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.  

Friday, 23 February 2018

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Travel birding pt 2 - New York

On our first morning in New York, with a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel in hand for breakfast we headed up to Central Park, and there was good birding to be had everywhere I looked. Eating the first half of my bagel I clocked an American Robin, and was on to a coopers hawk perched up in a tree shortly after that, as I was alerted to what I thought were bird of prey cries. The noises turned out to be blue jays, which call relentlessly from everywhere in the park, but on that occasion it helped me to spot the Coopers, and give me a better insight into the differences with sharp shinned. I had my shots of the confusion species confirmed on an American birding forum, but they can be quite difficult sometimes judging from the discussions and photos online.  

Nearby, Jess clocked a male and female cardinal in the tree whilst Iooked at a pintail on the frozen pond.

I picked up an amazing male yellow-bellied sapsucker up in a tree at the Bethesda Terrace, and when I turned back to see him after photographing a nearby white-throated sparrow he had come down the tree giving amazing views.

Shortly after arriving at the rambles we came across an area by the pond where people had put down seed, and we saw a white-breasted nuthatch, and I also got a glimpse of a different woodpecker before it flew on. Unfortunately that was the last sighting of the woodie, so I was unable to tell which species it was, but I think it might well have been a red-bellied. I also saw American goldfinch, and at the Evodia Field feeders added tufted titmouse and a common grackle. Up at the reservoir I had wood ducks pointed out, and saw more hooded mergansers and buffleheads, though both were sleeping. I clocked a brown creeper, and also a perched red-tailed hawk which allowed some amazing close views. 

On the last day we took another trip up to Central Park, and I also added hermit thrush which gave amazing views, and managed some better shots of the blue jay and common grackle.