Thursday, 28 April 2011

More Spring Goodies

Whilst at work last night, a White Stork was serenading birders at Colyford Common... gripping!

So this morning, I was out early and very pleased to see it was still with us beside the scrape at Colyford Marsh. A little while later I photographed it from Colyford Common hide...

my third patch White Stork

At about 09:20 it was seen to take off, and fly off north west...

Another bonus this morning was a cracking Wood Sandpiper on Colyford Common. It spent about five minutes on 'the wet patch' (viewable from the Field Studies Base), and even began singing (something I've never seen or heard before!). I didn't take any photos of it as the light was awful - though just as I was thinking about getting my Lumix out for a record shot, it took off and flew north calling...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Savi's Warbler; A Successful Twitch

Sorry I still haven't had a chance to update everyone on what I've been up to since my return to Scotland... I will get it done soon I promise!

In the meantime, news that the Savi's Warbler at Slapton Ley had been showing very well on Monday, tempted me down there early this morning.

At 04:20 I picked up Bun and Gavin and we headed south west... We arrived at Slapton at about 05:40, and within a minute could hear the Savi's singing from north of the bridge.

We made our way past the ringing hut, and stopped between the first and second stile. The Savi's was still singing, and within minutes we could see it singing from the reeds. For the next hour we watched it as it showed and sang almost continuously - what a great bird!

The scope views were just fantastic, with the most notable features of this rather acro type locustella being its dark brown plumage, brown washed breast and belly with clear white throat, obvious supercilia, rather long and spikey pale based bill, and of course its tail- very 'Gropper' like in shape with long under tail coverts (which appeared to be slightly pale tipped). Despite it being a locustella though - not a streak in sight.

Although the scope views were great, it was just out of range for my Lumix, with these being my best efforts...

Top bird - worth the early start and 2.5 hours on the road :-)

I'll finish this post with a video, you will have to crank the volume right up to hear it though...


Saturday, 23 April 2011

Rare Herons On Patch

As per usual, sorry about the lack of updates of late!! I have got quite a lot to write about really, but as I'm short of time tonight, I'll just mention the two bits of BIG bird news from the past week...

Tonight, as I was slaving over my laptop, Phil phoned with the EXCELLENT news that he had very unselfishly unblocked one of his long-standing patch blockers! Phil's already seen two Purple Herons on patch, tonight he found his third from Colyford Common hide sat out in full view on Colyford Marsh at about 18:45.

I scoped it from the main road between Axmouth and Boshill (for safety!), then headed round to Colyford Common hide..... WHAT A BIRD! Not only a patch tick - but a UK tick too...

If you enlarge any of the above photos, enlarge the lower one and check out the size of its bill!!

Not only was the light perfect, and the plumage of the bird tip top, but the views were just fantastic! It sat out in full view for the entire time - I reckon it was a bit knackered after its flight from wherever it has come from.

At about 19:15 it started to shuffle about a bit and look more lively - then just after 19:20 it took to the air and began flying up and south in huge circles...

Check out its stunning russet underwing!

And here's a video of it flying up, away and off....


It was last seen heading off east

Thanks Phil - cracking bird!!!

Okay, now for the other bit of big bird news from last week....

Mid afternoon on Tuesday 19th, Dad phoned - he had a summer plumaged Great White Egret on Seaton Marshes! Twenty minutes later...

What a bird!

This is only the second Great White Egret I have ever seen on patch - and this is the first I have ever seen in breeding plumage; stunning BRIGHT GREEN lores, almost complete all black bill, pink legs and long white plumes..... wow!!!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Scotland Trip - Day Five

The final day...

Day Five - Thursday 14th April

After breakfast, we loaded up the trusty Corsa and said farewell to Glenan Lodge at about 9am. I can highly recommend this B and B, it is good value, the rooms are very comfortable and the breakfast very yummy!!

We all wanted one last look at a summer plumaged Black-throated Diver, so this was the first port of call. It didn't take us long to find a pair of these stunners showing very well indeed...

Just stunning!

Also on the loch were a summer plumaged Red-throated Diver and a pair of Wigeon. Yet again Red Grouse were all around us!

We then headed north (yes I know - even further away from home!), and soon stumbled upon a surprise male Black Grouse...

It appeared to be displaying to itself - unless there was a female hiding somewhere nearby?

After about 50 minutes driving, we'd reached Nairn where we wanted to do a bit of sea watching from...

Looking north from the harbour car park at Nairn

It didn't take long to pick up three Long-tailed Ducks, several Eider, Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser and Sandwich Tern - then a fine summer plumaged Red-necked Grebe appeared out of nowhere.

A Goldeneye flashing!!

Also here, there were at least 50 Turnstone, a couple of Ringed Plover and a Hooded Crow.

We took to the road again, and headed around the coast (for over two hours!) to Rattray Head - this is where a King Eider had been reported on a couple of days within the past week. Whilst driving here, a singing Corn Bunting and several Yellowhammers were 'trip ticks'.

