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)

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Scilly '16

1st to 12th October was spent on my favourite island archipelago, the Isles of Scilly. I was very lucky that my parents had a four bedroom cottage and with my sister already booked in there was still a spare room for me to use.
On Friday 30th I spent a rather uncomfortable night on the 'night riviera' the sleeper train from Paddington to Penzance. I arrived around 45 mins late and just made the connection to the scillonian, but I did make it!
The rather rocky boat trip yielded a couple of puffins, bonxie, 3 storm petrel, 10 manx shearwaters and best of all a great shearwater.
The first day on the Isles we located a rather odd looking wheatear amongst the obvious Northerns, it looked quite different to the others in colouration, posture and even size. As it was getting dark very soon we decided to put news out of an interesting looking wheatear sp, sure enough the locals soon turned up, but proclaimed that it was an oiled northern, oh well, at least people got to see it rather before it got dark...lesson learnt (I've done this before with a very wet wheatear! good job I went to BO dunes this weekend to see some rare wheatears). I have included the pics here as it was quite an odd looking bird, certainly stood out amongst the others!
Oiled wheatear, you can hopefully see why we started to get a little excited about this
one in the fading light, certainly did look different to us at the time, oh well, next time!

Peacehaven cottage, located at Watermill cove gave us a great location for birding and mothing.
I was out at dawn every day and back not long before dusk most days, giving around 10 hours of birding a day, so by the end of the trip I was pretty shattered! My pre breakfast circuit included Newford duck pond and watermill cove, sometimes further to Trenoweth and Helvier, a very nice and sometimes productive morning walk.
Watermill cove, our cottage was behind the scrub on the left

On one particular morning walk a very ferocious looking storm approached, the lower picture shows a distant cloud with three waterspouts appearing from it, they did look a lot more impressive in real life and kept on changing in number and length. None ever actually touched down so probably not technically waterspouts, but impressive formations. Then all of a sudden just in front of me the clouds started circling and dropping quickly, unfortunately it soon came over the land and dissipated, but was quite exciting to witness.

The highlights are as follows, it was a really great 12 days of birding, much like it used to be when I was younger (my last trip 5yrs ago yielded wryneck and rb fly as the best birds of the trip) this year was far better.

Sora- lifer
Red-eyed vireo- lifer and a bit of a bogey bird, which I have managed to miss by a day or so on many occasions, one such trip 3 turned up within 3 hours of me leaving the Isles!
Blyths pipit (thanks Will/spider for pinning it down the evening before)
Caspian tern
Subalpine warbler (sp)
American golden plover
Buff breasted sandpiper
Red-backed shrike
Grey Phalarope-
Whinchats- many across the isles well over 40
Short-toed lark
Jack snipe-15+
Snow bunting
Lapland bunting -6
Cattle egret-2
Little bunting-1
Red breasted flycatcher- 2 self found
Wryneck-5, I think 2 were self found, possibly 3.
Yellow-browed warbler- 50+ these beauties were everywhere!
Black redstarts
pied flycatchers
spotted flycatchers

So while it doesn't quite match up to Shetlands 12 days of megas, it was quite enough to keep us occupied and the birds continued to arrive throughout the period giving us optimism!



Cattle egrets

Black-necked grebe

Common sandpiper- always worth double checking these on Scilly

Little Bunting

Wryneck- flew in off right in front of us at Penninis
The Isles first Caspian tern

Incoming Firecrest

Jack Snipe

Subalp sp

When I first saw this dark cheek I thought I may be onto a winner, but 'just' a YBW'

Red-eyed vireo


another Jack, little crackers!

The moths were also very good, my father Chris, brought an MV and a heath trap and had a very good range of species throughout the stay. It was amazing to see the trap with 90% migrants inside and figures were not at all bad either with around 25-35 species a night in the traps.
 The real moth trap is the flowering Ivy, this was new to me but it was obvious that in the first few hours of dark the Ivy was a hive of activity.
The best night on the Ivy was 7th October, when dadad I walked from Watermill down rocky hill to the lower moors and back, the results of this fantastic walk are below.

