Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Red-Footed Falcon, Staffordshire

With recent news breaking of a first summer Red-Footed Falcon showing and giving mouth watering views down to a matter of feet, it was a too good of an opportunity to miss with it being a 90 minute drive down the road. After seeing a couple of adult males and a previous first summer Derbyshire male, it still wasn't enough and managed to make it down there a few days into it's stay. 

Summering in Eastern Europe, the migrant falcon exceeded expectations often coming close to the onlookers. It spend a lot of its time perched keeping an eye out for a meal. It seemed to mainly feed on worms and other invertebrates it could find.

It's plumage was a lot more advanced than the previous first summer male I'd seen, plumage can apparently vary quite a bit at this age as it moults towards its darker, majestic adult plumage. 

It was quite mobile in the hour I was there but superb to get the close flight views as it moved around the entrance to Chatterley Whitfield Colliery. 

A juvenile Black Redstart was also a nice edition to the day showing from distance around the building but people have been asked not to enter the white gates of the private site. 

Here's a short video of the bird during the hour I was there

White-Winged Black Tern, Leighton Moss

A short video and image on the White-Winged Black Tern seen at Leighton Moss 10 days ago. A beautifully summer-plumaged individual which stayed for a 2 days showing bet from Lower Hide. It often spent time sat on the post or hawking around the lagoon. Great White Egret, 4 Marsh Harriers, 2 Garganey's and a Marsh Tit were also on offer around the reserve.

The last bird I saw in this plumage was a the Cemlyn Bay bird present for a couple of days last year (2014)

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Green Sandpiper and a Little Bittern

Really, I should be writing about the Little Bittern I went to see at Old Moor RSPB, Yorkshire, last weekend but it was a distant flight view and quite uninspiring at the range so I'll quickly move on to the Green Sandpiper that gave much better views from Wath Ings hide whilst waiting for an American Wigeon that never showed.
Green Sandpipers are birds I just about see during each year but this year, I've managed to see one a lot earlier than usual. They differ from the more familiar Common Sandpiper with the much darker back and wings whereas Common Sandpiper's feature a white wingbar and have a lighter, browner colouring. Green Sandpipers are also slightly larger with longer legs and no barring on the tail.
Green Sandpiper's mainly pass through the UK with the intention of breeding in northern Europe and wintering in South and West Europe and Africa although in the UK, records can crop up at either side of the year.
This one at Old Moor is likely to be a failed breeder and is one of the earliest returners to make it's way back from it's northern site. Other birds included a nice Black-necked Grebe, 7 Avocet, a female Goldeneye and of course the Little Bittern!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Spotted Redshank, River Clwyd

Having carried out a lot less birding on the River Clwyd this year, I have still got down there when I can and with it being a great place for waders, I'm always on the look out for a good species. John Roberts found this beautiful Spotted Redshank this afternoon associating with the Redshank just south of the railway bridge on the low tide. In it's fine summer plumage, it showed well from distance feeding away.
Spotted Redshank in a fine summer plumage
Spotted Redshank is quite a scarcity in Rhyl with the nearest birds present and best seen at this time of year at Connah's Quay NR. Birds have been sighted previously on the Clwyd with the last one back in 2012. It is a bird I've been hoping to see on patch for a good while so it was nice to finally come a cross one this afternoon.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Birding New York

During the last week of May, I spent 10 days in New York City making the most of what the city had to offer in terms of birding and migration. It proved to be the tail end of migration but after the harshest winter on record, migration was delayed considerably which allowed us to connect with a few more species than expected. In total we saw 123 species with 100 of those being new birds!
I've put together a video compromising of just a few species encountered during our time in New York. We visited Central Park, Prospect Park and Inwood Hill Park within the city centre. We hired a car to take us out of the city to Bear Mountain State Park just outside Doodletown as well as Jamaica Bay and Plumb Beach located on the coast.
Birds featuring in this short film are as follows:
Gray Catbird, Blue Jay, Northern Flicker, Red-Winged Blackbird (male), Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, Red-Winged Blackbird (female), Mourrning Dove, Lincoln's Sparrow, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-Sided Warbler, Red-Eyed Vireo, Black-and-White Warbler, Baltimore Oriole, Northern Waterthrush, Hermit Thrush, White-Throated Sparrow, Magnolia Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, Blackpoll Warbler,
Brown-Headed Cowbird,
Eastern Towhee, Northern Parula, Eastern Kingbird, Olive-Sided Flycatcher, Blackburnian Warbler, Empidonax sp, Black-Crowned Night Heron, Wood Duck, Blue-Winged Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Eastern Phoebe, Boat-Tailed Grackle, Brown Thrasher, Tree Swallow, Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpiper, American Oystercatcher, Snowy Egret, Northern Harrier, Forster's Tern, Black Skimmer
A more detailed trip report will follow in the coming weeks

Friday, 19 June 2015

Cretzschmar's Bunting at Bardsey finally gives itself up!

