Sunday, September 27, 2020

New Surroundings!

A chance over the last week to check out my new birding surroundings in Aberdeenshire Scotland. I've been up here with Dazza preparing our new home for our permanent move back on to terra firma in a few weeks time.

At Newburgh, there are plenty of areas to view birds at close range, like this Goosander.
While here we've spent time checking out the amazing coastline which from a birding perspective for me will begin on the coast at Newburgh & Collieston, around a 30-minute drive. Once here there is an extensive estuary with a variety of surrounding habitats including sand dunes, heathland, farmland, reedbeds and mudflats. Collieston has a sheltered harbour and beach and has over the years produced some good local and national rarities. Sands of Forvie close by is a National Nature Reserve and has extensive sand dunes and borders the Ythan Estuary.

From here I would head north taking in Cruden Bay, where there are rocky cliffs and a wooded gully with sycamores and willows for searching out passage migrants.

Great views can be obtained from the car at Gadle Brais 
Further north lies Peterhead and the Ugie Estuary, Peterhead being a working harbour is a good place to search for Gulls in winter, plus there are some excellent seawatch points, particularly around Gadle Braes. In fact, the past few days have been a wonderful experience with strong northerly winds allowing for a major Sooty Shearwater passage along the coast, both exciting and fascinating to watch!

Cairngorms National Park ~ Only a 40-minute drive.
Part of Aberdeenshire councils slogan contains the phrase 'From Mountains to Sea' and of course I haven't even mentioned yet that the Cairngorms National Park is just a 40-minute drive away. So you can understand why when we decided to make the move north, the birding was a big factor for me. It wasn't too difficult a decision for Dazza as she's an Aberdonian anyway, so a return home was simply a no-brainer! 

As a sub-note, after eleven years writing as Boatbirder, this is likely to be my final post under that particular pseudonym, although I suspect the new one won't be too much of a surprise! I've immensely enjoyed living on the water for the past 16yrs but a move to the coast was always my end game! I've enjoyed the company of some excellent and genuine birders over the years, particularly at Brandon Marsh, where I had many wonderful moments and indeed some good finds. Sadly some are no longer with us but the memories will remain. 

When the ultimate move takes place next month I'll be restructuring the blog to take in my new surrounds, nothing too drastic, perhaps a different theme and of course a different header? So watch this space. 

For now, this is Boatbirder signing off with a few images of our first week in our new surroundings........

Despite being a national rarity Curlews are widespread here.

Black-tailed Godwits over the Ythan + Knot

A Ruff stands out among the many Redshank.

Shags at rest at Peterhead ~ One sporting a ring from a local colony.

Still plenty of Sandwich Terns passing through.

Crossbills are a feature of the area. 

Pink-footed Geese in off the sea ~ Spot the Barnacle, these birds likely from the Svalbard population.

Guillemots are plentiful throughout the area.

Moulting Eiders ~ A regular breeder around the Ythan.

Rock Pipits are fairly common along the coastline.

Skylark, another regular of the area.

Grey Wagtail during a visit to Port Soy

Turnstones, a common feature around the harbours.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

📖 Brandon Marsh Update 2

☀️ ☁️ 20C ~ Wind ↘NW@10mph Wednesday 9th September 2020 ~ A less humid day with a sunny start becoming overcast. The south-westerly wind from yesterday had backed to a north-westerly today.

A mixed bag at Brandon Marsh this morning, the highlight of which was a ringed Willow Tit feeding around the Carlton Ditch. Brandon has some great habitat, particularly around the Carlton hide, for these sadly declining species and it's great that were managing to cling on to a small population.

Willow Tit ~ Still holding on at Brandon

East Marsh Pool was a little quieter than yesterday with a Common Sandpiper, (2) Green Sandpiper, (3) Snipe, single Little Egret & (5) WigeonAt least three Kingfishers were chasing around the pool for most of the early morning, fascinating to watch, plus a constant flow of Swallows with at least (6) Sand Martins passing low over the water. A Water Rail made its usual dash across the front of John Walton hide and similarly a Cetti's Warbler shortly followed.

