Monday, September 10, 2018

πŸ“– #56 ~Isle of Arran 🍁

With Dazza on business up in Scotland this weekend I thought the least I could do was to chauffeur her there in comfort! Of course, she was fully aware of my ulterior motive, which was to take the ferry across to the Isle of Arran for a few days of Nature Watching.

Having driven the six hours up, almost painlessly, on Friday afternoon with an overnight stay in Adrossan the plan was for me to take the first ferry across Saturday morning.

Unfortunately, my best-laid plans didn't get off to the greatest of starts when I received a text on Friday evening informing me that the ferry would be passenger only due to technical issues, apparently, a crane had damaged the ramps on the MV Caledonian Isles. However, with a quick phone call from my travel agent (Dazza) I was thankfully rebooked for the next available ferry, MV Isle of Arran, a few hours later

Kittiwake on route to Arran
The crossing takes around 55 minutes and is, of course, a perfect opportunity for a mini Pelagic. The conditions were good for the crossing with a slight swell and the odd squally shower passing through. By the time I docked at Brodick the weekend list had gotten off to a good start with of note: Black Guillemot, Guillemot, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Gannet, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Northern Diver, Shag.

The Isle of Arran is a stronghold for the endangered Red Squirrel with several seen during my stay.
Just 20 miles long and 10 miles wide, the island has earned it's somewhat cliched title, "Scotland in miniature", thanks to the dramatic granite peaks in the north and lush, low-lying terrain to the south, and it boasts miles of sweeping moorland, wooded glens, wide sandy beaches and impressive waterfalls. The Squirrels are Red, not Grey and Arran has a healthy population.

Several Red-throated Divers seen offshore
With the coast road, literally covering the whole of the Island, stops were inevitably every 5 minutes or so to scan the many beaches, rocks and channels. Off shore, many Gannets could be seen constantly diving around fish shoals and the odd small group of Eiders would feed alongside the many Guillimont. Occasionally I'd come across a Red-throated Diver, still almost in full summer plumage.

Sea Otter ~ This one at Sannox Bay
Several times while scanning the dorsal fin of a number of Harbour Porpoise would rise above the water as they take in air, Harbour Seals are also plentiful and can found in abundance. At one time some great views of a Sea Otter, which stayed around just long enough for a few photos.

A real abundance of Rock Pipits
Around the rocks I don't think I've ever come across so many Rock Pipits, mainly feeding on the seaweed, along with equal numbers of Pied Wagtails, the occasional Grey Wagtail within. Waders were thin on the ground with the only four species recorded: Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank and Ringed Plover.

I simply didn't have the time during my brief stay to do much walking, a must really if you want to see this fantastic Island in detail. However, a drive inland on both days along the only road which crosses the Island produced Stonechat, Spotted Flycatcher, Red Deer high on the slopes, two Golden Eagle over towards Goatfell, the Islands highest mountain but sadly no Hen Harriers, although Common Buzzards seemed plentiful.

Kittiwakes of all ages along the coastline
Kittiwake
A great adventure on the sailing back Sunday evening when once again, more technical issues caused havoc! This time MV The Isle Of Arran was unable to leave Adrossan having docked leaving my boat MV Caledonian, on route back to Ardrossan with nowhere to dock. After being offloaded back at Arran and the risk of cancellation, not to mention an imminent gale, it was eventually decided they could get in at Gourock, some 2 1/2 hours sailing north and 40+ miles further up the coast. It actually took 3 hours but provided some great Pelagic birding, the highlights being many Manx Shearwater and a couple of stunning Sabine's Gulls as the light faded! Quite a rarity along these waters according to another local birder.

MORE PHOTOS....
Eider Duck


Shags aplenty!

Harbour Seal
Sea Otter

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-throated Diver

Another Kittiwake
Full List Of Sightings....

