Saturday, 22 September 2012

Swanpool and Pennance Point (22nd September)

I got up rather late this morning and decided to treat myself to a brief weekend outing to try and find some of my own good birds, following a few days of neigh blanks.  I din't achieve much better today as Swanpool had little except for what its name suggests on it.  Pennance Point was the next stop where I sat myself down for some solitary sea-watching.  Despite the wrong wind direction and being rather cold it came as no surprise that only a few Gannets flew past, even more distantly than usual.  All the same it was probably my favourite time, thanks to no-one bumping into me and asking the same "taken any good photos today?" question as they refer to my scope!? (I am getting seriously tired of correcting almost every person I meet, even the occasional dude).  It was just me at Pennance Point, my own private sea-watching spot!  Something and somewhere I can treasure without getting disturbed (sorry it seems so antisocial).  With very little passing my new found home, I decided to make a brief excursion down the footpath before returning.  On returning, I was still sitting down when an ad. win. Mediterranean Gull flew past.  It did improve a little with Gannets flying a little closer to the cliff, an indication for better birding to come, a prob. SOOTY SHEARWATER being the best I could prove for it.  Although the birding appears a little dull at the moment I'm still attempting to try and locate a productive local patch, between Uni commitments but Pennance Point is definitely the best spot so far on the list so I'm very pleased!

Friday, 21 September 2012

Finally a dip! (20th September)

After trying to sort my landline number out throughout the morning and attending a few talks etc. I had the brief opportunity to explore more of the local area.  I only got the news of a Pectoral Sandpiper by the 20th, the following day it was last seen and without planning my trip at all, I cycled off to Celenick Creek.  On arriving it was obvious my efforts would be pointless as the tide was way out and there was very restricted viewing over the creek itself (note to self ALWAYS PLAN A TWITCH!), in theory the bird could have been anywhere.  I gave up without much effort as all I could find was 1 Common Sandpiper and a few Curlew.  With the tide not to come in until the evening I decided to head into Truro before retracing my steps back to another larger creek further south, called Restronguet Creek which only produced a few more Curlew, Little Egrets and the odd Redshank, despite a rising tide.  I got back very exhausted after a rather pointless trip only to notice that Pendennis Point, only half the distance away, had had some of the best sea-bird passage recorded so far this week!

some old pics from yesterday whilst wandering around Pendennis Point+a bit of rock pooling

 Common Prawn

rock shore on the east side of Pendennis Point

Monday, 17 September 2012

Still on the search for a local patch (17th September)

Just come back from a bike ride through Falmouth and Pendennis Point.  After I'd finished with a lot of Uni registration issues, I finally had the opportunity to explore further afield.  I didn't find much obviously as I'm still new to the place but managed to scrape out a few Wheatears on the peninsula, accompanying the commoner Rock Pipits whilst an adult win. Mediterranean Gull flew over my head towards Falmouth.  A Grey Seal was the only mammal I saw in Carrick Roads.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

The Lizard (16th September)

I joined up with my parents and brother again in the afternoon and together took the coastal path around the south western edge of The Lizard, which we finally reached by early evening.  All the same we still managed to log a few species including 1 juv. Peregrine, 3 Stonechats, 1 Wheatear and 2 CHOUGHS a tick for my year list (a lifer for my my brother).  Our first surprise for the day, however, was an Ocean Sunfish, sunning itself close to the shore and waving its fin about in the classic novel way.  On the other hand our last good sighting for the day was a brief view of a prob. Pomarine Skua which flew relatively close past the headland in a north westerly direction.  Unfortunately I couldn't relocate it in my scope and I didn't get enough features on it but I'm sure there'll be more opportunities.  Other than the birds, I also saw 2 Small Tortoiseshells, several Red Admirals, Speckled Woods and a few Large Whites and at least 2 Grey Seals were also bobbing around in the water. 

some more boring landscape shots, apologies

Ocean Sunfish

lighthouse at the Lizard

The Lizard itself

Finding a new local patch (16th September)

Yesterday was dedicated to sorting out all my Uni commitments so it was only on the following day, after I had organised a few more bits and pieces that I got out for a short walk around the local area.  My aim was to find a way to reach College Reservoir on foot.  However, access seemed a major issue as there were strict "KEEP OUT" signs all around with only a small section accessible by a public footpath along the north eastern boundary.  It seems I should try harder to find a better place but I still have to get used to a totally different surrounding so it'll probably take some time before I can put any effort into finding a good local patch, let alone find some good birds on it!

 a rather desolate College Reservoir

Don't worry all my successes and failures will still be published on the blog, this should make a nice change to my endless posts on Fields Behind the RSSKL, this time the focus will be around Penryn (the site of the university I attend).  Don't worry Mum and Dad I'll still be working hard and revising as well as birding.

