Saturday, 22 July 2017

Quite a week

Got an hour break, so I've time to complete the weeks activity.

To finish off a fortunate week I popped down to Kilnsea Wetlands yesterday morning to try for the WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER. As I approached the hide I noticed a Birder scanning the site through the blind.

It turned out to be Frank Moffat. He told me he had the bird in his 'scope and would I like to have a peep (sorry). The bird was no more than 30yds away  feeding with c40 Dunlin. I also had a brief view of a Wood Sandpiper. I'd seen him many times over the years but never had a chat. We discussed various topics before we left...including Footy. Nice bloke.

Now then...I "wander" where that ALBATROSS is...

Thursday, 20 July 2017

AMUR FALCON - the full story

Finally stopped...after a trip to Swillington Ings for the magnificent CASPIAN TERN...


Had a great few hours watching this beast of a Tern performing well intermittently over Astley Lake and surrounds. It's ironic how things turn out in Birding...fascinating as well...at least to me! It took me 30 years to add this species to my Yorkshire list and now I've seen two in two years. MUCH better views on this occasion. At one stage it patrolled the lake for a good 10 minutes giving a stunning performance. It exuded power and dexterity as it circled the area.

Some familiar faces were present. It was great to see my old pal Vince from my days in the Valley, particularly at NDC. He told me he'd heard a Corncrake there recently! He was hoping the CT would drift down to Fairburn for a patch tick. At one time it flew south, so I sent him a text. However the bird returned to the lake a short while later. Tony (Dixon) also turned up with a couple of mates...County ticking. I also met a chap from York who I liked and will remain nameless at his request. I liked him because he said nice things about my Blog lol! No seriously, we hit it off and chewed the fat over many things Birding and beyond. He modestly informed me he'd seen BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS and FEA'S PETREL...in Yorkshire. That's two up on me! You know who you are pal. Many thanks for your comments.

....................................................................................

So, back to the other day then, to put some flesh on the bones of one of my better/best days.

Having had time to reflect on events I feel I was VERY fortunate to connect with this bird for numerous reasons.
  • Firstly the fact that it re-appeared at all after an absence of 11 days. The 6th of July seems a long time ago now when I realised I couldn't go down to Cornwall, on the eve of my trip to my son's wedding in Italy.
  • The fact that it lingered for the remainder of the day on July 17th.
  • I was sooo lucky with the traffic...or lack of it. To travel from North Yorkshire to Lands End during the day with no significant stoppages was remarkable.
My initial thoughts at Wykeham were negative I have to admit..."not another reported"! (12.32). My location and the distance involved kept me scanning for Honey Buzzards, in vain I might add. As already mentioned the next message containing the word "still" (12.42) changed my outlook. I estimated my route via Sutton Bank then onto the A64 (the rest you know) gave me the best opportunity to make progress SW.

No time for any prep'. Fortunately the tank was full, my phone was fully charged (just as well as yet another "cheapo" car charger let me down), I had a coat and Buddy had his bowl...he didn't get a vote!

I texted Trevor but didn't get a reply immediately so I set off west. My thoughts at this time were to cruise down as far as possible, kip in the car and be ready for dawn. The further I could get the better. I'd heard from John Hewitt the nightmare journey they'd had back, due to the A30 roadworks...c11 hours!

Steady progress was made down the A1 - M18 - M1 and onto the M42. A few speed restriction sections were adhered to...iron will-power. I was heading for Bristol down the M5 and the traffic was still flowing. Hitting this area at around 5pm didn't fill with me hope but I was still going strong...and the bird was still showing!

It then dawned on me (I'm quick like that) that I had an outside chance of making it before dusk!! It would all depend on the traffic around Exeter and the A30 road works? However, I still felt the cards were still stacked against me.

