Monday, 23 November 2009

Donna Nooked

Cute, huh?
Donna Nook of course, we had a trip out there with our fellow RSPB crew at Carsington. Amazing place, the numbers say it all; 842 seal pups, 955 cows and 344 bulls. All sorts of stories going on with them, to left and right there were new borns, suckling mums, mums ready to give birth, beachmaster brutes fighting for mating patches, and abandoned pups not yet driven to the sea by their hunger. Real wildlife spectacle this one. Zillions of people around too, which makes sense because these few weekends are the best for visiting the colony and it really has to be the weekend because access to the beach is closed for the RAF flyboys to do their bombing practice across the mudflats. These mega visitor numbers make for an odd carnival feel to the whole thing, burger vans and portaloos aren't found at many nature spectacles, so all it's a world of difference from the cold solitudinous suffering that makes for most birding trips at this time of year. Shan't complain about that. The long walk from the dunes to the shore with the low tide does ask a little bit of work from you, which is an effort altogether worth making because there's action far out there, lots of fighting and mating in shallows you miss if you're afraid to get your boots a bit muddy (well... a lot muddy!).

Bird-wise there was always a distant passage of waders, dozens of Curlew, Redshank, Knot, and Brent Geese are always good to see, Great Black-backed Gulls presumably patrolling for afterbirth were nice too. Singles of Turnstone and Sanderling fought the winds down on the shoreline. Bird of the day was a single male Snow Bunting (#226) that overflew during the long trudge across the mudflats. The highly distinct black and white of the wings making for a very welcome, very easy to ID passerine fly over, and for me, a lifer!

After the many dramas of the Grey S
eals we took to Rimac for a brief afternoon visit. The potential for Hen Harrier, Short-eared Owls and other top class birds is clear, the best we could muster was a noisy cloud of Twite, a faraway Little Egret, a Sparrowhawk, and Stonechat. A quiet visit then but the saltmarsh not without scenic beauty, well in the right light anyway.

Lots of pictures taken by girlfriend and me, and I've struggled to edit them down to just a few, so here's lots of thumbnails (click to enlarge):


Plus bonus videos taken by the girlfriend:
The Seal Scene
Fresh Born Pup

Tuesday, 17 November 2009


Had a trip down to London at the weekend as the girlfriend needed to visit the Chinese embassy (would you believe the big screen above the desk in the consulate showed pictures of a military parade - missiles, jet fighters, millions of soldiers - I'm not kidding). With the price of train tickets we drove half the way, stopping off at Rutland to break the journey up. Glad we did too, gathered two life birds I was hardly expecting. First was a snoozing Long-eared Owl (#224) by the path to one of the hides. Heard them plenty in Sherwood Forest, the squeaky gate call of the chicks around dusk, first time seeing one though.
The other lifer was a Slavonian Grebe (#225), a full winter plumage bird easy to ID, and actually a nice comparison with a few Black-necked Grebes around. Winter ducks aplenty, some nice Golden Plover in the afternoon sun. Didn't have time to check out the assortment of divers off the dam wall. The Little Egret video comes from Rutland, watch out for a Hitchcokian cameo from a Shoveler near the end.

There was time in the day to take in the London parks when down there. The Grey Herons in Regent's Park always a treat, especially if you have a camera.

Also took in maiden ride on my new bicycle today. Went under a mass of Fieldfare, they sounded like a giant bag of marbles being shaken up.
(Regent's Park)

(Park "plastic")

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A Birdwatch to Remember

Big day at Carsington this weekend. It began with a report of a Black Redstart (video above), by the end of it Great Northern Diver (mostly summer plumage), female Scaup and Common Scoter, and a Ring-billed Gull made for the best visit I can remember for a long time. First and last birds there lifers too (#222 & #223), and interesting birds. The RB Gull is a Carsi regular, turning up in the roost early each November staying for a few weeks and then it's off again. Must have its reasons I suppose. Bet it spends the summer somewhere like Scotland, can't really see a trans-Atlantic migration from its normal range being made every year.
The Black Redstart was a second site record, the previous one a spring bird from as far back as 1996. Charming birds, a sort of smoky delicacy in the feathers, they've a definite touch of class about them. Ours spent a lot of time on the sailing club building, picking off flies warming themselves up on the sunny side of the roof.

To add to the impressive cast earlier in the week we had a Garganey of debatable age and even gender during the RSPB's A Date With Nature event. That's how it can be when you have eclipse males around, this ostensibly female-looking just too warm coloured to be a female. Might still be on the water now.
The water is really really low on the reservoir meaning the acreage of exposed mud is enormous, good for the wintering Teal and surely alluring for any vagrant waders. Eyes peeled. The Garganey enjoys the mud too, but really ought to be in Africa already.
Yellow-legged Gull, Ravens, Buzzards, Peregrines, Goldeneye, tonnes of Tufties, Wigeon, Pochard and Coot, Snipe and other regulars make it fairly easy to notch maybe 60 species in a day visit at the moment.

Also had good numbers of Pink-footed Geese overflying the few days. Nice to be under their direct flight path between their first port of call in Lancashire and their real destination in Norfolk.

Another video of the Black Redstart, it just misses a whopping big fly there...

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

As October Flies By

Bad bird-blogger, I haven't updated for over a month. To keep it brief mid-October we had our first big trip to Spurn. Not a classic day despite a favourable easterly from the sea, a netted Radde's Warbler released as the Anchor pub car park made for a very cheap life tick (not sure it really counts for that matter), and I chalked of another long-term bogey with a Jack Snipe skulking around the pond at Canal Scrape or whatever it's called. Bar-tailed Godwit, loads of winter Thrushes, a Merlin and smattering other nice birds made it all enjoyable enough. Only bummer was another from the nets - a Red-flanked Bluetail - missed the release for that one and then the bird refused to pop out of the bush it dived into. Invairably whichever side we chose to look from the bugger would briefly show from the other. Grah!
For a first experience of Spurn in autumn it was all right, and we'll return next year. The spectacle of dozens of birders and the near-miss car accidents when a report of a mega goes out is something altogether different to local patching.

More recently we dipped on a Cetti's Warbler at Potteric Carr (might it winter there?). We picked a day when it chose to keep schtum, the regulars told me the bird has days like that and then others when puts on a real performance. Ah well, loads of Cetti's around the region at the moment, we'll pick one up sooner or later. Superb views of Bittern (video above) made up for any disappointment and I'll agree that Potteric Carr is quickly becoming the best place in the region, some dare even say the country, to see the species. One bird resident, with five expected as winter takes hold.
Slightly annoyed by some photographers camped in the hide near the Field Centre, the one with the feeders right infront. Giggling and saying 'poor thing' each time you scare off a GS Woodpecker with an assault of loud photo shutters, and would you believe a flashgun, isn't really on. Hardly what they call fieldcraft is it?
Otherwise hugely impressed by the new hides, lots and lots of new hides, overlooking the lagoons where all the Golden Plover hang out. It was always a big nature reserve and now you can access the whole thing, brilliant.

Finally, had a day RSPBing at Carsington yesterday. More schoolkids, more exclamations of 'wicked' after first views of Lapwings through a telescope. Bird of the day was a rusty Garganey that looks more like a juv male than a female. Frustrating to lose the bird when a low-flying Spitfire put up probably every bird on the reservior. Later it was refound at the other end of the water, with a Great Northern Diver, yes - they're back, or at least one so far. Now if we're really talking about the best place in the country to see a particularly scarce bird, Carsi genuinely rates for its GNDs.
The Carsington Kingfishers continue to put on good shows...

Last word, Lesser Redpoll in the garden, thats species #41 since January.