Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Pre Christmas present - Siberian chiffchaff

Whilst working at the broad dyke in a boat today with Matt I was very aware of a call which I thought sounded very good for Siberian chiffchaff. I managed to ignor it for 20 mins as I was working, but then had to give in and see if  it really was a sibe chiff and not an over excited dunnock. After landing the boat I soon saw the bird making the call..... It was indeed a chiffchaff! I signalled to Matt to get his camera to get some record shots as I did not have my camera. The bird showed every now and then but was very flighty and sculky. I did get several good views of it, at first I thought it was not the usual grey tones I was expecting, it was quite bonellis like in some ways. It did have a very prominent supercillium though, far stronger than on a normal chiff. Subsequently I have seen on Martin garners website that some sibe chiffs can indeed show a slightly bonellis like colouration... But that call seals the deal! No shots achieved but I did make a couple of sound recordings, not easy in the wind! I'll try to get shots tomorrow morning, but the way it was moving about I'll be surprised if it is there in the morning, however it is the first time I have walked past the sluice area in a week so I have no idea how long it has been there, fingers crossed it will be seen again. Slightly disappointed that it's just 2 points on the patchwork challenge list, but this year they are 2 very useful points.... Poor year for many patches it would seem.
To top it all off on the way back down the river two waxwings flew over the boat, giving me another year tick, my fourth of the month and most probably my last, I think that puts me on 148 species for the mid yare so far this year.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Pre Birthday Present Snow goose

I took Friday off work as I worked the previous Saturday, as a birthday present to myself I had a full days birding, my first in ages!

I decided to stay local, partially as there was not a lot going on elsewhere in Norfolk and partially because I have not had a good look at the patch in a while.

Buckenham 07.30
At dawn Buckenham held;
2 peregrines
1 Merlin- my first patch bird this year
2 Shelduck
1 water pipit
1 grey wag
800 wigeon
850 pink footed goose

As I was watching towards Cantley I saw a large flock of pinks, within it I saw a pale goose very briefly (c.5 seconds) all I saw was the top side of the bird as it banked before landing (at Cantley). I noted a pink foot like back colour black wing tips and secondaries with a pale panel in the middle of the wing. I thought it looked interesting, but wasn't sure it wasn't just a funny looking pinky. I got back in my car and went to burnt house lane, where I failed to see the pale goose again.
Burnt house lane
1020 pink footed goose
93 white fronts
2 (different?) peregrines
2 buzzard

On to the beet factory, first visit for at least 3 months.
16 Shelduck
3 pintail
3 green sand
780 wigeon
2 goldeneye
1 kingfisher
1 grey wag
15 curlew

I then went to Ormbsbry little broad, which was quiet apart from 3 goldeneye.

Back to Buckenham I saw the pale goose again, with around 900 pinks. Initially I thought wow its a snow goose, but it was an odd plumage so wasn't sure. A check of Collin's showed it was not a pale or blue phase so I took down some details (see below) and took some pictures, the sun had already gone down so pictures were very difficult, especially combined with distance. Whether it was because I'd not slept well the night before or had been in the field all day for some reason I had completely forgotten that snow geese also come in an intermediate phase!

White head, neck, breast and underparts.
Dark smudge on forebreast.
Mantle/back dark grey variegated pattern, slightly darker than pink foot. As the photos show the rear of the upperparts were paler the nape area which was a touch darker, the exact detail of greater coverts hard to judge due to light.
Flanks dusky grey, uneven pattern all the way along flanks.
Legs dull pink.
Bill hard to be sure of colour but appeared pink with a slight orange hue, photos have exaggerated the orange compared to real life in my opinion. bill was a typical snow goose shape. Compared to the Ross's type which has been present at the site for years it was much larger in all proportions.
Wings- dark/black primaries and secondaries pale grey on forewing with a silvery pannel between the grey forewing and dark trailing edge (seen on initial sighting at distance, quite different to the white phase snow goose that I know, which is why I partially dismissed the first sighting) ... learning curve!
Tail was seen on this short flight view, it was paler than a pinky but I seem to recall some grey in the tail somewhere, but I cant be sure of the extent (brief view) the rump was white.
Size- appeared slightly taller than the pinks it was with (or maybe longer necked)?

