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25 October 2017 – Shags on the Severn

Two juvenile Shag came as a surprise on the R. Severn on such a calm and sunny day, three Grey Heron, Little Egret, Kingfisher and a Great-spotted Woodpecker that flew high south down the estuary, it was reluctant to cross the water. Dozens of Red Admirals were also migrating S down the estuary.

Two juvenile Shag over the Severn

Shag, juveniles, Hock Ditch, MJMcGill Shag, juveniles, Hock Ditch,2, MJMcGill

 

I watched these birds follow the shore until they cut inland toward Frampton on Severn. Subsequently checking Townfield Lake just after midday I managed to relocate them close to the shore but they flew very soon after due to a succession of gunshots. A dark ‘creamcrown’ Marsh Harrier flew over the lake and headed SE.

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Martin

at 8:01 pm

24 October 2017, a bit of local Gloucestershire vis-mig

An hour or two out along the Severn from 1030 t0 1145hrs produced 70 Chaffinch, 50 Starling, 5 Lesser Redpoll, flocks of Skylark and Meadow Pipit, Kingfisher, three Chiffchaff, 4 Goldcrest, 20 Redwing, a Pochard and a Tufted Duck south and hunting Marsh Harrier and two Kestrel, a male Stonechat was also noted.

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at 1:08 pm

Spurn, Kilnsea and Easington, 19-20 October 2017

 

 

Brambling, 2, Spurn, MJMcGill

 

Brambling on the beach, Spurn (above and below)

Brambling, Spurn, MJMcGill

Hot on the heels of the preceding day out to Dorset was a one night visit to East Yorkshire, we left early an arrived on the north shore of the Humber during mid-morning. The forecast looked great for arrivals from the North Sea. Unfortunately the sea mist and fog was getting denser, visibility reduced to the extent that birding mostly concerned calls. Tree Sparrows, Redpolls, Bramblings, Redwings and a few other species were heard flying over in the murk.

A reported Little Bunting and the long staying Arctic Warbler never appeared, the latter seemingly departed overnight. Another Little Bunting was seen at Spurn Point as well as Olive-backed Pipit and Shore Lark before the fog dropped so it was clear that things were happening, just not clear enough for us to see.

We carefully checked the hedges and scrub logging plenty of migrant Goldcrest, Robin and Redwing but decided to take a timely lunch break at the Blue Bell Cafe in hope that it might clear. Refreshed and watered we made for the sea breach in the gloom. Reaching the open sandy bank that kept the North Sea from the Humber visibility and our luck changed.

A few juvenile Gannets looked lost on the ‘wrong’ side of the sandbank, Dark-bellied Brent Geese, Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Redshank fed in the tidal pools. A Brambling dropped out of the sky and attempted to alight on Ian’s head opting to plonk down on the sand near him. This exhausted finch had just made it to land, it was in a sorry state but alive and feeding on tidal strand seeds. A Redwing did the same nearby, we began seeing flocks of these small thrushes arriving en masse, 100s of Blackbirds were in among them with a few Fieldfares.

As the afternoon progressed the migration tempo increased to phenomenal levels, 1000s of thrushes were arriving in off the sea, we began seeing numbers of Song Thrush and then Ring Ouzels. At least six were noted but I believe many more were involved. Four cracking drake Eiders flew along the Humber shore.

The thrushes were dropping into any berry bush, we even saw 100+ Redwing crammed onto one garden lawn with Song Thrushes and Blackbirds. A Short-eared Owl arrived overhead and dropped onto the salt marsh to rest, a few Reed Buntings were scrutinised and we had great scope views of feeding Ring Ouzels. A Stonechat and calling Water Rails added to the interest.

All the while the tide was coming in so we had huge flocks of Knot, Dunlin with Grey and Golden Plover, Curlew and a few other species of wader. There was so much to see. Another check of the Crown and Anchor pub car park gave us more views of Bramblings and Chiffchaffs, other than that we could only muster common birds.

We eventually ended up back at beach car park and conducted a little sea watch. Offshore were Little Gulls, a pair of Scaup flew by as did some unidentified auks. Gannets cruised about and a few scoter went through. Flocks of Teal, Wigeon, Pintail and more thrushes were logged, a few thrushes struggled over the sea only just making it ashore.

