Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Winter Gulling Season (2011-2012) Commences

So it's that time of year again when the Autumn draws to a close and the Winter reveals what has arrived in the Autumn. Seems that Mealy Redpolls are starting to arrive in various parts of the UK, however only a few Mealy’s have been reported to date in our local area. Hopefully these numbers will build up and we should get some Mealy’s back this year. Oh how I have missed them so. 

I started my Winter Gull’ing last Saturday, I spent a gruelling 4 or so hours looking for a Caspian Gull on Seaton Common down at Teesside but drew a blank. I would be back for round 2.

Sure enough on Monday I went back down to Seaton Common and was down for round 2 with the Caspian Gulls. I put in a further 5 hours and still nothing, not even a Yellow-legged Gull to keep me amused. It would appear that strangely there are more Caspian Gulls than Yellow-legged Gulls down Teesside at the moment in time. Quite bizarre and certainly very different to what we are used to.

Today I went down and put in another 6 or so hours and I was not disappointed, shortly after arriving I was onto my first 1st winter Caspian Gull. I had seen the species before, if you remember early in the year when I was twitching the Slaty-backed Gull (or dipping) I had my first ever Caspian Gull. However that bird was an adult and I had never seen the more distinctive 1st winter Caspian Gulls. At first the bird was concealed and you could only see the head, however it soon moved slightly and walked up the bank and allowed for some good views. It took off and I managed to follow it in the scope for a short while allowing for me to see the broad tail band and the contrast between the grey mantle and brown wing coverts. The bird was followed and was seen to land and instantly picked up again. It showed really well and we were able to get a side on profile view of the bird and we were able to study it at length. I decided to take advantage of the situation and take some field notes, I will show these below and I have also added to them slightly:
  • Black bill.
  • Jet black primaries matching the same colour tones as the birds bill.
  • A very upright posture.
  • Base of the bill showed some pinkish tones.
  • Terials well marked, with brown dark centres with broad white fringe.
  • Small and beady eye, set quite far forward in head toward bill.
  • Fine streaking on the breast sides.
  • Shawl like pattern on the birds hindneck, fairly neat and tidy.
  • Broad black tailband, thickset and obvious in flight.
  • Coverts a light brownish, contrasting with the black cantered upper scapulars and white underbody.
  • Head, neck, and underbody very white, clean pearly white opposed to dirty looking like most Herring Gulls. White areas mainly unmarked and therefore gives the bird a distinctive appearance.
  • Pear shaped head, with sloping forehead. However this latter feature can vary depending upon the posture the bird is adopting.
  • Overall the bird gave off a gentle and kind feel, very memorable individual and would easily pick the bird out again from a large loafing flock of gulls.
  • 4 coloured; black, white, grey, and brown. Each colour contrasting with each other fairly strongly. This makes for an all together distinctive look.
Below is my video of the first bird and a rubbish picture, the second picture is far better and is of the second 1st winter bird we saw today.

(Caspian Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Caspian Gull - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Caspian Gull - © Chris Bell)

Brilliant way to kick off the winters Gull’ing, how where’s the white wingers? 

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

You can help make a difference..

Please could you read and sign the following petition:


People who persecute raptors need to be brought to justice, they are criminals. There is no nice way of putting it.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

That doesn't look right....

Thankfully the Eastern Black Redstart stuck around until today. Brilliant! Shame my car tyre decided not too, additionally my alloy wheel is knackered up. Brilliant egh? Holy Island is a long way from home and decided not to go all that way incase something happened as it would be expensive to get back if anything happened! Went up with a few mates who kindly picked me up (thanks Martin) and we headed to Holy Island. On arrival the bird was immediately on view and showed really well. What a striking bird!

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

(Eastern Black Redstart - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Eastern Black Redstart - © Adam Williams)

With that nicely in the 'bag', we headed south to catch up with one of winters spectacls and we were succesfull. A nice flock of about 600 Pink-footed Geese, with 2 Ross's Geese, couple of White-fronted Geese, Branacle Geese, and about 20 or so Tundra Bean Geese thrown in for good measure. Good fun sifting through looking for different species among the flock and I focussed on my favourite; Tundra Bean Geese. A fair few were in with the flock and although distant brilliant views were had. Certainly the largest amount of Bean's I had ever seen in one place. They all took off thanks to a plane and we were treated to a fantastic spectacle over about 5 minutes as they flew around looking for pastures new to land and feed. Brilliant.

