Sunday, 7 September 2014

Spurn Mig Fest - Saturday 6th September 2014

After a relatively quiet Summer in which my year-list had dried up, I had planned to visit Spurn for my annual migrant fix :)

See Map of area visited

My Brother in Law Gary picked me up at 4am for an early drive to Kilnsea. After safely negotiating the M56, M62, A63, A1033 & B1445 we arrived at Kilnsea just after 7am. We checked in at Westmere Farm and then drove down to the BlueBell Cafe car park area and immediately I spotted some juv Whinchat on a barbed wire fence.

A bit further along in the scrub were some Stonechat and in the pools were a couple of Redshank. Lots of House Martins, Sand Martins & Swallows were flying over the pools looking for breakfast :) We got all our gear sorted and set off around the corner to walk up past Southfield Farm and towards the Canal Zone. All of a sudden I noticed movement in the hedge near the farm entrance and it was a Spotted Flycatcher. Myself and Gary watched this showy bird for sometime :)

With Easterly winds prevalent during the last week and a low front moving in, it boded well for todays birding and we were not to be disappointed!! In the next field we could see a lot more Whinchat on fenceposts and also a lot of Yellow Wagtails feeding in the grass.

We had a look around the Canal Scrape and saw a couple of Coot and a Snipe, outside another Spotted Flycatcher was on the telegraph wires. We walked up towards The Warren and to look at any vismig out to sea. The mist was quite thick further out to sea so not much had been seen, however at 'Numpties' watchpoint we were looking at mass migration of Meadow Pipits and flock after flock of bird flying overhead. Ian Smith (chairman at Spurn) was telling me that up to 1500 mipits had passed through from their Iceland breeding grounds that morning already, with many more to come!! We decided to take the footpath back alongside the canal towards Cliff Farm. Along the path we saw Willow Warbers, Whitethroat and Reed Buntings. Nearing Cliff Farm we saw some birders looking into a tree and then a small bird flew towards us and swung around and landed in some tall bushes. It was a Wryneck!! Brilliant, it had been ages since I'd seen this special bird and I quickly set up to get some phonescoped record shots, little did I know that the bird would soon fly down onto the nearby rocks and give me a cracking photo opportunity :)

As you can see this is probably a bird that was recently ringed at the spurn bird obs a day or so ago and has hung around to fatten up before making its onward journey South along the coast. Feeling pleased as punch, we walked up towards Cliff Farm and out onto the path by the Crown & Anchor Pub. In the car park at the back I could see a few birds moving and we noticed a couple of Pied Flycatchers in the trees.

Just then Martin Garner (@birdingfrontier & Spurn Committee) asked what we had spotted and also enjoyed these fine migrants, he then radioed through to advise the location. (Throughout the day any sightings were relayed by two way radio for those who had hired them) Time was ticking on and we were feeling peckish so we headed back to the car for an early lunch around 11.30am. As Gary was brewing up, I spotted a Wheatear fresh in off the sea and took these snaps.

After lunch we looked in at Southfield Farm again and could see a couple of Spotted and at least one Pied Flycatcher on the garden fence! This is the same place that last year we had a Red Backed Shrike and a Barred Warbler sat side by side (see my blog from September 14th 2013) moving into the next field I spotted a small ditch in which a Redshank, Ruff and a Snipe were feeding. As I was watching these birds I caught movement out of the corner of my eye and on the top of a hastily erected looking screen hide/wicker fence was sat another Wryneck looking at me!!! It was unreal!! Our Gary was gobsmacked, but it did not hang about long and was soon off back over the field. Just then news came in that a Barred Warbler had been trapped at Church Fields (ringing station), we set off and 5 minutes later was looking at a Barred Warbler close up in the hand, I mean how good does this get?

We decided to walk back up the coastal path back towards The Warren as you can see birds along the path and in the fields and also any birds in the Humber Estuary. I was scanning the Estuary and could see Redshank, Golden Plover, Ringed Plover, Curlew, Turnstone, Dunlin and also some fine Curlew Sandpiper. I took these record shots and you can see they have that nice decurved bill and clean white underbelly and a peachy wash around the throat. Also see more longer necked than Dunlin and slightly larger.

As we walked further up the path, a Sparrowhawk flew overhead and then I spotted at least a dozen Whinchat on some fence-posts and feeding in a field! Back home on the West coast I have been lucky to see a couple of Whinchat at Leasowe in the Spring, now here I was on the East coast looking at them at almost every opportunity!

