Saturday, 29 October 2011

Hurple Peron!

Wednesday should have been spent revising for an exam I had on Friday but I adopted the "I can revise when its dark" approach! Went to Castle Lake to catch up with the Rough-legged Buzzard that had been hanging around that area, an awesome bird and I really do like this species. Only the second I have ever seen in Durham.

Then headed down to Teesside to look for migrants but was rudely interrupted when news broke of a Purple Heron at Saltholme RSPB. Went along to Saltholme and had cracking flight views of it, second one I have seen in the UK this year and a county tick for me. Awesome! I think these are stunning birds. The pictures testify it:

 (Purple Heron - © Adam Williams)

 (Purple Heron - © Adam Williams)

 (Purple Heron - © Adam Williams)

(Purple Heron - © Adam Williams)

(Purple Heron twitch from left: Finney, Fog, Williams, Pablo Hugelist - pic © Derek Charlton)

Today I had planned to go for the Olive-backed Pipit but it had other ideas and appeared to have departed the night before....the little tinker! So instead spent a few hours in the hide at Scaling Dam, the Bread-rested Goose....I mean Red-breasted Goose is still there.....hasn't disgraced itself yet. Still feeding with intent and doesn't like mingling with locals that much. After here went to Sleddale area where I saw one of the Rough-legged Buzzards and also had a bonus of the Hen Harrier. At one point had both birds in the same scope view, awesome!

On way home news came through of a Hen Harrier at Castle Lake, I had never seen the species before in Durham so was keen. It was pretty much en-route so it would have been rather rude not to call in to see if the bird was still in the area. Only took my bin's with me to go and look from a suitable point. Saw the Pectoral Sandpiper but it was distant, was scanning some distant suitable land for Hen Harrier and after about 15 mins bingo! I picked the bird up hunting over the motor-cross fields. It went and flew over the trees and disappeared, thankfully it returned shortly afterwards. It soared over the field I first picked it up in before gaining height a bit and heading off to my left and out of view. Brilliant! My first Durham Hen Harrier.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Monday, 24 October 2011

Good job I didn't Jack' in hope

Went out today for a few hours to escape the boredom of the revision tonight. Managed to finally catch up with a Jack Snipe. Missed my chances to get some cracking views, so frustrating. They are an interesting little bird, when you flush them they generally fly a short distance and land again; making no noise at all during the process. I don't know why they are such super birds....they just are!

Also 2 Kestrel on way home.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Pallid Harrier - 1st for Durham

So there I was on Thursday finishing off some University work I needed to do for that day when I got a text from Gary Crowder......I knew a Hen Harrier had just been reported at Dorman's Pool but I was a little taken back to hear there was actually a Pallid Harrier at Dorman's Pool! Don't panic! I love raptors and with the influx of Pallid Harriers I was hoping one would turn up somewhere near so I could go and see it, I didn't expect one to turn up in Durham. This record consists the 1st record for Durham.

I picked up "The Finch" at around about 4.15 and we were down Teesside for about 4.35ish. Chris Bell rang to say it had flown off.......then he rang back seconds later...its over the tip! I pulled up at the entrance to Cowpen Bewley Tip and after a few worrying seconds I picked the bird up and got The Finch onto it. Boot open....scopes out....couldn't find it again. Aghhhh! It was being mobbed by a Crow and appeared to fly off toward Greatham Creek. So we went along to Greatham Creek car sign. Chris Bell rang again to say it was back at Dorman's Pool. About a minute later we were at Dorman's and were told it had gone down into the reeds, we stayed until pretty much last light and it didn't surface. First light tomorrow then!

I was up nice and early at 5.40ish on Friday morning. I picked up Derek at around about 6.30 and we were on our way to Dorman's Pool for first light. We arrived around about 06.50ish and it was still pitch black. Just me, Derek and another car next to us, then around 7.00 a small convoy of cars started to arrive and then a steady flow of cars. While waiting for suitable light to walk along to the vantage point I saw a Barn Owl flying over the reedbed. Only the second Durham Barn Owl I have seen this year! They have been hit bad up here. We got onto a good vantage point and about 30 minutes passed and there was still no sign of the bird. It was getting tense, had the bird gone during the night was the only view I was going to get the one I had the previous day. I then lifted my bins at something that had just appeared; "Its up!" is what I seem to recall I shouted out. Thankfully everyone got onto it quickly and we enjoyed superb views as the bird fly past us at close quarters then back over the water and landed on a fence post, shortly after this is dropped down into the reedbed. Smiles all round! Another short while passed and the bird came out of the reedbed and again performed well it then flew towards us again and landed on the ground right in front of us! Wow, full on unobstructed view! It sat for about 4 mins or so before taking flight and heading toward to road so that the assembled crowd on the entrance track toward Dorman's Pool could enjoy this superb bird. The bird came back toward us and then landed again in the reedbed. Brilliant! Satisfied with the views I obtained I decided it was time to leave. I wasn't going to get better views than what I had received, I feel truly privileged to have enjoyed such a rare bird in my own home county. Whilst on site an adult Whooper Swan flew over and another bird was present on Dorman's Pool itself. I love this species and a reminded winter is just around the corner.

