I haven't seen the Blue-winged Teal since my encounter nearly a month(?) ago. Ian Forrest managed the following cracking shots of the bird, it is looking a bit better than what it was when I saw it a month or so ago. For starters in the second image it can be seen (sort of) that the bird has got its primaries back. Also that all important blue-wing can be seen.
I can remember receiving a text from Stringer asking if I was interested in going to Cornwall to see the American Bittern that was present and also a nearby Green Heron. I loved Bitterns anyway and the thought of seeing an American Bittern and Green Heron was brilliant so pretty much straight away I said I wanted to go.
The night before the twitch had myself and Stringer worried a little, the bird had reported as having moved around a bit making us wonder if perhaps it was still there. However a quick check of either BirdGuides or Turd Boredom (can't remember which) revealed the bird was still present at dusk. Right, lets av' it! Stringer picked me up and the 3 of us; Kevin, Stringer, and myself made it down to Cornwall. I admired Stringer and Kevin for being able to do the mammoth journey from Northumberland to Durham and then to Cornwall....then all the way back!
We arrived at Walmsley Sanctuary in Cornwall for dawn and had to queue to get into the tower hide, however we were informed the bird had been seen and was still present. So although we hadn't seen it yet we could relax...a little bit. After a wait we eventually got into the hide and saw the American Bittern. Superb! We enjoyed some cracking views before leaving, on the way back to the car Stringer suggested we check the smaller hide that no one had bothered with as it looked like the bird might be able to be seen from that hide. On entering someone was already in and had said he hadn't seen it from that hide. About 5 minutes past and the same guy picked it up. It took a short while but eventually all of the 5 people in the hide got onto the bird. It was remaining fairly hidden but then it walked out in the open for a short time and we enjoyed some truly brilliant views of this stunner of a bird! It was close, showing well, and the hide was nice and quiet with a relaxed atmosphere. Brilliant!
After this we headed to the Lost Gardens of Heligan where the Green Heron was present, this bird was in a very bizarre location. A small jungle like pool in the middle of a botanical garden! This bird also showed really well and allowed us some truly excellent views. What a day; great birds, great company, great twitch!
It was Friday evening and BirdGuides was still showing that the Sandhill Crane was still present up in Aberdeenshire at Loch of Strathbeg RSPB. I was unsuccessful in my search for a lift to see the bird on Friday but it mattered not as it was looking like the bird was going to be there on Saturday anyway. The message was put out from BirdGuides the bird had flown and and roosted on Friday evening at Strathbeg so it was looking good. Alan rang me and informed me that he thought it would be best to drive up during Friday evening and be there for first light on Saturday morning, I agreed this would be a good idea. I was picked up at 10.30 and myself, Alan, and a Yorkshire Tom were on our way to Aberdeenshire. We arrived at around 4.30 in the morning and we all settled down for some shut-eye. We woke about 6 and drove the 30mins or so to Loch of Strathbeg RSPB, the long winding drive down saw birders walking swiftly along the bank to the hide where the Sandhill Crane could be seen from. We got our of the car and wrapped up in our winter gear (it was cold!) and made our way along. The very friendly girls at the visitor centre informed us it could be seen from the window. We entered and looked through a kind gentleman's scope and.......RELAX. There it was my first view of the Sandhill Crane.
We then made our way along to the hide where the bird could be seen far better than from the visitor centre. The hide was packed but about 30 of us were tall enough to be able to stand on a small hill next to the hide and scope the bird. What a stunner!!!!!! It seemed pretty settled and was going about its business, the local Mute Swans clearly unhappy by its presence, but then when have you ever seen a Mute Swan not threaten an outsider species of around the same size? The local Grey Herons also fancied their chances but the Sandhill Crane soon put an end to that! The bird hung around for about 45 minutes but wasn't really on view for the last 15. It then took off when thousands of Pink-footed Geese lifted to start to move off to daytime feeding areas. We watched the impressively sized bird fly off into the distant toward St Combs, we presumed to its favoured field.
