Thursday, 17 September 2015

Black-necked Grebe - Fairhaven Lake - 17th September 2015

 Popped over to Fairhaven this morning with the hope that the Black-necked Grebe found in recent days was as showy as the other grebes and divers have traditionally been. Whilst I was pleased with the views and photos I got, it wasn't quite as tame/oblivious as the others, but that didn't make the experience any less enjoyable. That lake really is a magnet for showy 'sea' birds!
Little Grebe and Black-necked Grebe

Monday, 14 September 2015

Super Saturday, Spurn Sunday and Monday Jinx

Saturday afternoon saw Danni and I watching the United/Liverpool derby and amazingly didn't end in a brawl despite supporting opposing sides. Sunday saw us head off early to Spurn hoping for a fall after the persisting easterlies and rain all of saturday. This wasn't completely accurate sadly but there were still lots of migrants about with Redstart, Pied Fly, Yellow Wagtails, Goldcrests and Willow Warblers about. The highlight came from the churchyard in Kilnsea, with a lovely Yellow-browed Warbler showing really well in one of the sycamores. To see a feeding YBW in a sycamore, calling loudly on the east coast is basically Autumn in a nutshell. Wonderful birds.

I managed to get some ringing done with several migrants ringed as well as two Lesser Redpoll. One adult with slightly rounded trail feathers and very glossy 'poll'. All the feathers were nice and neat, strong and fresh and came across very buffy. There was no obvious pale on the rump and there were ever so slight pink spots on the rump and upper breast. We also caught a 1cy male that again had a tiny bit of red on the breast and rump. This one had a distinctly pale grey face, paler rump and quite a lot of black on the face. This looked very similar to the Mealy ringed the weekend before at Migfest, but it wasn't particularly big, the greater coverts were buffy tipped and the overall colour was pretty warm, so just a pale lesser (perhaps from further north?). It does make you wonder the validity of the species though and also how many pale Lessers get reported and accepted as Mealy?
As I left Danni's this morning, I came home via Fairhaven and tried to see the Wryneck that's been present since Thursday afternoon. I gave it about half an hour and after about twenty minutes, it sat up on a prominent stick right in the open for about 15 seconds. Lovely birds and pretty much a Mega on the west coast.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Migfest and my Girlfriend's bogies