(Tundra Bean Geese - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Rounded off the day with my best views ever of Bewick's Swans which evidently were not at all bothered by our presence. Considering a man was walking his dog though the field and must have walked right past them, quite humorous I can assure you. Had such good views of the Greater Yellowlegs on Tuesday we didn't bother going to look at this beauty again, very naughty and a bit 'dude-ish' but there we have it.

(Bewick's Swans - © Andrew Kinghorn)

 (1st Bewick's Swan - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(2nd Bewick's Swan - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Brilliant day with some ace birds.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Bean and gone.

On Wedensday I went back for seconds at Low Hauxley NR in Northumberland and has amazing views of the Greater Yellowlegs, down to literally 10ft for about 5 mins. A moment I will never forget. After having a look at this cracker I went to go and look for a Tundra Bean Goose that was in the area with the 80 or so White-fronted Geese. Sadly just as I got to the hide to start scanning the side of the flock I couldn't see from the hide I'd just been in all the geese took off and flew towards Amble. A drive toward Amble didn't produce the flock so I went onto East Chevington NWT to see if the Green-winged Teal was going to play ball, it would be rude not to take a look as I was in the area. However on arrival I noticed a flock of geese in front of the hide and sure enough they were White-fronted Gesse, checked through and it became clear it was the flock from Hauxley as there sitting in among them was the Tundra Bean Goose. Brilliant! Best views I have ever had of the species on deck, fairly close and good views through the scope. Never saw the Green-winged Teal but wasn't to bothered.

(Tundra Bean Goose - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Tundra Bean Goose - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Today I was text by Gary Crowder and Stevie Evans informing me the White-fronted Geese were back in front of the hide at Rainton. Shortly after a text came through about some Tundra Bean Geese...drat. Finished Uni early today but it wasn't much help as the birds left 30 mins before I arrived after being there for about 4 hours. Typical! Did see 6 White-fronted Geese and 1 Pink-foot, the White-fronts were the first local ones I had ever seen. Though the highlight was 12 Whooper Swans which flew over the reserve and appeared as though they were going to land but headed off South West calling to each other, the sun was setting and it was a picture perfect scene. Brilliant. Still annoyed about the Tundra Bean's though. Oh well.

(White-fronted Geese - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Now I just hope that Eastern Black Redstart sticks on Holy Island until Saturday, though I doubt it!

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Happy Days!

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

Sunday 6th of November
I was one of about 10 British birders who still needed Steppe Grey Shrike in the UK so myself, Tom, and Kieran headed on down to Shropshire to Wall Farm NR to see this stunning bird. A particularly interesting bird and I hadn’t expected it to be so different from a Great Grey, nice pale bill and small dumpy posture. It almost looked like a fat ball of feathers when it was sitting still. It was feeding fairly regularly when we were there but would also sit for prolonged periods allowing us for good views of this little beauty. Satisfied after good views we set off to look for a local Squacco Heron, however plans were soon squandered by the appearance of a Penduline Tit in West Yorkshire so we went for that. We ofcourse dipped but I wasn’t to upset, after all I only went for Steppe Grey, anything else would have been a bonus.

(Steppe Grey Shrike - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Wednesday 9th of November
Tuesday saw the occurrence of a Desert Wheatear, but it wasn’t some drab looking female bird it was a stunning 1st winter male. I had a feeling one was going to turn up on the east cost so imagine my delight when it was in North Yorkshire (Cleveland). Had amazing views of this bird aswell, really well marked bird and I would argue one of the most stunning Wheatear species on the British list. After here we decided to go to South Gare, on our way I picked up a male Hen Harrier! We were able to pull over and thankfully the other lads managed to get onto it, not often we see a male Hen Harrier in the North of England. We eventually got to South Gare where I saw at least 1 Black Redstart, these are the first ones I have seen this year as they have been really rare in Durham this year with only a handful of records and only 1 on the coast.

(Desert Wheatear -  © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Hen Harrier - © Adam Williams)

Saturday 12th of November
The day started off again at South Gare as a Hume’s Warbler had been found there, I missed the previous bird in Durham as I could not drive and at the time was never really into twitching or travelling long distances to see 1 bird. When I arrived I was informed it was showing on and off, however I hadn’t interpreted that as being on, off, on, off etc. It was on view nearly the whole time and calling. Very noticeable was the lack of a median covert wing bar and the very faint greater covert wingbar, it wasn’t a feature that struck me as being particularly obvious in the field. The call was pretty distinctive and not like that of Yellow-browed Warbler, it was calling that much that it was easy to compare the different (from memory) with Yellow-browed Warbler. All together the Collins bird guide really sums up this bird; looking at a Yellow-browed Warbler though misty lenses. The day was going so well….until a Greater Yellowlegs turned up and we went up to try and see it and dipped badly!

