Sunday, 28 December 2008

Scottish Birding and other things like Xmas!

As most of friends will know I have been in Scotland (Glasgow) since the 23rd to enjoy the delights of a Scottish Christmas and New Year with my brother's family.
Bird highlights over the last few days included:
23rd December 2008:Caerlaverock WWT.
5,000+ Barnacle Geese,200+ Whooper Swans,3 Scaup (1st winter bird and 2 females),Peregrine, 100+ Twite (on the saltmarsh) and also good numbers of Wigeon, Teal and Shoveler.

25th December 2008: Queens Park, Shawlands, Glasgow.
2 Goosanders (Male and Female) on the small boating lake.

27th December 2008:Hogganfield Loch, Glasgow.
Drake Lesser Scaup, 10+ Whooper Swans, female Scaup, Adult Yellow-Legged Gull, 4 Shoveler and good numbers of Goosanders, Goldeneyes, Pochard and Teal.

28th December 2008: Clyde area and Lochwinnoch RSPB.
Lochwinnoch RSPB
16 Whooper Swans and good numbers of Goosanders and Goldeneyes.
Port Glasgow area (Newark Castle and West Ferry shoreline).
500+ Eider, 10+ Red breasted Mergansers,3 Slavonian Grebes and a male Pintail.
Also recorded in the area included good numbers of Shags, Goldeneyes, Curlews, Oystercatchers, Shelducks, Wigeons and Redshanks.

31st December 2008: Hogganfield Loch.
Drake Lesser Scaup, 14 Whooper Swans and 14 Goosanders.

Waxwings again but this time in Leicestershire! 21st December 2008.

Here a few photos of the Waxwings at Barrow-upon-Soar which I saw just before Christmas.
As I had previously said on the Soar Valley Birding Blog, it's amazing how Waxwings seem to find another flock of Waxwings in the space of a couple of days (If you get my drift?!).

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Soar Valley Birding 11th December 2008.

A walk around Watermead CP Birstall/North section produced good numbers of wintering Goosanders (35 at least with the majority seen on the King Lear's Lake). Also noted by the tarmac track towards Plover hide was a calling Cetti's Warbler. Although it didn't show it self it was probably male bird as at one stage it did it's explosive trilling call!
The only other noteworthy sighting in the area was a single Shelduck on the scrape at Wanlip Meadows.

Monday, 8 December 2008

White-winged Gulls again! Sunday 7th December 2008.

After finishing on the early shift at the General, I drove over to Eyebrook Reservoir, to look for the 2nd winter Glaucous Gull which had been re found in fields next to the reservoir.
Parking up next to the hedge by the island, as I got out of my car I heard Mick Ketley's voice shout out that the Glaucous Gull was flying over the road, which upon I looked up and saw the big brute of a Glaucous Gull flying over the road into the fields behind the reservoir. Result!!!
Joining Mick and the Brett's by the island we waited for a few minutes hopefully for the Glaucous Gull to return, but strangely after half an hour the bird had not returned.
With this we started to scan the in coming gull roost hopefully to see the Glaucous Gull again and the long staying Iceland Gull which had been returning to the reservoir for the last three weeks.
Over the next hour good numbers of large gulls joined the roost, with others sightings included a single drake Smew and smart looking male Pintail in the large numbers of feeding ducks.
Then at around 3.45pm I re found the 1st Winter Iceland Gull as it joined the roost. It briefly washed itself just south of the island, and then joined the main roost as it came quite close to the Gull watchers feeding off the point next to the island. My aborted attempt of trying to digiscoping the Iceland Gull failed miserable as there was just not enough light in the day left.
As the gloom descended we scanned the roost for a few minutes more but there was still no sign of the Glaucous Gull. Maybe it had roosted at Rutland Water?
By 4.30pm it was getting to dark to view the roost and decided to call it a day and by now my feet had turned into ice blocks!!
So in conclusion not a bad afternoon's birding with two white-winged gulls under the belt, a now rare occurrence in Leicestershire birding circles!?

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Iceland Gull at Eyebrook Res this afternoon. Saturday 6th December 2008.

After walking round Cossington Meadows I drove over to Eyebrook Reservoir to see if the long-staying Iceland Gull would come into the gull roost.
The majority of the large gulls took their time to come into the roost with the 1st Winter Iceland Gull arriving at 16.20pm. Slightly disappointing for the other gull watchers was the no show of the previous day's 2nd Winter Glaucous Gull in the roost.
Other sightings on the reservoir included 2 nice looking drake Smews which had arrived on the previous Thursday(via information from Mick Ketley!).
Hopefully before the end of the year Eyebrook Reservoir will have more white-winged gull sightings?

Cossington Meadows 6th December 2008.

A walk around the reserve produced an excellent count of six Stonechats (Five males and a single female). Three birds were seen on the Swan Meadow, two on the Lower Marsh section and a single male in fields next to Rectory Marsh. The female bird was ringed.The only other notable sighting around the reserve was a single Little Egret on the Upper Marsh.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Anything for the weekend Sir? Wales Beat the Aussies!!!

