Monday, 20 November 2017

Back to real gravel pit birding

 Uncommon Great Crested Grebe
 Drake Pintail
 Marsh Tit
 Blue Tit
 Coal Tit

With the site restoration now coming to a close I opted for just the one visit at the weekend. It's all very uninspiring to see the site completely flat. Large numbers of birds & mammals have all been displaced to all corners. The once glorious bunds that held breeding Grasshopper Warblers and many more species have all gone. Viewing on the main pit is very difficult as there is no cover at all for us & movement naturally unsettles the birds on the main pit.

Only Chris Lane & I have been on site in last few weeks so the chances of a late decent Autumn record has been minimal. 

Sundays highlights on a very cold morning included a Great Crested Grebe, adult Yellow-legged Gull, 7 Shoveler, 70 Lapwing, 4 Pochard, a drake Pintail & 4 Redpoll. I did venture across to Hillers on my walk where there were 2 Marsh Tit & 4 Redpoll around the garden centre.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Cory's Shearwater at Rutland Water - Honest !

Cory's Shearwater
Photos difficult with distance & light

I was all set for my normal Thursday early finish at work followed by a long bike ride when suddenly CORYS SHEARWATER - RUTLAND WATER flashed up on the phone. Surely not,was my thoughts like everyone else's. I then checked on Twitter to see a report by Leicestershire birder Andy Mackay he had found a Cory's in the North Arm of Rutland Water.

I waited another twenty minutes for photographic evidence to be on social media and I was off surging east towards the summer hot spot for Ospreys. The journey took around 1 hour 50 and regular updates looked positive until I got within 30 minutes saying 'out of site flying around peninsula'. Having cycled around Rutland I knew the area pretty well so I bypassed the fishing lane and headed through Hambleton to the end of the road.

A two minute walk and low & behold the Shearwater was flying straight past me towards the south arm with the the stunning Normanton Church in the background. How brilliant was this. I probably watched the bird for about two minutes before it went out of view. Knowing the direction of flight I jumped in the car to drove five minutes to a different spot overlooking the south arm.

There, in the distance, was the Cory's Shearwater sat on the middle of the expanse of water with Mute Swans. The scope views were excellent & the pale pinky yellow beak stood out. I did expect the bird to be slightly larger but it seemed the size of a large gull. After five minutes on the water the birders were then treated to some outstanding flight views. What was strange was the days weather was very calm and didn't really project any thoughts of seabirds being blown off course.

Highly satisfied I headed for home & not even a couple of slow local tractors blocking the road denied me of a very good afternoon in Leicestershire.

From checking the records it's only the third ever inland record for a Cory's Shearwater with the previous records being at Chasewater (Staffordshire) & one in flight over Regents Park London. 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Scilly Season Day 9 - Homeward bound

Great Northern Diver
Red-breasted Flycatcher
Ringed Plover
Unwelcome guest for lunch
Turnstone of beach outside house
Black Redstart
With an afternoon departure myself and the Squire made the most of time available in the hope of finding a last hour superstar. Seven Fieldfares flew over as we reached the highest point of the Garrison before dropping down to the coastal path where I found a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver edging out of Portcressa bay. 

Despite a real grilling we couldn't find anything else so we headed to Lower Moors to re-find the Red-breasted Flycatcher, a Hawfinch, Black Redstart & four Redpolls flying over.

The crossing back home was thankfully very calm but quite bird less until we edged into Cornish waters were sightings included 2 Balearic & a Sooty Shearwater, a flow of Kittiwakes & Auks, 2 Mediterranean Gulls and our final addition was an Arctic Skua flying our of the bay found by Paul, giving the Squire his fifth lifer of the week.

So in terms of a first visit to the Scillies did I achieve what I wanted to ? 

  • Go on a mega Scillies Twitch ✓ - The Yellow-billed Cuckoo was a great trip to St Agnes

  • See two lifers ✓ - Hopefully so with the Cuckoo & Wilson's Snipe

  • Visit all the main islands ✖ - Only walked St Marys, St Agnes & Tresco but did visit the coast of Brhyer & St Martins. 

  • Meet new friendly birders ✓ - The house was full of great characters. Many thanks to Paul, Adam, Brad, Jake & the Squire for great company throughout the week.

