Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Spurn and Suffolk

This year's autumn trip was reduced to two nights at Spurn with Dave Craven - instead of 2 weeks on Shetland. Given how cr*p this autumn has generally been, hitting a productive period of weather was always going to be a long shot, and so it proved, with winds continuing to be from the SW or W (going N/NNE for a short period) during our stay - birding in bright sun in a t-shirt never feels promising at this time of year... Hey ho. That said, it wasn't a complete disaster! 

Our first day (Monday 24th Sept) was actually our best. Whilst doing a bit of seawatching at Numpties in the morning (god I am out of practice...), Spurn's first Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn started calling just to the north - for a moment I thought it was going to be someone playing a call on their phone, but there it was, in classic YBW habitat - a scrappy little sycamore. Very nice.

Yellow-browed Warbler - pic by Dave Craven

15 minutes later, and a thin 'seee' call overhead had us looking upwards. It took a moment for the penny to drop, but after the bird uttered a 'pix' call, and revealed itself as a chunky finch with big white wing flashes things clicked into place - 'Hawfinch!'. Also nice! And a few minutes after this, a Common Rosefinch was found within spitting distance at the Warren, feeding unobtrusively in amongst the Good King Henry (or something similar). And in fact, there were two. So, a good 40 minute spell.

Common Rosefinch - pic by Dave Craven

Things went a bit flat after that. There were few migrants around generally, although vis-migging at Numpties was fun, and produced a few bits including single Brambling on 25th and Lapland Bunting on 26th, amongst the Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Tree Sparrows, and seeing the likes of Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Skylark and House Martin coming in-off was also fun. And back to seawatching, I had almost got my eye back in at the end of a couple of sessions - which produced small numbers of Manxies, Arctic Skuas, Bonxies, Red-throated Divers, 2 Little Gulls, and small numbers of Common and Sandwich Terns etc.. 

Sunset over the Humber - pic by Dave Craven

So that was Spurn. This weekend just gone, and we were back in Suffolk visiting my parents. I had planned to have an early morning session birding at Landguard on either Saturday or Sunday morning, plumping for the latter, with Northerlies forecast. Two hours really wasn't long enough, and best was a 1st W male Ring Ouzel.  

Friday, 21 September 2018

Frustrating Phalarope

With plenty of Grey Phalaropes turning up at inland locations over the last day or two, I was feeling the need to check there wasn't one at Collingham, but hadn't been able to get out until tonight. Having scanned Ferry Lane Lake a couple of times, I had resigned myself to the inevitable - there wasn't one. Hey ho. But there were a few gulls, and one of them was an adult Yellow-leg, my first of the year here. So not a complete waste of time.

Having photographed the gull, I was having another look at it when something flew west through my field of view, close to the water... a Grey Phal! I tracked it for a few seconds, but it was sufficiently close to shore that I soon lost it behind the willows which are growing up on the bank. Goddam! It was heading towards the south-west corner of the pit, but in a quick half-hour search (before having to get home to do the little one's bedtime) I couldn't relocate it - although there were two Garganey with a group of Shoveler. Tom Malarkey had a look later and couldn't find it either, although I find it hard to believe it left the site heading into a strong headwind.... so worth a look early tomorrow (although I wouldn't be surprised if it/one was found on Phase 3 at Langford!). 

Friday, 7 September 2018

Missing Lincs

Last time I went bird seeking on the Lincs coast was last Autumn. Despite the rather unpromising forecast, I had already decided to take today off work and head over there. Starting out from Sea View Farm at Saltfleet, I birded north, and then back south past Rimac and as far as South Bank Farm. There were lots of House Martins, and lesser numbers of Swallows around, but common migrants were thin on the ground, with a smatter of Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests and small numbers of Willow Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat and Blackcap. More notable were a single Turtle Dove which flew north, and a young Gropper north of Sea View Farm. I almost stood on the latter, and after flushing it out of some long grass it sat up in some sea buckthorn, allowing me to confirm that it was indeed a Gropper, and not anything more notable... A party of 7 Whinchats were the only other birds of note. 

