Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid - Brockholes Quarry, Lancs - 31st Oct 2007

Pochard sized and brownish flanks, tinged greyish, too contrasty with breast were indications enough to rule out pure Ferruginous. Wing-stripe not critically examined, but secondaries appeared wholly white. Poor light affected quality of videograbs.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Local Crossbills - 30th Oct 2007.

This singing male Crossbill was one of a party of 9 present along the SW edge of Stones Bank Plantation, SD693163, around midday. The flock flew towards Belmont village at 12:30. Also along this edge were 2 Brambling, 10 Redpoll, 20 Siskin, 20 Coal Tit and a Buzzard.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Great Grey Shrike - Stocks Reservoir, Lancs - 28th Oct 2007.

I joined Councillor John F. Wright for a trip up to Stocks Reservoir late morning. First port of call was a check of Fishmoor Reservoir, Blackburn, which held c25 Tufted duck, 2 Goldeneye, 1 Goosander and small numbers of Gulls.

30 mins later we arrived at Champion Moor Flood where 21 Wigeon & 3 Teal were present.

It was whilst here that I received a phonecall from Margaret Breaks to say that She and husband Brian had located a Great Grey Shrike in the classic 'Shrike-field' opposite Dalehead Church adj to nearby Stocks reservoir.

Five minutes later we were onsite. The Shrike was perched prominantly against the skyline atop one of the isolated Hawthorns scattered around the field, but against the light.

We walked around the field edge up by the Island viewpoint where some excellent views were had of the Shrike in superb light revealing strongly patterned underparts indicative of first winter plumage - a new Great Grey Shrike to the area following on from an adult present in four of the past five winters, and a very welcome injection of 'new Shrike blood' at that, assuming it stays on to winter of course.
Above: 1stw Great Grey Shrike - Stocks Res, Lancs - 28th Oct 2007.
Shortly after the arrival of several local birders, the Shrike flew high and distantly NE over the Gisburn Forest, seemingly going down somewhere beyond the Cocklet Hill area. I've never seen a Shrike fly as high or distant ever!
Following the unexpected departure of the Shrike from this area we proceeded to the new hide overlooking the Hodder Inlet. Plenty of birds were present; mainly Teal & Wigeon, 30+ Cormorant and Lapwing in three figures. A small flock of Lesser Redpoll 'buzzed' over.
From the Vicarage garden, an apparent Tufted x Pochard hybrid could be seen roosting alongside Tufted Duck on the opposite bank.
Above: Apparent Tufted x Pochard hybrid - Stocks Res, Lancs - 28th Oct 2007.
We then decided to drive 'around the block', which involves a very scenic drive up over Bowland Knotts, then across to the Slaidburn-Bentham road and over Whitray Fell, Merrybent Hill and back down to Slaidburn. A couple of Stonechat were noted as well as a big female Peregrine on a fencepost, but only a single Common Buzzard. This fine male Hen Harrier was the obvious highlight as it quartered over moorland mid-pm.

Above: Male Hen Harrier - Bowland, Lancs - 28th Oct 2007.

Given how far the Shrike had flown, it was with some surprise when Gavin Thomas rang to say it had returned to the field by the church, so following on from a short refreshment stop at the Riverside Cafe in Slaidburn, we returned to the site only for the Shrike to disappear again moments before.
We gave it forty minutes, but with no further sign we decided to do the Gull roost at the Hodder inlet where a 2ndw Mediterranean Gull was located late on amongst several hundred Common Gull and lesser numbers of Black-headed, 29 Lesser Black-backed and 2 G.B.B. Gull.
Above: 2ndw Mediterranean Gull - Stocks Res, Lancs - 28th Oct 2007.
There ended a really enjoyable afternoons birding, interspersed with some enjoyable banter with fellow east lancs birders, amidst the stunning late autumnal scenery of Bowland.

Long-tailed Duck - Upper Roddlesworth Reservoir, Lancs - 27th Oct 2007.