  • Walk 10 miles a day ✓- We certainly did, I may have dipped under that amount the day I wasn't feeling 100%. 

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Scilly Season Day 8 – Day of the sea duck

They love a Canada Goose on Scily
Surf Scoter

Close views of the Scoter
Common Scoter
Buzzard on St Martins
Drake Long-tailed Duck
Long-tailed Duck
Two birders enjoying the view over St Marys
Beach outside our digs
Stick insect sighting
Sun setting
Just a super place for Autumn break
Team photo taken in The Atlantic

Our last full days options were either to twitch the missing Grey-cheeked Thrush on St Martins, try Bryher & perhaps see the Bluethroat and walk St Mary’s to death or try the Joe Pender Saphire special on the hope to see the reported Surf Scoter & Long-tailed Duck.

I opted for the later, as thought it was a unique experience that would be difficult to repeat if successful.

A 9.30am departure took us out of St Mary heading directly towards Samsom where 2 Spoonbills were on rocks allowing excellent views. Close by I recorded my first 5 Shelduck on the islands whilst 7 Canada Geese were on the beach.

Next stop was the Surf Scoter that was just amazing to see, a couple of times the bird got within 6 feet of us.  From memory this is my third Surfie of the year.

As we headed towards St martins additional sightings included a faboulos Merlin, 30 Curlew, Great Northern Diver and a Buzzard, quite a rare sighting in the Scillies.

It was looking ever hopeful for another target bird but just as we were admiring a flock of six Common Scoters a shout came from the back of the boat the Long-tailed Duck was on our left. This stunning drake looked brilliant and whilst not as confiding as the Surfie it was a super sighting. I did try and take a few record shots but the light wasn’t ideal.

After a quick recharge I was back out marching around St Marys. Two new Black Redstarts were on  houses in Old Town & 12 Brambling were with a huge flock of Siskin & Chaffinch.

The final sighting of the day was Red-breasted Flycatcher in Lower Moors, a real sign of Autumn. The bird was viewed from the 1st bridge after the gate.

Thanks to a tip off we re-located a Sticky Stick insect at Porthmellon on the way home where I took advantage of the weather & wrote up my blog to save time when returning home.

Scilly Season Day 7 – Empty handed on all fronts

St Agnes
One of many Song Thrush's
Another bay, another Black Redstart
Close Seal
Brhyer Bluethroat
More great views
Team talk at the bird quiz
A decent effort made

We opted for St Agnes in the hope the previous days Long-eared Owl had hung around & the option to go to Brhyer for a Bluethroat didn't appeal as we had both seen one this year. On St Agnes there was sadly no Owl & very little action on the island at all. 3 Swallows, 2 Black Redstarts & Water Rail were the best birds before returning with our tail between our legs.  A reported Grey-cheeked Thursh on St Martins was only seen in the morning which made us feel slightly better that we hadn’t missed a mega.

In the afternoon I caught up with the Dusky Warbler yet again on Lower Moors but there was no sign of the Red-breasted Warbler.

We did manage a respectable effort in the bird quiz but everyone contributed  to our very average score.

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Scilly Season Day 6 – Tricky Treco

Touchdown Tresco
Common Sandpiper
St Martins
Pink-footed Geese
Lush grass for the Pinkies
Red Squirrel
Coastal path
View towards St Marys, Bryher on right
Bit rough on northern tip
Take spot for coffee 

New day & finally a second chance to get off the island. We opted for Tresco for a bit of variation and the chance it may be a bit quieter. It was definitely quieter on the bird front as we barely saw a bird on the north side of the island except for passing Gannets.

Birds started to return to view as he headed south and the best of the limited highlights were :- Common Sandpiper, 6 Pink-footed Geese, 3 Grey Heron, White & Grey Wagtail, 2 Mute Swan, Sparrowhawk, a Stock Dove, 31 Coot, 23 Gadwall, Water Rail, 5 Greenshank, 2 Little Egret, Curlew, 40 Ringed Plover, 30 Turnstones and three Mediterranean Gull on journey home.

Good evening playing pool managing to defeat the Squire in a decider before beating all comers from the house.