(Pallid Harrier - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Please view the following video in HD, if unsure how to do this then please CLICK HERE.

(Pallid Harrier - © Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Pallid Harrier - © Ian Forrest)

 (Pallid Harrier - © Ian Forrest)

A great find Ian and many thanks for allowing me to continue using your images on my blog, that goes for everyone who allows me to use their photos. Thank you very much, it is greatly appreciated. 

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Monday, 17 October 2011

Very mixed weekend

Sorry for lack of updates folks, been busy at University and had other things on. From Thursday onwards the birding has been both frustrating and also brilliant, have seen some truly fantastic birds in Durham and dipped some equally as fantastic birds away from home. Lets start with Thursday;

So here I was in a University waiting to go into a lecture when Mark Newsome texts me (cheers again Mark) that a Red-flanked Bluetail had been caught at Whitburn Costal Park....a mere 10 minute drive from my University. Drat!!!! Any other time I would be fine, infact I had a free 30 minutes just before I went into the lecture and on a Tuesday and Friday I have a couple of hours spare. Very frustrating, I have a feeling the bird had a copy of my timetable. I went after University and dipped the bird, it hadn't been seen for 30 minutes before I arrived and there was no sign at all of the bird by 5.00.

Nearly at University and a text comes through again from Mark Newsome and Adrian George (thanks guys) to inform me that the Red-flanked Bluetail had been caught again!!!! Good news it was still there and I managed to get to Whitburn Costal Park but it had been released (understandably) and I went back to University to avoid being late! I headed back an hour later and the haul produced no Red-flanked Bluetail but a new Yellow-browed Warbler was trapped and ringed, awesome! Was my second this year:

(Yellow-browed Warbler - © Andrew Kinghorn)

I headed back to University for another hour before heading back again, I returned to find out the bird had been caught and swiftly released again. Another missed chance, but the birds welfare is more important and once any bird is ringed and details are taken there is no point hanging onto the bird so its just released which is only to right, the fact I kept missing the bird is well; hard lines. Though when I had arrived they had just caught a Woodcock, awesome!

 (Woodcock - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Woodcock - © Andrew Kinghorn)

However this time when I arrived the bird was in a smaller less dense section of the Costal Park, we stood at a location where we were told the bird had flown into for about an hour and half and not a sign of anything bar a Blue Tit. I decided it definitely wasn't where people said they saw it fly to so I checked the area where it was originally seen. Low and behold it flew into the small stand of trees for a few seconds showing its red flanks and bluetail before diving straight back into thick cover. Super! Now just to get a good view!!!! 20 mins or so passed and Cumbrian birder Craig Shaw had arrived. We got fleeing glimpses in poor light in dense cover of the bird and I needed to go back to University as my time was up, I wandered off from the now growing crowd and looking into a sycamore and saw a small bird moving about. A few seconds later there was the bird; first it showed its white eyering before moving a little and showing its bluetail. I called the others over and it went missing again. I had a good 5 or so second view at close quarters through my bins and I really needed to get back. Red-flanked Bluetail get on the Durham life list!

(Red-flanked Bluetail - © Chris Bell)

I had another 3 hour stint at University and returned for the last few hours of light just to see what was happening. Needless to say I was informed on arrival the Red-flanked Bluetail had been showing so I headed down for another look, these are awesome birds! It was nearly dark and then local birder Steve Howat picked the bird up and it we soon got on it and were enjoying prolonged views of this stunning bird, better than what I had before if not a little bit more distant.

Lets not neglect the vis mig that was going on! I had 3 Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, 2 Short-eared Owls, Brambling, Blackbirds, and other species come in off the sea. 1 of the SEO's came in off the sea and started hunting the rough grassland only a few hundred meters away from us. Keen or what!

