31 Oct 2010

Putting some colour in to a dull Sunday.

All week I've been looking for Waxwings around where I work and the house. With plenty of birds arriving in it should have only been a matter of time..................................................................

I'd just got out the Landrover, after returning from Hilbre, when I heard the familiar trilling call and there, sat in the top of one of our Birch trees. I quickly shot in to the house to grab the big lens and found the birds again nearby on a neighbours aerial.

Garden tick!!!

Fantastic birds although I was a bit self conscious standing in the street with a long lens!

There was plenty of movement on and over Hilbre. As we arrived at first light it soon became obvious there had been a movement of Blackbirds when at least 6 flew of the south end. The movement continued with Brambling, Siskin, Linnet, Chaffinch, Starling, Sky Lark & Greenfinch moving overhead. 5 Blackbirds were ringed and there were some good re-traps including this Rock Pipit.

Star bird though was this 1st winter male Firecrest that I was privileged to be able to ring - my 2nd in two weeks! Unbeleivable. Just like buses.................

24 Oct 2010

A jewell on the Wirral.

What a little stunner! 1st winter male Firecrest caught by Hilbre regular John Elliot at a private site on the Wirral and he was good enough to let me ring it.

A great start to the weekend and quickly followed by a winter plumaged Slavonian Grebe found by Steve Barber over near Chelford. A county tick for Mark Payne so I quickly grabbed the 'scope and Molly and trundled off to pick him up. Luckily for us Frank Duff relocated the grebe just as we pulled up!

Running repairs were needed to the Landrover under torch light when I got home to cure a leaking injector before the trip to Hilbre on Sunday.

A beautiful dawn was breaking as we left the West Kirby shore and as we arrived on Hilbre good numbers of pipits and finches were passing overheard but birds actually on the Islands were a bit scarce.
Still, a Reed Bunting and two Greenfinches were nice to ring.

A few birds were also moving on the sea with a handful of Red-throated Divers and  Great-crested Grebes  among smaller numbers of auks and Common Scoter. Also seen was this interesting looking bird which showed plenty of big foot beyond the tail and a dagger like bill..........Black-throated Diver!

20 Oct 2010

Stans the man.

A phone call from Stan Skelton around lunchtime today to say he'd got a possible barred Warbler feeding on Elderberries at the back end of the Shotwick rifle range got me interested. Local birders still class this area as part of the Old Wirral One Hundred so it would be a Cheshire & Wirral tick for me!

Luckily my office is only 10 minutes away so off  I went ringing a few contacts before I went. On arrival I had a brief glimpse through Stan's scope but it looked good and rang Al Conlin who was on his way with Mark Turner. They arrived about 10 minutes later but the bird was being elusive and we didn't see it again for a further 15 minutes when it started to perform well. Unfortunately I didn't have the camera with me and the combination of a shit digiscoper and shit camera on the iPhone meant these are possible the worst 'record' shots you'll ever see!

Well done Stan and many thanks for the call! It just shows scarce birds can turn up anywhere!

17 Oct 2010

Shetland. Day 6. The departure.

Up before the proverbial lark I savoured an early morning cuppa outside watching the sun rise before breakfast and a tidy up of our digs before heading out for a final few hours before our flight.

News from Jase that a Rough-legged Buzzard was circling over Toab sped us on our way. Unfortunately we missed it by minutes and failed once again to connect with the Radde's that was seen again the previous day.

A last throw of the dice saw us at Sumburgh Farm and Quarry where we picked up a very pale looking Redpoll with a white rump in flight only. It never settled. Several Jack Snipe were flushed from the boggy walled area behind the hotel gardens whilst Damon picked up a Yellow-browed Warbler at Grutness that gave us all the runaround.

Knot a Yellow-browed Warbler!

Finally it was time to call it a day for another year and we checked in at the airport for our flight home and the long drive from Glasgow to Cheshire. Plans are already being made for our next visit.

Many thanks to the rest of the lads for helping make the trip so enjoyable and a special thanks to Jase Atkinson who gave us the 'heads up' on a number of birds beofre the news came out on the general information channels.

