Thursday, 19 January 2017

Cornwall - 12th-16th January

Sarah, Tobias and I had a long weekend in Cornwall at our cottage at Trowan a couple of miles west of St. Ives. The cottage is located on a spectacular stretch of coastline which is designated an AONB, it is wild, rugged and unspoilt. We were primarily down to meet builders as the cottage needs to be redecorated but at the same time we are going to reconfigure walls to change room dimensions. We also wanted to relax in front of the fire and do little after a very frantic time at Christmas and period at work. However, on Saturday 14th I met up with my good friend Nigel Wheatley and we spent the morning looking for some of the long staying Cornish rare's. I picked Nigel up from St. Just at 07:45 and we headed straight for Mousehole. The target here was an 'Eastern' Black Redstart that has been present since 18th December 2016 and is the phoenicuroides race of Black Redstart that I have not seen in the UK previously. I have however seen this race elsewhere most recently in India on 11th February 2016, see here. We arrived at the car park in half light but Nigel almost immediately picked up the bird on the path running alongside the beach. Over the next hour or so we enjoyed great views of this stunning little bird as it fed amongst the rocks on the beach. Also here were Grey Wagtail, Mediterranean Gull and despite scanning through the gull flock we failed to find the recently reported Kumlien's Gull.

There are around half a dozen accepted British records of 'Eastern' Black Redstart up to 2015. However, in 2016 there were an amazing nine records (approximately), this influx no doubt as a result of the near constant flow of easterlies during the autumn period. There are currently two wintering Eastern Black Redstart in the UK, the Mousehole bird and another at Skinningrove, Cleveland. This latter bird having been present since 27th October 2016. While there are some that advocate Eastern Black Redstart as a full species the recently published Volume 2 of the Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World (Lynx Editions) treat this as a race of Black Redstart and although typical males are distinctive integrates between the various races occur. Maintaining one species with five races would seem the most sensible approach - unless one simply wants to bump up ones list!

1st winter male Eastern Black Redstart - Mousehole, Cornwall 

1st winter male Eastern Black Redstart - Mousehole, Cornwall 

1st winter male Eastern Black Redstart - Mousehole, Cornwall 

1st winter male Eastern Black Redstart - Mousehole, Cornwall 
Distribution of Black Redstart races,  phoenicuroides is the dull red area in central Asia (breeding range) and bright red (winter range) - From Steijn (2005), see here

Rock Pipit - Mousehole, Cornwall 

Grey Wagtail - Mousehole, Cornwall 

We then went on to Jubilee Pool to look for the Pacific Diver. We spent almost two hours scanning out to sea seeing four Velvet Scoter, 15 Common Scoter, seven Great Northern Diver and 11 Purple Sandpiper. A brief view of a Black-throated Diver was almost certainly the Pacific Diver but unfortunately the bird was lost after it dived and despite there being five birders present we could not relocate this bird. However, from the view I had there was no flank patch so it would appear to have been a good candidate for the Pacific Diver - one that got away unfortunately.

Purple Sandpiper - Jubilee Pool, Penzance

Purple Sandpiper - Jubilee Pool, Penzance

Purple Sandpiper - Jubilee Pool, Penzance

Purple Sandpiper - Jubilee Pool, Penzance

Purple Sandpiper - Jubilee Pool, Penzance

We then went onto Perranuthnoe for the Hudsonian Whimbrel. After parking at the car park we walked the coast path westwards and on arrival at Boat Cove we found the bird fairly quickly feeding among the rocks. We repositioned ourself to the west side of the cove as the light was better but unfortunately the bird flew and disappeared into the distance - still, my fifth visit and I had at last seen the bird fairly well.  Also here were five Black-throated Diver offshore, three giving cracking views, a single Great Northern Diver and a Mediterranean Gull. The Hudsonian Whimbrel was first found on 15th October 2015 on Tresco, Isles of Scilly before it moved to Marazion on 30th October, it has been present here now since then. There are 12 records of this race in Great Britain since 1975 with the Cornish bird being by far the longest staying bird although there is a general tendency for long staying birds, the next longest staying bird being the Pagham Harbour bird which was present from 9th June to 27th July 2015 2015, a total of 49 days. Again, Volume 1 of the Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World (Lynx Editions) treat this as a subspecies of Whimbrel but identify it as a potential split, American Whimbrel.

