Friday, 27 May 2011

The things we do for birds... - Anglesey - 27th May 2011

Chris Bridge and I spent a whole day with Adrienne Stratford and Tony Cross colour-ringing young Chough all over Anglesey.
We visited 6 sites in all, with each one being somewhat of a challenge in terms of access. We abseiling into sea-caves as well as using ladders across the crashing tide from one side of a cliff to the other.
When we finally got into the caves, Tony extracted the chicks from the nest using a ladder and then we had to the wonderful tasks of fitting the birds with rings.
The combination of the extreme methods of accessing the caves, the scenary and the how we kept looking into our hands and seeing that there was a Chough in our grasp added up to one hell of an amazing day!
Between Chris and I, we ringed 18 chicks with the biggest brood being 4 chicks. I am slightly disappointed I didn't get more photos of the scenery and the routes we took into the caves as it was quite hard to believe we were descending some of the cliffs that we did...Extreme Birding!

Monday, 23 May 2011

Iberian Chiffchaff update

Leaving Devonshire Road Rock Gardens with photos of a bird that everyone dismissed as a Chiffchaff left me unhappy with the verdict so have subsequently written to several people whom have both has experience with Iberian Chiffchaff abroad and in the UK, both In hand and in the field, as well as people who photographed the Blackpool bird, and observed it for prolonged periods. the final verdict is that the 'second' bird I saw was indeed the Iberian Chiffchaff, so I can be happy that I got some personally decent record shots, and not just a shot of a twig with a bird behind it!

To see more photos, visit -

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Pied Flycatchers - Abergwyngregyn, Gwynedd - 22nd May 2011

Chris Bridge is now in his second year at Bangor University so is doing the fieldwork for his Dissertation project this summer ready for the wonderful ask of writing his paper! The project in question is - Does the Maturity and Experience of Adult Pied Flycatchers affect the fledgling rate of their offspring? - The way he wants to complete the fieldwork is to compare different ages of Pied Flycatcher. As these can be a bugger to age both in hand and in the field, Steve, Chris and I went up to Abergwyngregyn this morning to catch and ring both the adults and ring any pulli ready to be ringed. At the end of the morning, we had ringed 20 adults and 30 pulli (from 4 broods) which I was pleased about as I have never seen Pied Flycatcher in the hand and they truly are stunning birds!
20 adults later however, and I am still no further along with my knowledge of ageing Pied Flycatcher. Some continental migrants such as Willow Warbler, Pied Flycatcher etc undergo two full wing moults in a year, so there is no real contrast in immature and adult feathers when you look at them in hand. This means they go down in the book as a '4', as they cannot be aged. The thing with Pied Flycatchers is that they can actually be aged despite this, but I found them a terror to age!
I will be helping Chris with his 2 week study at the start of June where we will be observing nest boxes for 5 hours every day for 2 weeks. It's hard going cycling the 16 mile round trip and then walking the slippy hillside, but I am looking forward to it, as I don't think there are many places I'd rather be than sitting down with Wood Warbler, Pied Flycatcher and Common Redstart all singing within a 100 feet or so!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Define: Record Shot - Citrine Wagtail, Conwy RSPB - 16th May 2011

I was hoping to get some decent images of the Citrine Wagtail today as it was showing well early morning, but when I arrived with my non-birding flatmate (Dan), the weather was hideous and the bird was proving to be elusive. The above photos do still show the stunning male's features and what I like to call a Pied Wagtail dipped in Lemon Curd!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Atherton Woods, Gtr Manchester - 15th May 2011

I visited Kane's again with Chris so that we could check the nest boxes in Atherton Woods. Birds ringed during the morning included Nuthatch (a new bird for me), Great Tit, Blue Tit and best of all 2 Tawny Owl chicks. Potentially the cutest birds I've ever seen! One was considerably larger than the other and we were lucky to have ringed both chicks as the larger bird will surely fledge in the next couple of days.
A short mist net session in Kane's garden rewarded us with Starling (c-r for a RAS project), Song Thrush, Robin and retrap Dunnock and Goldfinch.

