Saturday, 13 November 2010

Unplanned trip back to Lancashire - 13th November 2010

Due to problems with my laptop (my hardrive has died!), I had to come home over the weekend in order to get the laptop diagnosed and sent off to Toshiba. I took advantage of this unnecessary train cost, and decided to get a year tick in the form of either the juvenile Great Northern Diver at Fleetwood Marine Lakes, or the Great White Egret on the Ribble near Clitheroe. I felt that the Diver would be easier to see, and also I would have less chance of getting another try before the year is out. The Egret could well winter on the Ribble or Leighton Moss.
juvenile Great Northern Diver

Arriving at the Eastern Lake of the Marine lakes, it didn't take long at all to see the bird on the far side of the lake. It did however appear quite nervous and alert. It was soon obvious to the reason why. There were two remote control speed boats that were traveling at an alarming speed and were very very loud. We were all worried that the actively diving diver would resurface and get hit by the boats as they were passing as close of 10 feet traveling at at least 45mph, if not more!

Arriving at the far side of the lake, we waited patiently for the Diver to pass by, and it did not disappoint! It showed stunningly well, but I was shooting on a very low aperture and my photographic results are quite disappointing as the only in focus shots were of the bird when it was quite distant. I would have been able to get some stunning photos in the afternoon sun if I was a more competent photographer! I still enjoyed watching my 222nd species of 2010, equaling my previous best in 2007. I hope to reach 230 by the end of the year.
The source of nerves

Leaving the site, we decided to head to Lytham Moss, where a Grey Phalarope was reported around midday. We arrived with 10 minutes of light left, but the bird was feeding on a flooded field, spinning like a mad man almost constantly. It was very entertaining and a nice Fylde Tick. My second Fylde Phalarope this year and both were within 2 miles of each other within 2 months of each other. Superb!
1st winter Grey Phalarope

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Pied-billed Grebe - Hollingworth Lake, Gtr Manchester - 10th November 2010

Adult Pied-billed Grebe - Hollingworth Lake, Gtr Manchester!

A train twitch was on order when news broke of a Pied-billed Grebe that was present, and had been present for several days at Hollingworth Lake, near Rochdale, Greater Manchester.
This was absolutely shocking news, as this was a first for Greater Manchester, and the first for British mainland since 6th May 2002, I was certainly keen to see it.

Upon arrival, I saw the bird in the middle of the lake and was shocked by the size of the bird. I was expecting Little Grebe, but infact it was somewhere between Slavonian Grebe and Red Necked Grebe. It was actively feeding, catch several fish, and kept going out of site into one of the inlets near the nature reserve.

When Chris Bridge had finally arrived, we made our way around to the other side where we could view the 'pool' near the hide. Here the bird was showing well in the sun, and when it began to swim towards the mouth of the inlet, we descended towards the hide where it would pass at really close range. Sadly it did not come all the way out, but we got within 40feet of the bird as it dived actively and I am really really happy with the result I got with the d-SLR, as I was expecting nothing at all, except a couple of pixels in the middle of a grey lake!

I'm really glad I saw this bird, as the photos posted last night did no justice to the bird whatsoever. It's a cracking bird, still showing remnants of a band round the bill, and I have come away still amazed at the size of the bird!

Overall, it was an excellent twitch, and it was nice to see some familiar faces that reminded of birding in Lancashire! Who'd have thought I would get Pied-billed Grebe on my life list before I was 20...not me! I hope it stays and decides to make a few stops off at various waters in the area...I think i'll twitch it again if it turns up in Lancashire!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Waxwings - Bangor, Gwynedd - 7th November 2010

Since the Waxwings have been present in Bangor, Kelvin, a ringing friend of Chris', has been keen to ring the flock. Today was the first time that the Waxwings were quite easy to find (I first spotted them from my bedroom window at c12.50). The birds were relocated by the Swimming Pool early afternoon where Kelvin would soon set up a net. I was more than keen to observe this and made my way down
As I arrived, I met up with Chris Bridge, Kane Brides and Craig Brookes. I wasn't aware at this point that Craig was holding a Waxwing in his hand! It turns out that this was the first and only bird that we caught, due to the flock being quite nervous and flighty.
The bird was aged as an adult female as the black bib was diffuse along the edge and the white fringes to the primaries were not quite bold enough to be male. I was allowed to hold the bird on release which certainly has to be a highlight of my birding career
A massive thanks must go out to Kelvin, whom allowed me to be present and to hold the bird, as well as Chris for ringing me to tell me about Kelvins imminent arrival.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Trick or Highland Treat? - Cairngorms, Scotland - 30th October-2nd November 2010

Sadly, uni life decided to play a trick and give me Freshers Flu about 2 days before our adventure up to the highlands!