Another Mega! (15th September)

My parents kindly agreed to make the diversion on my trip down to Exeter University via Lodmoor for my second mega in 2 days (I'm getting rather spoilt!).  I arrived with my brother on site at around 10:50am and it took no more than a brief "is it still showing" to get a brief glance through somebodies scope and there before my eyes was my first ever SHORT-BILLED DOWITCER!  As with the Baillon's it was a juvenile and showing very badly but in its defense, it was permanently on view.  On my arrival it was sat on a small clump of dead reads with its head and upper chest being the only features on show.  I was about to leave after waiting for an hour for it to move, when it got up, turned, giving a good profile view and revealing the barred tertials to me for the first time.  Disappointingly it soon sat down again.  After another wait, it shuffled occasionally and when it finally decided to get up again........ it climbed down the opposite side out of view!  No panic, it soon emerged between one of the gaps and began feeding for a prolonged period of time up and down the edge of the dead reads.  The only regret was forgetting my digital compact camera to take a few digi-scope shots so I had to use my brothers massive camera (the size of a small cannon) and took some record shots (on their way).

record shot of the Short-billed Dowitcher, very pleased to finally set eyes on it

At one point, a Water Rail emerged from the same area in which the dowitcher was feeding and hurtled itself at the precious mega, causing the dowitcher to panic and fly a short distance a little further away from its attacker.  What a way to treat an American visitor!  I just about squeezed in a little birding before we had to continue down to Cornwall which produced a single Wheatear on the mud, 7 Ringed Plovers a flock of 10 Dunlin,  1 Sandwich Tern and a Cetti's Warbler bursting occasionally into short brief song.

5 hours for a 3 second reward! (14th September)

A full day dedicated to birding, not the best idea as I had to leave the following day for Uni.  However, there was a valid reason, I arrived at Purfleet by train at c.7:15am (the fact I took the train shows my desperation to get somewhere) and was at the Shooting Butts Hide at Rainham Marshes at about 7:30am.  As with many, it required a long long wait and only some time after 11 was the bird first called.  Only two people claimed to have seen it, however, with a hide full of other eager twitchers many where in doubt.  However, the person who first called it then miraculously refound the bird at about 12:40 and very soon I had set eyes on my first ever BAILLON'S CRAKE!  It was only a very brief view as it walked calmly and slowly behind a row of dead reeds.  Despite rubbish views, several others got on the bird (in fact perhaps over half the hide saw the bird) before it disappeared back into the reeds, not a surprise as those who hadn't yet seen it were shouting in desperation, waving hands, cries of "I've got it" and "is it to the left of that small mud patch behind the dead reeds" was more than enough to see the Crake scuttle off back into the safety of the reedbed not to be seen until much later in the evening, by which time I was already back home packing my bags.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Citrine Surprise

Just got news from Spider from the Scillies that the Citrine Wagtail that I originally refound at Carn Leh Cove was infact a different bird to the one found at Salakee Downs which means it is my first self-found rarity!!!  Despite both being juveniles there was sufficient difference in their appearance of their plumage to separate them, furthermore they were both seen at Lower Moors together!

Thanks very much for the update Spider, I owe you one for all the lifts.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Fife Ness again (10th September)

My mum was very jealous of my previous days sighting of Bottle-nosed Dolphins so we made an early morning visit to the headland again with the hope of relocating some again.  Unsurprisingly our tick and run method failed as we only had about an hour before we had to embark on our 458 mile journey.  In fact the morning was made even worse by the fact that 7 unIDed divers flew overhead (same excuse as previous post for lack of ID).  The usual array of Guillemots, Gannets and gulls were once again flying past the headland whilst another 10+ Siskin flew over.

