Sunday, 28 October 2012

Birds on the move

There were a few birds passing over Collingham Pits this morning, most notably 9 Brambling through west, followed shortly afterwards by 51 Fieldfares; there were a few of the latter elsewhere on site, with small numbers of Redwings. Other birds on the move included 7 Siskin over south (6+1), and 2 Redpoll sp. south (1+1), with another 3 north.

Aside from these, yesterday's Knot had relocated a short distance from Collingham Pits to Mons Pool, where it was being kept company by at least 6 Redshank. Also present here were 2 Kingfishers, and decent numbers of ducks. The 'scrape' here has reappeared after a long absence - if only it had done so earlier in the autumn!

Mons Pool - plus mud!
Collingham Pits produced much the same as yesterday - drake Pintail, the 1st W Red-crested Pochard and a Green Sand on the Main Pit, plus 101 Wigeon on the Silt Lagoon.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Ducks and waders

At Girton Pits this morning there were 570 Tufted Ducks (including 320 on North Pit, which doesn't normally produce such good numbers), plus 91 Wigeon, 75 Pochard, 13 Goldeneye and small numbers of Gadwall and Teal, as well as 2 Green Sands on Spalford Pit. Also present was a super Peregrine that powered north over the Sailing Lake, and small numbers of Fieldfare, Redwing and Siskin along the Green Lane.

I had time for a very quick look at the Main Pit at Collingham Pits on my way home before my hockey match, which proved to be relatively productive, with single Knot, Dunlin, Green Sand and 2 Redshank, as well as the 1st W/fem Red-crested Pochard and a smart drake Pintail.

Knot at Collingham Pits

Friday, 26 October 2012

Back to winter birding

Cold hands, being buffeted by the wind, peering at distant gulls... It must be winter! I popped out when I got home with the intention of going to Kilvington, but got waylaid as I passed Cotham Landfill as there was a group of gulls in one of the fields that could actually be scoped from the road. I had a good scan through, mindful of recent reports of putative American Herring Gull at Gainsborough Landfill (see here) and Azorean Yellow-legged Gull at Hoveringham in the gull roost. There were a couple of well marked argentatus amongst the Herring Gulls, but nothing to get too excited about, and as it was quite late in the day, the flock thinned out quite rapidly as they headed off to roost.

By the time I'd finished with the gulls, there wasn't enough daylight to make it to Kilvington, so I went to Cotham Flash instead. There was nothing on the flash at all, and there were no owls in evidence over Hawton Works Grassland. However, there were several large flocks of Starlings around (has there been an influx? There seem to have been lots around in the last week), and I had my first Fieldfares of the autumn - a party of 20 or so with a few Redwing.

Monday, 22 October 2012

A few more Scilly pics

A few more pictures (of confiding common birds) from Scilly:

Song Thrush on the Garrison
Goldcrest in Old Town Cemetery
Blackbird on Sandy Lane

Robin in Holy Vale

Scilly - Part 2

Wednesday 17th

A very windy (although otherwise fine) day which made birding difficult, and nothing of significance was found. Highlights were a few Brambling, the Solitary Sand still in Old Town, a Great Spotted Woodpecker (a Scilly rarity!), a Firecrest which eventually showed well in Holy Vale, and a 1st W Med Gull on Porthloo Beach.

Firecrest in Holy Vale
I also had a look at the Ring-necked Ducks which had relocated to Porth Hellick Pool – a 1st W drake and 2 1st W females.

Ring-necked Ducks on Porth Hellick Pool (1st W drake on left)

Thursday 18th
A much calmer day dawned on Thursday, although things were still fairly quiet on the bird front. Me and Stuart located a Spotted Fly en route to a Red-breasted Fly in the Dump Clump (Tuesday’s bird relocated?), and elsewhere I found a Firecrest at the top of Lower Moors, and Stuart found one at Newford Duckpond.
Firecrest at Newford
We also finally caught up with a Yellow-browed Warbler towards the bottom of Holy Vale; it called for about 10 minutes, but remained well hidden, and then went silent for half-an-hour. I eventually tried some pishing to coax it out, and it popped out at the front of some sallows for a few moments, before disappearing into cover again.
Yellow-browed Warbler in Holy Vale
Friday 19th

We went our separate ways for a few hours on Friday morning, and I did a loop round Peninnis, Old Town Cemetery and back through Dump Clump, having another look at the Red-breasted Fly, although there was no sign of the Hume’s Warbler.

Red-breasted Flycatcher in the Dump Clump
We met up again for the afternoon, and were joined by Mark Speck (staying on the island with Lynn and Andy Victor). We had decent views of the female Great Spotted Woodpecker,  a Whinchat on Salakee Down, the 3 Ring-necked Ducks at Porth Hellick Pond, heard yesterday’s Yellow-brow in Holy Vale (elusive once again...), and saw the Holy Vale Firecrest.