Well done to the Wales rugby team for beating Australia yesterday 21-18, a much deserved win against one of the Big Three from the Southern Hemisphere (South Africa, the cheating All Blacks and the moaning Aussies!) for the first time in three years.
Tries from Shane Williams and Lee Bryne helped Wales produce an excellent first half perform ace.
In the second half the Aussies up there game, but through penalties and a drop-goal scored by Stephen Jones handed Wales a much needed breathing space in the match and ran out winners of a thrilling match.
With the British Lions touring South Africa in the Summer 2009, I would expect after this performace a few players in the Welsh team have booked there tickets for this forthcoming tour?

Sunday, 23 November 2008

2 Bar X-bill, Waxwings and Let it Snow Bunting?!!

lovely cuddly Snow Bunting

Mr Hague and a Snow Bunting


Waxwings again
One of John's photos of the
Two-barred Crossbill.

Another early start as I picked up John at around 5.30 am and we drove north to North Yorkshire and Cleveland to see if we could photo the long staying Two-barred Crossbill and good numbers of Waxwings.
Arriving at Bilsdale, just south of Stokesley we parked the car next to the main road, and then walked up the farm track. As we walked up the track towards Grafitts Farm it started to snow as had been predicted the previous day. Although the snow shower was short lived, it was still bitterly cold and temperature would stay the same all day just above freezing.
Standing by the farm buildings we had to wait about half an hour before the Crossbill showed itself to the small crowd. John took a few distant shots of the Crossbill as it fed in the nearby larch trees.
Whilst photographing the Crossbill, John received a phone call from Steve Lister to let us know that he had re found the "reported" Snow Bunting at Beacon Hill back in Leicestershire.
Moving on to Middlesborough and checking out Skipper's Lane Industrial estate, it wasn't long before we found a flock of 45+ Waxwings feeding on the nearby rowan trees.
Over the next hour the flock flew around the industrial estate and we got some excellent photos of the flock.
As the Snow Bunting was a good bird for Leicestershire we decided to drive back to Leicestershire, so after driving for a couple of hours we reached Beacon Hill.
We checked out the summit but we couldn't find the bunting, so decided to split up and check other parts of the hill.
After a few minutes of searching John then almost stood on the bird as he walked down the left hand track.
With such a confiding bird we tooks lots of photos of this cracking Snow Bunting and finished off an excellent day birding.
Thanks to John for supplying the photos of the Two-barred Crossbill and Snow Bunting.

Monday, 17 November 2008

November Wildfowl Count for Watermead CP North and Birstall.

Hi all, here is the latest wildfowl count for Watermead CP North and Birstall.Great Crested Grebe: 21, Cormorant: 37 (this count included the returning Scottish ringed bird FCX), Grey Heron: 8, Mute Swan: 36, Canada Goose: 25, Wigeon: 246, Gadwall: 89, Teal: 49, Mallard: 100, Shoveler: 34, Pochard: 1, Tufted Duck: 86, Little Grebe: 6, Goosander: 2, Goldeneye: 2, Moorhen: 18, Coot: 86, Kingfisher: 3, Water Rail: 4, Lapwing: 60, Snipe: 2, and Hybrid Goose: 1.
Other sightings seen in the area included 2 Chiffchaffs, 1 Cetti's Warbler and 1 Buzzard.
(The Rangers at Watermead also reported a flock of 15+ probable Bewick Swans over King's Lear Lake early afternoon, but I couldn't find them in the area later in the day).

I also checked out Cossington Meadows later in the afternoon, hopefully to find some Short-eared Owls, but for some numpties (or dog walkers for short!) no Owls appeared in gloom.The only other sighting I saw down at Cossington Meadows was a male Stonechat by the entrance to the reserve.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Fudge Duck reappears!

A quick text message in the morning from John Hague let me know that the Ferruginous Duck had been re found by Allen Pocock at Groby Pool. So after finishing the early shift I drove over to the pool.
Meeting up with Brian Moore and Allen we so found the drake Ferruginous Duck on the north side of the pool. Although it was quite distant I could not seen any hybridization in the duck's plumage so it was probably the bird which was previously recorded at Sence Valley Forest Park and Thornton Reservoir.
The only problem was that were the hell had it been the previous couple of weeks?
So after watching the duck for a good half an hour I had to leave the pool as I had a prior appointment in the evening with a few nurses at Chinese restaurant in the city, but that another story!?!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Steppe Grey Shrike OMFL!!!

Numpties chasing the shrike!

