Sunday, 30 September 2012

A tale of two birds

It has been a couple of months since I have added anything to my PBC (local) year list and an absolute age since adding a local lifer. That changed on Thursday with the addition of two birds, one the first for a couple of years and the other, a 'lifer'.

I decided to pay a morning visit to Maxey GP, my local patch which has been having problems of late with the water levels. The pump has been broken and the water has been rising and rising, flooding the area and leaving it only suitable for wildfowl. The pump had been mended and the water removed revealing lots of wader habitat, ideal for a juicy rarity or two. On arrival I noticed two waders fly from a nearby spit, one Dunlin sized, the other smaller. On setting up my scope I saw the two birds to be a juvenile Dunlin and a juvenile Little Stint, a year tick and the first in two years.

The Dunlin is on the left, the Little Stint on the right

And below, a little video of the two.

At lunchtime I received a call from Mike Weedon and a text from Brian Stone to tell me of a male Common Scoter at Ferry Meadows CP, a PBC lifer for me. I couldn't get there for a few hours and I hoped the bird would linger. I didn't have to worry as the bird was still present on my arrival, showing very well.

A small, black duck that is normally seen at the coast in large flocks, indeed I saw several at my last visit to north Norfolk, but this was the first time that I had seen one in my local area and a male to boot!

My year list now stands at a respectable 172, with my local PBC life list reaching 208.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Autumnal Dragons

Male Ruddy Darter

Male Ruddy Darter

Male and female Migrant Hawker (the male is the blue one)

Male and female Migrant Hawker

Male Common Darter

Male Common Darter

Male and female Common Darter
There are still a few dragonflies about, most notably when the sun is shining. As I have said in previous posts the Darters will be about for a couple of months yet,they are pretty hardy and it is lack of food which will kill them rather than the cold weather. I have often seen these buzzing around on sunny days in October/November and I have even seen Migrant Hawkers on warm days in December, although this has been an exception rather than the rule.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Barred Warbler

On Saturday Chris and myself went to Cley in Norfolk for a spot of seawatching, not actually watching the sea, but watching the passing seabirds at the coast. The winds weren't that favourable, but good numbers of Gannets, Great Skuas, Arctic Skuas, Kittiwakes and Common Scoters were seen. A few Sooty Shearwaters and a couple of close Manx Shearwaters also flew by and thanks to the experise of Chris and the others watchers there I got my first known sighting of a Long-tailed Skua as it passed by far out to sea.

Things started to quieten down and so we decided to pay a visit to Holme dunes to see if we could catch up with the recently arrived Red-breasted Flycatcher, a 'lifer' for me and also to see the long-staying juvenile Barred Warbler (not a lifer, but a good bird nonetheless). The Flycatcher was a bit of a tease, staying deep in cover before flying over the heads of the assembled crowd and sitting in a Sycamore tree, where it proceeded to give us glimpses of itself. Not brilliant, but a life tick for me, two in one day!

The Barred Warbler was a lot easier to spot, feeding constantly in an Elder bush and although distant, gave good views.

The 4 above were taken by me, the one below by Chris(digiscoped)

Copyright Chris Orders
Thanks to Chris for another good days birding.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Water Vole

Having the title of fastest declining mammal in the British Isles is not ideal, but that is what the Water Vole is. The numbers of this animal are in free-fall, partly due to habitat loss and partly due the predation by the escaped/released/introduced (call it what you will) Mink. Some records show that the numbers of Water Voles are 95% less than they used to be. Just think about that for the moment...... 95% less.

These numbers are pretty mind-numbing. I haven't seen one for years, that changed on my recent visit to Rainham Marshes RSPB. This site has one of the highest densities of Water Voles in the country, giving an excellent chance to see one of these furry critters. Chris and I had close encounters with two of these little beasties and when I say close, I mean down to four feet.

This little chap was pretty nonchalant when it came to humans, he just wasn't that bothered. A few people stood, knelt and even lay on the board-walk and he just carried on munching away.

In this video, if you listen very carefully you can hear him nibbling away!

Views like these are to be cherished for if we are not careful, we will be left with memories and not a lot else.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Baillon's Crake

Part two of the 'mega' twitch was a trip to Rainham Marshes RSPB in Essex to see if we could get a view of a very elusive little bird, a juvenile Baillon's Crake. Chris had been the day before and after spending 6 hours in the hide had a view which lasted about 5 seconds, I had also heard tales of people spending 15 hours before a glimpse, I wasn't looking forward to this vigil.

The bird had been reported at 7am that day, but on arrival at the reserve at about 1.30 we heard news that it hadn't been seen since. We walked to the hide where a few birders sat and stood staring at a patch of mud and reed bed, some had been there since the morning, some had arrived just after the Crakes' last sighting and were looking a bit down-beat. Chris and I started our vigil.

A Water Rail raised the temperature a little bit when part of it was seen in the reeds and someone called that they had seen something move. A mass rush to scopes and binoculars ensued, but on sighting the red bill of a Water Rail the excitement reduced. This small patch of mud wasn't particularly awe inspiring and some young Coots and Moorhens continued to get the twitchers going as their movement created excitement. All of a sudden the bird was spotted, in a completely different spot to where it was supposed to be! All hell broke loose, people frantically tried to get on the bird, most succeeding, but some were still looking in the wrong spot! I managed to rattle off a couple of shots before the bird disappeared back into the reed bed, not to be seen again that day. We had been there half an hour, result!