Shetland. Day 5 - the last full day.

An early-ish start after last nights curry followed by a full fry-up for breakfast before heading to Bressay and a check of all the likely looking birding spots. There had obviously been a small fall overnight as a few Chiffchaffs and Goldcrests were still flitting around the cliffs where thye'd made first landfall.

Not much else around and we decided to try Toab where Suffolk birder Craig Holden had told us a another Radde's Warbler was showing well. Matt was keen to try and get a prolonged view so we relented and set off. Despite an intensive search there was no sign so deciding to play the tourist bit we headed to Sumburgh head to admire the views before giving Geosetter our last shot.

Whilst the lads did the tourist bit I chatted to birders staying in the Lighthouse and took the oppurtunity to photograph the local Fulmars. With daylight fading we took a last look at the Isabelline Shrike to try and confirm its sex and age. I'm not convinced it's an adult female and think its a first winter bird but need to check up on the moult of Issy Shrike.

Things have changed since I was last at Geosetter and new stiles and bridges have been installed across the burn making it much easier to search. Unforunately the easier it is the fewer birds there generally are and so it proved.

Still its a beautiful place and a rainbow was a fitting end to our last full day on Shetland.

Tomorrow morning we had to leave for home. Early nights all round ensured we were up at dawn to tidy up and get a last few hours birding in before. heading for home.

Shetland. Day 4. Sorting out the Redpolls.

Wednesday saw us on the road again before dawn to get the ferry to Yell and then onwards to Unst in teeming rain. Finding the plantation where a Coue's Arctic Redpoll had been reported the previous day we met a single birder who'd seen the Redpoll fly off a few minutes previously. Luckily for us it returned with a Common Redpoll but was pretty flighty and shot off when Mark exclaimed 'f*cking hell, look at that'. I wan't convinced about the Coue's bit....................Still it was another lifer for Mark, Matt & Damon.

With rain still teeming down we travelled to the 'bird garden' at Nordale to check and see if the previous weeks Hornemann's Arctic Redpoll was around but despite a good Redpoll flock being present we couldn't locate anything other than a few Lessers and some Common's.

It really was wet and miserable so a deomocratic decison was reached to return to Baltasound and use the car as a hide to see if the Coue's returned. It did and we had stunning views.

We were  able to compare it directly to a Common Redpoll (below) and I'm hoping someone can tell me why it was a Coue's and not a first winter Hornemann's. The rump was snowy white and stuck out a mile when the bird was in flight! It was nice to catch up briefly withYell birder Dougie Preston before he shot off to try and photgraph a Shoort-toed Lark nearby.

Our plans were changed when we got a call from Geordie Jim, another visitng birder, to say he and his mate had found a Red-flanked Bluetail in Kergord Plantation and it was showing well. So off we went. Mind you the youngest member of the group found the early starts all a bit much and had to have a nap in the car on the way.

Was it ever ! Despite the poor light taht meant shutter speeds were down to 1/20th of a second I spent a happy hour watching this little stunnner down to 3 m with four other people! At one point it even landed on a branch above my head as I sat on the wet ground and the rain drops it dislodged fell around my ears. Brilliant stuff. Although I've seen four before this was the highlight of the trip for me.

Heading off we got news the Rose-coloured Starling had been seen again so we decided to give it a go before dusk. Splitting up I found the bird on a back garden feeder and rattled off a couple of shots before setting off to find the others. The Starling took the direct route and as I'm telling Mark to follow me he's telling me to follow him as he'd just seen it fly onto a garden feeder.

Comment of the day from a visiting birder who pulled up with no binoculars but a large camera. When asking where it was and being shown by Mark - 'it's not very pink is it'.

A check around Helendale again on the way home was disappointing - I was the only one who heard a Yellow-browed Warbler and with darkness again precluding any further activity we decied to go out and celebrate a successful day with a curry and a few beers.

Shetland. Day 3. An elusive Pipit.

Wednesday dawned overcast and showery. Deciding to take a look for a juvenile Spotted Sandpiper that had been reported on Loch Strand we set off early intending to work a few local areas around south mainland. No sign of the Sandpiper but a Long-tailed Duck on the Loch was nice to see.

