Tuesday, 25 February 2014

BACK (for good?)!!!!

It's been a bloody long time since I wrote anything on here, I've been prompted to write something by John Grist and Dave Bowes among others mentioning the lack of activity.

Truth be told I didn't have a lot to write about last spring and then I lost my Canon S95 so couldn't do any digiscoping.  I now have a new camera, and an absolute peach it is too.  I still have to sort out a lens for it to get the best from it digiscoping cos at the moment I get lots of vignetting but when sorted it should be brilliant.

Oh what is it?  its a Sony NEX7 I've got a Zeiss 24mm f1.8 and the kit 18-55 zoom at the moment.  I mainly bought it for my increasing interest in landscape photography.  Here's a couple of my first efforts with it

Pretty pleased with these HDR shots although the clouds are too diffuse as the wind was far too strong, story of 2014.

After years of watching Holme on Spalding moor tip I finally scored a pukka Caspo there today.  I had a bird last year but now I think it was most probably a hybrid, unfortunately a subject I know precious little about.

When I got onto this bird it was standing tall strutting around and looked simply massive and stunning, it started preening and typically a Herring Gull landed right in front of it just as I got the camera set up.  From then on it was mostly obscured and I only managed 3 in focus shots before the flock spooked, despite many of them coming back down into the field part of the flock left I didn't see it again.  Also had an Adult Med Gull which is also a rarity at what must be the worst tip in the world for producing anything good.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Hong Kong pt1

I said in the last post I was sick of the crappy weather with cold winds blocking any migrants, it was a good job therefore that I had an escape route planned, namely just over 2 weeks in Hong Kong.  The main aim was to see Spoon billed Sand, Nordmann's Greenshank and hopefully Aleutian Tern.

With these targets in mind I planned 4 days at Mai Po marshes and two day trips to Po Toi island, the rest of the time I'd grab a bit of birding here and there in between family duties.

We flew with Emirates from Manchester to Hong Kong via Dubai and flights cost £535 each, there is no need to hire a car in Hong Kong as public transport is exceptionally good.  On arrival we caught the E34 bus to Tin Shue Wai (cost about £1.90) where we were staying in the Harbour Plaza resort hotel.  The hotel had been recommended to me by the reserve officer at Mai Po as the best locally and it turned out to be excellent, very spacious room and good breakfasts.  There was free wifi in the bar area.

The first morning I headed off to Mai Po in a Taxi which cost about £7 and bought my permit at HK$150 for the day which isn't cheap at about £13 plus a HK$200 deposit, I also had to hand it back in at 5pm and go through the same routine each day.  Due to the high tide times being around midday this didn't hamper me too much but on a full on birding trip I would advise asking in advance if you could pay up front for all the days and keep the permit throughout, then you could bird early mornings and into the evening.  I tried to do his at the visitor center but the woman on duty didn't seem to understand.

The reserve is made up of lots of shrimp ponds which have mostly been colonised by mangrove tree species and as such they seemed to have little interest, unless you wanted to see Koel and Masked Laughingthrush that is!  I had other things on my mind so headed straight for the floating mudflat hide, it is a long wayfrom the visitor center and probably takes about an hours walk as you inevitably get distracted by the odd Flycatcher of Bunting.  
Much of the walk is along boardwalk through the mangroves with the first part being on the most amazing floating boardwalk, a true feat of engineering, each section had 4 barrels that had a welded up cage to hold them in place, it must have taken months.  I can't begin to imagine how hard it was to build this thing, I was soaking wet from just walking due to the humidity.

There are a couple of shrimp ponds that are managed as high tide roosts for waders and have islands and the vegetation is cleared from them, it's very much like the scrape at Cley or even more like Minsmere.  I spent a bit of time exploring round here but the best area was definitely the mud flats.

In the end I didn't see any Spoon billed Sands, there were at least 2 present over a few days the week before  arrived and one was claimed on my 3rd day, I saw the bird and I'm absolutely certain it was a Red necked Stint with mud on the bill, like the pic below!

What I did see though more than made the trip worthwhile, in total I scored 38 species of wader in the 4 days including 2 lifers in the shape of Nordmann's Greenshank and Painted Snipe and I narrowly missed out on Oriental Plover, just as well they weren't males!  Mai Po really is a dream for anyone who likes Waders, are you listening Gristi and Gav?

