Friday, 27 October 2017

Devon + Cornwall - 6.10.17

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Its that time of year again when you hope for rare birds turning up and so Myself, Brendon Fagan and Ricky Flesher headed down to the SW for our holiday to Scilly but not before a day trying to see what these 2 counties have to offer!

A 4am start saw us head firstly to Labrador Bay RSPB where quite quickly we had up to 6 Cirl Buntings in the hedgerows and fields.

Our next stop was Davidstow Airfield where for the 3rd year running we were hoping to connect with an American wader. Early signs weren't good with no news on the pagers. As we entered the area I finally picked up my first Wheatear of 2017! The next thing we saw was that 20th century Fox were filming their next blockbuster on the site! Apparently its called The boy who would be king. There were only 3 other birders present and thankfully they had found the bird in question and waved us over. We pulled up and almost ran over 3 tame Dunlin but on the edge of the grass with a few Ringed Plover was the juvenile Buff-breasted Sandpiper. It showed very well allowing some photos to be taken. Just along one of the tracks is Crowdy Reservoir so we popped in and had a walk along the north shore hoping to find the Spotted Sandpiper that had been present but it had gone.

From here we then went to Marazion where a quick glance over the water found us the Cattle Egret sat next to two swans.

Porthgwarra was our penultimate stop but it failed to produce the hoped for Yellow-browed Warbler but I did pick up a single Balearic Shearwater offshore.

As the light was fading we headed for a look over the Hayle estuary. 14 Little Egret, a single Ruff and a winter plumaged Black-necked Grebe were the notable highlights.

Scilly here we come!

Scilly - 7.10.17

Me (baldy) and Brendon (cap) on the boat to Aggy!

Rock Snowman

View from our flat

After yesterdays phone call about potential flight disruption we decided to go to the airport anyway rather than ringing and as we approached the fog hot and so it was the Scillonian for us! A coach transported us to Penzance to catch the ferry and 2 hours and 40 minutes of choppy seas awaited us! Good news was that I wasn't sick and after speaking to Lucy McRobert there was a boat waiting for us on arrival to take us to St.Agnes! Bad news was that the Cliff Swallow had left Scilly and was seen for 20 minutes at Porthgwarra where we had been the previous day! I'm beginning to think they don't like me!

We walked straight off the Scillonian and onto the smaller boat and after a power walk to St.Warna's cove we found out our target was still there but elusive. 2 hours later and with only a Wheatear for company a few people had had poor views of it deep in a bush but eventually it stopped raining and brightened up enough for the bird to suddenly appear at the top of the bush in full view for 10 seconds before vanishing again. My first ever UK CEDAR WAXWING! Happy we got any views we walked back to get the boat but just then a lot of small birds were flying around over us and Ricky said what's that? It was a Short-eared Owl being mobbed by the small birds and became my 200th species for the year!

Scilly - 8.10.17

Isabelline Wheatear

American Golden Plover

Our first full days birding on Scilly was a busy one with many sites visited so here's a roundup!

Morning Point - no sign of the Wryneck but 10+ dolphin sp offshore.

Porth Mellon - 2 Pale-bellied Brent Geese and a Pied Wagtail.

Dump - 2 Whinchat on slope.

Dump Clump - Firecrest was heard along with 6+ Goldcrest plus a pair of Blackcap.

Old Town - Greenshank and 2 Ringed Plover.

Airport - The Isabelline Wheatear was showing well albeit it distant in the fog! (scilly tick)

Porth Hellick Beach - The long staying juvenile American Golden Plover showed well. (scilly tick)

Higher Moors - 2 Yellow-browed Warbler

Lower Moors - 2 Yellow-browed Warbler were followed by a brief glimpse of the juvenile Spotted Crake and while watching that I said I can hear Pink-footed Geese and sure enough the 6 birds from Tresco flew over! (scilly tick).

Porthcressa - A Little Egret was on the beach and a female Redstart was flycatching from the rocks.

Scilly 9.10.17

Cedar Waxwing


The first CB message of the day was of a Spoonbill on Green Island again so without falling out of the flat window I set the scope up and managed to get it on the flat list!

