Sunday 12 December 2021

Caspian Gull 3 - 1 Arctic Warbler (subject to Birding VAR)

The 'Casps' made a quick fire start to this much greater than 90 minutes and very unlikely fixture.

Two goals in the form of the pair of adults at Attenborough NR, Nottinghamshire rocked the Boreal Phylloscs. Good performance from the majestic Larids on Clifton Pit, leading to Albatross like celebrations.

The Arctic Warbler hit back, clearly injured it carried on regardless and gave a hide and seek performance in the centre of midfield a tree, showing its magnificent supercilium on the last day of a stay at windy Hartlepool Headland. Outperforming a nearby Brambling.

The game was over as a stalwart of 'Team Casp' got off the bench in London where it swam, swam a little bit more and reluctantly flew to the delight of the crowd (2 birders present one Saturday morning at Snaresbrook's Eagle Pond) in late November. It took its goal well after robbing a Common Gull with a well timed aerial challenge.

Final Score, Caspian Gull 3 - 1 Arctic Warbler.

Given "Arctic" Warbler complexities could Birding VAR change it to Caspian Gull 3 - 1 Kamchatka Warbler?

Stop Press: It's an Arctic Warbler!

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Wednesday 6 October 2021

September 2021 Birding - boring, boring September, not a chance!

September 2021 described by some as poor for birding in terms of migration, specifically for rarities and scarcities from the East. Is this a blip, is it due to the timing of the weather patterns, or should we now be expecting double digit Yellow-browed Warbler sightings per East Coast site at this time of the year? Only time will tell. I can't grumble, I enjoyed the birding on offer.

First up the Isle of Wight White-tailed Eagle (G318) held on in the Peak District at the beginning of the month before heading off. Have a look at the Eagle's wanderings and of the work of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation. Perhaps the onset of Grouse shooting persuaded it to seek pastures new. Nearby a Hobby or two lingered early on only before their journey south. Also on the moorlands a Peregrine annoyed Buzzards later in the month, as did Ravens. An Osprey moved slowly south over Ewden Heights late on a warm afternoon (21st). This was a nice surprise given the date, the distinctive flight profile as it carved a path across the sky was indelible. Ring Ouzel lingered in a clough, Stonechats kept watch from the tops of the heather and when the wind came from the West this would lead to Meadow Pipits moving through into the wind. A noticeable westerly movement of Chaffinches (26th), but perhaps too early for a "dweeze" of its northern cousin. Siskins started to gather but where were the Crossbills? A movement of Pink-footed Geese concentrated over 3 days (24th - 26th) with skeins heading towards Norfolk or Lancashire noted and mirrored to a degree elsewhere. Whilst watching one of the skeins a flock of hirundines flew through the field of view, summer hanging on.

On the first visit back to Yorkshire a Green Warbler was found and took up temporary residence at Buckton, just along the cliffs from Bempton Cliffs RSPB. Success on the Friday morning, it showed well on and off for 15 minutes mid morning, and after a brief visit out to sea the Black-browed Albatross made its way back to nearby Staple Newk. Not a bad birding double.

On the second visit back home a twitch over the Pennines to RSPB Burton Mere Wetlands, a picturesque reserve on The Wirral, where a Wilson's Phalarope proved popular (22nd). It showed ok, if a little distant. After roosting alongside a Ruff and Lapwings it swam to an island where it spent most of the time feeding along the shore in its characteristic upending style. A couple of Cattle Egrets at the pool were a nice distraction and a glance to the right revealed an insurance tick Ruddy Shelduck. A Merlin carrying a dragonfly, Hobby-esque, was noteworthy as it made its way over the Pool.

A wild goose chase? Between Old Leake and Wrangle on the Lincolnshire side of The Wash a Red-breasted Goose shimmered in the heat haze on the edge of the Saltmarsh at low tide (23rd). It had arrived a few days earlier with dark-bellied Brent Geese, several of which were present at greater distance. Following circulation of the photos on social media the presence of a leg ring was ruled out, so given timing and carrier species then why not a wild goose? A Yellow Wagtail flew by as a a skein of 60 Pink-footed Geese "wink winked" their way high East towards their Norfolk wintering grounds.

