Friday, 30 May 2014

Devon - 24-29.5.14

The only problem with dating a teacher is having to wait until school holidays to go away anywhere so seeing as it was half term myself, Carey, my mum and my boy all went off to Croyde Bay in Devon for a few days. The supposed 4 hour drive down turned into a 6 hour drive in the rain as the M5 was horribly slow. On a brief toilet stop I heard an unfamiliar song coming from the trees and after racking my brains for a few seconds I realised it was a Pied Flycatcher!

The following day my son went and spent the day with his aunt who works on the park we were staying on so the 3 of us went for a wander up nearby Baggy Point. During the walk a few things were noted including a singing Lesser Whitethroat, a few Shag and Fulmar and a single Stonechat.

Tuesday dawned sunny which made a change for near constant rain but it soon clouded over. It was also the day we were going over to Lundy Island. With the cloud over head we wrapped up in a few layers only to overheat once on the island as the sun had come out again! The journey over on the MS Oldenburg was thankfully a smooth one and within 20 minutes I picked up a flock of skuas flying alongside us but at a bit of a distance. I got my bins on to them and I was amazed to see that they were Pomarine Skua! A quick count up totalled 12 birds 9 of them pale and 3 dark morph all with lovely spoon shaped tails. This was the first time I'd seen more than a single bird and they were my first adult birds. They soon vanished from view and so I concentrated on seeing what else I could see. The odd Kittiwake and Fulmar kept things ticking over and then 6 Manx Shearwater made an appearance and became my 170th species for the year. One of the passengers had started boozing within minutes of the sailing so when he shouted what's that over there I wasn't expecting anything but I looked anyway and out of the water jumped 3 Dolphins! They showed for about a minute before disappearing. Finally we arrived at the island and walked up the steep slope to the top. During the 4 hours we had there I noted 5 Raven (a nice family party), 3 Wheatear and a Sedge Warbler at the top of Millcombe Valley. But it was at the famous Jenny's Cove the site of the UK's and WP's only Ancient Murrelet that we finally saw the birds my son had wanted to see and the reason to come over. On the cliffs amongst Guillemots and Razorbills were over 60 Puffin. We all had a look through my scope and I managed the crappy photo you see above. With all of us happy and knackered we got back on the boat and on the journey back I added my final year tick of the holiday when a Sandwich Tern flew past. It was just a shame I was about 25 years too late for the murrelet!!

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Herts Tick - 20.5.14

Temminck's Stints
Yesterday I arrived home to read news of a potential county tick at Tyttenhanger that was ID'd from photos once they had flown off just as I was finishing work. Forward to this morning and I received a phone call from Steve Blake yesterday's finder to say that they were back. All they had to do was stick around for another 6-7 hours! Work flew by quite quickly as did the journey up to Tyttenhanger and after a quick walk I joined Joan Thompson, Anna Marrett and Steve Murray and thankfully out on the spit on the main pit were my first Temminck's Stints in Hertfordshire. Also on view were a stunning male Yellow Wagtail and a Little-Ringed Plover. I watched the stints for about 30 minutes before I headed home happy.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Herts Mega - 12.5.14

While loading the van up at the depot at Wiggenhall Road I heard a bird singing that immediately got my attention. After a nervous few seconds I got onto the bird to find it directly above the river between the yard and Oxhey park. It was stationary briefly singing a series of lovely flutey notes showing off its characteristic short squared off tail and short rounded wings before a flock of racing pigeons flew too close to it forcing it to carry on heading east. There for just over a minute was only my second Woodlark for Herts with the last one being in the late 90's!

College Lake and Hilfield Reservoir - 5.5.14

Lesser Yellowlegs
As Carey's aunt and uncle were down from Scotland we were due to head over to see them before they went on holiday to Prague. But just as we were due to head over news broke from just outside the county up near Tring at College Lake NR. With this news Carey went to her parents and I headed to College Lake. Not realising the car park was now a pricey £3 and having no money on me I parked up, walked through the visitor centre and joined a small group of birders many of them Tring regulars and quickly got onto the Lesser Yellowlegs that was showing well as it walked along the front of the island. It was my 8th in the UK but my first in summer plumage. Not wanting to get clamped or get a ticket I only stayed for a few minutes before heading over to join Carey.

After a couple of hours we said our goodbyes and I headed over to Hilfield. It was pretty quiet with just 2 patch year ticks. At least 150 Swift were overhead and a Reed Warbler was singing near the SE fountain.

Norfolk - 4.5.14

Due to things at home that needed sorting before going back to work we could only stay at my dads for the one night but before heading home we made the most of the nice weather and drove up to Happisburgh to see how much of the cliffs had been washed away during the winter storms and to have a cream tea! A Lesser Whitethroat was opposite the old car park and on the beach a Rock Pipit and 2 Turnstone were seen. As we headed back towards Great Yarmouth 3 Egyptian Goose flew up from a field near Horsey Mill. Back into Herts and I stopped off as usual at Sandon where from the green gate a Buzzard and 2 Yellowhammer were seen but as I drove back up towards the main road a familiar jangling call blasted out from a bush. It was my first Corn Bunting in the county for many years since the Chiswell Green population vanished.

Norfolk - 3.5.14

3 Crossbill and Tree Pipit
My dad had bought a new house in Caister-on-Sea and so myself and Carey went up to have a look. We made a brief stop for a McDonalds breakfast just into Cambrideshire and while sat in the car park a Yellow Wagtail flew over. Instead of heading straight to my dads we popped into a few places on the way. First stop was Lynford Arboretum near Mundford. I was hoping to connect with one or both the Two-Barred Crossbill that had been present since last year but despite walking around most of the site I could only connect with a few Common Crossbill and then just as I was getting into the car to carry on our journey a Marsh Tit called from nearby shrubs.

The next stop was just down the road at Santon Downham. Carey stayed in the car to read a book while I headed out. Almost immediately I heard and then saw a singing Tree Pipit quickly followed by 5 more Crossbill. After a quick ice cream and we were off again. Just before the East Harling turn off a Hobby flew over the car. The final destination was my Norfolk local patch of Winterton Dunes but as usual it was quiet with only 3 Wheatear of note although at least 1 of them was a Greenland race bird. As for my dads house it's a nice semi detached bungalow with nice fields out the back which in the past have had Bee-Eater and Red-Footed Falcon nearby!

Hilfield Reservoir - 28.4.14

An after work visit produced the goods with 3 more patch ticks. 2 Garden Warbler were singing in the north bushes and a rattling Lesser Whitethroat was near the aerodrome. While walking up to meet Steve Murray I heard the call of a Greenshank but due to ill placed bushes I couldn't see it and it wasn't on the dam when walking back to the car.