We went off to try and relocate the bird, rather than to go and sit in the Cafe and have breakfast like some Midlands birders standing next to us suggested. It's ok, we'll go and find the bird you sit down and chill out. It took about 45 minutes but we turned down a track to search the area when a car approached to say that the Sandhill Crane was sitting in the field. The bird showed well, but only its head and body as it was working it way down into a dip in the field. I found this interesting as I was reminded that Common Cranes do exactly the same thing when its windy, they sit in dips in fields etc to keep out the wind. After a short while it then flew and headed N/NW and appeared to land again in some distant fields. Cracking views of the bird were had this time both in flight and on the deck. We decided we best go off and try to refind the bird....again. It was good fun I must confess.
We stood at a good vantage point and waited.....a woman pulled up in her 4x4 and informed us she had seen it fly over the golf course out to sea, only for it to return back inland and she lost where it landed. Although we scanned the fields thoroughly we couldn't see the bird. Alan said we will give it until about 11 before we headed off for the long drive south. A nearby small crowd headed back to their cars and so did we, I looked over a distant farm when I was heading back and called something along the lines of; "There it is! Sandhill Crane." The crowd stooped walking, turned around and looked to where I had located the bird in flight. It was coming in to land a mere 2 fields away. As it descended I could see the RSPB staff member at the top of the field and the Sandhill Crane landed in the field right infront of where she was standing! We made our way up the field with the others, I will say that the farmer had took in the crop from the field and no damage was caused. It turns out the field where it landed was one of its favoured ones and it spent a prolonged period of time in the same field the previous day. When we got to the top of the hill there it was sitting at the other side of the field. WOW! What a view, the bird wasn't particularly bothered by our presence and spent about 20 minutes walking about feeding in the field.
Click on any images below to enlarge, they have changed Blogger so now it is easier than ever to view photos in a large format!
Could it get any better? It eventually decided to take off and it flew off left of where it was standing and then turned around and headed straight for us! Myself, Tom, and Jospeh (a mate from Aberdeen) were among the 10 or so fortunate people it flew over. As it approached I put my bins down as I didn't need them to enjoy views of this fabulous bird as it was so close! As it flew over it started calling. Another wow! Actually hearing the Sandhill Crane calling in the UK as it had just flown over our heads. That is a moment I won't be forgetting anytime soon! I lifted my bins up as soon as it had gone over and enjoyed close range views and watched it as it got more and more distant, it flew off way into the distance and I remarked it was probably heading toward Loch of Strathbeg RSPB. Turns out it was as it was seen there after we left for long journey south.
Brilliant bird and definitely one of the best birds I have ever seen in the UK.
The previous day of the date above in the title I was sat in University and checked Rare Bird Alert website, I was a bit surprised to see a Pied-billed Grebe had been seen down near Manchester. A superb looking bird and the last grebe I needed to complete my list of grebes on the UK list. It was a juvenile and not as stunning as an adult but the next day saw me heading down. We arrived and a large crowd was massing, it didn't take long to get to the small enclosed area where the bird was feeding. It was a pleasure to watch this bird go about its business and I was treat to some stunning views. The bill was very striking and separates the species instantly from Little Grebe. As I was standing enjoying the bird I had received a text, a mate had just been to Northumberland and had enjoyed some excellent views of a Squacco Heron. I new it had been seen briefly in recent days but to know it was now on show and easy to see I was very keen to see the bird. I rounded up the other two lads and said something along the lines of this: "Right then lets go, a Squacco Heron is on show in Morpeth." One of them laughed, "No, i'm serious."
(Pied-billed Grebe - Derek Charlton)
Another 3 or so hours later and we were standing in Morpeth watching a stunning Squacco Heron, it was performing superbly well and to this day it is the only one I have seen. I went back for seconds days later and again got some brilliant views of these stunning herons.
Spent today down Rainton Meadows, nothing much happening really but nice walk with Migrant Hawker, Common Darter, and Speckled Wood noted. On the bird side Dunlin was the highlight, other than that very quiet.
Got this picture of a Southern Hawker last week when I went on an unsuccessful search for a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, first time I've seen the species in Durham. Brown Hawkers appear to be a fairly recent coloniser at Rainton Meadows aswell, always good to see anything spreading in this day and age.
