Friday, 29 April 2011

A spot of Regal Patching - Brockholes - 29th April 2011

After the Royal Wedding had provided me with enough Luxurious cars and plane flyovers, i decided to do a spot of patching down at the quarry.
It wasn't long before I relocated a drake Garganey first seen by Bill Aspin first thing on No1 showing amazingly well (shame I was looking right into the light). Also present was a drake Greater Scaup at the back of No1

Monday, 25 April 2011

Short-toed Lark - Fleetwood, Lancashire - 25th April 2011

When a first for Lancashire first turns up on a Bank Holiday Weekend, it is hard to ignore. The bird in question for this years Easter Bank was a Short-toed Lark, found by one of Fleetwood's finest, Ian Gardner.

Short-toed Lark (Photo: David Moreton)
I headed to Fleetwood marsh nature park mid-morning where there was an assembled crowd of c20 people in the Easter sun.
It wasn't long before I got my first views of the little lark in flight. It then landed on a gravel track which allowed very pleasing views of this stunning bird. Although, to a non-birder perhaps, it might come across as a plain brown bird, it is a lovely warm peachy/sandy brown overall with a pale belly. The rather conical bill and rather large eye give the bird a lovely face. All of which contribute to one of my favourite species. This is my second Short-toed Lark, with my first being on the Great Orme in 2006, when I also had my first Woodchat Shrike and Black Scoter...not a bad day!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Patching with the masses - Brockholes Quarry - 24th April 2011

Brockholes LWT is now an open nature reserve and today saw the first time it was open to the public. I arrived at the top of Boilton Wood at 09.30 and began looking for migrants on the playing fields and slowly descended onto the reserve. I had a Tree Pipit overhead calling at 09.44 with a smattering of singing warblers in the wood.
I made my way around the back of the reserve staying clear of the visitor centre to check the pools whilst they were still quiet. 12 LRP, 4 Ringed plover, 2 Redshank and a Common Sandpiper were all present on the island of no2
No! This is not a mass twitch!
There were guided walks throughout the whole day which seemed popular. I would estimate that there were at least 2000 people there today which, for a Brockholes regular from the pre-LWT days, was rather surreal.

I wanted to find something impressive for the wardens to show the crowds so I was scanning almost constantly. At 14.30 (6 hours after arriving) I spotted a distant Osprey flying north in the Ribble Valley, but sadly I was the only observer so couldn't show the masses!
I'm guessing the crowds will disperse, so it won't be quite so hectic in future visits, but as far as I can tell, this will only be a good thing for the site!

Saturday, 23 April 2011

BEE-EATER! - Wensleydale Railway, Yorkshire - 23rd April 2011

It's not every day that you can go for a pleasant train journey on a Heritage Railway and along the journey find a rarity. That is exactly what happened when I went with my dad to the Wensleydale Railway in Yorkshire.
We set off from Leeming Bar and just after we went through Bedale I noticed a bird on a telegraph wire down a farm track. My heart started going immediately as it was very enolgated with a long tail, slim body and long curved bill. It screamed Bee-eater! Not being in 'bird mode' I had left my Binoculars in the car so had to do my best to confirm it with the naked eye. Sadly this could not be done, so I nervously lost the bird to view and had to get off at the next station. 25 minutes later, I was on the return journey and looking at the telegraph wire. The bird had moved but I did see a bird above the sycamore which was the size of a thrush and was circling with a 'flap flap flap glide' flight. This had to be the same bird!
I finally got back to Leeming Bar and by 13.00, I was in the car with binoculars and found the farm track. Getting out of the car, I couldn't see anything but within 5 minutes, I heard (personally) the most reminiscently mediterranean of all calls. A lovely 'purring' Bee-eater! It was very high up and I could just see a circling black dot very high up. I lost it to view without seeing what direction it went, but the call was enough to fully confirm my first Bee-eater in Britain!
Description - Bee-eater Merops apiaster
Jizz (perched) - elongated 'thrush sized' bird with slim body, long tail and a medium lengthed down-curved bill. (Bird generally in silhouette, but pale throat/chin observed with naked eye from moving train)
Jizz in flight - slow circling bird with a 'flap flap flap glide' flight. Bird had relatively broad pointed wings appeared rather dusky underneath. Long fanned tail with longer central tail feathers (pointed), giving a generally slim appearance contrasting with broader wings. (Pale throat also evident in flight views)
Call - classic Bee-eater call with 3 energetic 'purring' calls heard overhead whilst circling high up.
Photo above - [NOT TAKEN IN BRITAIN!!] Bee-eater seen in Nort-east Spain, August 2008

A truly fantastic find and one species I really dreamed about seeing in 2011 at the start of the year. It's a great shame I wasn't able to get a record shot (mainly to help my case when I come to submit it!) but it shouldn't mask the joy a truly superb bird to see from a train!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

It's about time! 'Iceland Gull - Brockholes Wetland LWT - 12th April 2011'

The title above has surely been on the mind of all Brockholes 'patchers' for the last few years, particularly since the Preston Docks bird has wintered this year. I got a text at 11.35 saying '2cy Iceland Gull on No1 11.34' 11.36 I had realised I had not car available, so had already got my bike out of the garage. Readers of my blog from the start back in 2007 will remember that I used to cycle to Brockholes regularly from my home in Longsands, but that hasn't been the case for over 2 years now. To cut a long story short, upon my arrival, I was dead! I met up with John Wright and Tony Disley on the 'dash' to No1 where the gull was still present and provided pleasing scope views, but the distance proved a little too far for anything like a decent shot of the bird, so had to settle with the photos above as it flew towards the workings on the other side of the M6.

