Monday, 29 December 2014

Stonechat at Ferry Meadows

This bird represents a milestone for me. It is the 180th bird species that I have recorded this year in the recording area of the Peterborough Bird Club (PBC) and it is the first time that I have reached that number. Last year I came close with 179 and on a few other years I have hit the high 170's, but unbelievably on my busiest year regarding work I have also managed to see more birds than ever before. I know some of you reading this will think, 180, pah! I can see that every year without breaking a sweat, but this figure was seen in a 10 square mile land locked area that covers some of Cambridgeshire, Northants and south Lincs.

I first saw this bird before Christmas, thanks to Roy Norris who kindly put me onto the bird after I had walked up and down the banks of Gunwade lake at Ferry Meadows, but the weather was dull and horrible. I have since returned and with better conditions managed to watch and photograph this little beauty just going about his daily routine. I will probably return in the New Year if he is still about and bore you still more.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Blyth's Pipit in West Yorkshire

This bird should be in Mongolia or the surrounding areas of that country, not in an industrial estate just off the M1 in West Yorkshire. However, that is indeed where it was found last Monday by a local patch watcher who identified this very rare visitor to our shores on his trip around the ditches and scrub outside the offices of the West Yorkshire police.

This bird is superficially pretty similar to a Richard's Pipit, but has a very different call and is smaller with shorter legs, a shorter bill and shorter tail. This Blyth's Pipit didn't want to be seen too easily though and has decided to stay pretty well hidden in the long grass and juncus and has only been seen for short periods in flight. This didn't stop myself and my friend Chris Orders making the trip on Sunday to this rather unprepossessing spot of land.

We set off at silly o'clock and arrived at the site as the first rays of what was a damp, dark, horrible morning started to appear. The site was indeed not particularly awe-inspiring, but we duly parked and made our way to the flooded field that was being favoured by the pipit. A few other birders were already there, along with the birds finder and we all set up our scopes and started to wait. The bird had apparently been showing very well on the Saturday, perching in trees and running along a small bank as well as appearing in flight, but Sunday was a very different day. The sky was leaden grey and an extremely cold wind was blowing straight into our faces as we all stood along the side of this miserable little field overlooked by West Yorkshire's finest. By 9 o'clock there were approximately 50 birders present and so the finder of the bird started to walk into the field, something that had been happening all week, with varying effect and not without voices of discontent on various forums. This was what is known as an 'organised flush', something more preferable to the free for all that happened on the Monday when 400+ birders swarmed on to the field in order to put the pipit and consequently every other bird into the sky for a split second viewing. This time, one person, with another hanger on entered the field and started to methodically walk the area and just as he was nearing the end, the bird rose, calling as it did so and was seen in flight for a few seconds when it then landed back in the safety of the scrub where it was left to feed in peace. The two people left the field and rejoined the gathered crowd, where everyone present had seen the bird. A couple of people were seen to leave the group, all presumed that they were leaving, but no, they then decided to start entering the area where the bird had been seen to land, obviously intent on getting some more views. At once, the local chap started shouting at these guys to get out of the field and clear off, something they did and were not seen again. We all then started to disperse, content in the views that we had and safe in the knowledge that, although the bird was occasionally being flushed, it was a very rare occurrence and it was still being given time to rest and feed.

Our views did not lend themselves to photography, although I am posting one photo, I assure you that it is the bird in question, but to be honest, it just looks like a brown blob in the sky.

The field in question. ©Chris Orders

A few of the assembled twitchers with the police offices in the background. ©Chris Orders
And now, for what you have all been waiting excellent flight shot of the Blyth's Pipit. Try to contain your excitement!

You can tell it's the Blyth's Pipit because of its' straggly, scruffy tail. Honest!
As I said, this bird should be in Serbia or Mongolia and as such is a pretty rare visitor to our shores with only 21 other individuals ever recorded, although this is the third bird this year. Maybe it is a species that has been overlooked in the past, it is after all, a little brown bird.

Thanks again to Chris for driving and Anne for providing the lunch. Another 'tick' in the book.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Rough-legged Buzzard at Holme Fen, Cambs

Some very heavily cropped photos of the juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard that has been present at Holme Fen, close to Peterborough since the beginning of November, but the news of this bird has only just become public knowledge, for one reason or another. The bird was re-found this Saturday (29th) by Mike Weedon and was enjoyed by a few birders, happily adding it to their Cambridgeshire lists, or even, as Mike did, to their Peterborough Bird Club (PBC) lists. The Rough-legged Buzzard was on neither of mine and so on Sunday (30th) I made the trip to Holme Fen and there found Mike and Richard Astle enjoying distant views of the bird. When I say distant, I mean distant, the bird was at least 1/2 a mile away and was refusing to come any nearer! It did, however show extremely well, hunting and hovering (which the pictures above show) for the hour that I was at the site, but the wind was blowing in the wrong direction and so the bird continuously faced away from us when hovering. That afternoon the bird came closer, but, alas, I was no longer there, but hopefully the bird will continue its visit long enough for me to return and get some slightly better images! I am not holding my breath though!

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Glossy Ibis at Frampton Marsh RSPB (again!)

