29 Jun 2008

June doldrums.

The quiet period continues. Nationally Spurn scored this week with both Pacific & Little Swifts being reported whilst Lancs has another Rose-coloured Starling. Early wader passage has started with Curlews heard flying over the house at midnight last night and the odd Green Sandpiper & Greenshank turning up

Its awhile since I'd been to Thurstaston Common so decided to take a walk up there Saturday morning. This area looks really good for Tree Pipit but unfortunately they seem to ignore it! This must be the best place on the Wirral for guaranteed Yellowhammer sightings with at least 10 different males singing from a variety of perches.

Elsewhere Stanney Woods is full of newly fledged tits but still no sign of any Marsh Tits. The railway embankment Lesser Whitethroat can still be heard singing occasionally and the Wrens beneath the porch look like they're almost ready to fledge.

23 Jun 2008

A stormy day on Hilbre

With high winds orignating from the S W conditions weren't ideal for a 'classic' Hilbre seawatch but the intrepid trio of Duff, Williams & Woollen braved the elements and spent 5 hours on Hilbre yesterday fortified by Mrs William's fantastic chocolate cookies. With the winds rattling the seawatching hide and sea water coming through and puddling on the floor this was a comfort food sorely needed!!!
A pretty good haul considering with a record number of Gannets being recorded and good numbers of Manx Shearwaters. Suprisingly there were no Storm Petrels although two were reported past Formby. As Steve said it probably needed it bit more north in the wind to drive them inshore for us to see. A full list of the sightings can be seen here
Other 'stuff' included a very bedraggled looking Grey Heron, a single male Eider and a small party of Grey Plover. A very enjoyable few hours.

Closer to home Stanney Woods held few suprises with most birds either feeding young or on eggs. A pair of Bullfinches were a good record being a local rarity at this site. Garden birds are doing well with newly fledged Blackbirds and Song Thrushes joining the throng at the feeders. A pair of Wrens have been discovered nesting under the porch.

Elsewhere Mark Payne scored with a Red Kite near Kelso whilst out prosepcting for possible sites for Nightjar. Several potential sites were found and an evening trip is planned soon.......
Saturdays rain forced a large number of Common Swifts down over the fields near the house. Fantastic views and everyone checked for a potential rarity. What happens Sunday? Not one but two Pacific Swifts reported with Common Swifts in the UK. B*mmer.

After my previous posting concerning the effects of the Countys magnetic repulsion of rarities it turns out the neighbouring Counties of Lancashire and N Wales have scored again this week with singing Melodious Warbler and not one but two Rose-coloured Starlings respectively.

Something else of interest.
A colour ringed Herring Gull found by Allan Conlin & myself at Leasowe Gunsites back in March originated from Walney - see response below from the guy who ringed it.
Thanks for the observation of the Herring gull with the black cr-ring WB0K. This was a bird that I ringed as a 30 day old juvenile at the colony on S Walney (SD54.03N - 03.12W). I had ringed it thinking it was a Lesser Black back because there was a paleness and blotching on the inner primaries. However there is no doubt that it is in fact a Herring gull , as your excellent photo really show clearly the pink legs.. This is the only sight I have had of this bird since it was ringed. The elapsed time is 2 yrs and 238 days and Leasowe is 70 km S of the walney colony. It would be interesting to know where this bird has been in between ringing and your sighting wouldn't it?

16 Jun 2008

The Birds and the Bees.

No, not a relection on procreation but Bee's as in Bee Orchids. A beautiful flower and something to photograph that doesn't fly off or move! I found these beauties on one of my local walks at the weekend. Just as well really as there weren't many birds to look at! There were eight plants in an area where I've never seen them before but always thought looked an ideal habitat. I now know of three colonies in the area.

The only bird of note locally was the escaped Harris Hawk that seems to be shacked up with a Common Buzzard and can be seen along the A41 between Backford and the intersection with the A5117. Any young produced are going to result in some very interesting sightings later in the year. This bird seems to be fairing well and has been on the run from at least November 2007.

Using my Audobon bird caller to call out a Sylvia warbler that flew across the path in front of me and dived into a field of Wheat had an unexpected result. After only a few seconds 'squeaking' a Weasel ran out of the hedgerow towards me until realising its error and shot off with Molly in pursuit.

