24 Mar 2019

The value of ponds

We get an amazing amount of wildfowl on the pond opposite the house - despite the local farmers efforts to fill part of it in and deter them (he reckons they pass on worms to his sheep but I reckon its just bad husbandry as the animals don't have access to clean drinking water apart from the pond which now contains the remains of at least two dead sheep....).

The numbers aren't as high as last year when we had torrential rain meaning the field flooded but in this short video there are Teal, Canada Geese, Shoveller, Mallard, Heron & Coot.

The Heron is hunting Great-crested Newts. Another reason to value this pond. Now if only I could acquire the field........

21 Mar 2019

Ghost Crab

On our recent Caribbean  cruise we spent a number of days lounging ashore on the beach! A great opportunity for me to catch up with the local Ghost Crabs.

These scavengers burrow in the sand above the tidal zone and scuttle away from you and into their holes if they feel threatened.

Their 'foot' prints were everywhere and you could easily find their burrows by following the trails. Amazing creatures.

12 Mar 2019

Green Iguana - back to the Caribbean

Back to the Caribbean for this blog update. One of the surprises of the trip were the number of large Iguana's encountered on a beach in Guadeloupe - including one individual that was quite happy being fed by hand!

Several were over 1.5 m long and when it looked as if it was going to rain they retreated up the palm trees and into the coconuts until the rain passed over and then came down from the trees again.

I've seen these reptiles in captivity so it was great to see them in the wild but surprising to see them so close to an area of high human activity. The local hotel had wire frames covering small pants with signs saying they were covered to protect them from the Iguana's.

They've been introduced to some islands in the Caribbean and are considered pests but, for me, they were great to see.

7 Mar 2019

More Eider photo's from Hilbre.

Hilbre is currently hosting three Common Eider including a stunning male and two females. Who can resist taking photos of these beautiful sea ducks?

It'll be interesting to see if they move off soon or whether there may be a first breeding attempt for the island!

4 Mar 2019

Falcated Duck added to the British list!

At long last Falcated Duck has been added to the British list.

See announcement here

It looks as if the Exminster Marshes bird is also going to be accepted and I photographed that bird on the 30th November 2006 on the way to see my parents.

All that’s needed now is decisions over a few more wildfowl. Surely Ross’s Goose is due a review and  a long awaited elevation in status?

22 Feb 2019

Tengmalm's Owl,Bixter, Shetland

When photos appeared of a Tengmalm's Owl roosting outside the window of a private house at Bixter, Shetland the twitching community went into meltdown. With a bird at Spurn in 1983 being suppressed and the only recent record being of an unobtainable bird a few months ago on Orkney (incongruously photographed sitting on a rather run down outside toilet - a suitable place for an owl who's normal habitat is described as 'dense forests with small bogs.....' ) it all became a bit manic. A lucky few got to see it the same day and plans were made for a quick raid if it was seen the following day. It wasn't, although, by all accounts, the weather was foul.

Fred & I discussed our options if it was seen again and we decided we'd move with extreme haste if it was seen again. Roll forward to Thursday morning and Mrs W was up early to go to the gym so I rolled out of bed and went down to make a brew around 6.55. Just as  I was checking my phone for messages Fred rang. The Tengmalm's had been seen at dawn hunting along a fence line near the same house. We were going! I left the house exactly 20 minutes later and met up with Fred at his works before heading north to met up with a few other birding acquaintances for our flight to Sumburgh. Whilst driving we got the incredible news that the bird had been found roosting in a pine belt sheltering the garden it had originally been seen in and we started getting gripped off by mates who'd risked going over on the overnight ferry!

As Fred was driving I arranged hire cars and once we'd arrived at the airport Fred arranged accommodation through our old friends at Self Catering Shetland. With all the pieces in place all we had to do now is see the bird!

Picking up the cars and heading north past Lerwick and Tingwall to Bixter we received the unwelcome news that the bird had moved and was lost to view. Along with the by now persistent  drizzle that news put a definite damper on what had been expected to be a easy roll up and see the bird............

Luckily the birding gods were with us and as we were literally 5 minutes from site news percolated through via the WhatsApp grapevine that Julian Thomas had re-found the bird! Talk about the highs and lows!

Immediately we got there we were met by local birder Jim Nicolson who directed us to the best viewing point!

The bird was roosting up close to the trunk of a pine and partially obscured but occasionally shuffled round and preened.

We decided to wait until dusk to see if the bird moved and I'm so glad we did! By now a few other birders had arrived and we waited until it was dusk until the bird moved into a slightly clearer position.

After peering around and occasionally looking skywards, when it heard geese or blackbirds flying overhead, it suddenly flew up the side of the house and perched on a fence post near the household compost heap. By now it was virtually dark and photography was becoming a case of point and hope for the best. With the ISO cranked up to maximum all photos were inevitably going to be very grainy.

Suddenly the bird flew staright to the top of a pine and perched there in all its Tengmaly glory for us all to 'ooh and aaagh' over. What a result! For a couple of minutes we could have been in a pine forest in Finland before, with a quick beat of its wings and an undulating glide, it was gone!

A very happy bunch of birders decamped to Lerwick and after getting our accommodation sorted we decided on a celebratory Thai curry and a few beers!

Alarms were set for 6.15 the next morning with the intention of going to 'Shetland Catch' at first light to look for white-winged gulls and then a quick trip to Spiggie for the long staying Pied-billed Grebe before our flights home. Both visits were successful with both adult Glaucous and Iceland Gulls being seen at the 'catch and the grebe being typically elusive at Loch Spiggie.

it was a very happy group that boarded our flight at Sumburgh airport for the trip home to Cheshire.

18 Feb 2019

Short-eared Owls, Parkgate

I spent a few hours at Parkgate yesterday afternoon, raptor watching, as one does on a bright winters day. What a treat! An adult male Hen Harrier put on a show along with a sub-adult male and a ring-tailed Harrier. Several Marsh Harriers were also present and wherever you looked there seemed to be great White Egrets.

A female Sparrow Hawk and a single Peregrine also put in an appearance and the air was filled with the calls of Pink-footed geese that moved about the marsh in small parties.

Star birds though were the three (possibly four) Short-eared owls that appeared as it was getting dusk and put on a show for the assembled birders - at one point I even managed to photograph one of them with an unfortunate Short-tailed Field Vole that was destined to be reincarnated a a regurgitated pellet.

What a great way to pend a few hours!