Great Spotted Woodpecker near the school
Perhaps best was a fly-over Woodlark as we walked back towards Hugh Town along the Sunnyside Trail, which flew south calling just before 5pm, before returning north a few minutes later. One had been reported from the northern end of the island in the morning, so this may have been the same bird – although two were seen over the Garrison the following day. It transpired that this is quite a rare bird on Scilly – I have a rarity description form to fill in!

Mark, Stuart and Carl in action on Salakee Down
Saturday 20th

Our last day, but with a mid-afternoon flight we had some time to do some more birding. I headed to Lower Moors to look for a ‘grey’ snipe reported yesterday (but failed to see anything except standard Common Snipe). After breakfast, we strolled through Dump Clump, having a Lesser Redpoll near the incinerator, and hearing a Yellow-brow which moved rapidly through, but there was no sign of the Red-breasted Fly.
Common Snipe at Lower Moors
Heading to the Old Town Cemetery, we found a Pied Fly in exactly the same spot where the Red-breasted Fly had been earlier in the week. It was extremely elusive and difficult to view, hiding in the ivy high up in the elms. Heading for Lower Moors, we arrived just after a Spotted Crake had been found next to the board walk. It was very skulking but allowed a few brief sightings.

Spotted Crake at Lower Moors
We finished with a little flurry at Porthloo Beach, locating a Snow Bunting on the beach itself, and then a Black Redstart on the houses behind; the latter was presumably a bird which had been seen earlier on the old school in Hugh Town, working its way along the coast.

Black Redstart at Porthloo
We arrived at the airfield at our allotted time, to find that we had been bumped onto another flight, which was delayed as our plane needed a new starter motor. We finally got away 45 minutes late, which was particularly frustrating, as this meant we could have had time to twitch the Booted Warbler that had had been found on St Agnes that morning..!

All in all, this was a really good holiday. We could have done with another big bird (i.e. a Yankee passerine), but I can’t complain with two ticks, and several other rarities, semi-rarities and scarcities. The Scillies are beautiful, and to a certain degree must be what England was like in the fifties – friendly and crime-free with quiet roads and hedges and woods full of elm trees. It was also fun to visit all the places I knew of by name, and go to the bird log in the Scillonian Club. Roll on next year!
Old Town Bay

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Scilly - Part 1

Friday 12th/Saturday 13th
My first ever trip to Scilly, with Carl Cornish and Stuart Davenport, started with an overnight drive from Newark to Cornwall, sleeping (or attempting to) for a few hours in the car next to the Hayle before daybreak. Arriving at the airport at Land's End, we discovered that our flight was cancelled because the airstrip (which is grass) was waterlogged. So we were bussed back to Penzance and took the Scillonian across to St Mary’s. This was a bit frustrating, but did allow some seawatching, with a fly-past Great Northern Diver the best bird (although a Grey Phalarope was called from the other side of the boat at one point).

Leaving Penzance
Arriving in High Town, we had time to dump our bags before me and Carl caught the boat to Bryher, in order to see the Solitary Sandpiper which had taken up residence on a muck heap. This gave great views in front of a crowd of newly-arrived birders, and was a good opportunity to take in the finer ID points of this species.

Solitary Sandpiper on Bryher
The Solitary Sandpiper and its companions
Solitary Sandpiper in flight
We then spent the remainder of our time on the island having a look for the Blackpoll Warbler that had been seen again that morning, but came up empty-handed, making do instead with a Hooded Crow, 8 Pink-feet (in flight over Tresco) and a couple of Coal Tits – apparently rarer than Blackpoll Warbler on Scilly over the last 15 years!
Coal Tit on Bryher
Sunday 14th
Sunday allowed me to have a first proper look at St Mary’s, with a circuit of the island; we headed first to Porth Hellick where I finally caught up with a Rose-coloured Starling, allowing me to fill that embarrassing hole in my list! It was feeding on its own in bramble and bracken, and although a bit distant, allowed some decent views.

Rose-colored Starling at Porth Hellick
Also at Porth Hellick, a 1st W American Golden Plover was present in the bay, and a Richard’s Pipit turned up in a horse paddock whilst we were in the area (which necessitated some doubling back) – not a bad little spot.