Found by Darwen birder Ian Cameron, this juv Long-tailed Duck is the sixth I have seen locally following singles at Rishton Reservoir in November 2005, Clowbridge Reservoir in Dec 2001, River Ribble at Balderstone on Feb 1st 1991 and singles at Lower Rivington Reservoir and Stocks Reservoir in Dec 1988.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Filey, Flamborough & Spurn - 24th-26th Oct 2007.

24th Oct: I decided to book into Spurn obs for a couple of nights, but felt compelled to travel first to Flamborough and the Red-flanked Bluetail that had already been present for four days.
Up to eight Lapland Buntings had been present at nearby Filey Country Park for a few days and the Filey website suggested that the favoured stubble field could be ploughed imminently, so I decided to try for these first and wait for news of the Bluetail.
My arrival at the stubble field coincided with the arrival of the farmer to commence ploughing. The subsequent Tractor noise ensured that the numerous Skylarks etc were regularly airbourne and I quickly located two Lapland Buntings in flight, which was followed by several further views, but I could not make any increase on two birds. A single Goldcrest was feeding on the cliff edge.
The next three hours was spent walking down Long Lane, checking Arndale Ravine and involved an hours scan off the end of the brigg.
With the exception of small numbers of mixed Thrushes, mainly Blackbirds with a few Redwing and Fieldfare, the only other land migrants were a few Goldcrest, a Brambling and a Lesser Whitethroat. A Long-eared Owl had been seen earlier by one of the Filey regulars.

This female Long-tailed Duck was easily located off the south side of the Brigg, but I could not locate either the Grey Phalarope or Slavonian Grebe, both of which had been reported earlier. Other birds seen offshore included; 24 Common Scoter, 1 Eider, 5 Dark bellied Brent Geese, several Razorbill, 1 Shag, 7 Red-throated Diver, 1 juv Gannet and 1 G.C. Grebe. 40 Knot were on the Brigg end.

There had been no sign of the Bluetail and now mid afternoon I saw no rush to get to Flamborough and so made my way slowly calling at a few sites enroute.

First port of call was Bempton which produced nothing of any note. c500 Golden Plover were thoroughly 'grilled' in fields nr Speeton before they were flushed by a fem/imm Merlin.

North Landing at Flamborough was quiet migrant wise with the exception of c40 Blackbird and a few Redwing.

With the light now beginning to fail I parked at the lighthouse car park and walked the outer head, flushing a nice Woodcock from the outermost hedge in the process. A few Guillemot, Razorbill, Eider and Red-throated Diver offshore brought the day to a close and I headed off in the darkness bound for Spurn. Another Woodcock flew in front of the car at Danes Dyke and a Barn Owl was on roadside fenceposts just outside Ottringham.

Once at Spurn Obs, conversation with other birders revealed a day total of 29 Woodcock and two Yellow-browed Warblers at the point. The concensus being that the weather had looked promising, but had disappointed thus far.

25th Oct: The day started with a wander around the Warren area where several Goldcrest were present in the Sycamores. 3 Brambling > S and 3 Lesser Redpoll were grounded. Blackbirds, Fieldfare & Redwing were present in small numbers, some coming in-off. A Sparrowhawk flew along the 'Big Hedge'.

I decided to drive to Easington, starting at the Cemetary. Decent numbers of mixed Thrushes, mainly Redwing and Blackbird with some Fieldfare, were present in and around the village and 3 Goldcrest, 1 Brambling and a Woodcock were noted at the Cemetary.

News then came through of both Dusky & Pallas's Warblers at the Point, so off I drove spending the next five hours mainly in and around the Point Dunes. Several nice binocular views were had of the Pallas's, but frustratingly I didn't see or hear the Dusky Warbler at all. 3 Woodcock, 3 Brambling & a Reed Bunting were grounded in this area.

Thrushes were visibly leaving the Point, with c250 Redwing, c200 Blackbird and small numbers of Fieldfare involved. A Swallow 'blogged' around the area and a cracking adult male Black Redstart appeared very 'new-in' as it perched on Elders in the middle of the Point Dunes before discovering the area around the point buildings and adj Humber shoreline, an area long favoured by this species at Spurn. A truly beautiful bird.