Meeting up with Bill Aspin who also managed to twitch the bird just in time, he said it did exactly what him and the other regulars had predicted, which was to drop in with the northernly migrating Lesser Black-backs.
A long overdue site first and a nice find by Pete Bainbridge and Robin Shenton. A nostalgic morning for myself too with the cycle and meeting up with regulars whom I haven't seen for's good to be back where I belong!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Vis-mig and a first for Conwy - Great Orme, Conwy - 10th April 2011

The Great Orme is renowned for its potential when it comes to visible migration, but today is widely regarded as 'The best spring day on the Orme ever!' Chris Bridge, Hamza and I got up the top for first light with the first birds of note being a male Ring Ouzel and a small passage of Redpoll and Meadow Pipits. Reaching the start of the limestone pavement, news came in of a Short-eared Owl found by 'Marc Buzzard' whom was also on the Orme bright and early along with Alan Davies and Robin Sandham among others. It really wasn't long before we had the Shortie ourselves, shortly followed by 2 Chough and a wader calling which turned out to be the female Dotterel present the day before. It circled 5 times calling almost constantly. This is my earliest Dotterel to date, and a very early bird indeed! The group of us spread out slightly on the pavement where pretty much all of us managed to connect with over-flying Lapland Bunting (in summer plumage!), Yellow Wagtail, and throughout the day 300+ Redpoll, Crossbill and a steady passage of Linnet, Meadow Pipit, Woodpigeon and a flock of 9 Golden Plover. Totals during the day inc: Dotterel, Short-eared Owl, 2 summer plumage Lapland Buntings, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Tree Pipits, 2 Ring Ouzel, Common Redstart, Whitethroat, Grasshopper warbler, Garden Warbler, 6 Blackcap, 50+ Wheatear, 9 Golden Plover, Brambling, 2 Crossbill, 15+ Willow Warbler, 10+ Chiffchaff.
above - Dotterel at first light
It was a truly amazing morning for passage, until we got the horrible news that we'd missed an Arctic Redpoll and a possible Greenland Redpoll (a possible first for Wales!) by the path up to the pavement. I arrived at the location where I was shown some gripping images of the little gems! Whilst present, I noted 1 of the 5+ Mealy Redpoll which was a little consolation. Chris, Hamza and I wandered off after it calmed down a little and decided to lay down on the grass watching birds flying overhead in the late morning's sun. A steady passage of 'Mipits' and 'redpoll sp' was interrupted when Chris heard a familiar 'chirrup' which set alarms bells ringing, but was quickly dismissed. He heard it again and asked me, 'Is that...Red-rump?'. I listened out intently and heard the bird do a set of calls for the third time. It was pretty distinctive and reminiscent of Catalonia from 2007, 08, 09 and 2010! I frantically scanned the sky until I got in my binoculars a hirundine sp high up, which had the general shape of Swallow, but its flight was far more erratic and jittery. I observed a peachy underside with a black tail and black undertail coverts contrasting boldy with the bright belly. As the bird flew over, it banked slightly, and I was just able to pick out pale sides to the rump, essentially clinching Red-rumped Swallow! The bird flew strongly NNW out towards the Irish Sea. Getting the news out, and discussing it afterwards with Marc, it suddenly hit home that we had found a first for Conwy, and a lifer for myself...consolation for 'dipping' an Arctic Redpoll if ever I saw one! (The bird was reported again at 14.58 on the limestone pavement which hopefully will aid our description!) A truly amazing day at one of the leading migration sites in Britain!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A morning of migrants - Caernarfon, Gwynedd - 9th April 2011

A lovely morning's ringing was spent at Arthur's farm at a slightly different location in scrub/heath. 13 species caught in total with the main 'targets' being Willow Warbler which were singing all around the site and are certainly now in for the summer. It is superb to be able to hear this signal of summer once again. I had the lovely pleasure of extracting and ringing my first Wren, Willow Warbler and Linnet this morning which was a privilege for sure.

