Saturday, 18 February 2012

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat, Rhiwderin, Gwent. Photo by Nathan Casburn

News broke whilst I was at work on Thursday of a common yellowthroat which had been found in Rhiwderin, Gwent. My boss still needed this species for the UK and so plans were quickly drawn together for a twitch the following day. We left Cheshire at 06.30 and arrived at about 09.00, the bird had been seen briefly but was being elusive. Within a few minutes Fred had "pished" the bird out to the spot where we were stood and we got our first brief glimpses. After a short while the bird gave itself up and we got prolonged scope views as it fed actively in the grass verge of hedgerow. What a cracker and my 2nd yank lifer of 2012, who would have thought it! Congratulations to who ever had taken the time to organising access and arranging parking - top job!

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

New Year and January Catch Up!

Well here it is, at last! A round up of 2011 and birding done in the opening month of 2012. What with numerous trips within the UK and abroad, 2011 was possibly the best years birding I have had. As well as birding, work has become a permanent fixture and I am happy to say that I have been working as part of the Avian Ecology team since October 2011. With so many amazing moments in 2011, I'm going to list my favourite 10 (in date order), followed by some of the more memorable pictures I managed to get.
  1. A mad dash twitch on St Valentines day which saw me manage to see the Chipping Norton Oriental Turtle Dove and still get back to the house without my girlfriend knowing I had potentially risked our plans! (phew!!)
  2. An extremely successful Aquila Bird Tours trip to Scotland. A host of species were recorded over the weekend, including lifers or 'bimbo's!' for both of English and Spanish guests. The pick of the bunch included - Red-throated, Black-throated, Great Northern and White-billed Diver, Black and Red Grouse, Ptarmigan, Capercaillie, Crested Tit, White-tailed Eagle and Pine Marten.
  3. Ireland part 1 - A weekend twitch with Mark Powell (Dad), Dan Pointon and Ash Howe. Over the course of the weekend we managed to see - White-winged Scoter, Forsters Tern, American Coot, House Crow and about 8 Ringed-billed Gulls!
  4. Ireland Part 2 - BRIDGES OF ROSS! Again Dan Pointon, Mark Powell and I set off for the Emerald Isle and yet again we were not disappointed. The ultimate aim of the trip was of course to try see rare seabirds to the British Isles, whilst also enjoying high numbers of more scarce species. We didn't see either of the most sought after species - Fea's Petrel or Little Shearwater; however, we had some good stuff over the days including - Pomerine, Arctic and Great Skua, Grey Phalarope, Sooty, Manx, Balearic and Great Shearwaters, Leach's and British Storm Petrel finally a healthy number of Sabine's Gull. Whilst the trip was all about sea-watching, a brief visit to Shannon Airport Lagoon allowed us the chance of catching up with a long staying White-rumped Sandpiper.
  5. Cornwall Part 1 - Greater Yellowlegs! Dan and myself drove over night only to be disappointed when dawn broke and the Yellowlegs had gone! A few hours later after a fruitless search Dan and I left for some Pendeen sea-watching, half way there and the phone rings.... typical! My Dad, who had travelled down with Al Orton, Phil Wollen, Malc Curtin and Mark Payne, had re-located the bird about 2 miles down the river. A mad dash ensued but needless to say we eventually caught up with the impressive lanky yank!
  6. Cornwall Part 2 - After leaving the Greater Yellowlegs, Dan and I stuck to our original plan and headed down to Pendeen. Within an hour a Great Shearwater slowly drifted through so close that you could have identified it without Bins! Easily one of the moments of the year!
  7. Scilly Part 1 - Black and White Warbler, enough said!
  8. Scilly Part 2 - In the same day that I had seen the Black and White Warbler ( the day after I had drove from Lampeter to Newquay airport between 11am and 3pm!) I managed to finally catch up with the Northern Water Thrush, thanks to Dan! Probably the best day birding I have had in the UK, other species seen that day included - Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Blue-winged Teal, Bea-eater and Red-eyed Vireo!
  9. Shetland Part 1 - The entire Shetland trip was full of fantastic moments, the best of which for me was on the last day when the wind finally turned east and with the mist and drizzle, migrants were quite literally falling out of the sky. The following morning the back garden held - 3 Yellow-browed Warbler, 1 Redstart, 1 Pied Flycatcher, 1 Wood Warbler and who knows what else! Not bad for down town Lerwick!
  10. Shetland Part 2 - The Northern Lights!

Above 2 images - Black and White Warbler. Lower Moors, Isles of Scilly. September 2011.

Blue-winged Teal. Newford Duck Pond, Isles of Scilly. September 2011.

Solitary Sandpiper. Newford Duck Pond, Isles of Scilly. September 2011

Little Bunting. Whalsay, Shetland. September 2011

Olive-backed Pipit, Shetland Mainland. September 2011.

Northern Lights. Shetland Mainland. September 2011.

January catch up!

January was a busy month and as a result my birding was fairly limited, I did however manage a couple of weekend excursions! The first of which was to Norfolk on the 14th of the month. Myself and Dad began the day at Buckenham Marsh's where a great start was had with a Barn Owl hunting alongside the car in the half light. We began searching for our target species (Lesser White-fronted Goose) there was no sign initially but 40+ White-fronted Geese, 2 Whooper Swan, a very showy male Peregrine Falcon, 1000's of Wigeon and a few Egyptian Geese made the wait in the cold more bearable. Eventually our quarry flew in with approximately 100 taiga Bean Geese. We watched the Lesser White-fronted Goose for about 40 minutes, taking in this fantastic species which unfortunately is globally threatened and potentially a relict in these parts now. Next stop Cley!

In serious need of a coffee we stopped on the sea-front car park, amongst the very tame Turnstone were a nice flock of Snow Bunting, some of which came quite close. Re-charged we headed to Pats Pool where the long staying Western Sandpiper continued to show well (see below). The afternoon was slipping away fast and so we decided to make tracks, towards titchwell, getting great views of Rough-legged Buzzard en-route. Short days resulted in a short visit, we did manage to have a walk to the sea and a few good birds were on offer, including - Red-crested Pochard, Water Rail, Bearded Tit, Marsh Harrier and our main target, Arctic Redpoll.

Above 2 images. Wigeon, Buckenham Marsh's. Norfolk.

Turnstone. Cley, Norfolk.

Snow Bunting. Cley, Norfolk.

Western Sandpiper. Cley, Norfolk.

Sat 28th Jan - Hampshire

A bit of a tick and run day due to the distance and lack of daylight, but really enjoyable day non-the-less. Dad and I set off at 4 am from Cheshire, arriving at Hawkhill Inclosure shortly after first light. After 2 very frustrating hours and no sign of the wintering Dark-eyed Junco, we decided to go and see the Spanish Sparrow a few miles away at Calshot. As soon as we arrived the bird started showing and performed well both in the roadside hedge and a residents back garden. Thank you very much to the home owners who allowed us to watch the bird on their table and get the photo's below.

We drove back to Hawkhill Inclosure and duly managed to re-locate the Dark-eyed Junco which had been missing all morning! It was associating itself with a feeding group of about 15 Reed Bunting and eventually gave good views, see below. Good day and good birds, two UK lifers for Dad and one for myself.

Above 2 images - Spanish Sparrow, Calshot.

Crossbill, Hawkhill Inclosure

Dark-eyed Junco.