18 October 2015

Spurn! 10/10/2015

Every year I get to have one day where my Mum agrees to get up during the small hours and take me to which ever birding hot-spot I desire, it used to be Cley and Titchwell, but that was before I knew the wonders of Spurn Point. I tried Spurn for the first time last year on the 4th of October, but picked completely the wrong day: it rained, we got soaked and I didn't see much. So this year I kept a close eye on the weather patterns and picked my day carefully! I think it's safe to say, I chose the right day!

I had packed everything the evening before, so it was up at 3:30 and off by 4:00am. We had a 2 and half hour drive, most of which I slept, although I was awake to my first bird of the day - a flyby Tawny Owl. Something else of note en route was the view of Venus, Mars, Jupiter and the Moon almost perfectly aligned! We arrived at 6:40. Whilst I went off to the sea watching hide, my mum caught up on a bit of sleep. I was there for a couple of hours with not much going through apart from a small trickle of Common Scoters, Red-throated Divers and the odd Gannet, accompanied by a pair of Seals pretending to be sharks! News of both Olive-backed and Richard's Pipit at the point came through on someone's radio, unfortunately I was stuck around the Warren until my mum woke up, so been as nothing much was moving at sea I decided to have a wander around. There were a good few thousand waders on the mud-flats, it was hard to identify the distant birds, but there were some closer in, such as lots of Little Egrets, Curlew and a Grey Plover. A Merlin was circling the area whilst 3 Swallow went south, and I heard flyover Siskin and Lesser Redpoll. By now it was 9:00am so I woke my mum up and had a second breakfast! Suddenly news came in of a Little Bunting in one direction and a Richard's Pipit in the other! I chose the Richard's Pipit and after a quick drive up the road there it was, just sat in the field! Lifer #1...

Record shot of the Richard's Pipit
We then returned to the Warren and set off on our walk to the point, by now it was turning into a lovely day with the sun shining down on us as we wandered across the breach, the scenery was beautiful.

The view out to the North Sea
I then got news of a Firecrest at Old Narrows, but having only ever been here once before, I didn't really know where to look. Luckily nearby was Steve Routledge, a local birder, who kindly pointed out the area in which it had been seen before finding the bird itself. It called a few times from within the bushes before showing itself for a little while, in which I got good views of one of the most stunning little birds I've ever seen! Lifer #2...

We continued down the point for a little while before we reached Chalk Bank, it was here that a Yellow-browed Warbler had been reported. I looked for a little while and saw quite a few Reed Buntings but no warblers, so I asked some nearby birders if they'd seen it and they pointed me to the bush in which it had been seen. After another 5 mins of looking with no results, the bird decided to do me a favour, it flew from one bush to another, completely revealing itself! It took another half an hour before it showed itself again and I got some very close views, Just like the Firecrest, it was a stunning little gem. Lifer #3...

We continued all the way to the point with a pair of Stonechats and a flock of Redwing, my first of the autumn, being the only things of note.

Male Stonechat
After experiencing the spectacular views from the point, of Hull to our right and the North Sea to our left, we turned around and started to head back.

We had to walk fairly speedily to ensure we weren't cut off by the incoming tide, we had got to just past Chalk Bank when someone pointed out to us the amazing patterns in the sky. He was able to tell us the names of all the different shapes that were visible and instructed me to Google 'Atmospheric Optics' when I had the chance. It was amazing to see!

A 120° Parhelion with Anthelion and Diffuse Arcs (Apparently!)
A 22° Halo
Back to the world of birds! The next bird of note was a Lesser Whitethroat sp. at Old Narrows which my Mum accidentally flushed as she walked by. I've put it down as 'sp.' because at this time of year you never know what rare Sub-species are about, but I got very poor views of it and no photos, so it will have to remain unidentified!

We finally arrived back at the warren, and drove to our next port of call; Kilnsea Wetlands. Although en route we had a quick stop to see what everyone was looking at in someone's garden. It turned out to be a rather fine Black Redstart! Not a lifer but only my 3rd ever!

Black Redstart
We got to Kilnsea Wetlands at 16:00, I had been in the hide for less than a minute and someone had already put me onto a Spotted Redshank. Which later turned out to be 1 of 4 hidden within the Redshanks. Lifer #4...

A Blurry Spotted Redshank
There were a few other bits and bobs on the lagoon with 3 Greenshank being of note, then the sound of someone's radio came from outside the hide, I didn't hear what it said but luckily someone else did. The words were enough to get me straight out of the hide, and up to the growing crowd, who were viewing a juvenile AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER!!! Lifer #5!
American Golden Plover (!!!)
So while me and a few others had been viewing the majority of the lagoon, someone else had found a rarity, on part of it that wasn't quite viewable from where we were sat! The bird took off and flew towards the Humber showing it's dusky underwings, and returned not 2 minutes later, calling as it did so. Although now, somehow, there appeared to be TWO! Although there was much discussion about this, as one appeared to show more characteristics of a Grey Plover. But from what i've read online, the general consensus seems to be that they are both American Golden Plovers, but "at almost different ends of the variation within the species".

Unfortunately we now had a 3 hour car journey home, but a Barn Owl on the way out was the icing on the cake of what I believe to be my best ever day of birdwatching. Of course that's mostly down to the fantastic 76 species and 5 lifers, but I also met loads of great people from Next Generation Birders and A Focus On Nature, I bumped into Kane Brides who I've seen at the Birdfair and met Tormod from Biotope. When you add in the amazing weather, scenery and atmospheric optics, it easily equals an amazing day, I couldn't have wished for any more! Until next year Spurn... I'll be back, for sure!

2 December 2014

November - Patching, Ringing and Rarities

As you have probably noticed this is my first ever blog post on my brand new blog! So I thought, what better way to start off my blog with a round up of what has been an absolutely brilliant month of Bird related activities.