Giving up after 5 hours in the field, I started home, taking a short detour via Manby Flash near Louth - somewhere I've never been before. A Pec Sand had been found shortly before, and this was showing well on the exposed mud with 11 Ruff and a young Black-wit

American double

When asked on Saturday by a non-birding friend about the 'bird in Norfolk which was the first one ever the be seen in Britain', which turned out to the the Stilt Sandpiper in Lincs, I decided I really ought to go and see it. So having received the necessary clearance, I was up at 5am on Sunday, and had seen the bird by 7am, along with its compatriot, the Long-billed Dowitcher - indeed, both were feeding together at one point, which was quite a sight. 

So well worth the effort. And actually, it wasn't much effort at all - Frampton is barely over an hour from home. I clocked up 21 species of wader without too much trouble (including several Curlew Sands), there were scores of hirundines over the site first thing, and the saltings were hooching with Yellow Wagtails, feeding around the cattle. I guess if I wanted to go somewhere close to home and have a realistic chance of finding something good, then this has got to be the best option, so why don't I come here more often? Something to factor in for next year... 

Having seen the two main draws, I had a walk down the Witham bank to the Wash. There are hawthorn bushes dotted along here, but save for two Goldcrests and a Robin they were birdless on this occasion...

Friday, 31 August 2018

Birding bits in August

My birding during August has continued to be fairly low key. Saturday morning patch visits with the little one have been a feature, but are typically rather brief and superficial, and I have failed to manage many visits at any other times without an impatient 9 month old. 

As a result, hopes of a Redstart, Spotted Fly or Whinchat, or a decent wader, have faded, and I've had to make do with generally low numbers of common passage waders at Mons, interspersed with the odd other highlights- a 2cy Med Gull which lingered at Meering before flying upriver on the 12th, a Whimbrel calling over Mons on the 16th, a Grey Wag south on the 25th (new for Patchwork Challenge in 2018), and a Garganey on Mons on the 27th. 

The highlight of breeding bird activity has been the successful fledging of three Common Terns from the new tern raft on Mons Pool - build it and they will come! These young are still hanging around with their parents. 

Elsewhere, I've managed a few visits to Cotham Landfill, generally on the way into work - the highlight there was an adult (or possibly 4cy) Caspian Gull on 20th. Work took me north on 21st, and a quick look at Hagg Lane Flash near Newington produced 2 Ruff, a Greenshank and a Dunlin, and 52 Little Egrets - a local had had 63 there that morning, and I know there was count of 70+ made a few days later. Pretty amazing given the status of this species not so very long ago... A visit to the new visitor centre at Sherwood Forest was generally unremarkable, save for a party of four Woodcock - at least 2 juvs, and one or two adults. I can't remember ever having seen a family party before. 

Finally, birding from the garden has produced a couple of garden ticks - Hobby and Yellow Wag. The Swifts departed promptly and en masse, with 120 in a high-flying screaming flock being present on the 2nd, and then just the odd one or two in subsequent days. Having purchased a Swift box at the Birdfair, I hope maybe to have a pair nesting on my house in the coming years...

Friday, 3 August 2018

Summer gulling

With no big gulls at Collingham at the moment, I've been getting my gull fix at Cotham Landfill and Kilvington Lakes. A couple of visits to the latter this week have produced decent numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls - 16 on Wednesday, and at least 30 today. Most are adults or near adults, but there have been a couple of 2cy and juv birds around - with two juvs together today (and a few juv LBBGs for comparison). A juv Common Gull was the only other gull of note.

The images below show the 2 juv YLGs from today - the second and third birds from the left in the first shot (with LBBGs), and shots of both birds showing upper wing, and nice tail/rump pattern. I appreciate they're not the best photos in the world...

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Summer doldrums

Despite the fact that June has been and gone, the summer doldrums on the patch continue, with small numbers of passage waders, but nothing of particular note. However, pair of Red-crested Pochards on 21 July were the first addition for PWC in too long, and a juvenile Garganey on Mons Pool at the weekend was a welcome, if expected, appearance. 


Frustratingly, Yellow-legged Gull remains elusive - normally expected this time of year, but Phase 3 at Langford seems to be too much of a draw for them. Small number of GBBG and LBBGs have been the only big gulls. I guess I'll have to wait for the normal autumn roost build up for this species, and hopefully also a Casp or two. 

Elsewhere, I've had a couple of pre-work summer gulling visits to Cotham Landfill, where there have been small numbers of Yellow-legged Gulls of various ages present.