We got to Rattray - then began to drive out to the head. We hadn't gone far before I just HAD to pull in...

Grey = Geese

There were thousands and thousands of Pink-footed Geese feeding in road side fields, what a sight!! A look through them revealed a couple of sandy brown leucistic Pink-feet, and singles of Greylag and Barnacle Geese.

On the other side of the road was a huge Ley - this had plenty of diving ducks and Great Crested Grebes on. A couple more Corn Buntings were singing here too, though remained annoyingly invisible!

We eventually got to the car park at the end of the track, and walked out over the sand dunes past a flock of over 200 stunning mostly summer plumaged Golden Plover.

Rattray Head beach and lighthouse

There was no sign of the hoped for King Eider, but there was just so much to look at it was fantastic! On the beach were Sanderling, Redshank and a surprise Ruff. About 100 Eider were loafing about just offshore, and behind them AT LEAST 210 Great Northern Divers!! Also 6+ Red-throated Divers, and auks were constantly flying past north, with a few Kittiwakes and Gannets also noted.

A quick check of Birdguides on my Blackberry showed that the/a King Eider had been seen on the Monday just gone on the Ythan Estuary. As this was south of where we were, and on the way back home, we thought we may as well stop off here...

A quick check of the Estuary from a few stopping places on the A975 showed the Estuary was heaving with birds. Pintail was the only bird added to the trip list here, but if we had more time to look closer I'm sure we would have unearthed a few more 'trip ticks'.

We arrived at the golf club car park, and made our way to the mouth of the Estuary. The sight and sound was just absolutely spectacular as several hundred Eider were 'loafing about like Mallards at Radipole!'...

Stunning!

There was no sign of the drake King Eider - much to our annoyance - but another bonus here was the impressive seal colony...

There were loads of them!

Here's a short video too...


if you turn the volume up you can hear the Eider calling

The time was now 17:00 - and we still had an at least 11 hour car journey ahead of us to get home!!! We followed the Sat Nav (which all week had been a god send), and it took us right through Aberdeen City Centre at rush hour!!!!

We finally came out the other side of Aberdeen and began headed purposefully south. Apart from a quick fuel stop, and an hour's stop at a Little Chef near Sterling (where I ate the nicest burger EVER!) we made good progress.

We got back to Bristol at about 3am, and I got back home to Seaton for just before 5am.... I was bloody shattered!!!

I had such an enjoyable five days, in which time we clocked up 115 species of birds, saw some great mammals, stunning scenery and most of all, had a cracking good laugh! I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Bun, Nick and Karen for their company, and everyone who gave us 'gen' to ensure we got the most out of our trip.

From the moment I took this photo on the Farr Pass, I knew this was the photo I'd finish this review with. Thank you Scotland for such an enjoyable birding break....

The 'Famous Grouse'

Well I hope you have enjoyed reading my rather drawn out trip report!? I'm pleased to announce that normal service will now be resumed on Axe Birding...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Scotland Trip - Day Four

This was the poorest day of the trip - mostly because of the strong wind that hampered our efforts...

Day Four - Wednesday 13th April

We had this day to 'mop up' anything we hadn't seen yet - and that bird was Parrot Crossbill. It was because of this sodding bird that we spent two hours in Curr Woods....

Eurgh!

We did see (and crucially hear) two Scottish (type) Crossbills, a Hooded Crow and a Tree Pipit again.

So much smarter than the ugly beasts down here!

After this we tried yet more woods, around Forest Lodge (near Nethybridge)...

Three people dipping Parrot Crossbills!

I blame the wind for our dip - it was far from ideal Crossbill spotting weather! We did see another couple of Red Squirrels though.

We then stopped off in Nethybridge, and filled our faces thanks to the Spar shop situated right by the river...

Still no Dipper on the trip list though!

The fact we hadn't seen a Dipper was starting to get a bit annoying really...so we decided to drive down the Findhorn Valley yet again!!

Eventually, after a lot of searching, we found one...


Much to Bun's dismay ;-)

It was near a pair of these...

New in Common Sands - they were very vocal

We popped back to the B and B, before heading to Aveimore where we tried out another fish and chip shop. After the past few days of rather unhealthy dining, Nick and Karen opted for the slightly healthier option of chicken and chips. When it was served to the table they were a little shocked - their chickens were entirely covered in batter! Hahahaha!!!

As it neared dusk, we made our way towards Loch An Eilein where we had booked (and paid for...ouch!) our places on the Speyside wildlife mammal watch. I have to say, the set up is excellent....

As you sit in the heated and rather comfy hide...

Illustrated here by Bun and Karen

And after the guide has put the food out...

They are not ghosts in the top photo - just reflections

The lights go out and the guide watches his monitor - four infra red cameras are set up outside the hide, three of which spot most incoming mammals...

Very techno!

It didn't take long for a Badger or two to appear...

