Monday, 17 July 2017

A slow burner at the pits

 Sparrowhawk above the main pit
Proud parent
 Distant Dunlin
 Common Blue
 Ruddy Darter (Possible Red-veined Darter)
 Downy Gulls
 Black-tailed Godwit
Mute Swan take off
Brown Argus
 Destruction continues

Like most places there are signs of Autumn migration starting but generally it's been very slow with the weather being not so very British, warm & sunny for prolonged spells.

On the wader front we had a single Black-tailed Godwit for two days before being joined by an additional two. Five juvenile Little Ringed Plovers have been recorded marking them as a continued success whether they continue to flouish would be in doubt for future years as the restoration is now back in full swing. Two Ringed Plovers & a Whimbrel flew through on Sunday morning. A single Common Sandpiper remains but no Green Sands which is unusual for this time of year. A full summer plumage Dunlin stayed for four days leaving on Sunday and there has been regular sightings of the Little Egrets.

John bagged the sites first returning Redstart on Sunday (our second for year) & a Kingfisher. 

Our two Lesser-backed Gull & Oystercatcher chicks continue to do well under close protection of their parents. With mid-week rain forecast we could get something new coming through. 

Thanks to Mark Clarke for forwarding a couple of great shots from in the week. Also thanks to the Jon, Squire, Mike & Terry for forwarding sightings.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Kent jolly for Marsh Sandpiper

 Spot the Marsh Sandpiper ?
 Small groups of twitchers were present
Touchdown Kent
 This chap was too close to see anything
The Squire short-cut !

With the cricket season in full swing I've been preferring to do the patch in the morning and watch the lads play than go out twitching on a Saturday. Then when set for a Sunday jolly out nothing is around to go and see. The same scenario looked to be happening again as both potential Sunday targets gave indications on Saturday it would be better waiting for news before travelling.

Thankfully my and the Squires tactics paid off as the Caspian Tern we'd considered seeing disappeared yet again whilst we headed round the M25 to Cliffe Pools in Kent. Safely parked up the walk took a good 30 minutes on a very uneven surface to reach the viewpoint. 

Once set up it took around ten minutes for the bird to show well as it had been embedded in the reeds making it very difficult to see. Whilst the views were distant you could comfortably pick up its features including thin straight beak, very delicate build and long legs. This eastern European juvenile seemed pretty comfortable most of the time however there were a couple of times the local Avocets and Black-winged Stilts gave the bird a gentle reminder who was in charge.

The RSPB's local ground work has again worked wondered for the Black-winged Stilts as  four juveniles could be observed. Breeding attempts by Stilts has increased since the early 2000's but productivity has been very low. Between 1983 & 2016 only three of the 21 nesting attempts has fledged young. 

The journey back took us an extra thirty minutes as the Squire seemed determined to get us in the channel tunnel bound for the Tour de France. After a detour we also avoided the Silverstone Grand Prix traffic.  The Marsh Sandpiper was a great bird to add to the life list as they only seem to come around every couple of years. Hopefully that pesky Caspain Tern may reappear close to home as that species continues to be elusive. 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Oystercatcher success

Oystercatcher family
 Distant Greenshank
 Swimming Deer
 Not a bad place when the sun is out
Sunday morning bike ride

The continued warm weather looks to be giving us every chance of some quality wader movement this autumn, we just need some kind winds now. Friday evenings visit confirmed that our Oystercatchers have bred for the first time for four years. Two chicks were showing well on the main island throughout the weekend. 

Six Common Terns greeted us on arrival on Saturday but they were the only sighting of any note. On Sunday I opted for a four hour plus cycle ride before I headed down to the patch. Two swimming deer were a bizarre observation & a new Little Ringed Plover chick looked to be doing well. Before leaving, a Greenshank landed to take advantage of one of the new islands & seemed comfortable with our flock of Lapwing that are growing by the day.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Bee-eater Bingo in Nottinghamshire

(European) Bee-eater reported sightings have been common this year with mostly being frustrating flyovers. It's been a species I've only ever seen in Spain so when 6/7 had been found at a quarry south of Nottingham I quickly arranged an early departure from work. The Squire & the Mayor of Warwick joined me for the pursuit up the M69. No reports on RBA & the Major announcing he had dipped Bee-eaters five times previously slightly dented our confidence.