Young Blackcaps among the double-figure birds today.
A walk around the rest of the reserve produced a small flock of (16) Siskin over the 'Tip' area and while at Carlton hide earlier a single Lesser Redpoll overhead, my first for this autumn. Double figure Blackcap, if you can find ripe Elder you'll find a Blackcap! Chiffchaffs are still in small numbers, two actually singing and a juvenile Goldcrest was also noted at one stage. 

Juvenile Green Woodpecker on the prowl.
The trust was grass cutting around farm field during my walk, with (3) Green Woodpeckers taking advantage, the tractor likely dislodging the odd Ants nest. 

Tuesday, September 08, 2020

📖 Brandon Marsh Update

☁️☀️23C ~ Wind ↗SW@8mph Tuesday 8th September 2020 ~ An early and very muggy start at Brandon Marsh this morning meeting up with several members of the conservation team before they headed off for more strimming. I must say the Islands and East Marsh Pool are looking in great shape after several weeks of hard work to restore them after 'lockdown'.

Common Sandpiper from the John Walton hide
There were a few waders to be found today which included (3) Snipe, juvenile Little-ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and Green Sandpiper. Also of note were (7) Wigeon, (5) Little Egret, Water Rail and later in the morning, a Hobby hunted over the pool for a short period. I'd left by the time a Greenshank & Ruff arrived shortly after lunch.

Migrant Hawker warming up along the Jury hide path
A walk to the Carlton & Jury hides produced (6) Siskin and (2) Meadow Pipits overhead and when the sun finally broke through a small but constant passage of Swallows, (5) House Martins were also noted. Warblers included at least (5) Chiffchaff, Blackcap & Whitethroat, plus a few Migrant Hawker dragonflies along the track.

Images of the Day...

Green Sandpiper from the John Walton hide 
A Water Rail pauses briefly at John Walton hide before making a dash for it!
Wigeon are now slowly starting to arrive for the winter
One of five Little Egrets today ~ This one on Teal Pool

**I should point out that unfortunately the reserve is still closed to members & the general public on Mondays & Tuesdays!

Sunday, September 06, 2020

📖 North-West Weekend

To celebrate what would have been my mums 100th birthday (sadly she passed away just a few years ago) Dazza and I spent a long weekend around Liverpool and the north-west. Lots of walking, a little birding and some fine dining!

During our stay, we spent a morning at WWT Martin Mere situated in Burscough on the West Lancashire coastal plain. Currently, it's a bookings only system to visit but all hides are open and it seems well organised during the current pandemic restrictions.

Two of four Whooper Swan on-site ~ Still capable of flying but apparently choosing to remain all year-round. The local birders call them 'Lazy or Lame'.
As you'd expect at WWT there was a good selection of common wildfowl on the pools and during our visit, plenty of House Martin were busy feeding over the water, along with the occasional Swallow. An added bonus was three Swift, a nice September sighting for my records. Raptors included a Marsh Harrier, Peregrine and Sparrowhawk. Four Whooper Swans, two of which flew in during our stay were a bit of a surprise, which at this time of year could easily be confused as early arrivals but the locals told me that these particular birds choose to remain all year-round.

Tree Sparrow ~ A welcome year-tick
A selection of waders was also noted and included (2) Ruff, (4) Black-tailed Godwit, Snipe and Common Sandpiper. A nice find and in fact year-tick was a single Tree Sparrow, a small population do reside here apparently.

A short drive from Martin Mere is the relatively new RSPB reserve at Hesketh Out Marsh. First restored in 2007 as a saltmarsh the 2nd phase was completed in 2017. Dazza and I enjoyed a long walk from the car park along to the River Douglas (Google Map HERE).  The weather was for the most part overcast with a stiff north-westerly breeze but it remained dry during our visit.

The only half-decent photographic opportunity at Out Marsh was a Wheatear which suddenly appeared on a nearby post, most other sightings were mostly scoped views at distance. According to reports, the previous day to our visit had recorded over thirty Curlew Sandpiper but today we only managed to locate just two birds feeding in the margins. Other sightings included: Little Stint, Dunlin, Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew, Ringed Plover and many Snipe, including a flyby flock of over 30 birds. Double figure Little Egret and three Great Egret, plus what seemed a constant movement of Meadow Pipits.

