Sunday, 25 April 2010

'Ashy Headed' Wagtail re-visited!

some slightly better photos of the wagtail from the 23rd April 2010.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

North Wales Coast - 23th April 2010

I spent an absolutely stunning day in North West Wales coast with my mum and dad. After visiting accommodation at Bangor University, we visited South Stack to get some specialist seabirds. Amazingly, this was the first time I had left Lancashire to do some birdwatching all year except for a brief trip to Moore NR, Cheshire.
Arriving on site, I saw straight away many hundreds of Guillemot and quickly picked out a pair of Razorbill (yeartick). Also on the first cliff face, I picked up Fulmar (Year tick) and a calling Chough (yeartick) flew over, both of which were wonderful to watch as I love them both, especially the Fulmar (one of my favourite birds)
I was hoping to catch some birds flying past on the sea e.g. Divers etc, so I began scanning the mill pond of an Irish Sea. I spotted a fin briefly poking out of the sea a long long way out, so I stopped scanning. Several pairs of Bottle Nosed Dolphin popped out of the water every so often and it was obvious that there was a large pod of migrating dolphin. I estimated that there were over 50 Bottle Nosed Dolphin in 1 pod...fantastic!
Whilst viewing the dolphins swimming south, I spotted a bird with stiff wings and it was soon obvious that I was watching my first Manx Shearwater of the year.
I managed one more year tick on site, which was one of the more iconic and colourful birds of British Cliff faces - Puffin.

Heading back from South Stack, I had a quick check of Holyhead Harbour for Divers/Auks/Grebes etc. I managed to see 8 Black Guillemot and 2 Shag - Superb!

Final Stop of the day was Llanfairfechan front where I was able to do a spot of late afternoon seawatching on a mill pond. I quickly picked up many Red Breasted Merganser, Razorbill, Common Scoter and several small groups of Red Throated Diver. I payed a great deal of attention to the divers in different stages of moult from winter-summer plumage. I then was drawn in by a diver with particularly striking plumage. It was a 'stonking' Black Throated Diver (year tick) in breeding plumage! I had only ever seen a fly by bird in non-breeding plumage, so this was a real treat! On such a high from this bird, I continued scanning to see what else I could pick up. i spotted 3 Great Crested Grebe quite close by with 1 bird still in winter plumage. This struck me as odd given the time of year, so I stuck with the bird. I suddenly started picking up interesting characteristics on the bird: I saw that it was significantly smaller than the other 2 when stretched out, as well as the light and dark feathering not being especially contrasting, in fact the head marking were very smokey. It was beginning to dawn on me that I was actually watching a non breeding plumage adult Red Necked Grebe (yeartick)! After speaking to Bill Aspin, I put the news out and headed off back to Preston with another wonderful birding day under my 2010 birding belt! I will be leaving Lancashire more at this rate ;)

Thursday, 22 April 2010

probable Ashy Headed Wagtail - Brockholes Wetland LWT - 22nd April 2010

A text from Gareth Morgan just after 14.00 said ' Brockholes: Yellow Wagtail just south of Redscar Weir at 13.55 (Carl Partington)'. As I have only had fly over records of Yellow Wagtail down at the Quarry and needed if for the year list, I felt I needed to try and see it straight away after finishing college at 14.30. I arrived onsite at 15.00 after collecting my scope.
Carl Partington, Bill Berry and Bill Gregory were already watching the bird and pointed it out to me. I was amazed to see the bird in my scope with a dark grey head! Being Lancashire birders, we were all unsure about the exact race of the bird (hence why Carl sent the news out as Yellow). I spend a long time in April 2008 in North East Spain watching flocks of Yellow Wagtail races in the same field. As a result, we began discussing the features of the bird and I personally felt that it was almost exactly the same as the birds I saw in Spain of the race 'cinereocapilla', or Ashy Headed Wagtail. The bird had a brilliant white throat, two tone grey head (with ear coverts being darker). At most angles of the bird, there was no obvious supercillium but occasionally the bird did show a faint white line above and behind the eye which is a variable characteristic of cinereocapilla. The images below are taken with Bill Gregory's Canon 7D and Canon 100-400mm lens through my 20x Kowa Scope (I know...a very unorthodox method!) in bright sunlight.