Crocidosema plebejana 1
1395 Rusty Dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis 125
1398 Rush Veneer Nomophila noctuella 704+

Palpita vitrealis 3
1524 Common plume Emmelina monodactyla 23
Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa 8
Black Rustic Aporophyla nigra 3
Brick Agrochola circellaris 3
Common Marbled Carpet Chloroclysta truncata 5
Cypress Carpet Thera cupressata 1
Dark Sword-grass Agrotis ipsilon 6
Double-striped Pug Gymnoscelis rufifasciata 6
Gem Orthonama obstipata 2
Herald Scoliopteryx libatrix 1
Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba 10
Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa 5
Pale Pinion Lithophane hepatica 4
Pearly Underwing Peridroma saucia 3
Red Underwing Catocala nupta 1
Scarce Bordered Straw Helicoverpa armigera 3
Silver Y Autographa gamma 57
Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa 37
Turnip Moth Agrotis segetum 8
White-speck Mythimna unipuncta 27

We did a longer route on 11th from the Garrison back to watermill and had 21 white speck, 12 silver y, 1 dark sward grass, 1 gem and a pearly underwing, amazing the difference in moths, not a single rush veneer after seeing at least  704 a few nights before...migration!

Some additions to the above list for the rest of the holiday are below. The Porters rustic, Clancys rustic and Deaths-heard hawkmoths were courtesy of Dave Grundy who was staying on St Agnes, the Golden twinspot was from a coupe of guys staying in Hugh Town, but I'm not sure of names (sorry!). The rest were all found by dad, Chris Lewis in the traps at Watermill, I was very pleased to hear that on my parents last day, in fact last hour on the islands they noticed a Deaths Head hawkmoth next to one of dads traps, so he can finally tick it as a moth he has caught.

Epermenia chaerophyllella

Scrobipalpa costella

Lobesia littoralis

Pediasia contaminella

Eudonia angustea
Blair's MochaCyclophora puppillaria
Blair's Shoulder-knotLithophane leautieri
Clancy's RusticPlatyperigea kadenii
Convolvulus Hawk-mothAgrius convolvuli
Cypress PugEupithecia phoeniceata
Death's-head Hawk-mothAcherontia atropos
DelicateMythimna vitellina
Dewick's PlusiaMacdunnoughia confusa
Garden CarpetXanthorhoe fluctuata
Golden Twin-spotChrysodeixis chalcites
Humming-bird Hawk-mothMacroglossum stellatarum
L-album WainscotMythimna l-album
Lesser Yellow UnderwingNoctua comes
Pale Mottled WillowParadrina clavipalpis
Pearly UnderwingPeridroma saucia
Pinion-streaked SnoutSchrankia costaestrigalis
Porter's RusticProxenus hospes
Radford's Flame ShoulderOchropleura leucogaster
Scarce Bordered StrawHelicoverpa armigera
Setaceous Hebrew CharacterXestia c-nigrum
Small Mottled WillowSpodoptera exigua
VestalRhodometra sacraria
Willow BeautyPeribatodes rhomboidaria

I make it 20 moth ticks, which is impressive seeing as the traps at Strumpshaw and in my garden are currently producing around 4-5 species in total! A total of 52 species in October is very good indeed.

Blairs shoulder knot- new for me

White speck NFM

Convovulous hawkmoth

Pearly underwing NFM

Scarce bordered straw NFM

Radfords flame shoulder NFM
Porters Rustic NFM, thanks to Dave Grundy +co

Deaths head NFM what a moth!!

3 Deaths heads, not a common sight in the UK!

A rarer sight than even above- 3 Radfords flame shoulders!

Vestal NFM,

Golden twinspot

Dewicks plusia

The Lewis family Scilly 'crew' 2016, Thanks guys I had a great time!!