Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Fantastic falcon

I got up early this morning with the aim of hunting down the Kite I had yesterday evening. However, there was thick fog, and it remained that way until mid morning.Once it looked like clearing, we went up to Goonhilly Downs for a walk across the heath. This produced three Red Kites drifting south, but nothing more unusual...

After lunch, we made a visit to Windmill Hill CWT reserve just south of Ruan Major on the Lizard, to go and look for the Marsh Fritillaries. This was quickly aborted when a medium-small falcon appeared out of the sun over head, swung round to the north, and then bombed off south. I had bins-views of it for a few seconds, realising it was a 1st summer male Red-footed FalconAfter yesterday's Kite, I knew I needed a photo of this one, so as it passed back overhead I fired off four shots on my bridge camera (which always struggles to pick up flying birds), before dashing back to the car for my scope. The bird was still off to the south when I returned a minute later, but it then flew east, gained height, and circled off into the distance.

Checking my photos, I was furious to see that they looked pretty useless. Lack of phone signal meant I couldn't put the news out anyway, so we sat and waited for an hour and a quarter to see if the bird would reappear, which it didn't. Arriving back at our rental cottage, I had a quick look at the pictures on my laptop, and was rather relieved to see that at least one of them was in fact vaguely passable as record shot! 

1st summer Red-footed Falcon

Postscript: The bird was subsequently seen later in the day at Kynance, just a short flight away for a falcon, by Ilya McClean (who I think patches locally).

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Kite fright

Having left the scorching Midlands on Friday, we find ourselves in Cornwall where temperatures are struggling to scrape 15C and today, after a morning at the Lizard (seeing my first English Choughs, plus some rare plants), the afternoon was a washout. So this evening I had a trip out to Goonhilly Downs to see what I could see or hear (Nightjar and Cuckoo, and some more rare plants, as it turned out).

However, my arrival was somewhat delayed as, leaving Mullion at just after 8, a raptor flew North across the road in front of me. It was a kite, looked dark, and lacked the gangliness of Red Kite, or so it appeared. I managed to do an emergency stop in a well-placed layby, and jumping out of the car, had tail-end views of the bird for 5-10 secs. With thoughts that it was going to be a young Red Kite, I noted it was uniform dark brown above, with a paler panel across the wing-coverts, and lacking any rufous on the tail, which had a minimal fork in it... The underwing looked good too, with a subtle paler panel on the primaries lacking significant contrast with the secondaries. Hmmm.

It then dropped out of sight, and I spent the next 40 minutes driving around and scanning from various vantage points, but couldn't relocate it. Feeling like I needed to articulate my frustration, I tweeted (perhaps risking being called a stringy b*stard!), which RBA promptly picked up and put the bird out as a 'probable'. It's going to be added to the 'one that got away' list, unless I manage to track it down again over the next four days. Although if I'd seen it on the continent I would've happily ticked it off...

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The week gone

The last week on the patch has been fairly uneventful. The waders have dried up (although the habitat at Mons pool hasn't - it's still looking good for a Sanderling or Temminck's Stint...), and the Turtle Doves haven't reappeared - yet (will they this year?). After Sunday's visit I took advantage of the good weather, and went looking for Grizzled Skippers around Kilvington Lakes and Flawborough Footpath, with some success. One spot, on the disused railway line running between the North and East Lakes at Kilvington held around 9 individuals, with small numbers elsewhere. I also encountered two Dingy Skippers on my travels; I think this is the only location in Notts where both Grizzled and Dingy Skipper fly together - at least naturally (i.e. they haven't been released). 

Grizzled Skipper

As I approached Kilvington in my car, I almost wrote off a large bird to the west as a gull. However, it soon became apparent that it was in fact an Osprey, cruising south. I sped round to the parking spot next to the viewing screen in anticipation of the bird flying past, but after a bit of scanning realised the bird was heading north now, being harassed by one of the local Buzzards, which was a bit of a shame.

Osprey (left...)

Yesterday (Monday) a site visit in the north of the county allowed me to return via Girton Pits to do my WeBS count. Best was of course the now-resident Cattle Egret, looking very smart and actually fairly close among the sheep next to North Pit. 