Above: Adult male Black Redstart - Spurn Point - 25th Oct 2007.
A return further north yielded few rewards, save for a Woodcock which flew past the car at the 'Narrows'. Several Goldcrest were in the Crown & Anchor car park and a walk around Sammies Point was very quiet for Passerines in the bushes, with only a single Goldcrest noted as well as small numbers of Thrushes. A Sparrowhawk flew through.
The remainder of the day was spent checking through several hundred Golden Plover which were by now coming off the Humber on the rising tide and settling in fields between Easington and Kilnsea.
The American Golden Plover had been reported the day before, but there was definately no sign of it this evening despite searching by several observers.
A single Pink-footed Goose was present in fields north of Kilnsea. 1+ Water Rail was calling from Canal Scrape at dusk and several Goldcrest showed to a couple of feet along the path to the hide.
With darkness having fallen I retreated back to Warren cottage for the evening log. Whilst waiting for the proceedings to start, Spurn warden Paul Collins entered holding a Little Auk which had been reported by a member of the public on the road at Chalk Bank. The bird seemed ok after a check and deemed healthy enough to be ringed before being released into the darkness on the Humber shoreline. This bird was an unexpected bonus given only single figures reported in the north sea over the past couple of days previously.
Above: Little Auk being processed by Paul Collins in the Warren ringing lab, prior to release - 25th Oct 2007.
26th Oct: The shipping forecast the previous day had indicated that the easterlies would continue well into Friday, but by dawn it was apparent that the wind had already switched to the SW. The remainder of the day was overcast, with visibility decreasing as the afternoon progressed.
At the Warren, a fem/imm Yellowhammer > S was noteworthy, with presumably the same bird flying back north over 'Clubleys' 45 mins later. A fem/imm Merlin chased Meadow Pipits high over 'New road' and 10 Fieldfare and a Rock Pipit > S.
A thorough scan of c500 Golden Plover on the Humber off the Entrance Gate did not reveal the AGP.
Once on the 'Canal Zone', I decided to walk along the actual Humber shoreline rather than the path and was rewarded with a fine adult male Snow Bunting which flushed, calling, before heading south and was eventually noted over the point c45 mins later. 2 fem/imm Red-breasted Merganser came 'in-off' across the 'triangle' and down the Humber, several Reed Bunting were present in the spartina and c60 Blackbird were present in fields around 'Cliff Farm' where a buck Roe Deer sat obliviously in the front garden!

I continued my walk along the Humber shoreline as far as the Riverside Hotel, noting more small numbers of Blackbird & Redwing, 2 Goldcrest and another superb Woodcock which flew towards the Crown & Anchor area. c150 Dark-bellied Brent Geese came off Beacon Ponds and across to the Humber.
At this point fellow east lancashire birders, Councillor John F. Wright and Margaret Breaks, arrived at the Crown & Anchor car park where they were fortunate to see a Woodcock in the hand prior to release and were told by the warden that both the Dusky & Pallas's Warbler were still present at the point with a Little Bunting also reported there, so I met them and we made our way down, but not before Councillor Wright and MB had noted two flocks of Siskin, totalling 50 birds, flying south.
The adult male Black Redstart was still present by the snackvan and a nice male Brambling fed nr the point ringing lab as we made our way towards the point dunes.
Above: Male Brambling - Spurn Point- 26ht Oct 2007.
Several views of the elusive Pallas's Warbler were had by all three of us and it was heard to call on a couple of occasions as it loosely associated with several Goldcrest. I went one better with the Dusky Warbler and actually heard it call on three occasions, but it was nigh on impossible to see in the Buckthorn although a few birders did manage a glimpse. 2 Chiffchaff were also in the point dunes as well as small numbers of mixed Thrushes. A fem/imm Snow Bunting > S as did 207 Siskin in seven flocks between 12:40-13:20.
I returned to the Warren for a brew noting a Little Egret on the Humber which was the same bird as I saw on my last stay at Spurn three weeks previously, with distinctive rusty staining on the wings, whilst Councillor Wright and MB noted a fem/imm Black Redstart at the point, in the same area as the adult male, whilst en-route back to their car.
Whilst indulging in the aforementioned cup of tea, more Siskin, totalling 27, moved south.
Now mid-afternoon, the three of us decided to walk north from the warren, through Clubleys and along kilnsea Cliff to the north end of Beacon Lane and back down to the Warren, with the highlight being a nice fem/imm Black Redstart around the Gun Emplacement on Kilnsea Cliff. A fem/imm Merlin perched on a fencepost off Beacon Lane and a Chiffchaff and 3 goldcrest were by the Bluebell.
Above: Black Redstart - Kilnsea cliff, Spurn - 26th Oct 2007.