Willow Warbler Female Linnet 2cy Wren Adult male Blackcap 13 Species - 9 Willow Warbler, 5 Bullfinch, 3 Wren, 3 Linnet, 3 Great Tit, 2 Blackcap, 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Long-tailed tit, 1 Lesser Redpoll. Very bright Chiffchaff

I was caught out by the above Chiffchaff as in the hand it initially was a classic Willow Warbler as it was very bright with an extensive Supercillium and with dark legs. It was not until we measured the wing at 56mm that we suddenly questioned it and double-checked the imarginations in the primaries to discover that the 6th Primary was imarginated (visible in the above picture) showing that it was in fact a Chiffchaff, albeit bright! Other birds heard/seen on site included 2 singing Grasshopper Warbler which equaled my earliest date (Equalling 09/04/2006's bird at the Heswall Alpine Swift twitch) as well as a steady 'chorus' of Lesser Redpoll over.
We had a second attempt this evening to try for the Linnet roost, but they were very scattered and we only managed to catch 2, as well as 5 Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest and Song Thrush.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Twitching in the Sun - Dwyran, Anglesey - 8th April 2011

On the day that the Purple Heron was relocated, Chris and I decided that the views we had were really good, but the light really wasn't sufficient to get any decent photos of the bird. We decided that we would go back when the weather improved and if the bird stayed for longer. Today was the day as the weather was glorious with no wind. Purple Heron, Dwyran, Anglesey We arrived on the hill at c3.30 and the bird was instantly present right in the open in the middle of the tiny pool. The heat caused a little heat haze, but I am really pleased with the image above, considering that this is a Purple Heron in Britain...most photos you see of this species are of the bird flying to roost at dusk or the head peering out of the reeds. After about 45 minutes of showing off to the small crowd, the bird flew off to the far right of the 'marsh' almost out of view. We decided that we would induldge in a spot of raptor scanning as the visibility was superb and there were Buzzard and Sparrawhawk all around. At 16.40 I spotted a very very distant raptor circling which initially I thought was a kite due to the long tail and flappy flight. The bird suddenly started flying north-east and it was soon apparent that I was looking at an Osprey. This is incredibly my 4th Osprey of the Spring and my first away from my bedroom window in Bangor! I am returning home to Brockholes Quarry on Sunday for Easter, so should hopefully increase this number and finally get a photo of this enchanting summer migrant! A superb afternoon watching a superb bird at a very unusual location. Lets hope the weather continues into the weekend as I shall be ringing again with Steve.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

End of my personal drought - Dwyran, Anglesey - 5th April 2011

News came in early afternoon about a Purple Heron on Anglesey yesterday which appeared not too far from Bangor or nearby stations. As a result, Chris and I were more than up for it when Alan Davies rang Chris to say it was seen again today and was 'showing well'. We got the train to Bodorgan at the reasonable price of £2.70 return and started walking in the direction of Drwyrn. Little did we know, it was miles and miles before we got on site (with a little help from Alex Jones whom gave up a lift for the last mile (and back to Bangor)) It wasn't too long before we were fuly caked in mud and then got a flight view of a very purple colour Heron sp. It was the Purple Heron! A lifer for the 3 of us. We gained several more views of the bird mainly in flight until we Alex saw it land. We aged the bird as sub-adult based on the wings being more tan-coloured compared to purple as well slight pale fringing to the primary coverts. The head also appeared not as fully streaked which again saw us come to this conclusion. 3 minutes later, we saw a bird fly up from another part of the pool and this time I concentrated on getting binocular views. This bird somehow appeared much more adult with really strong chest streaking, really striped head, a double crest, dark purple in the wings and a complete lack of pale fringing to the primary coverts. We were positive that this was/is another bird as we got very very good views and they looked completely different to one another. Are there two birds currently on a pool in Anglesey? I vote yes! (bird photographed above is the 'sub-adult' only) This is a well-overdue lifer for me in Britain and the others, so for others accounts visit Chris Bridge's and Alex Jones' blogs.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Spring in full-swing - Caernarfon, Gwynedd - 3rd April 2011

adult male Chiffchaff 1st winter male Goldcrest adult female Blackcap adult male Song Thrush
A superb mornings ringing was enjoyed in Caernarfon at Arthur's farm for my second time. When I first ringed at the site in late January, the feeders were full to the rafters with tits (mainly Blue), whereas this time, it was somewhat quieter with 41 birds caught from 5 nets instead of the 130+ caught last time.
With Spring well and truly underway currently, I had the wonderful job of handling 4 species 'unfamilar' to me in the hand. (Photographed above) We caught 10 Chiffchaff, all of which were male and they were a delight to ring as they generally were peaceful and they really are beautiful little things. Talking of small things, you don't get much smaller than the last bird of the day - Goldcrest. This was a tiny bird and one that I had trouble holding due to their tiny size. Something a little easier to hold was Song Thrush which was a lovely warm colour and what I believe to be, along with Redwing, the perfect size. My second species of warbler that I got to ring was Blackcap which was a lot bigger than I expected so interesting in that respect.

Totals for the day - 41 birds (14 Species) - 10 Chiffchaff, 9 Blue Tit, 5 Great Tit, 4 Dunnock, 2 Robin, 2 Long-tailed Tit, 2 Coal Tit, 1 Blackbird, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Blackcap, 1 Chaffinch, 1 Bullfinch, 1 Goldfinch, 1 Goldcrest.

I really enjoyed this mornings ringing as it was nice to be able to use AA rings for a change, as I am not especially used to this size.

Thanks go to Steve and Rachel for the invite and training and also to Arthr for allowing the ringing to take place and for the lovely cups of tea which never go a miss!