Saturday, 2 March 2019

Spring catch-up : Feb and March 2019

The last week or so of Feb saw some crazy high temperatures for the time of year. Whilst it lifted our moods and made us look forward to the coming summer, it was also a cause for concern. With new high temperatures smashed for the UK winter, you had to wonder if this was the kind of extreme weather event the climatologists warn about.

Some very early swallows were found by Gower Ornithological Society, and one of which turned out to be red-rumped! Amazing find. Nick and I duly paid a visit on a Sunday morning, and enjoyed some good views before it temporarily moved out. The bird went on to spend a week or so in the vicinity, but that was a great lifer to start 2019 on. During the course of the week, another swallow turned up, and even a sand martin. Mad scenes. Some terrible light meant poor photo's.

Sunday 24th Feb I took myself off to Van Rd to practice with depth of field against busy backdrops.

I fancied clearing my head Saturday 2nd March, so I tried my luck on abother grey day at Forest Ganol. I got 6 birds at one point.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Sibe Chiffy - Parc Slip 12/01/2019

After a long week at work I decided that a morning out birding would be a good way to recharge. After mopping up a few year-list species at Ogmore I headed to Parc Slip to pay homage to the wintering Siberian Chiffchaff which had been found over Christmas.  

I nipped down the side of the centre to get a good view of the reedbed and feeders, and within a couple of minutes the little fella flitted into view from the reeds, and twice came out foraging on the mud. It was a typically dingy January day and my ISO was cranked high, so I managed nothing more satisfactory than the two below.

An article on Bird Guides describes identification of tristis on the following criteria:
•            Absence of olive in the crown and mantle
•            Absence of yellow away from the underwing
•            Presence of a grey-brown or pale brown hue in the upperparts
•            Presence of warm buff in the supercilium and ear-coverts
•            Presence of buff at the breast-sides/flanks
•            Very black-looking bill and legs
•            A thin, piping near-monosyllabic Bullfinch-like or Dunnock-like call
•            A song markedly different from western Chiffchaff's.

Siberian chiffchaff breeds in Siberia, east of the Pechora River and winters in the lower Himalayas. For now at least, tristis is maintained in P. collybita by most checklists, but at some point this may become an ‘armchair’ tick if it separated out as a different species. 

After admiring the bullfinches on the feeders, I headed to the first hide and bumped into Nick. We caught up, and I hoovered up a few more for the old year list, including only my first coot and grey heron of the year, and a few others like teal, wigeon, and little grebe.

Friday, 16 November 2018

Catching up on 2018 - Various

2018 Catch-up

2018 has absolutely flown, and I can’t believe it’s been well over a year already since I’d completed the 200 Challenge. I haven’t managed to get a load of birding in this year in comparison, but what’s been there has been more quality than quantity.

After our first foray into a seawatch at Strumble last year, I was determined to have another go. I duly watched the wind forecasts on Magic Seaweed, and so it was that Tara and I took a trip over, and Heather joined us a bit later. Upon arrival it was obvious we had our calculations right because the hide was full, and sightings were being reported thick and fast. “Sooty Shearwater!” “Grey phalarope!” Panic began to set in as things came and went before we had got on them. The sea rolled wildly, and huge troughs hid birds as they were going through. The one I regretted missing the most was a storm petrol, but we clinched some beauties by the time the birds went through, including long-tailed Skua, Arctic skua, (these two came through side by side and in quite close) bonxie, Leach’s Petrol, RTD, and lots of dolphins. So that was several lifers snagged for our trouble! We stopped by at Fishguard harbour to try for the black guillemot, but once again they were elusive, though we had a very distant view of a likely candidate.  