This is what all the fuss was about, a small, grey bird, not much bigger than a House Sparrow. Click on this and all the other images for a larger picture.

Can you see it? The last view of the day as it disappeared back into the reeds.
The hide gradually emptied and we bade our farewells. I had imagined hours waiting for this little 'mega' to appear and felt slightly guilty that I only had to put in 30 minutes, not that guilty though!

Glad it was such a comfortable hide! According to the RSPB people this was quiet!
The Baillon's Crake is another pretty rare bird, with only 75 sightings in the U.K. since 1819, although a few have been seen and heard this year, making people think that it is an under-recorded bird.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Two go mad in Dorset

About 2 weeks ago news filtered through various birding grapevines and news services of an extremely rare bird visiting the shores of mainland Britain. This bird, so rare that it has only been seen once before in the U.K. and that was over 13 years ago, was found on a small RSPB reserve near Weymouth called Lodmoor. Initially identified as a Long-billed Dowitcher, this bird was eventually seen to be the much rarer Short-billed Dowitcher, a very similar looking bird, but different in a couple of small areas. Obviously, the bill is shorter, but still extremely long and not much use to the likes of me unless the two birds would be standing next to eachother. The other, crucial I.D. feature is that this bird had barred tertial feathers, showing it to be a juvenile Short-billed Dowitcher, the Long-billed has plain tertial feathers.

Two mad individuals, myself and my friend Chris Orders decided to go for this 'mega' and found ourselves at Lodmoor at 6.30 in the morning after having driven through the night. The bird was present, feeding distantly with a Common Snipe and putting on a fantastic show. We stayed for two hours to take this bird in, the rarest bird that I have ever seen in this country, both taking photographs, me with my 'Bridge' camera (my digiscoping gear seems to have gone kapput!) and Chris with his digiscoping set-up. The light never seemed to be right, on arrival it was too dark and when the sun did get up it started to bleach everything out, but below are a selection of stills and a couple of videos. Enjoy.

All the above photos and videos were taken by me (the best of a bad bunch).
Copyright Chris Orders
A real 'mega' twitch for a 'mega' bird, but not the end of the story as another 'mega' was seen by us, this time by journeying to Essex, but that is for another time.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Fish on a Friday

A male Kingfisher, told from a female on account of his all black bill, the female has an orange base to the lower part of the bill, a kind of lipstick! The above bird was seen on my recent trip to the Ouse Washes and was seen fishing and at one point I managed to get a couple of shots of the bird with a fish in his bill, not great as the sun decided to go in and so the bird is a bit dark. More practice required.

Monday, 10 September 2012


Below is a short video of a Spoonbill at the Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire. The bird was pretty distant and I had to use my cameras full zoom at 140x, hence the grainy, shaky footage, but the bird is obvious and you can see the strange way it feeds by moving its head from side to side.

I did take a few still photos, one at full zoom and one at 35x, not great, but you can see the bird.

Spoonbills used to breed in this country, until the 17th century, but were extinct as a breeding bird until the 1990's, when two young were raised in North-west England. Colonisation seems imminent, but they have not yet become established, although they are now a more regular sight, especially in the East of the country.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Strike a pose

A male Ruddy Darter in the 'obelisk' position. Dragonflies adopt this pose to regulate heat in their bodies, what is known as 'postural thermoregulation' for any one who is interested! On warm, sunny days these little darters can quite often be seen posing like this.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Collared Dove

Collared Doves arrived on our shores in the 1950's, it is thought as a continuation of its spread westwards across Europe from the Balkans and began the colonisation of this country. The first recorded breeding occurred in 1955 when a pair raised two young in Norfolk. The next few years saw this increase rapidly, they bred in Moray, Lincolnshire and Kent in 1957, Northumberland and Hertfordshire in 1958 and spread more widely in subsequent years, first breeding in Ireland in 1959 and Wales in 1960. Within little more than a decade this bird had increased in numbers to the extent that it was classed as a 'pest' species (a pest to who, you may ask?). It is now found throughout Britain and Ireland with over 210,000 occupied territories and now so common it is a regular bird on the RSPB's garden birdwatch top 10 species.

A remarkable 'success' story of a bird that no-one gives a second look to, but is quite beautiful in its own way, particularly the striking red eye.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Blue butterflies

Two fairly 'common' blue butterflies in the Peterborough area are the Chalkhill Blue and the Common Blue. The top 3 photos show the Chalkhill (male, female, male) and the bottom 4 show the Common (female, female, male, male). These blues have a distinct difference in appearance between the sexes, with the male being the 'blue' one, while the female tends to be brown, although the Common Blue female can sometimes have more blue in the upper wing as is shown in photo 5.

This year seems to have been a good one for Chalkhill Blues with hundreds of thousands of these 'flutters' being present at individual sites. At Barnack Hills and Holes, where these photos were taken, I counted up to 450 before losing count (not thousands, but certainly good numbers). A good news story in a year when butterfly numbers have been low, to say the least.