The birds were first spotted on 25 June at East Leake Cemex Quarry which has very similar habitat at Salford Priors. Quickly parked up, a successful birder pointed us down a bridleway where we past many happy punters returning to their cars. The walk took about ten minutes to the prime spot where you viewed across the quarry to a large ash tree where the birds were showing very well. Just dropping off the large tree and catching dragon flies, bees and various other insects with a few seconds. One of the pairs looked to be on very good terms certainly giving hope they may nest in the quarry. Whilst the birds looked totally stunning when sat on the tree when in flight they were just fantastic to watch, some calling in flight .

A crowd mixed between birders & locals enjoyed great views and  a viewing area with car park has been set up for birders seeking the best views of the birds in the coming days if they stick around. This can be found at Lings Farm, LE12 6RG.

Colourful and unmistakable, Bee-eaters are rare visitors to the UK and normally nest in southern Europe. The last time they nested in the UK was 2015, when two pairs set up home in a quarry in Cumbria. They have also nested on the Isle of Wight (2014), Herefordshire (2005) and Country Durham (2002). These beautiful birds may stay for the next couple of months should they breed.

A quick return journey to Worcestershire with Coldplay on the IPOD rounded off a cracking jolly outing.

Purple Emperor's on a very quintessential english weekend

 Little Ringed Plover
Pyramidal Orchid
 Purple Emperor
 Purple Emperor
Purple Emperor
Silver washed Fritillarys
 Dusty walking off 
 Barn Swallows in the pavilion
Punch & Judy
Stunning Brass Band

With limited early returning waders at the pits it was a case of business as usual over the weekend. A Green Sandpiper was the first sign a change may be on the way but Saturday sightings were restricted to a Common Tern, male Teal (still), 3 Little Ringed Plover & 2 Oystercatchers.  Local butterfly expert Dave Williams offered to meet us at the local  Oversley Woods where he showed us a fantastic array of butterflies including the amazing Purple Emperors, White & Red Admirals, Silver washed Fritillarys, Purple Hairstreaks, Marbled Whites, Comma, Ringlets, Meadow Browns & Large Skippers.

The afternoon was spent watching Dusty crack a match winning 77 not out for Feckenham first XI on the day of the village wake. It was lovely to enjoy some of old traditions of England including the brass band, classic cars & of course Punch & Judy.

Sundays patch visit, which I did with Jon, included a Redshank, 4 LRP’s, 2 Oystercatchers, 2 Sparrowhawk, a Peregrine and a very nice Pyramidal Orchid.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Elegant Tern dictates the midnight hour

Elegant Tern (Brian Thompson)
The early arrives
The crowd grew as the news spread
The wait was too much for some
Pagham Harbour
91 pairs of Meditaerran Gulls breed here
Distance pic showing comparison of a Little tern to a Sandwich Tern
File photo of a cracking Elegant Tern

My final day of extended weekend was reserved for a bit of a catch up around the garden and a patch visit. This all went to pot when the Squire called and asked if I fancied going for the Elegant Tern in Sussex. 