Hudsonian Whimbrel - Perranuthnoe, Cornwall

Hudsonian Whimbrel - Perranuthnoe, Cornwall

Hudsonian Whimbrel - Perranuthnoe, Cornwall

All too soon, our morning was over and it was time to say goodbye to Nigel and head home. In the afternoon Sarah, Tobias and I walked the beach at Marazion and I spent some time scanning again for the Pacific Diver but with no luck but the light was poor. The highlights were two Velvet Scoter and a Common Eider.

On the morning of the 15th I managed a short visit to the Hayle Estuary where a Green-winged Teal has been present since 10th November hanging out with the Eurasian Teal from the B3301 causeway. On arrival I located the bird fairly quickly but during my 45 minutes there it slept for much of the time. t was not until I returned home that I noticed the bird was ringed, unfortunately, the bird was too distant to read the combination but it includes the numbers 08 and an address. Again, Volume 1 of the Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World (Lynx Editions) treat this as a subspecies of Eurasian Teal but identify it as a potential split. Also here was a Spoonbill, four Mediterranean Gull, 12 Bar-tailed Godwit 45 Wigeon, large numbers of Lesser Black-backed Gull and a possible 1st winter Caspian Gull which  looked pretty good but  took my eye off the bird to check some characters on my Collins app and the bird had flown by the time I looked back.

Green-winged Teal - Hayle Estuary

Green-winged Teal (lower right) amongst Eurasian Teal- Hayle Estuary

Ring on the Green-winged Teal - Hayle Estuary

Eurasian Teal- Hayle Estuary

Bar-tailed Godwit - Hayle Estuary

Bar-tailed Godwit - Hayle Estuary

Oystercatcher - Hayle Estuary

Finally, on the 16th I managed to persuade Sarah to drop into Marazion for a short while to scan for the Pacific Diver. It was calm and the bird had been reported off the beach for the last couple of days. I picked up eight Great-northern Diver, five Velvet Scoter and finally, very distantly, was the Pacific Diver - even at this great distance the lack of the flank patch and the dark chin-strap could be seen. I rattled off a couple of shotes, not even bering able to see the bird in the view finder and I ended up with one shite image of the bird.

This is the Pacific Diver or 'Pacific Thing' as Nigel called it - you have to trust me on this!! I think the throat strap is just discernible but it was far more visible in the field

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Eling, Hampshire - 10th January

My birding has lacked inspiration so far this year. We spent the Christmas period in the Cotswolds and the Blue Rock Thrush at Stow-on-the-Wold was just a 30 minute drive for me but I couldn’t face birding with the hordes in a town. I just couldn’t do it no matter how much I wanted to see the bird, tales of birders with ladders peering over walls, this is not me, I could not face the numpty crowds. Then on the 9th I had a few hours to spare and headed to Pennington Marsh, I picked up my camera to shoot a nice close Little Egret and the battery was dead, it was so long since using it that I had forgotten to check the battery power – school boy error. And then the heavens opened and I got a good soaking as did my dead camera. Should I give up birding in 2017, it was all a bit depressing. That said, the birding was quite nice at Pennington with two Slavonian Grebe, a Great Northern Diver, 350 Golden Plover plus good numbers of the usual Wigeon, Pintail, Teal, Brent Geese etc. At the campsite I enjoyed great views of a flock of around 1,000 Brent Goose amongst this flock was a ringed bird which had a lime (but possibly stained white) ring on the left leg with the code RRR – I am looking into the origins of this bird but I find the European Colour-ring website terribly clunky to use and responses from scheme coordinators painfully slow.

On the 10th Januray I had a bird survey to do near to Eling on Southampton Water. A quick stop for the Cattle Egret gave good views but as I walked along the road the bird flushed and flew high in to a tree. There has been a significant influx of Cattle Egret in the UK this winter and good numbers have been recorded in Hampshire, I am convinced that this bird will ultimately be joined by other birds as has happened elsewhere. My bird survey was relatively uneventful bit I had nice views of a wintering Green Sandpiper.

With a weekend in Cornwall coming up I am hoping for a few good birds for the year – oh, and I don’t think I will be giving up birding in 2017!

