Monday, 31 December 2012

Last chance for the Year List (31st December)

The final opportunity for a full days birding before the year comes to a close so I decided to visit yet another local reserve that I had not visited for some time.  I rather unwisely chose today to go out, as opposed to yesterday with the punishment being prolonged rain and overcast weather for the entire day.  At least there were a few hides to take shelter in but to really be rewarded with birds, it was necessary to venture from the safety of the cosy little huts.  The Colne Valley complex was my main focus for the day.  I made one round trip of Batchworth Lake, once round Bury Lake, twice round Stocker's Lake, once round Inns Lake and finally once around Springwell Lake.  Not as exhausting as you might expect as the occasional good bird did lift my spirits.  Most of the usual waterfowl and wetland species were present, including Shoveler, Pochard, Wigeon, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Coot and Canada Geese.  Other birds of not included numberous Siskin throughout the day, mostly singles but the occasional flock of up to c.10 birds were also present.  45+ Lapwing dotted around the muddy margins of the islands and a Little Egret were two other species of note.  Two exotic species I had not seen in some time, yet was still not that pleased to see were 5 Red Crested Pochard (including 3 males) and several flyover Ring-necked Parakeets.  Inns Lake produced the first good bird of the day, a stunning drake GOOSANDER, rather embarrassingly still a year tick (and just in time too, phew).  I blame this on the rather mild winter we have had so far as I remember having seen far more in previous winters, particularly in harsher, colder weather.

 drake Goosander on Inns Lake

Springwell Lake was the worst (in terms of muddiness), rather frustratingly near the end of the round walk around the lake the final section was entirely flooded over so I had to retrace my steps all the way back again.  But enough of my grim mood, I had a small reward for the effort including a single Kingfisher and a Bullfinch perched in a hedge nearby.  From Springwell, I walked back past the lakes in the direction of Stockers Farm, where I connected with the white morph adult Greater Snow Goose, most likely an escape.  However it was a full plumaged bird and behaved much like a wild one too so was still worth some appreciation.

 presumed escape Greater Snow Goose, Stocker's Farm, still a very nice bird worth some appreciation

By the time I got back to Stocker's Lake, the rain started to get much worse so I simply sat in the hides with a few of the local birders chatted for a while and watched the feeders.  It was nice to have another dude moment before 2013 watching the Blue Tits, Great Tits and Nuthatches visiting the newly laid out suet and fat balls.  5+ Fieldfare showing well in the neighbouring hedges were also my first for the winter in Herts.  Whilst wandering down the path I noticed what looked like a dead leaf skidding along the path and it took me a few seconds to realise it was in fact something entirely different but by the time it dived into the dense vegetation all I noticed was that it was either a Stoat or Weasel.  With such a brief view the ID features didn't come to mid quick enough and by the time I took a look at the tail it had already dived out of sight.  With no sign of the rain subsiding, I decided to keep on going, did a second circuit of Stocker's Lake and finally at the end of it, found the drake SMEW at the north east corner of the lake.  Despite showing distantly and the rain really pelting down now, I was pleased to have eventually get my target bird for the day.

drake Smew to end the day

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Good Ol' Wilstone (27th December)

Very glad to eventually set foot back on Wilstone Reservoir, my old stomping ground.  Despite weather forcasts of heavy rain all day, it turned out comparatively well the majority of the day remaining dry, made all the better with the occasional good bird.  I arrived at Wilstone at around 8:30am and began walking along the NE bank, checking every foot of the way to make sure I didn't miss the Water Pipit, my first target bird of the day.  I got to the northern corner and was a little disappointed not to have come across it, so I started heading towards the hide.  As I neared the western corner I picked up on a calling pipit that flew in from the western corner and landed where I had just come from.  I returned along the extremely muddy path but it was worth the effort as I soon connected with the WATER PIPIT that I was so hoping to see.

