Thursday, 29 July 2010

Durham Strikes Back

Well I had an interesting days birding, quite possibly one of the strangest days I have ever had since I began birding nut certainly one of the most memorable.

We decided we would have a look for the Honey Buzzards down at Wykeham Forest raptor viewpoint which is in North Yorkshire. When we arrived we started scanning and I managed to pick up a very distant Common Buzzard, I got the other lads onto it pretty quick as it soared around. A while passed until when I was scanning to large birds of prey caught my eye as they flew around, these two birds far closer than the previous buzzard but still distant. It was pretty obvious that it was a Common Buzzard having some bother with a local Goshawk! The Goshawk was showing some aggression as it went in to attack the Buzzard a few times and they both separated and went there own ways, I have never seen this sort of aggression from a Sparrowhawk before. It was interesting to note that at times it was hard to separate the buzzard from the Goshawk on side views; therefore I think it was perhaps a female. Not quite as big but clearly packed enough punch to see off the buzzard. Later on we saw the Goshawk again, I got pretty good views and I reckon it was the same bird, brown in colour so most likely not a male bird. We left soon after when it started to rain!

We got back to the car and waited to see if it was going to clear up but it sadly didn’t look that way. So we headed for Filey because my friend Stew wanted to have a look to see what the crack was with the hide and if it was any good incase he wanted to go back in the future. On the way down the road from Wykeham Forest I got a text from my friend Mark Newsome which read “Juv Whiskered tern at Saltholme, in case u didn’t know. View from bus stop layby.” For crying out loud, I leave Durham for a few hours and this is what happens?

So we left Wykeham Forest and headed to Filey and we had a look around before heading of to Bempton Cliffs RSPB. We had a cracking day at Bempton with Gannet, Puffin, Kittiwake, and all the other regulars seen. It was quite nice to see the Fulmar chick amongst the large Gannet colony, I also heard my first Quail calling but was unable to see it despite it being ridiculously close by! We left Bempton Cliffs RSPB and started off for Salthome RSPB.

So on the way to Salthome RSPB I was reassured by text from Mark that the Whiskered Tern was still present and he said I should be ok, so hopefully it would still be there when I got there. A while later I got another text, “Lucky boy. Now an adult white-rumped sand next to the Wh Tern!” I was now so excited to get there and hopefully see both birds. We arrived at about 7:00ish and we had barely stopped and I was out the car with my scope out and walking across the road to the lay-by where the birds were visible from.

Me being the typical wader man I am I looked for the White-rumped Sandpiper, it was standing asleep! So I quickly turned by attention to look for the Whiskered Tern, I asked one of the locals and he said it was flying about and then followed by something like “It’s sitting there next to the Godwits.” I looked and there it was sitting quite relaxed on the rocks besides the black-tailed godwits. Thankfully the White-rumped Sandpiper came awake and started to wander about, thankfully it wandered along the causeway closer to where I was standing. I got pretty good views of it as it waded about amongst the rocks. I saw most of the features I would expect from the light and distance:
- Primaries projecting beyond the tail
- Hint of a supercilium
- The white rump when it was preening and I think I saw it when it was flapping about a little bit.

I spent a while watching the White-rumped Sandpiper because waders 1 of my 2 favourite families. However I did spend a bit of time watching the Whiskered Tern as it flew about as well as when it was sitting on the rocks. I went back yesterday (29th) and had better views in better light of the Whiskered Tern as it flew about in front of me. What a fabulous bird and again very distinctive once I got my eyes on it the previous day.

One a few occasions on the 28th I had the White-rumped Sandpiper and the Whiskered Tern together in the same scope view, its not very often that happens! I feel I made the right choice watching the White-rumped Sandpiper more than the Whiskered Tern as it left on the 28th and wasn’t seen yesterday (29th). What was frustrating on the 28th was that I kept switching to look at the Whiskered Tern because I didn’t want to neglect the fact it was there incase I didn’t get a chance to come back and see it again. However I am happy I spent a considerable amount of time watching the White-rumped Sandpiper.