I returned in the evening for the Whimbrel roost but arrived an hour earlier to get some more views of the wagtail to give a little more insight into the birds ID after a little more research on the subspecies. I viewed the bird with Chris Piner and Graham Piner, Chris Batty, Bill Gregory, Derek Gallagher and Reese, Mike Foley and other birders.
Speaking to Chris Batty, the BBRC are very reluctant to accept Ashy Headed Wagtail as the subspecies overlaps with iberiae in Southern France and produce regular hybrids. As a result, unless a bird shows no supercillium whatsoever, or a recorded call is submitted, there is a very good chance the bird will not be accepted as a pure cinereocapilla.
Chris Batty and I were really convinced by the bird so wanted to get as much information about this bird as possible. Chris filmed the bird for as long as his camcorder allowed to try and get a call on record. Sadly, the bird didn't call until near the end of Chris's film and missed the single call while he was momentarily paused the footage. We were however able to hear the call for ourselves and noted the call as being similar to standard 'flavissima' if not a little weaker. The bird took flight (when the bird called) and flew onto the quarry itself. Hopefully the call that we heard was only a half hearted and the video footage by Chris Batty will prove this birds true identity. Either way, this is a very beautiful bird and a very educational bird. If accepted, this will be the first for Lancashire and a wonderful site tick.

Also onsite during the visit: 97 Whimbrel into roost, 5+ Common Sandpiper, 4 LRP, 6 White Wagtail.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Trough of Bowland area - 17th April 2010

1 of 4 Ring Ouzel
Male Hen Harrier
lovely male Wheatear

A simply stunning morning and early afternoon was found in the Trough of Bowland visiting 3 sites in my time with in the company of my uncle: Langden Valley, Tower Lodge and Moor Piece Wood.
We Started at the entrance to Langden Valley with several other East Lancashire regulars searching through the ever present and ever active Lesser Redpolls in the pines. In amongst these birds were at least 4 Mealy/Common Redpoll. I was able to pick out one really obvious male with a pink rump and a ringed bird. (this is only the second time I have seen Mealy, with the first being on March 18th 2006 - my first ever visit to Brockholes Quarry)
After comparing the two 'species', we walked up the valley and took the high path. It wasn't especially long before I saw one of my main year list targets - Ring Ouzel on the path in front of us! There were 2 birds (M and F) and appeared to be moving through the valley at a fairly rapid pace, which could mean they were a migrant pair.
Continuing through the valley we came across several male Wheatear, and then the 3rd target of the day - Hen Harrier. A superb male was seen hunting on the opposite side of the valley for at least 4 minutes before moving off round the hill.
We failed to see any more birds of major interest in the valley so we came back to the entrance of the valley and had a burger whilst scanning the hill behind the trees. I spotted a 'Blackbird' landing in a tree near the top of the hill. Given the area and time period, I scoped the bird and saw 'scaled' black feathers and a white bib. It was another Ring Ouzel! There was in fact 2 males to be enjoyed whilst wolfing down the delicious burger, with one being an apparent 1st winter/summer bird with the white bib not being especially full.

Upon leaving the site, we checked Tower Lodge to see if there were any early Redstart of Tree Pipit. I heard a probably Tree Pipit calling overhead but did not get a sighting or a confirmation.

Moor Piece Wood near to Bashall Eaves was the next point of call, but again the sightings were few and far between apart from several singing Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff as well as circling Buzzard.

