Thursday, 21 September 2017

21st September 2017

Got back from work today and was pondering whether to travel to Farmoor to try and defeat my bogey bird; red-necked phalarope, or to settle for a grey phal at Seaton (Not a lifer, but I species I haven't seen since 2014). As luck would have it, I was spared the decision. News broke that both species had been found together at Arne Moors - closer to home than the other phals. I arrived on site just after 5pm, hoping that this wouldn't be a repeat of my last trip to Arne. I arrived at the pool and had a few breif views of the Grey Phalarope. After a tense wait, the I finally locked eyes on my first Red-Necked Phalarope!!! Eventually both birds showed together out in the open, allowing for some decent comparison shots:

Red-Necked Phalarope and Grey Phalarope - Arne Moors

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

17th September 2017 (Ilses of Scilly)

Finally embarked on my first trip to Scilly today! The target lifer was a semipalmated sandpiper, a species I've missed in the UK on multiple occasions. The american golden plover on St Mary's would also be a good year tick for me, but really I just wanted to get the lay of the land before I decide to stay for more than a day.

Arrived in Penzance at around 8am, and before the ship departed, I'd picked up singles of Eider, Arctic Tern and Kingfisher in and around Penzance Harbour.

Eider - Penzance

Arctic Tern - Penzance

Once we were heading around the Southwest tip of Cornwall we came across some large rafts of seabirds, mostly Gannets and Manx Shearwaters, plus a few pods of Common Dolphin. In amongst the rafts, I picked out a few Kittiwake, 2 Balearic Shearwaters, 7 Sooty Shearwaters, 2 Great Skuas, 1 Arctic Skua and a flock of Common Scoter. At one point, one shearwater flock suddenly took flight as a very long dark shape emerged from the water before submerging again.I never saw a dorsal fin however, so couldn't confirm the Id. The last hour and a half of the journey was very uneventful with a few Guillemots and Razorbills, and singles of Manx Shearwater, Kittiwake and Grey Wagtail on the Approach to Scilly.

Arctic Skua - Scillonian

On landing at St Mary's, I promptly headed towards Lower Moors. Another birder kindly gave me a lift to Old Town, and put me in the right direction. On arrival in the Hilda Quick Hide, the SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPER was giving point blank views, through was frequently behind vegetation. After a while, it started to wander away from us, so I wandered north along the path, mistakenly thinking there was another hide looking out onto this pool. Whilst wandering back to the hide, I heard a familiar call. With a bit of patience I'd clamped eyes on the Yellow-Browed Warbler! A very welcome find, my first for the year and only the second on Scilly so far this Autumn.

Yellow-Browed Warbler calling - Lower Moors

I wandered back, by which time, the Semipalmated Sand was now showing even closer to the next hide and in better light, allowing me to get some great shots through the scope:


Green Sandpiper - Lower Moors

Greenshank - Lower Moors

I wandered over towards Porth Hellick for the AGP. There were plenty of Wheatears along the cliffs, however I didn't make it all the way as I was short on time. I did scan the beach from a distance but no luck.

I headed back to St Mary's and boarded the Scillonian. I had several Gannets and Sandwich Terns from the ship as we departed. The first hour or so was more eventful than the trip over with several Manx Shearwaters and Fulmars. Eventually I picked out a single Storm-Petrel showing fairly close to the ship, though a scope was really required. I was pretty pleased with this year tick, as I hadn't expected to get any today. Shortly after, I picked out a second stormie, though the difference in wing shape was immediately obvious. The wings were more pointed with a straight trailing edge, a long sloped leading edge. I quickly attempted to find any white on the underwing. This bird was keeping much closer to the sea, and for a long time I couldn't make out the underwing, just the black upperwing which at times I thought showed a grey bar. It took me a while to realise that the white rump extended right down the flanks, giving the impression that I was looking at the top off the bird, when I was actually seeing the black underwings! The bird flew along side the boat for a good 5-10 minutes, giving me ample time to get all the features and nail it as WILSON'S PETREL! Definitely not something I expected to get!

The rest of the trip was fairly uneventful. Most of the shearwaters off Porthgwarra had dispersed, with just 2 Balearic Shearwaters of note. Returning to Penzance harbour, I had a flock of Turnstones and great views of a Common Dolphin alongside the boat.

A fantastic place, I'll definitely come back for the next rarity, or maybe to stay for a few days over October. I would certainly recomend the use of a scope on Scillonian when the sea's not too rough - I saw at least 5 other birders on there today, all using binoculars and I'm sure they wouldn't have been able to get most of the birds I picked out.