A visit to Spurn before a set of heavy showers added a variety of species to the September trip list (19th). Waders on the Humber shore were impressive in terms of number and variety of type and plumage, where a party of 7 pale-bellied Brent Geese had taken up temporary residence by Kilnsea Triangle. A group of the usual wintering dark-bellied Brent Geese flew past nearby Sammy's Point where an impressive sight of 7 Short-eared Owls performed aerobatics. Teal were on the move offshore past Kilnsea alongside other wildfowl, terns and gulls. On the way back a stop off at Blacktoft Sands RSPB on this still evening, now the showery front had passed, produced the male Bluethroat feeding at the back of the pool from Marshland Hide, the White-tailed Plover on a pool closer to the reception centre. Finally, a Great White Egret showed near to Little Egrets from Singleton Hide where the eclipse plumaged Wigeon glowed in the late evening sunlight. All were showing clearly now the rain had gone. About 200 Barnacle Geese in flight towards the Humber/Alkborough, evidence in part of the ever growing GB feral population.

The distant Idle Washlands Stint on the Nottinghamshire side of the border with South Yorkshire was educating (25th). Sporting a red neck, or was it best described as a red breast, a Stint with a hunched posture, could it have been the rarity? The lack of red above the breast was worrying or interesting, but it's easy to be wise after the event. Birders with far greater knowledge and experience deemed it to be a Little Stint. Will have to revisit my notes on the Cley Red-necked Stint of August 1992. Along Slaynes Lane a couple of Great White Egrets were present on the trackside Pools, with the Flash at the bottom of the lane holding 6 more of these giants.

More photos uploaded at 'Latest UK Bird Photos'. Please enjoy.

Tuesday 7 September 2021

Caspian Gulls - Cromer and Spurn

Saturday 21 August 2021 - Cromer, Norfolk

Three of the Caspian Gulls present on the beach by Cromer pier mid afternoon on a rising tide.

Gull #1 - a pale juvenile

                                                Gull #2 - a dark juvenile

                                               Gull #3 - 1st summer

Tuesday 24 August 2021 - Spurn, Yorkshire (Kilnsea Wetlands)

A yellow-ringed juvenile (probably X23M) present late afternoon.

Caspian Gull videos

Cromer x3 gulls - video footage of all 3 uploaded at Birding UK (Caspian Gulls 2021)

Kilnsea x1 gull - video footage uploaded at Birding UK (Caspian Gull 2021)

Monday 6 September 2021

August 2021 Birding - Blacktoft Strikes Back

Whilst 01 July is the unofficial start of autumn bird migration, things start to get going in August. Before returning home, mentioned in conversation that the fine Yorkshire reserve of Blacktoft Sands RSPB wasn't in the headlines in recent times, was it being overshadowed by Alkborough Flats across the Trent, or should that be complemented by? So, when Mega alert bleeped at breakfast time on Thursday 26 August 2021, surely it was going to be one of the long stayers? I wasn't expecting to be joining Yorkshire's top listers later that morning watching a first for Yorkshire, a splendid White-tailed Plover striding along the muddy edge viewed from Marshland Hide. Blacktoft strikes back!

After the Plover, or as it is now, White-tailed Lapwing, coastal bound and with the wind out of the North and reasonably strong Flamborough it was. Set up on the ledge below the foghorn at 2pm and Sooty Shearwaters were moving by, not streaming through, several in the first hour and some fairly close. Attempted the record photo below with a similar attempt at offshore Great Skuas. Relocated to the cliff top where the view from the impressive Seabird Observatory gave a different angle looking South East. Took me a while to get used to the bird movements looking more into Bridlington Bay. August vis-migging on the coast gives that seasonal crossover with my first Red-throated Diver of the autumn heading south over lingering summering Sandwich Terns, with Sooty Shearwaters on their Atlantic loop being pushed into the North Sea and now heading back out the long way around the Brtish Isles for the South Atlantic. A few more Great and Arctic Skuas seen and a distant subadult Long-tailed Skua moved north allowing for a study of the fast continuous flight and structure, looked like it was dragging its tail in flight.

The Peak District White-tailed Eagle visiting from the Isle of White continued into August, and raptors on the move included Marsh Harriers and Red Kites. Kestrels and Common Buzzards showed well as the young took to the skies.

Elsewhere a Ring Ouzel discovered a berry laden Rowan tree feeding up before setting off south, it tried to be secretive spending most of the time within the tree, but the rattling call soon gave it away. One sunny afternoon saw Spotted Flycatchers hunt from hillside trees along the moorland edge, where Jays began to compete for best food larder sites.