Sorry it has been a while since an update but couple of things have been going on in life recently so haven't written up my blog posts.
I will start off by showing some images of a local juvenile Black Guillemot, some of you may remember a week or so ago I wrote a blog post mentioning it as I saw the bird at Hartlepool. It has stuck around and has been going about its business and sometimes it seems to be coming within a fairly decent range to allow some photographs to me taken:
Yesterday I was planning to go to Whitburn Obs on the morning as the winds looked favourable and I thought there might be a chance of Great Shearwater, however my plans were thrown out the window when an American Black Tern turned up and was ID'd in Lincolnshire. I had not a clue how to separate the form from the British form (niger) so a brush up was needed on the Saturday evening. It was a hard 3hour drive on my own but I eventually arrived on site about 12:15. I had received a message to say the bird had flown off West......thankfully it was still sitting in the ploughed field with the local Black-headed Gulls. The bird showed very well and I enjoyed watching it for about 20-30 mins before leaving for the long drive home. It was a very educating and interesting bird, it was expensive to get there and back however this sort of bird interests me a lot. The chances are the bird will not be split and I won't get my BOU 'tick', but I have put it down on my own personal list. The birds (surinamensis) in juvenile plumage is certainly identifiable from "our Black Terns" (niger).
Features I noted in the field to separate from niger:
Tones on crown and nape are greyish in tone on surinamensis and this contrasts with the black ear coverts. On niger the marking on the crown and nape are uniform with the ear coverts, often very little difference is shown.
The upperwing was fairly uniform grey, quite a dark grey opposed to the paler grey on niger, which tends to show a fairly contrasting light rump.
The underwing is very different, in niger the underwing is white whereas it is grey in surinamensis. Additionally the axillaries and flanks have a greyish wash to them insurinamensis, however in niger the axillaries and flanks are white not washed grey.
There are other features but I didn't necessarily notice these much in the field, a very educational and interesting bird. A one to look out for with the next Black Terns in Durham and further afield.
Some of the features I noted above can be seen in this photo kindly supplied to me by Dean Eades, Dean's website can be accessed by CLICKING HERE.
Yesterday I went down to Teesside pretty much as soon as news broke of a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, I had seen the species before at exactly the same place on exactly the same pool last year. The odds are that this is the same bird. What was different from last year is that the bird was not as advanced in its moult and therefore was still a very stunning looking bird. It was pretty much still in full summer plumage, brilliant! Wader galore with at least 10 Curlew Sandpiper present and a cracking Little Stint. Here is the total list of the 13 species of wader seen: Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Curlew Sandpiper Little Stint Snipe Dunlin Ruff Redshank Knot Curlew Ringed Plover Black-tailed Godwit Bar-tailed Godwit Greenshank
Here are my poor attempts to do this bird justice:
Today I had an hour or so out and decided to try for the Black Guillemot at Parton Rocks at Hartlepool Headland. Bird was very distant but still a rare bird in Durham by all means, only 1 or 2 records a year in Durham. Hard to twitch and you nearly always need to be on seawatch and just hope one flys past to see one.
Black Guillemot and Sharp-tailed Sandpiper take my Durham Year List (BOU) to 224.
would love to one day see a Fea's Petrel fly past Whitburn, must do more seawatching.
I really enjoy seawatching when birds are passing, however not living near the coast I find it hard to drag myself out of bed and do the 20 minute drive to the coast. Having said that once I am there I love seawatching, so here is a question to readers. What is your favourite sea bird and why?
Comments below welcome.
Fea's Petrel drawing by Andrew Kinghorn, if you would like something making for your blog then please get in touch and it could be discussed. Small fee would apply.
Adam Williams kindly allowed me to use his images taken of the American Golden Plover yesterday for this blog post. What a cracking bird and I was amazed at how much it actually stood out from the crowd whilst I was there, I must confess I am fancying going back for seconds.
...of the dales that is! I went up to Derwent Reservoir to see if I could see Osprey and Pectoral Sandpiper, first stop was to look for the Pec Sand on the Northumberland side of the reservoir. Thanks to a helpful gentleman he pointed me in the right direction, it took a while but eventually the bird flew up breaking its cover and flew a short way toward the reservoir. Brilliant views were had in the scope but it was just that little bit to distant for me lens. Nothing might else of note apart from a few Greylags putting on a mini-spectacle. If you want to see the Pec Sand make sure you click on the image!