The Elegant tern was found by patch watcher Andy Johnson on 7th June whilst trying to find an elusive Storm Petrel around Hayling Island. Reading the finders report on RBA, he had considered the American Royal Tern (which had spent the latter half of the winter and the spring in the Channel Islands) would visit the south coast, even end up on his patch. The Tern was ringed in France which made it much easier to confirm it was an Elegant Tern & not a hybrid. On this day just five birders connected but thankfully on Saturday 10th June, Alan Kitson found the Elegant Tern in the tern colony at Church Norton in Pagham Harbour, West Sussex. 
The ring combination on this Elegant Tern has identified it as 'bird C' from Banc d'Arguin, Gironde, France, an adult male which was first seen on the reserve in 2002. It has returned almost every year since then, breeding with a Sandwich Tern on numerous occasions at both this site and in the Noirmoutier colony. Recent DNA analysis has confirmed that this bird and two other orange-billed terns breeding in France and Spain are all pure Elegant Terns. Source RBA.

Given the Squire could only get a day off he hatched a plan, inspired by Phil Andrews, to leave Alcester at 1am, see the bird early and be home for his afternoon shift.  Not needing any encouragement I duly agreed and met him as planned at 12.45am. The journey took a brief 3 hours which I spent dosing on and off. There were already three cars parked with birders ready to go. We walked down to the harbour with a Tawny Owl calling and set up ready for an easy tick. Under the moonlight there was no sign but as sun started to rise the Squire picked out the Elegant Tern with his new Swaro scope sat on the pier structure to the right of the island preening. With ice cool precision he led myself and another birder (520+ lister) to see the bird before finding the Pacific visitor ourselves. The Tern then took flight undertaking an extended circuit before heading out to sea.

There were plenty of other super species to observe in the four hours until the bird returned. These included a second summer Little Gull, Little Ringed Plover, two Pergerines with chick, large number of Mediterranean Gulls, Sandwich / Common & Little Terns and Little Egrets.

This Elegant Tern became my tenth new species of the year therefore reaching my annual target with some ease. I might be pushing my luck for another ten before the year end. 

Many thanks to Paul for his excellent driving at this mad hour, I certainly couldn't have done it on my own at that time. 

In search of the Yorkshire Honey Buzzards

Honey Buzzard (Martin Loftgren)
Wykeham Forest
Georgous gannet
Tree Sparrow
Ahh bless photo
Gannet colony
Not much room on cliffs
And stretch
Scarborough Peregrine

Honey Buzzard is a species that I've never seen or got close to seeing as there is so little information available. I'd tried twice for them at Acres Down in New Forest when in the area without even a sniff so I spread my wings looking for any help. Spurn birder, Steve Routledge came to my assistance and offered me some good tips, plenty of excellent reading and the offer of a meet up. So Friday morning I left home at 4.30am to go to Wykeham Forest on North Yorkshire Moors. As I arrived Steve was already set to go so we headed up to the raptor point and was joined by Tim Cowley.

The view of the canopy was excellent, the lads were very hopeful of a couple of sightings. A Garden Warbler & five Crossbills kept us entertained whilst we waited and waited. Plenty of Common Buzzards & Swifts but no Honeys ! At 9.45am we got our first sighting which was perhaps our worst but as the morning progressed the views improved. We may have seen two birds however the one we recorded in the same area a number of times and only strayed west once. Whilst you could see them with binoculars you needed you a scope at all times to confirm the ID's. Wing clapping was only witnessed once which was a shame & you can always wish for a perfect flyover . These secretive raptors arrive in the third week in May before leaving mid to late august with juveniles following in September. 

As the morning progressed there was plenty of good banter between sightings and other sightings included a Raven, two Red Kites and 2/3 Goshawks. Many thanks to Steve & Tim for their help. I left the forest around 1.30pm as sighting had gone quiet & headed to RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Whilst I've been there twice before you can't miss the chance to see sea birds so close. There were more Puffins than I'd seen previously whilst there were the usual high number of Razorbill, Guillemot, Kittiwakes & Gannets. Bempton must be the best place to now see Tree Sparrows, they were everywhere. As I left the reserve I found two Corn Buntings by the farm. 

Thankfully I'd booked to stay over and the next morning I found one of the famous Scarborough Peregrines when I passed the cliffs when out running. I returned after breakfast to get some breathtaking views of the bird hunting the cliffs.