Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Me v Gull round 2 (Ding, ding!)

After having dipped the Gull of Bonaparte’s on Sunday I was thrilled to get a call from the local county recorder to confirm it has returned to Whitburn Steel, I was going to go for the reported Greenish Warbler at St. Marys Island but this was to far better and something I didn’t want to miss. So me and my mate headed straight for Whitburn and I soon arrived and was walking speedily to the cliff tops. Mark and co whistled me over and got my bins and scope on the bird, got good views of the bird at it paddled about in the water as well as when the bird clambered up on the rocks to rest. Got some ok pictures which can be seen below. I spent a fair bit of time photographing the bird but also spent a fair bit of time looking at the bird itself so I would study it and its features, what a cracking bird!

(Bonaparte's Gull - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Bonaparte's Gull - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Bonaparte's Gull - Mark Newsome)

I went up to not see the Greenish Warbler after the gull. I am pretty sure I saw it but only with the naked eye and couldn’t make out the features. So I have decided I am not going to tick it, besides the fact I am 80% sure I saw it. A consolation was that I had cracking views 3 times over of a Merlin hunting Golden Plover and Starlings. The bird often came right over our heads, the views when it was hunting over by the lighthouse were fantastic to see as well though.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Monday, 30 August 2010

Seawatching pays out more diverdends

Ok, so it’s not a diver but Black Guillemot does dive to hunt so I think I can justify my blog title. I had a days sea watching yesterday and today but the highlight came yesterday when a Black Guillemot that had went south in the morning flew right past Whitburn Obs heading North when I was in toward late afternoon! Apparently very rare in Durham in fact rarer than the species I was hoping to see: Long-tailed Skua or Pomarine Skua. This mornings seawatch was pretty poor but a spectacle of half the worlds population of Kittiwakes all flying north at once was fantastic to see! OH, and a Merlin right in front of the Obs again was fantastic. Always a pleasure to see!

This is actually my 100th post since I started posting on Blogspot so I feel that I should perhaps do something special.

Well I’m not going to because I can’t think of anything. So instead here is my trip report from Lothian today. Me and my Dad popped up to Lothian for the day. Our first stop was a muddy beach to look at a yank wader from across the shining sea with this being a Semipalmated Sandpiper, a first for Lothian. So here I was standing all covered up wrapped up warm with two coats on trying to keep warm as I shivered looking at a map of the area, when a young lady in a bikini walks out of the public conveniences shivering, guessing she was a surfer as her car was parked in the car park with music blasting and a surf board outside the car. We met at a narrow spot and had one of them awkward moments where you move to the left and they do, then you move to the right and they do, made even more awkward by the fact she was in a bikini and I was wrapped up in three layers. She said something and she must have been freezing as I couldn’t make out what she said lol. So with this bit of humour at the total opposite extremes of summer dress we set off for the destination a short 2 mile walk to where the bird was. We arrived and saw the bird nearly straight away; I relocated it after it had flew off minutes before I arrived. It was nice to bump into the finder later on in Aberlady in the Scottish Ornithologists Club headquarters. We had pretty good views of the Semipalmated Sandpiper, having seen one before I thought I would try and get some good digiscoping photographs as well as watching the bird. The result was I spent quite a while photographing the bird than watching it, have to make sure that doesn’t start to become a habit! I attached one of my best attempts below, click on image to enlarge it.

(from left: Semipalmated Sandpiper & 2 Dunlin)

Out last stop of the day was at Longniddry to look for the Red-necked Grebes, I was fortunate and saw three birds in close as well as a single Slavonian Grebe, and a single Red-throated Diver. My Dad was driving and it was a long drive back so we set off for home.

All in all a very enjoyable day, until next time, Foghorn out!

Year List Update
233 - Semipalmated Sandpiper
234 - Red-necked Grebe

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Digiscoping with new kit!

The Goose not from Egypt tempted me down to the freezer hide at Rainton Meadows to try out my new setup with consists off:

Swarovski ATS80HD telescope + 20=60x zoom eyepeice
Nikon D70s SLR + 50mm lens
Swarovskis DCA digiscoping adapter
Quite decent shots.

I am just getting used to using it and I need a hands free wireless remote shutter control thingy. I have sent away for one and it is due next week sometime. This will reduce shake hopefuly, though it is looking likely i am going to have to fork out another £100 smackers to get a Telescope rail for my tripod to sturdy the kit more.

Here are some of my shots: http://www.flickr.com/photos/andrewkinghorn/ 

The Egyptian Goose and Black-headed Gull are the ones taken with my new setup.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Check out this Sandpiper!