Fife Ness (9th September)

My first visit to the east coast of Scotland!  The weather was great and just off shore birds were milling around in the largest numbers I have ever seen, literally!  Despite being mostly the commoner species, their sheer numbers seemed to be overwhelming with parties of Gannets, Fulmars, Eiders, GUILLEMOTS (a year tick) and RAZORBILLS (also a year tick) all benefiting from the richest seas I have ever witnessed.  The sea was writhing with life, 100's of Shags were resting and diving near the shore whilst even land based birds seemed to be cashing in on what the sea had to offer, including swarms of Starlings, closely followed by a SparrowhawkWheatears and 15+ flyover Siskin were also present.  6 Knot were also amongst the commoner waders whilst at least 10 Grey Seals attempted to cram themselves on an island big enough for one whilst they moaned and howled like dogs!  Also of note was a single Red-breasted Merganser, Sandwich Terns, numerous Kittiwakes and no fewer than 23 Little Gulls just off shore.  Butterfly highlights being Large Whites, Red Admirals and 1 Small Copper.  By far the overall highlight were 8+ BOTTLE-NOSED DOLPHINS which passed the headland in the early morning, communicating and socialising in the usual way by jumping, spinning, diving and occasionally clearing the water entirely to land again with an audible splash, what a sight!  Now the bad news, an unIDed diver species flew directly over my head but I only got good views from its back end so was unable to separate Black-throated from Great Northern.

2nd day in the Lakes (8th September)

Most of the day was dedicated to driving (no surprise there) but I woke up early to fit in an hours early morning birding before our journey continued.  I decided to revisit the Dipper to attempt getting a better view of it, as yesterdays bird was the first I had seen for over three years!  Given the location, it came as no surprise when one zoomed past as I walked along the river bank.  I decided to relocated it later and focused on the other birds along the riverside the highlight being a Spotted Flycatcher obviously enjoying the bonanza of flies, no doubt aided by this summers record breaking wet weather.  There was still clear evidence of the extent of the flooding months on from the disaster!  I soon relocated the 1st year Dipper once again feeding in the stream not far from where I had last seen it.  It had just emerged with a caddisfly case and was attempting to break it open on the rocks.  After dropping it multiple times and investing some time and effort it seemed to give up, a lot of effort for such a small reward, providing it even gets one.  Even its inexperienced behaviour seemed to match its age as well at the white tipped greater coverts.  Anyway, back in the car for another few hours.

No sooner back home and already off to Lakeland (7th September)

I've seriously had enough of driving around in cars now as I've just come back from another long drive, this time up to Scotland to help my sister move into her new university at St Andrews.  The first day on our four day visit was via the Lake District, were we spent a night in an idyllic Lakeland Hotel (fit for any picture postcard) but not before we had climbed one of the numerous Fells and seen one of the Tarns (upland lakes).  Our walk took us up some desolate hill, literally in the middle of no-where, even the birds were thin and far between with a few Linnets, Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits flitting about the place.  A distant Raven was cruising along one of the mountain sides whilst the highlight was a hunting DIPPER, dragging itself through the water of Far Easdale Gill.  Otherwise nothing, just silence (for once).

 Easdale Tarn

female Black Darter

Angle Shades

Thanks again for ID's Bob

Thursday, 6 September 2012

My final day on the Island (4th September)

With the hope of locating Dotterel on the golf course, I headed up towards Telegraph were I located 10 Sanderling at Porth Mellon along with several Ringed Plovers including one ringed individual.  Despite trying hard to attempt reading the ring number I could only read the last few digits .....969.

 ringed Ringed Plover

The thick fog over the golf course did limit the distance I could view over it as all I could pick up were a few Linnets.  Back at the Porthloo, Robin pulled over in his car on his way to buy bananas from the town.  Plans changed and we made a little diversion together to the Garisson were I was kindly dropped off were I had the opportunity for a short wander around before rushing back to catch the boat.  I wasn't to leave without a little action first as I walked around the southern end of the Garrison I was soon confronted with yet another unIDed warbler.  I quickly called Spider and Robin who were soon on the scene.  With a bit of "pishing" the bird still decided to remain deep in cover and we only managed a few fleeting glimpses as it shot between the foliage.  It soon dawned on me, my time was up and the ferry back couldn't wait for a warbler.  Very reluctantly I had to leave it unIDed behind and take the ferry back to Penzance.

unIDed warbler

The ferry back also didn't go without the fog and once again limited the viewing down to less than a few hundred metres.  Through the gloom I still managed to see 18+ Manx Shearwaters, 3 cetaceans and 1 Portuguese Man Of War.