Finishing off our birding for the day we drove to our accommodation, the grand Royal Hotel in Kingston upon Hull to settle in for the night, a good meal included a ‘Hull pattie’ starter, a new one for those that tried it, a couple of drinks and an early night rounded off the day nicely.

A decent nights rest followed by a great breakfast and we were ready to go birding again, our first stop was at Weeton where we scoped a flock of 350 Pink-footed Geese, they were accompanied by 200 Greylag and a few Greylag x Canada hybrids, a rather unfriendly local let his German Shepherd dog run toward us and proceeded to ask what were up to, he wasn’t happy that we there, we must’ve looked so menacing. Later on it became clear that the goose flock that he hadn’t realised were there had been flushed, we guessed intentionally by him. Yellowhammers and Linnets could also be scoped feeding on the weed seeds nearby, at least they were cheering.

Moving on we stopped at Easington, the long staying Rose-coloured Starling arrived on time when Ian spotted it atop an aerial.

Rose-coloured Starling aka Rosy Pastor or ‘Pink Stink’.

Rose-coloured Starling, Easington, MJMcGill

Our next stop was at Kilnsea Wetlands where we saw Lapwing, 4 Whooper Swans (one juvenile), 4 Little Stints, a Ruff, a flock of Dunlin and a selection of wildfowl. Back at the seaside car park we tried another seawatch, flocks of Starlings were arriving, the dabbling ducks were still moving south and we had better views of a few passing Brent Geese and Common Scoter flocks. On the cliff top a Black Redstart fed which made a nice addition.

Wandering back along the lane seeing flocks of Tree Sparrows we stopped at Kilnsea churchyard where two Chiffchaff and a smart Yellow-browed Warbler gave intermittent views, the latter bird also called for us many times.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Kilnsea

 

Yellow-browed Warbler, Kilnsea, MJMcGill

 

Yellow-browed Warbler, 2, Kilnsea, MJMcGill

Another check of the Crown and Anchor pub car park we saw a few common passerines but it was now getting breezy and harder to bird. After another lunch stop and short birding walk we loaded up mid-afternoon and set off for home getting back for 7pm.

Thanks go to Ian, Bettie, Roberta and Dot for your company, it was so good to catch Spurn on a good vis-mig day.

Martin

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at 1:04 pm

18 October 2017, another day to Dorset, nailed it!

This day trip was the result of a change of plan, the night before departing. I had been keeping a close eye on the forecasts and migration news all week so with this in mind and knowing everyone had agreed to heading for ‘hot’ spots, it was great to have the luxury of flexibility.

Firecrest

Firecrest, St Aldhelm's Head, MJMcGill

2017 has been kind to Dorset, the county has been having a great autumn, a large variety of interesting migrants have been seen and this week was no exception. News of a little gem, a Two barred (Greenish) Warbler and weather conditions that could bring in more birds made Dorset a decent option.

Four of us left at 0630am with nothing too much to worry about traffic wise, on reaching Weymouth I decided to stop for a comfort/hot drink break before starting our birding but noticed a strange noise from my car. Pulling into Morrison’s (other supermarkets are available) to park up I found that I had picked up a large nail on my front tyre, it was flat.

Coffee and loos were the next priority then I set about changing the flat only to find a problem with the locking wheel nut, I had no option but to call out my breakdown service. Fortunately as we were adjacent to Lodmoor RSPB I suggested that my keen company walked the paths across the wetland reserve to start the day’s birding.

Back at the car I was towed to a nearby garage and was back on the road after an hour or so meeting up with everyone and began looking for birds. They’d already had the Marsh Harrier and a pair of Raven as well as a number of other bird species. We focussed on the waders and a showy Kingfisher from the shelter. Redshank, Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, 40+ Snipe and three Little Stints were all watched, a smart Water Pipit joined the Meadow Pipits, the former giving great views.

Walking to the west side of Lodmoor we watched two very close juvenile Ruff and a variety of wildfowl, an adult Mediterranean Gull was welcome but our target bird gave itself up easily, a juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs fed along the back of the pool stopping to preen. The legs really stood out on this misty, dull morning.