( Both images used with permission from Microsoft, NO copyright infringement intended. The image above is the product of merging two images together.
Click here to see where I got the Beach image from: http://office.microsoft.com/en-gb/images/results.aspx?qu=beach#ai:MP900448547 )

Ok, so I didn’t get the chance to go and see the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper but I did get another life tick. Let’s just hope another one crops up in a more accessible place and let’s hope the bird is a bit more obliging. Newton Stringer did get to see it, and even Gary admits it was jammy that he saw it! Lol

I was however rewarded with pretty good views of an Icterine Warbler which was at the Leas Mound just outside of Trow Quarry. The bird showed pretty well, I got my best view when I was scanning through the bush and it appeared and I saw its head, chest, and bill as it was flitting around in the bush. It flew a bit further on and we all got good views of it when it was sitting out in the open for a few seconds on two different bushes. A cracking bird and the view I got must have been pretty good as I saw the white trailing edge to the bird’s secondaries, a distinguishing feature from Melodious Warbler. It was hoying it down and we thought best to leave to give the bird a rest. We got back to the car and the rain stopped and it came on nice weather. Typical! I think Jason T got really good views at 7:00, just after we had left. Oh well! There will be another chance for me to admire one soon I hope. A quick look at Whitburn Steel produced the Black Tern in flight as well as a few Roseates.

Life List update: http://andrewkinghorn.blogspot.com/2009/08/hello.html

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Out of the Black and into the list

nothing in this game for no tick on my list.

Another very enjoyable Sunday afternoon was spent in the north of the county today. After the late news of a Black Tern arriving at Whitburn I couldn’t be bothered to rush around and look for it as it would have been too much of a rush around to enjoy the bird. Therefore I instead waited and hoped it would stick around so I could go and see it. Thankfully it did and I got a chance to go this afternoon with my Mum and Dad for company. On arrival I saw a single Roseate Tern amongst the many terns but no sign of any Black Tern. We then moved onto the next set of 2 large rocks in the water, I checked it once and nothing. However I did check it again literally a minute or so later when it looked as if terns where coming in and out and I picked it out no bother! It was certainly very different as the only other Black Tern I had seen had been an adult. So it was nice to see a juvenile bird, I seem to be having a run of rare juvenile terns at the moment! Here are some of my dig scoping with phone attempts below:


I then went onto Shibdon Pond (for the 4th time within a week!) to meet a friend from BirdForum who is a young birder called Jonny Scragg, we had cracking pretty close quarter views of the Spotted Crake. Certainly the closest I have known it to come toward the hide, it was a pleasant afternoon all in all. However I didn’t see the female Garganey that was seen just before we arrived but there will be others I am sure. I managed a better shot of the crake than what I had previously managed. You can decide how bad it is:

(Spotted Crake - Andrew Kinghorn - CLICK TO ENLARGE)
My phone scoping is shortly about to become obsolete! I am getting a proper Swarovski digiscoping adaptor. Watch this space!

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Want some good birding? Move to the North East!

Hope I don’t sound to rude or offensive to anyone who lives outside the North East but I would defiantly say that for the past 3 weeks we have had the best birding in the whole country.

Lets start of with exactly 3 weeks ago when we had the juvenile Whiskered Tern that turned up in Teesside at Saltholme RSPB, then hours later it was joined by a White-rumped Sandpiper that stayed briefly. The Whiskered Tern has hung around and is most likely still present as I type away this post.

Then we had a bit of a quiet spell for rare birds on land and then on Friday and Saturday the North East had a Wryneck at Hartlepool Headland. Also Icterine Warbler and Barred Warbler were reported as being seen in North Yorkshire over the past few days. On the sea watching front the northerlies brought plenty of Balearics, Sooty, and Manx Shearwaters. Skuas where plentiful with Pomarine, Arctic, Great, and Long-tailed Skuas all being reported and added to the North East’s year total list. Then on Sunday the Sykes’s Warbler turned up and was twitched on Monday before departing, also Newton Stringer’s Red-backed Shrike was a fantastic find for the dedicated local patcher as well as a bird discovered just outside of Whitburn Observatory on the Saturday afternoon. A Spotted Crake was also discovered on Sunday at Shibdon Pond and has shown pretty well ever since, though on occasions it bolts out of view into the reeds.

Would my readers agree we have had it the best?

A Sykes?