Sadly, whilst away from Bangor I received news of a Broad-billed Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Citrine Wagtail all of which were twitchable and all lifers for me! I decided I would concentrate on ringing and then stopped off at RSPB Conwy on the way home where I got pleasing scope views of a stunning male Citrine Wagtail - view some images by Robin Sandham here:

Friday, 13 May 2011

460 miles for a Corncrake 19 miles away... - Holyhead, Anglesey - 13th May 2011

I never posted about my trip to Morpeth on the 17th November because it was so depressing! We twitched the Squacco Heron that died overnight (the night before we went). I never thought I would experience a day like that again. 13th May 2011 decided to have a go at the title of the worst twitch ever!
I set off at 07.22 for a summer-plumaged Spotted Sandpiper in Milton Keynes which was present on the 12th. When I got to Milton Keynes, I got a text off Chris to say that the bird had not been seen today...gutted! A wasted journey and a waste of a lot of money!!
I decided to turn back straight away and within 15 mins, I got a phonecall off Mr. Bridge regarding a Corncrake that had been found by the legend, Ken Croft, at South Stack and it was calling. I should have stayed in Bangor!
I got back to Bangor at 14.30 and then onto Holyhead by about 15.00. As soon as I got off the Station at Holyhead, It started to rain. I literally thought that Mother Nature was taking the mick as there really couldn't be much more in the day that could go wrong. If there was a weather that would make the crake hard to see, it was rain and wind. Sadly, both of these were present when I arrived on site (very wet indeed)
At 16.19, I was rewarded with the wonderful sound of a Corncrake calling in a field...unmistakeable! From 16.50-17.40, the bird called ever 10 minutes, literally on the dot. I managed to catch a very brief (albeit educational) view of the bird at 17.20 when I saw the bird calling from the grass.
This is only the second bird I have ever seen, after I saw a bird in flight on Iona (Mull) in 2006. This was the first time I have ever heard a Corncrake in the flesh!

Although, when I woke up on the 13th May, I was 19 miles from a Corncrake, I travelled 460 miles to see the bird....mad!

It was a tortuous day, but a Corncrake in North Wales more than makes up for it!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Spaniard by the Sea - Blackpool - 4th May 2011

You can't stop in this game! No sooner had I got home from the Kentish Plover, I got a text that confirmed an Iberian Chiffchaff singing at Devonshire Road Rock gardens in Blackpool. Sadly, my Dad needed his car, so I was without my own transport. I got the bus into Preston and then got a train to Layton where it was only a short walk to the gardens.
Arriving at 13.45, It was literally a minute before I heard the bird singing for the first time. It was in the North East corner, in the trees next to the play area. I did my best to get some rushed photos of the bird, but sadly the one below is the best I could manage of this very mobile bird!
Soon after this, the bird relocated along the eastern line of trees about 75 meters along the tree line, still singing. An assembled group of Fylde/Lancs birders listened to the bird a few times before it seemed to shut up. A Chiffchaff appeared that appeared long winged, long billed and fairly bright faced, however the general concensus was that this was just a 'normal' Chiffchaff. A couple of birders and I however, disagree and say that (the photos below) the bird was infact the ibericus. The bird was heard to do a couple of 'odd' calls resembling a 'tseep' and a strange trill. I have never heard either of these calls coming from collybita. The select few birders who didn't give up on this bird watched it for a prolonged time observing long wings, long bill (with a pale lower mandible), a bright face with a prominent supercillium, a lemon coloured throat contrasting with a 'white' belly. The flanks and undertail coverts were also very yellowy with a bright green rump. Personally, I think this was the same bird

I would love to know everyones opinions of the 'second' bird, but it was lovely to see and hear an Iberian Chiffchaff in Lancashire.

Kentish Plover - Cockersands, Lancashire - 4th May 2011

It's been a long time since the Fylde has had a Kentish Plover, but on May 3rd, a stunning female was found off Plover Scar at Cockersands. I was unable to get there so I had to hope the clear sky that brought it in, didn't take it away again overnight.
I was up early this morning heading north up the M6. I was greeted by a mixed flock of 150+ Dunlin and Ringed Plover when I got to Cockersands. It just had to be in here! An hour went by however, and I just couldn't locate it. After an hours searching, I was joined by Keith Sharrock, Peter Ross and Len Knowles, the latter located the plover in less than a minutes did I miss it!
This lovely wader showed superbly in the mornings sun. It was a lovely pallid colour which stood out with the naked eye on occasions. It was noticeably smaller than the Ringed Plover with a lovely subtle markings and clockwork legs. A joy to watch and a well overdue British lifer for me.
In 2010 I was year listing and by the end of August I had seen 1 new bird however by May 4th 2011, I have seen 6 already!