I HAD to make one stop...too much Peps Max. I checked the phone and was pleased to read encouragement and updates from Trevor Charlton, Tony Dixon, Steve Lawton, Haydn Patterson and Phil Jones. A Facebook post from Lee Evans had also mentioned some reliable, experienced Birders who had seen the bird.

Onward!

Onto the A30. Where were the road works? Who knows ...who cares! Turned out they had finished last weekend...some Good Luck. I sailed down to Penzance and it was only 7. I was getting a bit
excited by now! The weather was good and the sun was still well above the horizon. Another update on the pager added a little spice by informing me the bird was now..."distant". I'd keyed the postcode into my phone on Google maps (surprising I know) and it worked a treat in the maze that is West Cornwall. I turned down the minor road to St Buryan. An extremely narrow road with very high walls/hedges. I needed to see a birder now...it was gone 8pm and the light was fading as the cloud thickened.

I turned another bend and there was a red transit with a guy with bins looking into a field. "Any sign"  I tried to say calmly. "I've just had it but it's flown off" was his reply. I thanked him and continued down the lane. More cars and a few birders...encouragingly they were all training there optics in the same direction. I noticed Steve Webb who'd just returned from Peru (to also get a second chance). They were all stood on the wall ...but I couldn't climb up due to my mobility issues! Fortunately being tall I re-arranged the vegetation to find myself looking at my target sat in a bush...


8.15pm
That was rather pleasing I thought to myself...HUZZAH!!!

I enjoyed watching the bird for the next 10 or so minutes while I got my breath back. I counted 10 birders!!? The bird then hopped along the hedge a couple of times...

8.25pm
It was getting dull by now. Nobody else had arrived. I recognised a few local faces including Paul Freestone. Around 8.30 the bird flew from the hedge towards Lassadell House and was lost to view. The group stayed in position but I decided to follow the road towards the house. I could then see a bird on the wire just beyond the house. I alerted the group...

8.45pm
I love this picture...because I took it! lol! No, as I've said before it's not about the "best" picture, I'll never achieve that with my point and shoot. It's about personal memories and this is definitely one to savour! I might be finding a place in my "RUSH BIRDS" top ten for this one. An evocative image of the last time the bird was seen as it left the wire and appeared to fly into the garden of the house...to roost?

Time for McDonald's and Tesco now.

I returned to the lane and settled down for a night in the V70. Just a word on the old girl. She's just topped 100,000 miles and she cruised down the motorways in style giving me as always a smooth comfortable and economical journey. She's in next week for a full service and new cam-belt (overdue). I'm confident she can give me the same again (53 plate). My last one managed 230,000! Tough cars Volvos.

I'd arranged to meet Trevor at dawn. My days of sleeping well in the car are well and truly over. Fortunately the short summer night passed quickly. I was the only car present at 11pm. By 5am the lane was packed and every available spot was taken. Trevor was 2 cars down from mine! I led him to the house and showed him were I'd seen it last. Then we waited.

I had Bud with me so I kept him away from the main groups (not everyone is dog friendly, especially in situations like this). I recognised a lot of familiar faces, many from the north including Dave Hursthouse and John McLoughlin.

I was convinced it would show as I believed it had gone into the garden of Lassadell House. Alas it wasn't to be. There were a few unsubstantiated claims but no confirmed sighting. My phone had packed up by now and I'd lost Trevor in the crowd, so at 9.45 I returned to McDonald's for breakfast. The traffic problems in the lane were mounting with tractors and coaches turning up.

I figured I'd wait in Penzance for a while and wait for news as getting a parking spot again would be be er...difficult!

No sign by 11 so I decided to make the long drive home...very contented. THIS IS the very best type of twitch for me. No dithering, no what ifs...just GO!!!

Summary

So my luck at Lands End had finally changed...

2011 - I changed my flight time to Scilly from morning to afternoon to try for the 1w male SCARLET TANAGER at St Levan on Saturday October 22nd. A smart move I thought until the bird decided to leave and fly to Scilly!!!

