Saturday, 28 June 2014

Bridled Tern Revisited - 28.6.14

Bridled Tern and Arctic Terns
Last year I took a day off work to travel up to the Farne Islands in Northumberland in the hope of seeing my second ever Onychoprion tern species. That day I travelled the 600 mile near 24 hour journey with the former Herts bird recorder Tony Blake. We spent most of the morning stood on the jetty of Inner Farne island hoping for the bird to appear but due to the crazy rules of the National Trust we had to leave the island while the rangers had lunch! It was during this time off the island that the bird in question appeared for all of 5 minutes and on our return to the island there was no sign.

Fast forward a year and the bird had turned up again after a couple of days on the mythical Fair Isle. I received a call from Brendan Fagan saying he was going up for it and did I want a lift. Yes was my answer and so at 3am I met up with Brendan outside his house and off we went stopping briefly to pick up Tyttenhanger GP's regular Ricky Flesher. We made good time and arrived in Seahouses just before 9am. We went and paid for our tickets only to find that we were the only 3 going for it! Due to this we had to join an all day trip which dropped off quite a few people onto Staple Island so they could all use their big lenses taking photos of the seabirds. After getting everyone off the boat took us to Inner Farne. We arrived and stayed on the boat scanning the rocks by the jetty. We had been told while on the mainland that the bird was still present by the warden but try as we could we couldn't find it. Just then after 5 minutes the skipper said we had to go back to Staple Island to pick everyone up again as the swell was becoming too bad and they may not get off the island! We picked them all up in what felt like less of a swell than when we dropped them off and once all were on board the boat trundled around the islands for more photo opportunities and more time was ebbing away to see our quarry. Eventually we arrived back on dry land and were told that we would get 3 hours on Inner Farne before we would have to leave again.

After a quick bite to eat we were back on the boat and excited to get onto the island. But then the skipper asked us if we wanted to go to the island or go look at a pod of around 40 Bottle-Nosed Dolphins. Of course being outnumbered the dolphins won and for another 30 minutes we weren't going to the island. I think the look of desperation on our faces made the skipper feel guilty and eventually we were on our way. The three of us pushed our way to the front of the boat and quickly disembarked only to be met by the wardens asking if we had a ticket and if not we'd have to buy one. Some birders were already present and looking at the bird so I (what most likely came out rudely) said I'm gonna look at the bird then I'll pay you! But they weren't having any of it so I paid and set up my scope and at last laid my eyes on my first ever BRIDLED TERN. It was sat on the rocks just to the right of some Puffins and after getting a couple of photos it took off and disappeared! Skin of the teeth birding! Another boat arrived and I had to tell the birders on board it had just flown. I knew that feeling but luckily it wasn't my turn this time. After 20 minutes it was re-found and we all had cracking views. Happy and with a 5+ hour drive home ahead of us we left the islands and arrived back at Brendan's house just after 9pm. Stupidly I'd parked under a cherry tree and my clean car was covered in twigs, cherries and bird poo. But I didn't care! 1200 hundred miles and 46 hours of driving over 2 years but Bridled Tern is on the list. Thanks go to Brendan for the driving and both of them for the company. Lets hope the next biggy is slightly closer to home!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Glad I Went To Spectacle Savers - 3.6.13

Spectacled Warbler
After Sunday mornings very early start for the eagle I was knackered and in bed 10pm after 36 hours without sleep. Somehow I didn't feel too tired when I woke up at 6am for work but I was already looking forward to going home again for a kip! Lunch arrived and just as I was tucking into my first sandwich my pager started vibrating. My first thought was the eagle had been re-found but on checking I was amazed to read that a Spectacled Warbler had been found on the north coast of Norfolk. I was one of the many who had travelled to Suffolk for the last one a few years ago only to come away disappointed as it had gone. I finish work at 3pm on a Monday so an after work twitch was very tempting but I just couldn't face another long drive so soon after.

 Tuesday dawned and news came through on twitter that it was still around so I packed the satnav just in case. 3.30 and the end of the working day and the bird was still there so off I went. Halfway on the journey I checked the pager and the news was positive but I noted a message of a Blyth's Reed Warbler at Cley so thoughts of a two tick evening were in my mind. I arrived at Burnham Overy just shy of 3 hours later and started the walk along the coast path. Thinking that it may be a tad fresh by the coast I wore my coat but that was something I'd regret as thinking that it was only a half mile walk I suddenly realised I'd misread the info and that I had to walk nearer 1.5 miles! So by the time I got to where the bird was I was sweating like a goodun! My first Painted Lady and Little Tern of the year were nice and thankfully the star bird didn't disappoint as it showed well fairly regularly as it was nest building! Only the 8th Spectacled Warbler for the UK so another good bird for the list. Talking of lists under UK400 listing rules this bird became my 450th species. After watching the bird for 15 minutes or so I headed back to the car hoping to get to Cley in good time to try for the other warbler. The walk back was very productive with 4 Little Egret flying over and in the diatance to the east my first Spoonbill for the year were seen with 4 birds soon landing out of view. A lone Pink-Footed Goose was a strange sight considering its June and just past the last gate a Grey Partridge flew up and away from me.

After a clear drive through some of Norfolk's top birding spots I arrived at Cley and joined the small gathering atop the west bank overlooking a ditch in the hope of my second lifer of the day but I waited until 9pm but there was no sight or sound of the Blyth's Reed Warbler and so that's 2 ive now dipped. A showy Barn Owl made up slightly for dipping as it was a year tick. I had another one down the road on the way home along with a Little Owl and after some heavy downpours I crawled into bed at midnight. Today I felt tired!

Sunday, 1 June 2014

The (Short-Toed) Eagle Has Landed! - 1.6.14

Short-Toed Eagle
Yesterdays plan was to head to Norfolk and to try and add a few year ticks but as expected I slept in and dragged myself out of bed around 11am! So instead of birding I ended up going shopping in Watford and buying a load of artist stuff with the idea of learning to paint! So watch this space.

Whilst sitting in bed and having a cuppa I read on twitter the breaking news coming from Dorset where someone had found a Short-Toed Eagle on Morden Bog! I checked the pager and the message had come through but it hadn't Mega'd. It had been perched in a tree for 10 minutes but then flew off. With this news I went shopping. News then came through along with a stunning photo that it had come back and was resting in a tree. It then proceeded to move trees and stay there until dusk. With news like this I knew I had to be there for first light. The only trouble with that was that sunrise is at 4.48am! The alarm was set for 2am and I crawled into bed at 11.30pm. I didn't sleep a wink and so bleary eyed I headed out into the dark and into the car. I arrived on site at 4.40am, parked up and hurriedly joined the couple of hundred or so other birders already there. I got onto the bird straight away and I was happy to be able to write in the notebook 3rd for UK SHORT-TOED EAGLE!! But then the fog rolled in for 30 minutes. Eventually it cleared and then the sun shone on it making the white head stand out. But for the near 3 hours I was there the most it moved was twice to have a dump!! It faced away from us so only a small side section of the pale breast could be seen but even at distance the bright yellow eyes and bluish base to the bill could be seen. A brief Cuckoo and a fly over Mediterranean Gull were the only other birds of note to be seen. I left just before 8 and was home at 10am just 10 minutes after the bird had decided to do something and get up and fly off!