 Water Pipit at Wilstone in the northern corner

Next, off to the hide, where I met Francis Buckle with whom I scanned the numerous ducks, including Pochard, Shoveler, Wigeon, Teal and Tufted Duck numbering into the hundreds.  6 Snipe were also in the cut-out reeds whilst the surrounding fields and hedgerows held a single Bullfinch, and a Long-tailed Tit flock.  Walking back towards the jetty we took a final look at the rather showy Water Pipit before deciding to head over to College Lake.  I made a slight detour past Startop's End Reservoir in hope of relocating the Smew but with no success.  Unfortunately, Collage Lake was closed until the 1st January so I spent the remainder of the day chatting to Steve Rodwell whilst doing a second round of the res's.  Steve kindly pointed out the redhead SMEW to me on Tringford Reservoir before I made a second visit to Startops's.

 redhead Smew at Tringford

one of the two partially leucistic Coot

Not much to add to what I had previously seen but a male Sparrowhawk had a near miss with my tripod as it bolted past as I walked down the steps.  Also of note at Startop's was a Grey Wagtail, and two partially leucistic Coot before I rejoined Steve at Wilstone for the gull roost.  Another short chit chat with Roy Hargreaves at Wilstone before I finally got knuckled down with the gulls which numbered c.2,200 birds.  about 99% were Black-headed Gulls with the remainder only constituting Common Gulls, unfortunately still no Med Gull although this did not come as much of a surprise as none have been seen at the res's since August!  3 Goldeneye (including 1 drake) and a flyover flock of 28+ Golden Plover rounded the day of nicely before heading back home.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Back to the Kings Langley Local Patch (23rd December)

Had a long walk around my old stomping grounds of Kings Langley, down Barnes Lane and through Scatterdells Wood in hope of Little Owl on the usual perch near Barnes Lane and Yellowhammer, both of which I have not seen in Cornwall since moving down there in September.  Also typical of the patch, I failed on both, well nearly.  Not much down Barnes Lane at all to be honest but it was nice to see the Black-headed Gulls back on the KL State School playing fields along with a scattering of Common Gulls.  I'm still very hopefull that it will eventually turn up a Med Gull despite Herring Gull being the best I have ever recorded here before.  A Buzzard was also amongst them but still no sign of any Yellowhammers.  Recently, I've been seeing less and less of the Little Owl on the perch down Barnes Lane so I was a little worried to find the area deserted, perhaps a sign of the national decline in this species that I have probably underestimated until now.  Next, I had a wander around Scatterdells Wood, visited the usual Marsh Tit spot but that too was deserted.  However, I did hear and later see a Marsh Tit on the south side of the wood, a place I haven't recorded them in before so that was a bonus and I finally heard my first Yellowhammer of the day on my walk back along Chipperfield Road.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

A Great Big Welcome Home (21st December)

Since there wasn't a lot around in the home county at the time, my brother and I decided to go and look for the Great White Egret just over the border into Bucks.  It took a five mile bike ride but we soon arrived and it only took my brother a few minutes to locate the GREAT WHITE EGRET on the River Chess.  From the bend in the road we had rather poor views of the bird but we decided to relocate ourselves to the footpath to the north of the river where we obtained much better views, thanks in part to someone walking along the bank of the river and flushing the bird upstream.  It came some distance upstream towards the bridge but not close enough for the amazing photos that my brother hoped to get.  None the less we still had good views as it hunted in the shallows.

 Great White Egret on the smaller stream near Mill Farm

Thanks to some good views, you can really appreciate the size difference

 Water Rail

Later seen in the dry meadows gliding low over the weeds like a giant Barn Owl

We decided to wander down stream towards the cress beds where I found 9 Siskin feeding in the alders and a Water Rail on the river bank.  I was really hoping for a Water Pipit at the cress beds but I had partial compensation in my disappointment by catching a brief glimpse of a Green Sandpiper which flew from the beds downstream, landing just out of sight unfortunately.  From here, we headed back bumped into Lee, had a brief chat and were on our way back again.  It would have been nice to see the egret cross the border into Herts, only about 200 meters downstream but that will have to be a task for another day.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

BUFF BIRTHDAY!!! (19th December)

I couldn't have asked for more on my birthday, I just arrived back from Cornwall in the early hours of the morning but set my alarm again for 8am.  A quick spin around the common with my dog (something I was also looking forward to for some time) and I was soon given a lift by my mum to west London.  From the motorway, I saw 2 Red Kites a species I haven't seen in a long time.  We pulled up into Queen Mother Reservoir at around 10:45am and were greeted by Michael McKee at the gate, payed our entrance permits and were soon heading down to the south east corner of the reservoir where a group of twitchers had already assembled.  As expected, on arrival we were treated to the absolute stunning performance of an AMERICAN BUFF-BELLIED PIPIT literally strutting along the reservoir bank barely a meter from where we were stood!  We situated ourselves a few meters infront of the pipit, watched it make an extremely close pass before repeating the process over and over again   Bins were barely needed, let alone a scope, instead I watched it for much of the time without optics and took some rather terrible shots of it with my compact digital camera.  Getting a digi-scope shot proved rather difficult as it was continuously in the mood for foraging, stopping only briefly for a fraction of a second at a time to collect insects from the concrete bank of the reservoir.  It made one unexpected flight a little out into the reservoir before heading back to the bank were it continued to show brilliantly.

