Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Arctic and Radde's Warbler at Donna Nook

With a depressing dip the previous day (which I don't care to go into anymore details about) myself and Steff decided to drive back in the direction of 'home' but via Donna Nook in Lincolnshire where the target was an Arctic Warbler. It was a bird that I had targeted to see this Autumn and one that was quickly slipping away as October progressed. With news coming out early of the bird showing well for it's second day, we drove up! We arrived for lunchtime and it didn't take long to locate the group of birders revealing it's exact location.
The bird showed really well on a gorgeous day weather-wise and this allowed for a couple of nice record shots showing the bird in all it's glory!
Evident, was it's nice thin long yellowish supercilium and it's small single white wingbar, although if you look very closely, there was a very subtle hint of a second above the main one. It seemed very active and very happy catching insects within the Hawthorns.
With the day wearing thin, we decided to go for a walk further North up the path where we jammed into a superb little Radde's Warbler briefly showing in the Buckthorn. Always nice to be at the forefront of a twitch as we watched people running up leaving the Arctic Warbler to some peace.
Record shot of the Radde's Warbler

Steppe Grey completes a rare Autumn hatrick!

It's certainly been a good Autumn season for shrikes: kicking off on 7th September with a Lesser Grey Shrike, followed by an unexpected 3rd for Britain in form of a Masked Shrike on 20th September and finishing off up to date with a lovely Steppe Grey Shrike 11th October.
There seems to be quite a bit of confusion with where a Steppe Grey Shrike fits in with taxonomy so I'll try and simplify it as best as I can! Steppe Grey Shrike is a race/form of Southern Grey Shrike and is up for being split from the many races that range across Europe and Asia. It is also the only form of Southern Grey Shrike that has turned up in the UK of which there has been 24 accepted British records up to now!
Driving down on a quiet and clear Friday night is always pushing it when you're going for a bird but I had faith that it would stay as it seemed settled and in all honesty, why would it need to go when you're being fed a constant supply of mealworms? On arrival, the bird was showing up to 25 metres away and within the next hour it came closer and more active as the morning began to warm up a little.
The first winter bird continued to give good views and showed well to the many who came to visit it.
It's been nice to see all similar species in the last few weeks and in doing so; compare and contrast Great, Lesser and Steppe Grey Shrike.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Grey Phalarope, Morfa Madrhyn

After dipping this bird last week, I returned to the site of Morfa Madryn (which is however, ridiculously under-watched) and after 10 minutes of looking located the bird nearby the concrete outflow. The bird was very approachable and it did what Phalaropes are best known for... spinning around and feeding up.
Grey Phalarope
The Grey Phalarope has been present at the site now for 10 days and seems to have settled in temporary before it moves on and out to sea for the winter in a warmer climate.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Third for Britain hits Spurn!

With 90% of the rarities I like to twitch 3 hours + from North Wales, it's really telling me that I should live on the East coast. Luckily, I was well on my way to Spurn point when news of a Masked Shrike (3rd record for Britain after a Fife bird in November 2004 and a one-day bird Scilly bird in November 2006). Being still 2 hours away was still a nightmare but we eventually got there and quickly locked onto the bird from distance from the canal.
Masked Shrike
The juvenile showed from distance all day and is still present (up to now; a week later). The bird was originally identified as a Woodchat Shrike but with a more contrasting plumage and featuring the bold white primary flash on the wings in flight along with a slightly warmer looking flanks, the shrike was confirmed to be Masked.
With us being there for the weekend, Saturday gave us some time to target other migrants with included a migrating Honey Buzzard over, a Red Breasted Flycatcher, Wood Warbler and Jack Snipe. An Olive-Backed Pipit was less confiding and gave us the run-around into Sunday but after a long wait and a run across Kilnsea, we finally caught up with it giving brief but good views!

Olive-Backed Pipit in that bush! Somewhere..

The Sunday also brought a couple more migrants in the form of Yellow Browed Warbler, more Pied and Spotted Flycatcher sightings as well as this ridiculously showy Barred Warbler...
Barred Warbler - Kilnsea

Friday, 19 September 2014

Dotterel on the Great Orme

An earlier report today led me to go down to the Great Orme this evening in the hope to catch up with a Dotterel that had been found earlier that day. After 20 minutes or so and with the heavy cloud rolling in, I picked it up at the highest cairn south of the limestone pavement.
I watched it for 5 minutes or so before an RAF helicopter flushed it (and me) further away as it passed within a matter of a few hundred yards! Another bird that nearly slipped past the year list!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Lesser Grey Shrike in Suffolk