A Peregrine flew in off at Porthcressa beach.

As it was a nice sunny day we decided to head back to St.Agnes and try for better views of the Cedar Waxwing. As soon as we arrived I headed to the Post Office for a nice pasty to fill me up and then it was down Barnaby Lane where the previous 2 days a Hawfinch had taken up residence. Staring into the garden of Barnaby cottage I picked out some movement and was delighted to find it was a stunning Firecrest. After 20 minutes of no show Hawfinch I walked off down the lane and found a Yellow-browed Warbler in one of the hedges. Happy I walked back to the group to be told it had just shown briefly but dropped out of sight. a couple of minutes later what looked like a Hawfinch flew off towards the Parsonage so I decided to try my luck down there. Again no sign of it but I did connect with my first Spotted and Pied Flycatchers of the year! Back to Barnaby Lane and I found a small group looking intently into the garden. There it was feeding on berries of a Whitebeam Tree. For 5 minutes I had my best ever views of Hawfinch and a Scilly tick too.

After filling my boots with that I headed towards St.Warna's Cove but as I passed the post office I found 2 more Yellow-browed Warblers in a neighbouring garden. As I neared the cove I flushed a Whinchat from the beach but when I reached where we had seen the Waxwing on Saturday there was nobody there. I quietly walked through the bushes to the other side and found 4 people staring into a small group of trees. It had been showing well but had become elusive after stuffing itself! We were soon joined by a group of day twitchers who timed it perfectly as the Cedar Waxwing popped out and showed well for 20 minutes. Stunning! With time to spare I had a look at the Fruitcages area and found 2 Firecrest!

Scilly - 10.10.17

The ex-Bar-tailed Godwit!

A Peregrine seen from the flat heading towards Porthloo was a nice start to the day.

On arriving at Porthloo I was told if I'm looking for the Bar-tailed Godwit its down there. There on the beach was the barwit, dead, killed 15 minutes earlier by the very same Peregrine! It would've been my 199th species on Scilly.

As the other 2 were on a pelagic I did my annual wander around the top half of the island. I didn't see much as usual with 7 Canada Geese on Samson, 3 1st Winter Mediterranean Gulls in The Roads, a summer plumaged Great Northern Diver off of Innisidgen and a Yellow-browed Warbler at Newford Duckpond.

Scilly - 11.10.17

An injured looking 1st Winter Mediterranean Gull was on Porthloo Beach.

Red Squirrel

Portuguese Man o' War

After a call from Ricky we headed up to Buzza Hill where after a short wait we had good views of the juvenile Rose-coloured Starling despite the wind.

To boost the trip list we headed over to Tresco. The wind and rain made things tricky but we cleared up the stuff on the Great Pool. On Pentile Bay I counted 80 Sanderling and a lone Dunlin and as we were heading to the Abbey Pool I put up a Reed Bunting that was a Scilly tick for Rick. As we approached the pool everything took off including the 6 Pink-feet which was another tick for Rick! The drake Pintail flew behind us and onto the list. The only other notable thing we saw was some Red Squirrels including a young one found dying on a path. Probably fell out of a tree in the wind.

Back on St.Mary's another 1st Winter Med Gull was in Porthcressa bay along with my first ever Portuguese Man o' Wars.

Scilly 12.10.17

Wilson's Snipe (front bird)

The day started at Porthloo again but apart from a Peregrine sat on Taylors Island it was very quiet. 3 Portuguese Man o' War were on the beach.

On entering Old Town churchyard I picked out a Firecrest feeding in Ivy. This was my 50th in the UK!

Single Yellow-browed Warblers were at the southern end of Lower Moors and up at Shooters Pool.

On Porth Hellick Pool myself and Brendon finally caught up with the Wilson's Snipe that was in with around 25 of its Common cousins. A lifer for Bren and Ricky who'd seen it earlier and my second.

Up on the airfield the Isabelline Wheatear was still present though even more distant than the last time we saw it! 3 Swallow were around the terminal building.

The last bird of the day was another Yellow-browed Warbler behind Castle Cottages, Old Town.