I left the Costal Park at about 6.15 for the Durham Bird Club Committee meeting, however I had learnt while standing looking for the Red-flanked Bluetail that a Rufous-tailed Robin had been found in Norfolk! AGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH PANIC! By the end of the day I failed to find a car share until a mate Tom Middleton said we should go. Brilliant! It was 10 at night and I rang around and found someone else from Durham (Simeon Grundy) and we set off for Sheffield at 12.30 ish. We arrived about 2.30 -3.00 and then jumped cars into Tom's and headed to Norfolk for first light.

We arrived in Norfolk for about 6.30 ish and it was still pitch black and with the sky so clear we all knew deep down the bird had had. We didn't see much else and departed Norfolk, but we are glad we gave it a go. After all sitting in the house and not bothering would mean I certainly wouldn't have seen the bird! To be honest we were all knackered and with nothing much having turned up in Norfolk at about 12.15 we headed back. Myself and Simeon did end the day on a high though, we got back to Saltholme RSPB just in time to see the Glossy Ibis and 4 Snow Geese. Both were county ticks for me, I would have preferred some not Category C Snow Geese but there's time for me yet...I hope. The Glossy Ibis is the first in Durham since 1992, that last bird was a 1 day wonder and when it was present I was only 1 year old!

 (Glossy Ibis - © Ian Forrest)

Please view video in HD, if your unsure how to do this CLICK HERE.
(Glossy Ibis - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Snow Geese - © Ian Forrest)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

New blog!

A brand new blog has just been set up by a mate of mine; the young and enthusiastic birder Kieran Lawrence.

Blog found here:

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Not such a Great Scaup

This morning and early afternoon was spent going part of my University assignment, a call from The Finch interrupted me from work and informed me that the Lesser Scaup had been seen again and had relocated. I checked BirdGuides and sure enough there was the news, so I picked The Finch up about 30 mins later and we were north bound. We arrived around about 04.15 and paid for a parking ticket, oh how I loathe to pay for parking! However 5 minutes later we were watching the Lesser Scaup, it was one of those species I thought would eventually come to me and sure enough it did......score! Hard to believe the first for the UK was just back in 1987 when a mate (Beadnell Stringer) had it on his then patch; Chasewater in Staffordshire. Since that record there have been many more and the bird has gone from being an absolute MEGA to a rare but fairly annual vagrant.

The bird didn't really put on much of a show and spent most of its time asleep, but it did wake up on about 6 occasions briefly showing that nice white blaze on the face. Lately birds seem to just fall asleep when I arrive and don't do much! lol

Oh and some music to go with the pictures and videos... well it's no Blackburnian Warbler!

Please view video in HD, if unsure how to do this; CLICK HERE.

It was showing well even though it was asleep!

 (Lesser Scaup & The Fog - © Derek Charlton)

(Lesser Scaup - © Derek Charlton)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Dowbill Longwitcher

So there I was on Friday having a rest from learning how to build a Oracle database using SQL language (it is as exciting as it sounds!) when I heard news that a Long-billed Dowitcher turned up in Caerlaverock WWT it took me the whole of about 30 seconds to decide I was going to make the trip to Dumfries and Galloway to see this stunning wader.

When I arrived I paid a small fortune to get into the reserve and made my way to the tower hide, the lack of birders on site wasn't promising and I thought a dip was sure to follow. I picked up a Snipe which got me excited for the whole 0.23 seconds.A short while later I picked the Long-billed Dowitcher in with some Eurasian Teal (and relax). Spent a few hours in the Folly Pond hide and had some cracking views of the bird even though it did spend about 1 and half hours asleep! I did at one point see the bird flex its bill when it had a yawn; brilliant! An ace bird and a good day, saw my first large flocks of Barnacle Geese of the winter and singles of Whooper Swan reminding me that winter is literally just around the corner.

(Long-billed Dowitcher - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Please view videos in HD, if unsure how to do this CLICK HERE.

(Long-billed Dowitcher - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Bread-rested Goose- how plastic could it really be?

In this post I am going to try and be as unbiased as possible toward the Red-breasted Goose that is currently as Scaling Dam in North Yorkshire. When the bird first turned up I must confess I discarded the bird immediately as a fence hopper, however typically I say and thought about it for a short while and thought I better pay a visit and see the bird for myself.