News of a Red-necked Phalarope at Neumans flash raised the pulse momentarily until the realisation that it had flown off never to be seen again. Or has it? I'm writing this from a hotel in Tonder, Denmark but news from Cheshire is that this mornings sighting of the R-n Phalarope is probably total b*llocks and someone has misidentified the juvenile Black-winged Stilt that looks like and acts like a Phalarope when swimming.........................

With local birds in short supply I decided to travel the short distance to Inner Marsh Farm RSPB in the hope an unusual wader may have turned up there. There were plenty of waders about with the now customary flock of summering Black-tailed Godwits numbering close to 500+. Amongst them and visible only from the bench and therefore a long way off, were singles of Little-ringed PLover, Greenshank and a stunning summer plumaged Spotted Redshank. Late passage birds or returning non-breeders?

13 Jun 2008

Viewing the World through rose tinted spectacles.

Well almost. Imagine the shock of looking out the window and seeing this beauty knocking around with its commoner bretheren that fight and squabble over the bird table contents. Thats what happened at Inskip yesterday. Not quite Cheshire but Lancashire. Surely one will turn up on the Wirral before long....................

12 Jun 2008

Can you text me cos I'm having a humongous cr*p.

Incredulous disbelief perhaps is the best way to describe feelings last week when news came from Fair Isle that a male Citril Finch (potentially a first for Britain) had been found. A few lucky Shetland inhabitants made the trip over and the next day a couple of charters from the mainland made it. Then the weather closed in. Meanwhile debate raged on Internet forums over the possible misidentification of a Canary or if the bird was an escape. Now why would an escaped captive Citril Finch decide to fly all the way to Fair Isle? A lot of pseudo science was spouted whilst missing the main point – if Wallcreeper & Alpine Accentor can make it to the UK, both essentially sedentary birds, why couldn’t a Citril Finch? News that the bird had been caught and rung and showed no sign of ever being in captivity shut up some of the doubters and cracks began to appear in the resolve of some to try and ignore this bird.

It was whilst in the dentist that ‘Statto’ texted me with the immortal lines that he was organising a charter flight. Was I in or out? Could I let him know by text cos he was currently having a humungous crap. I was in! The weather looked bad and we waited until our pilot, Denis (what a super star) rang us to say he reckoned we were OK to fly! Unbelievably we were on.

Next morning saw Jono, Fred Fearn & myself meet up at 05.45 before heading towards Hull and our flight to Fair Isle. News came through from Jason Atkinson that the bird was still present at the same time as Jono got the news from the Observatory. We were off!

Strapped in and raring to go we bounced along the grass runway and were soon airborne. 3 hours later we bumped onto Fair Isle in a 20-knot crosswind but beautiful blue skies. Met by warden Derek Shaw we bundled into his people carrier and he took us to where the bird had last been seen that morning. No sign. Derek walked off to check another area whilst Fred & I left Jono checking one of its haunts whilst we checked the ploughed field nearby. Within seconds we both picked it up on call and swung round to see it perched on a gate. Whistling Jono we all experienced a feeling of massive relief - CITRIL FINCH OML/UTB. Even pilot Denis, intrigued by our obvious enthusiasm, seemed as happy as we were. He admired our passion. Everyone, he said, has to have a passion. His was flying. Ours was birds. Top man. All to quickly it flew off. We let Derek know and he came back rattling his tin – everyone getting a new bird on Fair Isle is expected to contribute. We happily obliged. Another forty minutes passed with Jono & Fred exploring different areas whilst I wandered around the same area.we'd previosuly seen it in. Suddenly as I was talking to one of the locals and Denis I heard the finch again and picked it up in flight before it landed close to drink from a ditch before preening on a fence and then dropping into the ploughed field to feed.

Ringing the others I fired off a load of shots whilst struggling to hand hold the camera in the still quite high winds. This time we were treated to a full forty minutes viewing until a squall forced the finch to fly off. Denis proved a useful guy to have around as he negotiated an invite for us all into a local croft for coffee and biscuits until the rain passed.
With news from Derek that there was an Iccterine Warbler nears the Obs we set off slowly stopping to admire point blank Arctic Skua and the ever present Bonxies. The Iccterine was hard to see and we contented ourselves with flight views and the briefest of views as it occasionally perched up as our deadline for leaving was fast approaching.
With Fred & I snoozing in the back it was left to 1st officer Jono to assist with the navigating and we briefly landed at Wick to refuel before arriving back in Yorkshire after a much quicker return flight as we had a tail wind all the way. An epic twitch and made all the more enjoyable through our pilots expertise.

