Saturday, 10 December 2011

Desert Wheatear 10/12/11

Went up to Newbiggin again today to revisit the desert wheatear that has been hanging around, I saw it on Tuesday on the beach south of Beacon Point but today it was north of the point in the bay out of the wind. Met up with Kieran Lawrence on the way there, good to see you again mate. We set up on the bank overlooking the bay and within a couple of minutes of setting up, it flew onto a ledge about 15 feet away, this bird really seems to have little fear of people. After 10 minutes of watching it, it flew round the corner of the bay out of sight. I went round looking for it on the beach and didn't relocate it but saw 5 purple sandpipers and 4 grey plover which was a nice end to the day.
Desert Wheatear

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Triple Vision 27/11/11

Finally managed to get out after being engaged for so long, and I decided I ought to pay a visit to Big Waters to check out the two Bewick's Swans that have taken up residence there. Most importantly though, I was desperate to get all three British swans in the same photo. I knew there were whoopers there as well so we made straight for the right hand hide on arrival. We were greeted by the whooper swans right outside the hide, there was also a couple of mutes to the left but at first, no Bewick's. After 10 minutes of searching, I got my eye on one of the Bewick's Swans behind the island feeding, surprisingly small compared with the mutes. I soon got my eye on the other to the right of the hide and it wasn't long before the two met in the middle allowing me to get the all important shot!
Got it! Bewick's, Mute then Whooper (Top to Bottom)
The size comparison between mute and Bewick's.
Finally the comparison between Bewick's (Top) and Whooper (Bottom)
We watched them for half an hour before the light disappeared and were just shutting up the hide when the otter swam right past. On a second look, I noticed there were actually three otters together right outside the hide. Unfortunately the light had gone but I did get one shot with all 3 heads all up together, fantastic end to the day!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Yank with an icelandic sidekick 13/11/11

After dipping on the Greater Yellowlegs at Chevy on Saturday, I got a report on my phone when I got home saying it was showing at Hauxley, damn. So after ringing on sunday morning, I went up to Hauxley to look for it. On arrival, we decided to try the wader hide on our way up to the Eric's hide, and completely unexpected, it was sitting just to the right of the hide. After waiting about an hour with the rest of the twitchers, the greater yellowlegs walked around right past the front of the hide, fantastic views, what a stunning wader as well. It then stopped and preened in front of the hide and in flew a smaller grey wader. Grey Phalarope. One of the best experiences I have ever had, two lifers in the same camera shot about 8 feet away. A also went back tonight to get another view of it, again wonderful views of the yellowlegs and a flypast from the phalarope. Hopefully they'll hang around a while until we get some better light for photos! Greater Yellowlegs Grey Phalarope The pair together.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Pomarine Skua 30/10/11

Went to Sunderland today to see the pomarine skua on the north pier. When I first arrived there was no sign of it and I had missed it by 10 minutes, I was hoping for it to come back soon as the sun was dropping fast. 20 minutes later I spotted in flying in again in amongst the fishermen, about 30 or so, it dropped in the middle of them and fed off the scraps that were thrown to it. A great bird to watch and to see. It went up to the other end of the pier shortly after that and started hovering above 5 fishermen. Then I saw a guy about 20 on a bike with a red hoody on pick up a stone and he threw it at the skua. I spoke to one of the fishermen who was next to me about and he went over to sort him out, he left soon after. Why anyone would do that is completely beyond me, such a graceful bird in the air and so wonderful to watch.
Lovely Colours on this juvenile pom, a very approachable bird too.

Friday, 28 October 2011

St. Mary's Yellow-Browed 28/10/11

I've been in Blackpool since Monday and got back yesterday so I haven't had a chance to get down to the patch to catch up with any of the beauties that have been there. I was gutted that I had missed 2 firecrest which would have been lifers for me, but today I caught up with a beautiful yellow-browed warbler. There was about 15 people there this morning, all great company. That is number 107 for my patch list and hope to increase it again this month if possible.
It only showed itself twice in 2 hours but the first time, I had a great view of this bird.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Wonderful Wheatears 3/10/11

I went down to St. Mary's this evening to see if I could find any yellow-browed warblers but I was stopped halfway on the golf course by 3 wheatears. I lay in the grass for 30 minutes gradually edging closer to one of them but it flew before I got close so I thought I had missed my opportunity. However, I lay a little longer and about 10 minutes later, this beauty popped up in front of me, providing wonderful views. As I watched it I wondered whether it was a greenland race or not? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

A colourful Northumberland Park 28/9/11

Visited Northumberland Park on Tuesday to look for the mandarin, on this occasion I was unsuccessful but a visit back there yesterday produced a beautiful creature - a male mandarin at close range. It provided fantastic views and was happy enough for me to stand there and take photos of it for an hour. Eventually the mandarin flew north when a sparrowhawk flew through the area. There was also 2 grey wagtails dropped in as well.
Mandarin Drake