It was very alert, constantly looking up between feeding. I returned at dawn the following morning, when at 07.30 the first dog walker up the track scared a small flock containing this individual. They headed NW and I followed them until they went over the horizon, I'm surprised its not been seen elsewhere this weekend.

After some research on the net I'm fairly confident that it is an intermediate phase snow goose. It is a particularly pale individual but within range of genuine snow. It would be good for it to be found somewhere else in the country for confirmation/better photos but I will be submitting a description and photos (for what its worth!) to the county recorders.

Photos (as stated- sun had already gone down, cloudy and distant so poor shots but you get the impression)


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Fetlar 2015 (finally!)

Its about time I waded through all the photos and created ablog about our trip to Fetlar earlier in the autumn...

First impressions of Shetland are 1) its absolutely huge! 2) there is not much cover 3) you have to completly change the way you look for birds to get rewarded.

Day 1
Paul and I travelled up to Aberdeen by car leaving at 5.30am, we were there in plenty of time for the ferry and managed a little bit of seawatching from the comfort of our indoor chairs. We got some sleep on the floor of the ferry, but it wasnt the best nights sleep!
1 Little Gull
4 Sooty Shearwater
3 Manx Shearwater
4 Arctic Skua
Black Guilimot- lots
8+ Harbour Porpoise
2 Minke Whale  ( a new species for me, one of which showed very well not far from the boat at all!)

Day 2

First day on Shetland, although it mainly consisted of getting to Fetlar. We managed to get to the island by lunch time so did a bit of a recci in the afternoon, seeing what was within walking distance from our croft.
3 Chiffchaff
1 Blackcap
8 Twite
Bonxie (lots)
Shetland Wren
Shetland Starling
Typical shetland habitat, iris beds

Day 3
First full days birding on Fetlar. We got out and did our 'patch' circuit which took in some of the well known birding spots including Northdale/Southdale Burn, down to The Manse, along the road to Houbie, Feal Burn and back along the road via the upand to the croft. A decent walk of around 5 miles, it doesnt sound far but working wet iris beds takes its toll on you!
3 Yellow Browed Warbler
5 Chiffchaff
1 Willow Warbler
1 Blackcap
15 Twite
17 Faroe /Snipe

The Manse, the largest area of cover on the island, home to many past rarities

Day 4
This was the day of the (one and only) fall, we were out pretty much dawn till dusk so made the most of it. The usual circuit was done followed by a trip to Everland with Andy, one of the local birders who showed us a few decent spots. We had our first difficult acro in the iris beds not long after we left the croft (it took us about 2 hrs to get 200m from the croft!). The acro was just flying between dense cover, never showing itself at all, I managed a couple of rubbish flight shots but it was left as an unidentified wabler, but most probably Marsh. This identification was partially made as we found a Marsh Warbler later on in the morning at Feal Burn. The day was exciting as there were birds everywhere, each small patch of nettles and thistles contained migrants of some sort. If coverage was more like that of Fair Isle I'm sure something else would have been found, but thats part of the beauty of birding an island like Fetlar, you have it almost to yourself!
12 YBW
10 Chiffchaff
1 Marsh Warbler
1 Unidentified acro, probable Marsh
5 Goldcrest
1 Robin (the ony one of the whole trip!)
8 Blckcap
1 Garden Warbler
4 Pied Flycatcher 
1 Ring Ouzel
11 Snipe
5 Fieldfare
1 Grey Wagtail
1 Whinchat
1 Wheatear

the unidentified acro

again acro sp

Marsh warbler

Marsh warbler

Marsh warbler

Marsh warbler

Day 5

2 Blackcap
1 Garden Warbler
1 Willow Warbler
9 Chiffchaff
4 Goldcrest
1 Wheatear
6 Redwing
1 Merlin

Day 6
The day of our best find a Blyths Reed Warbler. It was quite skulky and very difficult to see well, but thanks to the research of the Marsh Warbler Paul and I were genned up to ID these now! As soon as we saw it in the open (about 1 second) we both knew it was a Blyths! (Thanks Martin Garner for your excellent books!). I managed a few shots, yet again an acro in long grass, weeds, nettles and iris is never easy to see, let along photograph! It was a self found tick for both Paul and I.

