Saturday, 28 May 2011
Spared a few hours for the Ribble today starting at Marshside in the now customary windy conditions worthy of a decent seawatch I'm sure. Junction Pool had 2 Ringed Plover, 30 Dunlin and a smart ginger summer plumage Little Stint. A 2cy Little Gull was resting on the mud too. Avoiding Sandgrounder's Hide I walked along Marine Drive to peep over the creek where a smart Curlew Sandpiper was consorting with 45 or so Dunlin there.
Better still there was another summer plumage Little Stint (above) with them too; definitely a different bird from the Junction Pool bird with a more 'stripey' mantle pattern.
Met up with Mrs B. at Martin Mere WWT later for some more 'hide aversion therapy' (I struggle with them). Angie found Marsh Harrier and Greenshank from the UU Hide (nobody but us in it!) and 45 Dunlin and 60 Black-tailed Godwits from the Ron Barker hide where one of the birders there seemed to have some sort of ornithological tourettes and kept shouting "SPRAWK" at the top of his voice.
Chumps League Final tonight. It may surprise folks that despite being from London I am NOT a ManUre fan but I have a feeling there will be parties within the periphery of the M25 tonight unfortunately (I have to admit that Mr Ferguson is a genius). Anyway, I'm off to a land this evening where football and success are never mentioned in the same sentence.
Friday, 27 May 2011
Female Marsh Harrier quartering the saltmarsh, 15+ Avocets (first chick of the season included) and a pair of Grey Partridges were about the only other birds of note.
A stroll along the River Douglas in the hope of Spoonbill at the Ribble confluence (they often pop up here in late spring) was unsuccessful, but I did see at least 6 Arctic Terns with the 15 or so Common Terns there. A male Corn Bunting was in song on Hesketh Out Marsh East too.
Still breezy ......
Thursday, 26 May 2011
Popped down to Loch Ryan after work yesterday afternoon for a quick look off Bishop Burn before heading back to Southerness. There was still a Bonxie on the loch and 100+ Oystercatchers on the shore too. I was joined by the other member of 'The D&G caravan birders club', Pete Berry right on time as the 4cy Iceland Gull flew in.
Back at base there were 20+ Sandwich Terns with a small mixed flock of Dunlins and Ringed Plovers on the beach at Southerness, but little else. An evening excursion to the Drumburn viewpoint and Carsethorn shore on the Nith Estuary failed to trouble the notebook. But then very little has this spring really.
Tuesday, 24 May 2011
Another pic-less post. Still blowing a bit of a hooley but I thought it may work to my advantage as I headed north to the Solway.
Yesterday's events were not to be repeated unfortunately but no complaints with 7 'spooned up' Pomarine Skuas seen plus 3 Arctic Skuas. I watched from the Scottish side as usual (on the way to 'work'), but how about the Ross's Gull reported this evening from the Cumbrian side at Port Carlisle? Can we have a bit of fun over this side please?
Monday, 23 May 2011
We spent yesterday morning surveying Hesketh Out Marsh and just in the nick of time too. The wind picked up by the time we completed the work but it was great to be out on the saltmarsh amongst the Oystercatchers, Redshanks and Skylarks. No real surprises but two Reeves were nice to see.
The local nature reserve in the village turned up one of the best birds of the weekend yesterday evening though; two Spotted Flycatchers flitting around in the wooded borders of Longton Brickcroft NR on 22 May.
Monday, 16 May 2011
My quiet spring continues. These blustery conditions, at least in the north-west of England and Scotland make birding hard work. Unless you're seawatching of course.
And I have managed a bit of that. The skua gods smiled down on me on Monday as I stopped off at Seafield Bay near Annan on the Scottish Solway in Dumfries & Galloway. OK, the passage wasn't spectacular, without any groups of Pomarine Skuas, but the 4 that I saw came through complete with a full set of 'cutlery'. Bonxies seem to making a late show with several passing by on Monday (16th) but better still, a fine adult Long-tailed Skua came through, even if the tail streamers were not 'full'. A couple of Arctic Skuas made the numbers up.
Apart from another Bonxie on Loch Ryan (18th) there was little to write home about. A fine male Hen Harrier in the Galloway uplands was my 'bird of the week' though - doesn't matter how many I see my heart always skips a beat when one rises from moorland cover.