Thanks to Ian Forrest and Derek Charlton for letting me use their images in this blog post:

(Whiskered Tern - Derek Charlton)
(Whiskered Tern - Ian Forrest)
(Whiskered Tern - Ian Forrest)
(Whiskered Tern - Ian Forrest)
(Whiskered Tern - Ian Forrest)
(White-rumped Sandpiper (left) with Dunlin (right) - Ian Forrest)
(White-rumped Sandpiper - Ian Forrest)

So Durham has struck back against the rest of the contry getting really rareities at this time of year, was really pleased with these two birds. What a very memorable days birding!

Life List Updates:
253 - White-rumped Sandpiper
254 - Whiskered Tern

Year List Updates:
221 - Kingfisher - Houghton area friday 23rd.
223 - White-rumped Sandpiper
224 - Whiskered Tern

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Life Tick & Site First

Well it’s been a while since I posted anything. It’s that quiet time of year again for birds; however I have been out quite a lot. It’s awful not being able to find a part time/summer job.

Apart from posting Anchor Butter adverts on my Blog I have been doing some birding. I was back at the undisclosed Long-eared Owl site once more last week and got some fantastic views of one of the adult LEO’s. They appear to be coming out earlier and earlier, I haven’t seen a Barn Owl in the area for a long while though! Very keen Owler ‘Cut’n a Long Story Short’ might be able to shed some light on this perhaps? See Comments section (hopefully)

I did see my first Storm Petrel on Saturday morning of the 16th of July! I also saw 4 more birds on Friday night/Saturday morning of last week. Lovely birds and slowly becoming a favourite of mine, not as good as waders or White-tailed Eagles (lets be sensible!) but they are still canny little birds.

I also had a fantastic day out on Friday the 23rd. I went onto to South Tyneside for my yearly fix of Roseate Tern. I am a student and going to Coquet Island is too expensive for my stingy student pockets. I had a good time with my best ever views of Roseate Tern as well as fantastic views of Kittiwakes, Sandwich, Common, and Arctic Terns. Their where also some Guillemot and Razorbill floating around offshore. 2 Roseate and 1 Arctic contented me and I actually got some half decent phone scoped pictures!

Then I thought I would do some local birding and see if any rare waders had dropped into Houghton Gate. I didn’t get the hoped for White-tailed Lapwing, Collared Pratincole, and Western Sandpiper trio, however I did get what the local patches around my way call a “site fust” I am not sure what they mean but I am guessing they are trying to explain that this is a first record for Houghton Gate. ;) Yes, I had found the first Little Egret to ever be reported at Houghton Gate, fortunately dedicated local patcher Colin Wilson turned up minutes after my find grinning because my friend (who had gone to get his scope) had told him what I had just found. It flew off and circled but fortuanly landed again, however minutes later it flew off. Local patcher Steve Evans (Cut’n a Long Story Short) caught up with it today on a nearby body of water.

(Kittiwake - Sandhaven Beach)
(Common Tern - Sandhaven Beach)
(Arctic Tern - Sandhaven Beach)

(Roseate Tern - Sandhaven Beach)

(Little Egret - Houghton Gate)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Could this be the greatest advert ever?

Well I think its just fantastic! It's not about birds but I think the new Anchor "Made by Cows" advert is the best advert to ever be broadcast on British television:


Monday, 19 July 2010

Unforgettable experience with a family of Long-eared Owls

It was Thursday (15th) night and I had just finished my tea and started to fill out my part time job application form to go and work for Tesco. I decided I fancied a bit of Owling tonight and wondered if my friend who I usually go Owling with was up for it as well, so I text my friend (David Kay) and he gave me a ring to say he was up for it so we made our way down to the site to look for our local Long-eared Owls.

We parked at out usual site and we made out way down to the site through the now Amazon jungle of a path! We checked to see if there was any sing of the other pair where they nested last year but we didn’t see any adult birds or hear any of the young calling. This is a bit disappointing but perhaps they will return next year, what I can’t understand is that they where displaying from here and showing well a few weeks ago and no sing at all now. We have so much to learn from birds in my opinion.