As we got near to the path overlooking the canal scrape hide, we scanned the bushes and I spotted a female Redstart sitting with her back to us. I got this quick record shot.

Overhead we saw a Peregrine scanning the Estuary for lunch until it disappeared out of sight. Back at The Warren we decided to look in on the bird ringing and they had caught some Meadow Pipits. Here one of the ringers at the obs explains a bit about the procedure and gives us a close up.

After a look inside the obs in which there are some impressive pics of birds caught & ringed down the years, we decided to have a quick look out on the Estuary as high tide was approaching. Lots of waders were on the move including, Plovers, Redshanks, 1 Spotshank, 4 Barwits, Curlew, Dunlin, but closer in I spotted a solitary Greenshank having a snooze (in background), oblivious to the goings on around it :)

I had been in touch with a couple of friends from Twitter and we had agreed to meet up in The Crown & Anchor for a pint and a chat, as it happened it worked out perfectly, at about 2.30pm it started to rain quite heavily so I got a lift with the friends down to the boozer, whilst our Gary went back to the car for a catnap as he was feeling the effects of being up at 3am, driving and walking around. With me not driving, it was a wise move as he also had to drive the 168 miles home as well, so a big thank you :) My twitter friends are Mark Lucas and his son Ellis (who does a cracking blog called Ellis' wildlife walks ) and Rob Stokes who is also a keen birder & blogger

It was really nice to catch up with people who you socialise with online but sometimes will probably never meet, especially such friendly guys as these. After a pint or two of cider and a good natter, I got dropped back off by our car to see if our Gary was still alive! Thankfully after a couple of worrying seconds there was movement. After nearly forgetting my scope and bins in Marks car (only had two pints) I got my gear and said I may pop in and see them later when they are tucking into their hog roast supper at Westmere Farm.

It was now about 4.30pm so we had another cuppa and a sarnie and then decided to go back up to the seawatching hut and check on the pelagics, magic :) It was a good decision as we got talking to one of the obs guys and joined him for a sewatch & in the space of about 45 mins had seen, 2 Red Throated Diver, 3 Fulmar, 3 Little Gull, 10 GBB Gull, 1 juv Long Tailed Skua, 6 Arctic Skua,12 Gannets, 8 Sandwich Terns, 2 Arctic Terns & a Manx Shearwater. I then got interviewed by Next Gen Birder Jonnie Fisk! Hope my hair was straight lol. We then saw 8 Greenfinches our first finch of the day and a Reed Warbler in the Obs garden.

It had been a great day and I popped in at Westmere Farm to give in my raffle tickets for the draw later in the evening ;) and also to say goodbye to Mark, Ellis & Rob. The hogs were just polishing off their hog roasts as I entered to say my goodbyes :)  Sure we will meet up again in the future.

On the way home we stopped in at Kilnsea Wetlands and bagged a Little Stint that was feeding with a few Dunlin, great way to round off a superb day. Big credit goes to the staff and volunteers who made it such an enjoyable day.

PS. Sunday 7th Sept

I only won a prize didn't I lol, the Opticron Binoculars :-)


Mike Buckley (photos phonescoped)
Gary Chidlow 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Red Necked Phalarope

Today looked good for a visit to Burton Mere Wetlands as we were meant to be having a break in the weather. When I got up it was 10 degrees and felt rather cool and overcast so decided to have a cuppa and some toast. As I was eating my toast, I looked through twitter and nearly fell off the chair as they had announced a Red Necked Phalarope on the reception scrape.

Quicker than you can say two shakes of a lambs tail, I was off. Unfortunately messrs Hickey & Kurs had work commitments so could not attend :( When I arrived the bird was showing well and I set up my scope outside the main reception on the boardwalk along with others like Roger Wilkinson, Steve Williams from Hilbre, Allan Conlin from Leasowe & Alan Hitch & John Adshead Macclesfield.

In Phalaropes you have a role reversal and the female is slightly bigger and more colourful than the male. This fine young lady was happily spinning around on the surface enjoying a feed in amongst the Godwits, probably leaving her mate (if she has one) to attend to the eggs/chicks only who knows where?

