Thursday, 14 September 2017

Big Autumn Lodmoor double

 Stilt Sandpiper
Avoiding a Godwit 
Least Sandpiper 
Comparison with Green Sandpiper 
Great White Egret 
Least Sandpiper with Starling in background

After getting back from Monday's pursuit down the M5 news broke that two rare north american sandpipers had been found at RSPB Lodmoor in Dorset. A Least Sandpiper was on my most wanted list whilst a Stilt Sandpiper I'd only ever seen reported once since I started birding seriously. 

Whilst hopeful they might stick overnight I decided to wait for news which emerged at 7.30am that both birds were still present. I broke the journey into thirds each time checking twitter - the news was still positive. 

Quickly parked I marched around to the west path where the Stilt Sandpiper was teasing the audience of birders & twitchers on the edge of the island. After a solid identification the bird went round to the back of the island so I walked round to the bandstand where the Least Sandpiper was showing superbly. This juvenile was such a tiny wader and you didn't realise how small until a couple of Starlings landed behind the bird. This bird was a fantastic find. A Great White Egret watched the action for the reeds over looking the scrape.

After enjoying the bird I walked back to the west scrape where the Stilt Sandpiper was showing much better but was still getting occasional grief from the local Godwits. This bird had a very distinctive body shape for a small wader yet longer brown/green legs. 

After a few record shots I headed back home with the Coldplay playlist blasting. A double tick day is always a good day. 

Missed opportunity but Woodchat compensation

Prolonged westerlies & a week off set me up for a trip up the M6 to hopefully see my first Leach's Petrel however an afternoon trip for high tide didn't really motivate me as I'd of had a shocking return journey in heavy traffic. Instead I picked up Chris & the Squire to follow up a report the same species were at the much closer Severn Bridge. 

Despite a quick journey it was all in vein as all the action had happened in the previous hour. As hard as we looked our sightings were restricted to 3 Manx Sheareater, a Sparrowhawk, Common Gull, 40 Dunlin & 80+ Turnstones. Not even a cup of tea & cake would improve our luck so we headed back up the M5.

The Squire was snoozing within minutes (as normal) when I remembered the reported Woodchat Shrike wasn't far off the motorway at Chipping Sodbury Common. The Squire had been the previous week so he duly marched us across the common to the Shrike hunting area. For the first fifteen minutes we had to settle for good views of several Whinchat & two Wheatear. 

After a bit of head scratching the juvenile Woodchat Shrike was duly located and treated us to some superb views. Paul thought the birds crown seemed more brown than on it's first visit. It will be interesting to see how long this mediterranean visitor stays given how comfortable it looked. 

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Double Osprey please

Two Ospreys visited Salford Priors this week as Autumn swung into gear. Our first Osprey was picked up by Ann & Noel on Tuesday in Bidford heading towards the pits harassased by a party of gulls. Thankfully I managed to get the news out quickly to our fellow pitters enabling Mark Clarke to get on site and take to great photos including the one shown above. This bird was wearing a blue ring (5). Terry managed to see it at Abbots Salford before heading south.

The following day Chris Lane text me at 12.24pm saying juvenile Osprey (unringed) was sat on top of the Little Owl tree. The Squire was on hand this time for a patch tick before the bird flew west at 1pm. Chris also recorded a Hobby, Little Egret, 4 Little Ringed Plover, Pochard, 2 Swift, Green Sandpiper & 6 Lapwing. I did call down after work but there was no sign however an escaped Chiloe Wigeon was on Pophills. 

Fridays visit was very quiet but the Chiloe Wigeon was present again with an addition of a Dunlin, 2 Common Sandpiper, 2 Green Sandpiper & 39 Lapwing. 

There was no sightings on Saturday however Jon had a very interesting day on Sunday when he recorded the second site record of a Blue-headed Wagtail, appearing on the main pit during the rain, with at least 2 White amongst 15-20 Pied and 4 Yellow Wagtails. After the rain had stopped most departed again leaving just a few Pied.  Highlights included 1 Little Egret, 9 Grey Herons (the best for some time), 225 Greylags, 1 escaped Chiloe Wigeon on the main pit, 1 eclipse male Wigeon, 10 Gadwall, 22 Teal, 300 Mallard, 1 Shoveler, 1 male Pochard, 26 Tufted Duck, adult male Hobby chasing martins, 1 Grey Partridge calling by main pit, 3 Little Ringed Plover, 4 Ringed Plover, 40 Lapwing, 2 Dunlin, 1 Green Sandpiper, 3 Common Sandpipers, 1 adult Yellow-legged Gull dropped in for a while, 1 Kingfisher, huge numbers of hirundines milling about in the rain with an estimated 550 House Martins, 120 Swallows and 25 Sand Martins, 1 Tree Pipit and a few Meadow Pipits flew south before the rain.

There has been a lack of posts of late as sightings have not really changed until this week.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Whistle-stop Highland tour with White-winged Scoter

White-winged Black Scoter - File image
Phone-scoped image (Cliff Smith)
A view of many thousand ducks
Real Scotland

Findhorn Valley
Crested Tit
Crested Tit in moult
Whiskey time
Mountain Hare
Not bad hand held
View from the top of Glenshee
Fancy a ride

Red Squirrel
No blog for a few weeks as there is only so times you can write about Green & Common Sandpipers. on top of this I've has large project finishing involving me working all the previous weekend. 

This weekend however was very different as I took up the chance to team up with the Captain for a weekend of birding north of the birder. The plan would be to try and find the White-winged Scoter for a day then move into the Highlands whether we had seen the Scoter or not.