2013 - A HERMIT THRUSH was at Porthgwarra on October 30th. A MOURNING DOVE was also present on Rum, Inner Hebrides. I decided (foolishly) to wait at Exeter for news on the HT ON November 1st as I had another long drive to Scotland for the MD. The bird was present but by the time I'd driven down from Exeter it had disappeared and so had most of the birders. I spent the next 2 days looking for it in vain. I did get the MD.

2014 - I was in the middle of another wonderful week on Scilly when it turned sour. The one species  I reckoned I'd be in prime position for on Scilly would be YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO. It was Thursday October 24th and we were on St Agnes looking at an Ortolan Bunting. The MEGA alert goes off to inform me a YBC had been found at Porthgwarra! No boat Friday when the bird was still present and of course it had disappeared when I turned up on Saturday.

That exorcised a few demons.

So, as you can see I like to think I was due some luck down there.

I have no hesitation in placing this sighting at number 4 in my all-time "RUSH BIRDS" list (see left hand column)...pop pickers!

For what it's worth I feel the bird may still be around the West Cornwall peninsular...

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

CASPIAN TERN

Astley Lake, West Yorkshire

No rest for the wicked...

Better in flight...


Full write-up of last few days to follow...

Monday, 17 July 2017

AMUR FALCON

I decided to go to Wykeham to try for the Honey Buzzards that had showed really well yesterday. I DID get my first sighting here but the birds were VERY high...


Still, better than nothing.

I'd been there over 3 hours but this brief sighting was all I'd had. I was prepared to stay longer but things changed.

MEGA Cornwall AMUR FALCON 1s female reported St Buryan

Reported?

NO!

Another message replacing the word reported with STILL!!!

GO!!!

446 miles. It was now past 1. I took the A64 - A1 - M18 - M1 - M42
M5 - A30.

Updates told me the bird was lingering. Would it wait for me and would the light hold?

My phone Sat Nav worked a treat and I arrived just after 8. The terrain on the Cornish peninsular is a challenge with limited viewing due to high walls and undulating topography.

Fortunately a (very) small group of admirers were present BUT the bird had moved!?

The next 15 minutes weren't great...then...


A change of fortune at last...and a bit of determination. I'll allow myself a small blast on my own trumpet this time!

I've managed to post this from my phone before I grab a few hours kip. I'm still at Buryan with my guard dog. Trevor Charlton is on his way down. I hope to be sharing his celebration in the early hours...


Sunday, 16 July 2017

A couple of extras

Song Thrush belting it out at the front of my house this evening...


My mate Phil had great views of the Kent Bonaparte's Gull recently...


Curlews in the background

Two birds calling high over the garden this afternoon (H.85) were a welcome addition to the year list. I take what I can get on the wader front here!

Day out tomorrow...not sure where yet....

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Mid-Summer Madness?

After a crazy but essential week it's time to take stock...



I have a 6 day window of potential opportunity. Will I get some much needed luck?

At least there are birds possible...

BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS... Germany

The bird has left again recently.

ELEGANT TERN... Northern France

Just across the channel from Kent.

AMUR FALCON... Cornwall

Further rumours of the bird lingering.

I know...super optimistic!!!

Oh...and SWINHOE'S PETREL...Fair Isle

Many twitched this individual in previous summers. I won't be going.

................................

Over the next few days I'll be sorting out stats from my Cyprus and French Pyrenees trips.

I also want to update and synchronize my Spurn list so I can return it to Tim Jones on the spreadsheet he sent me. A new order starts next year. I don't actively chase birds here but I have accumulated a decent total over the past 30 years. RED-EYED VIREO and CLIFF SWALLOW being the most noteworthy. Living close by obviously helps these days but I can't compete with the Kilnsea crew.

I aim to grill Holmpton again this Autumn. It will be tough...but I will persevere...

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Time to reflect

After a whirlwind but very enjoyable few days in Italy we've landed back in Holmpton.