They have lobed toes and swim in small rapid circles stirring up all the small insects or crustaceans then reach into the centre of the vortex and pick at the food with their fine bill :) One of the rare records for Wirral, the other being at IMF in the 90's. I had seen one at Frodsham in the 90's when I used to go out with my dear Dad, god bless him. Those were the days. 

What a bonus bird for the area!! Fantastic to see but unfortunately for others, it was flushed about 2.45pm. It flew off towards pools in the fields at the back of the reserve with other Godwits, so may return. Then it will be off on a long journey South East to the Arabian Sea!! Amazing. 

SHORT VIDEO CLIP OF RED NECKED PHALAROPE :- sorry very shaky as windy :/

A Greenshank was nearby throughout the morning, 

A Ringed Teal which I'm not ashamed to say I thought was a fem Garganey at first sight as she was poking her head out of the bushes on the islands, was later out on the scrape, but after a good look in the scope and checking with Dan (RSPB) confirmed as Ringed Teal.

Other birds seen today included Med Gull, Little Ringed Plover, Redshank, Common Tern, Shoveler, Avocet, Shelduck, BH Gull, LBB Gull, Pied Wagtail, Canada Goose, Greylag Goose, Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Reed & Sedge Warbler, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Reed Bunting, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chiffchaff (with three young being fed on a branch) & Buzzard. No sign of Little Owl by the barn. But hey, who's complaining :-) 

Mike Buckley (photo & vid)

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Peregrines on Patch - Sunday 18th May 2014

Sunday morning, I decided to have a walk around Rivacre Woods and the locale and see how our Peregrines were doing. Upon arrival at the site, I noticed three chicks doing well and the parent bird shortly flew in to keep an eye out. This is just a few shots and a short video clip.

Peregrine Chicks  (CLICK ON LINK)

Nearby I saw a pair of lovely Goldfinches.

A bit further on and as I suspected, I came across Lesser Black Backed Gulls displaying all the signs of courtship and most probable nesting!! Here are some shots.

Main emphasis for this quick spin around the patch was to check on the falcons, however other birds seen included Blackcap, Whitethroat, Willow Warbler, Greenfinch, Buzzard, Blackbird, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blue Tit, Gt Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Goldcrest, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove and Great Spotted Woodpecker :)


Mike Buckley (photos)

The Great Orme & RSPB Conwy Bank Holiday Monday 26th May 2014

Late on Sunday evening, I made the decision to take the train to Llandudno and do some birding up on the Great Orme. I suppose I was still cheesed off after having the possible Subalpine Warbler last June (small greyish bird in gorse with 'tekk' call), but only a day later, one was spotted and photographed by a local birder and confirmed as a SubAlp. So my mission was to get one for myself...haha asif. Passing Deganwy railway station was a gorgeous bay :-

Arriving at Llandudno from Chester at 8am, it had been raining quite heavily and the pavements were soaked. I walked through town and arrived at the Pier and made my way up past the Grand Hotel and into Happy Valley Park, what a lovely place.

Chaffinch, Goldcrest and Great Tit were singing and a Robin and Dunnock were having a spat (as they do) nearby. As I made my way up the steps towards the ski-lift and the limestone pavement, Goldfinches and a pair of Blue Tits were calling from a nearby tree. Walking up the steps I had a good view out across the pier.

I had not brought my scope as planned on doing a fair bit of walking and it is quite heavy so these pics are just from my Samsung Galaxy S4, so apologies for those photographers who take superb photos :/ As I turned a corner past a few rabbits and jackdaws I flushed a Dotterel!! Bugger me that was not expected and it flew out towards Little Orme, too late to get a quick parting shot :(

I walked back around towards the Alpine Lodge on the other side and did my best pishing to see if anything emerged. Sadly, just a couple of curious Goldfinches and a young Crow cawed it's dismay at my feeble efforts! I did however hear the familiar sound of young Great Spotted Woodpeckers and sure enough located the nest behind the cabin. Walking further up towards the summit I spotted about six Wheatears and a family of Stonechat with youngsters. Mipits called all around me and there was quite a few Linnets. As I walked further on towards St Trudos Church and Graveyard, I spotted a pod of around 20 dolphins just of the cliff edge and not far from shore, say about 400 yards. Brilliant to watch.

