Sunday, 19 February 2017

Green Sands and Great Grey Shrike! 18-19 Feb 2017

An early morning saw Jess, Olive and I get a McD's adventure breakfast and head to Peterstone-Super-Ely in what can only be described as a pea-souper. We met Nick and Tara in the lay-by as planned at 8, and we made our way along the river, seeing a dipper as we went. After an initial wrong turn we stumbled across a large flock of redpoll, with several others mixed in, including siskin, nuthatch, goldcrest and goldfinch. The light hadn't picked up at all however, so no good photos were had.

Near the hairpin in the river one flew off to the next bend, and we saw it fly a couple of times, never managing to see him on the ground. The banks in the area showed obvious signs of sand martins and I can't wait to come back here later in the year for hobby and sand martin!

On the way back from Sunday dinner at Paul and Kate's in Hereford I took Jess and Olive to Crabtree Hill in Forest of Dean for round 2. As soon as we came out of the forestry at Crabtree I could see the Shrike perched up a long way off in a little conifer, like a bauble on a Christmas tree - my first ever views of GGS, and I knew what I was seeing instinctively before getting it confirmed by getting a little closer.

 The shrike ended up on the middle strip where we had perched a couple of weekends before, and where we saw a gent exit  the undergrowth (obviously now in hindsight, having been sat waiting for the shrike to arrive!). The sun came out and I had a few minutes with the bird to myself, sat proudly in the open. I could see a family approaching in the background, and I waited for them to come closer on the off chance it would fly closer to me. I looked down at the camera for 3 seconds, and when I looked up, it was gone. A magic bird, and a magic end to Rob VS GGS.

112 year to date after this weekend.

Friday, 10 February 2017

Raucous Glaucous and Forest of Dean 10/02/2017

After a bit of back and forth about how best to proceed with the second main trip of the year, we decided against Slimbridge, and concentrated our efforts on the Forest of Dean. Tara and Ai-lin turned up at mine early doors, and we swapped cars into mine. After a quick hour’s drive, we arrived at the junction before Cannop ponds and happened to bump into Heather and Carys. Luckily our destination was just down the way, and we got out to found Carolyn near the carpark with her dog Zeus.

After a quick scan of the main pond for Mandarin, we had little grebe and cormorant, and then Tara spotted a flock of Siskins across the way which we dutifully walked over to go and see. The little grebes were ‘laughing’ out on the water, first time I think I’ve heard them! We backtracked on ourselves slightly and took the path away from the main pool, and Carys soon spotted a couple of pairs of Mandarin in amongst the waterlogged woodland. After a short recap on telling apart Marsh and Willow tits (just in case!) we decided to try for the GGS, reasoning that an early morning would be best so as to have less people around.

We made our way up to Crabtree Hill, keeping an eye out for crossbill and redpoll, and emerged out into the clearing with baited breath. After camping out with the scopes and some very distant false starts we decided to do a lap of the area, and also went through to the nearby clearfell area, all to no avail. After an hour and a half or so, and not a lot else happening, we decided to cut our losses and head to New Fancy View.

At New Fancy the boars had turfed the place up good and proper. The view from the top had changed since I had last been in that a lot of the trees were more mature, and so slightly blocking the view, and the view of the area immediately in front where we had seen boarlets previously were a lot more grown. We soon picked out various birds of prey, including a false start buzzard which made straight for us in a very un-buzzard like way (ohotos showed clearly buzzard – but in the moment you can see what you want to see). We had peregrines, and a very very distant bird that was a probably gossie, fitting the flight display bill with some serious aerial acrobatics. No crossbills here either, and it’s a site I’ve had them twice in the past.  

On to the last stop, we pulled up at Park End to find a car of ‘toggers already pointing their lenses at the spot the hawfinch feed is being put down. We decided to park opposite the junction, and could soon see them flitting in the trees opposite us, but poor views in the winter gloom. After a spot of lunch, and failing to have signal enough to check on the GGS, we decided to try for the Bettws bittern. Upon arrival we walked around the wrong side of the island, and a young lady kindly let us know that the bittern was out on the opposite side. As we walked around I could see it clear as day, and we had some brilliant views in the binoculars and the scope as it sat out happy as larry, in the most un-bittern like terrain I’ve seen hosting one. A kingfisher also rocked up, and we had a great time as the sun went down watching this most accommodating of bitterns – it even posed for a selfie!  

