Tuesday 28 February 2012

Almost as elusive as the Yellowthroat?

A blog from Jim that is???

Apologies to the many visitors, really sorry folks - I've been tied up with plant activities / conferences / shows / talks - almost continuously for the past fortnight and I'm working up in Newcastle this week!

I actually hope to get out birding this coming weekend :-) Here's the one and only bird I've seen during that time and not a bad one at that - the Common Yellowthroat on the 18th February.

I was on show duty down in Caerleon (Newport) and nipped the few miles down the road mid afternoon. After 45 mins or so, I was lucky enought to be with the small group that refound it!

Awesome brief views within 15m at the base of the hedge! Sadly the full frontal shot went begging as the camera locked onto all the rubbish in the foreground!

So..... shamefuly, here it is (at least you can just about see it's a bird!)..... the blurry job with a hint of yellow throat and undertail peeking out!)

Prints available at discounted price :-)

Friday 17 February 2012

Priorslee lake - Adult Iceland!!

I've been waiting for one of these a long time, any White Winged Adult would do......

A brief lunchtime call (with not another birder in sight) seemed destined to be a blank affair apart from a couple of adult Yellow-legged Gulls, that is until 1.30 when this splendid 'new' Gull dropped in :-) Wow, on size, bill and with that long primary projection, had to be an adult Iceland Gull

Problem was, it was never destined to stay. A quick wash.....

And a few wingflaps.....

Then, five minutes later it was goodbye!

Such a pristine looking Gull (how about an adult Glauc next?)

With a patch tick pair of Grey Partridge at VP on Tuesday (thanks Martyn) following last Sunday's Red-neck, it's been quite a week!

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Reabrook estate - Little Egret

There have been spasmodic reports of a Little Egret working the Rea Brook in Shrewsbury this Winter and I was well placed for the most recent (cheers Mike!!)

I hate shooting down on a bird but this was the view from the footpath overlooking the brook!

A lower angle helps?

Head on I could see there was something nasty going on around the joint of the left leg!

I'm not sure you want to see this but the Egret didn't seem unduly distressed!

Sunday 12 February 2012

February Bird race

I mentioned to one of my birding mates the other day that UK yearlisting wasn't a priority for me at the moment. "It gets you out and about though" was the response! He was dead right too but the County patch still keeps me 'keen' and I can't think of a better way of getting out and about than a bird race? You go to places that would normally be on the agenda, forget other folks birds for the day and hopefully find decent birds which have a habit of 'turning up' on the day. With the January mark of 79 a target, it was an early start with Yvonne, for a change, commencing the hunt in the Bridgnorth area!

What a start too; never mind the House Sparrows, Blackbird etc, a pair of Peregrines calling overhead with one carrying prey was just the ticket! Redpoll and Siskin were in good numbers at Chelmarsh scrape, the res. was very quiet though with just a few Goosander, Tufted Duck and not much else! A wasted 20 mins at Highley speculating that the Waxwings may still be around confirmed that they weren't! Some consolation came just outside Chelmarsh where a 100+ flock of Finches included Brambling (not the easiest of birds this Winter!) We finally got Dipper on the list next when the Astbury pair put in an appearance too. Shirlett didn't spring any flight surprises but 4 Crossbills, Goldcrest, Mistle Thrushand Coal Tit kept the numbers going (46).

VP has normally been the starting point and the customary glut of ticks was anything but forthcoming. Common Snipe and Fieldfare came to the rescue from the North hide and then 2 Goldeneye, Little Grebe, Pochardand Wigeon made the duck count more respectable. The Barnacle Goose was still with the Canadas at Atcham and brought up the 60 mark but another dip followed - the Pink-footed Goose at Leighton. It was probably there but out of view down the far bank of the loop (where a few heads popping up now and then indicated more were there!) A Green Sandpiper was a consolation find!

The seemingly inevitable afternoon race disaster then kicked in, Priorslee lake had none of the classy Gulls recently seen and the Priorslee Flash Bean had gone. The Sunday jinx on Corn Bunting in the Isombridge area applied once more and for well over an hour or so we drew blank on everything we went for? Shoveler and Pintail were then seen nearby and the Upton Magna area put the sparkle back into the day with a group of 8 Red-legged Partridge and then a bird race speciality - 2 Grey Partridge! We fired off North, where Wood Lane had an obliging Oystercatcher and a face saving Shelduck was 'rescued' here for a
running total of 68!

A tally of 70+ was now the only aim and with time running out, the Mere
Gull roost was the final venue. Common Gull was a surefire banker here and the Mere once again gave up the only Grey Herons of the day. With light fading, the day then took on a magical twist as I was sorting
through the Black-headed Gulls hoping for a Med? OMG, Come in no 71..... the day was to end with a County lifer......