Back on patch this morning with a visit to the Ribble RSPB reserves at Marshside and Hesketh Out Marsh. Very difficult in the windy conditions and Marshside drying up quickly. Two 1st summer Little Gulls (above) were on the Junction Pool at Marshside; apart from 4 Wheatears on the sandplant that was about it. HOM was predictably quiet in the windy weather (12 Avocets, a Wheatear and a Peregrine being the only birds of note), so I tried the Ribble in hope of a passage skua or Little Gull.
Sunday, 15 May 2011
Nice to get down to the Ribble this weekend, even though the strong WSW wind made life difficult. I gave RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh a miss because of this, Angie and I kept to the more sheltered (ie. the hides!) RSPB Marshside on Saturday afternoon. Ginger summer plumage Little Stint in with 80 Dunlins and a dusky Spotted Redshank on the Junction Pool were the main attractions.
This morning I had the pleasure of WeBS counting on the coast near Southport. With the tide high around 09.30 I had time for another quick look at Marshside where conditions were arguably less inviting than yesterday. Nevertheless drake Garganey (above), Little Stint, Spotted Redshank and Curlew Sandpiper in little more than an hour's birding is not a bad return. I checked the sandplant compound (heaven knows why), where there were 6 Wheatears and 10 Eider offshore.
The WeBS count was as interesting as ever with some nice summer plumage Grey Plovers, plenty of Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover but surprisingly few Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits.
Back home for breakfast, prepare for a week away working and returning for in time for 'Woodchat Weekend'.
Friday, 13 May 2011
It's been a funny ol' week. Just back from working in SW Scotland and that rain that I wanted; well, we certainly got it! Windy too. Blowing a SW hooley and rain battering against our caravan walls at Southerness Point, birding became a bit of a challenge at times.
Bit quiet on the birding front this week for me with very few opportunities due to a combination of weather / work / travel, etc. What I have noticed is the transition from 'early' to 'late' spring over the last couple of weeks. The Wheatears and Willow Warblers have gone very quiet but some Blackcaps have started to sing again and of course there is the arrival of some of the 'late' spring migrants. Two species that I saw in huge numbers in Lesvos last week, Whinchat and Spotted Flycatcher, have arrived now. The handsome male Whinchat with his mixture of scratchy and sweet notes brightens up any showery, blustery morning for sure. And those coarse wheezy notes of the Spotted Flycatcher can be heard from the odd copse and conifer plantation in Dumfries and Galloway at the moment. Working in some ares that must never get covered by birders makes one wonder just how many pairs of birds like these get missed. But that's the whole point of the BTO Atlas I suppose. Anyway, nice to see these back again and long may it continue.
I have managed to get a few hours out on the North Solway shore this week. A few hours seawatching on 9 May was quiet good in a blustery SW wind and showers. There were plenty of Common Scoters buzzing around offshore, a steady flow of Sandwich Terns and Gannets and a bit of passage including Red-throated Divers, 9 Kittiwakes, 6 Arctic Terns, 2 Fulmars, 3 Manx Shearwaters, a distant pale phase Arctic Skua and best of all 4 dark phase Pomarine Skuas. I really like these 'spooned brutes' and the Solway Pom passage is the highlight of the spring for me but it's a bit hit and miss - you be there in seemingly great weather conditions and no joy and then get a couple of Poms on an easterly (west or southwesterly winds are generally best).
I did get to Seafield Bay the other evening (12th) but despite the seemingly favourable conditions it was fairly quiet skua-wise with just a dark morph Arctic through. Seafield is a marvellous place for seeing the skuas. Yes, Newbie further to the west may get a few more skuas as you leer into the bay, but at Seafield the narrower Solway passage facilitates some excellent views of the birds as they head inland. The main vantage point on the Cumbrian side is the old Bowness viaduct, easily visible from Seafield and I noticed that nobody was watching there on Thursday. Wonder why?
Well, once again the Bowness - Port Carlise English side of the Solway struck gold. Hot on the heels of their Kentish Plover (your bird Mr Woodruff?) this area turned up trumps with a Broad-billed Sandpiper. The finder, Darren Robson has a Solway Blog and well worth a read just for the 'ups and downs' of local patch birding. Another good Cumbria birding blog (Craig Shaw's) can be found here.
