Friday, 8 July 2016

14 Months Is A Long Wait!!

Friday 1st July

With the appearance of the White winged Scoter in Aberdeenshire last weekend, I was keen to head up for it as my last lifer was back in April last year, 14 months ago!!

I made a quick detour on the way up, for a Bittern which had turned up at North Cave this afternoon, a site tick for me. I'd made enquiries about the gate being left open for me as I knew I'd be arriving late, luckily there was another birder still in the hide when I arrived and was able to point me in the general area it had been seen. Almost immediately, the bird poked it's head up above the reeds, seemingly agitated by the Grey Herons flying into roost(?). After a short while, I headed off as I had a 7 hour drive ahead of me and wanted to be on site for first light.

Saturday 2nd July

Aberdeenshire on a sunny morning

Didn't quite make it for first light as it didn't really get dark all night on my journey north! I arrived at Murcar Golf Course just after 5 and headed out towards the beach, joining the small crowd, I was put on the WHITE-WINGED SCOTER (496 BOU/205). It was a really tricky bird to get on because of the constantly moving flock of Velvet Scoters (206), Common Scoter and Eider, but when you did, it did actually stand out from the rest of the birds.

White winged Scoter (centre bird)

With the target bird in the bag, I thought I'd try for the resident King Eider on the Ythan estuary, but despite searching for an hour or so, there was no sign. Plenty of Arctic Terns (207), in the colony along with Common, Sandwich and a few Little Terns. It later turned out that the King Eider had moved down the coast to join the White-winged Scoter at Murcar.

Ythan estuary 

Seal colony at the mouth of the Ythan

Sunday 3rd July

A family day out to Bridlington, gave me a bonus year tick with Yellow legged Gull (208) on the beach, south of the harbour.

Blacktoft Again

Friday 1st July

Seem to be spending most of my time here of late and found myself heading here again this morning, hoping to catch up with some waders.

First up was Marshland Hide, 13 Spotted Redshanks (203), a large flock of Black tailed Godwits and a couple of Little Egrets.

Sleeping Spotted Redshanks

I then headed down to Townend Hide but there was no sign of the Green Sands, stayed for a while, then headed to Singleton but no waders at all, so went back to Townend to sit and wait. Both birds had been seen earlier this morning so I knew they were about, probably just on the back of one of the islands and out of sight. Sure enough, after being spooked by a Lapwing, one of the Green Sandpipers (204), flew out and landed in front of the hide. Also had a nice Hobby do a complete circuit of the reedbed.

Green Sandpiper

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

June At A Glance

Thursday 2nd June

A first visit to North Duffield Carrs today for the Great White Egret (192), with the kids, luckily there wasn't anybody else in the hide with all the ensuing noise!!

Great White Egret

Monday 6th June

First up was a trip to Old Moor for Little Bittern (193), presumably last years returning bird? A wait of about 2 hours in the hide and it was seen very briefly by just a few before eventually giving itself up and perching on the fence between the reedbeds!! Then even better as it flew directly at the hide and up and over it on to the wildlife ponds.

Next up was a visit to Waters Edge Country Park at Barton, Lincs, having only been here for family days out, I wasn't exactly sure where to head but felt sure there would be other birders present. Unfortunately, I was the only one when I got there!!! I had less than 30 minutes to find the area it had been showing in, see the bird and then head off to pick the kids up, easy!!! Luckily I found the pool and even more luckily, I picked it up the Great Reed Warbler (194), on call straightaway and was pretty mobile as it flew up and down the far side of the pool, regularly in the company of a couple of Reed Warblers, obviously not keen on it's presence!!

Great Reed Warbler (top bird of the 3 and twice the size of the other 2!!)

Monday 13th June

With a few good birds at Spurn in previous days, I thought it may be worth a trip over, the lure of potentially 4 or 5 year ticks helped!! Unfortunately, everything had seemingly cleared out and very little was seen. I headed up towards Beacon Lanes with the hope of seeing the Little Gulls but unfortunately there was no sign. Great views of the Little Tern (195) colony though, definitely one of my favourite commoner birds.

Little Tern

Headed back to Kilnsea Wetlands and headed to the hide. Scanning round the pool, I was surprised to see a Short-eared Owl perched on the fenceline, then scanning a bit further, I was even more surprised to find a drake Common Scoter, looking slightly unwell!!

Drake Common Scoter

Thursday 16th June

After swimming with Toby this morning and lunch, we headed off for the reported calling Quail near North Cliff woods. With no sound of it after a couple of slow stop and drive-bys of the field, I was about to give up, Toby was getting bored but I decided to give it one more go, wound the windows back down and Bingo!! There it was, or at least it was calling several times, Quail (196). There were also quite a few Corn Buntings on theb ordering hedges.

Friday 17th June

Big trip after dropping the kids off at school, heading south into Lincolnshire and on to Frampton RSPB. Several year ticks on offer with star birds being 4 Turtle Doves (197) in the hedgerows. Also seen from the visitor centre were a large flock of Bar tailed Godwits (198) as well as a few smartly plumaged Ruffs.