It is also a photographers paradise, in fact on one day I couldn't get in the main hide because it was totally rammed with masseeve lenses!  As the tide pushes the birds they come to within feet of the hide giving incredible views.  The only downside is that (when I was there at least) it was always completely overcast and often raining so the light wasn't great.  Here's some of my best efforts.

Despite them being classed as very scarce I saw a total of 4 different Little Stints, I seem to have a knack of seeing these in the far east, I found 3 on the Wildwings trip to China in 2004 as well, wish I could do it in reverse and find a Red necked Stint back home!!!

It wasn't all Waders though I spent a fair bit of time looking at Eastern flava's and saw 2 stunning male Narcissus Flycatchers,, but sadly didn't get any photographs of them.

And finally no post on Yorkslister would really be complete if I didn't add a couple of Gull pics, the first is easy but what are the two in the second pic?

Saturday, 30 March 2013

The weather has been so shit I've had nothing at all to blog about but I figured I had to write something!  I've hardly been out birding due to work and weather related apathy.  A Ring necked Duck has been present in the area since the beginning of the year but has been very elusive, it's finally been found on a tiny fishing pond at Arram and just goes to show how many rare birds must get missed because this pond is certainly not checked regularly by birders.

I also got some nice shots of the stunning drake Long tailed Duck at Hornsea, most of them look like this!!!

Basically it wouldn't come close enough for the lumix, a problem I've had with a lot of stuff so I've got myself a proper Kowa digiscoping adapter, i'm just waiting for it arriving in the post from Hungary!!!!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Sodding typical, I took part in the Foot It chllenge last month and although I was pleased to exceed my target of 75 by 2, I missed 3 species that should have been gettable and I could have gone all out for once last push on the last day of the month but really couldn't be arsed searching for Skylark, Tree Sparrow and Red legged Partridge.  also conspicuous by their absence round these parts were Waxwing, but there seems to have been a mini influx over the last few days, including a small group of 13 I stumbled upon today only 100yds from the house, grrrrr.

I've been gulling quite  bit recently checking the tip at Holme on Spalding Moor regularly, I'm struggling to find owt though, a single juv Glauc is the best I can manage.  I was talking to a friend earlier about the Kumlien's at Barmston and the hybrid Gull seen recently in Kerry and it reminded me of a bird I saw at Killybegs about 6-7 years ago.

We'd gone over there hoping to see a Thayer's that had been around but dipped, from memory we saw a few white wingers but not much else.  This bird stood out though initially it looked like a very dark Glauc but the primaries and tertials are clearly very dark and there are heavily patterned dark lower scaps present too.  I sent the pics round a few knowledgeable people who all agreed with me that it looked like  a good candidate for Nelson' Gull, or in normal speak a hybrid between Glauc and American Herring Gull.  I'd have rather found a pukka Smith but it's still a clearly striking Gull.

Monday, 28 January 2013

More on Kumlien's/Iceland Gulls

A couple of people have got in touch to tell me there has been a definite Kumlien's in the county before, an adult bird at Broomhead reservoir a few years ago.  It was photographed but not predictable in it's appearances so not widely twitched.

I've also received a few comments about the Whitby bird of I think 2000/01.  The important difference between these birds is that the Barmston bird has an even dark shaded area adjacent to the shaft streak the whole length of the feather on both webs of every primary .  The Whitby bird in contrast has a faint shaded area on the outer web of the inner primaries and a complex subterminal mark on each feather, but the dark decreases on the outer feathers.  The Whitby bird appears to just be an unusually dark pigmented bird and the dark marking in the primaries are merely an extension of the dark marks on the secondaries and inner primaries.

The Whitby Gulls wing

a similar [although with pale not dark pigment] phenomenon is seen in 1st winter birds often claimed as Glauc x Herring hybrids that in reality are just argentatus Herring gulls at the pale end of the spectrum where the pattern on the inner primaries extends further on to the outers giving a paler appearance and inviting the conclusion that there is Glauc influence.  This is illustrated in the pic below

Friday, 25 January 2013

First for Yorkshire?

I can remember a few claims of Kumlien's Gull in the county over the last 10-15 yers but as I recall none of them have turned out to be gen.  The bird at Barmston therefore could well be the first documented record. That is of course that there aren't any pics of birds from way back when.

 Doesn't look much at  first glance does it?  But that's because it's at the paler end of the sectrum.

I'm going to preach a bit now so most of you might want to click on one of the links to somebody else's blog.  But as lots of people in Yorks don't know much about Gulls I'll bat on with a brief summary of the Kumlien's subject.