Mute Swan, Mallard, Eider, Red-breasted Merganser, Pheasant, Red-throated Diver, Great Northern Diver, Fulmar, Manx Shearwater, Gannet, Cormorant, Shag, Grey Heron, Little Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Golden Eagle, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Redshank, Black Guillemot, Razorbill, Guillemot, Sabines Gull, Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Woodpigeon, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Hooded Crow (including intermediate), Raven, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Swallow, House Martin, Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Treecreeper, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher, Robin, Stonechat, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Grey Wagtail, Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Siskin

Thursday, September 06, 2018

πŸ“– #55 ~More Hedge Bashing 🍁

With Autumn migration now beginning to kick in, I've spent the first week of September checking out many a laden hawthorn and elder, both locally and at Brandon Marsh, with the occasional walk along Farborough bank at Draycote Water. Tit flocks, mainly Long-tailed are increasing in numbers and as always the odd Goldcrest, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler can be found within, along with the possibility of that elusive rarity.

Whitethroat feeding up for the journey south with a 'berry-fest'
I'm pretty well off for habitat at my marina moorings with surrounding farmland and reedbeds directly outside my windows, plus lots of hawthorns and bramble along both the west and east banks, not to mention of course that I live on the water with Napton Hill to the south-east and the Reservoir directly opposite. Thus far this month the treeline has produced Blackcap, Whitethroat, Goldcrest and Lesser Whitethroat but in the last few days, there's been no further sign of any Reed Warblers, which are a regular breeder here and now likely moved south. Linnets are on the increase on the adjacent farmland and Lapwings feed nocturnally, the odd Yellowhammer can also be found. Fourteen Yellow Wagtails in our regular Pied Wagtail roost on the 1st is a record thus far this autumn and you never know, one day I might just come across a Citrine within! Great silhouette views too of a Tawny Owl shortly after sunset as it relocated across the marina.
Wheatear during a stroll along Farborough Bank, Draycote Water on Wednesday
Yesterday (Weds 5th) a brief early walk along Farborough Bank at Draycote Water produced of note a single Wheatear, before I headed off to Coventry Airport for Whinchat. A few hours at Brandon Marsh was dire with nothing on the top and farm reedbeds of note and the pools only produced (2) Snipe, Greenshank and (4) Wigeon. Finally, a brief visit to Napton Hill to look for a reported male Redstart was thwarted by several dog walkers!


Whinchats at Coventry Airport
New Venture.... I've always had an interest in identifying birds by call, an important addition to any birders portfolio and have more recently become fascinated by Nocmig (the recording of nocturnal bird migration). It's basically the equivalent of visible migration watching and typically involves the recording of flight calls made by migrating birds at night. To that end, I've just invested in equipment and software to allow me to listen out from the moorings and although it's a learning curve I'm pretty excited about the prospects, so watch this space!


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

πŸ“– #54 ~Autumnal Feel! 🍁

The last few days have certainly felt like autumn, without a doubt, my favourite time of the year. The Hawthorn and Elderberries are pretty much ripe and as usual, the birds are beginning to take full advantage. Tuesday on my local patch, Napton-on-the-Hill I spent an enjoyable hour or so trawling the trees and bushes and at one stage watched a decent flock of around 14 or so Long-tailed Tits moving through. In amongst them a couple of young Goldcrest, Blue Tits, Great Tits and a number of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler. Of course, at this time of year, there's always a chance of finding a rarity within the growing tit flocks, Barred Warbler, Icterine Warbler, Firecrest and perhaps next month even a Yellow-browed Warbler would be a real find but for me, it's all about being out there and the anticipation of what might be.

Spotted Flycatcher ~ Napton Hill
Napton is a great place to find Spotted Flycatchers and thus far they haven't disappointed with four during my visit on Tuesday. Also of note four Mistle Thrush, plus a couple of Hobby which flew through, circling briefly before continuing south. On the other hand, I still await my first Common Redstart of the autumn, another regular autumnal passage bird on the hill.

One of four Mistle Thrush ~ Napton Hill
At the marina, the Pied Wagtail roost is continuing to build (circa 150) with small numbers of Yellow Wagtails joining most evenings. There are still a few Reed Warblers, a regular nesting bird here lingering around the reedbeds and over the past few evening, a couple of Tawny Owls have become quite vocal. Like at Napton the surrounding Hawthorn is starting to attract many birds, a Lesser Whitethroat over the weekend.