The following week, news broke of the glaucous gull being seen at Taff's Mead Embankment. So it was, that with a sense of deja vu, I made a quick trip on the way to work. Sure enough, there it was sat proudly on the roof opposite, and after alerting the group on whatsapp I was soon joined by Jon Cryer.  I made another trip over at lunchtime en route to cleaning out mouse poo at Big Yellow and got a couple more shots.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Year listing.. Thurlestone, Slapton, Broadsands, Topsham Rec - 27 and 28/01/2017

I came home from work on Friday night feeling like I was coming down with flu, but I knew that we were off down to Exeter. News had also just broken about the Red flanked blue tail not ten minutes from my house, and I couldn't believe that I wasn't going to be around to try for it! So it was, that Saturday morning, full of cold and feeling rotten I layered up and headed out at first light down to Thurlestone to try for the desert wheatear. I parked up on the clifftop car park, and took in the view, before setting off for Leasfoot beach. Upon arrival I was quickly on to the wheatear, at the top of the dunes, and I watched him move off down a gap to the beach. Not ten seconds later I had crept along to where I saw him, only he had vanished! I jumped down onto the beach, and walked back to the start to see if I could find him again. Another ten minutes went by before I spied movement about half way out on the beach, and sure enough it was the wheatear. I made sure to keep eyes on it, as it was easy enough to lose, blending in so well. I sat down in the small dune and it sat up on a sign, and evidently had favourite perches around the beach. 

It was a lovely half hour or so, punctuated only by golfers on the course behind me, and  an old chap who came along and went skinny dipping!

I went back up to the car park, and got speaking to the chap who had found it. Whilst I was getting in the car a black redstart blew up over the cliff and landed a couple of meters away on the fence before flying up onto the top of the nearby building. 

I decided to make a move, and headed off to Slapton. The weather had started to change, and a cold wind had whipped up. The sea was choppy, and there were no divers or grebes in sight. The squalls had brought in a few gannets however, the first of my 2017 year list. There were lots of wildfowl on the lagoon, but I decided not to hang around too much in favour of trying for the cirl buntings at Broadsands. When I arrived, the first thing I heard was greenfinch, a species which was elusive for nearly the whole of January! I got speaking to birder on the beach front who pointed me in the right direction for the cirls.  

I made my way back via Dartmouth, and caught a ferry to save myself a fair trip back.

After a rough night sleeping, there was certainly no way I was going to be up for an early morning again, but I knew I wanted to try for the YBW at Topsham Rec given the sunny weather mid morning. There hadn't been a report of it for over a week, and with it having been around for ages now I  thought it likely to have moved on. Upong arriving, I noticed a small duck in the distance with several others, and my mind instantly went to long tailed duck. I wasn't wrong - and the others were goldeneye, with 3 females and 1 male keeping the LTD company.

 There were also teal feeding in the shallows, and lots of black headed gulls, though no meds.

I decided to walk through the play area just to check the YBW wasn't there. The entire time I  was there I had kept a ear out, and hadn't heard anything, but was all of a sudden noticed a small warbler like bird in the little tree ahead of me, though silhouetted so I couldn't clinch the ID. It flew up into the large tree above me, and I felt sure it was a YBW, but as I reached down to grab my camera I lost it!! Suddenly there were lots of other species around me, but I decided to make the most of the goldfinch.

Luckily, I spied the YBW again in another of the smaller trees, and it was behaving quite strangely, almost landing on the ground. I snapped a few photos and confirmed it, before it flew off over into the large tree near where I had parked up. I followed it over, and managed a few shots before it flew off into a nearby garden (imagine that on the BGBW list!).