The Monarch of the Clough

Spurn produced a Greenish Warbler along Beacon Lane with a shy Wryneck at Chalky Point. Single Redstart and Pied Flycatcher adding to the start of autumn feel. Nearby Kilnsea Wetlands had many Mediterranean Gulls and the juvenile Caspian Gull one afternoon shown below. It had a yellow Darvic ring, could just about make out X23M on the ring from photos, probably the one seen here a couple of days earlier.

Caspian Gulls, more on them later.

Sunday 1 August 2021

Flaming Hot Birding - July 2021

A visit to Bempton Cliffs RSPB didn't disappoint. The Black-browed Albatross not present late one morning but nice to bump into Alan Whitehead whom I had met whilst birding Anarita Park, Cyprus several years ago, and who kindly let me know of a Cream-coloured Courser at Mandria later that visit in 2018 (footage just over 7 minutes into the compilation). In the absence of the wanderer from the southern oceans the cliffs were alive with sounds and sights characteristic of a seabird city, not forgetting the distinctive odour. Also, not to forget the healthy population of Tree Sparrows around the visitor centre and a Corn Bunting singing from the fields. A mid day wander to relatively nearby Wykeham Forest where the skies were raptor free until the striking pale male Honey Buzzard circled the forest edge and drifted off at about 2pm. News broke of the Albatross's return an hour or so later and before 5pm nice views of it at Staple Newk cliffs, Bempton. It moved down onto the sea, and over a period of 15 minutes drifted north and then took flight, flying north close to the cliff edge, nice to study its flight.

Another twitch, this time to Cemlyn Bay, Anglesey, North Wales where the Elegant Tern put on a fine show at the lagoon. The shape of the crest varied with posture and a bill that would strike fear into many a fish. In flight the visitor from the Pacific coast of the Americas looked a heavier bird than its Sandwich Terns friends, its call was Sandwich Tern like, perhaps identical, but the cacophony of the Tern colony made it impossible to study further. Arctic Terns rested on the shingle beach and Common Terns were also present. The stillness of the bay was only broken by the whirring flight of a pair of pristine breeding plumage Black Guillemots. A slight detour on the return to have a look at half a dozen Choughs at South Stack RSPB, where a Hooded Crow played hide and seek near the cliffs.

Midweek and a visit to Welbeck Watchpoint, near Worksop, Nottinghamshire gave a lucky sighting of two Honey Buzzards at about 1.30pm over woods to the east, they circled and drifted south east, towards Budby? A chance to drive nearby to Budby Pumping Station, with thanks to the birder on site at Welbeck who showed me the way, the 2 HBs were then over distant woods west of the pond at about 2pm, and you've guessed it, they were drifting back towards Welbeck. On returning they didn't show. Both views were distant, best looks at one of them was of a pale bird with one showing tail feather moult. Also seen, a magnificent overhead Raven and a brief view of an equally impressive Spotted Flycatcher in trees by the Watchpoint. Return via the Pectoral Sandpiper at Adwick Washland my first visit to this relatively new addition to the birding scene in the Dearne Valley, South Yorkshire, looks a site with much potential.

Elsewhere in England the air filled with late evening song, squeaky gates needed oiling, and the horizon broken by the sight of a flame-tinged ghost flying low over the upland. A Tawny Owl hunted from roadside posts, nice to see it in relaxed pose away from the hunched roosting posture typical of this species. Goatsuckers had quietened down, but a Little Owl peered from a stone wall giving its aggrieved stare.

The Pacific Golden Plover at GB's wader headquarters, Frampton Marsh RSPB, Lincolnshire, showed nicely on the grassland and the wader spectacle on the pools enhanced when a Peregrine forced the shorebirds to take flight, though the masses of Spoonbills (26) were not all that impressed.
A moorland edge held the falcons, where a wandering Peregrine drew the ire of a Hobby, namely a brave bash to the head, and then Kestrels escorted it off site. With thanks to Swallows drawing our attention to a male Merlin, with another group alerting of the presence of a Sparrowhawk. Buzzards patrolled the skies, keeping an eye on a wandering Red Kite.

More photos uploaded at 'Latest UK Bird Photos'. Please enjoy.