After an initial report and a brief sighting of a Cretzschmar's Butning on 10th May 2015, despite a huge search the bird was not relocated until the 12th where it was again seen; albeit briefly. This would represent a first for Wales and a 6th national record after a Fair Isle bird as recently as last year. This would prove very popular if pinned down to a specific location with all previous records coming from Orkney or Shetland.
The Bardsey crew worked incredibly hard over the following days in order to locate the bird, and locate the bird they did. On the morning of the 14th, the bird was again reported and seen well within the compound of the lighthouse to which we made our move. Steff kindly decided to drive and we set off knowing that no boat load to this date had successfully twitched the bunting within the day. On arrival after the boat crossing, we made our way over to the lighthouse unknown of what to expect. The bird was apparently still present within the vicinity but not been seen for other an hour. We waited a further hour and still without a show, we came to the conclusion that it wasn't in the patch of grass we had all been anticipating it to come out of.
Eventually and to our disbelief, it finally showed and showed well. The bird sneaked over to a shaded area where there was a scattering of seed put out by the warden. The bird gave a much darker impression than an Ortolan Bunting with a blue-grey head, deep rusty-brown breast and warm orangey throat. The white eye-ring stood out as well as it's streaked back.
Cretzschmar's Bunting
During the next half hour, the Cretzschmar's Bunting showed well again giving some lovely scope views clearly allowing us to appreciate all it's fine beauty. The bird has shown well since and I haven't heard of anyone else twitching the bird and not seeing it up to writing this post. Hopefully the bird will stick around for all and it's clearly a reminder that North Wales can throw up some superb birds now and then if you stick at it. With a complete list of around 330 species and first for Britain in form of Yellow Warbler (1964) and Summer Tanager (1957). Throw in an American Bittern, Sora, Killdeer, Gray-Cheeked Thrush and Common Yellowthroat and it reminds us how good a place Bardsey Island can be.
A huge thanks has got to go to all involved at Bardsey Bird Observatory as without the dedication and effort to ensure and oversee the twitch, it all wouldn't have been possible. For more information on the observatory, future boats and day visits, please visit: http://www.bbfo.org.uk/


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

From East to West in a day!

With birding out of the country taking priority towards the back end of May, I was lucky that nothing 'big' turned up whilst I was away. Considering it was prime time in Spring migration, there was always a risk that this could happen and after last year's Short-Toed Eagle nightmare, I was more nervous! Birds have been a little later this year and as a result timed it nicely for my return. This weekend was devoted for the Hudsonian Whimbrel (an American species) which was found at Church Norton much earlier in the week. I had hoped that it would stay for the weekend so I could get the opportunity to see it!
Saturday came and a late start to the day was unavoidable due to work commitments until Black-Eared Wheatear popped up on the phone. A striking male had been found at Acres Down that morning and photographed. This was now a priority and I needed to get moving. Myself and Steff travelled down shortly and arrived early evening. To our delight, the bird was still on show but mobile obviously feeding up with the intention to move on at the next available opportunity.
Eastern Black-Eared Wheatear
The bird by this time had been called an Eastern due to it's stark black and white plumage and lack of rusty tones on the mantle, head and upper breast. Instead, you could easily pick out the greyish tones on it's crown.
In flight, the tail had a more extended black on the sides and the white reached right up to it's head as you can see in the video below
Hudsonian Whimbrel has only recently been split by the BOU and recognised as a full species rather than a race of our more familiar European counterpart. The next bird on our radar was this so we travelled over to gain some good scope views of the bird at Church Norton. The bird was incredibly distance to begin with making it difficult to pick out the features whilst it was ranging inside a lower channel.
With the incoming tide in our favour, the bird was forced ever closer. Although this improved our scope views, taking a picture was still very challenging. The bird spent a lot of it's time in the long grass on the island feeding but seems very settled on the marsh with the other Curlews and Black-Tailed Godwits present.
Hudsonian Whimbrel
The main features identifying this as a Hudsonian is it's longer bill, it's lighter-brown appearance and a plain brown rump and back opposed to a white one on the European species. Two superb and mega birds in a space of a few hours!

