Thursday 27 November 2014

Seaton Snook - Isabelline Wheatear!!!

I was north of Newcastle when news of this Isabelline Wheatear broke the previous weekend - without a cat in hells chance of getting there before dark! So, after nailing the Purple Heron, I still had another bird in my sights but with a week talk commitments, and flight to Germany for more of the same on the Friday, I didn't think I'd get the chance to go for it :-(

There was just one window of opportunity - on the Thursday and I decided to take it.....

Sooooo glad I did too! Arriving mid morning after A1 mayhem, at about 10.30 I joined the gallery of about 20 birders on the beach at Seaton Snook!

The idyllic surroundings :-)

The idyllic result - Isabelline Wheatear and bird no 299 for the year - I'll confess 'twas a heart pounding moment of relief! There wouldn't have been another chance!

The Issy was working a circuit generally along the seaweed line, catching flies with some pretty fast manouevres! Eventually coming closer as everyone behaved perfectly!

Shame about the dull conditions but you savour the moment a mega like this is perched upright less than 15m away!

I had to be well happy and the only blot on the morning was a jogger running through - flushing it into the dunes! It was eventually relocated right of the access path and another patient wait was about to start for the newcomers! I reckoned I'd done enough, the light was even more grim and I chose get back on the road to avoid the rush hour!

A weekend in Germany and talks almost every night for the first 10 days of December mean that magic next bird (and it will have to be a mega) is going to have to wait! That is if one turns up?? A nervy December coming up! My next blog post will hopefully include a very happy selfie?

Monday 24 November 2014

Capel Gwyn - Purple Heron

A long drive from the North East the previous evening and another early start with the alarm..... It's another bird to try and grip back after failing to see the North Warren (Suffolk) Purple Heron during a long session! The one was always going to be difficult too (aren't they nearly always?) and nearly 4 hours into a long blank vigil, things were not looking good :-(

Everyone else had given up and left..... and then by a twist of fate, I was eating a sandwich.... another birder arrived..... shut his car door.... and what should pop up then land in a viewable position from where it had been unseen all morning.... PURPLE HERON and (298) Punch the air or what!! Birds are all the more sweeter when you've spent a lot of time and effort :-)

After a while it relocated nearer the caravans!

Still tucked away in the vegetation but much more obliging!

Eventually having a preen and rest.....

A couple of closer crops to finish with!

A great day in the end and TWO to go.......

Sunday 23 November 2014

North East weekend gems!!

I'd planned a weekend in the North East primarily for Little Auk but sensing that something in from the East could be present?

The only highlight of the Saturday was a very 'difficult' Siberian Stonechat and (297). Reasonable views were had near the pools at Sunderland AFC academy near Cleadon and with a Common Stonechat nearby for comparison, it's identity was never in doubt.but it was always hidden, flighty or just plain elusive! Record shots is an understatement!

A really smart bird with quite a bit of white on the rump (really showy when in flight) and visible here whilst preening.

I'd ignored the Whitley Bay Hume's Leaf Warbler the previous day as I'd seen the Warwickshire bird in the Spring but with little else happening, it became the mission for Sunday morning.

Living up to it's name!

Monumentally tricky light which was even worse aginast white sky!

But, calling all the time, it was never far away and another great bird for the weekend!

I didn't need Waxwing either but there were two briefly present by the main road next to the golf course car park!

And there was not even a sniff of Little Auk despite quite a few hours of effort!! Never mind, one for the year, keeps the list ticking over and just THREE to go......

Sunday 16 November 2014

Hengistbury Head - Isabelline Shrike

I had a plan!! There were three year ticks on offer if it worked.....  but I had to keep to deadlines! From my starting point near Chippenham, I got down to Portland just before 9am for bird no 1 - Dusky Warbler (294) which showed really well, literally as I walked in to the footpath close to the Hump at Easton  - out in the open on arrival!! . Problem was, whilst I savoured awesome bins views, the camera was still in the bag!! It was calling quite often and apart from fleeting glimpses thereafter never came into the open again. And then the heavens opened!!! I gave it another hour, the rain eased, it was still calling but no showing - I had to move on with a 'lifer'  hopefully waiting over at Hengistbury Head?

The tense drive was followed with dark clouds looming on arrival - rain was the last thing I needed but with a 'spring' in my step, headed up the golf course where I could see a small group of birders. Was my luck turning??

It was now 12.40 and (briefly) adjacent to the 17th tee in the densely packed scrub - look what popped up :-) With rain starting to fall, Isabelline Shrike (295) - you little beauty - this time the camera was out and ready!

It showed briefly a bit further away and then flew and never showed again :-(

Flicking through my 'challenge series' - Daurian or Turkestan Shrike? Looking at images it appeared to show features of the latter with tail grading to black at the tip but the supercilium and overall warm colours favoured Daurian? The vaguaries of light (and rain) all play their park but I'll plump for Daurian....

I stayed as long as I dared but then I realised time was running out if I was to get to Gosport......

Gosport - Ring-billed Gull at last

To say this was the bogey bird of 2014 would be an understatement! Whilst in the area, I'd called at Gosport twice in April (coinciding with the Gull's departure from the area) and now dipped it again the previous Friday.

Light was fading and with rain starting to fall, I made it to the boating lake with about 30 minutes of light left. I got out of the car and..... Yessssssss, the Ring-billed Gull (296) was finally  there on the grass below the car park!!

I'd photographed this bird back in 2008 (in summer plumage) so nice to get the winter plumage!

It then flew onto one of the boating pool buoys....

Then onto the water.....

With some unusual late afternoon reflections!

A final close up and then......

The long drive back to Shrewsbury! This had really been a make or break weekend and with four more birds to go, a few more miles to travel :-)

PS here's the same bird back in March 2008!! What a stunner :-)

Friday 14 November 2014

Gosport - Common Gull

I'd planned an unusual route to Wiltshire where I was speaking on Saturday and staying with friends. The route took in Hampshire, where the intention was to nail one of the 'easiest' of year ticks?? I'd already sipped the Ring-billed Gull (twice) in the spring when my arrival there coincided with it's departure. And I was about to do it again!!

All I had to amuse myself whilst wandering around, sensing it would be on the boating lake before long, were a couple of Common Gulls. So - that's what you're gonna get!

The poor man's Ring billed :-)

Someone might ask me for a pic of one - one day??

I had a tight schedule with Blashford lakes to end the day and at 3.15 called it a day, dashing over to the Ringwood area and with scope only, in 'bird race' style ran to the perimeter fence at Kingfisher lake, jamming the Ferruginous duck (292). Then after a 5 minute drive to Ibsley, the Franklin's gull (293) came to the party viewed from a rammed Tern hide. Despite the fading light, it really did show well (albeit distantly) amongst the large number of Black-headed Gulls.....

I'd made the right decision with only moments to spare but guess what turned up at Gosport at 4.15!!! Yeah, I'll have to see if I can fit RBG in on Sunday?