27 May 2019

First Puffin Island trip of the year (for me)

Straight back from Australia, jet lagged and after a few hours sleep, on the way to Anglesey and the boat ride to Puffin Island. My job on this first trip was to photograph as many Razorbill rings as I could as part of our ongoing RAS (retrapping adults for survival) scheme. Photographing the rings is a good way of making sure there are no errors with the ring numbers which could skew the results.

Photographing Razorbill legs gets a bit tedious so occasionally my attention wandered to some more artisitc shots.

There seem to be more Fulmars around this year.

The Guillemot ledges are full of incubating birds:

Ubiquitous Puffin:

Razorbill bearing a ring and a sandeel:

The pointy, dangerous end of a Razorbill:

 A number of Razorbills had small chicks:

Adulty Shag. Some birds already have well grown young and we ringed quite a few:

Kittiwakes are also back on the breeding ledges but we'll have to wait until later in the season to see if they're more successful than in previous years:

I also managed to photograph a colour ringed Herring Gull in the breeding colony. I thin this is  bird ringed by the N Thames Gull group at either Pitsea or Rainham Landfill sites so its traveled a fair distance.

We'll be back in a couple of weeks to ring Razorbill & Shag chicks. All in all a pleasant day and  I certainly slept well that night!

23 May 2019

Last few days in Australia.

I managed another trip to Wonga Wetlands yesterday morning and caught up with a few more species I'd missed the previous couple of trips. With recent rain there seemed to be a few more birds around! Unfortunately a lot of the standing reed beds had been mown down. I can't understand this. The seed heads were providing food for a number of passerine species on my previous visits.

So here are the species I caught up with  I missed last time - Crested Shrike-tit, Hardhead (or white-eyed Duck), Hoary-headed Grebe and Australian Shoveler.

A real surprise was a juvenile White-bellied Sea Eagle! It panicked everything. Interestingly I saw an adult bird a few hours later and 10 km away as we were driving past a large dam.

Whistling Kites are fairly common here and I managed a distant shot of one perched in a dead tree.

As well as the birds I caught up with a couple of new mammal species for the trip. A Black Wallaby (Swampy) and the native Water Rat or Rakali.

The Rakali has had a bad reputation and was hunted extensively for its fur but is now protected. This one was happily foraging along the shore of one of the lagoons in the morning sunshine. With webbed feet and a tail like a beaver its superbly adapted for an aquatic life.

Our daughters house is on the edge of nature reserve and gets a good selection of species viewed from the balcony and its become my routine to sit out early morning with a mug of tea and the binoculars. Eastern Rosella's are common but wary and rarely stray within camera distance so I was pleased to get these shots after 2 weeks!

17 May 2019

Australia - Victoria / NSW border.

We're over in Oz again visiting family and I've had the chance to visit a local wetland reserve a couple of times about 20 km away. Wonga Wetlands is a great little place and is still being developed to try and recreate an area of wetland how it would have been. Inevitably this means trying to manage water levels artificially and at this time of year its particularly dry but theres still been plenty to see.

On my first visit I missed Black-fronted Dotterel and only found out they were there by checking the Wonga Wetlands eBird Australia page and seeing they'd been seen the previous day. I eventually found them on a virtually dried up muddy lagoon.

Other birds seen included foraging flocks of Superb Fairy Wrens, White-browed Scrub Wren and Red-browed Finches.

Species like Grey Shrikethrush and Brown Treecreeper show exceptionally well here and can be found close to the car park.

Theres a printed checklist of birds to be found on site that I picked up at the reception area. Scarlet Robin is a scarcity as they move down from their higher altitude breeding sites in the autumn and winter so I was lucky to get a record shot of this little stunner.

Another interesting bird was the 'Yellow' Rosella which, apparently is a sub-sepices of Crimson Rosella. Two completely looking birds! Check the photos out below:

On the remaining wet areas theres a few birds around including Australian Shoveler, Grey Teal, Australian Wood Duck (Maned Duck), Black Swans and Australian Pelicans.

White-faced and White- necked (Pacific) Herons are common as are Dusky Moorhen and Australian Swamphen.

Grey Kangaroos are common on site and I've also seen introduced Fallow Deer, native Water Rat (Rakali) and best of all, a Duck-billed Platypus. I've seen these before on the Yarra in Melbourne but was surprised to see one here.

13 May 2019

Hilbre's magic spring continues.

With winds continuing from the SE we've still been getting good numbers of migrants turning up on Hilbre. It's been a really good spring so far and we are making the most of it! Blackcaps have been turning up in good numbers and there's been a steady trickle of Willow Warblers. We've caught several Whitethroats which are always nice to see - including this 2nd calendar year male (Euring age 5) below.

This one was aged as a 2nd calendar year male.

Star bird recently has been a male Whinchat that turned up early one afternoon and was feeding along  a fence line before eventually entering one of the heligoland traps. What a gorgeous little thing!

It was nice to see this bird in the hand as Whinchat is another of those species where populations have severely declined in the UK due to habitat loss. A summer visitor to these shores they are sub-saharan migrants and reseach is taking place in their wintering grounds to determine how habitat changes in these areas are affecting populations.

6 May 2019

Iberain Wagtail, Leasowe.

With all the Yellow Wagtails being recorded on the Wirral coast (see previous blog post) it was hoped that something nice would turn  up with them - possibly a Blue-headed or Channel Wagtail? Indeed thats what Stan Davidson thought he'd initially found on Friday 26th April until it was realised that actually it could be an Iberian Wagtail (the Spanish race of Yellow Wagtail). Saturday was a washout and understandably the news on the bird was negative but Sunday was much brighter and we heard it was still there whilst on Hilbre.

Having seen a putative Iberian Wagtail at RSPB Conwy, years ago when it hosted a male Citrine Wagtail at the same time, I was keen to see this bird as the Conwy bird was never accepted as such. There has only been one accepted record of Spanish Wagtail in the UK and that was in 2015. See

Unfortunately when we first arrived there was no sign of it but  I heard a Yellow Wagtail call on several occasions but couldn't see anything. It was actually tucked right up against the fence line where it couldn't be seen from our position. Eventually it moved and became more visible. To my eye it looked identical to the Conwy bird. It called several times and people have said the call is buzzier - to me it sounded like a standard Yellow Wagtail call and not as distinct as, say, a Citrine or Eastern Yellow Wagtail. A cracking find by Stan and a good patch bird.

Checking the photo's I'm wondering if the bird has a problem with its right eye?

2 May 2019

Yellow Wagtails.

This spring has been a great one for Yellow Wagtails on Hilbre and the north Wirral coast in general where local patchers were reporting double figures most days. I've even had 3 over the house in one week. Most of the ones I've seen on Hilbre have been flyovers with the occasional bird on the ground so to have 'flocks' of up to 7 birds at a time feeding on a big hatch of flies was pretty special.

The race we generally get breeding in the UK is Motacilla flava flavissima and the bright yellow males are truly stunning birds. Populations have been in steep decline, due to changing agricultural practices and loss of habitat (as well as pressures in their wintering grounds in Africa) and it was added to the red list of species of conservation concern in 2009 following a decline of nearly 75%.

There are a large number of different races of Yellow Wagtail and we occasionally get some of these with parties of our Yellow Wagtails during spring migration. Identification of these races can be a minefield as there is a lot of overlap and interbreeding. One of the most striking is Black-headed Wagtail which some have mooted as a future split into a separate species....

However, none of this concerned us on Hilbre. All ours appeared to be flavissima. If you look closely you cansee the flies the birds were feeding on trying to photobomb the pictures.