Friday, 20 September 2013

Llanfairfechan and Morfa Madryn - 20th September 2013

 2 juvenile Curlew Sandpiper
 single Pink-footed Goose
1 of 4 flagged Ringed Plover

Can only apologise for the quality of the photos on this blog post, but they were digiscoped at distance with my mobile.
Sightings from this morning's visit to Morfa Madryn included:
2 Curlew Sandpiper (Patch tick!)
4 Slavonian Grebe
2 Dipper
58 Meadow Pipit >WSW
12 Grey Wagtail (9 >WSW)
2 Grey Heron
14 Sandwich Tern
32 Linnet >WSW
11 Pied Wagtail >WSW
12 Goldfinch >SW
4 Willow Warbler
4 Chiffchaff
1 Great Spotted Woodpecker
1 Jay
4 Bullfinch
2 Greenshank
1 Little Grebe
50+ Great crested Grebe
6 Swallow >SW
3 Goosander
100+ Wigeon
46 Redshank
9 Dunlin
4 Bar-tailed Godwit
3 Red-breasted Merganser
2 skylark >WSW
1 f Whitethroat
12 Ringed Plover (4 c-ringed)
2 Knot
8 Little Egret (1 c-ringed)

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Footit season resumes! - 18th September 2013

Male Kingfisher in Bangor Harbour
Sandwich Tern on the old Dickies Boatyard
As I wasn't able to get my jobs done until half 11 today, I went down to Bangor Harbour/Town Beach to do a spot of foot it listing. I competed in the January challenge, but decided it made me a better birder as you look at literally everything. I therefore decided to carry it on throughout the year and hope to see as many species as possible.
I arrived at high tide, so the only gulls I could really grill were a flock of 100+ Black-headed Gulls on the old Dickies Boatyard. There were about 10 Herring Gulls, 2 Sandwich Terns and a juvenile Lesser Black-back, but not much else.
Scanning Town Beach, I came across the roosting waders and even with the naked eye, I could spot the white plumage of a single Greenshank in amongst them, plus a Black-tailed Godwit.
Next I had 42 Greylags in 3 flocks fly SW over the town, and then scanning the Menai, picked up an Arctic Tern with 7  Common Tern which was a footit tick. (I didn't really do much coastal birding in the Spring due to fieldwork)
Walking back towards Bangor city, I heard a piping, which was shortly followed by a blue flash. A Kingfisher! It flew around the bay and landed on the railings by the old Dickies boatyard after being harassed by Carrion Crows. A bird that I've been looking for in the area all year, but has eluded my list until this morning
Not an amazing morning, but nice to see some good birds.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Leach's Petrels on the Mersey - 16th September 2013

With decent Westerlies touching Northerly forecast, I decided I'd make my first homage to the Wirral to see if I could jam in on a Leach's wreck. I have only ever seawatched off Blackpool in the Autumn, so that's where I've had my Leach's in the past. It had been 2 years since my last and I knew Andrew Kinghorn still needed them for his life list, so I joined him in Liverpool and we started the day off at New Brighton. Upon arrival, we were really excited after 5 had already been seen, plus a European Stormie and a Black Tern. Weirdly, during the duration that we were present, we hardly saw a single bird. Frustrated me moved up and down the coast asking people if they'd had anything and this was always followed by a 'No, It's incredibly quiet!'.

Upon hearing news that Hilbre was scoring quite regularly, plus having 2 Long-tailed Skuas, we were starting to panic that we may have been in the wrong place. Eventually we settled at Leasowe lighthouse, but again we weren't hopeful as the guy who had been present for 2 hours at this point hadn't seen anything yet.
After five minutes on site, I picked up a Leach's about 1/3 of the way out at 'two-o'clock' from us. I quickly got Kinghorn and the other guy onto it, and Kinghorn spotted a second bird about 20m behind it. Result!
We were treated to some fantastic views of 2 birds, with the closest getting to about 30-40ft away from us giving crippling views. These were the best views I've ever had and I was even quite surprised to see an ever so faint pale bar on the underwing median coverts. A feature I certainly have never noticed before. Educational to say the least.
I often wonder how Storm-petrels manage to make it through the Autumn as they struggle enough as it is with the weather, but I don't think a single bird made it across in front of us without getting chased by a Herring Gull. Remarkably hard as nails. They're 'Northern Birds'!

Totals for the seawatch
8 Leach's Storm-petrel >W
3 Curlew >W
Swallow >S
15 Turnstone >W
Juv Peregrine (New Brighton) >W
Great-crested Grebe
adult winter Mediterranean Gull (New Brighton) >W
1 skua sp (probably Great Skua, New Brighton) >W

An enjoyable seawatch after a frustrating start, but good to be out seawatching again. Thanks to Andrew for driving up and down the N.Wirral coast and picking me up and dropping me off from local stations.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Black Tern - Brockholes NR LWT - 12th September 2013

 At 08:31 this morning, yesterday's Black Tern dropped in out of nowhere onto Ribbleton Pool and then performed remarkably well hawking on No1, Ribbleton and Nook pools. I even heard it calling regularly which was superb!
Another highlight was capturing a sharp photo of the above Migrant Hawker. A task I have been trying to achieve with any flying odonata for the past 8 years!