As news broke of the "Steppe" Great Shrike on Friday evening I couldn't do anything about until today (Tuesday) due to Wales V South Africa game at the weekend.
Leaving Leicester just before 9.00am I was at the Shrike site within an hour and forty minutes.
As John Hague and Brian Moore had seen the bird the day before I soon realised what there had said about how approachable it was. Viewing the Shrike in the bushes by the footpath, the Shrike suddenly flew past me down to less than a couple of feet away.
As you can imagine I took a few record shots of the bird. It was quite interesting to note that the Shrike looked pinky on the breast and reminded me a little bit of an Isabelline Shrike with this colouration.
Due to work commitments in the afternoon I could only watch the Shrike for just under an hour so it did feel a bit like a tick and run bird!, but thankfully another world tick under the belt!?

Monday, 10 November 2008

So close yet so far..... Wales V South Africa

In the lap of the gods!

Over the weekend myself and my brother Tim went down to Cardiff to watch Wales play South Africa.
With a capacity crowd again in the millennium stadium, the first half belonged to the Springboks as there led 13-3 at half time through an early try scored by Adrian Jacobs and Ruan Pienaar adding a conversion and penalty.
The Springboks extended their lead early in the second half when Jean de Villiers intercepted a James Hook pass to breakaway and score.
After this score the game totally changed and Wales went on the offensive and over the next 30 minutes it was mostly one way traffic as Wales pounded the Springboks try line.
Andy Powell was outstanding on his international debut with a couple of stirring runs, but try as their might Wales could not break the Boks defensive line and were only rewarding with four penalties scored by James Hook.
In the last few minutes of the match Wales made a couple of mistakes as their pounded the line for the winning try and the Boks scrambled the ball away into safety.
So at the end of the match the game finished Wales 15 South Africa 20, and I had lost my voice for shouting too much. I felt that Wales had pushed the Boks all the way but just couldn't score the winning try.
Hopefully over the next couple of weeks in this autumn series Wales can also push the All Blacks and Aussies all the way and finally beat a southern hemisphere team?

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Pinkies and a Scoter.

As I was working later in the day, I decided to check out Dean's Lane, Beacon Hill to do a bit of Vis Migging in the morning.
Although I got there a bit late at around 10.00 am, I noted straight the way that a large movement of thrushes was occurring as I had seen over 200 Redwings and Fieldfares within twenty minutes.
Then at around 11.00am I spotted a group of fourteen geese flying over the ridge just below the lane from a north-west direction. As there came closer I realised that there were Pink-footed Geese and were probably migrating south in the direction of the east coast.
Over the next half an hour I counted more winter thrushes and small groups of finches like Siskins, Chaffinches and probably Lesser Redpolls.
Please of what I had seen over the last hour and half, I then moved onto Swithland Reservoir.
Scanning the reservoir and seeing the usual suspects I noticed something slightly different in a small group of Tufted Ducks. I realised straight the way that I was looking at a female Common Scoter. Although it wasn't a year tick for the county, as I had seen the group of sixteen Common Scoter previously in April of this year, it's always nice to find a sea duck so far inland.
Also as Common Scoters are quite scarce in Leicestershire any time of the year I phoned the news out of the sighting.
After getting better views of the Scoter from the Kinchley Lane viewpoint, I reluctantly drove back home to collect my stuff for work, but was pleased that I had found a couple of good birds for the county.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Anything for the weekend sir? Lets Dip!....25th and 26th October 2008.

Over this weekend via Kidwelly in west Wales to look for a reported Little Blue Heron and then locally for another Ferruginous Duck in the county at Thornton Reservoir I have dipped (did not see!) twice.

So briefly following news on Friday afternoon of a Little Blue Heron (a first for Britain) was reported at Kidwelly,near Llanelli in west Wales, myself, John, Ben and Carl Baggott drove down to Gwendraeth Estuary early on Saturday morning.
Meeting up with the Warwickshire crew of Neil Howes (desert storm), Tony Shephard, Bob Duckhouse and Colin we searched the surrounding estuary for the next eight hours. Over the day we saw numerous Little Egrets in the nearby salt marsh, but no sign of the "reported" Little Blue Heron.
However we did see a nice 1st winter/male Hen Harrier quartering the marsh, a couple of Peregrines and a Cetti's Warbler was also heard calling in the reed bed behind us.

Although we didn't see the bird it was a good day just for the craic with fellow birders from all over the country.
Hopefully in the near future the bird will show again and maybe we will have a memorable day on the very under watched South and West Wales estuaries?...

Whilst down in Wales John received a text message from Andy Mackay that Andy Smith had found a Ferruginous Duck at Thornton Reservoir. As we couldn't do anything about it at the time I checked the site out the next morning.
Meeting up with John, Allen Pocock, Andy Smith and Andrew Cliff at the dam, there told me that there was no sign of the duck.
After a bit of chit-chat some old Yorkshire duffer came up to us and said he had seen the bird at the far end of the reservoir, so we trooped off in the direction of the sighting.But as usual surprise surprise the bird had disappeared by the time we had got round to the west arm.
At this point I could have lost my temper with the old duffer and called him a stringer, but in hindsight we should have just walked off in a different direction when the old duffer had claimed to see the bird from half a mile away!
Walking back to the car park, I left John to check out Swithland and Cropston Resv but to no avail of the sighting of the duck.
My final port of call of the morning was Cossington Meadows and as usual it was pretty quiet except for a nice 1st winter/male Stonechat near the entrance of the reserve and good numbers of Wigeon, Gadwall and Shoveler on the tern pool.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Anything for the weekend sir?....Lets count birds! 18th and 19th October 2008.