Blyths reed warbler
Blyths reed warbler
Blyths reed warbler
Blyths reed warbler

it may not look like it, but the cover here was great!!

View from living room

1 Blyths Reed Warbler
11 YBW
7 Chiffchaff
2 Goldcrest
1 Lesser Whitethroat
2 Blackcap
1 Redstart
2 Wheatear

Day7 25/9
1 Blyths Reed Warbler
9 Chiffchaff
3 Blackcap
1 Lesserthroat
2 Goldcrest
1 Redstart
6 Fieldfare

Day8 26/9

This burn showed promise

Paul, thinking big for dinner!

We managed a little bit of habitat management education. Thanks to Malce, who gave us a 'management of upland mire for phalerope conservation' in a nutshell

1 Willow Warbler
4 Chiffchaff
1 Lesserthroat
1 Goldcrest
RB Merganser
1 Minke Whale

Day 9 27/9

5 Chiffchaff
2 Blackcap
1 Goldcrest
7 Redwing
2 Minke Whale

Day 10 28/9
5 Tree Sparrow
42 Snipe
1 Wheatear
3 Ruff
15 Risso's Dolphin

Day 11 29/9
3 Chiffchaff
1 Goldcrest
43 Snipe
3 Jack Snipe
2 Redwing
2 Merlin
1 Peregrine
50 Snow Bunting
1 Wheatear

Day12 30/9
Today we walked the Eastern cliffs of the island due to the constant westerly wind it seemed as though this may hold some shelter. It was a good walk with some amazing scenary and some good migration of Pinkies and a attractive flurry of Snow Buntings. (for some reason the pictures of this day are not on my computer now...odd!)

485 Pinks
150 Snow Buntings
4 Wheatear
1 Merlin
1 Woodcock
3 Siskin
2 Chiffchaff
50 Skylark
3 Ruff
1 Water Rail
2 RT Diver
1 Redwing

Day 13 1/10

159 Snipe
2 Jack Snipe
2 Chiffchaff
2 Blackcap
1 Willow Warbler

1 Wheatear

1 Tufted Duck

Day 14 2/10

3 Chiffchaff
1 Barred Warbler
1 Tree Pipit
1 Whinchat
1 Wheatear
190 Pinkies
Tree pipit
Tree pipit

A pink footed goose with white primaries. Amazingly I saw this bird (or similar) at Buckenham nt long after I returned. It has also been seen on the north norfolk coast and further north too

This Skylark was flushed by paul, at first he expected it to be a redpoll as the call was not like skylark at all! We saw it several times and it covered a lot of ground, we could not turm it into anything else dispite that very odd call, another 2 images below

The most jumpy barred warbler ever! (its the bird left of the 3 starlings!)

Houbie bay

Day 15 3/10
A full day on Mainland (once we got there) Unfortunately the Pechora pipit and Arctic Warbler that had been present for over a week left the night before we got there. Quite annoyingly after a week of strong westerlies the evening before we left was very calm and very clear, so if I'm honest I'm not surprised they did a bunk, it was very annoying though!! Why did we not go to see the pipit/warbler earlier if they were ticks? Well it took us 4.5 hours to get to the pipit location so it would have been a 9 hour round trip before we did any birding, or anything else, we wouldnt have done that from Norfolk so we didnt do it on Shetland! This goes with my earlier point ... Shetland is massive! Paul and I did not overly enjoy our day on Mainland, there was too much cover to know where to look and so many places that could potentially hold birds, not to mention a lot of birders too; given the fact that all the birds had gone they were not all particularly happy either! It made us realise that 'our' island was a far easier place to bird even if it was not amazingly productive. I guess there is always next year... maybe!?
1 Little Gull
1 Red Grouse

A good example of a Shetland starling. This form has a darker head than mainland form when in juv plumage, brown rather than grey and quite distinctive