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Sunday, 12 February 2017

"Blues" & "Greys" in Lincs.

Bluethroat, 1w male, Willow Tree Fen, Lincs.
Howling wind, horizontal sleet, no coffee! Just some of the things that I had to fight off this morning before heading to the Lincolnshire Fens between Spalding & Crowland. Land so flat and, dare I say, boring that I started counting mole hills on the way there just for some light relief.
The birdlife, however, was far from boring. At Willow Tree Fen the damp but dapper, first winter, male, Bluethroat put on a hell of a show, coming within a few feet of the birders braving the rain and freezing temperatures. It mostly fed by the main path and always came back if flushed.

Bluethroat, 1w male, Willow Tree Fen, Lincs.
After getting my fill of Bluethroat I travelled to Deeping High Bank alongside the River Welland catching sight of the local Great White Egret there. I parked at the bridge by Four Bar Bank and crossed the Welland. On the river to the North was the long staying Long-tailed Duck while three Scaup and a drake Goosander were to the South.
The main bird to be seen though, was the Great Grey Shrike. Often reported as distant or elusive, todays rain must have taken the fight out of it because it gave itself up easily and came quite close.

Great Grey Shrike, Deeping High Bank, Lincs.
Goosander, drake, R. Welland, Lincs.
My last stop of the day was at Eldernell on the Nene Washes. It was damp, very misty and there were few things to see except two Common Cranes, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk and Bewick's Swans.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Divers Down!

White-billed Diver, juvenile, River Witham. Lincs.

Well here it is! my first post of 2017. I hope you like it.
After beating my target of 300 species in the UK for 2016 I decided that I am not listing competitively for 2017 but just going to see what I want without worrying about dipping. New species are to be a priority but not the only targets.
The beginning of the year was spend at Titchwell trying to come to grips with the exceptional numbers of Common Scoter, Velvet Scoter and Long-tailed Duck and seeing number's of other species not normally associated with the sea such as Northern Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Egyptian Geese. The drake Ferruginous Duck at Holme was a welcome New Year Tick.
Malcolm and I have spent a couple of days outside Norfolk with good results. Seeing the sleepy, drake Ring-necked Duck at Kirkby-on-Bain was my first for a few years. A week later we were at Dunnington scrapping for views of a very fine but elusive and distant Pine Bunting. Lots of smiling faces amongst that crowd. From the Bunting we went South to Woodhall Spa and walked along the Witham to see the awesome, juvenile, White-billed Diver. It was not afraid of us and came quite close at times.

White-billed Diver, River Witham, Lincs.
We finished the day off with another look at the Ring-necked Duck and also a 1st winter Glaucous Gull at the same site. I had to stop myself from racing off to Northumberland for their fine collection of ducks and divers.

1st winter Glaucous Gull, Kirkby-on-Bain
 I decided to rectify the deficit on my Northumbrian Bird List by spending 27th-29th Jan up there and hopefully collecting some goodies along the way. So lunch time on Friday 27th saw me rock up at Skinningrove, Cleveland for the Eastern Black Redstart. What an amazing bird. I know it's been there a while now!

Eastern Black Redstart, Skinningrove, Cleveland
My last stop before getting to Blyth was the fish quay at North Shields to see if the white-winged gulls were present. Lots to see...Turnstones feeding amongst the nets, hundreds of mixed gulls, Guillemot, Shag and Eider. Finally a smart juvenile Iceland Gull was feeding alongside the fishing boats closely followed by two juvenile Glaucous Gulls.
Glaucous Gull, 1st winter, North Shields

Iceland Gull, 1st winter, North Shields
After a good meal and a good nights rest I was up and out. First stop was Ladyburn Lake at Druridge Country Park for a certain Diver. After fighting my way through flocks of Tree Sparrows and Siskins  my target was finally nailed down in the North-east corner of the lake. Pacific Diver! The bird seemed to tolerate birders, runners and dogs alike and it came quite close.

Pacific Diver, juvenile, Ladyburn Lake, Druridge CP. Northumberland.
Once back at the car I decided to come back to see the Shorelarks and drove 30+ miles North to a place I've not visited for a few years, Goswick Sands. North of Holy Island but still part of the Lindisfarne Nature Reserve.
Once on the dunes it was plain to see that the tide was well and truly out. There were big numbers of birds to be seen , such as Gannet, Red-necked Grebe, Auks, Long-tailed Duck, Common & Velvet Scoter and Red-throated and Great Northern Divers. No sign of any Scoter with a large Jaffa Orange stuck to its bill.
I decided to head for Stag Rock. There were a few Slavonian Grebes and Purple Sandpipers there, when the pager came up with Black Scoter at my last site. A quick "U-ey" and I arrived there 20 minutes later and finally saw my second Northumbrian Black Scoter...complete with Jaffa Orange on head.
Undipped (?)
I headed home via East Chevington and had a large flock of Pink-footed Geese with approx. 30 Russian White-fronted Geese also there and a fly past, female type, Hen Harrier.
On Sunday I paid a quick, early, visit to the fish quay. The Iceland and Glaucous Gulls were there again and also a BEAST! of a falcon. With transmitter and jesses it was an obvious escape. Probably a mix of Gyr & Saker. Even the Greater Black-backs flew off when they saw it.