 (Hume's Warbler -  © Adam Williams)

(Hume's Warbler - © Adam Williams)

Sunday 13th of November
I have had some pretty memorable days birding in my short space of birding in the UK, however today has to come out on top as one of the best days I have ever had. The day started at dawn at Low Hauxley in Northumberland, I knew exactly which hide the Greater Yellowlegs was seen from before it went to roost so I headed for this hide. Some scanning in very poor light conditions produced very little just some local Redshank then my companion asked “Is this just a Redshank?”…I raised the bins “That’s it!”, there about 10 yards from the hide walking on the grass was the Greater Yellowlegs. What a well marked and stunning bird, a species I didn’t think I was going to see in Britain for a long time yet. A short while passed and the Greater Yellowlegs flew to the other side of the pond allowing for views of that tail showing the lack of a white cigar up the back and the white rump. Not long after this the Grey Phalarope flew in and the Greater Yellowlegs was showing from the other hide, I headed around to the hide and got on the Grey Phalarope pretty quickly. Very embarrassingly for me it was a lifer, a bird I never even came close to seeing in the past. I enjoyed brilliant views but the best was yet to come as I had the Greater Yellowlegs and Grey Phalarope in the same scope view about 10 yards away from me in good light. Absolutely brilliant! A moment that will no doubt be one of the highlights of my British twitching for years to come.

(Greater Yellowlegs - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Greater Yellowlegs & Grey Phalarope - © Andrew Kinghorn)

My companion had not seen Lesser Scaup before and it was en-route to where we were going next so we called in at Marden Quarry to see it. I had far better views than I did last time I saw it as it spent most of its time asleep when I saw it the first time. From here we headed to Boldon Flatts in Durham, was good to be back on home soil, the Tundra Bean Geese and Bewick’s Swans had departed but we were treat to some excellent views of White-fronted Geese. Definitely the best views I have had of the species in the UK.

(Lesser Scaup - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(White-fronted Geese - © Andrew Kinghorn)

After the geese I headed down to West Pastures area where after about an hours wait I was treated to only my second ever Durham Hen Harrier, as usual the bird appeared out of nowhere and quartered some rough grassland before being lost to view and I didn’t pick it back up. Just as it was going out of view I got a call from a mate to say some Bean Geese had been found at Hurworth Burn Reservoir, I needed Bean Goose for my count life list after having missed the Whitburn birds as I wasn’t able to get there. However thankfully this time I was on site within 30 mins and Chris had done the hard work for me and located the bird. We watched them for a while and it was the first time I was really able to study Tundra Bean Geese in detail, as we were watching it my companion spotted some more geese flying in and Chris soon ID’d them as more Bean Geese. As they got closer we had brilliant views of the birds as they came in to land with the other Bean Geese, the final count came to 13 Bean Geese, brilliant! My companion had never seen a Semipalmated Sandpiper in the UK and I had never seen a juvenile, so our final stop of the day was Greatham Creek where we enjoyed brilliant views of the Semipalmated Sandpiper. What a day! Absolutely brilliant.

(Tundra Bean Geese - © Andrew Kinghorn)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Ear of Wheat

I had planned for a fairly nice and relaxing Saturday, chilling out a bit......then an Isabelline Wheatear turned up at Spurn in Yorkshire. Managed to gather together a team of 3 and we headed down. We arrived around about 12.30ish after a drive on roads that can only be described as some of the worlds most frustrating! It took around about 3 hours each way, which to be honest wasn't really to bad. It was well worth it for such a brilliant bird. Funny moment when some other Durham lads had headed down for the bird and a stretch of sand dune became like a scene from Durham with 6 of us all standing.

Very interesting bird, nice pearly underwing seen well in flight. Black lores very thick and obvious, upper breast slightly brighter than rest of body with lower breast being more uniform with rest of plumage. Cracking bird.

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

(Isabelline Wheatear - © Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Isabelline Wheatear - © Derek Charlton)

 (Isabelline Wheatear - © Derek Charlton)

 (Dart Ear - © Derek Charlton)

(Durham birders (from left): Douge, Tony, Mike, Fog, and Finney)

Until next time, Foghorn out!