning adult Great Northern Diver in full summer plumage, found on a nearby loch on Thursday 16th. Unfortunately the light was fading so the image above does not do this amazing bird justice, but you can imagine that it was a great feeling, finding this bird feeding a mere 30 feet offshore!

Friday, 10 September 2010

East Yorkshire.... Again!

Having used up the entire day on Monday looking for the Brown Flycatcher, I didn't get chance to go and have a look at any other migrants which had turned up elsewhere on the East Coast. Yesterday myself, dad and Mike Hunter headed back across for a full day out. With a broken camera this will be another picture -less post, so I will make it brief!

Crown and Anchor Car Park, 08.00 - 09.00

Barred Warbler - 1
Willow Warbler - 4
Garden Warbler - 3
Redstart - 4
Spotted Flycatcher - 15
Pied Flycatcher - 2
Whitethroat - 5

Spurn, 09.15 - 12.30

Spotted Flycatcher - 9
Pied Flycatcher - 7
Lapland Bunting - 3
Common Rosefinch - 2
Blackcap - 2
Redstart - 5
Garden Warbler - 6
Whitethroat - 11
Barred Warbler - 1
Willow Warbler - 8
Flava Wagtail - 7
Tree Pipit - 2 over
Swallow - 2000+ over
Swift - 1

Hornsea Mere 13.30 - 14.30

Common Crane - 1
Little Stint - 2
Dunlin - 14
Greenshank - 1
Common Sandpiper - 2
Ruff - 2
Red-necked Grebe - 1
Arctic Tern - 1

Flamborough Head, Seawatch (species of note) 16.00 - 18.00

Velvet Scoter - 1
Arctic Skua - 3 (2 ad )
Pom Skua - 1 ad
Black Tern - 5

Flamborough Head - Bay Brambles

Spotted Flycatcher - 6
Pied Flycatcher - 2
Icterine Warbler - 1
Willow Warbler - 4
Garden Warbler - 2
Redstart - 1
Whitethroat- 3

A great day on the coast with lots of common migrants with the occasional goody! I managed to see 7 species new for the year (highlighted in orange) leaving me on 276 for the year.

6th September - Bempton Cliffs RSPB

Brown Flycatcher

On Monday myself and Al Orton headed over to Bempton Cliffs RSPB in search of the Brown Flycatcher which had been found the day before. We were both eager to get there as we had both missed the Flamborough bird a couple of years ago. With news of the birds continued presence as we drove through Bridlington, spirits were high!

The bird had been found in a small dell slightly beyond the final Seabird watch point and we arrived on site at 08.30. In order to cut a long and painful story short, I will just say that a concoction of people trying to ring the bird, local birders walking through the dell and the very high winds resulted in me leaving at 13.30 having seen 1 Whitethroat, 2 Redstart, 1 Spotted Flycatcher, 1 Garden Warbler and 2 Willow Warblers. Enough said!

A conciliation prize did come in the form of a Red-breasted Flycatcher which was located in the car park and despite being elusive, did show on and off. Other species in the car park included, 2 Redstart, 2 Pied Flycatcher and 1 Spotted Flycatcher. Just a shame it couldn't have been a 4 Flycatcher day!

Friday, 3 September 2010

1st September - Eastern Olivaceous Warbler

Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire

At about 11.30 news broke that there was an Eastern Olivaceous Warbler in the old fall plantation at Flamborough Head. A quick call to Dan Pointon and he was on his way to meet me on the M6 from Bristol. After a nervous drive we were on site but the bird hadn't been seen for over an hour. The crowd dispersed from where it had been seen last and began trying to find it, shortly later a reliable observer had seen the bird and once again the crowd gathered.

The bird was calling on and off and after a while Phil Wollen and myself managed very brief views amongst the foliage. Another long wait during which a number of people had views similar to what Phil and I had achieved, but nobody had seen the bird well. As the light began to fade the bird jumped out and sat in the open for about a minute and thanks to Will Soar's lighting fast reactions, we all got great scope views! A great bird and a fantastic feeling seeing it so well when it looked like we were about to fail. Many thanks to John Harwood for allowing me to use his great images, below.

Above - Eastern Olivaceous Warbler - 1st September 2010 Flamborough Head