 Queen Mother Reservoir

 American Buff-bellied Pipit!!!  Best birthday present ever!

a rather poor quality video as it wondered past at our feet!

 Other than the pipit, a Great Northern Diver was also on the southern end of the reservoir whilst Pete (another local birder I had met before at Staines) and I wondered back up to the northern end and had brilliant views of the female LONG-TAILED DUCK, which made three very close flypasts an extra bonus for the already brilliant day!

female Long-tailed Duck

Many many thanks to the dedication of the Berkshire Bird Club volunteers who put tremendous effort into maintaining the site open for access, it was a real birthday treat!

Leave Cornwall on a big high! (18th December)

My last day in Cornwall and it certainly ended on a big high! Stuart Croft kindly invited me on his regular monitoring rounds in search of Cirl Buntings and we were rewarded generously. Even the ferry crossing over onto the Roseland, was eventful with no fewer than 4 Great Northern Divers in the Carrick Roads.

I arrived at St Mawes at around 9ish and we were soon on our way scanning the fields and hedgerows in search of our target bird. We visited five sites in total, four of which had large feeding station providing millet seed for the birds, as well as a single Brown Rat which we also encountered. Our first site (without a feeding station) proved to be very quiet and there were no signs of Cirl Buntings, only a few Song Thrushes and Meadow Pipits. On our second site, Stuart soon pinpointed a singing male, just out of sight unfortunately, but soon after located my first female CIRL BUNTING flitting amongst some bracken at the edge of a dense hedge! Not long after we counted a total of at least 3 Cirl Buntings, including 2 males one of which was even in the mood for singing! On to the third site and we were rewarded with further views of another 4 Cirl Buntings (3 males, 1 female) feeding at very close quarters and along with a few, Bullfinches, Dunnocks and Robins, two of which broke out into a full scale fight. We enjoyed their company for some time before moving on to our penultimate site, were we connected with a further 2 Cirls, (1 male and 1 female) followed by a brief visit to the final site to find yet another 2 Cirl Buntings, again a male and female. In total that makes 11 CIRL BUNTINGS, impressive!

 St Mawes crossing from Falmouth

my first ever female Cirl Bunting!

 one of the stunning males

 taking a break from singing

 feeding very close to where we were stood at one of the feeding stations 

To end the day with a bit of variety, we bypassed one of the many creeks before moving on to Portscatho. Here, we counted a total of at least 8 Mediterranean Gulls, 6 Red-breasted Merganser, including two courting males and a small selection of waders such as Curlew, Redshank, Greenshank, and a Little Egret.

It had only just gone midday and the majority of the trip was already complete but not without a brief stop at Portscatho to pay our respects to the female LONG-TAILED DUCK which was easily picked up before even stepping out of the car! Equally exiting were 3-4 SLAVONIAN GREBES also in the immediate area, diving regularly but still within good range for us to appreciate their smart winter plumage. Also in the bay were c.18 Common Scoter, 1 Guillemot, 1 Great Northern Diver and several more Mediterranean Gulls.

 Slavonian Grebe, perhaps not the best pic I could have got but rather showy non the less

female Long-tailed Duck

With an excellent mornings birding behind us, I headed back over with the ferry to Falmouth. One last Great Northern Diver, and it was time to pack my bags in preparation for my journey back to Herts. Till next year Cornwall, thanks for all the great birds so far.

Many many thanks Stuart Croft for allowing me to join you on your monitoring trip, it was a very enjoyable days birding and I look very much forward to seeing the future success of the Cirl Bunting project I wish you all the best with it!