Sunday, 8 May 2011
No time for birding this weekend but I hear there's a couple of Temminck's Stints over on the north side of the Ribble near Freckleton. Very nice indeed and hopefully it's the start of a run of good local birds. If it can wait until next weekend to get really good I'll be even more grateful though.
The bird pictured above was at the Kalloni saltpans on Lesvos and anyone thinking of going there should check out Steve Dudley's excellent blog Lesvos Birding. Check out the site and get hold of his guidebook to birding sites on the island too (advertised on his blog).
I have to say I enjoyed the birding atmosphere at the Hotel Pasiphae again this year. All the guests are birders in late April / early May and the Bird Log is on the counter at reception for all to see, whether you're staying at the Pasiphae or not. The news exchange between the birding tour groups was first class this year too and the Ornitholidays group that I led certainly benefited from the good relationship with other groups like Birdfinders, Naturetrek and Limosa present at the time.
Would've been nice to see the Ribble Temminck's today but how about my favourite stripey-headed wader - Broad-billed Sand' on the Ribble later this month please?
Friday, 6 May 2011
Fresh back from Lesvos and had a nice day on the Ribble that went a bit like this ......
Waited for rain to stop before venturing out around 9ish. Wasn't too bothered as we need the rain and sure enough it started again by the time I reached Hesketh Park in Southport. Wandered around (in the rain, mostly) for best part of an hour but no sign of any decent migrants. Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing and nice to see a couple of Nuthatches.
Popped into the north end of the Marine Lake on the way to RSPB Marshside: 8 Swifts over the houses, Whitethroats and 6 Wheatears in the relict dunes and the leucistic female Red-crested Pochard flew in. Two Common Sandpipers flew across the lake.
Rimmer's Marsh from Nel's Hide, RSPB Marshside 6 May 2011.
Parked by the sandplant (4 Wheatears and a Tree Pipit) and strolled towards Nel's Hide seeing a White Wagtail, Ruff and a Spotted Redshank on the Junction Pool. Rimmer's Marsh looking very dry but primed for a decent wader if the water hangs on in there for the next couple of weeks. Just 2 Little Ringed Plovers, a Dunlin and 2 White Wagtails of note there this morning but the tide hadn't pushed birds off the estuary at the time. Common Sandpiper the only bird of note on Polly's Pool.
Called in at Banks where the marshes were bone dry opposite Old Hollow. A flock of 53 Dunlin and 10 Ringed Plover were roosting on the dry mud but a Whinchat was the best bird on the wires bordering the SSSI meadows. Two Common Sandpipers in the ditches.
Crawled across Tarleton Mosses in the hope of Dotterels on the way to TC's for a bacon barm. Just Red-legged Partridges so headed off to RSPB Hesketh Out Marsh after lunch. HOM nearly dry too apart from the creeks filled by the tide. Fairly quiet: 10 Avocets, 6 Wheatears, 3 Buzzards, a Peregrine, 2 Gadwall, 2 Sedge Warblers and a couple of singing Whitethroats. N o sign of any 'Lesserthroats' so perhaps they moved on while I was away. Coot have bred and have one chick. Yellow Wagtail out near the river and Stoat at Hundred End highlights.
Funny how satisfying the Tree Pipit and Whinchat were today; two good Ribble migrants but saw many (hundreds of the latter in fact) over the last week in Lesvos.
Thursday, 5 May 2011
Just back from another week leading a tour for Ornitholidays on the 'Aegean Scillies' that is the superb Greek island of Lesvos. Plenty of migrants as always in these peak weeks of the spring migration plus the interesting residents and summer visitors to search for including Kruper's Nuthatch, Western Rock Nuthatch, Cinereous Bunting, Masked Shrike and many others. No need to wonder too far before beginning your search for birds on Lesvos however, illustrated by this cracking Long-eared Owl in the grounds of the hotel and I slipped off to sleep to the sound of singing Nightingales every night.
More from Lesvos over the next few days ..... (keep checking the posts below this one).