Other sightings from the morning: 07:40-11:25
10 Wigeon, Green Sandpiper 'in area', 2 Curlew >E, Redshank, fem Sparrowhawk, Peregrine S, 87 Meadow Pipit >S, 3 Grey Wagtail >S, 2 Pied Wagtail >S, 3 Goldfinch >S, 5 Chaffinch >S, 2 Chiffchaff in Willows on Boilton Marsh

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Spurn Migration Festival 2013 - 6th-8th September 2013

I was planning on going back to Bangor this weekend, so ruled out going to the first ever Spurn Migration Festival at one of the best and my favourite birdwatching sites in the UK. During the week however, I discovered that a few of my mates were going and the weather was looking pretty good, so I made the bold decision to put the move back to Bangor a week later.
I joined Alex Jones, Chris Bridge and Matt Bruce in Ormskirk and arrived at Westfield Farm for around midday. We were joined onsite by Scott Reid and his girlfriend Samaya (Plus Liam Langley and Dave Campbell later on). We were on our way to the Warren when I picked up a phyllosc-like call from in a hawthorn. The bird popped out and I initially thought might be a juvenile Linnet. A finely streaked round-head and breast, with an expressionless face and a conical bill got my heart racing. It turned around to reveal to buff wing bars and I knew I was looking at a juvenile Common Rosefinch! I got everyone else onto it, just before it buggered off!

Moving round to Southfield farm, we tried to refind the Rosefinch and ended up refinding the Red-backed Shrike which had gone missing for a couple of hours. This was nice to see as it's the first non-male I've seen in the UK, so something a bit different. This was also a lifer for Matt and Scott Reid. Whilst watching the shrike, I thought I heard the Rosefinch calling just up near the Blue Bell. I walked over to it and it flew up high and over to behind the Shrike and was seeing on a wire fence by most of the people present looking for it, which was positive.
Moving to the Warren, we set up at the seawatching hide as a Long-tailed Skua was seen heading south half an hour up the coast. We were astounded by the number of Arctic Skuas and Fulmar moving south. We also had really good numbers of Great Skuas and for Spurn, there were fantastic numbers of Manx Shearwaters. :iam Langley managed to pick up a Black Tern flying south which was a plus. Late on in the seawatch, news came over the radio that there was a Balearic Sherwater in with 6 Manxies. We had several groups of Manxies coming through in this next 10 minutes but no sign, however we has a line of 8 birds: 6 Manx Shearwater, a Knot and a brown, pot bellied shearwater, with dusky underneath and rather dark underwings (with the exception of a thin white flash). This was a cracking prolonged view of a Balearic Shearwater. I've always wanted a Balearic from the land off the UK. Superb!
The following morning, Matt and I went to Beacon ponds as it was high tide so we checked the waders. The highlights were Little Stint and 2 Spotted Redshank (the latter were slightly hollow as I knew there had been one at Brockholes during the weekend, and this was the first record since 2005, so a real personal blocker!)
We tagged along to the seawatching hide after this and managed to bag brief views of a Sooty Shearwater moving north and then a Marsh Harrier flew out to sea and went south low over the waves which was one of the highlights of the whole weekend! Migration in action!
We all headed down towards the point after the seawatching dried up, but only managed to pick up a few Spotted Flycatcher, Wheatear, Lesser Whitethroat and Common Whitethroat. It was surprisingly dead, so we went to Chalk Bank hide and scanned the roosting waders, picking up 4 Curlew Sandpiper and 2 Black Terns moving around the Humber.
I wanted to do a spot of patching whilst I was there, so to encourage myself to do that, I decided I would challenge myself to see 100 species on foot during the weekend, mirroring the Foot It challenge I took part in, in January. I therefore walked everywhere including there and back to the Point and to Easington. Back from the point, I had the most frustrating bird of the trip in the form of a large pipit that sounded very good for Tawny Pipit flying south, however I didn't get a lot of features on it and no one else managed to pick it up on the point....the one that got away!
I managed to get a little following during the weekend who were keen to know how I was getting on with the foot it challenge, and this morning (Sunday), I walked to Easington with the aim of picking up species like Jackdaw and the two partridges. It was at about 11am, when I was stuck on 99 species and I kept scanning and scanning, and finding a Common Buzzard circling in the distance making my target of 100 complete! Excellent stuff! Thank you to everyone who tipped me off on common omissions that wouldn't have gone out on the radios or Twitter.

It was a little quiet during the actual birding event (Saturday/Sunday), but this by no means made it any less of a great weekend because it's such a brilliant place, with loads of cracking birders to meet and have some great conversations with in the Crown and Anchor and elsewhere. A real success of an event, and I'm certainly keen to go again!

Monday, 2 September 2013

Back to school? - Garden Ringing - 2nd September 2013

 Juvenile House Sparrow
 Full Post-juvenile Moult
 Juvenile Goldfinch (my first in the hand of this age prior to post juvenile moult)
Juvenile Blackbird

This afternoon I did some ringing in the garden which happens to be my first ringing for 2 months! Shocking, but I'm afraid to say I broke one of my mist-net poles at my last session and a replacement has only just arrived.
Anyway, it was a quiet session with only three birds, but all were juveniles that were in the process of moulting into '1st winter' plumage. It was interesting to see the juvenile House Sparrow undergoing it's post-juvenile moult as, unlike most passerine species, it undergoes a complete post-juvenile moult which means that 1st winter birds can't be identified by plumage characters as they replace all their feathers making them pretty much identical to adults (with the exception of eye colour as used in Scandanavia etc). In addition, House Sparrow is new to my C permit license, which was nice.

Hope to be out again the next two days as it seems pretty settled