Monday, 17 December 2012

Last day on the Cornish Local Patch (17th December)

The penultimate day before I leave for back home in Herts.  Instead of retrying for the Lesser Scaup I decided to focus my efforts on the local patch.  However, a little exhausted to say the least I rolled out of bed to set myself the challenge of gulling.  This didn't come to much as the gulls sat on Falmouth docks weren't too challenging at all to be honest, only a few adult Herring Gulls and a few Great Black-backed Gulls, nothing else unfortunately, not even some interesting age groups.  A brief sea-watch from Pendennis Point to follow which produced a distant flypast diver species, most probably a Graet Northern.  4 auks also flew past, equally distant and unIDable but a single Guillemot sat on the water at Swanpool was thankfully close enough for safe ID.  A female Black Redstart on Castle Beach was nice to see, as well as being rather confiding whilst wader highlights included 2 Purple Sandpipers at the point and 2 Whimbrel.  Next, I bumped into Greg Wills, looking for the Black-throated Diver and Red-necked Grebe which he had found not to long ago.  A halfhearted search for both of them and we had to draw a blank but Swanpool Beach was a little more interesting.  It was already getting rather late and I only had about half an hour before the sun would have disappeared behind the cliff.  I had just reached the beach when a 3 Chiffchaffs took my attention on the west side of the beach as they clambered through the ivy on the cliff face and the seaweed.  One in particular took my attention.  The first unusual feature I noticed on it were its orange tarsus?!  Having captured my interest, I soon noticed the comparatively large size of its supercilium, extending above the eye which was much more obvious than the two attending nominate race Chiffchaffs.  Some photos below show the bird feeding from very close range amongst the seaweed and nearby ivy covered cliff face.  It performed very well and was rather tame until dog walkers started using the few meters between me and the bird as a walkway and it suddenly became more skulking and eventually disappeared all together.  Apologies for some of the very poor quality photographs, since the bird was feeding at such a close range and was continuously active, I was struggling to say the least to get it in the frame (I was digi-scoping), let alone a sharp photograph.  I'm still convinced it's a Chiffchaff but these two worrying features put me off, any help IDing much appreciated.

 showing the comparatively wide supercilium

despite being very blurry the all important leg colour is still visible.  Admittedly, the tarsus colour is not as obvious as the feet thanks to the blurred photograph but they were obviously pale (like the feet) as I observed it.

 even more blurry but the leg colour is still equally worrying, the orange smudge below its belly represents its foot.

 here, the supercilium looks comparatively small but still extends over the top of the eye

Lesser Dip (16th December)

I decided to make up for not being able to twitch the Lesser Scaup the previous day so I took the train up north to what I expected to be a guaranteed tick.  I arrived at a rather desolate lake with only a few Tufted Ducks sat on the water at the far northern end but nothing else of note was immediately obvious.  Seeing someone on the northern bank watching what still looked like Tufties, I decided to head over to check if he was infact on the bird.  From the northern bank, I soon releasing a Great Northern Diver break the surface of the water, it was a real show off, approaching the bank very closely and giving the best views yet that I have had of this species.  2 Fieldfare in the nearby fields were also rather embarrassingly my first for the winter and a female Goldeneye was also kindly pointed out to me but rather frustratingly there was no sign of the Lesser Scaup!  Given that it had remained for several days, if not weeks and was seen only that morning, I was rather surprised that it had so far not been refound.  Infact, I began speculating whether the disturbance caused by the sailing and water skiing may have spooked the bird to fly of to one of the nearby reservoirs but it was already too late to take the bike there and check them, as darkness and rain were both already falling fast.  A female RING-NECKED DUCK was partial compensation as was the very atmospheric surrounding and isolation of the place made even more special by the sight of 200+ Golden Plover circling endlessly over the lake refusing to land.  Rather disappointed to say the least I headed back only to be greeted with  the news at 11pm that night of the Lesser Scaup having been relocated to Dozmary Pool.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Lesser twitch (15th December)

I had big plans for the day and they all worked out fine until about half way through.  I began at Truro station (which required an early morning bike ride to reach from campus).  Next, I continued north east up into Devon by train.  Another short bike ride between St Budeaux and Ernesettle Creek.  I arrived to coincide with the highest tide possible, not quite my intention so I was planning on returning a little later in the day.  A few calling Redshank down river raised my hopes and as they flew in, I suddenly noticed one do a small flourish as it landed on a small island of aquatic vegetation just about protruding above the water level.  I scoped the bird and the features so far looked good for my target bird, only it's legs refused to show.  I waited a while until it suddenly decided to fly and the remaining features soon became apparent,  it was my first LESSER YELLOWLEGS!  Since it was still just about getting light, the digi-scope shots don't reveal many of the features so I've attached a few rough sketches taken in the field whilst watching the bird.  As the tide receded  the Yellowlegs flew to the opposite side of the creek before moving behind some of the overgrown bank out of view, which is where I left it before heading off for my second target bird of the day.

