Sunday, 27 September 2009

Inner Marsh Farm - Long billed Dowitchers!!

Ten minutes at Venus Pool and a browse of recent sightings (not) convinced me that until birds start moving again, Shropshire is not the place to be birding!

I've become accustomed to travelling now and with my yearlist heading for an all time high (250 is a formality now!) I intend to make the most of birds either on my travels or not too far away.....

Inner Marsh Farm isn't too far away and with a reported Long billed Dowitcher there the previous day - surely worth a look! The courtesy car I'm driving at the moment is crippling my back and Yvonne (also up for an out of County adventure) agreed to drive - nice to be a passenger for a change!

I'm certainly having a purple patch at the moment - the Dowitcher was there on arrival again - in front of the hide - with a second one! They were keeping close together, very obliging and not to difficult to get a few shots of the pair of them. Just a shame about the light!

What about this Rosefinch in Leics then.......

Thornton - Rosefinch

Not a bird to move heaven and earth for but slightly nearer than Orkney and hopefully an easy tick? Famous last words.......

Had bumped into Ron Kinrade at IMF and he had set off for the Rosefinch mid morning. A few miles into the journey, I got a text saying - not seen for a few hours!

Oh well, eventually we arrived and joined the slightly tense bunch of garden birders at 281 Main St! One of the benefits of a ringer finding a garden bird is the generous hospitality! It was 'Garden Open' for one day only. For a donation to the local ringing group, spirits had been kept up during the no-show period with tea, biscuits plus a comfy chair or two.....

Ron was quite pleased to see me as having been waiting for over two hours, he announced it'll show now! Sure enough, the lucky Jim effect kicked in - a couple of minutes later, after spotting it distantly but briefly in a neighbouring garden, it flew up into a tall conifer - in full view!! The juvenile Rosefinch sporting it's new ring, gave us all 15 mins or so of cracking views.....

What a way to end an awesome weekend!!

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Stewartby lake - Leach's Petrel

Saturday was not meant to be a birding day! I had to take Gemma to a swim related course south of Warwick but then before picking her up, ended up having four hours to spare......

A planned flog around Draycote was gazumped by a bomb down the M1 to Stewartby lake where a Leach's Petrel had been reported that morning!

No maps and no idea where to go but as I approached the village of Stewartby, I noticed a birder emerge from a gap in the hedge near a roadside pull-in.... By the time I'd turned round and parked, he'd gone but there was a footpath leading to Stewartby lake - just 50m away!!! I joined a group of birders, immediately onto the Leach's sat on the water in the distance!

Welcome the peace and tranquillity of Stewartby lake - with a powerboat grand prix in progress!!

I realised that from where I was standing, pictures were out of the question so drove round to the sailing club and.... (on the pretext of taking some power boat photographs) blagged my way into 'Fort Knox'. Even so, the bird never came close but at least I was able to capture some record shots in the gloom.....

I tried to capture the drama of the scene unfolding over the lake - the poor Petrel trying to feed / escape the attentions of the Black-headed Gulls. This brief encounter took place at least 100m offshore and epitomises the quandary the bird was now in....

Many miles from home, harried constantly by the local Gulls - it was just a question of 'survival'.....

Speaking of which, with three hours now gone - if I was to survive - better get back and pick Gemma up!!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Dawlish Warren - Slav Grebe

The final day dawned and the morning was spent at Dawlish Warren.

A small group of Brent Geese were fresh in, Whimbrel and a Golden Plover on the beach plus, an encounter with yet another Little Stint!

Viewing from the hide, as the tide dropped we could see the distant dot on the estuary which was almost certainly the long staying Slavonian Grebe! Checking this out later from one of the railway crossings - our certainty was confirmed with a Red-breasted Merganser in tow!

Still distant amongst the boats, the only chance of capturing an image was to yomp across the mud!!

It was certainly worth the effort, the distant shape turned into a Slavonian Grebe.....

He'd found himself a friend!!

A great trip, with in excess of 100 species......

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Berry Head - Hobby air display

A morning at Berry Head was meant to turn up a Shearwater feast but just like Porthgwarra a couple of days previously, the winds were light and in the wrong direction - net result - nothing doing! A few Gannet and Common Scoter were not going to 'make' the day but our star turn of the day was soon to arrive in the form a dashing juvenile Hobby!!

A very tricky bird to photograph, constantly twisting and stooping as it devoured..... predominantly butterflies!!

A search of the hedgrows for Cirl Buntings had drawn a blank so after lunch we gate-crashed the Wardens Bungalow and whilst distant, we had good scope views of a small flock across the field, near to another bungalow where they were clearly kep well fed!!

Friday, 18 September 2009

Exminster - Shortie surprise!

The Shropshire contingent in Devon had now increased to numbers to 12 with the arrival of the SOS party for the weekend!

We met up at Dawlish Warren where a few bits and pieces were added to the list including Sanderling, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover, Turnstone and Whimbrel plus a Peregrine over the estuary!

An afternoon walk at Exminster Marshes had one really good bird in store for us - Short eared Owl!! Never an easy bird in Devon, a chat to the local reserve team revealed this was the first sighting of the Autumn!!

Despite being about 200m distant, we watched it for 15 minutes or so, perched on a stone pillar in a field viewed from the raised towpath, not far from the car park.

It then flew, disappearing onto the marsh after prey?? We never saw it again.....

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Marazion - Baird's Sandpiper

A day in Cornwall had started off with the morning spent at Porthgwarra - resulting in dipped Melodious Warbler but for me a bonus Sooty Shearwater!!

By mid afternoon, the driving was taking its' toll, totally knackered and dreading the prospect of more miles down to the Lizard and an improbable Ortolan, a switch to plan 'B' for the rest of the afternoon was implemented.

'B' is for Baird's Sandpiper of course! We had scanned the beach on the journey down (to no avail) but now, armed with reliable information, we knew exactly where to look!

The Red river estuary mouth at Marazion has a huge patch of seaweed on the beach - loaded with flies and other insects galore - the patch was also buzzing with birds! After a 'Little Stint' false alarm (more of this bird later), we got onto the Baird's associating with a small Dunlin flock. With the tide rising, I waited patiently for the birds to move closer.......

Which they did! These birds are used to the antics of crazy people on the beach so me patiently waiting posed no threat!

I did say there were plenty of flies.....

Size comparison with a Dunlin......

Now where's that Little Stint......

Marazion - Little Stint

Associating with the flock of Dunlin and the Baird's were two juvenile Little Stints. Whilst concentrating on capturing the Baird's, I kept a careful watch on the Stints - certainly the closest encounter I've ever had!

Watch and wait - when photographing beach waders, a golden rule is to never rush in - a recipe for the instant disappearing act! I think Dave and Ian who had moved the other side of the 'river' (small stream) were getting a bit impatient after the first hour of waiting! By this time having set up and sat quietly on the beach, I'd gained the confidence of the birds and with the tide rising they came ever closer!

Rooting around in the seaweed for food.....

The close up......

Here's the Dunlin size/bill comparison shot!

Now then, what else is about here?

Marazion - best of the rest

Baird's Sandpiper, Little Stints!! It was all too easy to overlook the other birds present on the beach near the 'seaweed'.

The Dunlin were just as obliging, if lacking the 'class' of their smaller associates.

Rock Pipits are hardly inspiring birds but I couldn't resist the action provided by one washing nearby....