Wader migration was well underway during our trip to Lesvos last week - flocks of 50+ Curlew Sandpipers, 100's of Little Stints, 50+ Wood Sandpipers and several Temminck's Stints were in evidence most days on the Skala Kalloni saltpans. Collared Pratincoles hawked overhead and the odd Stone Curlew could be found. Marsh Sandpipers were seen too (although I didn't see one this year), but were scarcer than last year.
Waders are the main focus but the whole saltpan area is superb for 'marsh terns', raptors and the open areas with scattered bushes will produce Short-toed Lark, Tawny and Red-throated Pipits and is favoured by Rufous Bush Robins.
Lesvos isn't just about migrants at the saltpans, valleys and headlands though. A trip to the north coast of the island between Petra and Molivos is still less than an hour by road and enables birders to find some of the island's breeding species including Ruppell's Warbler (male above). We found this male immediately on leaving our vehicle, a short distance from where I saw a pair last year. Apparently Ruppell's Warblers have undergone a serious decline in Lesvos in recent years and this is the only site on the island to see this attractive Sylvia warbler (S. Dudley pers. comm.). The Blue Rock Thrush, Black-eared Wheatears and especially the male Orphean Warbler were nice 'supports' on the heath-like cliff-top habitat and we watched at least 50 Yelkouan Shearwaters coming into the bay behind a fishing boat.
Valleys are well worth exploring for Cretzschmar's Bunting, Sombre Tit, Chukar, etc as well as migrant raptors like Black Kite and Honey Buzzard (both pretty scarce in Lesvos). We were fortunate enough to see Eleonora's Falcon in the Napi Valley this year.
A trip to the west to Sigri from Skala Kalonis will take you through the picturesque Ladia Valley where Rock Sparrow, Crag Martin, Woodlarks and Middle Spotted Woodpecker can be found. Once again some migrants can be seen like Eastern Bonelli's Warbler.
For the second year running I was able to see Citrine Wagtail on Lesvos (see here for the 2010 bird), this time close to our base at Skala Kalonis. News filtered through to the groups staying at the Hotel Pasiphae of the discovery of this superb bird on the morning of May 1st, allowing us to 'twitch' it in the afternoon. Despite some rather noisy birders near the ford where the bird fed, it remained in its favoured area alongside some rather spiffing male Black-headed Wagtails.
Lesvos in spring is of course famous for its migrants. Thousands of birds pass through the valleys, are dumped on the headlands in adverse weather conditions or find the feeding grounds of the islands saltpans to their liking. This year is no exception and although very different to my April 2010 visit we had plenty to keep us busy through the week during the Ornitholidays tour.
The river and mountain valleys near the popular birder's base at Skala Kalonis are well covered with Eastern Olivaceous Warbler, Woodchat Shrike, Whinchats (10's), Spotted Flycatchers (100's!) and Pied Flycatcher all regular migrants. The odd Collared Flycatcher can be found but unfortunately we missed out on the few Semi-collared Flycatchers that were seen this week.
Wood Warblers are a fairly common migrant, especially in the migrant magnet western coastal area of Lesvos near Ipsalou (where they frequent the bushes below the monastery there) and the coastal fields of Sigri and fords at Faneromeni (where the above bird was photographed).
Lesser Grey and Masked Shrikes, Turtle Doves, Orphean Warbler, Golden Orioles, Hoopoe and good numbers of Garden Warblers, Blackcaps and Lesser Whitethroats can be seen here on a good day by waiting around the little fields lined with Tamarisks.
Movements of diurnal migrants can be witnessed here and on our penultimate day we estimated that at least 300 Bee-eaters (above) were around the coastal fields at Sigri with Red-footed Falcons, a dozen Lesser Kestrels and a cracking male Montagu's Harrier keeping our wits about us overhead (not forgetting the Short-toed Eagle!).
Arrivals of some species are protracted whereas some, like the Black-headed Bunting (above) appear to arrive suddenly. Large numbers of these attractive birds can be found one day in areas where there were none previously, males singing from most available perches.
Migration highlights this year? Well, obviously the Bee-eaters were hard to beat but seeing my first Lesvos Ortolan Buntings was satisfying but that brute of a Barred Warbler with his piercing pale eye takes some beating.
More to come from Lesvos ....