Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Durlston CP & Studland - Tue 30 Oct

Another attempt (I've lost count of how many it is now) and another failure today as yet again I dipped out on Bee-eater in the UK. A juvenile had spent all day Monday at Swanage and was seen at 8.00am at Durlston, so as I had the day off work to look after Tristan whilst Ellie was at work I set off for the Isle of Purbeck. I must admit I did not have a good feeling, the skies were clear and it was a lovely warm day...no good for migrants hanging around, and sure enough this proved to be the case. I spent at least three hours wandering round Durlston Country Park and also made a visit to the site the Bee-eater was frequenting yesterday, but alas there was no sign of the bird. There were a few things to see at Durlston, with Goldcrests in particular being plentiful, and eventually my patience in checking every one I saw paid off as I found a Firecrest...some consolation for dipping my target, albeit a very small one! A pair of Stonechats were seen and a few Jays, Meadow Pipits, and Skylarks flew over, but I didn't see anything else to get me too excited.
After giving Tristan his lunch I decided that we might as well forget it, the bird had obviously moved on. So as we were in the area I drove on to Studland and parked in the South Car Park...costing me a pound for an hour, which was slightly less than the fiver I had to shell out at Durlston. At least three Ring-necked Parakeets could be heard calling from trees in the car park, and eventually one took flight. I then walked out to the cliff and scanned the sea, a total of six Black-necked Grebes were seen (though pager reports later in the day suggested many more). There was not much else about and other than seeing and hearing a couple more Ring-necked Parakeets and a Swallow flying south it was a quiet walk from the bird point of view so I decided to call it a day and head on home.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 28 Oct

Despite the dismal weather it actually turned out to be a pretty good hour long visit to the reservoir this morning. I started out in the lay-by at the southern end of the reservoir, and I didn't even bother getting out of the car. Scanning the field next to the road I noted around thirty Redwings keeping company with a Mistle Thrush and at least half a dozen Blackbirds. Then a real surprise as a male Brambling flew on to the fence and then dropped on to the ground to feed alongside the thrushes and a couple of Chaffinches.
Back then to the northern causeway, and a quick scan of West Pool produced six Tufted Duck and a little more searching located two Little Grebes. A sub-adult Mute Swan flew over heading west while a couple of Common Gulls were on the main reservoir amongst the more usual gull species.
Also on the main reservoir I saw four Shoveler, three ducks and a drake, and a pair of Wigeon. The morning was rounded off with a Meadow Pipit and Grey Wagtail ending a very productive visit today.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Portland - Thu 25 Oct

After a morning in Exeter at a seminar I ended up being home from work earlier than normal so I took Ellie and Tristan down to Portland with the sole intention of twitching the Isabelline Shrike that had been found on Tuesday. We arrived at 4.00pm and hot-footed it up to the Top Fields, seeing a large flock of Linnets and several Meadow Pipits along the way. After chatting to a few birders we found ourselves facing the prospect that this was not going to be easy...the bird had not been seen for over two hours and time and the light were against us. We spent about an hour wandering around seeing a good number of Redwings and quite a few Stonechats but no sign of the shrike.
We had to head back towards the car as it was getting late, my time was up, and I was certain this was another dip...and this time it would have been a lifer. Then it all changed as we joined the path at the top of Culverwell we spotted a couple of birders and they were on the shrike. I rushed over, Tristan bouncing away on my back and Ellie struggling to keep up, and as soon as I reached the first birder asked to view it in his scope. What a wonderful bird, subtle colours and a real beauty and so Isabelline Shrike is added to my list at last (this bird is of the nominate race, sometimes called Daurian Shrike). As it happened it was a good job I looked through someone elses scope to see it as no sooner had I started to set my scope up the bird flew and we could not relocate it.
I also managed to add Siberian Stonechat to my Dorset list (this was also only the second I've seen in the UK) with a female-type bird seen really well in the next field...so two cracking birds in a few minutes. We also had a late Swallow pass overhead and then back to the car and home after a brilliant afternoon.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Radipole RSPB - Sun 21 Oct