We decided we would walk up top onto the old disused railway track and we heard out first LEO chick calling almost immediately. He stopped calling and we retreated so that we didn’t cause any distress if we had already by just being there. We where entertained for a bit by sitting and chatting about Davy’s new video camera, we then decided we would go back and try and see the young bird that had now started to call again. It must have been a hungry little thing because it started calling a good 30 mins – 1 hour before the others even made a squeak. As we headed back a very cute baby hedgehog kept us entertained as it rolled up into a little ball to avoid us. We rolled it over gently and could see a little nose peeping out breathing steadily. The Long-eared chick was still calling and we left the hedgehog in piece and went in search of the now regularly calling chick. We approached quietly and without making to much noise so that we didn’t scare or startle the birds, we descended down a small man made grassy track and stopped to scan the trees from where the bird was calling from and there it was! A lovely quite well advanced Long-eared Owl chick was sitting looking at us, after grabbing some video and a few pictures we left the chick in piece to get on with its “feeeeeed” calls. When we got back onto the public footpath we realised we must have just walked past another 2 young birds as we heard at least 3 birds, however Davy informed me there was defiantly 4 birds present.

We decided we would go back onto the railway track and try to get on top of the birds so we could look down onto them. When on top of the railway track we walked along to where we thought we would be able to see the birds. The birds went quiet and then out of no where a very loud begging “feeed” call came from the bushes we had just walked past. So very cautiously and carefully we walked back in total silence and when we got to where the sound was coming from I saw something take off. I thought that was it we had spooked it away when Davy pointed carefully to a fence post about 25ft away with a young very cute Long-eared Owl chick sitting on it. If moved back a little bit and sat out in the open on a hawthorn tree and began its begging call clearly not distressed. We watched it for a short while and in flew another owl! I thought it was another chick until it turned and looked at us, it was either mummy or daddy tending to the chick. It looked at us with its ears held flat against its head and then turned away from us to tend to the chick and then a few seconds later flew off to hunt. Knowing the adults had now seen us we did the right thing and left incase we started to cause any disturbance.

Considering I was only about 20-25ft away from a Long-eared Owl adult and chick it was a truly unforgettable experience. The sort of thing that sticks with you forever.

These pictures are taken by my friend David Kay, they are NOT my pictures they are his. Please do not take these photos of this blog. The photos show one of the adult as well as one of the 4 chicks belonging to this pair and were taken a week or so before my experience:

(Young Long-eared Owl)
(Long-eared Owl adult on post)

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Not exactly a Dot – 9th of July

I had not been back from Orkney 12 hours and I was out birding in Durham again! I was out to go and see the Dotterel, a bird in which I dipped at Danby Beacon last year when they were moving through the area. I arrived at Crimdon Dene and looked up and down and all over the beach; however we drew a blank on Dotterel. However we saw the usual Common, Arctic, and Little Terns which we kind of expected to see. So we left here and headed over the Castle Lake to have a look and see if we could see one of the Hobby’s that have been knocking about in that area, I can inform you that we left disappointed! However not at the fact the Dotterel had been seen at Crimdon Dene, so back to Crimdon it was.

We arrived at Crimdon and met up with a friend from the DBC, we walked down and were informed it was flushed up and had flown away! Drat! However me and my friend set our scopes up on a good vantage point and began to look around the area to see if we could see it. Then something caught my eye moving around in the shingle, “Ringed Plover” I thought to myself until I lifted my bins and looked at this stunning female Dotterel. I quickly got Joe onto the bird and I spent a good 30 minutes or so looking at it. What a fantastic looking bird, and it was very approachable. I got within about 20ft of it and it wasn't bothered at all.

Life List Updates
251 – Dotterel

Year List Updates
218 – Dotterel
219 – Green Sandpiper – on Wednesday of this week (14th).

(Dotterel - Andrew Kinghorn)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Iberian Chiffchaff, have you heard one?

It seems that people seemed to enjoy my last post about the Little Shearwater on Lundy. Therefore I thought I would take the time to do a similar post on a bird you may encounter whilst out birding. I certainly didn’t know what an Iberian Chiffchaff was until the first bird appeared in Kent, I can remember not being to bothered about it not being closer. Then I was surprised when another one of these nice little MEGA’s turned up at Potteric Carr in South Yorkshire which is only about 2 hours drive from my home in Durham.