On the night of the Sunday after seeing the Crake I was doing my usual rounds of the bird news websites. I was surprised to see that a possible mega was seen in Northumberland on the evening time. The bird was either the commoner Booted Warbler or the far rarer Sykes’s Warbler, I waited to see if some experienced birders could nail the species but sadly by 10:30ish I gave up and went to get washed up and watch some TV. As I pretty much always do I checked my computer before going to bed and I saw that RBS and BirdGuides had now put the warbler out as a Sykes’s instead of just a possible. I had already planned to go as I had not seen either species before in the UK or abroad so was pleased it was being put out as the rarer of the two.

So when I woke up I went to go and pickup woodhornbirder and we went straight to the site where the warbler was being reported. When we arrived it didn’t look promising until we went round a small corner and saw the large, long line of cars all the way up the road parked on the verge. We got out and with out scopes and bins made out way over. We watched the bird for quite a while, however it was not in view a lot of the time but I got some pretty good views of it as it flew about and moved around in the bush. It was certainly a nice looking bird and I hope it turns out to be a Sykes’s; I will leave it for the experts to decide.
Special thanks to James Robson for allowing me to use his images for this post:

(Sykes's Warbler - James Robson)

(Sykes's Warbler - James Robson)

(Skyes's Warbler - James Robson)

I then had a nice day visiting the local reserves. The highlight being a Spotted Redshank at East Chevington NWT, it was distant but still a nice bird to see and a year tick for me. Then on the way back home I stopped off at the Spotted Crake again and had more fabulous views of this smashing little bird. Then off home for some tea and some chill out time.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

I Spotted a Crake

I was overjoyed to be greeted with a message of a Spotted Crake when I returned home from Church this morning. It was Mark N who informed me that it had been seen at Shibdon Pond, I had never been before and had no idea where it was but soon found out. After dinner and catching the house rabbit (don’t ask) I got in Foghorn’s birding transport and went up to Shibdon Pond. When I arrived I parked in the local swimming baths car park and met Paul H, he kindly informed me of where to go to go and see the bird. I ofcourse followed directions and arrived at where I should be to find loads of birders walking away from the hide. I asked where the hide was so I could get there a.s.a.p and I was told and headed in the direction. When I arrived two mates of mine where leaving and asked if I had a key as they had just locked up, I informed them I didn’t and they opened the hide and told us where it was. This was when I met local Northumberland birder Gordon who was also in the hide with me. Set up my scope and I quickly got onto the bird and it quickly bolted away up the gully. My two mates quickly departed and said to stay until some people arrived who had keys so they could lock the hide. When looking for the bird Gordon was hot on his ID and ID’d me as Andrew Kinghorn and introduced himself, I didn’t know it was him until he said. Nice to meet you Gordon!

We waited a while with no sign and then I saw a bird creeping out of the gully it bolted into. It revealed itself and we got cracking views it was of course the Spotted Crake closely followed by a juv Water Rail! How’s that for a comparison! It bolted out of view a few times but generally speaking we had cracking views of this elusive species. I left a very happy man!

I thought I would pop into Houghton Gate for a brief stint, I wish! Not even a wader on the pool let alone a vagrant stint to the site. I was just coming away when I looked down the road and noticed someone with a scope looking at me through their bins. I looked at them and noticed it was Steve Evans (Cut’n A Long Story Short), he had seen me looking so I couldn’t bolt away like the Crake could. He asked me if I had seen much and I had informed Steve that there wasn’t a thing. Until he raised his bins and located a Whinchat sitting on some thistles. Typical!

We had cracking views and we went into photographers mode with out phones up against out eyepieces. We got some terrible shots but they are only meant to be record shots so really: Their awesome! Nice to bump into Steve again as I hadn’t seen him in ages, perhaps a good few months.

(Whinchat - Houghton Gate - Andrew Kinghorn)

Life List update:
258 - Spotted Crake

Year List update:
228 - Spotted Crake

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Tern up for the books

Well I have had 2 fantastic days of seawatching with some ups and some downs!

On Friday it chucked it down with rain pretty much all day and with strong northerlies blowing and a Long-tailed Skua which I missed because of a dentist appointment I decided an afternoon session in the Obs was needed. I arrived at about 4:40 due to Sunderland traffic being so bad!

