Monday, 31 August 2015

A soggy bank holiday

A good thrash round the patch was the order of the day today, and I spent around 6 hours at Collingham and Besthorpe in far from ideal conditions - my bins still haven't dried out. The only wader at Collingham was a Common Sand on Ferry Lane Lake, but a check of Mons Pool produced an eclipse drake Pintail, my first of the year on the patch, and my 134th species of the year here - now just one of last year's total. 

I then spent a good hour and a half working Northcroft Lane. I hit a little hotspot of activity, with plenty of warblers flitting about, including 2 Lesser Whitethroats and a Garden Warbler. What I was really after was a Redstart, but I couldn't find one, instead making do with my second patch Spotted Flycatcher of the year.

Water levels at Meering were low, and the muddy fringes held 4 Greenshank and a Green Sand, and at least one Reed Warbler and 3 Sedge Warblers were still in the reedy fringes, but again there were no Redstarts in the scrub.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

A butterfly hat-trick

My cousin's wedding in Oxfordshire provided the perfect excuse to take the day off work on Friday and visit some sites in that part of the country in search of three butterflies that I've never seen in Britain before. First up was Otmoor, where a walk along the Roman Road just beyond the reserve carpark produced (with a little work) a Brown Hairstreak, which sat up briefly in some blackthorn before disappearing. A good start; unfortunately a tight schedule meant we couldn't explore the reserve itself, so that will have to wait for another time. 

Brown Hairstreak
The Roman Road at Otmoor

It was then on to Aston Rowant, a super site rather spoilt by the M40. However, the short, flowery grassland not far from the carpark, on the northern part of the reserve, yielded my second target, Silver-spotted Skipper (of which there were at least two), plus several Chalkhill Blues.

Silver-spotted Skipper
Chalkhill Blue
Aston Rowant NNR

Aston Rowant also has Adonis Blue (since 2012), but a chance encounter with a local, Chris Bottrell, saw us decide to relocate to a new site, Yoesden Bank. Chris very kindly offered to lead the way, with another local, Peter Law, joining us so. Chris left us once we arrived at the site, but myself, Amy and Peter (who has this blog) had a wander up the site, and although it had rather clouded over by now and was a little breezy, a brief sunny spell brought the hillside to life - Meadow Browns, more Chalkhill Blues, a Common Blue, and target number three, three male Adonis Blues - little stunners.

Adonis Blue
Yoesden Bank

So a very productive afternoon. Aston Rowant and Yoesden are beautiful sites - oh for some chalk grassland in Notts! And always good to meet nice, helpful, like-minded people. I now have five (regular) species outstanding on my British butterfly list - Heath and Glanville Fritillaries, Swallowtail, Lulworth Skipper, and Mountain Ringlet; so some more excursions to nice parts of the country will be required to clean up on these!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Birding at work, birding after work

A visit for work to look at the restoration  at Newington Quarry allowed me to bag a Whinchat for my Notts yearlist (taking me to 170), which was occupying a big patch of thistles at the eastern end of Newington North, whilst a Hobby bombed through, and a Common Sand was the only wader present. Nearby, Hagg Lane Flash held 14 Ruff, another Common Sand, and the Ruddy Shelduck (of more than dubious origin), whilst there was a roving party of around 20 juv Yellow Wags along the Idle.

Ruddy Shelduck

Having done with work, I came home via Kilvington Lakes to see the Little Stint that had been reported there at 3pm. I met Bob Beck, and together we scoured the site for it, with no luck, but according to the sightings board there had also been 4 Ringed Plovers present, of which there was no sign, although one of the two Dunlin and both Greenshank were still present, along with six Common SandsAfter supper, I had a quick look at the patch, where a juvenile islandica Black-wit was on Mons Pool and a Wheatear was in the field to the west, but there wasn't much else of more. 

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Scilly seabirds

This year's summer holiday was to the Isles of Scilly - mainly non-birding, but with three pelagics on the Sapphire on 10th, 14th and 16th August. And very good they were too! 

Things got off to a good start on the Scillonian out to St Mary's on 10th; I spent most of the trip seawatching, and part-way into the trip noted a juvenile skua sat on the sea less than 50m off the side of the boat. It looked rather slight and pale-headed, but as it skittered into flight, it flushed a 'black-headed' gull that was sat near it which I hadn't looked at properly. As the gull took flight, it flashed its unmistakeable wing pattern which took my attention away from the skua -  it was a smart adult Sabine's Gull. I reached for my camera, but remembered I'd left it back where we were sat... I dashed back for it, telling a few other birders what I'd just seen, but by the time we all returned to my position there was no sign of either the gull, or the skua (which I'm pretty sure was a Long-tailed). A while later, as we approached the Scillies, I then picked up a Cory's Shearwater cruising low beneath a group of Gannets at mid range; unfortunately I don't think anyone else managed to get onto this bird either, but I was pleased to get one given that this species has been pretty thin on the ground this year. 

The pelagics themselves produced a good range of species. Several Great Shearwaters showed extremely well on each trip; it is impossible, I think, to say how many were involved each trip, and I think reports of 9 or 10 from the trips I took were optimistic, as I'm sure some of the birds simply left and then rejoined the boat. But anyway, super birds; I also picked one up sat on the sea on the Scillonian home. Manxies, one Balearic and several Sooty Shearwaters also featured across the three excursions. 

Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Sooty Shearwater
Balearic Shearwater

And so on to petrels. There was no shortage of Stormies, which zipped across the chum slick each trip, although they were little blighters to photograph. Wilson's Petrels had, until my second pelagic, failed to show up this year (previously, the latest every first sighting off Scilly was mid July - the 17th I believe), but we had one that showed well for a few minutes, and then another, much briefer bird on my third trip. Great little birds, and my first in 15 years! But of course, the star of the show was the Fea's Petrel on the 16th...on which, more here

Storm Petrel
Storm Petrel
Wilson's Petrel
Wilson's Petrel
Wilson's Petrel
Wilson's Petrel
Wilson's Petrel
Fea's Petrel

Other bits and pieces on the bird front included several Bonxies and a single Pom Skua (a second summer bird), and a juvenile Black Tern. Each trip also included some shark fishing, and single Blue Sharks were caught, tagged and released on my first and second trips - stunning animals. A single Porbeagle Shark was also caught (but escaped before it could be got on board), along with a couple of little spurdogs.

What's been caught?
A Blue Shark
Blue Shark being tagged

Cetaceans also performed well, with Bottlenose and Common Dolphins and Harbour Porpoise logged on the pelagics, and the latter two seen on the Scillonian back to Penzance - in fact, a flat and glassy sea provided great conditions allowing plenty of each species to be seen, along with a single mid-sized whale which breached once and was probably a Minke Whale.  

Bottlenose Dolphins
Birding on the boat

Land-based birding was very limited. A walk round the perimeter of St Mary's one day produced 13 Common and 7 Green Sands and a smattering of Wheatears, and a Pied Flycatcher and three Whimbrel featured on our last day.

Birding on St Mary's

Patch tick!

It was generally pretty quiet at Collingham today -  4 Curlew were the best of the waders on offer. However, whilst birding along Northcroft Lane in the hope of a Redstart or Pied Fly, I heard a brief snatch of what sounded like a Nuthatch - not a bird I have ever seen on the patch before, but it was quite breezy and I'd only half heard it over the wind. It didn't call again, and the tit flock that was in the area moved off. I wandered up and down a couple of times before heading back towards the car, where I encountered the tit flock again. I gave it some time, and after a while a Nuthatch flew across between the ash trees and then called - hurrah! It had taken almost an hour, but worth the perseverance. Number 132 for Patchwork Challenge, only three off last years total (and I still haven't seen Golden Plover, Tawny Owl or Lesser Redpoll). 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Back to black

My first patch visit for 12 days tonight, and a decent one it was too; there was a juv Black Tern on Ferry Lane Lake, with a juv Med Gull and a 4cy Yellow-legged Gull with 72 LBBG's in the field to the south. There were also 3 Common Sands and a Green Sand around the site, plus increased numbers of wildfowl.

Black Tern
Med Gull

However, weirdly, there was a report of 2 Continental Black-wits on Ferry Lane Lake at 7.30; 10 minutes after I was there watching the Black Tern; I didn't see the Black-wits, or another birder for that matter...

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

There's a Fea's on the starboard bow

(starboard bow, starboard bow...)

There's not much to add  to the finders account on the RBA website of the Fea's Petrel off the Scillies on Sunday... other than to say I was there and I saw it; an incredible encounter. I had actually just scanned onto the bird a moment before Bob Flood told us to 'get on this petrel' he had been watching - it was cruising straight towards us, low over the water, and all I could see were its large dark eye patches - it sure looked interesting! A moment before it turned, Bob called it as a Fea's; it turned, and it bloody was a Fea's - I couldn't believe it...

It stayed with us for several minutes before departing, at times showing down to just 10 metres or so. Quite incredible. The atmosphere on the boat was amazing, as I don't think most of us could believe our eyes - except perhaps Paul French, for whom this was his third Fea's in British waters in as many years (which I think is just greedy).

Unfortunately my DSLR had suffered from getting soaked in seawater on my previous pelagic and wasn't working properly, so I only had my bridge camera with me, which isn't exactly ideal for this sort of thing, but I still managed a few record shots which I'm quite happy with - although of course they're not a patch on those images obtained by the more seasoned pappers. 

What a bird - and not one I realistically  thought I'd ever get on my British list. And the views were better than I managed in Madeira last year!

A poor picture - but this is representative of  initial views as it approached the boat
Maybe only c.25m or so off the bow in this shot
Cruising one way...
... and the other
What a beaut.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Patch mega

Finishing work a bit early today, I went to see the juvenile Dipper on the River Leen at Bulwell - a nice confiding bird. I then headed to the patch, were it was mainly very quite (a single Green Sand was the only wader that wasn't a Lapwing), until I heard what sounded remarkably like a Willow Tit on the south side of Mons Pool... and after a bit of gentle pishing, out it popped for 10 seconds, before vanishing. It appeared to be a young bird (maybe the same one that was at Langford earlier in the summer?), and is only the second I've ever had at Collingham, after a bird in 2009. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

July done and dusted

July proved to be a relatively productive month on the patch; after Siskin, Yellow-legged Gull, Wood Sand, Garganey and Greenshank, I rounded things off with a Sanderling and 2 Mandarins on the 30th; all were still present the following day, along with the Garganey, an adult YLG, 4 Ruff (which circled the Silt Lagoon before heading north) and 7 Green Sands - not a bad little haul.