Leaving home at 3am we landed just before midday with the weather looking stunning & sea flat we were hopeful rather than confident. We came across another five birders who has been looking since first light with no avail. What we under estimated was quite the huge amount of ducks that would be in the bay. There were thousands & thousands of Common Scoter, Eider & Velvet Scoter & the bonus of two Surf Scoter. The views were just fantastic but there were so many to search through. It was painstaking but we stuck to our task well. We took a break around 4pm as we were hit horizontal rain giving us a real Scottish drenching. After a quick break we took up our positions again teaming up with three London based birders. One of those birders had a brilliant x100 telescope which he used to great effect to find the American Scoter, then kindly giving us all a view before we located it ourselves. The crescent eye was the most distinct feature & the extra knob on the beak the other. The bird showed well twice for about 4/5 minutes each time. The relief was ecstatic. Our twitter tips from Cliff & Steve were right in terms of approximate line & how it associated with Velvets rather than the Commons. Red-throated Diver was added to the day list along with a passing dark morph Arctic Skua & Bronxie.  

Next morning we headed east into I what deem the real Highlands, rolling hills and amazing views. Our targets of the day were agreed to be Crested Tit & Golden Eagle. Some close up views of Red Grouse (Raven & Red Kite over) broke up the journey until we reached a spot the Captain had seen Goldies on previous visits. Just as we were munching our mid morning stack I picked a White-tailed Eagle flying east, spitting crumbs everywhere we got great scope views & then the bird past again going the direction it started from about twenty minutes later. No Goldies so we headed towards Nethy Bridge. 

At a quiet corner of the forest I picked up a single Crested Tit, buoyed we held our position and waited & with some patience two Crested Tit going through mouth landed very close by allowing us to see the birds at close quarters. Now this was going well, time for Findhorn Valley. We picked up some lunch on route & set up at our favoured spot. It's a place sometimes you are scratching your head with nothing happening which nothing did bar a couple of routine Buzzards. As I was watching a pair of Oystercatchers on the river the Captain picked up a pair of Golden Eagles above one of the ridges circling high on the thermals. To find this pair within a hour was very satisfying giving us change to add an extra site to the day. To get there we took the famous Farr road, very few passing places & single track for seven miles. Once over the road we were quickly parked at Loch Ruthven where we added Slavonian Grebe to our trip list. A great finish to an epic day. 

A wonderful meal was served by the team at Grant Arms Hotel including Haggis which was followed by a number of the local whiskeys.

With a big journey home a tight schedule would be needed so we were out before breakfast where we accidentally flushed a roosting Capercaille whilst watching two Spotted Flycatchers & the cheeky Red Squirels. Not bad before breakfast.

Our route back would take in Glenshee where do took the ski lift to try & find any Ptarmigan. However a local shoot had taken place on Saturday & the birds had moved to a different location. We had to satisfy ourselves with some Mountain Hares which was a first for myself.

A brilliant action packed three days ! Thankfully our tactics of waiting for new of the Portland Yellow Warbler paid dividends as it wasn't seen all day. 

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Great White Egret is Sunday treat

I wrapped up a good weekend of birding with a couple of hours at Upton Warren which included some splendid views of a Great White Egret in the Broadmeadow lagoon.

Over on the flashes a flock of 10 Black-tailed Godwits were present among other waders including Curlew, Lapwing, LRP’s, Avocets, Green & Common Sandpipers.

The day of the Common Sandpiper

Sundays start time couldn’t have been better timed as Jon & I had a male Hobby hunting a House Martin over Pophills giving us outstanding views. The species which stood out during the visit was the Common Sandpiper, 11 were counted no doubt brought in with the heavy showers.
Other highlights recorded were 32 Little Grebe, 2 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron, 10 Mute Swan, 172 Greylags, 93 Canada Geese, 14 Gadwall, 2 Teal, 143 Mallard, 3 Shoveler, 4 Pochard, 56 Tufted Duck, a Red Kite, 182 Coot, family of 4 Oystercatcher (doing well), 5 Little Ringed Plover, 20 Lapwing, 3 Green Sandpipers, family of LBB Gulls (two young), 35 Black-headed Gulls, 2 Common Terns, 1 Kingfisher, 50 Sand Martin and a Yellow Wagtail.

Another day another Sandpiper

A bumper number of Shearwaters flying through Devon on Friday tempted me however for a weekend twitch I stuck to my original plan & headed to Kilsea Wetlands as soon as the first report of the White-rumped Sandpiper came through on the phone.


Twitching a flighty bird with a 3 hour journey was always going to have an element on risk involved but It would be worth it if I could pull it off. Confidence increased as it was reported again when I was just an hour away. Safely parked I was literally skipping round to the hide only to be greeted with “It’s gone mate”.


Feeling like a burst balloon I decided to make the most of the location and have a good nosey around recording Sandwich, Common & Little Terns, some fantastic coloured Red Knots, Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, Little Egrets, Common & Green Sandpipers.


With the chance to get back to watch the second innings of local cricket I then headed out of Kilsea when the Squire reached me in a rare mile of reception to tell me the White-rumped was back. I quickly turned back along the ten minutes of lanes to park and sprint to the hide. There at last was the target bird of the day. The bird was very distinguishable as it was very pale compared to the Dunlin flock it was with & also smaller. The long primary projections were a feature that really stood out.


From a earlier moment of despair the afternoon drive home went very smoothly and to make the day even better I hadn’t missed any cricket due to heavy rain in the midlands.