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Corncrake at Hale, Cheshire

A Corncrake is a rather secretive bird rarely ever seen on migration but rather vocal on breeding territories. It's a bird I'd only ever seen in flight and without another trip to the Hebrides of Scotland, there was always going to be a slim chance of success. Of course, birding throws up the unexpected and after initial reports of a calling Corncrake at Hale in Cheshire, access was possible and a watching point was set up from the road.
On arrival at the site in Hale, there was a small group of birders and not much action. The bird had been rather elusive that morning and less vocal that afternoon. After initial feelings of having to wait some time, it piped up with it's 'crex crex' call. It wasn't long until one of the birders present spotted it. Like a needle in a haystack, excellent directions led me to get on the bird as it continued to show well in the horse field. The bird remained faithful to the small patch of grass in front of the nearby hedge to where we were standing giving fab photographic opportunities calling at times.
Corncrake was once a common sight breeding across North Wales and Cheshire a few decades ago. Changes in farming and habitat loss has forced these rare breeding birds to the remote islands of Scotland. Other birds noted was a Corn Bunting (another declining and very rare sight in Wales), 2 Grey Partridge and a handful of screaming swifts... but sadly no Pacific amongst them!

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Citril Finch, Holkham Pines (Norfolk)

After an excellent day in Hampshire seeing the Greater Yellowlegs, I was looking forward to a day in North Wales hoping to catch up with some of the local birds.. I was planning the day ahead until everything changed: CITRIL FINCH, Norfolk. Damn! I must admit there were a few seconds where I hoped this bird was a flyover and not been seen since and that was the message that came through!! A couple of hours later through checking messages, news and seeing a picture of it, myself and Steff caved and went for the bird. Steff kindly offered to drive and so we were on our way down.
Despite a couple of early 20th Century rejected reports, there has been just one accepted British record of Citril Finch coming as recently as 2008 from Fair Isle therefore this was a must and a golden opportunity to see one. Arriving at Holkham and paying a London City parking price for a few hours, we had another half hour's walk west through Holkham Pines and into the dune system. As we arrived the bird was luckily on show, although not for long! We both saw it for seconds through someone else's scope and off it went. Short lived but we were reassured it would be back.
Around 35 minutes later it was, and it came back down into the dune system to feed. This allowed good opportunities for taking a couple of snaps and enjoying the beauty of this small finch. There's been much speculation of acceptance of finches, buntings and wildfowl in Britain as many are kept in collections or privately. The last Citril Finch was accepted after long deliberation and investigation through isotopes and research. It was thought that the Fair Isle bird (possibly this bird too!) originated from Germany with the Black Forest being a likely source.
It has been confirmed that Citril Finch are capable of movement and the furthest recorded individual has been recorded to have travelled in the excess of 600km. Birds have been known to tag themselves along with a migrating flock of Siskins and make significant movements.
With it being my first visit to Holkham Pines, it was remarkably interesting to see the similar habitat comparison to that of their breeding grounds. Yes, it's on a dune system at sea level, but this was the nearest it was going to get for a few hundred miles!
A top bird nevertheless! Since, the finch was seen very briefly on the following morning but no sign since. Holkham Pines is a huge area to cover though and a small bird could easily go missing in an area like that. With previous records of Red-Breasted Nuthatch,Black-and-White Warbler and Indigo Bunting to name a few it's a true little migrant trap where anything could turn up!

Monday, 11 May 2015

Greater Yellowlegs, Titchfield Haven

Greater Yellowlegs is the rarer of the two Yellowlegs species to turn up in Britain and having seen Lesser Yellowlegs on a couple of occasions, I was keen to catch up with the Greater Yellowlegs when one turned up back in January at Titchfield Haven. One thing was that I was watching a Harlequin Duck! Couldn't complain as it was a top bird to catch up with. Sadly the Yellowlegs had moved on by the day after.
...or that's at least what we thought. The same bird was then reported exactly 3 months later in April at the same location but again, we were back in Scotland! We finally got our chance on Saturday morning when news broke that the Yellowlegs was back on Posbrook floods, Titchfield Haven. It was a long shot but worth the gamble. Travelling through the traffic and thundery rain showers, we arrived on site and walked 400 metres south along the Canal Path. The Yellowlegs was still present with 80+ Black-Tailed Godwits; albeit asleep. Waiting for around 40 minutes, the bird eventually woke up, made a short flight and started socialising with the Godwits more occasionally probing around for food.
If we weren't lucky enough with our views, it took a short flight further towards us allowing photo opportunities and the video to be taken. The bird is evidently larger than it's Lesser Yellowlegs cousin. The Greater Yellowlegs are best distinguished from it's over all size, slightly broader, longer bill and bold flank streaking.
This bird has been  present in the area all winter (probably since last autumn) where the area around Titchfield Haven have been favoured. However, it's spending the majority of it's time at another unknown site; possibly private hence the lack of news.
An excellent bird nevertheless and a real treat to see.