Over the weekend I counted loads of birds. Firstly myself and John did some visual migration at Burrough Hill Country Park on Saturday morning.
Starting at 7.30am we watched this site until just before 10.00am. On the whole we had good numbers of thrushes pass over us, but the jewel in the crown sighting (or more heard only) was a Lapland Bunting heard calling with a small group of Skylarks as it flew over the hill in a north-west direction.
John kept note of the birds which we saw and heard and the totals were:
Redwing: 300, Fieldfare: 195, Chaffinch: 78, Starling: 70, Skylark: 13, Meadow Pipit: 4, Linnet: 4, Siskin: 3, Greenfinch: 2, Song Thrush: 1, "Alba" Wagtail: 1, and the best for last 1 Lapland Bunting! (This was a county tick for me but I won't be adding it to my county list due to only hearing it call).

After dropping off John at home and sorting a few things out at home, I was out again to count ducks down the Soar Valley for the monthly Wildfowl count.
The totals were:
Great Crested Grebe: 24, Little Grebe: 2, Cormorant: 49, Grey Heron: 9, Mute Swan: 26, Canada Goose: 33, Greylag Goose: 85, Greylag Goose (Farm yard type): 13, Wigeon: 303, Gadwall: 95, Teal: 14, Mallard: 112, Shoveler: 39, Pochard: 1, Tufted Duck: 92, Scaup: 1, Moorhen: 20, Coot: 101, Kingfisher: 1, Water Rail: 2, Lapwing: 51, Green Sandpiper: 1, Redshank: 1, Golden Plover: 150+, Curlew: 1 and 1 Gadwall x Mallard hybrid.
The highlight of the count was me finding a female Scaup seen on the water ski pit. Other highlights included good numbers of Wigeon and Shoveler counted at Birstall section.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

More Shetland Shots

Here is a few shots I took last week on Shetland, the non-photo shy Long eared Owl was at Quendale Mill, the ponies were at Grutness and the two landscapes are views of the Pool of Virkie in the South mainland.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Tigers v Ospreys once again....

As I got home early from Shetland, I had the chance to watch Leicester Tigers play the Ospreys on the Sunday.
Sitting tightly in the home crowd, I watched another rubbish game of rugby between these two teams.
Although I've lived in Leicester for most of my life, my family connections are rooted in Welsh history and culture, so I was supporting the Ospreys on this occasion.
As usual the game was not a great free flowing game of attacking rugby, but more like the two teams defences cancelling each other out.

Toby Flood scored all the points for the Tigers in the form of four penalties, but Jamie Hook had an off day with the boot as he missed three kicks in attacking positions.
The game was very tight right until the very end, and if Tommy Bowe had not been hauled down by his Irish International colleague Geordan Murphy very close to the try line, the Ospreys may have gone home with an unexpected victory.
With this final chance of a try the Tigers ran the clock out to win the game 12-6.
Although the Tigers won the game I think the next time the Ospreys play the Tigers again in the Heineken cup it will be a totally different game?

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Back to the Mainland from Shetland.

I returned home yesterday afternoon from my trip to Shetland.

On the whole it was very quiet from my previous trip last year, with only a couple BB rarities seen during the week.
I think the problem with the trip was that the weather conditions were not great for Shetland to produce a fall of migrants.
The highlight of the trip was John, Andy Lawson and myself finding a Siberian Stonechat in fields just below the top quarry at Sumburgh Head. Hugh Harrop joined us later and with help from his camera we identified the bird as a probable 1st winter male.

Other highlights of the trip included finding a Barred Warbler in the garden of the house(Nordgerdi) we were staying at; finding at least six Yellow-browed Warblers in a variety of locations in the South Mainland and seeing Little Bunting and Red breasted Flycatcher at Sumburgh head, an elusive Great Grey Shrike at the Sumburgh hotel gardens, a fly-by Red throated Pipit at the valley of plenty(Clevigarth I think?) and a non camera shy Long-eared Owl at Quendale Mill.
Although I didn't have any life ticks this time around I will of course be looking forward to my next trip to Shetland hopefully sooner than later.

photos of the Siberian Stonechat copyright of Hugh Harrop.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Hello Shetland!

Well , me and John, finally arrived in Shetland this morning. The Weather was pants and crossing from Aberdeen to Lerwick wasn't great. With the only highlight of trip John saying hello to the toilet just after finishing our evening dinner!
Although the weather currently isn't great at the moment I expected the drunkbirders to find a few rarities in the next few days? Maybe....

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

My Lesser Scaup in the latest BB rarity report!