Escaped Falcon, North Shields Fish Quay

Iceland Gull, 1st winter, North Shield Fish Quay.
That's the day almost done. Headed back to Blyth for a fantastic Sunday Lunch and then headed South to King's Lynn via the adult Iceland Gull at Swallow Pond and the Shorelark at Hartlepool, plus yet another Glaucous Gull.

 Shorelark, nr. Jewish Cemetery, Hartlepool

Friday, 16 December 2016

Autumn Round Up with an all-star cast

Golden Pheasant, Nr Thetford, Norfolk
What an amazing Autumn for migrant birds. The action kept coming after my Shetland trip finished on October 5th, first with the White's Thrush on Holy Island and a nearby supporting cast of Baird's Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Yellow-browed Warblers and Bittern. Not to mention dipping Franklin's Gull.
White's Thrush, Holy Island
At Bempton and Flamborough I dipped (for the 3rd time) an Eastern Crowned Warbler and also the Greenish Warbler. However, I did manage to see the Arctic Warbler and a tristis Chiffchaff. The number of migrants that weekend was jaw-dropping! Everything from Bean Geese to Brambling to Paddyfield Warblers seemed to be reported between Whitby and Skegness.
Male Brambling, Flamborough Head
Siberian Chiffchaff, Bempton Cliffs RSPB
By mid-October it was plain to see that the Russians were coming. Numbers of rare Eastern migrants were astonishing. Take Siberian Accentor...the only bird in history to go from a British First to scarcity inside of a week! A supporting cast of Dusky and Radde's Warblers, Pine Buntings, Mealy Redpolls, Stjeneger's Stonechat etc. etc.
I went up to Spurn Point a few times this Autumn. Obviously I went to see the Siberian Accentor (on one of October's wettest days) but also a host of other rarities such as Isabelline Wheatear, gutted though because an Isabelline Wheatear was found in Norfolk as I was walking to the Easington Bird. Rectified that for my Norfolk list next day. Back at Spurn it seemed that every bush either had a Dusky or a Radde's Warbler in it. Pallas's Warblers appeared, as did the first Waxwings of the Autumn.

Isabelline Wheatear, Easington
Shorelark, Bluebell Café, Spurn
a very soggy Siberian Accentor, Easington
The South side of the Humber was also productive. A trip to Donna Nook led to some awesome views of Red-flanked Bluetail, Pallas's Warbler, Firecrest and Siberian Stonechat.
Firecrest, Donna Nook

Red-flanked Bluetail, Donna Nook
The influx of migrants extended into Norfolk & Suffolk. Again, with Dusky & Radde's Warblers, Olive-backed Pipits, Little BuntingsDesert & Isabelline Wheatears. One of the big Autumn surprises was the young Cliff Swallow that turned up at Minsmere.
Sea watching has been extremely productive, with large numbers of Little Auks, Long-tailed Duck, Velvet Scoter (sometimes inland) and also occasional Leaches Petrel and Grey Phalaropes.

Cliff Swallow, Minsmere

A shy Radde's Warbler, Garden Drove, Warham

Little Auks, Cley
Some of the 60+ Long-tailed Duck at Titchwell
female Velvet Scoter, Whitlingham Country Park, Norwich
On the coast the cold snap forced the Titchwell hideaways to show themselves. Jack Snipe, Kingfisher, several Water Rails, Bittern and up to 8 Water Pipits.

Kingfisher, Titchwell
Water Rail, Titchwell
In the Brecks on the Norfolk / Suffolk border birds were also massing. Near Santon Warren I counted a flock of over 300 Brambling, a dozen Bohemian Waxwings and 23 Hawfinches. Goshawk, Red Kite and Tawny Owls were also observed, as well as several Golden Pheasants and Reeve's Pheasants.
Hawfinch, Santon Warren
Golden Pheasant, nr Thetford.
So you think Autumn is over then someone throws you a curve ball! Enter Beeley, Derbyshire, and what a "ball". A 1st winter female Dusky Thrush
1st winter, female, Dusky Thrush, Beeley, Derbyshire
Finally, I have found 2 pieces of very poor quality video from the Hebrides in May 2009. View both without sound unless you like wind. Small screen is best for the wader.
Semipalmated Sandpiper, Balranald
Long-tailed Skuas...en mass, Balranald