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

13th September 2017

Got the day off work to try and finally catch up with leach's petrel, a species I've never been free to go for when the conditions were right. High tide wasn't until after midday so I started at Minehead. On arrival, it was obvious that the forcast was completely wrong; there was barely any wind! None the less, I started scanning, picking up a few terns and Kittiwakes. Eventually I got onto a pale wader heading towards me. It was probably a Grey Phalarope, but I managed to knock my own scope, then couldn't refind the bird! (Brian Gibbs saw what I presume to be the same bird shortly after, plus another which I also missed!).

I picked out a few distant Manx Shearwaters on the horizon plus a pair of skua sp with the sun behind them. After a bit of contact with Brian who was set up just down the beach, I scanned again and picked up a large stormie-type with pointed wings. A few more views confirmed it was indeed a Leach's Petrel! Shortly after, I also picked out a Great Skua sat on the sea before it flew East. I went over to where Brian was set up and had a few more Manx, Gannets and a Painted Lady, but little else of note, so come 11:00 I headed home.

Great Skua - Minehead

Picked up Lewis and headed to Lodmoor this afternoon. He wasn't free on Monday evening so I took him to have a look at the two sandpipers. First we had a look at the STILT SANDPIPER which was in the same spot as Monday evening. Glad I managed to improve on my previous records shots. We then wandered over to the Southeast side and quickly picked out the LEAST SANDPIPER as well, though it was showing more distantly than it was when it was first identified on Monday. Also of note were singles of Green Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper as well as plenty of Med Gulls.



Monday, 11 September 2017

11th September 2017

Today was one of those exceptional birding days that I won't forget for a long time. I had a Hobby fly over work, but otherwise the day was pretty uneventful - until I got home and looked at the reports. A stilt sand had been found at Lodmoor! Finally a chance to grip the species back after last year. It was 6pm so it would be tight, but I quickly decided I would have time to see it if the bird stayed put. I threw my equipment in the car and headed off.

I arrived on site at 6:55. I soon met two birders walking in the opposite direction who told me the bird had flown high to the west about 25 minutes prior. Well, that was that. I headed over to the shelter, and a scan produced 2 Dunlin and a Green Sandpiper. Whilst here, I noticed a couple birders hurrying north along the other side of the scrape. I wandered over to find a fairly large group of birders focusing on something. Bingo! I asked if they'd seen the stilt sand, and much to my surprise they told me they were watching a LEAST SANDPIPER! A Dorset first and my second in the UK, ample compensation for the dip! Apparently, this bird has likely been in the area for several days, misidentified as little stint.


With the sun now almost below the horizon, I picked out what looked like a wood sandpiper at the far end. I wandered over and got it under the scope, facing away from me. Yep, wood sand. As I continued scanning, a couple Redshanks flew in and joined up with the wood sand, this time giving a side-on profile. It was at this point I realised how odd the structure of the bird was, far too big for a wood sand, with a longer bill, larger, dumpier body and very yellow legs. I continued watching and got some better views, enough to see the bill was slightly down-turned towards the tip, it was the STILT SANDPIPER! Nick Urch turned up at this point and also had views of the bird, and before long everyone was on it.

Straighter-billed, longer-legged and larger-bodied than I was expecting.

Glad I was finally able to catch up with this species after missing the Hampshire bird last year. An incredible after-work twitch, and not once I'll forget for a long time to come!

10th September 2017

Lewis and I headed down to Portland Bill this pm to do a bit of seawatching. We set up at the obelisk and got off to a slow start with singles of Guillemot and Kittiwake and some Fulmars. Eventually I picked up a single Manx Shearwater heading east and a few more shears on the horizon. However, at this point a fog started rolling in so we headed off. Lastly, we had a look at the obs quarry for the Wryneck to no avail.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

2nd September 2017

I had a look at Yeovil Openspace this morning. Shamefully it's my first proper look at the site this year. I stood by the migrant bushes for a couple hours, producing decent numbers of Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs plus a female Common Whitethroat, the first site record since 2014. Also good to see a returning Jay in the wooded area at the north east end of the Openspace.

Headed down to ferrybridge this afternoon, which was very quiet except for a fly-through Yellow-Legged Gull, 2 flyover Sandwich Terns, at least 2 Wheatears and a single Sanderling. Most unusual though was this Bar-Tailed Godwit sat on the fleet with a raft of Gulls!

Bar-Tailed Godwit - Ferrybridge

Headed to East Bexington once news broke of the Hoopoe earlier in the day. A search of the area failed to produce, and I had little other than a Fox and a single Greylag with the Canada Geese.

Red Fox - East Bexington

Thursday, 31 August 2017

30th August 2016

I picked up Lewis after work this evening and headed up to Chipping Sodbury. On arrival the Woodchat Shrike on show, the first one I've seen in juvenile plumage. After a bit of a wait, it settled within 10 metres of us, allowing good views despite the poor light.

Woodchat Shrike - Chipping Sodbury