Having spent the Saturday at Spurn, we stayed outside Hull leaving us in prime position had there be a bird turn up on the East coast. Luckily, a Lesser Grey Shrike had turned up on the Saturday but had spent a good two hours on that afternoon absent further south. With this in mind and considering past records having stayed considerably longer than a day, I waited on news before making a long drive down towards Hollesley in Suffolk! It was a bird I had previously missed on many occasions in Spain so was keen to see it!
It was a fairly straight forward drive down and we arrived in good time to see the female from distance out on the marsh between the beach and the small river outflow. It spent most of its time carrying out aerobatic display as it caught insects clearly showing its identifying features.  
Female Lesser Grey Shrike from distance
The Lesser Grey Shrike lacks any white above the thick black eye stripe unlike it's much more familiar cousin; the Great Grey Shrike. The LGS has a strong black forehead and lacks any white edges on the mantle. In flight, it is best to observe the wing pattern as it features a white medium patch which is larger than the patch on our European Great Grey Shrike. Again, in flight, it is best to observe the abundance of white on it's tail as they have much more of it present than what a Grey Grey does.

A very educational bird and certainly one right up there out of the birds I've seen this year!

Migrant rush at Spurn!

The Easterly's are blowing and the migrants are starting to arrive in force with a handful reaching the West. I dropped in on Spurn last week for the migration festival and in the couple of hours I was there managed to jam in on a Wryneck, Barred Warbler and Long-Tailed Skua.
Despite being elusive, the Wryneck showed well briefly on the road between the Bluebell Café and the Caravan park.
As we decided to travel down towards the site where a Barred Warbler was suppose to be hanging out, a Long-Tailed Skua came on as passing north from the sea-watching hut. After a sprint up to the beach, we were just in time for a juvenile bird passing high above the sea.
With evening drawing in, we were lucky to pick out a Barred Warbler hidden away in the Elderberry bush near the church. The bird showed relatively well for a Barred Warbler.
Barred Warbler - Taken by Steff Leese
Other migrants included Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, Whinchats, Wheatears, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroats and Blackcaps.
Out on the falling tide Curlew Sandpipers showed well amongst the Dunlin flock along with Golden Plover, Turnstone and Knot.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Marsh Sandpiper in Gloucestershire

After a very quiet August, myself and Steff decided to drive down for the Marsh Sandpiper that had turned up at Splatt Bridge in Gloucestershire. Despite reports of the bird being fairly distant, this didn't put us off going. We arrived around lunchtime on the 30th and quickly locked on to the bird. It was in company of 9 Greenshank and 14 Ruff happily feeding upon a flooded field.
The juvenile Marsh Sandpiper gave good scope views and allowed it to be easily compared with the neighbouring Greenshanks highlighting it's much more fragile, smaller size, needle pin-sharp, straight bill and overall plumage patterns.

Looks more like an artistic expressionist painting, but was the best I could manage in between distance and heat haze 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Blue Winged..............Hybrid?

Having had a very quiet few weeks birding, I decided to take a trip down towards Camp Lane Pools, Worcester as an eclipse drake Blue Winged Teal was staking out. There didn't seem to be much talk on the bird and everyone seemed happy with it's ID up until today. I haven't any experience with eclipse drakes and it's amazing how much you learn about a bird when it's ID is questioned. In my opinion, I believed this bird is a Blue Winged Teal. Innocent until proven guilty (or hybrid) in this case.
Shoveler was being brought into the equation as the day progressed. Yes the bill is ever so slightly bigger than what I would've liked it to be, but this feature is certainly not uncommon in Drake Blue Winged Teals especially. Although the images don't show this very well, but the legs were a nice yellowy-orange complementing BWT and it also has a very faint white eye ring.
The bird has a strong dark brown line through the eye and there is good evidence of spotting under the under tail coverts. It showed well with the resident Mallards clearly showing how small I size it was. The Teal had a nice slate-grey bill and it had a noticeable light spot just before it's bill.
In flight, the bird clearly showed light pale blue patches above the wing and had light underwing patches. It now appears, with better images that this bird is what was suspected: BWT x Shoveler hybrid but none the less, an interesting and educational bird and something that will teach me to always look at a bit just that little bit closer!

North-West Resident?

Med Gulls are occasional visitors to the River Clwyd in Rhyl with numbers touching double figures each year. This adult is thought to have been present last year but I failed to get a ring reading due to distance. When it appeared this year, I was keen to find out some history on it's origin.
Ringed as a young bird at Conchil le Temple, Pas de Calais, France in 2010, it was immediately found that October (2010) at Seaforth, Liverpool and again on 3 occasions in 2013 followed by a sighting at Pensarn in March 2014 and my record on 31st July.
Where is it breeding? Who knows but one would think it has taken up territory in the North West. Hopefully it'll stick about for many more years to come!

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