On Sabbatical at Blacktoft I got a taste of being a warden, and of course took the opportunity to see some good wildlife. On the evening of the day of arrival, there was a guided walk and we had some good views of a barn owl, and pink footed geese going over in large skeins. I also spotted a watervole on the bank outside the reception hide. Later in the week, an interesting siting came in the form of a raven, which turned out to be something of a mega on the reserve. I’d thought nothing of the cronking whilst it went over, but evidently a rare bird for the area, as an enthusiastic member of the public came cheerfully to report the sighting. It was amazing to see so many bearded tit, erupting from the reed beds, and several times during the course of the week I had some really great views, hampered by having been entirely sans camera with having been out doing practical work, like clearing the reens, adding chicken wire to a small bridge, clearing out the bittern pool, and general work like cleaning out the hides
Another good sighting was a juvenile gannet which flew over the reserve whilst we were out doing a water vole survey. I did a complete double take at first, but considering I’d been watching so many at Strumble on a few days before my brain soon clicked into action. Unfortunately, it was only really me who saw it properly and it went over swiftly in a south-easterly direction, cutting the corner of the reserve. It was harassed by two corvids which is dwarfed, before going out of sight.  The next week I noticed that 2 had been seen again and they were posted on the wildlife blog, so I felt vindicated in the sighting. 
Another good local sighting came in the form of a Baird’s Sandpiper, which was a nice lifer for me. I hadn’t immediately rushed for it, instead having opted to go with Nick to Mewslade and the Gower to find our own rarities. We came up with squat, but did see my first redwings of the winter and we also swung by to see the goosander on the Ogmore which was a nice local Glam tick. The following Friday, the Bairds was still there so Nick and I went, and met Tara and the family in the process. The Baird’s was close on the mud from the corner the screen near to where the Temmincks had been last year.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Forest Farm Yellow Browed - 10/11/2018

Tate Lloyd found a YBW at Forest Farm this morning, and I couldn't resist a go despite the 'orrible weather. Conditions made it very difficult, but managed some reasonable record shots.

Monday, 18 June 2018

Scotland Sabbatical - June 2018

After braving the 10-hour marathon drive up to Loch Garten, I arrived in time for an induction at the centre and saw EJ for the first time, perched up next to the nest. I’d already seen an osprey en route but it was nice to see her through the scopes, and I managed a decent Digi scope shot.  Unfortunately, the eggs have failed this year. Useless George, the young inexperienced male hadn’t fed her whilst she was on the nest and after a week of not eating she had to come off to fend for herself.  

After fish and chips in the Happy Haggis in Aviemore I settled into the no. 2 Chalet with Pete and Vic. In the morning, I headed out to Lochindorb, and stopped nearby to look at the common gulls on the moor with their chicks. 

It was nice to see the common gull living up to its name in Scotland. A couple of weasels were also lurking in the area and I took some snaps of them as they ran up and down the road.  No doubt they were taking advantage of the young chicks in the area, both grouse and perhaps gull. 

As I crested the hill I could see Lochindorb and the castle in the middle of the loch. I pulled over to get some pics and immediately saw a common sandpiper on the shoreline, followed by a red legged partridge which I wasn’t expecting. I couldn’t see any divers so I headed along the loch in the car and used the car as a hide several times, taking pictures of grouse and lapwing chicks. 

Near the Lodge, I pulled up and there were some other birders already on the black-throated divers. I quickly got my scope out and got some long-ranged views of them across the loch, with two young. It was great to see my first summer plumaged divers, albeit it at a distance with a surprising amount of heat haze for how much the temperature had come down on the day before.  

I continued along the fencing of the Lodge and took a photo of a red squirrel through a chain link fence which came out quite nicely. On my return, I got a good few pictures of a sandpiper which I took from the car with the window wound down.  

Before work I headed down and did the Two Loch Cicular walk at Loch Garten on the lookout for the crested tit. I saw goldeneye, tree pipit, spotted flycatcher, loads of chaffinch and siskin, and crossbill, but no cresties 

After work, I headed to a known location for Slavonian grebe, and was rewarded with some great pictures.

I headed back up to Lochindorb, but the divers weren’t in sight and there was no sign of the nearby Red throats which I’d been tipped off about. I did however see a peregrine en route.

On the third day, I got lucky on the way into work as I pulled into a layby near the centre and after initially hearing and seeing goldcrest and a coal pipit, I clocked two crested tits, though I wasn’t able to get a good picture.  

 I headed off to Findhorn valley after work on the lookout for golden eagles. I had a couple of false starts, but didn’t get lucky, though more buzzards, a peregrine and a kestrel were present, along with the constant companions in the form of lapwings, oystercatcher and curlew.  

The next day was my day off, and I headed up Cairngorm after a quick stop at Loch Morlich for red throated diver, though still none to be seen. On the way up I had amazing views of ring ouzel and even found a nest. They seemed very tame in comparison to the ones I’ve seen in Wales, and the male was even confiding enough to enter its nest with me present. 

At the top the wind was blowing and I got lucky with a male and female snow bunting, though at separate times and they didn’t appear to be closely associating, though they were in roughly the same area.  

I headed off to look for dotterel, but didn’t get any luck, though I then came across a female ptarmigan with chicks, and later a male ptarmigan from a distance. I came down sharpish as the weather started turning for the worse.  

Storm Hector put a dampener on birding on the Thursday, but on the Friday evening I went to see some badgers in a local hide.