It always seems to rain or else be extremely miserable when I visit Frampton Marsh. The other weekend was no different when myself and Chris Orders paid a visit.

The day started extremely foggy with visibility down to 50 yards, if that, but we hadn't been out for a while and so we proceeded with our trip. The main object was to see if we could get any views of a juvenile Rough-legged Buzzard that had been frequenting the area, but also just to have a walk around and probably pay our respects to the long staying Glossy Ibis. We arrived at the Buzzards favoured site where there were already some birders viewing the distance and telling us that they could see the bird in some distant trees. We viewed this through our scopes and whilst there was definitely a bird there, neither of us were very happy with the views and so we found a spot to view the bird that bit closer. We saw the bird fly, but at this instance we both identified it as a Common Buzzard, not a Rough-legged one. After spending a couple of hours looking for this bird, we decided to cut our losses and go to the RSPB's reserve.

A very pleasant walk was had, seeing lots of Brent Geese, Wigeon and a few waders, but on returning to the car park we were greeted with quite good views of the Glossy Ibis. It then started to rain..........and rain..........and rain a bit more. We were entrenched in my van, but good views were had as the bird continued to move a bit closer and was seen actively feeding and doing a spot of wing stretching. I just wish the sun would have come out, maybe next time!

A first-summer bird arrived at this site on June 14th and was joined by a second on the 26th. These two birds then started displaying and a nest was started to be built, excitement grew on the site as this breed has never bred in this country, despite numerous oversummering birds. Alas, this was not to be and by the 19th July only one bird remained and has continued to do so, at least until mine and Chris's visit the other weekend. I wonder if the other bird will return next year and the two can give it another go?!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Short video of the two Desert Wheatears

For those of you bored with Desert Wheatear images, I can only apologise at this latest post. I took a few little videos of the two birds, but for some reason couldn't load them onto here, that has now been rectified.

I promise that there will be no more, that's unless another bird turns up closer to home!

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Desert Wheatear at Lowestoft, Suffolk

I arrived at Lowestoft after fighting through closed roads and roadworks to see the male Desert Wheatear being admired by a small gaggle of birders on the sea wall close to the Birds Eye factory. The bird was incredibly confiding, showing as close as 6 feet at times and seemingly nonchalant as regarding every ones presence. Locals walked along the sea wall, interested in what these binocular/camera clad people were looking at, dog walkers mooched by and the bird still continued to feed on small flies that seemed to buzz everywhere. At one point a lady let her dog get a bit too close (unwittingly, I think?) and the bird did fly some distance, but after a while continued to feed and put on a show for the assembled crowd. I took far too many photos, but it was hard not to when presented with such a poseur, but eventually had my fill and started my return journey to Peterborough after doubling my life sightings in the U.K. of this little bird in one day.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Desert Wheatear at Gorleston-on-Sea, Norfolk

I have decided to do a couple of posts regarding the Desert Wheatears on the east coast due to the sheer number of images that I have of the birds. They will be posted in the order that I saw the birds, so this first post will show the female that was present at Gorleston-on-Sea.

I started the day with plans to go and see the rather showy male that was at Lowestoft in Suffolk and so left the house looking forward to a nice autumnal day with sunshine and no wind and images in my mind of a nice confiding male Desert Wheatear and after seeing that I would make the short trip to Gorleston-on-Sea to see the female. This was not how it panned out.

The rain started falling upon reaching Kings Lynn and as the journey progressed the rain became heavier, the roads more flooded and to top it all, upon reaching Lowestoft there were road works everywhere, with roads closed and even worse, the bird had not been reported! I was growing more and more frustrated and so upon checking Birdguides I saw that the female bird had been reported at Gorleston and so I decided to cut my losses and go for this bird first.

I arrived at the birds location, Pier Gardens, parked up and saw 3 more birders through the rain and gloom looking around, I assumed for the bird. There was no sign! We carried on regardless, walking further along the promenade when the lady amongst us saw the bird on the beach. Hurrah! It wasn't looking too happy to say the least, being extremely wet and shabby looking, but she was seen feeding and didn't seem too perturbed about our presence. I managed some okay shots considering the conditions, with the bird being pretty confiding, more interested in feeding than with my ugly mug looking at her.

I went back to the van in order to dry out and have a drink where I checked Birdguides and saw that the male at Lowestoft had now been reported as being present and so I dried out a bit and then made my journey south where the male Desert Wheatear was awaiting me with hopefully better weather!

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Desert Wheatears on the east coast

I am afraid that more photos of these two little birds will follow in due course, but as of yet I am putting these two untouched images from my trip to the east coast today in order to catch the lifer that was the Desert Wheatear. The top photo shows a male bird that was in Lowestoft and the bottom shows a rather wet female that was in Gorleston-on-Sea near Great Yarmouth. Two birds for the price of one!

Monday, 3 November 2014

Mallorcan birds



Male Stonechat

Female Stonechat
The last of the photos from the trip to Mallorca show birds that can be seen fairly easily in the U.K., but made to look different by the wall to wall sunshine!

Hopefully, I will be able to get out and do some British birding fairly soon, but the weather on my one day off is not conducive to any sort of photography! Maybe next time the sun will shine.