Above: Fem/imm Merlin - Beacon Lane, Spurn - 26th Oct 2007.

By now it was late afternoon, so it was time again to check the Golden Plover flocks between Easington & Kilnsea. Alas, there was again no sign of the AGP amongst several hundered of its commoner relatives. A juv Ruff and 3 Black-tailed Godwit were noted amongst a Curlew flock, drawing to an end an enjoyable three days on the east coast.

The Observatory day total for Siskin was 654. Not bad considering there was no dedicated narrows watch from mid-morning.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Local birding - 19th-20th Oct 2007.

19th Oct: A browse of the Rossendale Ornithologists Club sightings forum revealed numbers of Crossbill in the Haslingden Grane area, so I paid a visit to Calf Hey Reservoir mid-pm. No Crossbill were seen or heard, but 415 fieldfare > W/NW between 15:15-15:34, 15 Siskin were in trees nr the reservoir, a fem/imm Stonechat by Ogden Res and a distant Peregrine over Hare Clough.

20th Oct: Three hours late am - early pm saw me indulge in a little vis at Wells Lane, Brinscall, totting up 260 Fieldfare > E/SE, 1 Brambling > E/SE, 2 Skylark > E/SE and 3 Reed Bunting >E/SE in 40 mins. A pair of Stonechat were also present. Three hundred Fieldfare were in hedgerows on the north side of Abbey Village.

A walk along the SW side of Stones Bank Plantation nr Belmont revealed plenty of cones on the trees with 2 male Brambling the highlight, 10 Siskin, 8 Lesser Redpoll, 20 Chaffinch and 30 Fieldfare noted, but no Crossbill. A Raven flew north.

Above: Male Brambling - Stones Bank Plantation.

Upon arrival back at home, three Buzzards and three Swallows went south over as I unloaded my gear from the car. Very nice.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Raddes Warbler - Leasowe, Wirral - 16th Oct 2007.

A walk around my local patch, Brockholes Quarry, was rudely interrupted by news of this Raddes Warbler, south of Leasowe Lighthouse, Wirral.
Arriving at the twitch site at 14:30, almost an hour passed with no sight or sound of the bird. Then at 15:30 the Raddes began calling and was soon located in amongst the vegetation of the overgrown embankment it was frequenting. Several further excellent binocular and scope views were had of the bird up to 18:00, but the Raddes could go missing for 30-60 min periods, then usually it would be located by call which was especially nice to hear as I can't recall having heard Raddes in the field before. A superb bird. Due respect to the finder of this major NW rarity.
Back at the car, a short walk to the beach was rewarded with a distant adult Med Gull amongst hordes of Black-headed Gulls and a female Peregrine perched on the beach.
Looking across to the Seaforth and Formby Point coastline, it dawned how close this bird was to Lancashire.Above: The Raddes Warbler was frequenting the weedy embankment beyond the hedgerow on the opposite side of the public footpath.
Above: A section of the assembled birders watch the Raddes from the adj Golf Course edge.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Spurn, East Yorkshire - 8th-11th Oct 2007

8th Oct: The weather forecast on sunday 7th Oct indicated that the following day would be the last of the easterlies for the foreseeable future, so a decision was made to head off to Spurn for a few days to hopefully connect with birds already present, with maybe the chance of a few new birds being found in the short window before the easterlies ended. Although I have visited Spurn for days only on numerous occasions in recent years, it is twelve long years since I actually stayed at the observatory.