juvenile Red-backed Shrike
Another year, another Migfest! This weekend saw the third annual Migration Festival at Spurn held at Westmere Farm. I camped with Danni at the farm and arrived Friday evening ready for the first round at Crown and Anchor! Needless to say that wasn't the last!
We awoke at half five on Saturday and headed to the Warren to do some seawatching. With strong North North Westerlies, seawatching was really the only option. We found a spot and started scanning. It was pretty quiet to begin with with a few Gannets and Red-throated Divers moving through. It was about an hour into the watch before a Sooty Shear was called. I got onto it quickly and it was nice and close, so it was pretty easy to get Danni onto it. Her first lifer of the trip. Throughout the day, I had about 15 Sooty going North.
Tim Jones, Liam Langley and Scott Reid joined us and Tim picked up a Manxie which again was a lifer for Danni. I then popped to Warren to go through the Moth Trap where I saw a few nice firsts for me including Frosted Orange and Rosy Rustic. Whilst I was away, Danni got a Long-tailed Skua going south from the hut which was a lifer for her. I was a little gripped but I was happy to see a further two later in the day, including a really nice 1st summer with an Arctic showing the differences in decreased primary shaft flashes, skinnier body, skinnier wings and more tern like flight. The tail was also rather short and lacking any obvious spikes as in the Arctic. 
At 09:09, something crazy happened when I thought I heard word of a Cory's further down the line. I quickly ran over and turns out there was one flying north at mid-distance. I managed to get onto it after a short while and obvious the slow, lazy wing beats and effortless flight. I absolutely did not expect that when I stumbled out my tent on Saturday morning. Four lifers for Danni...not a bad seawatch!!
In addition to the seawatching we paid homage to a juvenile Red-backed Shrike at Corner Field, a Barred Warbler at Westmere played cat and mouse for most of the day, a Spotted Flycatcher and a Lesser Whitethroat at Rose Cottage and a handful of Pied Flycatcher dotted around. 
The Hogroast in the evening was quality with bacon sized pieces of crackling and a great talk by Yoav Perlman. 
juvenile Barn Swallow
1stw/female Pied Flycatcher
Sunday saw Danni and I walk to the point and saw some really enjoyable passage of Painted Ladies and Silver Y, plus a Bordered Straw and Gold Spot. Scott and Nathan found a Barred Warbler at Wire Dump, but despite much searching, Danni and I couldn't refind it. I got a couple of nice shots of two Kestrels, but that was only just about compensation. In the afternoon, we spent more time with the Red-backed Shrike and caught up with some good mates on a gloriously sunny day.
day flying Bordered Straw
day flying Goldspot
We headed back early afternoon and Danni quickly scrolled through my Birdguides app to check to make sure there was nothing en route home for us to see. For a long time now, Danni has tried and failed to see Black Redstart on numerous occasions. We tried ourself just last week for the Winter Hill trio, but hadn't realised it was a serious walk to the compound and we were very strapped for time. Anyway, there was one in West Yorkshire which would be very likely to be en route. It just so happened the location couldn't have been much closer to the border if it tried and was only 400m from J22 of the M62 which happens to be the one Danni comes off to go home!
We arrived mid-afternoon and walked round the outflow and spent around half an hour searching for it. There was no sign of it or indeed any bird. It was almost eerily quiet and Danni was understandably getting all the more frustrated about the prospect of dipping again. It was putting a dampener on what was a wonderful weekend and I was having non of it. Just as we'd started contemplating giving up and walking back, a bird shot out and landed on a pole about 10m in front of us. I recognised the flight straight away and as it landed, its tail 'wobbled' and was rufous coloured. Danni refused to believe me as I said 'that's it!'. She couldn't do much more than believe me when it took off and landed on the ground only 4-5 metres away showing really well. She just started laughing at the ridiculousness of it! Why does it always happens like that with bogey birds?! It continued to show well for about ten minutes and we then went back and had a lovely relax at the end of a fantastic weekend.
female/immature Black Redstart

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Caspian Gull - Cocker's Dyke, Lancashire - 3rd September 2015

 Having a bit of time off this morning, I thought I'd be productive and learn a bit about Caspian Gulls. Previous to today, I had seen a 2nd winter at Chasewater in December and a moulting 1st Summer/2nd Winter at Ainsdale recently (as you'll probably see below). 2nd calendar year birds really are striking things and I feel fairly comfortable with them. Juveniles really aren't that common yet in the UK (or at least they aren't getting IDd as readily as the older birds).
There has recently been a reliable bird at Cocker's Dyke in north Fylde in Lancs which is a juvenile. I arrived mid-morning at about 08:45, and began searching. It took about 45 minutes before anything other than a Greater Black-back or adult Lesser Black-back appeared in my scope. A group of 5 juvenile gulls appeared which were mainly Lesser Black-backs, but a really pale bird was very striking. Before I could get much on it, it fell asleep making it somewhat more difficult to ID.
It looked good though with really black primaries extending well beyond the tail, black centres to the tertials and clean white tips, faded brown juvenile scapulars and a couple of freshly moulted grey scaps. They were generally fairly clean with a single black line down the centre. The head was generally fairly clean with a slight mask and a streaked shawl to the nape. When it eventually woke up, it had a parallel sided bill, pear-shaped head and a long neck. It walked onto a bit of mud/sand and was incredibly long-legged, 'filled nappy' on the vent which was extremely clean and white.
It took off and revealed 'Venetian blinds' to the inner primaries, black secondary bar contrasting to the pale coverts and a white rump contrasting with the black tail tip. Very educational.