Friday, 28 September 2012

Croxall Lakes 22nd September

Saturday 22nd September, 8.30am - 11.30am

Back on one of the regular patches, Croxall Lakes.

Some muddy edges had returned a glimmer of hope for local wader action, however at the time of writing i suspect the newfound scrapes have not survived the week's earlier deluge. We'll find out tomorrow.

The star bird this morning was a single juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, a regular but by no means common passage bird in the West Mids region. Other waders noted; 1 Redshank, 3 Green Sand and 2 Snipe.

There was a bit of noticeable overhead vis mig in the form of Meadow Pipit and Skylark. Also 3 high altitude Jays.

Little Egret today numbered 4. Around 70 Black-headed Gulls were present. Goosander had increased to  10 on the river. A Little Grebe, 22 Shoveler, 6 Buzzard and Reed Bunting also noted.

Little Grebe - image courtesy of Martyn Yapp

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Yank Wader Fest

Sunday 16th September 

A fully-loaded weekend continued. Sunday saw a jaunt to see an American Visitor on the south coast. Britain’s second ever Short-billed Dowitcher of course, which had already lingered a couple of weeks.

Our driver for the day, Mr Richard Powell arrived with Martyn to pick me up about 5.15am-ish.

At Lodmoor RSPB shortly before 9.00am, we noted 6 Pale-bellied Brent Geese over the car park.

The Short-billed Dowitcher was showing well on the West Scrape, which was viewable from the path and whilst it wasn't close, the scope views were good. This was a well-marked juv, with a very bold supercillum and of course, the tertial notching that separates it from Long-billed. Perhaps the Yanks should have called it a Shorter-billed Dowitcher rather than a Short-billed, as it still has a hefty driller which probed deep into the mud.

The Dowitcher suddenly took flight then disappeared for a while in scrapes that were not so viewable. Soon again though it was sighted from the pagoda which was crammed full of birders and further sporadic views were gained.

A Dowitcher with a comparitively short bill - digiscoped by Richard Powell

At this reserve we also noted a 2nd-winter Med Gull, 3 Common Sandpipers, c20 Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Ringed Plover, 3 Snipe, 1 Sarnie Tern and Little Egret.

Med Gull - digiscoped by Richard Powell

The Dowitcher had again vanished, so news of a small number of Balearic Shearwaters past Portland beckoned a seawatch.

We spent almost two hours seawatching from the Obilisque or whatever its called. No Balearics unfortunately and the seawatch was uneventful.

Noted; 2 distant Arctic Skua, around 30 Common Scoter, plus all the usual Auks, Gannet, Shag etc. A solitary Wheatear, Rock Pipit & passing Swallows were noted around the lighthouse. Our seawatching seemed to attracted a few baffled American tourists; this time of the wrong (i.e. human)  kind. We were asked if we were looking for:

a) Whales
b) Ships
c) Germans

Hmm ok....time to blow Grocksville and move on.

Continued news of a White-rumped Sandpiper at Steart Point on the Parrett Estuary in Somerset – just a short hop off our journey back to the midlands via the M5. We were soon powering our way towards another Yank wader.

As it was a tick for me, my heart was in my mouth when the White-rumped Sandpiper was in the air seconds after walking all the long-windey way down to the flooded field at Stockland Reach. Fortunately the bird soon settled but was a bit flighty until it shook off a Ringed Plover that seemed to be causing some annoyance.

Better views were soon provided as the WRS settled in the company of a very crisp looking juv Curlew Sand and watching them both together was a fine wader treat on which to end a very enjoyable day. Little Ringed Plover was also noted here.

White-rumped Sandpiper digiscoped by Richard Powell
White-rumped Sandpiper - digiscoped by Richard Powell

Juvenille Curlew Sandpiper - digiscoped by Richard Powell

Friday, 21 September 2012

Yorkshire Belle mini-Pelagic

Saturday 15th September 2012 

With a recent taste of East Yorkshire seawatching , me and Martyn were keen for some more of that and hopefully getting a bit closer to the skua and shear action. We therefore rolled into Bridington Harbour over an hour before the sailing of the Yorkshire Belle to join an eager queue of birders, a few dudey types and some strange grockle folk who did not own a pair of binoculars at all. A few Purple Sandpipers and a lone Guillemot were noted in the Harbour.

The Yorkshire Belle

I hadn’t been on board the Yorkshire Belle since 2008 when the combination rough seas, a fret, plenty of puking (not by me) and no birds forced the vessel back to port early. This time this RSPB-organised cruise was much better in terms of birds and visibility. A great selection of birds were noted, although the winds and weather were a little too nice really for anything too unusual in the mix. But then, you never know for sure what is out there.

The scores on the doors: Bonxie x 4, Arctic Skua x 5 (all dark phase, including a bird in the harbour that was called as Pom – we were unconvinced & veered towards Arctic), Sooty Shearwater x 1 (very close to t'boat), Manx Shearwater x 4, Red-throated Diver x 2, Puffin c8, plus all the other stff you would expect to see in the way of Auks, Shag, 1000’s Gannets, Fulmar, Kittiwake, Common Scoter etc. 10 plus Harbour Porpoise were noted.

Oceanic bully boys - great bird, Bonxie

Manx Shearwater - sadly no Balearics

Puffin - Above 3 images courtesy Martyn Yapp

What I would say is if you go on this cruise, make sure you get a seat in prime position and make sure you use your own eyes, brain and judgement. Don’t rely on the staff of the Belle, helpful and as well-meaning as they are, as there was mistakes being made and stuff getting missed. I am being polite here.

Back in harbour by 1.00pm the quiet fishing town now appeared to have transformed into the Yorkshire version of Benidorm. The number of Purple Sands had increased and the harbour also contained a number of Redshank and some whelks.

Purple Sand - 100% guaranteed in Brid Harbour - image courtesy Martyn Yapp

The rest of the day included a visit to Bempton Cliffs and South Landing. Unfortunately westerly winds had pretty much killed falls of migrants and bush-bashing at Bempton provided us with little more than a singular Whitethroat. Although the auks had left the cliffs there was still a smaller number of Gannets and Fulmar still on the cliffs. Always good to watch.

South Landing, same story in terms of passerines. However here a wader fix was provided with 2 Knot, 2 Sanderling , Dunlin, Redshank and many Turnstones in the bay. A distant Bonxie passed at sea.