Turtle Doves (2 of the 4 birds)

With the continued presence of the Caspian Terns at Gibraltar Point, I decided to give it a go, I was needing to be back for school pick ups so it was going to be tight, as always! Arriving on-site to negative news was never a good start, I met a few birders in the car park who said they hadn't been seen since flying off earlier but told me the best hides to look from. The first hide had just one birder in watching the waders and then the door burst open and a red faced birder burst in with news that one of the terns was in front of the other hide. I ran down to the next hide and immediately had one Caspian Tern (199) out on the pool.

 Caspian Tern

It was a great surprise then when the man next to me casually announced to the full hide that the other Caspian Tern was now also on view, nobody had seen it drop in but guessing it was because we'd all been watching the other bird. There was also a Spoonbill and 2 Little Egrets out on the pool and a Cuckoo calling.

Friday 24th June

With a bit more time today, I decided to head down to Norfolk for the lingering Great Knot, with news of it being on Scolt Head, I headed to Brancaster beach carpark. On arrival and with no news, I headed off along the beach. With very few birders out towards Scolt Head, I was lucky to be told by one of the people enjoying her day on the beach that "all other other people had walked off in the opposite direction!" Scanning towards Titchwell, I found the assembled crowd and the birds in front. I made the decision to walk along the beach rather than drive back to Titchwell and then down to the beach from there. So I carried on but at one point I had to take my shoes and socks off and roll my trousers up to cross the channel just to be able to carry on.

A short walk afterwards and I joined the others watching the Great Knot (200) with the vast numbers of Knot feeding out on the mussel beds.

Great Knot (Honestly! It's the bird directly up from the Oystercatcher)

I then headed back to the car and along to Titchwell. There were 2 Little Gulls (201) out on the reserve along with a Mediteranean Gull, 10+ Red crested Pochards and Cetti's Warbler.

Little Gulls

Thursday 30th June

A quick visit to North Cave before a school meeting this morning gave me Wood Sandpiper (202) for the year having missed a couple earlier in the year.

Wood Sandpiper

Friday, 17 June 2016

More To Catch Up On

Monday 9th May

Foolishly had a go at the Red footed Falcon at Thorne Moors, but with very little details on the bird and never really being sure of the best place to park, I dipped. Really good views of at least 5 Hobbies (181), were some consolation for the long walk out on to the moors, also had a Cuckoo calling, my first this year in Yorkshire.

Tuesday 10th May

Dropped the kids off at school and immediately set off for Cleveland. News broke on the way of a Citrine Wagtail also in the area which would be useful for the year list. Arriving at Saltholme, the Whiskered Terns (182), were immediately on view on Saltholme pools from the main road along with a 2 Black Terns (183).

Whiskered Tern

With the wagtail still present, I then headed off to Zinc Works road and after a short wait, the Citrine Wagtail (184) was added to the list, also present was a really bright Yellow Wagtail.

Citrine Wagtail

Next up was a short detour back to Saltholme RSPB, 2 Garganey (185), were on Paddys pool and 5 Spoonbills (186), were on Back Saltholme along with a Barnacle Goose(!) and at least one of the Whiskered Terns still present.

It was then time to head home, but still managed to cram in a quick trip to North Cave for the 2 Little Stints (187), from Crosslands Hide, also present were 3 Dunlin and a Common Sandpiper.
2 Little Stints (just below the Avocets)

Friday 13th May

Having dipped last year, I was relieved to get another go at the Montagu's Harrier (188), at Blacktoft. With the male bird only making a very brief visit so far, it was the female who was showing as soon as I entered the hide.

Female Montagu's Harrier

Very little else on the reserve, other than several Cetti's Warbler, which seem to be every where I go this year.

Sunday 29th May

With news breaking of 2 Glossy Ibis (189), at North Cave, a picnic was quickly assembled for the kids and we headed off, bribery always works!!. Both birds were on view as we arrived and even the kids managed a view through the scope, a welcome addition to the Yorkshire list.

2 Glossy Ibis - not my usual standard admittedly!! (Photo with thanks to Stav Sinclair)

Tuesday 31st May

With several good birds at Spurn on Monday, I decided to head there for the day as Liz was out with the kids. Unfortunately, on arrival, it was evident that birding was going to be hard, with strong winds and at times torrential rain. Still managed to add 2 new birds to the year list, with Spotted Flycatcher (190) and Red backed Shrike (191) around Canal scrape.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Day 3 - Mull. Day 4 - Portsoy

Day 3 - Mull

Another early start with a drive to Oban to catch the ferry over to Mull. After a quick breakfast in the town, we headed to the harbour to check in and then birded the surrounding area, obtaining cracking views of the resident Black Guillemots (172).

