Monday, 16 October 2017

Musselburgh

15 Oct - A weekend Scottish trip at the weekend to coincide with and celebrate Matt completing the Munros - a good evening was had by all, as he had a short break in the wet and windy weather to climb his final two, Beinn Ghlas and Ben Lawers. I managed a short stop at Musselburgh on the Forth, which usually produces some northern coastal birds depending on the season and the tide - it was extremely windy, but the highlight was a flock of 6 Twite feeding along the seawall - excellent views of this attractive and localised finch, and a few photos, despite the wind. There was also a fem Long-tailed Duck close in, sheltering under the seawall, and Slavonian Grebe, Goosander and Eider also noted. Flyby waders included Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers, and Gannets were offshore. No Scoter or other seabirds visible in the white water.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Rock Thrush!

14 Oct - A real British rarity, a male Rock Thrush moulting into winter plumage was found on 11th Oct in a quarry nr Newport. I made an early morning trip to see it, having plans for later in the day. The weather was dull, brightening up gradually, and the bird was seen briefly early morning around the quarries then disappeared for an hour or so - it was then very obliging, both in appearing at close quarters perched up and feeding, and in timing its relocation just before I had to leave.... a smart bird, long-billed and short-tailed, with the rufous plumage still visible. No photos as I didn't take the camera (the bird had been very distant the previous day) but I tried phonescoping with mixed results ......

Thursday, 12 October 2017

WWT

12 Oct - Another WWT fix, and a real red-letter day - prolonged close views of an almost-mythical creature, a Jack Snipe newly arrived for the winter. It was roosting in a channel near Hogarth hide, and eventually started feeding along the stream edge, giving good views of its cryptic plumage and facial pattern, together with shorter size and smaller bill. Even when in the open, the bird became extremely difficult to see when it froze motionless, the beady eye giving it a Woodcock-like appearance. Probably my best ever view of a Jack Snipe, most being of birds flying away when flushed. 2 Common Snipe were nearby for comparison, even better....... The autumn wader bonanza continues, with 2 juv Curlew Sandpipers still on South Lake, and excellent views of the juv Spotted redshank on the Rushy, now moulting into smart pale winter plumage.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Finland Autumn Safari

1-7 Oct - A few days with Finnature for their autumn bird photography trip. The main objective was their forest Golden Eagle hide, where the Eagles are supplied with carrion and come most days at some stage - though due to the predominantly dull and wet weather during the week, we had to wait a long time. The birds showed up the first day, but kept their distance in the treetops - the next day they didn't show at all in persistent rain - although there was a succession of forest birds to keep us entertained, in the form of Willow Tits, Bramblings and Jays. Finally, on the third attempt, the weather brightened up and things looked more promising. At lunchtime, a Golden Eagle swooped in, and over the course of the next hour made several low passes looking at the food put out - its amazing wingspan being very impressive. Finally it landed and we hardly dared breathe - it was only 20m away, we kept absolutely still, feeling its piercing gaze could surely see us through the reflective glass in the hide windows? The eagle started to feed but did not settle for photos so close - but we got some shots of the adult female (which accompanied the first, immature bird) perched in the clearing and on an adjacent pine.
A truly memorable moment to see the Eagles so close, and what a truly impressive creature. The Oulu area is also good for wetlands, with Liminka bay and adjacent fields - large numbers of Eurasian Cranes still present this autumn, together with herds of Whooper Swans, including non-breeders that stay year-round. We finally had a clear morning on the 6th, and there was an impressive movement of southbound migrants - including 4 Rough-legged Buzzards, also flocks of Bean Geese, and Redwings, Fieldfares and Bramblings. We also found Black Woodpecker and Crested Tit in the forest. The last morning outside the hotel (at a reedbed on the coast) was also productive with migrant 2 Great Grey Shrikes and 6 Smew offshore, together with Goosander, all moving S from their northern breeding grounds. Other raptors seen included Merlin, Goshawk and Sparrowhawk. The autumn tree colours were very impressive, especially birches, some trees almost glowing yellow even in the cloudy weather.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Slimbridge

28 Sept - An early morning arrival at Slimbridge, and superb views of a Snipe in low sunlight from the Rushy, with Curlew Sandpiper and Spotted Redshank also present along with Ruff and Black-tailed Godwit. A Greenshank briefly from Zeiss hide, and Red-breasted Goose and 2 Brent Geese from Kingfisher hide. A beautiful sunny autumn morning.

Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Back to Shorncote

26 Sept - My first visit to Shorncote for several months, and I was disappointed to see that improvement" work had destroyed the stream bank and wet area adjacent to the first hide, and a gravel path has also been bulldozed through. Such is "progress". Anyway, the rest of the area is as before.....there is always something to see.... my tally included 2 Green Sandpipers and 2 Snipe, 3 Little Egrets, 2 calling Water Rails, a Kingfisher and 4 Little Grebes. A Whinchat (patch tick) and a pair of Stonechats were feeding in the rough ground. Raptors included a female Sparrowhawk and a loose group of 6 Buzzards. Good to visit the patch again for the start of the autumn/winter period, and hopefully the habitat damage will mitigate in time.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Waders galore .......

21 Sept - A big wader day as it turned out. First thing, I had decided to head SW to Davidstow (a quick journey as M5/A30) and I had really good views of the assembled waders here, in morning sun after the early rain cleared- including 2 confiding, smart Buff-breasted Sandpipers which posed well, also Ringed Plover and Dunlin. I then headed back via Farmoor, where an inland rarity, a Red-necked Phalarope, had arrived - much rarer than its cousin the Grey which I've also seen (and found!) this autumn. Very nice views of this tiny bird with its needle-thin bill, spinning on the choppy waves as it found microscopic food particles. A productive day.