Next stop was a lay-by looking onto the reservoir where I hoped for Osprey, I had a nice time sitting in the car for a couple of hours scanning surrounding hills and the reservoir itself, however no joy. Did see a juvenile female Peregrine on at least 3 occasion! It kept harassing the locals and showed its inexperience a few times, at one point it must have thought it was a bat and hung upside down on a branch! Was brilliant to see it stopping low to the water to try and flush the local waterfowl. Most exciting moment was when it was about to grab an Oystercatcher it was chasing and the Oystercatcher fully submerged itself in the water to avoid predation. Bird of the day had to be the Peregrine, but Pectoral Sandpiper a very close second, I love waders.
Today an unexpected bird turned up in Durham in the form of an American Golden Plover. This bird was an adult moulting out of summer plumage into winter, the bird showed well although it didn't do much other than sleep! Still it was a brilliant bird to see and a species that hasn't been seen in Durham for about 15 years!
This afternoon thought I would have a look down to Bishop Middleham, I would say its Durham's chief inland nature reserve with some spectacular waders recorded over the years. I had a good day with the following having been recorded while I was on the reserve:
Please view videos in HD, if unsure how to do this CLICK HERE.
Bishop Middleham: 4 Mute Swan, 2 Green Sandpiper, 120c Black-headed Gulls, 2 Common Gulls, 1 Herring Gull, 1 Common Sandpiper, 15c Pied Wagtail, 8c Little Grebe, 22+ Teal, 3+ Mallard, 3 Lesser black-backed Gull, 4 Tufted Duck, 600+ Lapwing, 1 Sparrowhawk.
A1 Flashes: 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Grey Heron, and 2 Canada Geese.
Stoneybeck Lake: 1 juv Curlew Sandpiper and 4 Ruff only birds of note.
Highlights for me were the Curlew Sandpiper, and the Sparrowhawk that showed really well aswell as trying to catch a Green Sandpiper. Pleased to report it failed.
Next I headed to a stretch of river near me by a place called Floaters Mill, a walk nearly to the Houghton Gate end provided nothing until I got to the last stretch I was going to walk. I looked at some vegetation in the distance that was hanging over the river and would see something small that was a deep orange colour and bird shaped sitting, I raised my bins and my suspicions were proved correct as the bird was indeed a Kingfisher! I had a couple of seconds of viewing and then the bird flew off upriver showing that beautiful metallic blue back. First and only Kingfisher I have seen so far this year in Durham, hope I see another before the year is out. Takes my county year list to 221 BOU.
Yesterday morning I woke up to new of a Fea's Petrel that had flown past Flamborough Head in Yorkshire. Hmmmmm I bet that will end up at Whitburn were my immediate thoughts, I was in Whitburn Obs for an afternoon stint from about 12:00 until about 5:15.
What a brilliant days seawatching was had first of all my first Sooty Shearwater of the year and I must have had at least 20 during the day, the next bird was special and a lifer although very distant a Long-tailed Skua. Special thanks Mark Newsome for picking this up, really showed experience as it was a long (and I mean long) way away but was able to note the smaller build of the bird after Mark pointed it out. Next on the agenda was Balearic Shearwater, the dilemma was we either had 3 different birds during the seawatch or the same bird going by within 30mins. Who knows? Whatever was a pleasure to see this species, one of my favourites to see on a seawatch. Next came a cracking sub adult Pomarine Skua heading North, followed by 2 more dark phase Poms with 5 Arctic Skuas! Finally seconds before I left the call went up of 3 Pale-bellied Brent Geese heading north, a rather embarrassing county year tick. Lets not forget the numerous Arctic and Great Skuas I had during the seawatch as well as Common Scoter, Teal, Common Terns, Red-throated Divers, Sandwich Terns, and other expected species.
Puts my county year list at 220, if I got to 230 I would be amazed, here's hoping we have a good Autumn. That reminds me its the 1st of September, the first day of Autumn!