This is what most people think of as a Kumlien's Gull, lots of dark grey in the primaries but otherwise like an Iceland.  The thing to understand is becuase it is widely believed to be or originate from a hybrid between Thayer's and Iceland any bird showing dark in the primaries, no matter how little has to be by definition a Kumlien's Gull.  I remember Graham Catley photographing an adult bird in Lincs a few years ago which only had dark on the outer web of the outermost primary, the rest were classic Iceland Gull white.  So if we accept that they are a hybrid and mega variable when adults then it stands to reason that juvs and imms will be just as variable.

I can't remember where I photographed this juv Iceland but note the lack of dark in the primaries.  Actually this bird seems to show some dark on the second outermost primary, so it may not be the best example but I don't have any better ones and without a spread wing shot I can't tell if this is just shadow from the far wing folded over.

Compare the Barmston bird here and see how there is a dark shaded area either side of the shaft streak.  On darker birds this will extend further toward the edges and show more dark with a thinner pale fringe.

Kumlien's also often shows a less rounded head shape but this is difficult to portray in pics as it changes so much with posture, overall though the bird appears less gentle and pigeon headed than the average Iceland

In this pic with the wings raised the extent of the dark shading becomes apparent.  This pattern continues through all the primaries and onto the secondaries giving a hint of a secondary bar.  Although my pics don't show it the tail is also similarly dark with a definite hint of a tail band.  The next few shots further show the extent of dark in the wings.

Martin Garner has written about this bird on his excellent Birding frontiers blog and several prominent Gullers have commented. Perhaps the most enlightening is from Peter Kristensen who turns the argument round by asking the question if this was submitted as a nominate glaucoides Iceland would it be acceptable, and the answer to that is surely a great big NO.

OK Gull talk over sorry!!!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Well back from Holland and it's mid September so that can only mean one thing........FOULA time.

Well actually this year it meant marriage time, that's right folks I went and got married, then went on Honeymoon a few days later with mssr's Thomas, Aspin, Brown and French.  That's right I got married and left a couple of days later for Foula, I've found a good un!!!

As usual I traveled up by ferry and had a couple of days on Mainland Shetland before flying onto Foula.  On the Thursday with not much around and time to kill I suggested we visit Eshaness in NW mainland as it's very underwatched and there had been a Baird's Sand on the previous Saturday.

As we arrived Bill and I walked less than 20m from the car and scanned the grassy slope below the car park, whappo!  first bird I saw was a Buff breast.  There had been one present earlier in the month but none of us could remember how long ago.  I found out later there had been one the day before the Baird's and fter our sighting there were two birds.  So the dilema is did we find a new bird?  We'll never know I guess unless someone grills some pics.  But with a gap of 6 days between our sighting and the previous one, plus a few birders looking for the baird's and 2 birds present later there's got to be a good chance ours was a new one.  In his write up about this years Foula trip Paul French suggests Foula must be oe of the most regular places for Buff breast, I'd agree with that but Eshaness probably gives it a good run for it's money, in fact I'm sure some of the birds will be the same ones.

 The next morning we flew onto Foula for my 4th straight autumn on here, Two weeks on the most remote inhabited island in Britain, it's rally hard work flogging all the iris beds and kicking wet grassland and ditches, in fact it can be a really soul destroying place but the expectation keeps you going.  Especially when you land on the island to the forecast we did this year.  We've had some success each year I've been on here but I really felt with the weather a crack team who now know how to bird the island including new secret weapon Golden Balls Brown tht we couldn't fail to score a monster.  As it turned out that bastard place to the south east Fair Isle hammered us, but we put up a good fight.

Frenchy has done a smart write up of the trip plus his extra weeks so I'll just put up some pics and point you in the direction of http://nomadbirder.com/2012/10/

Lesser throat, but which race?

The Athertons

Marsh Warbler, foot just out of shot!

Evocative Swainson's

Stunning sprite

Stunning, rare and surprisingly easy to ID

Is this the best Sykes's shot ever taken in Britain?
Can't be many better.  And with a £400 camera too!

Bill and I take full advantage of Dan taking leave 
of his senses, and going up the big hill.  
He found a Blyth's Pipit, no justice!

Foula not that small, Dan is about 8 foot tall!

Gav finally scores with his first Foula rarity after 3 trips trying,
 it's like putting on a hat, apparently

The Sykes's has moved half the length of the island!

 The Aspin antenna.  

Often the only way to find the runt when behind walls,
 or in iris beds

HDR image of the sneck