Lesser Yellowlegs

Lesser Yellowlegs

Moving on we headed up to Broadcroft Quarry on Portland, our first bird was a migrant male Hawfinch, it was great to get on the invasion of this species to the UK this autumn albeit just the one. Checking the sycamores and scrub we saw Blackcaps, Goldcrests and Chiffchaff, one clump of trees held a Red-breasted Flycatcher which showed very well indeed as it flicked about in the canopy. A Robin chased it on a few occasions, another good autumn bird under our belts for the day.

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Red-breasted Flycatcher, Portland, MJMcGill Red-breasted Flycatcher, 2, Portland, MJMcGill

We moved on to Purbeck heading staight for St Aldhelm’s Head to look over the little quarry that was still being worked. Scanning the trees we had great views of up to five handsome Firecrests, another species that had arrived in huge numbers in the preceding days. A few Chiffchaff were also noted until we got views of the Two-barred (Greenish) Warbler. Giving it a bit more time we all got good views of this rare bird when the sun brightened things up bringing the birds into the open.

Two-barred Greenish Warbler

Two-barred Greenish Warbler, St Aldhelm's Head, MJMcGill TwoBar, MJMcGill Two Bar, 2, MJMcGill

Other species noted in the vicinity were Yellowhammers, Stonechats and a variety of commoner passerines but the light was fading so we called it day and headed home. A good day out.

Thank you to Roberta, Bettie and Dot for joining me, it was good to get a ‘lifer’

Martin

 

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at 11:38 am

Cornwall, 6-7 October 2017

Bar-tailed Godwit, Copperhouse Creek

Bar-tailed Godwit, Copperhouse Creek, MJMcGill

The second of this autumn’s trips, this time a long overdue outing to the South West peninsula, everyone had an early start to ensure we could be on the road for 0600hrs, a good move as we got through the traffic only stopping the once for provisions and a comfort stop in Devon.

Our next stop was near Davidstow, as we arrived at the open, sheep grazed airfield we were stopped by a chap in high visibility clothing, he was operating a roadblock system due to a film crew taking over much of the area, he asked us not to go into the filming area,  it didn’t look good for finding our target bird. A scan from one vantage point proved the airfield was very disturbed, no sign of any waders but Colin spotted a Black Redstart flitting about on the derelict buildings before flying off to the south.

I decided to try another spot, whilst driving along the road a brief stop revealed where ‘our’ Buff-breasted Sandpiper was feeding. We parked and walked back to the section of runway, (viewing from the grass) and got great views of this little wanderer from its North American Arctic breeding grounds.  Preferring not be alone it’s chosen company happened to be two juvenile Ringed Plover. After enjoying this smart bird at one of the most reliable places to see this species in the UK we visited the nearby Crowdy Reservoir.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Buff-breasted Sandpipr and Ringed Plover, MJMcGill

The weather was glorious so the passerines were out in force, Meadow Pipits, 3 Wheatear, Pied and Grey Wagtails as well as flyover Siskins. On the water Mallards, Teal and a lone Wigeon joined the 6 or so Great Crested Grebes.

It was time to head down to Hayle where we stopped at Copperhouse Creek, Philps Pasty shop and the Hayle Estuary. At Copperhouse creek we enjoyed Black and Bar-tailed Godwits, Greenshank, Redshank, Curlew and large numbers of Herring Gulls. At the pasty shop Ian added Kingfisher to the list and the pasties were delicous (sorry Colin). For the coeliacs out there do ring ahead and they will bake a special for you.

Bar-tailed Godwit (above) and Black-tailed Godwit (below) showing the difference in wing markings.

Bar-tailed Godwit in flight, MJM

Black-tailed Godwit, CC

Birding at Copperhouse Creek

Copperhouse Creek

A short distance away we parked at Hayle RSPB we walked down to the Carsnew Basin and then followed the road to the main creek before returning to the car, the estuary was busy, at the basin we saw a Rock Pipit, a Dunlin, 2 Little Grebe, more godwits and Curlew and an adult Mediterranean Gull plunge-dived for food. From the causeway we looked carefully through the Teal and Wigeon flocks and checked the Redshank, Curlew and godwits. Ryan’s Field from the hide was rather quiet so we moved on.