Cattle Egret at Girton Pits

Whilst there, news broke of what sounds rather like an Iberian Chiffchaff at Spalford Warren - just a stone's throw away. A quick call to county recorder Andy Hall for any further details (like where exactly it had been seen) revealed that the report actually related to a sighting from 3 weeks previous, and that the observer had been back recently and not found the bird. And with the only clue to the birds location being that it appeared to have been in a cherry tree, I decided to carry on with my WeBS... but I might go and have a look tomorrow (even though it's got to be a long shot now). See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heZq60SmHmA. Very frustrating that this bird didn't decide to stop 2 miles short at Besthorpe or Collingham Pits!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Terning up #2

Things keep ticking over for Patchwork Challenge; Sunday added Cuckoo (two at Mons Pool), whilst a meeting in Besthorpe last night allowed a quick patch visit which produced two Arctic Terns on Ferry Lane Lake (which was hooching with hirundines and Swifts) just before 7pm; they had left around 8 by the time that Mark Dawson went to look for them. 

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Another good wader

Thursday night, and Mons Pool produced another decent local wader, in the form of a rather dapper Turnstone


Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Terning up

I'd planned another patch visit last night, but was beaten to finding the Black Tern on Ferry Lane Lake by Mark Dawson. It was still there when I arrived just after 7, zooming around among the hirundines. Very nice too; now for some Arctic Terns please! Elsewhere on site, the Bar-wit was still on Mons, whilst my first Garden Warblers were back in their favoured spot near the works pit.

Black Tern

Monday, 1 May 2017

At Spurn, but missing the patch

A couple of weeks ago I decided I'd have two nights at Spurn over the bank holiday weekend. So, finishing work at lunchtime on Friday (and after a sortie to Holme Pierrepont for the Red-rumped Swallow) I headed over there. In all honesty, the birding was slightly underwhelming, with migrants thin on the ground; Saturday's highlights were a reeling Savi's Warbler (only my second) and a lovely female Dotterel. There were also a couple of Cuckoos around, and a few Yellow Wags and Wheatears, plenty of Whimbrel, and small numbers of hirundines. A bird which flew over me unseen just south of Sammy's Point, twice giving a strong, almost shrill 'sree' call had to go into the one-that-got-away bin, frustratingly... 

Savi's twitch
Distant Dotterel

Sunday, and with a strong ESE winds, I walked to the point, but migrants remained sparse and the best I could find was a colour-ringed Wheatear. Worse, the fact that Spurn was in the process of recording its third highest passage ever of Arctic Terns, was being reflected inland, with Arctic Terns, Little Terns, Little Gulls and waders being recorded all over the place... So, come 1230, I decided to cut my losses and head home; it's not often that I've been birding on the coast but wishing I was inland!

Spurn Point
Colour-ringed Wheatear

Twenty minutes away from the patch I got a text from Mark Dawson to say there was a Grey Plover on Mons Pool. After a quick check of Ferry Lane Lake (not terns), I met Mark at Mons and soon had the Grey Plover in my sights. After a bit of dashing about I added a 1st summer Little Gull on Ferry Lane Lake (both the gull and the plover having been found first thing by John Ellis, who'd also had a small party of, yes you've guessed it, Arctic Terns fly straight through). 

Little Gull

It was then back to Mons Pool for 2 Dunlin which Mark had seen drop in with 5 Ringed Plover a little earlier. These were still present, along with another new wader, this time a Bar-tailed Godwit. This was exciting - birds were raining from the skies... almost! Single Common Tern and Swift were also present, along with my first White Wagtail of the year.

Bar-wit and Grey Plover

It seemed only right to have an early start at Mons Pool this morning; there were no terns on passing Ferry Lane Lake (there or back), but I was greeted by an ongoing wader-fest at Mons - the Bar-wit was still present, with now two Grey Plovers and better still, a Wood Sandpiper, as well as a Dunlin, 2 Ringos, and a Common Sand. A quality selection. A Knot, Sanderling or Turnstone would've really topped things off, but perhaps I'm just being greedy... 

Wood Sand
Grey Plover no.2
The original Grey Plover

So all in all, despite missing out on the tern action, it was a pretty fantastic 24 hours on the patch, with 8 new Patchwork Challenge 2017 species - Wood Sand, Bar-wit, Grey Plover, Common Sand, Dunlin, Little Gull, Common Tern and Swift. 

I also had a quick look at Girton Pits later morning, to see if the BlackTerns reported there yesterday were lingering. They weren't, but the Cattle Egret was still in the sheep field at North Pit, now looking quite smart. 

Cattle Egret