Tuesday 25 October 2011

White Rumped Sandpiper and an American Wigeon at Rutland - 23rd October 2011

Today I nipped across the border up into Leicestershire. Rutland Water can normally be relied upon to come up with the goods bird wise and it's always worth keeping an eye on sightings there. Recently a White Rumped Sandpiper has been seen here and luckily it has hung around long enough for me to get a day off work and finally get up there and see it. It has been feeding around the Lapwing Hide so when I arrived I made my way straight there as it looked like quite a lot of people were here for exactly the same reason as I was. On entering the hide I could see a number of waders feeding along the shore - mainly Dunlin with a few Ringed Plover and Redshank. The bird I was after at a glance looks quite like a Dunlin with the exception of it's short bill, pale supercillium and very long primary projection (in fact when this bird bends over to feed the wing tips can flap around behind it's tail almost like tail streamers!) and a long attenuated body. To the left of the hide the wader could be seen closely following a ringed Plover. It was a very nice bird to get to see for two reasons. Firstly it was a lifer and secondly (and in fairness more importantly) it is was I like to call an educational bird - as in its a confusion species and can be easily overlooked, especially when feeding with Dunlin, so I'm hoping that by seeing this one I'll make sure I do not overlook it when I am patching in the future. I managed to get a couple of digipics and a very shaky vid in the wind.

Another nice bird to see from the same hide was a drake American Wigeon. It is believed this is the same bird that was present here last winter and if so it is nice to see it back as it is a cracking bird. It was showing very well right in front of the hide but unfortunately because of the rare American wader on the shore it wasn't stealing the limelight as it was last year.

Great Grey Shrike at Harrington Airfield - 16th October 2011

Today I met up with a friend of mine, Pete Bateup, with the intention of looking for and hopefully finding the Ferruginous Duck that had been at Pitsford Reservoir for the last few weeks. Unfortunately the weather wasn't exactly being kind to us and although it was a beautiful clear sky the mist at dawn was so thick birding a body of water would have been a complete waste of time until it had lifted. So with this in mind me decided instead to head over to a local place called Harrington Airfield. This area had been used by the carpet bagger squadron during the war and was very nicely placed at the top of the highest ground around here - this consequently means of course it is a fantastic place to observe visible migration during the autumn. We were not to be disappointed either as no sooner had dawn broke we were watching scores of Redwing and Fieldfare flying overhead with Skylarks and the odd Meadow Pipit shooting over too. The surrounding fields were gradually filling up with flocks of Golden plover coming in from all directions to form a flock of at least 300 birds before we had done the circuit and as the mist was slowly lifting we made our way to Pitsford. Unfortunately despite a 2 hour search through hundreds or wildfowl in walgrave bay we couldn't locate the bird, so we did what Pete and I always like to do on a Sunday afternoons birding and went for a pint in a local pub. Upon leaving we were faced with a choice, we could head back to pitsford for the Gull roost or perhaps bird somwhere else - and as harrington had been so productive this morning we decided to head back there for the last part of the day. we arrived and had a slow stroll round, smaller flocks of Redwing were now coming over but Fieldfare numbers were still plentiful as flock after flock came over. There did seem to be more Skylark than this morning though and the Yellowhammer flocks are starting to get quite sizeable too. as we walked down passed the last bunker before we got to the road where we had parked I noticed a bird fly across the field and land in the top of a tree - I put my binoculars on it to see a Great Grey Shrike sitting right up in the gorgeous autumnal sunshine. This is typical! As I had only expected to have a wander round just to kill some time on a Sunday afternoon I had left my scope in the car so unfortunately I haven't got any pics of the bird to put on here but luckily there were enough daylight hours left to pit the word out to get some other birders here to see it. The bird was very mobile and as it made its was around the airfield complex a few other birders arrived and I'm pleased to say at least 7 other saw it before it flew down to a wood and despite a search until nightfall couldn't be located. As I write this over a week after the event it is still being reported so hopefully quite a lot of people have been able to see it by now. An unexpected self find during an after pint stroll on a chilly afternoon!