I managed to get down to Holderness field to eventually see the Buff-breasted Sandpiper...a Spurn/Patch tick. I bumped into a few of the locals including Richard Boon from the Village. We were joined by John Law who beat us to the first viewing. He kindly put us on the bird from the adjacent pool.

Fortunately the bird fed at the nearest point to the fence we were viewing from. I got a few record shots but I'm too tired to go through them now!

I needed a walk so I returned to the car via Beacon lane. As I was walking up to Driftwood I saw John Hewitt talking to Steve Exley. I informed them the BBS was still present some 15 mins previous. John then kindly invited me up onto his platform for a cuppa.... quite a view! We had a good chat for some 30 mins before I had to leave to pick up the lads from their holiday home.





Monday, 10 July 2017

Robert's Wedding

It's the BIG day.

Had a great evening last night drinking and joking with my two sons. Precious time.

Earlier we'd visited Mount Baldo via the cable car, which gave great views of the Malcesine Castle (the wedding venue) and Lake Garda...


At the top we met my Sister, Eldest son Graeme and his wife Rachel plus my Grandson Daniel...


He's a cutie!

I did manage a quick bird sighting (no bins on such an important occasion) in the form of c5 Alpine Swifts zooming over our heads at very close quarters. I even managed to get Graeme interested..for a few seconds at least!

It's going to be a busy day, so time to get suited and booted...


Friday, 7 July 2017

AMUR FALCON - I was only joking my dear

News broke late last night. Lands End!

Of course I wasn't available... again. Busy day Friday...packing. much prep, pets to boarding, 3 suits to pick up in Manchester for the wedding....

Louise can do all that...no she can't!

I did leave Stockport at 1pm for the M6 car park but news had dried up by then. Just as well really as it took me an hour to do 10 miles. This country's transport system is a disgrace.

Anyway, enough moaning about things turning up when I"m not available...

................................

Off to Lake Garda tomorrow morning to enjoy quality time with family at my youngest son's wedding. One of the things that's definitely more important than birds.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Negative Vibes

(Anti)social media?

I admit to using Facebook and Twitter to glean Birding info and follow Family and friends.

Trouble is... there's SO much negativity. Similar to the general news I guess. I'm a big boy and I can handle the harsh realities but do I want it rammed down my throat when I'm trying to relax?

Bird news is filled with failed breeders, declining populations etc. Another blow in Cyprus just announced.

Well here's some good news... it's called Frampton Marsh where I'm writing this from...

c44 Lapwing of which well over half are youngsters in a binocular view.

Three figure numbers of Black-tailed Godwits

Family parties of Shoveler, Tufted Duck and Great Crested Grebe.

Summer plumage Ruff in all their finary.

Red-crested Pochard (6)

Spoonbill (2)

Turtle Dove

Find a nice place...and enjoy it!

Monday, 3 July 2017

White-winged Black Tern

Spent some quality time with a quality bird today...






A special day...

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Family

What keeps this crazy globe turning.

My grandsons 2nd birthday today, so it's over to Leeds this afternoon. Then on Friday we leave for Italy and Lake Garda for my younger sons wedding the following Monday (no birding...well maybe just a little).


So, if you still need ELEGANT TERN and/or BLACK-BROWED ALBATROSS, be on high alert during this period!!!

....................................

I'll post a few of my better efforts from the Pyrenees before I depart.

....................................

I'm also in the process of updating my Spurn list in line with the forthcoming changes. Don't worry I won't be expressing personal opinions on certain splits/lumps...not this time!

It's been nice looking back on some highlights... particularly RED-EYED VIREO and CLIFF SWALLOW. I DO like my Stateside stuff...

...or maybe today...

MEGA Aberdeens PACIFIC SWIFT NE of Cruden Bay at Longhaven over quarry



Another one to get later.!?

Friday, 30 June 2017

Luck?

Many different groups of people take the time to read my Blog...for which I'm grateful.