The Mere - Red Necked Grebe finale

You could best describe the Mere Gull roost as lacklustre. It certainly
lacked large Gulls but there were at least 2,000 Black headed Gulls - surely a Med Gull mixed in with them? As I extended the sweep further out, at least half way over the Mere, I suddenly locked onto an interesting Grebe! It was quite active and hard to keep onto, my instant impression - an odd Great-crested?? It was one hell of a long way off though and looked small but there was no comparison for size other than the Gulls it was seemingly trying to distance itself from! Eventually it latched onto and stayed with a couple of Great-crested Grebes - it was clearly something special!

The main overriding feature was the long dark bill which had a striking distinct orange-yellow base. In the gloom, this was the only 'colour' visible. The head shape was similar to Great-crested, appearing almost rounded on occasions - (Black-necked was easily discounted!) So that left Slavonian which seemed possible from the plumage, apparent size and head or Red-necked which certainly fitted the bill on every count (literally!!)

Yvonne stayed on it whilst I nipped back to the car - the camera was finally coming out of the bag! Luckily the Grebes were now out in open water but still over 100m distant, it was now 5.30pm and virtually no light left. Amazingly, (at ISO 1600) I got a few record shots which blown up on the camera back confirmed - we were both convinced - it had to be - Red-necked Grebe!

I sent images to Andy and after nearly talking myself into Slav contention (mainly due to apparent small size), checked my images from the Fairhaven RN Grebe almost 12 months previous to the day. That bird was under my feet, this one was half way over the Mere! I'm now in no doubt personally, one and the same species - Red-necked Grebe is on my list :-)

What an end to the day! Not an Owl on the list either but who cares!

In the gloom, viewed from the The Mere 'Promenade' at 5.30. Yes, it's a Red-necked Grebe......

Friday 10 February 2012

Priosrlee lake - Iceland on the ice!

More to come soon of a short session which featured the Glaucous AND 1st Winter Iceland Gull - the latter very briefly in unfamilar close up territory!

Thursday 9 February 2012

Priorslee lake - Iceland DUO !!!

I'd hoped for one but ended up with TWO Iceland Gulls at lunchtime today :-) :-) Here's the sequence of events....

A lucky break, finding the 1st Winter Iceland Gull within seconds of arrival......

A better angle with less other Gulls in the way!

Eventually a wingflap and off it flew......

A fly past!

As it proceeded to spend time in the water......

After watching it more distantly on the water, I can't remember who 'called it' but suddenly there was a second bird on the water!

Wow, angelic or what - a 'ghostly white' 2nd Winter Iceland Gull.....

Brief flaps and flight onto the ice

Preening on the ice.....

Where it was till present as I made my way back to work - a lucky break or what!

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Priorslee Lake - Glaucous Gull again!

I was hoping for the Iceland Gull which had turned up early afternoon.....

A quick dash to the lake got me a white winger but alas it was (only) the 1st Winter Glaucous Gull! It was only present a few minutes but provided some different angles and action to the other day.....

Posing on the ice.....

The wash and wingflap - facing me today!!

Still showing amongst the frenzy of mass take off!

the quick exit....

Iceland tomorrow then?

Monday 6 February 2012

Highley - Waxwings!

Whilst gulls have been the order of birding for the past couple of
weeks, I needed a bit of Winter colour? This was hopefully going to be
provided by the six Waxwings reported in Highley the previous evening. I
was only going to have 30 mins or so on site and arrived in pretty
dismal conditions - white sky, mist and drizzle!

The Waxies were nowhere to be seen either and after a wasted walk
towards the town (where they had just been seen!) I staked out the berry
laden bushes adjacent to the main road. A few minutes later, their characteristic trilling announced arrival overhead followed by a
sort of 'red arrows' display!

Just a matter then of trying to coax a record shot or two out of the

White sky is the worst possible backdrop....

A little better amongst thye tangled branches of the berry trees..

Swalling berries....

Using that tongue to manipulate the berry.....

Down the hatch...

Record shots or not, nice to see them and the only opportunity Shropshire has had all winter!

Sunday 5 February 2012

Priorslee lake - Glaucous Gull

A trip to Ireland for a couple of days (non-birding!) meant that I
missed the BIG Saturday Gull fest at Priorslee Lake. The short drive up
the M54 just had to be done to see whether Sunday could produce
something of note?

Arriving at 10.30, I was still on my own 90 mins later with less than 50
or so gulls present and prospects not looking good. At that moment, a
big influx drifted in from the tip and there was no mistaking the pale
buff features of a juv white winger in the first wave - the
1st Winter Glaucous Gull no less!

Even better, with the lake 90% frozen, the only water for the Gulls to
bathe in was a circular patch barely 50m offshore making for pretty
decent viewing!

A good few minutes of bathing to start with.....

Plus the obligatory wing flaps as it hopped onto the ice, always facing away sadly!

having a drink, before preening and then just loafing around.....

Comparison with other juvenile gulls

Eventually after two missed attempts, (when it flew off directly away
from me) a flight shot ......

There was no sign of the Ring-billed hybrid or Caspian Gull today but
there was a smart adult Yellow-legged Gull hanging about. I never saw
the remains but somewhere on site, a Coot was being dismembered and the
Yellow-legged got the drumstick!

More flight action