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Rarity while ringing at Low Newton 25/9/11

Got up at 5:30 this morning to go to the weekly ringing session up at Low Newton. It was going well with just under 20 birds caught within the hour. Then Stewart brought a bird back that was initially put down as a reed bunting until Chris noticed it had a short wing length for a reed bunting and on closer inspection, it turned out to be a delightful Little Bunting. It was a pleasure to see such a rarity at such close range, you don't often get life ticks while ringing (my last one was a pied flycatcher at Low Newton last year) so to see this bird in the hand was a privilege.
What a cracker, unfortunately I left my camera at home so this was taken with my iPhone, so the photo doesn't do the bird justice.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Long-Eared Owl again 19/9/11

After Sunday's wonderful performance, I returned to Prestwick to see them again. This time the long-eared owl was there again and showing excellently well. Managed to see the whole bird with very little branches blocking the view, terrific!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Prestwick Carr Owls and a Strange Pintail 18/9/11

After reading many blogs about the short-eared and long-eared owls at Prestwick Carr, I finally gave in and went to see them. On arrival, I was greeted by 3 short-eared owls hunting over the fields. A fantastic county tick for me, then I heard the words 'long-eared owl' and made for the group of birders huddled around one spot near the bushes and sure enough, there was a beautiful long-eared owl sitting in the bushes with only a few branches blocking my view. A wonderful second county tick! I met up with Cain, Stephen, Morgan, Venetia, John and a few other birders for St. Mary's which made the trip even better.

Short-Eared OwlLong-Eared Owl

I was at St. Mary's on Wednesday which produced some unusual sightings such as this male-eclipse pintail which amazingly took off from the sea and landed on the grass next to me very briefly before flying back out to see. A very nice bird to see on patch, only my second.


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Arcot and Killingworth 1/8/11

After not going out for a while, I decided to pop down to Arcot to look for the grasshopper warbler after reading about it John's blog. As soon as we pulled up we could hear it reeling and sure enough, we saw it straight away sitting on top of the bush next to the track. As we got closer and closer, it continued reeling and let us get very close. Without disturbing the bird, I got plenty of photos and videos of it then left it to it's business. We looked for the little egrets that were reported as well but there was no sign of them. On our way back home, we stopped in at killingworth after seeing the little gulls last week, I went back with my camera. As we drove past, I could see both of them with the terns right next to the road so we parked the car and walked along. They provided excellent views I have never had of little gulls before. A successful day birding!
Grasshopper Warbler
Little Gulls

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

There's a storm brewin'...

I've taken seawatching on as my new activity for the summer. I've just come back from St. Mary's in search of storm-petrels. I still had never seen any before today so was hoping to catch a glimpse of some. Caught up with the guys already in the hide, just managed to get a space between Simon and Tim just in time to see a flock of manx shearwater going past. Then within 20 seconds of setting up my scope, I saw a little black bird fly across and I lost it straight away again. After a few seconds it reappeared showing off it's white rump beautifully, then I knew I had my first storm-petrel. From 17:15 - 19:00, I saw 18 storm-petrels, 11 manx shearwater, 2 red-throated diver, 9 common scoter and a bar-tailed godwit. The storm-petrels, as well as being lifers can also go down on my patch list along with the red-throated diver which takes my St. Mary's total up to 106.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Autumn has come early! 19/7/11

My first post for quite a while now so I thought I had to write about St. Mary's. I started in the south bay, watching plenty of juvenile sandwich terns on the rocks, still yet to add roseate tern to me life list so this year I am especially looking out for them. I went for a walk around the lighthouse and came across some very unexpected visitors. I was watching the golden plover through my scope when I spotted a bigger wader in amongst the very smart-looking dunlin and turnstone, it was a red knot in fantastic summer plumage! Much bigger than all the others and very unexpected. There was also some very early summer-plumaged sanderling on the rocks as well. Just the purple sandpipers to come now! I left the island as the tide was coming in and did my first proper sea-watching session from the car-park. From 17:00 to 17:30 I saw: 25 Manx Shearwater, 4 Gannet, 12 Kittiwake and 15+ Sandwich Tern. Not bad for my first time and still early in the year so more to come yet!

Dunlin Knot, Dunlin and Sanderling

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Outer Hebrides and Highlands

Just come back from Scotland on Saturday, we went to the Uists, Lewis and Harris and visited Skye on the last day. Fantastic trip, saw 120 species in total, including 69 buzzards and 26 short-eared owls. Including 6 I had never seen: Pomarine Skua, Arctic Skua, Great Skua, Corncrake, Corn Bunting and Red-Necked Phalarope. Here is a selection of photos:
Short-Eared Owl Corn Bunting
White-Tailed Eagle on Skye Golden Plover Buzzard
Sanderling Whimbrel
Dunlin Hooded Crow Common Sandpiper