Monday, 26 October 2015

Scillies in October 17-24th October

The 2nd and 3rd week of October are traditionally the best time to visit Scilly. A group of us NGBs stayed at Mincarlo in Hugh Town for a week with high hopes of a few rarities from across the pond. With the exception of a Hudsonian Whimbrel on Tresco which left the day after we arrived and a Spotted Sandpiper also on Tresco for a day, the wasn't a single American bird found during the week.
I managed 1 lifer in the form of Ortolan, plus yearticks of Short-toed Lark, Blyth's Pipit and Olive-backed Pipit. I missed out on Common Rosefinch, Hooded Crow, Balearic Shearwater and Long-eared Owl for the year, but no lifers were missed which was good.
It was a bit quiet on the bird front, but the great thing about Scilly is even when birds are a little thin on the ground, it's a stunning place with loads of great people, so it was still a fantastic week.

In addition to the birds we started up a great tradition again and played the locals on the Garrison a game of 11-a-side football. Following on from tradition, the locals beat us 4-0. It sounds like we got thumped, but two of the goals were conceded within a couple of minutes in the first half due to Matt, our star centre back, going off briefly and a sudden gap in structure at the back opened up. The third goal was a very unlucky own goal from a corner and the third was a well worked goal by the locals. We had some trouble getting up the pitch so our number of chances were very minimal. A really enjoyable game however and definitely the start of a continuing tradition. See you next year!
Short-toed Lark - Its good side
Short-toed Lark - the side with the hugely exposed terital
The Turning circle at the airport proved to be a favoured haunt for our group
A 'bacon sandwich'
adult Spoonbill at Stony Island
Great flight views
I've hardly ever seen the colourful chin before!
1st winter Kittiwake from the Pelagic
Common Dolphins pretty much stole the show
They were a nightmare to photograph for me, but eventually got a few nice shots

They were bow riding for about 3 hours! Amazing experience
3 Puffins (don't worry, there was a third lone bird...) was a well overdue Scilly Tick and I think even a plumage tick in winter plumage!
A second 'Blyth's' Pipit turned up and was re-IDd from photos later on as a Richard's. Scott and I were there for just after dawn the following day and got nice views in awful light. It was regularly flushed by the incoming Skybus and landed next to the Short-toed Lark which was superb to see.
A picture is 1000 words!
The best photo I could manage of the Richard's Pipit in the early morning light.
A trip to St. Martin's was warranted with the presence of an Ortolan near Middle Town. We gave it a good couple of hours to no avail and as we were half way across the island, someone had picked it up in a field nearby to the original site, so we ran across the island proving just how unfit we all are!

The other star bird on St. Martin's was an Olive-backed Pipit, but with three ticks on the bird's face, it was looking very unwell and could hardly fly and regularly closed its eyes. It was not reported the following few days and it's easy to assume what happened to the stunning bird.

The bird I spent most time with was the Blyth's Pipit on Peninnis head which favoured three stone walled fields. Eventually I was rewarded with great views, but in the low light, photography was hard. To be able to compare Richard's and Blyth's on the same day was wonderfully educational though. It's a shame the Blyth's was hardly ever heard calling though as the Richard's was very vocal.

There was several Jack Snipe seen, mainly at Lower Moors and the above photo was taken near dark at Lower Moors. It carried it feeding as if we weren't there in typical Jack Snipe fashion
Great views of Common Snipe were also wonderfully photogenic
Black Redstarts were all over the place with a handful of males and this 1st winter bird which was seen a couple of times on the buildings and patio around our accommodation!

 A couple of Short-eared Owls were seen across the islands and I picked this bird up flying west over Bryher.
Stonechats were everywhere
Often reasonably approachable too
Turnstones provided great photographic opportunies at Porthcressa
As did this Meadow Pipit
One thing you can't escape on Scilly is House Sparrows. EVERYWHERE
 The Scilly subspecies of Speckled Wood was out in great numbers along with Small Copper, Painted Lady, Red Admiral and Peacock.
The Scillonion 3

 Blyth's Pipit Twitch
Short-toed Lark twitch

Friday, 16 October 2015

I can't stay away from Spurn - 13th October 2015

 I couldn't stay away! I was going to drop Jonnie off at a station, but I decided that I needed another day at Spurn. We met Danni there, but with an increased wind, it was certainly harder work. The Goldcrests were obviously still there, but you had to work harder for them with a group of about 20 in a patch of sea aster on humberside near to the Crown.

The Richard's Pipit was showing a lot better today and the scope views were excellent.
I popped up to Easington strait to look for the American Golden Plover and none of the 15 assembled birders had seen it since it flew off with some Lapwings. I scanned the other side of the road and found it within about 10 seconds which I found hilarious. This was a lifer for Danni whom I nipped into Kilnsea to collect to twitch it. 

 Sammy's was quiet but really enjoyable to watch the Goldcrest feeding on anything and landing on anything including Danni's lens! Our trip here was cut short with the reappearance of the previous day's Bluetail in the Triangle near Well Field. We successfully twitched this and it was nice to get in the field views of this super bird that was once one of the holy grails in British Birding. Great end to a great set of birding days!

Spurn weekend - 10-12th October 2015

 Jonnie Fisk was back from Norway for the weekend, so having got back very late from Turkey, I drove to Spurn with very little sleep for a weekend of birding. I had only planned on staying one night, but with conditions being very good, I ended up staying two nights and enjoyed some great birding with Jonnie and friends. Bird of the trip had to be Goldcrest with what seemed like several thousand being strewn across the peninsula with up for 50 in in single tree and up for 40 on a single garden lawn. It was like nothing I'd ever seen before and was truly remarkable!
 I found myself a nice tristis Chiffchaff which had a super dunnock-like call and proved to be very local and very popular. There were Bramblings and winter thrushes everywhere and we payed homage to a reasonably long-staying Richard's Pipit in the fields across the road from Westmere Farm.
 Late-afternoon on Saturday, an American Golden Plover was found at Kilnsea Wetlands which showed really well. As it flew off calling, it showed all the features you wished it would. It disappeared and then came back calling again. All of a sudden, there appeared to be a second bird next to the AGP. It looked fantastic, but then suddenly looked a lot bigger, plumper, shorter at the back and greyer. It looked a lot like a Grey Plover. It proved very educational and after a lot of scrutiny from some very good birders and a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, it lifted its wings to reveal a dusky underwing and there were indeed two American Golden Plovers next to eachother!
 Monday proved to be 'the day' with an early message of Radde's Warbler being caught at Church Field which was only my second and a very very stunning bird. It was a very bulky bird and that gingery colour is just out of this world. A dream bird to find for me, personally.
 Goldcrests were still everywhere and was still fantastic to see.
 Jonnie and I spent a little too long looking at a mini-flock of Blackbirds which mainly featured first winter males with all dark bills and showing off the best Blackbird plumage. Very smart birds

My only lifer of the weekend came in the form of a Red-flanked Bluetail which was initially found by Tim Jones in Church Field and became very elusive around the church area until ending up in the heligoland trap and was shown to the admiring twitchers. It was a first winter female and is arguably the 'most dull' one you can get. If that's dull, then I want to see a male because phwarrrr!

Jonnie and I went back to Preston on Monday night and enjoyed some food with my parents.