Speaking of BGBW - it included green woodpecker, another addition to the year list! It also included a red admiral which had obviously been awakened by the warm sun.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Whiteford Trip 2017

The day trip to Whiteford came around almost to the anniversary of last year’s now legendary excursion. After meeting up at Coryton Asda, and fueling up via a quick Maccie brekkie, we were on the road and headed to Dunraven (well, via Wick after gassing en route and missing a turning). The first order of business was an attempt for dartford warbler behind the toilet block in perishing conditions. We lined up and pointed our respective binoculars, and cameras at a small and unassuming patch of gorse with baited breath. Shortly after having scarf-and-gloved-up, I glimpsed movement, and a bird popped into view.. With the binocular’s on it I could tell it was a stonechat, and it soon took flight and flew low overhead. A robin and wren also set off similar heart skips, but the dartie was a no show. Tara joked that we should line the cars up and watch from them instead given how cold it was. With the rising sun unlikely to warm that patch of scrub for some time yet, and no recent confirmation of the bird, we quickly reformulated the plan, and decided to try for little owl, and the purple sandpipers at Ogmore.

We stopped on the road between Southerndown and Ogmore to scan a distant farm building for the owls. No luck there either, so we were soon down at Ogmore scrambling over the rocks. To save time Dan had gone on ahead. We were in luck as there was nobody around, and he found one very quickly. Geth had gone over to scan the gulls on the beach, and had picked out a common gull. We waited for most of the group to catch up so that we could all see the purple sandpiper, but it soon flew, and a couple of the group didn’t get to see it. As we were heading back to the car with the clock now slightly against us, Ian clocked a few wader types that had just moved out of sight. Geth and I scrambled down quickly, and found four in the rock area nearest the car park. Nick and I took a few quick snaps, and then it was another quick scramble over the rocks to get back to the cars.

On the way, we managed to get quite a few good species, including goldeneye, kestrel and sparrowhawk. At Penclawdd we stopped at Dalton’s point and scanned the area. We racked up quite a lot of species literally from the side of the road, and I added 14 to the year list. At Cwm Ivy we all met up and headed off down the hill together, birding as we went. Siskins and lots of chaffinches threatened to distract us with the chance of brambling, but we had to keep time to make it out to the point for high tide. En route, we flushed a few snipe and jack snipe, and even a pheasant while I took a comfort break.

At the point it was bitterly cold, and the high tide was considerably lower than last year, but there was still plenty on offer. Brent geese, eider duck and lots of waders gave us plenty to see, and Dan was soon on to a distant slavonian grebe. We briefly took shelter in the hide to gobble down some sarnies, and the slav had made it’s way closer, allowing for better views.

Divers were conspicuous by their absence..

On the way around the point we stopped and scanned several times, and picked up lots of species, including grey plover, dunlin, sanderling, ringed plover, redshank, curlew, and pintail. Gethyn pulled a diver out of the bag, with a great spot at serious distance in the scope. A Great Northern, which was a welcome addition for 2017, and which saved me a trip down to Llanishen reservoir. Whilst the scope was on it, the bird disappeared from view, and an auk sp. appeared briefly, likely a razorbill – pointed out by a surprised and slightly confused Anna.

On the trek back, I kept my eyes peeled for snow buntings, but we had no luck this year, though they could have easily been there somewhere, even potentially further down the beach with such a large area to forage in. Again I was impressed with the numbers around Whiteford, with huge flocks of relatively common species such as oystercatcher present.

En route to Llanrhidian Marsh, I took a quick stop in a small lay-by to add golden plover in a field of lapwing, there were good numbers of both present, but we didn’t have time to stand and stare with the sun beginning to set. At the Marsh there were already a couple of birders present, and they had seen hen harriers already. Dan was soon on to a harrier which turned out to be marsh (an unexpected bonus!) and soon there were great white egrets and hen harriers flying in. A horse turned up, and whilst I got a selfie, it chomped into my shoulder with an enthusiasm that told me he was as hungry as I was. The expression being so hungry I could eat a horse had a weird reversal in that moment! A distant small bird of prey buzzing a lapwing flock in flight had to have been a Merlin just by sheer process of elimination, but not having had great views, and feeling a bit hollow about ticking it, I’ve left it off the checklist for now. We shall see how desperate I get!

The Greyhound pub was very welcome at that point, with the temperature having gotten to most of us, and my pint of Gower Power with a steak and ale pie went down well. After we totted up the day’s tally, we were amazed that we had hit 88 for the day, beating last year’s by 7! Another great day, and I added 28 to the 2017 200 challenge list.  

