Monday, 2 May 2016

Cleaning up in the valley

With all the travelling of the last week I fancied a local jaunt this morning. I popped down to Cornmill Meadow and with a big tip off from Jim I quickly found his Grasshopper Warbler and whilst here a Cuckoo was heard too.

Aggressive Canada Goose
I moved on to Fishers Green and walked the circular route under the pilons back over the bridge and returned to the car park. Surprisingly I heard no Nightingale on my first walk around but in the brambles on the lake side of the river I found two Lesser Whitethroat, four Garden Warblers and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers.  Pressing on I soon heard the distinct calls of Reed Warblers and then found a couple flitting about in the reedbed. A pair of Wren were busy nest building on the river bank and another Cuckoo was calling from the picnic area.

My second trip around and this time I found Nightingales, three of them singing in somewhat muted fashion in the dull grey conditions. I carried on up the path towards Holyfield Lake stopping to watch a pair of Little Grebe fishing. From Weir hide I scanned the skies finding it alive with hirundines many of which were Swifts and then a single Hobby high up in the clouds to give me my seventh year tick of the morning.

Common Whitethroat
Little Grebe

Year list now 225

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Scotland trip 2016 summary

TWO LIFERS: Black Duck (Strontian) and Iberian Chiffchaff (on the way back at Telford)

SEVENTEEN YEAR TICKS: Black Duck, Iberian Chiffchaff, Crested Tit, Ptarmigan, Capercaillie, Golden Eagle, Sea Eagle, Cuckoo, Common Whitethroat, Osprey, Black Guillemot, Black Grouse, Black-throated Diver, White-billed Diver, Eider, Manx Shearwater and Common Sandpiper.


A few more pictures from the week.
Logs everywhere

Black Duck at Strontian
Black Guillemot at Oban Harbour
Common Sandpiper at Lochindorb
Crested Tit at Loch Garten
Sea Eagle Ardnamurchan
T  "the special one"
Red Grouse at Lochindorb
Hooded Crow at Oban
The view from the cottage balcony
Blue Tit at Loch Garten
Eider at Portsoy
Otter on Skye
The cottage
Me and T  

Oriental Turtle Dove Otford Kent

News yesterday that the Kent birders had finally pinned down the Oriental Turtle Dove had me twitching last night (to coin a phrase) I woke early and made an easy call to drive the 40 miles down to Kent arriving just before 7am to find a small group of birders on site with news that the bird had just dropped from the dead tree to feed in the garden. Nearly an hour went by before the bird had enjoyed it's breakfast and returned to the dead tree to give me my first ever views of this species having not taken the opportunity to visit the last back garden one in Oxford.

The bird moved to deep cover in another fully leaved tree and could just about be seen with a scope if you knew where to look showing a nice black arrow on the under tail.

Twitching these back garden birds always seems a bit uncomfortable although the small group were well behaved I left them to it and made it home by 9am to put a couple of brownie points back in the empty brownie point bag and the last thing you want is for that bag to be empty. I've now cut the grass and hoovered just to top it up a bit further ready for the next little birding adventure that might take my fancy.

Year list 218

The view with the naked eye
And at 8x....but better through the scope!

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Getting back on the bike

The drive home today was interupted by breaking news of a White crowned Sparrow at Woolston Eye NR in Cheshire. A quick check on the sat nav and it's a very short five mile diversion from my route home down the M6 so it had to be done. Sadly the bird had decided to go missing and didn't show while I was on site or indeed for the rest of the day.

I did grad a distant shot of one of eight Black-necked Grebes on site and found a Common Whitethroat for a year tick too.  A nice permit only reserve with good facilities.

Black-necked Grebe
Now when you dip there's nothing better than your next tick so I made the 60 mile drive down to Telford and after a few false alarms with the local Chiffies and Willow Warblers I managed to find the consolation prize of the Iberian Chiffchaff thanks to some local help . It's no White crowned Sparrow but at least it's got me straight "back on the bike".