The twitching fraternity know the ups and downs of chasing birds. I've had a particularly rough run lately, culminating with being at work on Wednesday. However, no sulking here...maybe just a touch of frustration!

You can have all the money, time, strategy etc etc. The biggest ingredient you need is...

 
LUCK...
 
GOOD LUCK

Thursday, 29 June 2017

BBA - Poor views


Gave it from dawn until 9.30. A couple of lads from Liverpool were present having stayed locally overnight. John Hewitt and his mate Kev joined us.

As you can see visibility was less than optimal, coupled with a sighting flying North past Whitburn Coastal Park, Co Durham early doors.

A double whammy.

With an uncertain forecast (as usual) it seemed a futile exercise to remain.

I feel there is a reasonable chance of a return...BUT can I get there in time..or at all!

I have given up on the ELEGANT TERN...

Need to see something decent, so I'm off for the Sabine's Gull at Nosterfield

Seen somert...


Back home via Kilnsea Wetlands and this stunner...

White-winged Black Tern adult

Horrendous weather again but great to connect. A Spurn (280) and Patch tick. Almost made up for Albert...but not quite...

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

BBA

The BIG 1 returned to Bempton this afternoon. I was working...of course.
any thanks to Tony (Dixon) and Trev Charlton for an early shout.

I have to be honest here and say I wouldn't have gone on the initial "sighting"...(cynic). By the time the bird was confirmed I wouldn't have made it before it departed. My only (small) consolation.

Another "after the Lord Mayor's show" session tomorrow then...

My luck must change soon?

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

French Pyrenees 17 - Review

HOT!!!

In line with the British heat wave the temperatures high in the mountains were well above average. Still better than heavy rain or low cloud for that matter. Still, the scenery was slightly different...and so were the birds!

The area to travel is reasonable. We could reach Gavarnie (the southern most point) from St Savin (our base) in less than an hour. The scenery is simply stunning and thankfully the traffic was VERY light which makes a hell of a difference to the quality of your holiday.

Main Highlights

- Being privileged to see (with help) Lammergeier, Eagle Owl and Golden Eagle nests adults and juveniles. Not bad!

- Finally obtaining crippling views of Rock Sparrow (thanks Charles).

- Seeing a pair of Black Woodpeckers on my final morning.

- Connecting with the Snowfinches at the Col du Toumelet.


If you're looking for big numbers this isn't the place for you. However, if you're looking for iconic species this IS an area to consider. I don't want to repetition...if possible! So, I thought I'd start my summary with a trip list...

Birds
 
Little Egret - seen north of Lourdes on my RS twitch
Snowy Egret - seen north of Lourdes on my RS twitch
White Stork -  seen north of Lourdes on my RS twitch
Black Kite
Red Kite
Lammergeier - Adult and juvenile seen at nest at beginning of Valle d'Ossoue, also seen at Gedre and Cirque du Troumouse.
Egyptian Vulture - pair seen at Pibest,
Griffon Vulture - seen in both higher and lower areas of the Gave Valley
Short-toed Eagle - Charles picked one out at the Luz Eagle Owl site, 2 at Pibeste
Common Buzzard - pair seen above Bareges
Golden Eagle - both adults and juvenile seen around nest at Gavarnie
Booted Eagle
Common Kestrel
Woodpigeon - only one bird seen at Bareges
Collared Dove
Eurasian Eagle-owl - Adult and juvenile seen at Luz nest site
Tawny Owl - juvenile on road at dusk as we returned to St Savin
Common Swift
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
BLACK WOODPECKER - 2 birds seen at Leinz above Bareges on my last morning. LIFER!
Crag Martin - fairly common. Nesting sites in Luz village
House Martin
Swallow
Water Pipit - widespread at higher altitude
Tree Pipit
White Wagtail
Black-bellied Dipper
Wren
Dunnock
European Robin
Black Redstart
Whinchat - only a single bird at Sague
Northern Wheatear - widespread. Great to see singing and displaying
Blackbird - abundant in woodland
Song Thrush - many seen in woodland, nearly all briefly in flight
Mistle Thrush - only a single bird seen above Bareges
Melodious Warbler - family party at Pibeste
Blackcap
Garden Warbler - singing birds on path to the Cirque de Gavarnie
Chiffchaff
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Skylark
Crested Tit - single bird seen on 2 occasions at Leinz above Bareges
Coal Tit
Nuthatch
Common Treecreeper
Red-backed Shrike - Male seen at nest site at beginning of Valle d'Ossoue
European Jay
Black-billed Magpie
Red-billed Chough - only seen at Lac du Gloriettes
Yellow-billed Chough - widespread at high altitude
Carrion Crow
Common Raven
Starling
House Sparrow
ROCK SPARROW - major sighting at Llane. LIFER!
Snowfinch - Seen well eventually at nest site at Col du Tourmalet
Eurasian Serin
Greenfinch
Goldfinch
Bullfinch
Yellowhammer - one singing male at Lac du Gloriettes
Rock Bunting - seen well on 2 occasions at beginning of Valle d'Ossoue