Yesterday I got my new copy of BB(British Birds) and was pleased to see that my record of the Lesser Scaup I found at Eyebrook Reservoir last year had been accepted.
I might not be a very competent birder but at least I can now die happy that I finally found a BB rarity!
Hopefully next week when I'm on Shetland I might have the chance of finding hopefully one more BB rarity?

Lesser Scaup photos originally supplied from Matt Berriman.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Leicester City v Hartlepool United 27th September 2008.

As the rare bird sightings on the east coast had died down a bit, I decided instead to go and watch Leicester City play Hartlepool United at the Walkers stadium on the Saturday.
I must thank Rich my mate from my school days, who had a spare ticket for this match.
Although most of the match was pretty uneventful, except for Leicester scoring in the third minutes courtesy of Matt Oakley. I was quite impressed with the young Welsh player Andy King in midfield (maybe a star in the making?), and of course the two Liverpool reserves David Martin in goal, and Jack Hobbs in defence. However the man of the match was Lloyd Dyer on the left wing who was a constant threat when ever Leicester went forward.

After the match myself and Rich (Rich's wife Nicole had given him permission to stay out late!?!) checked out the Crit for a couple of beers and then we went on to Nila palace for an excellent curry.

Fudge Duck at Sence Valley FP 28th September 2008.

Due to me going to the Football the previous day, I didn't get to see the Ferruginous Duck at Sence Valley FP until the Sunday morning.
I arrived at around 9.30am and slowly walked up the Stonebridge Pool with Paul (one of Groby crew) where the bird had been previously reported.
When we got to the hide a couple of birders were looking at the bird which had just appeared in front of the hide.
As you would expect I phoned the news out about the bird and also took a few record shots of the duck.
Joined by Allen Pocock a few minutes later we watched the duck as it behaved like a proper diving duck( happy now John!) instead of the usual view you normally get of head tucked under its wings and fast asleep!
Please with the views I had, I then moved on to Swithland Reservoir to see the long staying Juvenile Red Necked Grebe feeding as usual next to the dam before nipping home for a few minutes and then straight on to work.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Great Snipe at Flamborough OMFL!! or maybe not? 13th September 2008.

Little Stint by a puddle!

Myself and Ben Croxtall, decided to check out the Yorkshire coast as the weather forecast the previous few days had looked good for a fall on the east coast.
Starting at Spurn we took a slow walk up Beacon Lane to look for migrants. Half way down the lane, we met another Birder who put us on a migrating Osprey, which was slowly drifting down the point.
Reaching the end of the lane, we scanned the fields and saw a couple of Whimbrels feeding in the long grass.
Moving on to Beacon Ponds, it was pretty quiet on the wader scrapes except for a couple of Black tailed Godwits and four 1st winter Med Gulls roosting on the shoreline.
Whilst sitting in the hide we spoke to another birder who let us know that a Great Snipe had been found at Flamborough Head. This was confirmed via my pager a couple of minutes later, and the next organised search for the bird would be around 11.00am.
As it was quiet at Spurn we made the decision to go up Flamborough to hopefully see the Great Snipe.
Although we missed the first search at 11.00am which the bird showed in flight a couple of times, we arrived in plenty of time for the next search which was at 2.00pm.
So with an hour to kill we had some dinner at the nearby cafe and then had a quite look at the Little Stint which was feeding at a nearby puddle!
By 2.00pm a reasonable crowd (this included my birding mates Dave Mack and Jez Robson) had gathered just below the Lighthouse for the next search. We then followed the local birders who had found the Snipe slowly across the set-a-side field.
On the first sweep, no bird appeared but on the second sweep the group flushed the "supposed" Great Snipe. Although the weather conditions were not great, as most of the headland was covered in sea mist what I saw of the bird in flight, it looked larger than a Common Snipe, was barrel-chest, looked longer winged and looked more like a thin Woodcock. Also the bird did not call when it was flushed from the ground, and flew more like a Jack Snipe in appearance. Slightly worrying I did not see the white wing bar on the bird, but the weather conditions didn't help here!
In conclusion it was probably the biggest anticlimax I've had this year of seeing a lifer!? (please see the end of the account).

After the Great Snipe flush myself and Ben walked up to the Old Fall hedge to check out to see if any migrants had been grounded by the weather conditions.
Walking down the hedge we saw at least four Redstarts, three Pied Flycatchers, two Spotted Flycatchers feeding along the hedge and in the famous plantation. Also we saw good numbers of Whinchats and Wheatears in the surrounding fields.
Around this time I got a phone call from Jez Robson to let me know that 2 Wrynecks were feeding in vegetation just below the Lighthouse.
Moving to the lighthouse we were soon viewing the Wrynecks as there feed on the clifftop vegetation.
Other birds in the area included a Pied Flycatcher, two fly-by Arctic Skuas and a Garden Warbler.
A few minutes later, we heard that someone had claimed a Booted Warbler in fields opposite the Old Fall hedge, so walking up the road, we joined the crowd in the nearby field.
At this point the two bird theory came into play as a Garden Warbler was claimed as the bird, then another Garden Warbler was also claimed to be the Booted Warbler, and finally another bird was also claimed to be a Booted Warbler!!!
In hindsight I wish the birders the best of luck who are going to submit this record, as me and Ben walked away from this farce none the wiser?!?
As this was the last highlight of the day as usual Flamborough came up with the goods and just showed how good this site really is.