Picked up a mate and we headed down and were on site at about 11.00. When we entered the hide a birder was watching it and told us the general area where the bird was. We picked up the bird fairly quickly but it wasn't good news, as I was aware it was in with the local Greylag and Canada Geese. Not a good sign! I settled down to study the bird and with it being a reasonable distance I cracked up to full zoom to study the more intricate details. I made the following field notes:

  • Some wear seemed to be shown to the greater coverts and to some extend the median coverts aswell. Primaries also seem worn on this bird. The tail was pretty worn on this bird, which I find fairly odd? (comments welcome on this)
  • A very active feeder, not showing that much interest in roosting like other geese.
  • Not a social bird, although it is tagging along with the Greylags and Canadas it clearly knows its not meant to be with them. They return the favour by chasing the bird!
So the notes I made might not seem very extensive but they consist of information I think might be relevant for the bird. Ofcourse this bird has some pro's and some con's.

  • Its a juvenile, and unringed!
  • The feathers seem worn, to put it a crude way it feels like its come a long way! 
  • Brent Geese are on the move and are starting to return to the UK.
  • Its actively feeding, not something I would expect captive birds to do. They will be used to being fed whenever they like and getting looked after. This bird seems very independent.
  • Red-breasted Geese have been accepted in late September/Early October in the past.
  • Its at Scaling Dam! Whenever a bird lands there it is given the kiss of death from the rarities committee. Or so it would seem. 
  • Some Red-breasted Geese do breed in very low numbers in Southern England. 
  • It isn't with Brent Geese.
  • It turned up on its own (or so it would seem).
  • It is now tagging along with the local Greylags and Canadas.
So the Con's list seems pretty large but below in order I am going to try and address some of the cons from my point of view and from evidence I know:
  • Genuine wild geese do indeed turn up at Scaling Dam. Earlier in the year a Tundra Bean Goose turned up and got in with the Greylags, it was there for about a week before departing. It became semi-tame (from what I understand). Also wild neck ringed Greylag Geese have been seen at Scaling Dam before. So although it seems to be escapee pond of Northern England genuine birds do turn up, just because something has one negative doesn't rule out any positives.
  • Although some Red-breasted Geese breed down south in England why exactly would a juvenile disperse from its parents and fly north? It makes no sense. Even captive birds retain that sense of instinct and the instinct would be unlikely to fly north to look for wintering sites. A possibility is that the bird could be an escape from the continent? 
  • It isn't with Brent Geese but who's to say it wasn't? There is no evidence for or against this argument so I'll leave it there. But it is worth noting that a single Goose of a species is a fairly regular occurrence in the Teesmouth area for whatever reason! For example a single Brent Goose on Greatham Creek. 
  • It would appear that it might have turned up on its own, however as I pointed out above the bird might have arrived with Brent Geese, left the flock and went its own way. Or it might have arrived on its own, horribly lost. 
  • Because it is know that the bird joined Canadas and Greylags and didn't come in with them this would point toward this not being a problem. Naturally if you are lost and you start wandering you are going to group up with birds that are from your "type" (geese). They are not a good carrier species but it didn't come in with them so not really an issue (in my eyes). 
I might edit this sometime soon so keep tuned and as I might change the post, if I do I will put at the top of the post I have made edits and the date I made the edits. 

But for now here is the glorious creature:

(Red-breasted Goose - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Please view video in HD, if unsure how to do this CLICK HERE.

With me the verdict is still out on this bird.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Cabot's Tern

With the news a short while ago that American Sandwitch Tern (Cabot's) has now been separated from 'our' Sandwitch Tern I thought I best brush up on my ID of how to separate the two. This article is brilliant and a must read if your interested in learning how to separate them:

EDIT: Thanks to David and Tristan for informing me that I have made a mistake. There has already been an accepted record of Cabot's Tern. A bird found dead. 

So here's hoping the first twitchable alive bird with a pulse will turn up since the split. Its the sort of species I really like; hard to ID. 

 (Cabot's Tern - © Mark Newsome)

(Cabot's Tern - © Mark Newsome)

Looking at the photos above perhaps the pattern on the head might be the initial give away of the next possible Cabot's Tern in the UK. Having read that article I am ready for any Sandwich Terns....that I can get a good view of!

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Memories Part 3 - 26/09/2009 - Teesmouth Triumph

I can remember this part of my birding life as lifers seemed to be still fairly easy as I was just spreading my wings further afield than my local area, new and exciting birds were becoming obtainable. On this particular day I had 4 lifers all on the North Tees Marshes in County Durham.

