Friday, 25 May 2012

Hot habitat- scarce migrants

26 degrees yesterday so I went birding in the dappled shade of one of my local patches- a stunning alder woodland containing a significant number of ancient trees. Although almost at the end of May, the buds are only just starting to burst, so leaf cover is still limited. 

Alder woodland
Historically this has been a good site for significant numbers of spotted flycatcher, redstart and the commoner phylloscs. In previous years I have also noted a very occasional wood warbler and breeding redwing. I spent 3 hours of perfect solitude scanning every nook and cranny expecting to find many of the above. It was rather worrying that having thoroughly covered the ground the only migrant birds noted were two spotted flycatchers and a solitary willow warbler. Even the year-round resident woodland species were noticeably thin on the ground.  I'm fast running out of birding options as the breeding and post-breeding slump already feels as if it is here. Roll on the autumnal wader passage!

spotted flycatcher

spotted flycatcher

spotted flycatcher

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Cornwall (mostly)

Family visits in Cornwall entailed a flight down to Bristol and a weeks worth of hire car. To ease the sense of despair concerning my dwindling bank account it seemed only fair and reasonable that to optimise my return I should undertake a bit of twitching and general birding whilst being in the vicinity of some good birds! 

16/05 Within an hour of touchdown I had driven to Woodford lodge at Chew valley lake, purchased my 'birding permit' driven on to Blagdon and got my scope on the wonderful squacco heron! (admittedly a fellow birder put me onto the bird and probably saved me a stressful hour or two combing the wet meadow!). Although the bird was only partially on view and rather distant, it was a great bird to see and a worthy addition to my UK life list!

Squacco heron

Two hours later I stopped off on the Charlton road bridge at west moor in Somerset, walked across a field and practically tripped over the white stork that had been reported in the area for a couple of days- my birding break (sorry- family visit!) was off to a flyer! I opted for the scope instead of the camera for this bird, which with hindsight, was the wrong choice. I even put 3 other birders onto the bird as you could walk right past it, if you didn't look through the right gap in the hedge- nice to help fellow birders after my assist on the squacco! :)

A few hours later and I was in Helston playing the part of the dutiful son, whilst at the same time secretly wishing that some more twitchable goodies would merit an sms message alert!

17/05 Mid morning I found myself back at one of my favourite birding locations- Marazion marsh. It was a cold day for May and birds were scarce but I picked up the likes of Cettis, reed and sedge warbler as well as little egret. An otter eating an eel on the surface of long rock pool was a pleasant bonus. Moving on to the Hayle estuary and then Gwithian produced only a grey plover and a couple of peregrines.  

sedge warbler

grey heron

18/05 Took a walk along the coast path at Predannack on the Lizard in the hope of finding my own good birds but everywhere was quiet. Had reasonable views of peregrine again, also singing whitethroat, but worryingly no sign of any dartford warblers.





A quick return to Marazion turned up some splendid whimbrel on the beach which were briefly joined by a grey plover.


sanderling, grey plover, dunlin

grey plover

The next couple of days were desperately quiet at Hayle, Marazion, Helston Looe pool and there was nothing to twitch. The only birds of note were green woodpecker, more little egrets and a couple of very smart stonechats. 

little egret- Ryans field, Hayle

I narrowly missed a roseate tern in Mounts bay, spent over two hours looking for another at Dawlish warren on the way home and then dipped out on one of my worst ever twitches when I went for the great reed warbler in Somerset- in fact it was so traumatic I can't bare to write about it!

All in all a great week looking at some great birds and pushing the year list up to 145. (and of course happy families well and truly played) :). 

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Spey bay and Rubha Reidh

With the hire car booked for a couple of days I had been hoping that a few twitch-worthy birds would be reported that did not involve drives of over 150 miles. Alas nothing I really wanted to see has been reported so I have spent the time looking for my own birds. Yesterday, as I was due to undertake a pick-up from Inverness airport I made it a day out in the NE of Scotland and had a very enjoyable time at Spey bay. It was good to see relatively large numbers of birds and experience a long overdue cacophony of bird song! I got to see and hear my first singing sedge warblers and whitethroats of the year and had lovely views of common and little tern. A couple of ospreys were an added bonus and I spent some time enjoying the several hundred swallows and sand martins that were hawking insects over the river. 


common tern

common tern

Today I drove down the west coast to Gairloch then headed up the 9 miles of single track road to the light house at Rubha Reidh. A great site for sea watching so I set up camp with the scope and a flask for a couple of hours. Passage was fairly light with only 4 great skuas of note, although I also brought the year list up to 130 with puffin and manx shearwater. As is often the case only the gannets and herring gulls presented photo opportunities. 

As I have mentioned previously (and will probably do so again) I am not especially fond of the larger gulls, however on some occasions even the humble herring gulls can look rather splendid!

herring gull

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Snow fun

Even by my recollection of highland weather this May seems incredibly unsettled and cold. I have been doing some weird birding over the last few days looking at wheatears stood in the snow, a ringed plovers' nest with 4 eggs dusted in snow and meadow pipits displaying over snow fields at 500 metres! Apart from the obvious lack of migrants I have managed to add a few more species to the year list including red grouse, ptarmigan, grey wagtail, golden eagle, wood warbler, house martin, common tern and sanderling (125).  I even came across what I thought was a leucistic quail although following some advice it appears this bird is an escaped golden quail?

A walk up to the summit of Beinn Dearg at 3500+ feet was hard work in knee deep snow but the views from the top made it worth while.

Beinn Dearg 

approaching the bealach below Beinn Dearg

Today I stayed at sea level with another visit to Achnahaird for nice views of sanderling and dunlin.


dunlin & ringed plover

Thursday, 3 May 2012


Visited a few local haunts over the last few days picking up the likes of redstart, ring ouzel, grasshopper warbler, cuckoo, twite and snipe. Migrants are still woefully scarce on the ground so finding anything has been challenging. Went to one of my favourite sites today- Achnahaird- saw 4 GND's, a few golden plover and a colour-ringed ringed plover.

golden plover
colour-ringed ringed plover

Achnahaird with Stac Pollaidh in the distance