With a perfectly clear sky due to no clouds of planes, the day was simply stunning and I couldn't have asked for more at Langden Valley. A Great day and ended my yearlist on 160

Monday, 12 April 2010

150 - Brockholes Wetland LWT - 12th April 2010

Drake Garganey - Main Pool Brockholes Wetland LWT

I finally reached 150 on the Yearlist today with a drake Garganey first seen by Sophie Leadsome on Main Pool. I was however a little in shock to get a text from Gareth Morgan about a Lancashire MEGA - Golden Eagle - which flew through Langden Valley.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Warton Bank, Brockholes Quarry, Pendle/Waddington, Leighton Moss/Woodwell - 31st March - 2nd April

31st March - Warton Bank
a 10 Meter + High tide at Warton Bank is always a good sign that it is worth the trip down Banks Lane. I arrived onsite for 11.30 for a 11.58 High tide. It was not until 12.58 that high tide actually came, which was frustrating.
As the high tide was flooding the marsh, the pipits begun to show along the foreground of the marsh. It was not long before I picked out a slightly larger and more distinctive pipit, which turned out to be a Scandinavian Rock Pipit (year tick). Pretty soon, I picked up an extremely striking white and grey Water Pipit(year tick) which was a nice addition to the list. There was a further 2 Water pipit seen including a orange flushed summer plumage bird and another Rock Pipit. A 3rd year tick was an Eider in the river channel. Year List - 138
view of Pendle Hill from Waddington Fell
1st April - Brockholes Quarry, Pendle Hill, Waddington Fell
Since about the start of February, I had planned to spend most of the day at Brockholes Quarry from first light in search of Osprey. In the spring of 2008 I went to Spain from 5th-9th April. Between these dates, no fewer than 9 Osprey were seen flying through my local patch. I therefore missed the whole of the Osprey Passage in 2008 and Osprey has turned into a bogey bird of mine.
So it was set, I arrived on site for 8am and set up camp on the Eastern end of the site on the mound next to the river. It wasn't too long before I picked out my first Birds of Prey of the scan: Peregrine was circling high over the M6 Motorway, and 8+ Common Buzzard were dotted about. At 09.37 I was scanning over to the east of the site towards Goose House Wood, when I saw a large Bird of Prey being mobbed by 2 Carrion Crow. As it banked to avoid/defend itself from an angry crow, it revealed a 'white' underside with dark underwings and white carpal patch. It was an Osprey! It was then seen to forcefully flew north until it was lost to view flying low behind Redscar Woods at c1/2 mile range at 09.40. It was such a relief after such a long period of failed efforts at the quarry.
At 10.30 I decided that I would check the rest of the site for migrants/waders brought in by the strong westerly winds. I picked up a Ringed Plover on the Island of No1, but that was about it except 2 singing Chiffchaff around the site which was a yeartick.

The day before Bill Aspin texted me about a Ring Ouzel in one of the fields at the base of Pendle Hill. I felt that Ring Ouzel would be a wonderful addition to the year list, so off I went. It took a great deal of time to get to the entrance to Pendleside farm as I went the long way round. I began to walk up the hill and got caught in a quite blizzard to add to the already white Pendle. As I got to the field above Pendleside farm, I scanned the fields and got several moments of excitement as male Blackbirds flew into the field of view in my binoculars. Unfortunately I wasn't able to locate anything except a male Stonechat.

I moved on to Waddington Fell as the sun began to come out to look for the Great Grey Shrike. I found the bird almost straight away but unfortunately it was not singing due to the wind. A Great Grey Shrike singing in the UK is an observation that is rarely heard or seen, and so far this bird was been shown to sing once heard by Allen Holmes. Year list - 140
1 of 4 Hawfinch - Woodwell
2nd April - I started off Good Friday at Woodwell in Silverdale, in search of Hawfinch. After abouut 20 minutes on-site, I spotted movement at the top of trees through the vegetation. Lifting my binoculars, I was rewarded with the lovely sight of two feeding Hawfinch. I took several photos of these awesome birds and then noticed 2 more birds flying above calling. As they flew over then watched the original feeding birds fly off in a similar direction. A superb year tick.
3 of 4 Snow geese - Leighton Moss
Marsh Tit - Leighton Moss feeding station

Eurasian Teal - Grizedale Hide
At Leighton Moss itself, i was rewarded with 4 more year ticks - Marsh Harrier, Marsh Tit and on the Eric Morecambe complex, Spotted Redshank and Snow Geese (these are 4 white morph birds that have been present in the Wyre area all Winter) A great day and final Year List total of 145