Despite not working with the Brandon Volunteers these days I still continue to spend many hours birding and today had a good tour of the reserve. I began with a circular walk around the top reedbed, farm and 'Tip area. Like Napton the berry bushes are busy with Blackcaps, Whitethroats and Chiffchaffs taking advantage. At one point it was almost like spring with both a Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler in full song. A single Garden Warbler was also noted and although I'm not claiming it a brief encounter with one particular bird had me thinking Wood Warbler?

Spotted Flycatcher ~ Willow Wood
At the edge of Willow Wood (for those who don't know this is the wood where the children build forts!), a Spotted Flycatcher appeared on a few occasions but became a little mobile when the education team arrived.

Down on the pools late morning and East Marsh produced (3) Greenshank, (2) Green Sandpiper and a juvenile Water Rail across on Wigeon Bank, (4) Shoveler were also noted. A trip to Ted Jury Hide had my first Cetti's Warbler for a while and Teal Pool, now with a little water and looking bang on for a Spotted Crake produced (2) Snipe.


Eclipse Garganey ~ Perhaps the same bird that visited recently?
Things got even better after lunch in the East Marsh Hide when I tracked an Osprey at height as flew from right to left over Newlands, getting mobbed occasionally by several Hirundines. Shortly after an Eclipse Garganey dropped in right in front of the hide before disappearing as quickly as it arrived behind the left-hand reedbed. Quite possibly the same bird which hung around a few weeks back?

Friday, August 24, 2018

πŸ“– #53 ~N American Vagrants

⛅️πŸ’¨ 18C Friday 24th August 2018 ~ A second visit of the week to RSPB Frampton Marsh in Lincolnshire on Friday, mainly to catch up on a Stilt Sandpiper, which typically arrived on site a few days after my visit on Monday!

Stilt Sandpiper on my Canon SX50
It was actually Theo de Clermont who persisted, I mean encouraged me to go so notwithstanding we were on the road by 06:00hrs, arriving at Frampton a few hours later. It was a much different day to Monday's heat and humidity, with a stiff north-westerly breeze and a temperature in the low teens.

With my DSLR in for repair ~ Theo's excellent photo of the Stilt Sandpiper
It was quite an easy task to seek out the Stilt Sandpiper, just follow the path to the small groups of birders already on the bird. At this point it wasn't too close in, preferring to stay out in the centre of the reedbed scrape feeding frantically along with the many Black-tailed Godwits and Ruff, a Garganey drifting passed while observing. Unfortunately, a Red-necked Phalarope which was also on site was seen before our arrival but sadly not again during our stay. Thankfully we both have this particular species on our year-lists alreadyπŸ˜™

One of two Wheatears today on the Canon SX50
After a while, we moved around to the Reedbed Hide path, pausing on one of the newly created raised areas for viewing, along with a dozen others but it was no nearer. In the hope that the bird may come a little closer for photos later, we decided to head off on a tour of the reserve, taking in a very bracing walk along the sea wall. The best during our walk included Marsh Harrier, Pink-footed Goose, (2) Bar-tailed Godwit, (10) Spotted Redshank and (2) Wheatear.


A few very grainy cropped digiscoped images from Theo of the distant Long-billed Dowitcher
It was while we were back at our original spot observing the Sandpiper once more, which incidentally hadn't come any closer when news came through of a possible Long-billed Dowitcher on Marsh Farm Reservoir! Ten minutes later we were observing the now confirmed sighting, along with around 20/30 other birders. The bird remained feeding on the far bank while we observed for around 15 minutes before suddenly taking flight alongside a Common Sandpiper and disappearing out towards the saltmarsh and Wash. What an incredible piece of good fortune, with what I would imagine was less than fifty or so people getting the opportunity of seeing yet another North American vagrant to the east coast!

We finally had much better views of the Stilt Sandpiper before leaving around 14:00hrs after an excellent and memorable visit.

Monday, August 20, 2018

πŸ“– #52 ~Spotted Crake

⛅️23C Monday 20th August 2018 ~ Before meeting up with the Brandon Marsh Volunteers, who were on an away-day at RSPB Frampton Marsh I decided to make an earlier start arriving at Gibraltar Point NNR just after 07:00hrs.