10 Jun 2008

Citril Finch, Fair Isle.

Potentially a first for the UK. Caught & rung - no sign of cpativity. Hmmm. Shall I stay or shall I go...............................................................

9 Jun 2008

Ley lines and magentic fields.

Thats my theory as to why so many rarities seem to bypass us! Last week it was a Wilson's Phalarope that ended up just a couple of miles across the other side of the Mersey at Seaforth high security detention centre for ship-assisted illegal immigrants. The Llyn Peninsula scored with a singing Icterine Warbler and even inland counties such as Herts & Cambs have had singing Iccies this weekend. Something in the earths magnetism centred on the Wirral must be causing this discrepancy!

The point is local birding has been dire over the last week. Everynight I've been out with nothing to show except a single Common Tern carrying a fish and heading towards N Wales - I have no idea where it was fishing! - and a singing Lesser Whitethroat. Some relief was provided by a quick business trip to Liverpool that enabled me to peer through the fence at the male Wilson's Phalarope.
Due to the presence of teenage morons next door having a party whilst their parents were away we didn't get much sleep Friday. 5 am they eventually packed in despite repeated requests to keep the noise down and shut the f**k up. That screwed my birding up Saturday as I had intended to walk across to Hilbre. A slight N W breeze may have brought a couple of Manxies or Storm Petrels closer. Instead I thrashed the local patch(s) again. Some success though as I found a Sparrowhawks nest in Stanney. Star bird was an adult (male?) pale phase Honey Buzzard that headed N near the end of the M56 giving superb flight views as it alternately flapped and glided overhead before eventually being pursued out of sight by the local Common Buzzards. The Wirral does seem to be a fly-through route for migrating raptors.
This spring has been superb for Thrush Nightingales. They've been seen on Shetland, Spurn & Portland. News that one had turned up at Dunwich Heath wasn't unexpected. This site is, after all, on the East Coast. The fact it stayed for the weekend was unexpected. I succumbed on Sunday and went down with Dan Pointon & Malc Curtin and was eventually treated to great views as the bird sang in full view for 5 -10 minutes. So close you could even see its tonsils! Its many years since I last saw one of these Eastern Nightingales so good views like these were much appreciated.

Garden birds doing OK with 1st juv Goldfinches and Greenfinches visiting the feeders. Most of the young Bluetits were predated with 5 sad little piles of feathers on the lawn. Magpies appear t obe the culprit. The Robins obviously nested nearby as several spotted youngsters are hopping about whilst a Wren is on eggs in a nest above the porch.

3 Jun 2008

Desert Finch comes up Trumps

Phew. 1st message on the pager Monday morning around 07.30 was to tell the birding fraternity the Trumpeter Finch was still at Blakeney. A quick decision was made, after a nanosecond hesitation, to carry on to my meeting in Burnley and then head off down the M6 afterwards. Stopping only to pick up Mark Payne on the M6 the day before his honeymoon and we were off.

Slogging miles across the shingle banks of Blakeney was no fun lugging a camera and tripod in the bright sunshine but we arrived at the right spot expecting a crowd. We found no one! Mark found the Trumpeter Finch showing well but probably 70 m away and aware of the message to stay away from the breeding birds nearby we didn't risk getting any closer.

After events contrived to ensure I missed the mini influx of 2005 I was pretty amazed to get one on my British list so soon after. Happy smiles all round and I dropped the newly wed Groucho back home to do his packing around 21.30.

1 Jun 2008

Cranes and Paynes.

Congratulations to the new Mr & Mrs Payne who got married yesterday. We had a fantastic day even though it meant I wasn't able to make it down to Norfolk this morning for the Trumpeter Finch! Those guys from RBA were spot on with their prediction for June. The 2nd Trumpeter Finch this year although last weeks bird was not really gettable being somewhere on a lump of rock 40 miles north of the Butt of Lewis.

Thursday saw me cadging a ride over to Hilbre again in an attempt to make it three weeks in a row that I'd managed a big bird for Cheshire on this island. No such luck but we did get to see summer plumaged Sanderling - an unusual plumage!

With a good fall of migrants on the east coast including a number of Iccterine & Marsh Warblers we hoped one would turn up on the Wirral but despite much searching nothing was found. Two Common Cranes in Shropshire were distant but photographable and a good record away from Norfolk. I've still to see one of these birds in Cheshire.