On arrival at Craignure, we immediately headed off to the first of our sites but with deteriorating weather, we weren't too optimistic of actually connecting with any of our target birds for the day. The heavy rain meant that there was unlikely to be too many eagles up and about and nothing was noted at our first stop. Not to be put off, we headed to Gruline where we connected with a previous years bird, Dipper (173) and then on to Loch Na Keal where through torrential rain, we picked out 6 Red Breasted Mergansers (174) and a brief Cuckoo (175). With no sign of the Golden Eagle at the nest site, we managed to get some details of a reliable site for White tailed Eagle further south. We had another failed attempt for Otters, this time at Salen, but managed to pick up Eider (176). We decided to cut our losses and head for the eagles. On arrival, the pair of White tailed Eagles (177), were immediately on view, giving us by far, our best ever views of the species.

White tailed Eagle

Having at last had a bit of success, we then continued it with Rock Dove (178) and several pairs of Wheatears nearby. With no let up in the rain and a long drive once back on the mainland, we decided to cut our losses and managed to get on an early ferry back to Oban.

Day 4 - Portsoy

We decided on one more crack at the Capercaillie site. After no joy to start with, I was lucky enough to have the male Capercaillie (179), explode from the undergrowth almost from beneath our feet, my brother heard the commotion as it took off but didn't manage to get on the bird in time.

After breakfast, we then headed north for one of the main birds of the trip for me at Portsoy. Unfortunately, as seemed to be the story of the trip, luck was not on our side, with a large swell in the bay, there was no sign of any White billed Divers. They were undoubtedly still in the area as they were seen just a few days later! Birds noted from the harbour wall, were our first Sandwich Terns (180), of the year, as well as Great Northern Diver, Red Throated Diver, Great Skua, Gannets and Eider.  

We then headed back towards Aviemore and Loch Mallachie but had little to add to the trip with just a Crested Tit (calling only), Crossbill sp (flyover) and several Siskins.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Day 2 - Aviemore

First up was a trip out before breakfast to have a look at a site for Capercaillie, after finally finding the correct place, there was no sign of the actual bird but plenty of evidence it had been! The only bird of note was Tree Pipit for the year.

 Capercaillie poo!!

With breakfast fast approaching back at the hotel, we made our way back but jammed on to a Crested Tit feeding on a lone roadside tree. 

After breakfast we headed back out, hoping for a bit more luck. First up was a new site for us with nesting Osprey.

Next up on the list was a trip up the Cairngorms, or so we thought! With all of the snow still at the top of the mountain we were fairly sure that we'd be able to get out at the top with a decent chance of connecting with Ptarmigan. Unfortunately, when we walked into buy our tickets for the funicular train to the summit, we were told that it was having maintenance work until 16th May!!! With none of us up for the hike up by foot, we decided to head out along the lower lying paths and hoping our luck would be in, it wasn't and after a fairly long trek, we'd only had more Red Grouse, Raven and a Wheatear. We headed back to the car park for a coffee, unfortunately we were then told by the person parked next to us that he'd had a pair of Ptarmigan just up from the base station. So off we went again, but other than some excellent views of 6+ Ring Ouzel, we saw little else.

Male Ring Ouzel

We also had a flock of 6 Snow Buntings in the car park including 3 smart black and white males. 

Our next stop was one of our favourites with the Slavonian Grebes just outside Aviemore but despite there normally being at least a pair present, we could only find 1 bird, the other perhaps on a nest as it was seen by others the next day. Also seen here were Common Sandpiper and Siskins around the bird hide.

Having read fantastic reviews of the wildlife seen at the Rothiemurchus hide, we had pre-booked our spaces. We met our guide just after 8 and headed down to the hide, which was hidden away within the Rothiemurchus estate. Once the food had been placed all around the outside of the hide, the lights were switched off and we waited. It didn't take long before we were joined by our first visitor. 

 Pine Marten 


 Sorry but couldn't resist this one!!


Altogether, we had 4 Pine Martens and 4 Badgers visit the feeding station before we left at about 11.30. We also had brief views of roding Woodcock and stunning close views of Tawny Owl as we left. A truly amazing experience and one I'd thoroughly reccommend. 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Herrieven Highland Tour

Day 1 - Brough to Aviemore

Leaving Brough just after 9, we headed North towards our first target bird in Cumbria. Arriving at 11.30, we immediately saw the bird before we'd even stopped the car, albeit distantly. Feeding along side the stone walls we had 4 Black Grouse (161), far easier than I'd expected them to be at this time of the day. Driving a little further on, we then found another 3 feeding much closer to the road.

 Male Black Grouse

Continuing along the road and looking further back into the same field we found a total of 12 males altogether. Surprise of the day then came when a Hooded Crow (162), flew over the field being mobbed by the nesting waders, totally unexpected and one we thought we'd have to wait until Scotland for.

By now it was time to make tracks for Aviemore and we headed towards the M6 getting a couple of roadside Red Grouse (163), on the way.

We arrived in Aviemore just before 6pm and checked into our accommodation for the next few days. We then headed out hoping to make the best of the last couple of hours of daylight. The rain didn't help but we struck lucky with a fabulous pair of Black throated Diver (164), at a nearby loch. Also seen here were Goosander, Goldeneye, breeding Redwing and Mistle Thrush.

Pair of Black throated Diver (honestly!!)

All in all a fabulous start to our trip, let's hope the weather holds off for the next few days.