Scilly - 13.10.17

Friday the 13th today so it was bound to be an unlucky last day in the field! How wrong was I?!

A pager message the previous evening was saying that a probable Orphean Warbler sp had been seen on St.Agnes but was elusive. The early boat over there left at 8.45 but we chose to not to go. Instead we went up Penninis for a wander. A dozen Snipe flying over was the birding highlight and a brief Minke Whale was the highlight on the sea! We headed down towards Old Town and had a spot of brunch. The 10.15 boat came and went and a bit later news filtered through that the Orphean Warbler had been re-found. With this news we walked towards the quay to get in the queue for the 12.15 boat but as thee were so many birders waiting they organised it to leave early. I had texted Cliff Smith who had been on the early boat to find out some news and he'd replied he'd seen it 4-5 times but briefly each time. It sounded promising!

We arrived on site and the narrow lane very quickly became filed with around 200 birders! Cliff came over to me to say that one birder had had very good views of it when it was re-found and that it had dark chevrons on the undertail which surely meant it would be an Eastern race bird and a 1st for Britain! After over an hour of waiting and only having Blackcaps to keep us on our toes it suddenly appeared out of nowhere flew over our heads and back again and vanished into the large hedges. Another 20 minutes or so passed before it showed again, this time zooming into a Tamarisk in the corner of the field but showing off its back,rump and tail very nicely including the white outer-tail feathers. Another wait ensued before I picked it up in flight only for it to vanish again! Will Scott then radioed over the CB that he had it in a hedge behind the fields we were looking at so we all had a mad rush round towards the church to try and get a viewing point through the gap in the tack side hedge. I walked up from the main group and joined Brendon at a small gap where after a nervous wait I picked it up showing the brown colouring on the head etc but it again quickly disappeared. With this most people were happy with their views and headed back to get the boat but not before a celebratory pint in the Turks Head!

As I type this 2 weeks later things have changed dramatically with regards to this bird. Photos a couple of days after our viewings showed a spread tail shot and it was believed to fit the Western race. But then more photos emerged especially 1 from Adrian Webb that showed the dark undertail chevrons mentioned on the first morning. After a bit of digging from Bob Flood and Ashley Fisher and an email exchange with Lars Svennson it was then confirmed as an EASTERN ORPHEAN WARBLER and with it a 1st for Britain! What a finish to our trip to Scilly!

ROCK THRUSH! - 14.10.17

After misreading of the time of our flight we arrived at the airport 20 minutes earlier than we needed to but thankfully our flight wasn't cancelled this time! We landed and packed up the car and headed for home. Via Gwent!

Rock Thrush

7 Years ago I headed to the Blorenge, a lovely bit of South Wales for a Marmora's Warbler and after dipping the first weekend I was successful the following weekend. Never did I think I'd ever go back there but as it was only a short detour it would have been rude not to! After 4 hours or so we arrived on site and headed off for the mile or so walk. Eventually we found the gathered group of birders all peering up the cliff face and there it was my first ever ROCK THRUSH! Even with a hint of orange and blue it was pretty well camouflaged but not well enough to avoid the unwanted attention of the local Meadow Pipits and Wheatear who kept moving it on. Due to my wife being home alone with the littlun and having been struck down with the sickness bug that had been doing the rounds we couldn't stay too long as I had to get back and take over!

Both Rock + Blue Rock Thrush falling within 11 months wasn't something I had even thought of happening and to get another chance at Rock Thrush so quickly after not being able to get down for the Scilly bird in the Spring was a real bonus. I got home about 6 pm having had an excellent 9 days with Ricky and Brendon. The total for the trip was 114 species which included 3 Mega lifers.

Wilstone - 2.10.17

The hoped for Knot, Whinchat and Spotted Flycatcher had vanished and it was much the same on the every increasing mud. The only thing of interest was a Bar-headed Goose from the jetty!

Wilstone - 30.9.17

A Raven over the car near Bourne End was a nice surprise and on Wilstone itself were 6 Black-tailed Godwit, Green Sand and a male Pintail. But the group of 7 Ruff was my largest count of this species ever in Herts.