My main objective was the long staying Spotted Crake, which has been showing intermittently from the 'Mere Hide' for the past few weeks. From the parking area, it was just a short walk along to the hide and I was seated, surprisingly alone some fifteen minutes later.

A couple of Sedge Warblers at the Mere Hide
There were several pretty vocal juvenile Little Grebes around the pool calling constantly to the parent and every so often groups of Swallows would drop down to drink and rest up a little. Two Sedge Warblers showed well for a while and a single Redshank was the only Wader to be found. Constantly scanning the reeds and the small exposed muddy area directly in the front of the hide the odd Moorhen would pass through and with no wind, the reeds would occasionally flick with activity, raising my expectations. It was just after 8am that I was rewarded with an albeit brief but unmistakable view of the Crake as it passed through a small channel in the reeds and then out of sight! Despite sticking around for another 90 minutes for better views the bird, unfortunately, didn't show again. However, a Marsh Harrier and Short-eared Owl passing through made the wait well worthwhile.

Fourteen Spoonbills reported at Gibraltar Point today
Before heading off a quick look across Jacksons Marsh produced eight of a reported fourteen Spoonbills, plus a near-summer plumage Grey Plover.

Spotted Redshank
I eventually met up with the Brandon team at RSPB Frampton Marsh around 10:30hrs, enjoying a good days birding, although the reserve today was a lot quieter than of late. A few of the highlights included the long staying Pink-footed Goose and Whooper Swan, obviously both carrying injuries, Peregrine, three Spotted Redshanks, many Ruff and a couple of Stoats along the track from the '360' Hide.

Ruff

Good numbers of Yellow Wagtails around the reserve

A full list of my sightings below.

Mute Swan, Whooper Swan, Pink-footed Goose, Graylag Goose, Canada Goose, Barnacle Goose (3), Shelduck, Egyptian Goose, Mallard, Gadwall, Pintail, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal, Pochard (1), Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Kestrel, Peregrine, Spotted Crake, Moorhen, Coot, Oystercatcher, Avocet, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Green Sandpiper, Redshank, Spotted Redshank (3), Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Whimbrel (1), Snipe, Ruff, Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Common Tern, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Short-eared Owl, Swift (2), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Meadow Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Robin, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Willow Warbler( singing), Chiffchaff, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Reed Bunting
BUBO Listing www.bubo.org

Monday, August 13, 2018

πŸ“– #51 ~ RSPB Middleton Lakes

⛅️23C Monday 13th August 2018 ~ I'd originally planned to visit Brandon Marsh today but after breakfast decided I'd try my hand a little further afield, heading off to RSPB Middleton Lakes.

Dunlin ~ West Scrape ~ Canon SX50

Ringed Plover ~ West Scrape ~ Canon SX50
I was sitting at the West Scrape screen just after 10am where a good selection of waders were on offer: (2) Common Sandpiper, (2) Dunlin, (5) Black-tailed Godwit, (4) Avocet, (2) Ringed Plover and Little-ringed Plover.

Three of four Avocets today ~ Canon SX50
While here I couldn't believe my luck when the phone pinged: Spotted Crake, East Scrape, RSPB Middleton Lakes! I was off in flash arriving a few minutes later and immediately bumping into Dave Hutton who'd dropped onto the bird a short time earlier.

Wood Sandpiper ~ East Scrape ~ Canon SX50
I spent a while at the screen chatting and scanning without success, although a couple of Wood Sandpipers and a Hobby were an excellent distraction. Unlike me (Mr Impatience) I did spend a few hours here at various vantage points, my only reward a fleeting glance of something darting in and out of reeds, which the RSPB guys told me was the Crake. For me, it could have been anything so sadly no year-tick!

The remainder of the time was spent around the western and northern end of the reserve where I did pick out a distant Whinchat perched up, a year-tick for my efforts ✅

BUBO Listing www.bubo.org

Sunday, August 12, 2018

πŸ“– #50 ~ Soggy Brandon

🌧☔️ 18C Sunday 12th August 2018 ~ A very overcast and occasionally rainy morning at Brandon Marsh and despite the anticipation a much quieter visit.