A few more images taken during the weekend.

Oystercatchers pass by during a trip to Blackpool
Lots of Meadow Pipits on the move during our walks.
A group of Sandwich Terns pass during a walk along the beach at Fleetwood Ferry
Managed to capture this Curlew (one of many) at Fleetwood Ferry.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

📖 Brandon Marsh

💨  🌧  ⛅️19C ~ Wind ↗SW@15mph Gusting 20mph  Saturday 22nd August 2020 ~ The past week has been spent birding locally and volunteering at Brandon Marsh. Since returning all of the work at Brandon has revolved around clearing the paths and the final big job was completed on Thursday when a small 'bubble' of the team broke through the central marsh. For those who are aware of the geography, this is the area between River Pool hide and the wooden bridge over on West Marsh.
Whats to come!
What's been done ~ Central Marsh
It's been hard work with over four months of growth to clear but very rewarding and we begin clearing the Islands and hides in the coming weeks.

Marsh Harrier takes a Teal from West Marsh!
Of course, while on-site and in between working birding takes front stage and I must say that recently it's been very rewarding. Non more so than the appearance of a Marsh Harrier, one of the less frequent visitors to the reserve. In fact, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time when something happened that in nearly fifty years of birding I'd never seen before!  Amazingly the Teal escaped but I never got to see what condition it was in after the attack. That one will live in the memory for a considerable time, another one to cherish when I leave Brandon in a few months time.

A young Whitethroat in front of John Walton hide
Another feature has been the sheer amount of warblers feeding on the ripening fruits around the reserve, it seemed that every elder, bramble and hawthorn contained either a Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat or Willow Warbler, the latter often singing.

A juvenile Reed Warbler
Other species of note have included: Raven, Hobby, Snipe, Common Sandpiper, Green Sandpiper, Greenshank and Yellow Wagtail. Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers have also been a feature, along with the occasional passage of Swallows with the odd House Martin but still a distinct lack of Sand Martins, although a late Swift was a bonus.

I've posted below a few more images of my time volunteering at Brandon over the past week.

Green Sandpiper ~ John Walton hide

Small Red-eyed Damselfly 

Greenshank on West Marsh

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Sunday, August 16, 2020

📖 Local Sunday

⛈24C ~ Wind ↖SE@4mph Sunday 16th August 2020 ~ Some local birding today with an hour spent at Napton Reservoir and a pleasant afternoon stroll with Dazza around Sawbridge before the torrential rain.

One of four Redstart at the Reservoir

 Male Redstart at Napton Reservoir happily feeding along the hedgerow
Amazingly it was the first time I'd been back to the reservoir since lockdown when I had the place almost entirely to myself. The fishermen and dog walkers are back so it's lost its charm more recently but I did enjoy a pleasant hour studying the hedgerow which runs along the back of the sheep field. After an hour in the shade, it was quite humid by now, I'd managed (4) Redstart, (2) Lesser Whitethroat, Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat. My thanks to Dave Cox for the original 'heads up' on the Redstarts.

Northern Wheatear along the track leading down to the Grand Union canal from Sawbridge
After Napton a late afternoon walk with Dazza around the footpaths and tracks of Sawbridge, a small hamlet just a few miles from the marina. There's a small piece of information which can be found HERE in relation to the post-medieval settlement at Sawbridge which is quite fascinating.

Male Redstart 
A single Northern Wheatear and more Redstarts along the hedgerows with another four birds, including a nice looking male.

The original photo before enhancement! 
Two silhouetted birds on the phone wires caused a few issues with identity at the time of photographing and it wasn't until we arrived home that I was able to brighten up the images for ID. The bottom one is a Redstart and the top a Spotted Flycatcher

Enhanced photograph of Spotted Flycatcher 
I'd originally tweeted this as a Pied Flycatcher, the light on the wings and the strong black edge as you can see from the enhanced photo is a little confusing but from the characteristics of the pose, it's clearly a spotted.

Another angle of yesterdays Wheatear