65 species

A selection of photos to follow...

Friday, 23 June 2017

ET

...no...not phone home. In the interests of remaining topical I'm writing this during my break on my phone.

I'm afraid yesterday's attempt ended in failure and frustration. Great fun though?!!!

Left home at 3am (Tawny Owl, Barn Owl and 4 Hares on Snakey Lane) and after the joys of the M1, M25 and M3 ( crammed from 6, what a life) I arrived at Sandbanks at 9.15 for the first ferry to Brownsea Island at 10.

The bird left it's roost at dawn, returned once and was now missing. Around 15 birders made the journey. The hide was a decent size so everyone got a decent view. The breeding islands were VERY close, so all we needed now was "the bird".

Late morning...a message...

Seen flying over Sandbanks terminal  (where we had sailed from) towards the island.

Everyone in full focus now. Then a shout..."I've got it!". No-one else did. A difficult moment.

Around 1 the claimant from the terminal arrived. A brief account was given.

We had to leave at 5. Another report at 4 from "Poole Harbour".

I gave it till 6.30 and headed home arriving back just after mid-night.

Seeing is believing...


Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Landed

Back in Costa del Bury. It seems we've brought the heat with us. No complaints though, I just think of the cold, dark winters!!!

Took my Mother out for a nice meal to the brilliant Pack Horse last night. Great to visit a proper pub.

I'd arranged to try for the ELEGANT TERN tomorrow with Tony Dixon...and maybe Phil Jones but as I write...no news.

I'll try to do a summary of my trip as soon as time allows...

Update: ET has been seen this evening on Brownsea Island (Dorset) webcam. Do you think anyone would mind if I took it as an armchair tick?! Just kidding...leaving at 3.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Pyrenees 17 - Day 9. Pic Noir

On site at 6.30...


...but no evidence by 10.45. I did see my first Woodpigeon of the trip though! I also saw a Treecreeper sp briefly and another Crested Tit.

10.50 (I was flagging a bit by now)...I heard one! I drove round to the area I thought it was coming from... nothing. I gave it 15 minutes then drove back to my original site. As I was doing this I saw a black shape darting through the trees. It had to be? It was, in fact TWO together!! They flew behind the car. I got out as one landed some 70yds away up the steep slope.


I could just see it clinging to the tree. By the time I'd lifted my camera it had flown off. I saw them both again through the trees before they disappeared down the slope. I didn't see them again.

Well pleased with what I got. You can always wish for more...like full frame pics. SEEING the bird is paramount, especially when it's a LIFER. I was especially chuffed to find them away from a nest and without a tape.

I returned​ to St Savin to pick Louise up and we headed for Bilbao.

I'll put some meat on the bones of the trip when I get back.