Year listing this year has taken me all over the country (especially with the addition of Chris 'Bird man' Bridge in my twitching team :P) and Chris was keen to get the Scottish birds on his year list. I needed species such as Ptarmigan, Cappercaillie, Scottish/Parrot Crossbill for my life list, let alone year list! For reading week at Bangor University, we decided to take a few days up in Speyside for some serious birding...that was before I got the dreaded Fresher's Flu that is! Luckily my parents decided to join us on our break, meaning that my dad were to drive up to Scotland, relieving me of the tortuous A9 journey!

We headed north along the M6 on the morning of the 30th, before arriving in Boat of Garten at our accomodation (The Boat House) mid afternoon. Literally, as we stepped out of the car, we heard a crossbill sp calling from across the road...I spotted a pale red bird at the top of a deciduous tree in the middle of Boat of Garten high street!
We made sure that we got some record shots as this was the main plan in scotland; to be able to get photo evidence of as many crossbills as possible to aid identification. With help from other birders back home, we were able to ID this as our first lifer for the trip - Parrot Crossbill! Awesome!
We hadn't realised, but there was also a female present in the tree as they both flew off above our heads calling with rather deep single calls.

The morning of the 31st saw us rise at 05.00 to head off to Forest Lodge within Abernethy Forest. We felt that this was our best bet for Cappercaillie, mainly because Chris has volunteered here back in 2009 and seen 68 birds! This was also off the beaten track, away from any roads, so it would give us a better chance to get a bird on the path. We arrived about and hour before dawn eager to get going (also with raised heart beats, not quite knowing what was watching us through the trees haha)

We tried for the Cappercaille all day essentially (with a couple hour break around lunch as I was losing to the flu and had to have a quick nap like some kind of toddler!) We searched all suitable habitat within Forrest Lodge that we could find and came up with nothing!
Birds that we did see were 12 lecking male Black Grouse and 15+ Crested Tit which were yearticks for the both of us, as well as numerous crossbill sp overhead, all giving varying calls (Scottish surely were included, but we will never know!) we also had lots of Redwing and Fieldfare flying through at first light. We soon heard a call we recognised from the previous Thursday back in Bangor. A flock of 10 Waxwing flew over Abernethy Forest calling! With flocks of 12 flying over the moor (incredibly) and singles overhead, we were confident that we had 26 Waxwings migrating over the moorland. Bramblings were almost constantly calling overhead, along with Lesser Redpoll and Siskin.

Waxwings migrating over moorland and feeding on berries within the heather.

Monday 1st November saw us head up to the Moray Coast towards Burghead. Here the main target was King Eider. When we arrived on site, there were a group of c50 Common Eider feeding close inshore and with the light behind us so they were lit superbly. Sadly, we couldn't locate the King Eider in here. Moving round to the west facing side of the headland, we spotted a group of c400 Eider almost 600-700 meters out...not good! If the King Eider was anywhere, it would be here!
We began scanning and it took about 5 minutes from the Harbour Wall before I spotted a very dark looking eider with a very odd shaped head and two 'spikes' sticking out it's back. It was the King Eider in eclipse plumage. Result! Also present at the site were c75 Long Tailed Duck, 25 Velvet Scoter and a flock of 9 distant Whooper Swans.
At such a range, I am amazed that Chris was able to capture such detail in his digiscopes. I suppose that is the advantage of Digiscoping though, isn't it?
Our last day in Scotland saw us head up Mount Cairngorm early morning. Snow on the top and gusts of 75mph winds didn't make it easy, especially with my cough, but we made it up to the top in about an hour. It wasn't long at all before I spotted two Ptarmigan get up and wander away from us. A lifer, and two smart birds that were almost in winter finery. We also had 5 Snow Buntings up here which have eluded me all year until now!
Snow Bunting

We ended the trip with a spot of sea watching off Abroath Harbour where we had several auk species and c5 Red Throated Diver on the rough sea.
A fabulous trip overall, sadly overshadowed by my illness. I came away with 3 lifers and 8 year ticks...not at all bad!
Reindeer, Mount Cairngorm (Chris Bridge)

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Waxwings Invasion - Bangor, Gwynedd - 28th October 2010

Whilst in my room at Bangor, I spotted 19 Waxwings dropping into a tree outside my window, across the car park. Chris Bridge and I went out to try and refind the birds. Later on in the morning, it turned out that there were infact 42 birds! 42 Waxwings, in Bangor on the west coast of Britain in the end of October...This is surely an Invasion year to say the least!