My time on the island was definitely a great experience and as well as finding my own rarities, getting to know the local birders was a great privilege.  I will be back, hopefully in the peak season of October to get a real sample of the bigger rarities on offer.  Thanks to all the Scilly birders for the numerous lifts and local info, particularly Spider, I hope to see you all soon.

Another round walk + a Pelagic (3rd September)

Peninnis again with a flyover Tree Pipit and a few Wheatears being the best I could find.  Carn Leh Cove once again had the Pied Flycatcher followed by my first and only Peregrine sighting for my visit.  Red Admiral numbers seemed to have dropped rapidly, perhaps the previous few days provided good conditions for the majority to make the flight across the channel and leave Britain.  Bumped into Spider again, this time news of a Wryneck had us heading straight for Higgs Pool.  I joined a few other birders on sight including Robin, Ash and a visiting birder.  We managed a brief flight view of the JUV. CITRINE WAGTAIL giving its flight call as we wanderred through the swamp but no luck with the Wryneck.  Met up with Alan next, and together had our best views of the Citrine yet, feeding mostly in the open at Lower Moors, viewable from the ISBG hide.

  juv. Citrine Wagtail at Lower Moors

Finally the pelagic came, something I had been looking forward to for a long time.  Our boat trip out to see produced 2 Harbour Porpoises whilst Joe Pender and I were the only ones lucky enough to get a brief view of a Basking Shark before a Grey Seal popped up in its place.  Once out to sea, and the chum over board, we saw a further 2 Grey Seals and a Portuguese Man Of War (something I really wasn't expecting to see in British waters)!  My first year tick came in the form of 2 flypast GREAT SKUAS followed by a total of 10+ STORM PETRELS.  Pelagics really do offer a surprise when we were suddenly rewarded with a Minke Whale surfacing c.hundred metres out before disappearing for a few minutes.  We had nearly forgotten about it when suddenly we had the shock of our lives as the Minke surface, snorted and dived again only a few metres from the boat!  With the shock subsiding we continued with our sea-watch and despite the extremely calm conditions managed to pick up 5 Manx Shearwaters and a single SOOTY SHEARWATER.  Then the sharks started biting.  The first one took almost 15 minutes to real it half way in but the inexperience from the visiting mainland softy meant it soon unhooked itself.  Disappointment amongst the catchers and birders on board but they were given a second chance.  This time Joe and others managed to land a small Blue Shark before tagging it and releasing it back into the water.  They also managed to catch a single Dogfish, 1 Needlefish and a Red Gurned (a very striking fish).  Whilst waiting for the next thing to bite or another bird to come along, 2 Ocean Sunfish provided some amusement flapping around at the surface.  I managed to pick a distant skua species and got it onto some of the other birders on board but unfortunately it didn't decide to fly closer and we were left with a possible Arctic, Long-tailed or Pom Skua.

Basking Shark


Minke Whale surfacing a little further away from the boat


Storm Petrel

Red Gurnard

Ocean Sunfish

tame Grey Seal

Portuguese Man Of War

Blue Sahrk, ready for release

Early Morning in the rain, next stop Tresco (2nd September)

Spider picked me up at 6:30am near the Quay with the intention of relocating the Citrine.  It was still too early and dark to bother for the wagtail so we first visited Lower Moors were we drew a blank.  The airfield was our next attempt to relocate the Buffy.  With the rain starting to come down heavly we soon managed to relocate the JUV. BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER squatting in the rain beside an equally drenched Golden Plover.  After admiring the Buffy from closer quarters (without the heat-haze this time thankfully) we tried for the Citrine but to no avail.  The scene on the beach seemed identical to yesterday with several feeding Rock Pipits, White Wagtails and the remaining Pied Flycatcher, the only difference being no Citrine.

juvenile Buffy on the airfield in the pouring rain

I took the decision to make a day-trip to Tresco, just to increase the variety of sites I could visit.  The boat-load along with me were dropped off at the southern tip of the island, were I took the footpath around the eastern side, bypassing Abbey Pool, Great Pool and the large pine trees on the eastern border.  Only a few waders on the pool, including 4 Black-tailed Godwits, several Greenshanks and a Pied Flycatcher near the path.  The east side of the island was less productive than I had originally hoped for, not a surprise given the continues stream of light rain and fog.  Most birds seemed to head quickly for cover as I only saw a further 2 Pied Flycatchers, a few Wheatear and 2 Little Egrets.  The heathland at the northern extreme of the island can only be described as barren.  The thickening fog and rising waves were as inhospitable as they sound, only a few Wheatears and Rock Pipits braved the conditions, at least I could enjoy some solitude.