November started on a Saturday and we went for a walk up Beacon Hill. It's about a 40 minute drive from us, but well worth it because it has some excellent woodland habitat and a great view. We walked to the top and explored some of the deciduous woodland, it was a fairly sunny day and so the trees all looked amazing with their autumn leaves still on. Some of the bird highlights included: Peregrine, Nuthatch, several Bullfinch and a pair of Jays. But birds weren't the only things around; Fly Agarics were dotted about and because I had recently brought my first ever phone I decided to test its camera:

Fly Agaric Panorama

Fly Agaric

Fly Agaric Panorama

On sunday it was, as usual, a day of mostly homework. But a nice excuse for a break from homework entered the garden around midday; 2 Goldcrest. Which is the highest number we've ever had in our garden at any one time, unfortunately they didn't hang around long.
After a week at school it was Saturday 9th and I had got up early to go out into my garden and sit in a little portable wildlife hide I have, It was good weather with some nice autumnal light and so I was hoping to get good pictures of some of our garden birds. Here are some of the results:

Collared Dove
Great Tit
House Sparrow

After about an hour and a half of photography. My dad woke to find a text on his phone saying that ringing was on, so I rushed about, collected what I needed and got to the site at about 9am. It was a good session with a modest 25 birds caught and a ringing lifer for me, a Coal Tit.

The next morning I was up early again, this time for my monthly WeBS count. For those who don't know my WeBS site, it is quite a small set of fishing lakes, so you can imagine my incredible buzz of excitement when I found a group of four Bearded Tits! Especially as they are quite a rarity in the county.
A record shot of the Bearded Tits
However the birds had unfortunately moved on within half an hour, but the Patch ticks didn't stop there! A Water Rail was heard calling from within the reeds and one, possibly two, Cetti's Warblers were heard singing! 

I then walked over to another part of my patch called Priory Water, this is a much bigger set of lakes which attracts fairly good numbers of wildfowl throughout the winter. Some birds present included 3 Kingfishers, Little Egret, 2 Sparrowhawks and a large flock of c150 Lapwing. Also Fieldfare and Redwing numbers were on the up with several small flocks about and a pair of Mistle Thrush.

After another week of school, it was Saturday and time for another Ringing session, which turned out to be a fantastic morning with great weather for ringing. It totalled 37 birds with five more ringing lifers for me: Song Thrush, Fieldfare, Redwing, Chaffinch (slightly overdue!) and an amazing Great Spotted Woodpecker. Two male Great Spots were caught but one was a re-trap from the 16th February 2011. They were both in the bottom shelf of the same net, less than a meter from each other!
Great Spotted Woodpeckers
On the Sunday I had a lot of homework to do but I did manage to get out for a couple of hours and go over to my granddad's house. My granddad is lucky enough to live in a small farmhouse in the middle of nowhere surrounded by an acre of land he owns. He gets daily visits from a wide variety of farmland birds and has masses of Rabbits which have recently attracted the odd stoat. But the main reason I go to my granddads is because of one Robin, this Robin has got so used to seeing my granddad gardening that it will fly down and feed directly out of my hand! So I had a good catchup with my Robin and then went on a bit of a walk about to see what I could find. Birds of interest included: 6 flyover Siskins, a flock of about 30 Chaffinches, 9 Reed Buntings and four Tree Sparrows. 

Saturday came around again and a trip down to my Patch was due. I set off at 8am and didn't get back until dark and what a day it was with birds everywhere I looked. During the walk to Priory Water I saw my second Treecreeper on my patch this year, several of my favorite birds - Bullfinches and flyover Meadow Pipits and a Skylark. When I finally got to Priory Water I got out my scope and started counting the wildfowl, the highest count was 65 Gadwall. But before I could count the Gulls some dog walkers had spooked everything into the air including a pair of Little Egrets. I watched one through my scope for a couple of minutes before it settled down again. Then as I lifted my head from my scope I immediately noticed an Egret flying over my patch, it was much bigger than the Little Egret I had just been watching! I instinctively grabbed by binoculars and had a quick look at the Egrets beak which was yellow and its feet which were black. This was a Great White Egret!!! On my Patch! I quickly lifted my camera to my face and tried to take a picture. Nothing happened! I had my camera turned off. Ahhhhh! I turned it on but by that point it was two late, it had flown out of view being pursued by a group of Gulls. I went after it and ended up doing a 5 mile walk looking for it but I couldn't relocate it. However it turned out I saw 61 species that day! Other highlights included: Chiffchaff, 6 Mistle Thrush, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Green Woodpecker, 2 Grey Wagtails, 5 Little Egrets, a group of 8 Magpies (unusual?) and another Patch tick in the form of a Stonechat.
Digiscoped Stonechat 

Digiscoped female Great Spotted Woodpecker
After a lie in and a day of homework on Sunday. It was back to school for another week, but it felt like it had ended before it had begun and it was up early on Saturday for another ringing session. It turned out to be a very quiet morning with a total of only 15 birds, with the best bird being a ringing tick for me; a Wren. Another ringing tick that morning was a female House Sparrow which gave me a quite a pecking whilst I was extracting it! That afternoon I walked down to my patch for a couple of hours, highlights included: a massive group of Gulls flying over with about 250 birds, several unusually tame Fieldfares, 3+ Kingfishers and my 100th species for my patch this year, a small flock of 9 Pochard!

And that was my November! 75 species overall, 1 County tick, 2 Self-found county rarities, 8 Ringing Ticks and 6 Species and 13 points added to my Patch 2014 list. What a Month!

I know its quite a long read, so if you've read this far then Well Done and Thanks for reading :)