The day started off with a crowd of birders parking by the side of the A178 and viewing Back Saltholme and after a short while our target appeared; Buff-breasted Sandpiper. The bird was distant but with Ruff so the size comparison was fairly easy to see even at range. A nice surprise was an Osprey that flew over the reserve heading south while we were looking for the Buff-breasted Sandpiper, at the time it was only the second Osprey I had ever seen. Brilliant start!

(Buff-breasted Sandpiper - © Jamie Duffie)

Next stop was Dorman's Pool to look for the Red-backed Shrike that had been present for a couple of days. The bird was picked up fairly easy and it was brilliant to see my first ever Red-backed Shrike, it was a juvenile bird and my first ever species of Shrike.

(Red-backed Shrike - © Ian Forrest)

From here we headed into Saltholme RSPB itself, we walked to the Allotment Pool and after a wait of about an hour or so our third target appeared; Blue-winged Teal. The bird was mainly asleep and didn't do much but the white crescent on its face was easy to pick out and I was very pleased to see this rare duck from the United States.

(Spot the Blue-winged Teal - © Andrew Kinghorn)

The same bird has returned again every year since! See Ian Forrest's picture of the same bird taken this year:

(Blue-winged Teal - © Ian Forrest)

We then decided to do some general birding and went to Hartlepool Headland and it was the time of year just as the Purple Sandpipers were retuning to Durham's shores. As this was the first year I had transport the Purple Sandpipers I saw were my first ever!

What a day with 4 lifers and all in my home county of Durham. Memories!

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Living up to its name....

News broke this morning of a Solitary Sandpiper in Lancashire, knowing how hard these birds are to get away from the South coast I decided I was going today. I knew it was on a pool in a field and I wasn't sure if it would be there tomorrow so I decided to go. Picked up The Finch, and Kieran and we were Lancashire bound. We arrived at about 2.30 and paid a handsome £4 each to get in. A short walk to the field and we were soon watching the Solitary Sandpiper, it was distant but views were satisfactory and I was able to note the long primary projection and the dark rump with white barred outertail sides. I was surprised at how distinctive the bird actually was with the long primaries and the overall colouration being more like Common Sandpiper then Solitary Sandpiper. The bird went about is business feeding and walking about, having a bit of a stretch briefly as well. A brilliant bird and the first ever in Northern England (?) apparently! It was living up to its name well as it was literally the only bird on the pool!

(It was raining - pic © Derek Charlton)

(Solitary Sandpiper - © Craig Shaw)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Good views.....

I started the day off in Marsden Quarry looking for Yellow-browed Warbler that had been found, I stood and searched for about an hour but no sign at all. However I heard a Nuthatch, which is incredibly rare for the South Tyneside area. Also a Brambling was a nice bird to see and my first of the Autumn, in addition to this a mixed flock of birds held Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, and Goldcrest. While standing 4 Redwing flew over, a sure sign that Autumn migration was now in full swing. A search inside the quarry was pretty fruitless but was good listing to the twitching story's of Ian Mills, he's been on some amazing twitches and seen some amazing birds over the years. After leaving Marsden I sat in the car and had my lunch.

After lunch I headed to Whitburn Costal Park to see how the ringers were getting on, they had quite a haul and I knew they had caught and rung a Yellow-browed Warbler fairly early doors. On arrival they were ringing a Song Thrush and I was told how to tell the difference between a British and continental Song Thrush. A Goldcrest was also processed before being released. I hung around a while in the hope that the ringers would re-trap the Yellow-browed Warbler. About 30 minutes or so passed and one of the ringers looked at one of the nets visible from the ringing hut. It had a bird in it, I lifted my bins to look at it. It was a warbler....he made his way over fairly quickly and took the bird out and came back. He lifted his hand with the bird in it and said something along the lines of "You thought I was joking, I told you I was going to go and get the Yellow brow from the net":

(Yellow-browed Warbler - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Another short time passed and just before the nets were being put down another 2 birds were caught; Willow Tit and Redwing. Willow Tit (like Nuthatch) is another mega rare bird in the South Tyneside area, only about the 3rd ever seen in South Tyneside. The Redwing was stunning and when you get up close you can really appreciate how fortunate we are to have this thrush wintering in the UK.

 (Willow Tit - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Willow Tit - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Until next time, Foghorn out!