Wood Sandpiper from East Marsh Hide

I spent the entire time in the East Marsh Hide where a Wood Sandpiper put on an excellent display right in front, alongside a Green Sandpiper. I managed five Little-ringed Plover on Willow Island and an additional adult Common Tern to the regular 2Ad. & 2Juv. dropped in for a short time. So too a single Greenshank which appeared briefly before departing east after receiving a hard time from one of the many Lapwings.

Eclipse Garganey

Eclipse Garganey on East Marsh Pool
Just prior to departing I was certain a small duck asleep on Redshank Island was an eclipse Garganey. I spent a short time in the hide discussing it with Geoff Hood after it finally woke up but didn't confirm it until I analysed my photos back home. It's likely the same bird that was hanging around early last week!

Wood Sandpiper

Good comparison of Green Sandpiper & Wood Sandpiper

Friday, August 10, 2018

πŸ“– #49 ~ Brandon Marsh Review

Daily visits to Brandon Marsh over the past week, mainly observing East Marsh Pool in the hope of some decent Waders and culminating in this mornings visit which produced: Peregrine, Greenshank, (2) Snipe, (2) Green Sandpipers, (3) Little-ringed Plover, Little Egret and (4) Common Tern, which included two juveniles. With the heavy rain showers lots of Hirundines feeding low over the pool too with double-figure House MartinsSand Martins and the odd Swallow. A fleeting view of a Water Rail as it hoped, skipped and jumped across the mud in front of the hide and a flyby Kingfisher were other notables. No sign of yesterdays Wood Sandpiper by the time I left just after midday but as I type a report from John Osbourne at 3pm today has the bird back on the pool!

Greenshank feeding in front of East Marsh Hide today
The best of the week's sightings came during yesterdays visit when after picking up Theo de Clermont @clermont_de I arrived on site at around midday. Straight through to East Marsh Hide where it wasn't long before we had eyes on a Wood Sandpiper, which had been reported earlier in the day. Unfortunately, at this stage the bird preferring to remain feeding out towards the Wright Hide. Further scanning produced (3) Greenshank, (3) Green Sandpiper, (4) Snipe, (3) Little-ringed Plover, (4) Common Terns, including two juveniles and a single Common Sandpiper.

Wood Sandpiper feeding along the edge of Tern Island ~ Canon SX50
Later in the afternoon, we made a couple of visits to the Wright Hide, predominantly to obtain closer views of the Wood Sandpiper. However, while here during one of those visits a huge eruption on the pool alerted us to a small falcon, probably a Hobby but our attention was immediately focused on a larger bird of prey slightly higher, a Marsh Harrier. Having lost sight from the hide better views were obtained as we bolted outside to watch the bird drift North, Theo thankfully obtaining a record shot before it departed.

Theo's record shot of passing Marsh Harrier
Greenshank & Wood Sandpiper from Wright Hide ©Theo de Clermont

Monday, August 06, 2018

πŸ“– #48 ~ Brandon Marsh

⛅️26C Monday 6th August 2018 ~ A morning visit to Brandon Marsh 08:30hrs ~ 13:00hrs

The primary reason for the visit ~ Waders
This mornings visit was spent mostly in the East Marsh Hide, with a brief visit to River Pool before leaving.

As those who visit Brandon regularly will know the water levels are exceptionally low at present and thus offer excellent opportunities for passing waders. In fact, in 12 years of visiting and volunteering this is probably the best I've ever seen it. As they say, 'build it and they will come'. In my opinion, we definitely need much less emphasis on Reed planting and much more in developing habits like that of East Marsh currently. 

Greenshank on East Marsh Pool today
During my stay today: (2) Greenshank, (3) Green Sandpiper, (2) Common Sandpiper, (3) Little-ringed Plover, (1) Snipe, (4) Common Tern, Water Rail and a very elusive Garganey, of which I managed two of the briefest views. No sign of any of yesterdays five Little Egrets but I'm sure there's more to come this autumn if the East Marsh Pool water holds at the current level.

Green Sandpiper
Little-ringed Plover