A family trip out today and we headed down to Weymouth for a walk around Radipole RSPB Reserve. On arriving at the visitor centre we bumped in to Guy Campbell and John Rickards, local Yeovil birders, who had spent the morning on Portland...and had succeeded where I had failed with regard to the Subalpine Warbler! I had a chat with Guy and John whilst Ellie gave Tristan his bottle and then we set off for our walk, but not after checking the gulls in the car park and I soon located at least five adult Mediterranean Gulls...including this preening individual (with a Black-headed Gull in the foreground).
The long-staying and controversial Hooded Merganser was showing well near the small bridge that crosses on to the reserve but our walk out to the North Hide didn't really produce much other than a couple of calling Cetti's Warblers.
From the hide there were several duck species, but nothing unusual. However, a Kingfisher decided to fly in and land on the barbed-wire fence enabling us to get some wonderful views and making Ellie's day as this is her favourite bird.
We retraced our steps and then took the buddleia loop back to the car, a Chiffchaff and a couple of Goldcrests provided a bit of interest, but during our hour and a half long visit there was no sign of the Purple Heron that had been present for a week or so. My run of dipping rarities this October continues, with at least six decent birds now missed! Luckily they have only been year ticks.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Portland - Sat 20 Oct

An afternoon out with Tristan, and as I arrived on the Isle of Portland I should have guessed it was not going to be a successful afternoon as the final whistle went at White Hart Lane and Spurs suffered an agonising defeat to Chelski!
Once on Portland I drove to Weston and parked before taking a walk to the famous Avalanche Road "hump". There were a few birders about so I thought my chances of seeing the Subalpine Warbler would be quite good...but alas despite lots of searching I drew a blank (and by all accounts so did everyone else!). A Reed Warbler was a real surprise, and a couple of Chiffchaffs were also seen. A Kestrel surveyed the site from above!
On then to the Bill and after parking at the Bird Observatory I walked up to Culverwell to look for an extremely elusive Barred Warbler...and it was indeed elusive and failed to show. So two decent warblers dipped in less than an hour. Still, I was hopeful for Firecrest as "several" had been around. Despite working hard around the "Obs Garden" I could only locate Goldcrests and must have seen a dozen at least. A large flock of Linnets flew overhead as did a few Meadow Pipits and then some reward for the efforts put in today as a small flock of Skylarks flew over and in with them a single Woodlark! So a year tick at last, though not one I was expecting. A Raven also flew over croaking.
It was now 4.30pm, so I headed back home to make sure Tristan was back in time for his tea. Nice to get out on a lovely warm autumn day, but a poor return with regard to birds.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Sutton Bingham - Sun 14 Oct

An hour long visit was not overly productive due to thick mist covering the reservoir, so I concentrated my efforts on the area around the Water Treatment Works and outflow stream. There was a little bit of bird activity around here, the pick of which being a small flock of half a dozen Linnets that flew over heading south. At least one Grey Wagtail was hanging around and a couple of Jays also flew over.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Ham Wall RSPB - Sat 13 Oct

Another family trip up to the Levels and another walk around Ham Wall RSPB reserve. It was a lovely afternoon so with Tristan loaded in to his backpack, Ellie and set off and enjoyed a nice hour or so on the reserve. It was quite interesting to see how many more duck had arrived on site since our visit the week before with good numbers of Wigeon, Teal, Shoveler and Gadwall. Waders were represented by at least one hundred Lapwing and around fifty Snipe. A single Bittern carried out a rather nice fly-past and a male Marsh Harrier glided over the reeds. A Great White Egret was also present, and a sign of how times change as I barely gave it a second glance! A Kingfisher was also seen my me, but much to her disappointment, missed by Ellie.
There were also a few insects on the wing and taking advantage of the Autumn sun, with a few Red Admirals and a Comma representing butterflies, and lots of Common Darters and a few Hawkers of some kind...I don't know enough about Odonata to identify species!

