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.......

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Derbyshire day trip DR Helles, Frits and Golden Rings.... 3rd August 2008.

Dark Red Helleborine

Dark Red Helleborine no.2

Dark Green Fritillary

Mating Golden Ringed

Myself and John spent most of the day in North Derbyshire to check out a few sites.
The first site of the day was Curbar Bridge to look for Golden-ringed Dragonflies and Black Darters.
Checking out the surrounding moorland and the nearby stream and pond, we saw a good number of damselflies. Then walking around the pond John found a female type darter which looked like a Black Darter but after a bit of discussion and research at home later in the day, John decided it was just a Common Darter. So no Dragonfly tick for me!!
As we walked back to the car we check the area next to the road bridge and I picked up a large dragonfly flying around the other side of the stream. I shouted to John of its presence which he then saw land on some rushes on the opposite side of the stream. This was when the Indiana Dave mode kicked in as we both transversed the difficult stream!
After a bit of searching we found a superb mating pair of Golden Ringed Dragonflies and as you can imagine John took a good number of photos of the pair.
Returning to the car we then moved on to a nearby site to look for Dark Red Helleborines and Dark Green Fritillary Butterflies.
At this site, looking in the lower fields we saw a few Dark Green Fritillaries feeding on the vegetation but were just a bit to far to photo. Other butterfly sightings included Small Heath, Gatekeeper and Meadow Brown. Bird sightings in the fields included a nice family party of four Spotted Flycatchers.
Walking further up the path I then showed John a new orchid for his list in the form of Dark Red Helleborine (Epipactis atrorubens). In the surrounding hillside we counted 18 flowering spikes, with most of the flowers gone over. I did however take a few shots of the only plant which was still in flower.
This site is the most southerly in England for this species, as this orchid only occurs very locally on limestone in upland Britain.
Other orchids we saw in the surrounding fields included Northern Marsh Orchid (Dactylorhiza purpurella), Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) and Common Fragrant Orchid (Gymnadnia conopsea) but were all past there best.
Butterflies we saw included the previously mentioned and over 30 Dark Green Fritillaries being was the major highlight. Also present here were Common Blue, Brown Argus, Red Admiral, Small Skipper, Large Skipper, Green-veined White and Small White.
Just before getting back to the car, we had a couple of Migrant and Southern Hawkers patrolling the end of the path.
Following lunch at a local cafe we returned to Curbar Bridge again to see if we could see Black Darter, but after searching for a good half an hour we concluded that our luck wasn't in.
However bird sightings were far more better as we recorded another family group of Spotted Flycatchers,a family party of Stonechats, a Juvenile Whinchat and a couple of Lesser Redpolls all in the surrounding moorland.
By this time myself and John were started to flag, so we decided to call it a day and returned to our home county of Leicestershire.

Cheers to John Hague for supplying the photos of Golden ringed Dragonflies and Dark Green Fritillary.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Bird Sightings 1st August 2008.

Little Egrets at Cossington

Little Egrets at Cossington no.2

Red Kite over Eyebrook Reservoir

I spend most of the day out in the county Birding and Orchid Hunting (see the previous post).
Here is a list of sightings I saw yesterday:

Eyebrook Reservoir:
1 Black tailed Godwit, 1+ Wood Sandpiper, a sub-adult Yellow-legged Gull, 2 Red Kites and a couple of Little Egrets.
Great Merrible Wood LRWT:
2 Marsh Tits.
Cossington Meadows LRWT:
1 Hobby, 4 Little Egrets, 4 Common Sandpipers, 2+ Green Sandpipers, 1 Dunlin and at least 15 Common Terns around the reserve.

Violet Helleborines at Great Merrible Wood 1st August 2008.

Violet Helleborines at Great Merrible Wood LRWT.
I checked out Great Merrible Wood yesterday afternoon to look for Violet Helleborine (Epipactis purpurata) and found over 75 flowering stems, which was the most I have ever seen in this wood.
I found one plant which was close to the path which had a cluster of twenty stems on it!
It looks like it has been a very good year for Helleborine species as high numbers have been recorded all over the country.
I think also it might have something to do with last year's weather conditions, as this orchid is affected by dry summers and grows better in damp conditions.
If I get time over the next couple of weeks I will try visit this site again to see the Helleborines in there full flowering glory!