Tuesday 11 October 2011

Sunday 9th October 2011 - Woodchat Shrike, Lowestoft, Suffolk

This weekend my fiance and I had been enjoying a weekend away in Great Yarmouth and as it was looking like the ever present westerly winds were not going to be changing direction any time soon my hopes were not that high with regards to rare birds being blown onto the coast. Never the less though as with every autumn an eye was kept on the information services just in case anything did arise, and arise it did. On the afternoon of the saturday a juvenile Woodchat Shrike was found in the bushes next to a small car park just down the road from where I was staying. I have to say after looking at the pictures of the bird I was in two minds whether to go or not as I would rather have seen a full summer plumage adult bird and I will admit that if i was back home a hundred miles in land i probably wouldn't have made the journey - but this was a lifer, was only 10 miles away and to add to it the Eastenders theme tune was starting up signalling the start of the 2 hour long Sunday afternoon omnibus so my mind was quickly made up and off I went. I am very glad I made the decision as right nest to the car park on top of a bush sat the Shrike. Shrikes are normally fairly easy to spot as they do like to perch on top of things and they are also seem to be quite tame for some reason and this one was no exception. It just sat there in the bushes every now and then casting a glancing eye over the people there taking its photo before occasionally getting flushed and flying in a big circle before landing back in the same bush again. Its hard not to get quite attached to birds when they show like this and you get nice prolonged views but I did eventually tear myself away for a bit of sea watching - which produced 2 Arctic Skua, a possible Manx Shearwater and a tiny dot on the horizon which some chap confidently claimed was a Pomarine  but personally I have no idea how he came up with that as it was so far away, so it wont be ticked off the list just yet! Here's a few picks of the Shrike with a short clip too, a nice unexpected surprise!

Monday 3 October 2011

Another Update - 3rd October 2011

Once again it has been a while since the last update. This is mainly due to the end of summer lull which all birders dread when the birds are simply concentrating on bringing up young or moulting etc etc and not a lot moves about. So the slow (in fact very slow this year) onset of autumn brings a breath of relief to people like myself as hopefully things will be starting to hot up a bit.A report had trickled through of a Sabines Gull at Grafham Water just across the border in Cambridgeshire so on the evening of the 15th of September 2011 I shot over there after finishing work to go and see it. I knew I only had an hour of daylight left so various people telling me that it had flown wasn't helping my blood pressure at all, but luckily a few bays to the left I managed to get it in flight and then settled feeding on the water - distant views but views nontheless. The following Sunday Kieran Nixon called me to say he and a couple of birding mates were going to pop over from Norfolk to see the same bird so I nipped back over to see them. As I arrived before them I started the hunt for the bird and once again had it in flight across the main body of water. As before it was very mobile and didn't stay still for very long at all before it flew off into a bay along the north shore. I crept along the footpath before getting the most amazing view of the bird standing on the bank, unfortunately it was then flushed by a dog walker back into the water just as Kieran arrived. but we still had incredible views.

We decided to follow the dam wall after this to see if we could find the Grey Phalarope that had been reported. I did manage very distant views of this the other evening when I came but as people were saying how well it was showing I couldn't resist a quick look - and I am so glad I did, it was wandering along the dam wall seemingly without a care in the world and is without doubt the best view you could have of this cracking little bird.

The next twitched bird was a little bit more local. A Ferruginous Duck had been seen at Pitsford Reservoir so on the 1st of October I made the slow yomp round to Walgrave Bay (it had to be the furthest one away didn't it?) so hopefully connect. The sun was blazing so I was hoping that picking it out wouldn't be too difficult, and for once I was right. It was a cracking drake and stuck out like a sore thumb! The vids not too clear but its the bird centre of shot behind the Pochard on the middle.

Lastly for this post is the big one. Due to the very heavy winds across the Atlantic caused by Hurricane Katrina a Sandhill Crane had been blown across the ocean and somehow ended up in Scotland. Matt my mate from up north had been lucky enough to have seen it a couple of weeks ago, but then it flew off and reports started to trickle in of the bird slowly working its way south people down here were starting to get very excited. It only migrates during the day which is a pain as when it does get reported it invariably flies off shortly afterwards so people miss it. So on the morning of the 2nd October when I get a phone call to say its in Suffolk I am mixed with excitement and apprehension, if we go will it still be there? Its a long way after all! It was agreed though that we certainly wouldn't see it by just staying in Northants so the decision was made to go for it. I quickly made my way to Irchester to pick up Big Jake, Ruth and another Northants birder Frank and we were quickly on our way. For once the A14 was clear and we made very good progress into Suffolk and even more luckily although the bird was mobile it had settled in a stubble field. Kieran had made the journey from Norfolk with fellow Norfolk birder David Norgate and they were already on the bird which is always handy when someone is there to tell you if it flies or not. we found the village (Boyton) parked up on a vergte then ran up the hill to get to the field. lots of birders already there with binoculars up was another encouraging sign and then finally I got my first ever view of a magnificent Sandhill Crane feeding in a stubble field - and what a sight it was. A fantastic sight not just because of what it was and where it had come from but also because of the manic journey we had taken to see it!! Due to the heat haze this pic and vid aren't too good, and also as I had just sprinted about half a mile to get here with a lot of it up hill my hand was shaking rather a lot.

Unfortunately after only 10 minutes of viewing 3 microlights came over and spooked it into the next field, so we shook hands with the people that we knew at the twitch and made our way back to the car - and drove significantly slower back to Northants!! An incredible day and possibly one of the most exciting twitches I've ever been on! At some stage my blood pressure may return to normal.