the desolate coastal heathland at the northern extent of Tresco

Finally September (1st September)

Another visit to Peninnis Head produced even more European migrants with a self-found WOOD WARBLER being the highlight (almost in the same hedge as the probable Melodious yesterday).  The coves and beaches held the usual array of Turnstones, Sandwich Terns, 16+ Ringed Plovers and 1 Dunlin whilst a trip to Lower Moors produced a single Water Rail, calling in the open.

Ringed Plover

My first visit to Telegraph was not all that eventful with Wheatears, and a single flyover Golden Plover and the highlight, 2 Tree Pipits.  The commoner butterflies were also out including Red Admiral, Speckled Wood and Common Blues.  I was about to wander around the Garrison when I bumped into non other than Spider.  He soon updated me on the news that a Citrine Wagtail had been found on the opposite end of the island.  A short lift later from Spider and I was stood in the middle of some bulb fields with absolutely no idea were to start searching.  It seemed like an impossible task to track down a bird the size of a wagtail on an island with an area in excess of 6.29km squared.  Salakee Downs was the most information I had to go on but I couldn't find anything.  A wander around the airfield didn't produce any wagtails either.  Finally, I bumped into my first visiting birder and together attempted to track it down by thoroughly searching Lower Moors and the adjacent pastoral fields.  We eventually gave up and headed our separate ways.  A last resort came to mind, Carn Leh Cove, where I had last seen White Wagtails and plenty of Rock Pipits only a few days ago feeding on the beach.  I managed to reluctantly drag myself there and lifted my bins to see non other than the JUV. CITRINE WAGTAIL feeding contently on the beach!!!

juvenile Citrine Wagtail at Carn Leh Cove

I could barely believe my luck, I quickly took some record shots before walking as fast as I could back to the Pilots Gig to show Bryan Thomas in the kitchen.  He seemed pleased with the record before calling Spider and soon half the town (me included) were on the beach again searching in vein for the departed Wagtail.  Only partial compensation for the dippers was a Pied Flycatcher fly-catching on the beach.  Given that I found the bird on the opposite end of the island it may be possible that it could have been a different bird although refinding it against such odds was definitely the highlight of my Scilly trip!

Pied Flycatcher perched on the stone art-work

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Peninnis Incommodious Ickmodious and the east of St Mary's (31st August)

Peninnis Head was my first bet, after a little advice from some of the local birders.  Still tired from yesterday, I stood blankly watching a hedge where I'd just seen a warbler fly in.  It emerged after about a 10-15 minutes wait.  Despite not showing well, I suddenly realised I was confronted with a Melodious or Icterine Warbler!  After some quick digi-scope shots, it was soon gone, never to be seen again.  Although the ID still remains unconfirmed, it is most likely to be a Melodious Warbler.  Thanks to all those who helped try and ID it on birdforum and local birders on Scilly (all the same, still my first self-found Scilly scarcity!).

probable Melodious Warbler, any help with ID welcome

  Also of note around the headland, were 8+ Wheatear, Stonechats and 4 White Wagtails in Carn Leh Cove.

White Wagtail at Carn Leh Cove

It was at the airfield later in the afternoon that I had my first and only butterfly lifer of the trip, a CLOUDED YELLOW flying casually low past over the heather.  Another visit to Porth Hellick produced a few more commoner waders including 1 Dunlin, 1 Greenshank and 2 Common Sandpipers.  It got a little more exciting on the east side of the island where I soon bumped into a Whinchat, a single Raven, 2 Wheatears, a probable Firecrest, 1 Spotted Flycatcher and the highlight my first of many Scilly PIED FLYCATCHERS.  Red Admirals seemed to be increasing steadily in number and at least 2-3 were on view at any one time in any place, whilst a Painted Lady butterfly was also a welcome highlight.

Whinchat at Mount Todden

Pied Flycatcher also at Mount Todden

Painted Lady, you guessed it, at Mount Todden

St Mary's Pool