Tuesday 28 August 2012

Greenish Warbler, Blakeney Point - 26th August 2012

At 5am it was a bleary eyed start to the day as on the previous evening I had attended one of the Bat evenings put on by the local Wildlife Trust and didn't get back until late. I have to say it was a real eye opener. I have been out a few times in the dark after birding late and I always noticed the odd bat flying around here and there but until that night I hadn't realised how many there were. With the aid of bat detectors and infa red lamps we went around the fishing lodge section of Pitsford Reservoir and picked up the "clicks" of Soprano and Common Pippistrelle, Norctule and Long Eared Bats easily, and shining the lamp across the water showed lots of Daubentons Bats flying around over the surface. It impressed me so much I recon a bat detector is on the next shopping list so I can find a few for myself. So after waking at 5am John Friendship Taylor met me at my place and by 6am we were on the way to Norfolk on one of those spur of the moment trips we seem to be good at. We arrived at 8.30 and headed straight for Cley to do a bit of sea watching but unfortunately we were too late as the northerly winds had changed to westerlies and all the birds were flying well off shore. We persevered regardless though and picked up a Manx Shearwater and 2 Bonxies (with lots of other stuff that was too far away to i.d.) and then went over to have a quick look at the reserve. A couple of young Swallows sitting on the wire fences put on quite a show and really didn't seem to mind us being there as we took a few pics.

From the hide a few Little Stint could be seen, along with a Curlew Sandpiper and a Spotted Redshank being the highlights. Also a nice site was the spectacle of 7 Spoonbill flying overhead too, they looked very nice in the mornings sunshine! After this we met up with a couple of Norfolk birding buddies in the shape of Kieran Nixon and Dave Norgate. We birded their local patch (Stiffkey) before getting back to the car park and try and decide where to go next. There didn't seem to be too much about so we were a bit unsure what to do, Kieran and Dave were toying with the idea of looking for some rare Orchids and John and I were looking at heading back homewards and stopping at the Ouse Washes on the way. Luckily though Dave's pager went off to herald the arrival of a Greenish Warbler on Blakeney Point. As most birders would know, Blakeney Point isn't the easiest place to get to. It is a 3 mile long gravel bar that sticks out into the sea with a few areas of vegetation at the end and it seems like a very long walk to the end over the shingle. So we headed to Morston with the hope of getting one of the Seal cruise guys to give us a lift over. Unfortunately we drew a blank as none of them would drop us off on the point because of the tide making it difficult for them. Luckily though I did notice another company offering sail boat cruises just next to the entrance to the car park so I decided to try and work my charm with them. Luckily it worked and they agreed to get us over there in a small boat (very small!) so long as we didn't mind getting wet. We of course leapt at the chance and despite realising we were stranding ourselves a little bit we soon found ourselves on the water heading out to the point. We arrived in no time at all and after watching Kieran fall out of the boat (quite possibly one of the funniest things I think I have ever seen in my life) we made our way to the bush the bird was in. I am pleased to say the bird was showing incredibly well, the sun had really brought it out into the open and it busily fed around the top of the bushes for a long time affording superb views. We were a little apprehensive at the start as the initial report on the pager was that the bird was allusive by my word were we glad we made the effort to get over here. This gorgeous green warbler with light coloured wing bars and distinctive supercillium fed away and we took a few pics. The best one being this taken by John Friendship Taylor.

After enjoying the Greenish Warbler we started the long trudge back to Cley. Due to the tides we had to leave Morston in a hurry and we didn't have time to get a car to Cley so we could drive back to the other car in the harbour car park. This also meant that the boat company couldn't pick us up either so we knew we had a long walk ahead of us. We checked the plantation before we left and although we couldn't find the previously reported Pied Flycatcher we did find this rather dapper Whinchat there which posed very nicely indeed, in fact it just kept coming closer and closer.

We checked the vegetation as we made our way back to the land but with the exception of a fly over Tree Pipit we didn't find much other than Skylark, Meadow Pipit and a few Dunnock. By the time we nearly got back to Cley the sun was getting low and the scenery was quite spectacular with the dark clouds and the low sun meeting the beach so I took the opportunity to grab a pic before we reached the bank at Cley and followed the road into the village.

The first port of call was the pub and we sat in the garden until darkness having a laugh and a few beers to try and recover from the walk. As darkness fell our taxi arrived and we got back to the cars at Morston. It was a very good day, good birds, good laughs and probably most important of all good company!! Lets hope we can do it again soon.