Next stop was Cape Cornwall where we walked to Kendijack, the views were amazing, Gannets and Grey Seals were offshore and pairs and small parties of Chough cruising up and down the valley. A Peregrine was noted as was a Kestrel and a few Stonechats. Ice creams were consumed by some, cold drinks by others as we sat on the wall taking the fine weather in.

Cape Cornwall and Kendijack

Cape Cornwall 90715_edited-1 Kendijack

We moved on stopping to check a large field at Sennen and then headed down to Porthgwarra, it was calm and still so we systematically checked the trees and bushes in the valley, over 30 Goldcrests, one Chiffchaff, 8 Stonechats, 2 Raven and a few Great and Blue Tits were seen. This site has hosted many rare visitors but we couldn’t conjur a scarcity in the fading light, the very next morning an American Cliff Swallow was seen briefly which proves the point.

It was time to get to our hotel for the night in Carbis Bay and a quick turnaround saw us ready for dinner with a drink to unwind and chat about the day. We discussed plans for the next day, we decided to go to the Scilly Isles as the overnight winds and poor forecast didn’t bode well for birding in Cornwall but offered potential for seabirds and the Scillies. Purchasing a day return ticket in Penzance we were soon on the 0830hrs Scillonian III sailing, destination St Mary’s, the ship offered us sea-birding and it sure didn’t disappoint.

Soon after leaving Penzance Harbour we were watching seabirds, Shags, Gannets and Kittiwakes were the most numerous species but  4 Arctic Skua, 2 Great Skua, 8+ Balearic, 1 Sooty and 4 Manx Shearwater were also noted.

I had booked a taxi on St Mary’s so we got off the boat and into the bus for a short journey to Porthellick. A walk out to the bay to look for the  juvenile American Golden Plover rewarded us with great views as it was feeding on the bay at low tide. Turnstones and Ringed Plover also fed as well as a Greenshank. Two geese flew in calling, circled and flew off again, Pink-footed Geese!

American Golden Plover, Porthellick Bay

AGP, St Mary's, MJMcGill AGP

With a leisurely stroll along the boardwalk we checked the sallows and listened, a short stop at the hide overlooking Porthellick pool gave us a close flock of Snipe and Grey Wagtail. Swallows and a House Martin flew overhead. Resuming our search of the sallows gave up more Goldcrests until I heard a Yellow-browed Warbler call.

We spent over half an hour trying to get good views of this little warbler, it called and showed on and off but usually in deep cover but sometimes quite close. A Blackcap was also noted. Ian spotted a Scilly Shrew on the road, it wasn’t in the best of health so it was moved to a safer spot offering us the chance to study this tiny mammal.

Scilly Shrew

Scilly Shrew

 

A walk back to the quay took us to Carreg Dhu gardens, a rest at Longstones Cafe, to Old Town Bay, through Lower Moors, past Porthmellon Beach to Hugh Town.  Plnety of birds were seen but the only new trip bird was Water Rail (calling and one seen swimming across a channel), we missed the Spotted Crake by a few minutes, we never had time to wait for the next appearance.

Back aboard the Scillonian III we settled in for another seawatch, sailing out on another route passing St Martin’s we picked up two Great Northern Divers off Watermill/Innisidgen before leaving the islands, in the open sea the following species were noted on the crossing 1 Puffin, 1 Manx Shearwater, 50+ Balearic Shearwater, 3 Sooty Shearwater, 1 Fulmar, 8 Great Skua, 7 Arctic Skua, Guillemots and Razorbills, a confused juvenile Shag that circled the boat repeatedly as well as lots of Kittiwakes and Gannets.

The shearwaters were amazing, seeing rafts of Balearic’s and a close comparison of Balearic and Sooty Shearwater taking off in unison were notable but the Common Dolphin pod stole the show, a group came storming in and gave us a great show. An unforgettable and brilliant couple of hours.

After docking we walked backed to the car (some with chips, me included) and prepared for the drive back to Gloucestershire, a bit of poor weather was left behind in Cornwall and one brief stop was made at Exeter services  before we ended the journey and our birding trip.

Thanks to everyone who joined me, it was a fun trip.

Martin

Redshank on the Hayle Estuary

Redshank, Hayle Estuary, MJM

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at 9:14 pm