A couple of weeks later I heard that the birder who had claimed the Great Snipe was now withdrawing the record, so it looks like I would have to wait another year to see or flush a Great Snipe!!

Bird sightings over the week

Here is a list of sightings I have seen over the last week.
5th September 2008:
1 Swift at Watermead CP South
6 Black Terns (3 Adults and 3 Juveniles), and 2 Hobbies at Cropston Reservoir.

6th September 2008:
6 Black Terns and 1 Little Egret at Cropston Rservoir.
2 Black Terns and a single Hobby at Swithland Reservoir.

7th September 2008:
4 Little Egrets at Cropston Reservoir.
5 Hobbies at Swithland Reservoir.
1 Black Tern,1 Eclipse Drake Garganey, 2 Little Egrets, 6 Knots, 15 Dunlins,1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Greenshank and 2 Ringed Plovers at Eyebrook Reservoir.

9th September 2008:
1 Female/1st winter Pied Flycatcher, 1 Redstart, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Chiffchaffs and 2 Blackcaps at Croft Hill.

So basically over the week I saw a year tick in the form of the Pied Flycatcher at Croft, good numbers of Black Terns away from Rutland Water and an assortment of waders at Eyebrook.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Work, Work and more Work!!!

As I finally come to my last six months of nurse training, I have been snowed under with loads of work at the moment both on my placement and the theory work in the form of two assignments to be completed in the next week or so.
So the wildlife sightings will be on the back burner for the next few weeks until I go to Shetland in early October when hopefully myself and the Drunkbirders will again found some top notch BB rarities?!

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

It's Autumn, Bird sightings over the last few days!!

Over the last few days, It looks like Autumn migration has finally kicked in with good numbers of Waders and Passerines reported from different sites in the county.
Here is a list of bird sightings I have seen in the last few days.

29th August 2008:
Cropston Reservoir:
4 Greenshanks, and 1 Oystercatcher.

Cossington Meadows LRWT:
1 Spotted Flycatcher by the main track, 1 Whinchat(male?) on the "Moor", 3 Crossbills flew over Hobley Pool in a north west direction at 16.45, 1+ Redstart (possibly two birds?) in the hedge between Tern Pool and Moor Pool and 1 Common Sandpiper on Plover Meadow.

30th August 2008:
Cossington Meadows LRWT:
2 Whinchats in the large field(Swan Meadow) opposite the Moor and main track, 1 Wheatear on fence posts between Plover meadow and Lower Moor.

Cropston Reservoir:
1 Little Egret and 1 Greenshank viewed from the dam end.

31st August 2008:
Swithland Reservoir:
2 Hobbies noted over the reservoir.

Cossington Meadows LRWT:
1 Whinchat still on Swan meadow large field, and two Green Sandpipers on the Upper Marsh.

Eyebrook Reservoir:
4 Little Egrets, 3 Little Ringed Plovers, 3 Dunlins, 10 Greenshanks, 1 Green Sandpiper, 3 Snipe and 1 Eclipse Drake Garganey.

Watermead CP South:
1 Black Tern and 3 Swifts.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Red-Necked Phalarope at Switho Res 26th August 2008.

Juvenile Red-Necked Phalarope
at Swithland Res

A quick phonecall from Allen Pocock this evening, had me driving over to Swithland Reservoir, as he told me that he was watching a Phalarope Sp. at the end of Kinchley Lane.
When I arrived at Kinchley Lane, Allen and Ben Croxtall were trying to get a better view of the bird, but were having problems seeing the bird due to surrounding vegetation.
I quickly walked up the Lane and scoped the bird from the stone wall viewpoint and concluded it was probably a Red-necked Phalarope, but needed better views.
Rejoining Allen and Ben we all climbed over the metal railings to see the bird through a gap in the vegetation. With better views of the bird we all came to same conclusion that the bird was a juvenile Red necked Phalarope.
At the same time I also took a few record shots of the bird.
Driving back to the viewpoint I met up with most of my birding mates (John, Dave Mack, Jez Robson and Brian the wearside whippet!) and got approved views of the Phalarope as it moved slowly towards the viewpoint.
Although there was no sign of the previous day's Black Necked Grebe the only other notable sighting we saw during this time was of a couple of Hobbys seen hawking over the reservoir and nearby wood.
Watching the Phalarope until eight o'clock I decided to call it a day and return home for a spot of tea.

Anything for the Bank Holiday sir?... Black Necked Grebe, Lady's Tresses and a Shag!?!

A Shag at EBR!

Juv BN Grebe at SWR.

Autumn Lady's Tresses no.1

Autumn Lady's Tresses no.2

I spy a grey Knot!