Above: Barred Warbler - Canal Scrape car park, Spurn - 8th Oct 2007.

Whilst enroute on Monday morning, news came through on the pager of a Dusky Warbler on Vicars Lane, Easington, so this was my first port of call. After only a short wait the Dusky gave good binocular views and called frequently. A Great start.
Two vocal Yellow-browed Warblers were showing in the Crown & Anchor car park and a Barred Warbler gave excellent views in the Canal Scrape car park bushes. Once checked in at the obs and gear dropped off, a quick chat with the warden, Andy Gibson, as to where the recent Sibe Stonechat had been seen revealed that it had not been recorded for a couple of days. I still thought I would check the area just in case and so headed off down to the point.

On approaching the stretch of road at the Narrow Neck, I noticed a birder walking back north along the road and a small passerine at the roadside edge just beyond him. The birder was making no attempt to flag me down as I approached, but I still wound the window down to ask him if he had seen anything of note. Upon doing this, and without even stopping in his tracks, he told me in the most casual fashion " Little Bunt on the road" and carried on walking! - The passerine was still visible with the naked eye from the car, so I drove a little further, admittedly slightly scepticle given the birders extremely laid back attitiude and 'binned' the bird.... Strewth! It was a Little Bunting!! - I can only assume the finder has seen a few hundred more Little Buntings in his time than I have? The bird remained on the road for a further ten minutes before flying to the beach as other birders arrived, whilst the finder had long gone! For the remainder of my stay at Spurn the Little Bunting remained on the seaward side of the road, in the Marram Grass, as far down as Wire Dump, delighting many observers. A little Gem. Two Wheatear were on the Humber shoreline in this area.

Above: Little Bunting - Seaward side of Post 58, Spurn, E. Yorks - 9th Oct 2007.
Above: Birders search for the Little Bunting - 8th Oct 2007.
After feasting on the Bunting, I continued down to the point which fortunately coincided with the catching of a nice juv Common Rosefinch in the point Heligoland Trap late afternoon. The end of an excellent few hours birding.
The weather forecast for the 9th was heavy rain encroaching from the west, lasting for the majority of the day. Given the high pressure system was still over the north sea, I wondered if it would result in a few more grounded birds.
Above: Juv Common Rosefinch - Spurn Point - 8th Oct 2007.
9th Oct: The day initially dawned dry, but it was obvious looking to the west of the impending deluge. And so this is how it turned out to be. Birding the bushes was nigh on impossible for much of the day so after spending a futile hour trying to relocate the Blyths Reed Warbler at Southfield Farm in horrendous conditions, I retreated to the Crown & Anchor car park and watched a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers from under the shelter of the car boot door. This was followed by a seawatch, the only realistic option available given the deluge. From 12:20-17:10 the following were recorded:
Red-throated Diver: 3 > S.
Gannet: 1 > S.
Little Gull: 1ad 'in'.
Common Tern: 1 > S.
Common Scoter: 17 > N, 3 > S, 30 on the sea.
Teal: 1 > S.
Mallard: 4 > S.
Goldeneye: 1 > S.
Common Gull: 3 > S.
LBB Gull: 1 > S.
Herring Gull: 3 > S.
GBB Gull: 2 > S.
Brent Goose: 2 > S.
Knot: 10 > S.
Grey Plover: 4 > N.
Dunlin: 1 > S, 1 'in'.
Ringed Plover: 2 > S.
Sanderling: 1 > S.
Song Thrush: 1 'in'.
Redwing: 219 'in'.
Fieldfare: 10 'in'.
Blackbird: 11 'in'.
Brambling: 2 'in'.
Chaffinch: 1 'in'.
Some of the Thrushes coming in were literally exhausted, flopping down on the beach and on the cliff edge. As unfortunate for the birds as it is, this is what I come to Spurn hoping to see.... the awesome wonder of migration. I can only imagine how horrible the conditions must have been for these Thrushes, at least for the final third of their journey across 400 miles of open sea. Be it a Thrush or a Goldcrest, it is hard not watch in awe when land birds are coming in off the sea. A total of 1700+ Redwing were entered into the observatory log that evening. A final walk from the Obs to Canal Hedge for the last hour of light in the still torrential rain revealed plenty of Thrushes and a few Brambling. Some of the former were already moving on.
10th Oct: As forecast, the weather had cleared. It was immediately obvious that the majority of birds had indeed moved on. I walked from the Obs to Chalk Bank. There were some tired Thrushes feeding along the Peninsula, but the modest highlight of this walk was a juv fem Peregrine north over the Humber and just general good views of mixed wader species, c80 Brents on the Humber, a Goldeneye > S and a 1stw Sandwich Tern 'out'. A Common Seal was on the beach.
Further views of the Dusky Warbler, Little Bunting, Yellow-browed Warblers & Rosefinch were had and also several views of the Blyths Reed Warbler at Southfield Farm, however i would have liked better views of the latter, which did not call whilst I was watching it. A drake Common Scoter was on the pond by the Bluebell. A distant 'narrow-winged' Harrier in total silouette over Easington Riding School was likely to have been the same ringtail Hen Harrier which had flown north from the peninsula earlier. Two juv Little Stints were on flood water in fields just south of Easington and reasonable numbers of Thrushes were still present around the village.
The day ended with a final look for the Blyths Reed warbler revealing only a single Chiffchaff in the same area and a Barn Owl put on a good show just north of Kilnsea.
Above: Sanderling & Turnstone - 'New road', Spurn - 10th Oct 2007.
Above: Common Seal - Spurn - 10th Oct 2007.

