Monday, 27 June 2011

I've been twitching! I'm not sure I should tell u wot I've been to see, it's a bit embarrassing and more than a bit shit. It was a duck! Not a half decent sea duck or even a mildly interesting diver this was a crappy dabbler and could even be worse than that!

Ok I'll tell u it was a Black Duck. The only reason I went is it was a lifer. I've never been near one. By the time I went to the scillies they'd all gone, I haven't been to Cornwall when there's been one getting seen, up until the last couple of years I'd only been birding in Scotland a couple of times, in August there are seabirds passing Ireland So do you really think I'd be looking a fuckin ducks? Even normal people would rather look for Thayers Gull at Killybegs in Feb/March than go looking for a Black Duck. And well Wales is generally best avoided! I've even managed to dip in the states coz the ones in Texas aren't Black they're mottled (I think, can't really remember cos I wasn't interested then and I'm not now!) and split.

there are two things about this bird tho. The first is I'm not 100% convinced it's not a hybrid. I'm away at the moment and have no literature but the longest tertial does seem to have a lot of pale in it. My phonescoped pics are a bit overexposed in this respect, and a quick search of pics on google does show them to have pale here but it just seemed a little extensive and white. That said I'm probably just being paranoid.

The other interesting thing is the location. About 3 years ago a friend had a Black Duck nr Strontian on the south side of this loch literally within a mile or so of where it is now, can it really have been there that long without being seen since? They are notoriously site faithful when they get over here so it wouldn't be a surprise but surely there must be hybrid offspring around if it has been here that long. Maybe this is one of the original birds offspring? John has pics of his bird so I'll be interested to see them. Here's some pics anyway, any comments on the I'd would be appreciated.

I wa also a bit gutted to see this at the side of the road, it's very small so presumably a young one that's wasnt very experienced at crossing roads!

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Since Jan we've had a total of 8 definite White billed Divers on the western isles survey even though none were seen in Feb and we didn't manage to survey in May due to weather. It's a shame May didn't go ahead because it was likely to be a good month for them and should have produced some summer plumages birds. Even though we'd had such good results one this month was a surprise, we thought they would have all cleared off by now. Interestingly it was our first immature bird all the others seen well enough to age have been adults. I got some pics which I'll post later with some other seabird shots.

What was a little annoying was the news that the day after we'd finished and come back to Oban that a Sabs and Red necked Phal were seen from a boat off Mull and a Roller was at Salen nr where we saw the Pied billed Grebe earlier in the year. We normally sail out of Tobermory on Mull but this time joined the boat in Oban, bollocks!

Here's a nice sunset over Tiree

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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Just got back from the Western Isles where I was doing another survey.  Due to using a new boat and some unsettled weather we had a bit of time during on Tiree, a new island for me.  It's pretty big vegetation was very limited at least in the area we walked and it is certainly turning up a few good birds even though I presume it must be very underwatched.  You can get there by regular ferry from Oban and with the car it must be worth a punt in autumn just look where it is, maybe not quite as far out as Barra but it scored a Parula so anything is possible.

Within a couple of hundred yards of the pier we heard our first Corncrake singing and picked it up very quickly walking along a bank at the base of a fence, it then walked right out in the open crossed the road and stood on the close cropped verge and sang again in full view!  We didn't see much else but after out meal in the evening we left the boat again and went back for another look and to attempt to photograph it.

When we got on site it was still singing but from deep cover and things didn't look good.  we were just off the road on some grazed grass with a slight height advantage over the irises and longer grass so thought we might get some views.  I think it's fair to say we weren't disappointed!

 Initially it was in thick cover but soon came out into more open ground and sat sunning itself and gave the occasional burst of song.  After it had been on view for about ten minutes it remarkably ran straight towards us and sang out in the open at less than 5 metres!  It then flew straight past us across the road, I honestly could have touched it as it went past.  It then walked around distantly in the field before flying back across the road and passing Bill even closer than it had me!  It landed 100 metres away and running back towards us in short burst in between feeding and singing a few times totally unconcerned that at times we'd been as close as a few metres from it, brilliant.  Eventually it wandered off back into the thick irises.  I see Corncrakes fairly regularly at Spurn so they aren't the mythical beast to me that they are to some but it really was an amazing experience to be afforded such stunning prolonged views of such a scarce bird.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

When I was speaking to the birders on Holy Island I really didn't expect to be watching a White throated Robin so soon but there was no way I wasn't going to Hartlepool when news broke early the next morning.

The journey up was slightly eventful as I ploughed into the debris from a truck blow out and caused a fair bit of damage to the front of the Honda. The most worrying was the coolant dripping from the underneath, it looked like we might not make it but fortunately it seemed to be from the air con radiator rather than the engine coolant.

When we got there the bird was showing well almost immediately and performed well for a couple of hours before flying into the docs garden. Chaos then ensued as the crowd built up but the bird was missing. The result was well publicised with locals bringing ladders out so birders could see over the high wall.

Did a couple of breeding bird surveys during the week on the Humber and had a day at spurn when I dropped on a cracking Red foot that went south. Pics are on the website

Had another crack at the Robin on the way to Scotland for a survey but it had done it's usual early afternoon bunk so I salvaged something from the day by having an ice cream! When the bloke offered me strawberry sauce he referred to it as monkey blood!! Genius.

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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Had a few days in Northumberland with Alison over last weekend, we camped near Seahouses and had a good time,  didn't really get to do any proper birding but had Marsh Harrier near the campsite and a day on the Farnes which was smart, I've been before but the spectacle of the place is very impressive.  As usual the camera was playing up making flight shots of the Terns and Puffins difficult.  The weather wasn't helping either, Friday had been amazing without a cloud in the sky but Saturday dawned very dull and overcast.  Despite this some of the shots came out acceptable.

I just keep wondering how good they would have been given a working camera and sun?

Sunday we had a drive onto Holy Island,  I called in here last year on my way home from Shetland (which reminds me I still haven't got round to posting about last autumns Foula trip) but due to time of tides I only really had about an hour to look around.  Having had chance for a bit of a walk round now I can say I really like the place.  Ok so it doesn't get the birds Spurn does but it's pretty good and the habbo is really nice, I'd love to spend a couple of days here one autumn, maybe with a bit of a crew in a holiday cottage and a few beers on a night, it could be a winner.

I bumped into a few birders who commented they hadn't seen a migrant so although it was easterly and rain didn't seem too likely I'd find much.  A couple more told me the best areas to check and we mused over possible species such as Marsh Warbler, Icky and Red backed Shrike.  I slipped White throated Robin into the mix....................................little did I know!!!!