On the way down to Norfolk my friend Stew very kindly said we could stop off and I could go and see it, it was hoying it down with rain and it didn’t look promising but I soldiered on and did the 40 minute walk to where the bird was in about 30 minutes. When I arrived I don’t think it had been heard for a while but the rain had come off, and then about 10 minutes or so before I had to leave I heard the very distinctive song that I had leanrt in preparation for coming to see the bird.

In the field I was quite taken back about how different the song was from a normal (Phylloscopus collybita) Chiffchaff. It’s song was just totally different! It was also nothing like that of Willow Warbler.

I have managed to put together another sound bite so you can compare the different songs of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, and Iberian Chiffchaff. I have added the exact call of the same Iberian Chiffchaff that was at Potteric Carr.

Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
Listen to call here:
OR click play:

Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus trochilus)
Listen to call here:
OR click play:

Iberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus ibericus)
Listen to call here:
OR click play:

On a personal level I feel that Iberian Chiffchaff is fairly straight forward to identify if it is seen singing its call. It to me is clearly very different and nothing like Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler.

Hope you enjoyed this post. Comments most welcome.


Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Little Lundy Shearwater

Just incase you don’t know what I am talking about I will explain. A few months ago a Little Shearwater turned up on the island of Lundy which is near Bristol. The bird is a mega (exceptionally rare) and there are not many records of the species occurring in the UK. What makes the Little Shearwater at Lundy interesting was that it wasn’t seen on a sea watch or for a day or so; it took up residence on the island for a while. I am not sure if it has been heard recently but my guess is no as it would have no doubt been put on Rare Bird Alert of BirdGuides.

I don’t believe it has been seen at all, however birders can go to the island and listen to it calling. It sounds very distinctive, I had no idea what a Little Shearwater sounded like but when you learn the call it’s very different from Manx Shearwater. It is also quite catchy, well I think it is!

I am going to make you a good deal here. What if I was to tell you I could save you money by not needing to go to Bristol and then Lundy and you could still here the Little Shearwater? Good deal egh?

Go on take me hand off:

Listen to this first if you are unsure of what Little Shearwater sounds like:
OR click the Play button:

Then if you are up for it you can listen to the 4:00 minute recording and try and pick the Little Shearwater out from the Manx Shearwater. It’s actually quite easy:

Hope this has been interesting folks. Let me know if you enjoyed this kind of post. If I have time in the future I will post more if you like them.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Wanderer Returns

The king(horn) has returned.

I am back from my two holidays. I spent 2 weeks in Perth and Kinross and then spent 1 week on Orkney. I have seen loads of birds and far to many to list all of them but here is a roundup of the highlights I had from my two holidays:

Perth and Kinross – 2 Weeks
I had a cracking time and I think raptors and Cuckoos where the main highlights for me. I saw loads of Cuckoos and got a cracking view of one individual in my telescope, they are special birds I think. I saw loads of raptors: Kestrel, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Marsh Harrier, Buzzard, Osprey, and 2 Golden Eagle. So it was a good trip overall with quite a lot of bird species logged with 91 being the total, that’s not bad for a (sort of) non birding holiday!

Orkney – 1 Week
I had a fantastic time in Orkney. Here is a nice summary of what I saw:
Arctic Skua (15-20c)
Great Skua (numerous - 40+?)
Hen Harrier (12c)
Short-eared Owl (15-17c)
Rock Dove (numerous)
Corncrake (heard only)
Red-throated Diver (3)
Raven (numerous)

On the long trip to Orkney we stopped off at Loch Ruthven and saw Slavonian Grebe, 2 Peregrine, and 1 Osprey.

Other interesting birds seen on trip home and trip to Orkney include: 2 Red Kite, and 3 Osprey.

Highlight had to be the male Hen Harrier only about 20ft of the car up on Birsday Moor. Also the Short-eared Owl sitting 15ft away staring at us for about 3 minutes will be another unforgetable experience. If anyone wants to see loads of Hen Harriers Orkney is the place to go!

I also saw the long staying Bearded Seal in Finstown.

Till next time, Foghorn OUT!