Another view of the Shag at EBR.

My original plan for the day was to check out the last orchid of the season at a site near Wisbech but following a text message from John Hague that Steve Lister had found a Black-necked Grebe at Swithland Reservoir I quickly drove over to Swithland Res.
Joining Steve at the Kinchley lane viewpoint, it was only a matter moments before I had year ticked the Juvenile Black-necked Grebe. The Grebe showed reasonable well, and I took a few distant record digishots of the bird.
Reverting back to my original plan I thanked Steve for finding the Grebe and then drove to Wisbech (well near it) to check out my regular site for Autumn Lady's Tresses (Spiranthes spiralis).
Parking next to the pumping house, I climbed over the fence and started looked at the nearby short turf and after a few minutes of searching I found good numbers (at least 80+) of this delicate small orchid.
As usual a took a few photos of the final flowering orchid of the season.
With seeing this final orchid( unless of course if someone find Ghost Orchid in the next month or so);this spring and summer has been excellent for hunting for Orchids as this was my thirty-three species or variation of the year.
Driving back to Leicestershire I stopped off at Eyebrook Res for the rest of the afternoon.
Scanning over the inflow end I saw the long staying grey Knot feeding on the shoreline accompany with at least four Greenshanks, 4 Little Egrets (one was coloured ringed), an Arctic Tern,a juvenile Peregrine, two LRPs, three Ringed Plovers, eight Dunlins and two Green Sandpipers.
Due to an influx of Shags in the last few days into the Midlands region, I checked the Cormorant platform out and low behold there was a Juvenile Shag sitting in the middle of the platform!
Knowing that a Shag was quite a good bird for the county, I phoned the news out about the sighting and then took a few digishots of the bird to cap off an excellent day in the field.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Bay of Biscay trip 17-20th August 2008.

I spy the Spinnaker tower

Short-tailed Blue

Cetaceans sightings

Transporter bridge at Santurzi

Over the last few days I have been on my annual Bay of Biscay trip with the Company of Whales to look for Seabirds,Cetaceans (Whales and Dolphins) and hopefully the odd Shark.
The weather wasn't the best I've ever had crossing the bay, in fact it was probably the worst I've experienced on the southern crossing for over ten years!
Due to the bad weather on the southern crossing, we saw an excellent number of seabirds. Over the three days the group recorded six species of shearwater: 1 Little Shearwater, 6 Great Shearwaters, 114 Cory's Shearwaters, 10 Sooty Shearwaters, 2 Balearic Shearwaters and 6 Manx Shearwaters. Also other pelagic birds recorded included 9 Sabine's Gulls, 3 Grey Phalaropes, 14 Storm Petrels, 4 Arctic Skuas, 3 Great Skuas, 10 Sandwich Terns, 15 Arctic Terns, 1 Common Tern and 1 'commic' tern.
Due to the rough weather spotting Cetaceans was really hard work as we only saw a few Common Dolphins on the way down to Bilbao.
Arriving at Bilbao early the next day, it only took the group twenty minutes to walk into the foothills above the port to look for an assortment of wildlife after disembarking the ship.
Although it was raining when we started the walk by the time we had reach the picnic area at Camino Serantes it had stopped raining and the visibility had improved.
Bird Sightings we saw over the next couple of hours included a superb "dark morph" Montagu's Harrier, 8 Griffon Vultures, 1 Booted Eagle, 5 Buzzards, 1 Sparrowhawk, 5 Kestrels, 1 Cuckoo, 3 Little Owls, 2 Hoopoes, 3 Tree Pipits, 2 Nightingales, 2 Black Redstarts, 4 Blackcaps, 2 Garden Warblers, 2 Sardinian Warblers, 2 Cetti's Warblers, 2 Pied Flycatchers, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 3 Red-backed Shrikes and 2 Serins.
The Butterflies sightings were few and far between due to the weather conditions but the group did see a couple of Short tailed Blues (which was a butterfly tick for me!), Adonis Blues, a few Graylings and the odd Speckled Wood.

After the group's brief visit to Spain, we soon set sail back into the southern bay.
As the weather conditions had improved over night and the sea state had settled down, over the next few hours we saw good numbers of Fin Whales, a single Sperm Whale, an unidentified Beaked Whale( probably Northern Bottlenose Whale?), a couple of Pilot Whales and a small group of ten Striped Dolphins on the Cetacean front.
However the most interesting sighting of the day was an unusual looking large Shearwater, which resembled a Streaked Shearwater in appearance which was watched for a good ten minutes at least. The bird was basically the same size as a Cory's Shearwater, but showed features similar to a Great Shearwater in the upper wing pattern. The main distinctive features of the Shearwater was the clean white head and the underside of the bird was clean white in colour. Although most of the group got on to the bird, we just couldn't identify the bird.
Maybe it was a Streaked Shearwater?!, but I must admit I don't think I going to claim a first for European Waters, unless we had got photos of the bird!
On the Whole Biscay was great again with the number of different species seen and as usual I will going again next year.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

On a Cork jolly! 12th-13th August 2008.