Cattle Egret - Eling, Hampshire

Cattle Egret - Eling, Hampshire

Green Sandpiper - Eling, Hampshire

Redwing - Eling, Hampshire

Friday, 23 December 2016

Slimbridge WWT - 10th December

We had the weekend at our cottage in the Cotswolds and on Saturday I spent the morning at Slimbridge. The weather was pretty atrocious and so my time was spent dashing between hides. I paused at the Asia collection for a few moments and couldn't resist taking a couple of images of two species I had recently seen on the Birdquest China Wetlands trip but which eluded decent photographs so here are a couple of gratuitous images of Falcated Duck and Baer's Pochard.

Falcated Duck - Slimbridge WWT

Baer's Pochard - Slimbridge WWT

Baer's Pochard - Slimbridge WWT

In the south hide there were good numbers of Herring Gull and Black-headed Gull with five Lesser Black-backed Gull. Approximately 11 Snipe and 350 Lapwing were also present. I wandered up to the Zeiss Hide, here there were very large numbers of Lapwing, Pintail, Wigeon and Teal and around 600 Golden Plover - quite an impressive sight. There were also 12 Ruff showing distantly from the hide. Six Barnacle Goose showed distantly but I couldn't locate any White-fronted Goose - numbers have declined at this site significantly. I then headed to the hides at the Rushy Pen where a winter plumage Little Stint was showing distantly - its not often that I have seen this plumage in the UK. A total of 25 Bewick's Swan were present on Rushy Pen and it was good to get close views of these birds. 

Herring Gull (2nd Winter) - Slimbridge WWT

Herring Gull (2nd Winter) - Slimbridge WWT

Herring Gull (3rd winter) - Slimbridge WWT

Herring Gull (3rd winter) - Slimbridge WWT

Lesser Black-backed Gull (adult winter) - Slimbridge WWT

Pintail - Slimbridge WWT

Bewick's Swan - Slimbridge WWT

Bewick's Swan - Slimbridge WWT

Bewick's Swan - Slimbridge WWT

Bewick's Swan - Slimbridge WWT

Bewick's Swan - Slimbridge WWT

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Pennington Marsh and Cattle Egret at Marchwood - 14th December

After dropping Tobias at school I had a couple of hours to kill before a bird survey at Marchwood so I popped to Pennington Marsh in beautiful sunny conditions. I spent a fair bit of time at the corner of Lower Pennington Lane before heading to the car park and walking to Efford Lagoon before heading out to the seawall, past Butts Lagoon and back past Fishtail lagoon. There were a lot of birds around especially on the Pennington Marshes floods with 100's of Teal, Wigeon, Lapwing, Shoveler and Pintail. High up was a flock of around 500 Golden Plover, these put on a spectacular show as they dropped in overhead and onto the marshes. Judging by their height I guessed that they had probably travelled a great distance to get here. On the grasslands at the campsite was a flock of around 200 Brent Goose which showed well in the beautiful morning light. Along the seawall the tide was very high and the wader roost on the saltings was inundated forcing the multitude of Dunlin, Knot and Grey Plover to fidget and lift in spirals of swirling birds. Two Bearded Tit flew over the reedbeds high to the west pining as they went. It was a lovely morning and I wished I could have stayed longer.

Brent Goose - Pennington Marshes

Brent Goose - Pennington Marshes

Brent Goose - Pennington Marshes

Brent Goose - Pennington Marshes

Lapwing - Pennington Marshes

Cormorant - Pennington Marshes

Golden Plover - Pennington Marshes

Golden Plover - Pennington Marshes

Golden Plover - Pennington Marshes

Golden Plover - Pennington Marshes

Golden Plover - Pennington Marshes

Golden Plover - Pennington Marshes

Golden Plover - Pennington Marshes

Golden Plover and Lapwing - Pennington Marshes

Snipe - Pennington Marshes

Snipe - Pennington Marshes

After my bird survey a drove up Marchwood Lane in Marchwood and noticed a flock of Little Egret in the field. I swore that one had a yellow bill but at 40 miles an hour it was hard to be sure so a quick U-turn and I was watching my first ever self-found Cattle Egret feeding with a flock of 12 Little Egret. I was pretty chuffed with this despite the species becoming progressively more common as the years pass.

Cattle Egret and Little Egret - Marchwood, Southampton

Cattle Egret and Little Egret - Marchwood, Southampton

Cattle Egret and Little Egret - Marchwood, Southampton

Cattle Egret and Little Egret - Marchwood, Southampton

Cattle Egret and Little Egret - Marchwood, Southampton