It was a fantastic session with good views of a few Sooty Shearwater, loads of Manx Shearwaters, Great Skuas, a few Arctic Skuas, and all the rest of the stuff one would expect to see on a seawatch. I was with local sea watching experts Mark N, and Paul H. Just before we where about to pack up and call it a day at about 7:00 Mark had a Shearwater heading north past the “North Bouy” I quickly picked it up and saw it as it sheared about in the fast moving waves. Eventual Mark N said something like “light phase Balearic Shearwater.” To which I was shocked and having come of the bird I got straight back on it and watched it headed away I got really good views bearing in the mind the light conditions and the speed it was heading away, and of course the distance! I wasn’t expecting a lifer, however I was dreaming whilst there that a Balearic would fly past and it became reality. Exciting and excellent stuff! A good bit of news is that on Friday the highest number of Roseate Terns ever recorded going passed the Obs was broken! (Hence title of blog post)

I was most pleased to hear in the Obs from Mark and Paul that Saturday morning was supposed to be good for seawatching. Having caught the seawatching bug a bit I gave in and decided I would go. So I woke up bright and early this morning at 4:45am and had a bite to eat, got ready and I was away! Sunderland was remarkably quiet will all the sane and sensible people in bed sleeping. I arrived at the Obs and was sitting down at about 5:45 and I was informed that I hadn’t really missed much as of yet, few! We had a fantastic 5-8 hours with quite a few Sooty Shearwaters, quite a lot of Manx Shearwaters, and a single Balearic in close! The Balearic was frustrating as everyone got on it when it was fairly close in and apparently views where fantastic and I just couldn’t get on the bird! I eventually got onto it but I got a pretty much back end view of the bird with 2 Manx Shearwaters, however I should count my blessings that I actually got onto it in the end. Let’s hope there is another chance of this happening again in the future. We also had loads of Great and Arctic Skuas, handful of Little Gull, and I saw 2 Roseate’s. I have to say that we had 2 really fantastic views of 2 Sooty Shearwaters that were really close in!

I dipped the Wryneck by about 30minutes this afternoon! Typical! But I have seen one before; again I should count my blessings.

Life List updates:
257 – Balearic Shearwater

Year List updates:
227 – Balearic Shearwater

Until next time, Foghorn out!
(Kittiwakes - Saturday - Mark Newsome)

(Sooty Shearwater - Friday - Mark Newsome)

(Balearic (left) and Manx (right) Shearwaters -
Saturday- Mark Newsome)

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Over long, over camouflaged, and over here!

I couldn’t resist! I really shouldn’t have become so interested in rare birds as it would save some fuel money and the environment. Yes, I twitched the Baird’s Sandpiper jut round the corner in Nottinghamshire on Tuesday just gone, just in time as it wasn’t seen on the Wednesday! When we arrived at Idle Valley NR I wasn’t feeling very active (HO-----HO), on a serious note when we got there it took us a while to find the viewpoint! It was quite well sign posted though (see below) a stroll to the viewpoint was productive when I was able to pick the Baird’s up nearly straight away. Lovely bird and I watched it for about 20-30 mins in all, andver good views even though the pictures appear tell a different story! A very distinctive bird and it was clearly a juvenile bird (actualy it wasn't! Thanks to Mark N who alerted me I was incorrect. If only I looked at the RBS message that said it was an adult bird. BACK TO THE WADER BOOK! lol). I got a few terrible photos, I wanted remain on top form for my followers.

(Baird's Sandpiper sign)

(Baird's Sandpiper - HONEST! - Andrew K)

We then left this lovely bird and had a walk around the reserve itself. The highlight other than the Baird’s was a Yellow-legged Gull with very faint yellow legs, looks like my attention to the always pinkish legs of the thousands of Herring Gulls I have looked at paid dividends here! I was amazed at how faint the yellow legs where but I let me Dad have a look and they all took off and reshuffled and I think I picked it up again on the water swimming about but we couldn’t stay any longer to confirm that it was the same bird due to the brief view I had of the bird when it was on land. However it was most likely Yellow-legged Gull with Herring Gull being rare at this site at this time of year!!!! Apparently there are more Yellow-legged Gulls than Herring Gulls this time of year on the reserve. What was interest was the amount of Lesser black-backed Gulls, loads! Also we saw a very distant Black-necked Grebe not as obliging as the Houghton birds.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

I knew I shouldn’t have taken them Cattle Egret eggs

Now that I have your attention I can inform you of some birdie from the past week or so news:

I had some problems with my Swarovski tripod so I emailed Swarovski Optik in the UK and they told me to send it to them. They informed me that they would either fix it free of charge or if it was better to give me a new one this would be done. So I waited a short while and then came the delivery man with my brand news Swarovski tripod! Then a few days later came a letter from Swarovski with a cheque for the amount of postage I paid to send them my old tripod! Now that is what I call service!