Year list now 217
Life list now 369

Friday, 29 April 2016

Final day and finally a Caper shows

This morning I returned to Loch Garten for the Caperwatch arriving at 5.30am to find the volunteers already had a Caper in the scope much to my delight having not seen one last year at all but another guy had spend five days on the spin getting up at silly oclock to get his first ever so he was doubly delighted. By 5.45am the snow started falling heavily again and any view of the bird was quickly lost which disappointed the late comers.

I left satisfied with the year tick and sat in the car park for a while to enjoy the birds at the feeders which included Crested Tit, Treecreeper, Great spotted Woodpecker, Coal Tit and Siskin. Crossbill were in the car park but I couldn't tell if they were Scottish or not. One guys logic was that if they're in Scotland they must be Scottish until I reminded him we were in Scotland but it didn't make us Scottish!

Coal Tit
Crested Tit
Crested Tit
Great spotted Woodpecker
Great spotted Woodpecker
Following my early success I moved north to Burghead where I scanned the coast for the reported White-billed Diver to no avail. I later found out I was looking in the wrong place. With Portsoy now only twenty miles away I headed across passing through Elgin and then Cullen which is the nicest town I've encountered here so I'll be returning for a better look in the future.

At Portsoy conditions were really bad with big waves and a strong wind coming straight in off the sea so I used the car as some kind of shelter at the top of Marine Terrace to give a higher point of view to scan. There were lot's of Gannet, Fulmar and Auks about along with a few Shags. I found a couple of Great northern Divers and then after nearly an hour of scanning I had a White billed Diver in the scope. I returned to the harbour were a few Eider posed for the camera and then set off for home via Lochindord which ended my annual Scotland trip.

Red Grouse
In summary I collected 15 year ticks picking up most of the Scottish specialities and a lifer with the Black Duck.

Year list now 2015
Life list now 368

Thursday, 28 April 2016


We set off early this morning intending to visit Skye for the first time. Two male Black Grouse in a field and two females in a tree further down the road gave us a good start on a very frosty morning.
Half an hour in and the snow started to fall and it fell hard all day spoiling most of the special vistas along our route but also adding something to the trip with it's own magic.

On Skye Suzanne found an Otter (She's a top Otter spotter) and it sat long enough for the camera to catch a couple of images before slowly drifting along the shore.
Mountain Goats and Roe Deer were the other highlights of a difficult day which ended with a trip to Applecross where we enjoyed knee deep snow for a while and another eight Black Grouse before heading home for a much needed curry night by the fire.

Black Grouse in the frost

It snowed all day!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Black Duck Strontian

After three years trying I finally found the legendary Black Duck of Strontian.
Driving down to Ardnamurchan this morning I thought it would be worth the very short diversion around Strontian and I scanned the bay without any joy so headed on up into the village passing the infamous pond where the bird showed so well a couple of years ago. Further on and I checked the river area hearing my first Cuckoo of the year as I did. Thinking the mission was destined to fail I drove back down the road only to find the target sitting on the lawn of "the house with the pond".

Black Duck at Strontian
Moving on and after watching the Red Deer and an Otter I made my way down to Kilchoan.
Twite, Wheatear and Meadow Pipits were everywhere and a smart Great-northern Diver in the harbour feasting on flat fish made the trip rewarding before I moved on down the road to Ardnamurchan point (The most westerly point of the UK) where a quick scan found hundreds of Manx Shearwater moving north scattered with the odd Auk and Gannet.

Red Deer Strontian
Great-northern Diver at Kilchoan 
So I'm thinking I'd had a good day so far and parked up for a spot of lunch whilst watching the mountains in front for any possible Eagle activity. Half way through my sandwich and a pair of Golden Eagles rise up over the mountain and I get great scope views of the adult pair before they drift higher into the clouds and are lost to view. A dark cloud drifted over from Mull bringing hail and strong winds but also bringing a young Sea Eagle with it which sat up on the rocky top and tried to see out the storm despite the attention of Buzzard, Hooded Crow and Raven.
As the storm cleared the bird circled over me before it drifted off high back in the direction of Mull but not before giving me my best Eagle experience to date and another year tick.

Sea Eagle and Hooded Crow (Heavily cropped)
Sea Eagle
Sea Eagle (The flying barn door)

A cracking day on the Ardnamurchan peninsular and the year list now sits at 213
Life list now 368