Saturday, 7 January 2017

200 Challenge! It starts... Jan 2017

2017 is the year of the 200 challenge, the gauntlet having been thrown down by Carly back in Decemeber. Mat Meehan has also started an office Patch Challenge, with a 3km sq. around the Bute Park office from work. Both should make for an interesting year!

January 1st was a washout, so I started the 200 as best I could from home, and with a quick soggy walk down to the Castle moat I racked up a reasonable start given the circumstances.

Jan 2nd was forecast to be nice, and it didn't disappoint. I set off on a chilly but bright and sunny morning down to Penarth Marina and the barrage to see the LTD, scaup and black redstarts. After parking up, and quickly adding a few more to the year list, I was soon on to the long tailed duck near the sails on the barrage. Initially blindsided by the LTD, I  realised that the 'tufties' behind him were in fact the scaup flock, and I was soon treated to getting shots with them all in one frame, from my perch behind an orange life buoy cabinet.

I then headed off to Plas Taliesin,  and was soon onto this cracking male black redstart!

A cracking start to the year all in all, and back home by 10.30 to enjoy the last day off before work.

Lunchtimes this week allowed us to get out and about over in Bute to nail the common species, but two chiffies at the bottom of riverside were a great addition, spotted by James as we headed back from Wok to Walk, having bumped into Dan. Jon C also scored a great one with a water rail along the Taff.

The best was yet to come as Fri 6th saw Waxwings finally rock up in Cardiff, reported in the Range car park on Newport Road. At midday, (fresh from their jaunt to see a GND on Llanishen res.) Carly, Emma, Heather, Carys and I piled into Carly's car and as Carly reversed out of the bay we stopped dead as we clocked a little bird in the middle of the  car park. I picked up the bins I had borrowed from the office and confirmed the little alarm that went off in my head - black redstart!! An excellent little addition to the Patch Challenge list. A worker from one of the neighbouring offices immediately spooked it, and we held our breath until we refound it just nearby, foraging on the disturbed ground in the residential back-lane.  

It turned out to be an easy enough trip to see the waxwings on Newport Road, as we saw a flock  in flight and then alighting on a tree outside the Range. A few other birders were present, and we enjoyed some good views in the drizzle. It called for a MCD's lunch so I smashed down a quarter pounder to celebrate.

Saturday morning I scratched the itch I had to try and take some shots as Jess wanted to go to Wilkinson, but unfortunately the light wasn't onside so this was about the best shot I took...

However, a cracking male kingfisher outside Wilkinson on Colchester Avenue more than made up for it!

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Yellow Browed Warbler! - 21/10/2016 Bute Park

Found my first proper rarity today, the day we got the keys for our new house!! A superb double memory for the day!!

I had walked over Bute Park everyday this week in the slim hopes of finding a YBW in there with there being quite a few around the country. And lo and behold! There was a calling YBW in the canopy of trees above the path between the two cafe's (the one between the bridge and education centre). I managed to get some footage of it calling, and glimpsed it between the branches very briefly.


Monday, 30 May 2016

Billy and Squacco - 30/05/2016

Last weekends Sun holiday trip took us up the Llyn Peninsular for a few days. On the way up we went to Carngaffallt which was bumping with summer migrants, and saw the female osprey on eggs at Llyn Clywedog. From the Hafan Y Mor where we were staying, we shared the beach with sanderling and ringed plover, and also some common seals.

At Aberdaron, we found Billy the resident heron who lives on the Spa (kept tame by steady provisions), and he posed well for photos. Over fish and chips at the cafe on the bridge, I also took photos of the resident pied wags, robins and sparrows.

Bank holiday weekend saw a Squacco Heron turn up at Ogmore, only the 3rd in Glamorgan since 1953 apparently. After a bump en route, we were soon pulling up on the road near the Watermill pub to scan the waterlogged field. He was almost immediately obvious, and I raced to pull out my scope for better views. However, I'd been daft enough not to pack the eye piece. Luckily another birder let us take a quick squiz and I took a quick snap with my phone down the lens, which served as a record shot.