Tuesday, 31 January 2017

White billed diver

After seeing many amazing images of the white billed diver in Linconshire, I decided last Monday to go and have a look for myself.
Unfortunately when I got to within 5 miles of the location thick fog had descended, it made driving quite dangerous, especially not knowing the roads, but I eventualy got to Kirkstead Bridge.
On arrival I could not even see to the other side of the riverbank (-25m), all of a sudden I had the feeling that the chances of seeing the diver, which has been roaming around 5 miles of river, seemed quite unlikely. The viewing was ridiculous and I couldnt help thinking that I had wasted by time and petrol getting there, however I was told that the bird had been seen 20 mins ago so there was still a chance. All of a sudden there was a sighting about 20m away from me, impossible to see the bird in the fog at that range, so decision time do I move to where the bird was or try to sus out the direction of travel and move in that direction? I did the latter and staring into the blank Linconshire fog standing on my own the beast of a diver popped up right in front of me...wow! I called some others over and it continued to dive and come up fairly close to us. After a few minutes it started heading west, it could dive and cover around 15-20m between breaths, I (and around 12 others) followed it along the river around a mile and a half, it was a case of staying with it or losing it in the thick fog, I had my fill and returned happy with absolutely stonking views of this world tick for me, what a bird!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Another thrush, this time blue!

Another offer of a space that was hard to refuse...

A blue rock thrush in Gloucestershire. Another pleasant twitch with the bird showing well on the roofs of a cul de sac for the majority of the time we were there, only 30-50 birders present scattered across a few streets, all well behaved, the locals were pleasant and interested. The cafe was nice for an all day breakfast too.

So is the bird actually wild??

Location- slightly odd, but eastern black redstart not far away recently and dusky thrush not too far north either. The roof tops are not the sort of habitat you would expect to see a rock thrush on, but the roofs were covered with moss and quite rock like, the brickwork of the buildings were natural rather than red bricks. Clutching at straws maybe, but it wasn't a million miles from the correct cliff like mountainous habitat...

Behaviour- while we were there the bird was flying from rooftop to rooftop looking for food, it stuck to the rooftops apart from a brief flight to a conifer. At one point it saw a fly and did a rather good impression of a flycatcher, it also chased a few flies successfully, so was able to feed itself without any problems. It was not particularly scared of us, but at the same time it didn't come and beg for food, it kept its distance on the tops in its 'rocky habitat'.

Plumage/appearance- Essentially a long billed round headed blue 'blackbird'. Left wing drooping was not great. Apart from that the plumage looked good, white crescents and long bill are suggestive of eastern origin which is good considering the number of eastern birds this autumn. I couldn't see any abraided feathers or signs of it being a cage bird, I didn't get to inspect its feet.

I must admit I went there slightly sceptical and returned with the impression that this could well be a wild bird, behaviourally it was good, plumage good, location/habitat maybe not quite so much, but possibly not as bad as it sounds, it will be interesting to hear the thoughts of the bbrc.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Up long before dawn to see a dusky!

I had a very pleasant day twitching the Dusky Thrush in Beeley today. The offer of a seat in a car was too great to resist so four of us got up at an ungodly hour (at this time of the year!) and were in the Peak District watching a Dusky Thrush by 8am!
We saw the bird as soon as we arrived which was lucky as it then went missing for an hour and a half, in which time we searched the small town of all likely spots, there were hundreds of redwings about, but we failed to re find the bird. On returning to the adventure playground where the thrush was best viewed from, a shout came from the neighbouring field, the bird showed well in the open for around five minutes, but was a little distant. It then flew straight towards and past us showing us its subtle differences in flight shape (longer tailed and slightly stockier than redwing). It flew into the orchid where it gave the best views of the day, there was a little bit of a scrum, but everyone got to see the bird feeding on the fallen apples at fairly close range, the light was pretty awful and many heads and bamboo canes got in the way regularly, but I managed a few poor grainy out of focus shots for the record. After this we walked back to the car park, seeing a dipper in the river on the way back for an extra bonus bird.

The twitch itself was one of the more bizarre- we arrived to signs directing us to the 'birders carpark' where we duly parked, a specially put on shuttle bus then took the birders from the car park 1km down the road to where the bird was showing, where we followed arrows labelled 'bird'! On passing the hot drinks stand, toilets and sausage/bacon bap stand we found the playground. The first proper amusement came when the birders had to cross a wooden see-saw bridge to get to the viewing platform/wall a scene which certainly put a smile on my face, even with a 4am start.

Great bird, great twitch and money raised for a good cause, my fourth UK tick of the year (BOU 411)

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Recent sightings Strumpshaw fen 11/11

The highlight bird of the week was a great white egret that was seen early on Thursday morning, it did a circuit of the fen and then went down near to reception, unfortunately it was not seen again.  The best bird experience however has to go to the starlings, it is too early to say whether it will turn into an impressive murmuration, but we did have at least 2700 starlings on Tuesday evening in front of Reception Hide. I will keep an eye on numbers and locations and report as required, often their numbers look like they are building and then they all disappear for the rest of winter. Waxwings were once again seen on passage throughout the week with two today flying over the work party, two on Wednesday in the ash tree near reception and a single bird in the same ash tree on Monday morning. These sightings could relate to the same birds being seen over again, but the way they are stopping for a brief period and then flying off again strongly may suggest otherwise.
The Reception Hide kingfisher has been putting on a good show throughout the week, but the Jack snipe appear to have moved to Fen Hide, this in part is due to flooding of the river, which has raised the water level in the fen throughout the week. Bitterns have been seen from various locations throughout the week. Although bittern sightings are not quite daily, the sightings are increasing, perhaps signifying an in migration from the continent. Otters have been seen from Reception, Fen Hide and the sluice throughout the week, from descriptions it sounds like it is still the large dog otter.
The reedbed has started to attract a few water pipits, these are always hard to see well at the fen, but we do get decent numbers, the trick is knowing the call. Bearded tits have been seen throughout the week all around the fen, including Sandy Wall, Reception, Fen Hide and anywhere with a good view of the reedbed. The stonechats are still present, visible from Fen Hide, Tower Hide and anywhere along the riverbank. It is hard to be sure but I think we may have three pairs of stonechats in the fen this winter. They almost always stay in pairs throughout the winter, so if you see one look around for its mate, it won’t be far away. A female hen harrier has once again been seen on and off throughout the week, last reported on Tuesday, but often they appear late in the day, when Reception is closed.
The photo above is of a new insect for the reserve; a western conifer seed bug. This insect originally from America has been imported into northern Europe and has colonized southern England too, this specimen was likely to have come from the population in southern England, but has still travelled far and wide to get here (31 October)