I just spent a couple of days with my University friends, Sarah, Cherie and Ivor in Cork, Ireland.
Based near the University College, I was pleasantly surprised how nice Cork was from the hospitality of the locals to the very much understated city centre.
Over the two days we spent quite a bit of time in the local Pubs and Bars but we did go a city bus tour which was an excellent choice to see the city sights.
Hopefully in the future I will visit this city again and the surrounding countryside as it would make a great base for a longer holiday.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Olympics update: Nicola Cooke wins Gold Medal! 10th August 2008.

It was great to see Nicole Cooke win the Gold Medal in the Women's Cycle Road Race this morning.
Wales's greatest female cyclist timed her sprint to perfection at the end of the race and sprinted passed her four rivals in appalling weather conditions to win by a couple of bike lengths.
Nicole is the first Welsh person to win a Gold medal for 36 years.

Let hope this is the start of a few more Olympic medals over the coming week?

Friday, 8 August 2008

Bird sightings 7th August 2008.

Here is a list of bird sightings I saw today:
Eyebrook Reservoir:
Eclipse Drake Garganey, 3 Green Sandpipers, 3 Dunlin, 2 Common Sandpipers, 1 LRP and 6 Yellow Wagtails.

Rutland Water: Manton Bridge
Adult Spoonbill, 8 Ruff, 7 Dunlin, 3 Black tailed Godwits, 2 Green Sandpipers, 4 Curlew, 5 Common Sandpipers,1 Greenshank and 1 LRP.

Rutland Water: North Arm
Juvenile/first winter Sandwich Tern, 1 Turnstone, 2 Little Egrets, 5+ Yellow legged Gulls, 1 adult Caspian Gull and 1 Hobby.

So basically I saw lots of waders and a couple of good county year ticks!

Indiana Dave and the quest of the Ghost Orchid 8th August 2008.

Another Orchid tick
Narrow-Lipped Helleborine

A good example of
Broad-Leaved Helleborine

Another angle of the
NL Helles

Another shot of the
BL Helles

Following top secret instructions of the location of this site, I arrived at the site mid morning to look for the Holy Grail of British Orchids in the form of the mythical Ghost Orchid(Epipogium aphyllum).
Although it is now over ten years since the last time Ghost Orchid was recorded flowering this country. The recent poor weather conditions over the last couple of Summers has increased the possibly of the orchid flowering.
Checking around the surrounding Beechwoods, I saw plenty of mushrooms and toadstools, which was a good sign of possibly flowering, as the Ghost Orchid is saprophytic and grows only in deep leaf-litter where the ground is virtually bare of vegetation.
Whilst look for the Ghost Orchids I came across a group of 20+ Narrow-Lipped Helleborines(Epipactis leptochila). The majority of the plants had gone over, but I did find a couple of good examples which were just still in flower. What was pleasing about this sighting was that it was another orchid tick on my British List.
Nearby I also found at least fifteen Broad leaved Helleborines (Epipactis helleborine), which like the Narrow-Lipped had mostly gone over. However I did find a very nice example which did look more like the rare form var.purpurata but this form is very difficult to ID at the best of times!
Over the next two and half hours I searched woods and found a few more Broad-Leaved Helleborines, but drew a total blank for the mythical Ghost Orchid.
Walking slowly back to the car I came to the conclusion that maybe only an organised searched of the area would find this mythical plant or regrettable the Ghost Orchid is now finally extinct in this country?

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Berry Head Seawatch 4th August 2008.

Berry Head, Brixham.

Cirl Bunting.
Having arranged this trip earlier in week,Leaving Leicester at 2.40am myself and Dave Mack drove down to Brixham, Devon to do a bit of Seawatching off Berry Head.
This was the first time I have been to this site as I usually seawatch in autumn from Flamborough Head in Yorkshire and my regular annual trip to the Bay of Biscay.

Arriving at Berry Head just before 6.15am, the first bird sighting of the day we had was of two Cirl Buntings singing in the car park!
This was a lifer for Dave Mack, so to say Dave was pleased was a bit of an understatement!?!

As we didn't really know to view from we decided to watch from the end of the head next to the small lighthouse.
Over the next half an hour we scanned the sea and saw the usual seabirds associated with the English Channel like Gannets, Shags, Cormorants, Kittiwakes, Fulmar and a variety of seagulls.
A few moments later, Dave picked up an Arctic Skua as it flew west past the head and then we had a Manx Shearwater go in the same direction.
As the sun was affect our view off the head, we decided to move further round the headland and started to watch again.
Soon we started to pick up more seabirds and at least four Harbour Porpoises feeding offshore.
Unsurprising due to the early start myself and Dave fell asleep for half an hour due to the direct sunlight. After this brief siesta I soon picked up a shearwater passing the headland which looked like a Balearic Shearwater, which I got Dave onto it.

More to follow shortly.......