Saturday, 13 October 2012

North Moor - Fri 12 Oct

I had planned on taking Tristan down to Black Hole Marsh, near Seaton, this afternoon but the best laid plans and all that! I finally got out at 3.00pm and decided to try for the Lesser Yellowlegs that was on North Moor near Othery. I got the feeling that it was going to be one of those days when I got stuck in traffic in the small village of Ash of all places and so it was nearly 4.00pm by the time I arrived at the Beer Wall sluice just east of Othery on the A372.
I could only spend half an hour on site and there was no sign of the bird...or any waders for that matter. A Grey Wagtail was flitting around and out on the moor I saw three Kestrels and a Peregrine perched on various posts and gates. A lone Stonechat was also seen and provided the only other real interest. So back home after another dip in Somerset this year...and then to make things worse I found out the bird had relocated just up the road so I was looking in the wrong place all along!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Ham Wall RSPB - Sun 7 Oct

After my trip to Scotland we had a family excursion this afternoon and popped up to Ham Wall RSPB reserve for a nice walk (I was also hoping to see the Pectoral Sandpiper which was present but it failed to show during our time on site). There were good numbers of Wigeon present and numerous Snipe and Lapwing. A single Great White Egret dwarfed its Little Egret cousins. A foraging flock of Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests contained at least one Chiffchaff. On the way back to the car I bumped in to an old friend from Wales who I'd not seen for years, so I good end to a nice afternoon out.

Scotland - Tues 2 Oct to Sat 6 Oct

A short break to Scotland started off early Tuesday morning with a ten hour drive ending up at Loch Garten RSPB reserve at 4.00pm. An hour or so at the reserve before checking in to our hotel in Nethybridge produced just one Scottish speciality...Red Squirrel.
We did see some very obliging Coal Tits, a couple even brave enough to land on an out-stretched hand!
Three Goosanders flew over and we later relocated them and two others on the loch itself. As we drove in to Nethybridge I spotted a Dipper on the stream, a good end to a long day.
An early start on Wednesday and a short drive to Dorback Moor where we were treated to great views of Black Grouse. At first we thought there were just three birds present but when they took to the air and flew past we were surprised to count nine individuals. We also connected with our first (of many) Red Grouse of the trip, with a couple on the moor.
On to Abernethy Forest and the first of eight attempts to see Capercaille! No sign of this massive grouse but I did locate a couple of Crested Tits. Next stop the top of Straithcairn, also known as the Findhorn Valley and after dodging a couple of showers we finally got distant views of an adult Golden Eagle. Our final stop of the day was at Curr Wood where our patience paid off as we finally located a hand-full of Parrot Crossbills.
Day three was spent on the coast with various seawatches along the Moray Firth. Starting at Nairn we had a very smart looking Hooded Crow on the beach.
Out to sea a couple of Long-tailed Ducks and both Common and Velvet Scoters. As we moved round to Burghead and Hopeman we also added Eider and Black Guillemot to the growing trip list. A lone Blackcap was found in the scrub at Hopeman and was the only warbler of the trip. Two visits during the day to Findhorn produced a large flock of Pink-footed Geese and a small herd of Whooper Swans. Waders were represented by large numbers of Redshank and smaller numbers of Knot, Dunlin and Golden Plover amongst others and several Turnstone were seen in the various harbours we visited.
Our penultimate day started off with a pre-breakfast trip in to the forest to try again for Capercaille (and fail again!). Next stop the Cairngorms and a walk up to Corrie Cos, this was extremely hard work but our determination paid off with a very obliging Ptarmigan that I picked out amongst the rocks, though heavy mist was a bit of a problem!
A Snow Bunting was seen but missed by me, but I got lucky as I saw and heard three more fly overhead. We also saw a Mountain Hare as we walked up the path. Back down and off to the Findhorn Valley for a second visit. Along the way we disturbed a large covey of Grey Partridge and on reaching the top of the valley were treated to wonderful views of two sub-adult Golden Eagles. A Merlin also put in an appearance, as did a single male Common Crossbill (noticeably smaller and more delicate than the birds we had seen a couple of days earlier). Another couple of attempts at the end of the day looking for Capercaille were again unsuccessful.
The final day of our mini-break and after breakfast and checking out of the hotel we made one final attempt to get the one bird missing from our lists, and this time fortune was on our side as we drove down to Forest Lodge a female Capercaille was sat in the track in front of us. We watched this cracking bird for several minutes until a rather inconsiderate cyclist hammered past the car and flushed it. A brief stop at Loch Garten RSPB failed to add anything so we undertook the long drive home, getting back to Somerset by 7.00pm after a brilliant trip with a total of 100 species on the final list.