28 Aug 2012

A wet Bank Holiday

A generally cold,wet windy and miserable Bank Holiday weekend!  Aren't they all! A trip to Hilbre Monday showed little signs of promise early on and didn't improve. Highlights were a single Yellow Wagtail and Wheatear whilst two Arctic Skuas continued to harass the terns off shore - including the adult pale phase bird.

It was so cold I discovered a baby Polar Bear! Actually it was my 7 month old Granddaughter wrapped up warm for her first Hilbre trip all the way from Australia.

Most of the local warblers have disappeared with only the odd Chiffchaff and Common Whitethroat still lurking along the railway embankment near the house. Finch numbers are building up again with good numbers of Greenfinches and Chaffinches back in the garden. The best birds for me though have been the continued presence of a small flock of House Sparrows roosting in our hawthorn hedge and 4 more were ringed this weekend. Strangely enough the majority have been males.

22 Aug 2012

The chase

Another brief visit to Hilbre before work this morning was rewarded with fantastic views of an adult plae phase Arctic Skua chasing Sandwich Terns off the East Hoyle. The Skua's technique was interesting as it sat on the wet sand waiting for a tern to appear with a sandeel and seemed to be homing in on the noise of the youngsters begging to be fed. It then took of and launched itself into a dive forcing the tern to take off.

Despite the terns twisting and turning the skua invariably succeded in chasing them down and forcing them to drop their catch.
All good stuff and made up for the lack of migrants............................

21 Aug 2012

Autumn passage

An early morning this morning as I took the opportunity of being woken  by my Granddaughter to make a pre-work dash to Hilbre where I joined Derek for a couple of hours.

It soon became obvious there weren't many grounded migrants apart fro ma single Willow Warbler in the Obs garden and the first few rounds of the Heligolands were blank. A couple of Willow Warblers were eventually caught but there was lots else to keep us amused.

Firstly a Great White  Egret was picked up by Degs flying behind Middle whilst we were at the north end. We followed it as it flew over the West Hoyle Bank towards Flint / Connahs Quay. A Great Grip Back.

Next up was a stunning summer plumaged Grey Plover in the gutter along the east side - the  first of the 'autumn'.

Small numbers of Dunlin & Ringed Plover were also moving through in flocks and there was a good passage of Swallows - most of them bizarrely heading north.

Just as we were packing up to leave I spotted a familiar shape on the ragwort by the pond and a quick view through the binoculars confirmed it was  juvenile Whinchat! It moved from thee pond to the south end where it perched up and gave brilliant views from the Obs garden.

20 Aug 2012

Not much birding....

Not much birding recently due to the arrival from Australia for a three weeks stay of my daughter, son-in-law and our 7 month old Granddaughter  - she is absolutely adorable and its going to be very hard waving them goodbye at the end of the month.

A few local walks pushing the baby with the camera slung underneath hasn't produced much but the warmer weather has meant more insects which has been keeping the local hirundines happy

Hobby's have seemingly bred nearby as the large number of hawking hirundines attracted the attention of a juvenile.

A trip to Somerset to see the Great Grandparents enabled me to catch up with the four long staying White Storks just down the road as well as Cirl Buntings just across the border in Devon.A  fishing trip into Lyme Bay was enlivened by Balearic Shearwater and Storm Petrel even if we struggled to catch enough mackerel for tea!

10 Aug 2012

Fault barring.

Ringed a few House Sparrows in the garden this week and several of the juveniles had obvious fault barring on the tail. A sign that the adults have struggled to find food to feed the youngsters durign the horrible wet summmer we've had. Fault barring is a sign of stress during feather devlopment and is normally associated with a lack of food restricting growth.

House Sparrows undertake a complete post juvenile moult so hopefully the recnt better spell of weather will ensure these youngsters have enough food to grow a decent set of feathers!

Not much else around locally but return passage seems to have started with the odd Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff by the pond and a Green Sandpiper on a flooded field margin.

5 Aug 2012

Esophageal diverticulum

Just got back from a week in sunny (very!) Majorca. Not much birding done but a bit to much eating and drinking with the occasional forays into the sea for a bit of diving. A few birds seen though with the highlight being a flock of around 10 Audoins Gulls (with young) on a rocky headland south of Cala D'Or. The pines surrounding the beaches were full of Sardinian Warblers and the hotel grounds teemed with Spotted Flycatchers. I took this photo a few weeks back but had forgotten it was on my phone until I came to download some holiday photo's this morning. It shows a young Linnet on Hilbre with seeds stored in an esophageal diverticulum at the back of its neck!

I know other finches, such as Redpolls, have such an adaptation to enable them to store seeds to digest at their leisure later but it s the first time I've seen it in a Linnet. The esophageal diverticulum is a specialised 'pocket' of the midthroat that is used to store additional seeds and allows the birds to
make the most of a locally abundant food supply. In this case it looks as if its seeds from grasses or sorrel.

Amazing stuff.