Yes it is only a Badger - but noticeably smaller than the brutes down here

Then the guide exclaimed "Marten coming in, it's heading for the back..." So naturally everyone rushed to the back....

but he then said "it's changed direction, it could go either way...." At which point I realised no one was heading for the front of the hide - so I did!

As soon as I walked around to the other side, a large mammal came bounding in from the darkness - Pine Marten! It went straight for one of the eggs (as the guide said it would), spent a few seconds getting to grips with it before bounding back off into the darkness.

Although the view was rather brief (about ten seconds), it was stupidly close! Nick managed to see it for about five seconds, and Karen for about two (don't mention it to Bun!).

We were assured that it would come back for seconds though........it never did!!!

Anyway, due to the speed of the thing, and the fact I wanted to get out of the way so others could see it, I didn't manage a photo. If I had managed a pici though it would have looked (I'm sure) a lot like this...

(or maybe a little better!)

We were back at the B and B just the right side of midnight, and went to sleep ready for the final day and the drive back south...

Monday, 18 April 2011

Scotland Trip - Day Three

Day Three - Tuesday 12th April

It was an early start for us today, and we were at Loch Garten for 05:20! It was soon apparent that we weren't the only people with this idea - there were at least twenty others making their way to the Osprey hide under the cover of darkness.

The hide flaps were soon opened, and we were told a male and female Capercaillie could be seen on the cameras leking somewhere to the right of us... soon enough the male Caper could be seen now and then strutting about between trees. It was distant but I managed to get some good scope views - and at one point even watched it jump into the air. Even got a brief glimpse of the female as she flew a short distance.

It was great to see them yes, but the viewing conditions were uncomfortable with everyone trying to look through the few slits in the hide at once! It seemed as though that whenever you had the Caper in your bins or scope, someone got in the way - or even knocked you out of the way!!! I reckon though it was just an ultra busy morning when we were here, and on a quieter morning would be more enjoyable.

Outside the side door of the hide, several Siskins were feeding on a feeder, and in the trees above a very smart male Crossbill (sp!?). As we were in the 'Osprey hide' I would have been disappointed not to see an Osprey - I wasn't disappointed....

Ospreys at dawn

We were back to our cars by 07:30 - then drove to a nearby car park to have a wander around Loch Mallachie...

Atmospheric or what!?

It was as we were heading back to the car that our target bird showed itself - with three Crested Tits calling high in the canopy. We all got some sort of views of at least one of them, before they flew off and away from the path.

A male Redstart singing by the loch was an addition to the trip list, and we heard a couple of Crossbill flying over.

We headed back to the B and B and ate our well deserved breakfast. We were soon out again though, and drove up the Findhorn Valley once more. The weather was glorious, with bright sunshine, but a strong and cold wind meant most of the scanning was done from inside the car!!

After a few Buzzards, two Golden Eagles (an adult and an immature) were picked up circling above the ridge beyond where the road stops. We watched them for a minute or two before theyl glided off south....result! As we were driving back up the valley, a male Ring Ouzel was a welcome addition to the trip list, with a second (invisible) bird calling from nearby gorse.

We turned off the road, and headed along the Farr Pass - a simply stunning road...

What a view!!

We saw several Red Grouse (they really are everywhere around here!!!) and a wing-tagged Red Kite flew over the car...

Quite a chunk missing out of its right wing

Next stop was 'the famous Slav Grebe Loch'...

Although most birders I'm sure know where this is, I still won't post it

Six breeding plumaged Slav Grebes were here, along with a cracking pair of Red-throated Divers. Little Grebe was also added to the trip list here.

Our tummies were starting to rumble (despite the monster breakfast!), so we stopped off at Carrbridge Spar - which is right opposite this rather impressive bridge...

No Dippers under it though!

We then headed to a known Black-throated Diver site, and on arrival were soon treated to stunning view of an full breeding plumaged bird.... what a STONKER!!!! Also here were a pair of Goosander and several Greylag Geese.

The surrounding area held many more Red Grouse, some of which came quite close to the car...

Two photos of a male, and one of his lady

We then moved to a forest just east of Granton-on-Spey, and spent a good two hours walking around it...

Bun looking Smurf-like! No he hasn't shrunk, the trees really are that massive!

We heard Crossbill once or twice, but the highlight of this 'expedition' were three more Crested Tits, with one bird in particular showing well feeding intently high up in a couple of conifers...

Am well pleased with my Lumix for this one

Arriving back at the car was a bit of a relief - especially for me! Readers of this blog will know I am not a huge fan of woodland birding. I had thought Scotland would be a different matter - but not by the end of this trek!!!

Anyway, it's about time I posted a photo of our transport really! Yes this car really did get us from Bristol and back, with four people and all our gear....

A three door Vauxhall Corsa with an engine less than 1000cc!

It was getting late now, so we found ourselves a fish and chip shop in Aviemore, then spent the hour of dusk staring at some bird feeders speculatively hoping for a Pine Marten! Our efforts weren't rewarded, so we headed back to the B and B ready for bed...