In the churchyard I saw a Pied Wagtail and a few Goldfinch and could hear a Chiffchaff. After a while I came to the cliff edge by the 'rest and be thankful cafe' and sat down for a drink and a sandwich. Looking out on the cliffs I could see Guillemot, Razorbill, Kittiwakes, Fulmar, Cormorant, Shag and a calling Chough flew over. As I was eating I attracted an audience and the jackdaws fancied a few crisps :- see small video clip below

Cheeky Jackdaws

After a rest, I saw a solitary Puffin fly past and a lot of Sandwich Terns were noisily making their way past also. A party of Kashmiri Goats went past and it's amazing how they cling to the rocks and cliff face. This one had been left behind and looked knackered!

I decided to walk down the road back to Happy Valley, on the way down the path I saw nesting Fulmars (great noises they make at the nest)

A hangout of Cormorants on a large slab just near the shoreline :-

More Stonechats with young in brambles just over the wall :- poor record shot, apologies.

Beautiful Red Valerian (thanks Liam Langley for ID) and some lovely Thrift & Birdsfoot Trefoil (thanks Joe Dobinson for ID)

The sea was flat calm and the wind turbines were not operational.

There was a curious structure that blended in with the limestone. Thinking this is probably an old pilllar box for sea defences?

When I reached the bottom, I decided not to watch Punch & Judy as everybody else seemed to be doing on the seafront, but opted to get the train to Llandudno Junction and have a look around RSPB Conwy. Upon arrival I saw a Coot with young and a pair of Great Crested Grebes on nest. Singing Sedge Warblers and Willow Warblers could be heard. On the way to the Benarf Hide, I saw a Lesser Whitethroat which after observing had a mate on a nest in nearby bramble, again the sharp 'tekk' giving it away! I walked out of the reserve and down the estuary and saw Grey Heron, Shelduck, Little Egret, numerous Gulls, a Buzzard overhead and a Wheatear on the rocky shore. Also a great view of Conwy Castle.

Train back to Chester and Merseyrail back to Overpool, I arrived in at 7pm and slept like a log. A very enjoyable Bank Holiday birding day out.

Mike Buckley (photos)

Frodsham Marsh - Thursday 29th May 2014

Having been earlier in the week, it was only right to take another look at the stunning Red Necked Grebe and the Lesser Scaup. My brother in law Gary was keen to see the RNG in it's stunning summer plumage and a bird rarely seen on the west coast let alone locally, but more regularly in winter on our East coast. So an opportunity not to be missed :)

Arriving in the Landrover we drove up towards Redwall Reedbed and parked up and donned in suitable attire (wellys) it was very muddy after many birders had slugged through the mud, we made our way down towards the River Weaver. I set the scope up and straight away could see at least five Great Crested Grebes, some Shelduck, Tuftys, Coot and Mallard. No sign, hmm, had it flown? Walking a bit further up, eureka, the Grebe emerged from the depths not more than six metres in front of us!

What a stunner!!! The bird was feeding and was regularly diving down for fish. These images are not the best but were taken phonescoping so best I could do given the light (very poor) at 7.30pm.

A bit of neck extending and a shake of the feathers and then down to catch another small fish :) Success, Yummy.

The little tufts that could be seen on the back of the head were so cool and the bird really was a show off, tonight there was only me and our Gary, a couple of other birders and Mr Bill Morton himself. Forgot to ask Bill, but I'm sure they have had a May Red Necked Grebe before, but back in the late 80's early 90's? If anyone can recall.

After a while watching with which our Gary was chuffed as the bird was a lifer for him, we moved on to try and see the Lesser Scaup (or Little Bluebill) on No6 tank. Walking up the track to No6, it was literally seconds before we spotted the Lesser Scaup. I had seen a much closer Lesser Scaup at Burton Mere Wetlands last year, but still great to see the North American *vagrant but quite a way out. I managed a couple of record phonescope shots before the gloom descended.

This fine drake bird has a small tuft on the hindcrown and a whitish grey back with darker vermiculations. You can just make out the black nail at the tip of the bill in this next shot.

And a final shot before the bird moved closer to the bank and out of sight. The bird had been diving down and feeding and prior to presumably going to a quiet spot to roost, was joined by a pair of Tuftys.

Two more ticks, to go to my adding yearlist, which not even into June and I have already surpassed last years total of 210.

Happy days and an excellent evening with other birds spotted including Avocet, Red Legged Partridge, Sedge Warbler, Chiffchaff and a Kestrel and Peregrine resting on a Pylon!


Mike Buckley (photos)
Gary Chidlow
Bill Morton.