Anyhow, it has been quite a good week on the birding front. My Dad is on holiday from work and my Mum is just plain on holiday in Palma soaking up the sun. So me and my Dad have gone out birding quite a lot, although my Dad hasn’t admitted it I think he is starting to like just a little bit more than what he used to. On Thursday we went away to Leighton Moss RSPB and had a pretty average day but we did see some quite good birds whilst there. The highlight was when the local Lapwings and Starlings all went up clearly an indicator of a predator in the area. My Dad spotted it pretty much straight away through my bins and I managed to get my scope onto it and it was a juv Peregrine, its inexperienced showed as it say on the post looking like it wasn’t to sure what to do. It eventually flew up and disappeared behind the mounds of grassland and we saw it soon after chasing two pigeons and then chased one right over the top of us over the hide, fantastic!

We had a good day at Salthome on Saturday (yesterday) and I saw the long staying Whiskered Tern, about time it nicked off as its starting to feel common! Other highlights included a bit of a wader fest with Avocet, Greenshank, Whimbrel, and Black-tailed Godwits being the highlights.

(Whiskered Tern - Again! - Andrew K)

(Avocet - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Black-tailed Godwits - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Dunlin - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Snipe - Andrew Kinghorn)

Today was a good day with a text from Long Story Cuttin’ it Short who alerted me that a Black-necked Grebe was on part of his local patch. I went to go and see the bird and got a shot for my Flickr album. Also around where 2 Green Sandpipers and a Willow Warbler still singing, presumably he wants to find a mate and raise a family again before the long trip back south?

(Black-necked Grebe - Herrington County Park)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Another good North East blog

A friend of mine from the local Durham Bird Club has just started a new blog about birding. It's a good read with some good pics on it and he's a canny lad.

He can be found here: http://jthompblog.blogspot.com/

Jason makes posts about birding in Durham and further afield.

Hope you decide to follow him folks! :)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Shear of the Water

And so the month of sitting in a freezing cold hide with strong easterly’s making your eyes water is upon us. I have done sea watching before but my life list of seabirds speaks wonders of my commitment having only seen Manx Shearwaters, 1 Sooty Shearwater, and a handful of Bonxies and Arctic Skuas passing offshore, I have seen all the other expected stuff though on a seawatch.

So yesterday I made my way down to the Obs with a nice late start of 4:55 in the morning, I was sitting in the Obs for 6:15. Not bad going that you know! So we started of our seawatch, it was an enjoyable 4-5 hours with the highlights being 2 close Arctic Skuas, a few close Bonxies, and of course my life tick of Sooty Shearwater. Views where distant of the Sooty but after watching loads of Manx Shearwaters passing it was very evident it was it, I couldn’t see hardly any white on the under wing of the bird and it looks quite big even next to a gannet, an impression I never got with Manx Shearwaters.

I think the other highlight has to go to a small falcon, we were sitting in the hide and having a rest from looking out to sea when me and Mark said “Merlin” at the same time as a bird flew right past in front of the Obs at a fairly leisurely pace, closest views I have had of this species yet even though views were only for about a second or two. One of my favourite falcons of all time.

Sooty Shearwater is both a life tick (255) and a year tick (224).

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

July Highlights

Well it has been a cracking July for me for birds! It’s this time of year that I love when all the rare waders start passing though, the only regret I have had was not going for that White-tailed Lapwing when it was at Slimbridge. I so wish I had made the effort to find some way to go! However, I cannot grumble as I have had one of the best July’s birding since I began 4-5 years ago. Count my many blessings (good hymn!)

I had a fabulous time on Orkney; the only downside is that now on a sea watch Arctic and Great Skuas seem somewhat boring having already had them really close several times on Orkney. I returned with news that there was a Dotterel at Crimdon Dene, an old pal I had never been able to catch up with having dipped the birds at Danby Beacon by a few hours. So I was only pack from Orkney about 11 hours and I was up and out the door heading toward Crimdon Dene beach. On arrival myself, a friend, and some other birders started searching the beach looking for the Dotterel. We drew a blank; however we were contacted by Derek to say it had been relocated so I headed over from Castle Lake DBC with another mate from the DBC. When we arrived we where informed it had been spooked and headed off up the beach! Me and my mate started scanning and I saw some movement really close amongst the shingle, I got it in the bins and I remarked something like “Here’s the Dotterel.” It was quite funny with it being so close and here’s us looking way into the distance LOL

Then the other highlight was on Wednesday just gone, after watching a Goshawk attacking a Buzzard at Wykeham Forest I received a text from local county recorder and mate Mark N to tell me of a juv Whiskered Tern, after having a nice day birding on Yorkshire we went to go and see the Whiskered Tern. On the way to Salthome got a text to say it was still there and a White-rumped Sandpiper had just dropped in! So got 2 for the price of 1! Dipped the 2 adults last year so was happy to finally see this juv.

What a fab month July was.