Above: apparent Atlantic White-sided Dolphin washed up just north of Spurn Lighthouse - 9th Oct 2007.

11th Oct: South-westerlies forecast indicated that there would be some visible migration on offer, so I spent three hours at the Narrows from 09:40-12:40 logging the following:
Gannet: 1 > N.
Herring Gull: 41 > S.
Little Egret: A juv flew up the Humber landing at the Narrows, gradually moving north along the saltmarsh to the Tank Blacks at least.
Sparrowhawk: 1 juv > N.
Golden Plover: 2 > S.
Carrion Crow: 4 > S.
Great-spotted Woodpecker: 1 > S.
Swallow: 11 > S.
Starling: 14 > S.
Redwing: 3 > S.
Blackbird: 1 > S.
Meadow Pipit: 103 > S.
Rock Pipit: 8 > S.
Skylark: 56 > S.
Pied Wagtail: 2 > S.
'Alba' Wagtail: 3 > S.
Chaffinch: 4 > S.
Greenfinch: 87 > S.
Goldfinch: 161 > S.
Redpoll sp: 1 > S.
Linnet: 16 > S.

Above: Little Egret - 'Narrows', Spurn - 11th Oct 2007.

Above: Visible migration watch - 'Narrows', Spurn - 11th Oct 2007.
Weasel & Common Lizard were noted whilst stood at the narrows, whilst a distant object offshore could have only been a largeish Cetacean sp in my opinion which appeared to lounge on the surface interspersed with submerging for c10 minutes at a time. The poor grab below doesnt do the brief video footage obtained much justice which created a talking point when shown to people at the observatory log that evening.

This was followed by another look for the Dusky Warbler which although still present did not show in 2hrs I was there. The Little Bunting again showed well and the day ended with a walk around the point where 10+ Fieldfare and 50+ Redwing were present in the buckthorn, along with a only my 3rd Goldcrest of my time at Spurn. The Rosefinch and 5 Brambling were present at the mouth of the point Heligoland trap.
Above: female Great Crested Newt - This was brought to the obs by a visitor from Skeffling. It's staggering to think that these impressive little beasts can live as long as 27 years!!
So, overall an enjoyable and varied few days with some good birds seen. It was also good to meet some of the 'new' bunch of 'regulars' at the obs, indulging in some enjoyable 'birdy' banter in the evenings.

Spurn rarely disappoints and this visit was no exception.