Richard's Pipit at Porth Hellick

Monday 15th
The following day, Carl headed back to Bryher for another go at the Blackpoll Warbler, which he eventually saw well; having seen one before, I decided to stay on St Mary’s with Stuart. It was a bit quiet, with an evident exodus of birds present yesterday, and few new birds in, although we did see a few new species including Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, had another look at the American Golden Plover, and missed a Short-toed Lark by seconds (the only real dip of the week).
American Golden Plover at Porth Hellick
Tuesday 16th
Tuesday produced a few more birds, and we twitched a putative Hume’s Warbler in the Dump Clump. This looked quite bright to me (with pale legs and bill base), but didn’t call like a regular Yellow-brow (I’m not familiar enough with Hume’s to say it definitely called like one of those, but that was the consensus).
Hume's Warbler in the Dump Clump
A Red-breasted Flycatcher was found along the track to the Old Town Cemetery (an area I’d walked through a few hours earlier on a pre-breakfast stroll...), feeding high up in some elm trees, but not especially easy to see.
Red-breasted Flycatcher near Old Town Cemetery
Other birds included the Solitary Sand which had relocated from Bryher to a muddy pool in Old Town, 5 Whimbrel, a fly-by Great Northern Diver off Pelistry Bay, a Ring Ouzel and a Manx Shearwater off Porth Hellick Down.

Ring Ouzel on the north side of Porth Hellick Down
Some late excitement involved 3 Ring-necked Ducks reported over the radios flying over the island, and landing on the pool at Lower Moors. Carl headed back to see these (enjoying good views), whilst me and Stuart didn’t; however they took off again after about 10 minutes and we had distant flight views of them as they headed further up the island.
Pelistry Bay on St Mary's

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Bad light stops play

I had a trip out after work today, but by the time I'd got to Collingham I only had an hour or so before dusk - not like the summer where you can get back from work and still enjoy a long evening's birding!

Anyway, best was a female Red-crested Pochard on Triangle Pit - Carl has had this bird recently (and a second whilst I was on Foula), but this is the first time I've caught up with it. There were decent numbers of Common Pochard present as well (although I didn't count them), plus 71 Wigeon and a few Shoveler. Wader-wise, there were 2 Green Sands and 58 Golden Plover, the latter on the Silt Lagoon. Four Little Egrets, a fly-over Grey Wagtail, and a yelping Little Owl rounded things off.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

A misty morning

After a trip to Barnby-in-the Willows first thing (see previous post), I had a look at the fishing lakes between the sugar beet factory and South Muskham - somewhere I drive past quite frequently but rarely stop to look at. Unfortunately it was a bit too misty to do them properly, and it didn't help that there was a guy walking around with a shotgun (after Cormorants I suspect), so I left without having seen anything more than a few Great Crested Grebes.

Feeling a bit frustrated, and rapidly running out of time, I decided to have a quick look at Collingham Pits - but the mist was even worse here than it had been at Muskham! It lifted just long enough for me to note 5 Green Sandpipers, before coming back event thicker, so I gave up.

A misty Collingham Pits
After a nice family lunch, we had a wonder around Sherwood NNR, quickly getting past the the Major Oak, and then having the forest more-or-less to ourselves, before looping back round across Budby Heath. We enjoyed some nice mixed feeding parties of woodland birds, but the heath was surprisingly quite - a group of 13 Lesser Redpolls which flew up from one of the ponds were the best birds we saw. Irrespective of the lack of birds, it was a lovely autumn afteroon to be out.

Budby Heath

Rose-coloured Starling..?

News broke yesterday that a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling had been seen with around 100 Starlings at Barnby-in-the-Willows, a small village a couple of miles east of Newark. Unfortunately I had to go to Coalville to play hockey (where we got well and truly thrashed), so it wasn't until late afternoon that I managed to get out there for a look, with my parents who are up for the weekend.

There were a few small parties of Starlings on TV aerials around the village, but no sign of a Rose-coloured, and gradually they all disappeared off to roost. We met a local who said there'd been 100 birders present earlier (possibly an overestimate?), and I know Mark Speck tried for it without any luck (when he was the only birder present).

I had another brief look this morning, but time was against me and it was quite misty. I only saw a handful of Starlings, and definitely nothing unusual amongst them. So Rose-coloured Starling remains the most embarrassing hole in my British List, but hopefully to plugged fairly soon with an impending trip to Scilly...

On a more positive note, I had my first Redwings of the autumn, heard over William Street at about 11.20pm.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Kilvington after work

I had a quick look at Kilvington on the way home from work tonight; a Green Sand flew through, and I flushed 6 Snipe out of the wet area between West Lake and the old railway line (but no Jacks). There was a bit of passage in evidence, with a party of 25 Swallows moving south followed by a party of 50 Meadow Pipits. Just before I left the site, quite a few large gulls flew in to wash, mainly Lesser Black-backs but amongst them were 2 Yellow-legs - an adult and a 3rd winter.