Wednesday 22 August 2012

Yearlist Update and a Sacred Ibis in Northants! - 22nd August 2012

The last month has been spent chasing around trying to build up the yearlist, and despite things still remaining a little quiet I have managed to see some good birds. Since finally seeing the Kingfisher last month I have heard Quail at Chelveston Airfield with a singing individual just on the county border, seen 3 eclipse Red Crested Pochard at Pitsford Reservoir on one day and then returned a few days later to see the Marsh Harrier. The good thing about yearlisting birds is the fact that you have to really keep at it and go for everything, so during the quiet times of the year you can concentrate on catching up with missed birds and trying of course to find you own. I have been birding Clifford Hill Gravel Pits just outside Northampton now pretty much every evening after work. It is a very frustrating place to bird at times mainly due to the disturbance by the public who show a blatant disregard to the signs put up asking people to stick to the perimeter bank and insist on walking their dogs along the shoreline scattering any waders in the process. Despite this though I have been plugging away and I have to say there has been some good stuff trickling through. The concentrations of Black Headed Gulls here in the evenings has been quite impressive with large flocks gathering in the evenings. They unfortunately don't roost here choosing the roofs of the warehouses and factories at the nearby Brackmills Industrial estate instead so they all fly off as it gets dark but if you are here early enough you can catch them. With this in mind I have been searching through them most evenings looking for Mediterranean Gull and on the evening of the 8th of August a rather unexpected surprise turned up. I wasn't the only one with Med Gulls on my mind that evening as I scanned the Gulls on the water from the south shore as I could see the Northants County Bird Recorder, Mike Alibone, scanning from the north. I scanned and scanned and scanned but to no avail so turned my attention to the opposite shoreline to look for waders. I noticed Mike was walking around the pit at this point  and as I scanned along the north shoreline I couldn't believe my eyes, quite out of nowhere as Sacred Ibis had flown in and was having a preen on the bank. It should be mentioned that Sacred Ibis aren't on the British List as none of them seen in Britain can be proven to be genuine wild birds, most of them are certainly escapees as is this. Earlier in the year 3 Sacred Ibis escaped from a Cheshire Zoo and have been roaming Britain ever since. 2 birds appeared in Northumbia and one in Norfolk. Both the Northumbian birds flew south with one joining the bird in Norfolk south east and the other flying due south (over a raptor watchpoint in Nottingham according to one of my Twitter Followers) and I am assuming this is that bird. Here is a pic I took, it's certainly not the best but you get the idea of what it looks like.

Mike and I watched it for a while as the sun went down and and I am pleased to say a flock of birds came over that I could add to the yearlist. As I walked around to the lake I noticed a flock of birds flying over.. I had somehow managed to miss every Northants Curlew so far this year and I was starting to get a bit worried about not seeing one so it was a nice surprise when I looked up and counting 13 flying overhead calling away. To add to the evenings entertainment a small flock of 4 Black Tailed Godwit came over in the dwindling sunlight and did a few laps around the north shore before heading off just as quickly as they arrived. The Sacred Ibis hung around for a few days despite being constantly disturbed by the dog walkers before eventually relocating itself to Stanwick Lakes where it seems quite happy. Steve Fisher found a Spotted Crake at Stanwick Lakes on the 14th August which got quite a few of us racing over there but unfortunately despite a lot of thorough searching (and getting eaten alive by mosquitos) it couldn't be relocated - not surprising really though as the reedbed is very dense and you need an awful lot of luck to be looking at the right place should it emerge. Another yearlist bird came on the 17th August again at Clifford Hill as the constant searching through Giulls finally paid off with a 1st summer (moulting into 2nd winter) Mediterranean Gull with all the Black Headed Gulls, and an adult Yellow Legged Gull thrown in too. A juvenile Northern Wheatear could also be seen in one of the field south of the pit which heralds for first returning Wheatears and as I walked back to the car I bumped into Mike Alibone again who had just picked up a Black Necked Grebe on the water - I was concentrating so much on the Gulls I had rather stupidly overlooked it when I had birded the area (in my defense it was feeding well and did spend a lot of time underwater). I attended the bird fair on Saturday the 18th of August and while sat in the events marquee I received a few texts from up and coming local bird photographer who had found a female (ringtail) Hen Harrier at Harrington Airfield. So leaving the birdfair rather rapidly Pete Bateup and me found ourselves standing by the first bunker scanning the field - but unfortunately we dipped. I arrived back at Harrington Airfield at 0630 the following morning but despite a 3 hour search we couldn't find it. Mike Alibone had joined me by this point and we decided to head out to Hollowell Reservoir to see what was there. Due to the amount of rain we have had this year the presence of any wader scrapes this autumn is rather few and far between and as Hollowell's water levels have dropped this seems to be the best shoreline around in this area of Northants. It wasn't before we had a couple of Common Sands in the feeder stream and as we walked further along I looked up and saw an Osprey heading in. It looked absolutely beautiful in the mornings sun as it soared around for a while giving amazing scope views, a real shame it didn't go for a fish but you can't have everything. The final yeartick occured last night as I returned to Stanwick Lakes to have another search of the reedbed - unfortunately the tick didn't come in the shape of a Spotted Crake but came in the shape of a very showy Water Rail instead. The current Northants County Yearlist now stands at 161. I have recently learned that the County Record is 201 but that was apparently an exceptional year, so I recon my 161 is fairly respectful considering I work full time and it's only August - the autumn migration has only just started and hasn't really got into full swing yet! Lets hope it does soon!!