We were checking the gardens around Gott when Jase texted to say there was an Olive-backed Pipit at Quendale near the rifle range. A lifer for four of the group meant we were soon on our way. Expecting the pipit to be hidden in the iris beds I suggested not taking 'scopes and we set off up the track from the Mill. Roy Hargreaves, the finder, was still there when we arrived awaiting reinforcements as the pipit had flown off  with Meadow Pipits. Splitting up we slogged around the area searching likey boggy bits and Iris beds to no avail. A small group of Siskins provided a diversion by landing on some nearby thistle heads so at least the photographer in the group had something to do! A few Lapland Buntings passing overhead were picked up on call adding to an already impressive tally of this species I've seen this autumn.

A phone call from a number I didn't recognise threw me a bit. Should I answer it or not. It could be work related. Deciding to risk it I found Matt on the other end of a phone he'd borrowed from Rich Ford who'd photogrpahed what he thought was the OBP ten minutes previously on one of the cattle feeders where it had been originally found by Roy.

A minor twitch ensued as fewer than a dozen people staked out the feeders from a respectable distance. Sure enough within minutes the pipit popped into view before dropping into the long grass and remaining hidden until it flew up the small burn leading away from the main valley. We all managed good views through borrowed scopes and I even managed a couple of record shots for Roy's BBRC submission.

We checked out the crop fields south of the mill again before having lunch and deciding what to do next. Daylight was rapidly running out when we received a call about a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling at Cunniingsburgh found by two visitng birders as they flushed it off a roadside verge doing 50 mph.  As it was on our way back to Lerwick we called in but failed to connect despite an intensive search of nearby gardens. Whislt searching even more Lapland Buntings flew over.

Another good day, with an excellent addition to four of the groups life lists in  Olive-backed Pipit, was rounded off with Mikes superbly cooked dinner, a couple of beers and a promise we'd go to Unst to search for Arctic Redpoll the next day - only if we got up early enough to esnure we could get back to the mainland in case something really good was found! Some people took it literally and fell asleep watching TV.

Shetland Day 2. In search of the elusive pipit.

With news coming out on RBA that the Buff-breasted Pipit at Eshaness had been relocaated and with Matt needing both this and Buff-breasted Sandpiper it seemed churlish to refuse to go so after an early breakfast we were on our way before dawn.

Needless to say the previous days news on the pipit was dodgy to say the least and events later in the week lead us to believe a case of mistaken identity was made in the reporting........................Despite a good five hours search of its new location and the area it had previously been seen there was no sign of it. Our only reward was 15 Lapland Buntings, a Black-throated Diver and two Slav Grebes.

The two Buff-breasted Sadnpipers were, as usual,  ridiculously tame at the lighthouse and gave stunning views as they moved around completely unconcerned by our presence. Makes the rapid disappearance of the bird recently reported on the Wirral even more peculiar.

Another amazing site at this northerly spot was the flock of 120+ Snow Buntings. I've never seen so many in one flock and it was quite a spectacle seeing them all flying together.

Unfortunately we werent able to hlep this Redwing although I nearly caught it twice. Sadly it had got a fishermans hook and some line stuck in its bill and couldn't close it. I doubt if it survived the day.

Returning south we checked Voe but there was very little to retain our interest and concentrations soon wandered when Mike & Damon were told about the bakery and the presence of a pub. Damo even managed a take-away pint.

With news from some other birders we'd met on the Islands of yet another lifer for Matt we headed off to Sandwick where a Radde's Warbler was eventually relocated and showed reasonably well. Leaving the Radde's we decided to head towards Helendale in Lerwick when Jase texted us again with news of an Isabelline Shrike at Scousborough. Needless to say, it being a lifer for several of the group, we headed that to find the Shrike had gone missing. A search of the area ensued before it was relocated and it eventually gave stunning views as it ate a Blackcap stored in its 'larder'.

Another successful day over and a well earned dinner of stew prepared the day before by Mr Payne and a couple of beers saw me exhausted in bed by 09.30!!