 Lesser Yellowlegs, another admittedly terrible pics but the bird none the less!

 Ernesettle Creek

 some sketches of the Lesser Yellowlegs, taken in the field hence the wobbly hand writing

Other birds of note in the area included 2 Bullfinches, 1 Curlew, 1 Snipe and a Kingfisher.

Portworthy Dam was my next stop and required an eight mile bike ride to reach, a rather mountainous trip through some very scenic woodland at parts.  Most notably Cann Wood, which almost had a feel about it like that of the New Forest with its wide open expanses of ground and scattered pine trees.

Cann Wood

At least 6 Raven were circling overhead and as I passed a clump of pine trees the distinctive calls of Crossbills came from overhead, although I never saw any.  A Marsh Tit was also calling in the wood and at the dam itself, 1 Siskin was also heard.  My search for the reported Green-winged Teal that had been present a few days earlier was nowhere to be seen, despite repeatedly scanning through the Teal flocks numbering up to c.20 birds.  Numerous Herring Gulls, a few Common Gulls and a Great Black-backed Gull were roosting on the water and a Peregrine made a noisy entrance but otherwise nothing.

Flourishes of rain followed and I still had plans to twitch the Lesser Scaup at Siblyback Lake but long delays at the station meant it wasn't worth the effort in the end as it would have been simply too dark.

Staying Local (14th December)

Not much time on my hands as there was a lecture mid-morning and I had to be back on campus by four so only had a brief wander around College Reservoir.  All the same, it still produced some ok birds, although it was an almost exact reflection on the turnout of the past week.  A Bittern was perched on some sallows on the west bank near the bench and the Black-necked Grebe popped up out of the water nearby.

 Bittern on the west bank

unusual Teal-like bird associated with Teal (right), note abnormally large bill and proportionately small head size (furthest bird to the left, facing right)

I had a reasonable look for the American/Eurasian Wigeon hybrid but without success.  Some gunshots from the southern end of the reservoir soon put all the Teal and Wigeon up into flight before they began circling around and eventually landing.  Interestingly, all the diving ducks felt safer on the water, including 4 Goldeneye, the Tufted Ducks, Pochard and Little Grebes.  4 Snipe also flew past down towards the marshy section of the reservoir and the neighbouring wood held 1 Chiffchaff.  Whilst unlocking my bike to head back, I am 95% sure I heard a Firecrest calling in the holly trees but unfortunately didn't have enough time to check it out.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

***PACIFIC*** (13th December)

Thought I'd treat myself to a good bird after finishing the statistics project so I was all set and ready for finally heading of come Wednesday evening.  However, the dreaded news of -ve Pacific Diver was enough to almost make me start to cry (slight over exaggeration).  Anyway, I decided to try my luck and a little bit downcast on yesterdays news, I found myself wandering up and down Marazion Beach at about 8am on Thursday morning.  A lot of gulls about and I attempted a half-hearted search for yesterdays Iceland but to no avail.  I moved on a bit up the beach in the direction of Penzance, where the number of divers gradually increased.  At least 4 Great Northern Divers were hunting relatively close inshore, just beyond the surf but I soon picked out 5 BLACK-THROATED DIVERS just beyond the breaking waves, surprisingly close to the beach.  I checked them thoroughly  given this was my biggest chance to locate the Pacific but they were repeatedly diving and were gradually drifting out to sea so I couldn't get a positive ID on any potential Pacific.

Black-throated Divers

In the meantime, the beach was heaving with life, dozens of Sanderling were sprinting along the shoreline with equally large numbers of Dunlin a little higher up the beach.  Turnstone were also present in good numbers as were several Common Gulls (my first in Cornwall), a raft of a few dozen Common Scoter offshore along with a nice drake Eider.  A few Knot were a nice surprise and 2 Black Redstarts accompanied me on my so far unproductive sea watch.


This is when the social aspect of birding finally kicked in.  I was wandering back to the car park were I met another birder in hope of locating the Pacific  he kindly put me onto one of the Little Gulls he'd just relocated before a phone call came through from a birder up at the opposite end of the beach near the railway bridge, he'd relocated the Pacific (the first kindness for the day for passing on the news)!   No time for further chat, I ran the length back towards the bridge were the birder kindly put me onto a very distant diver, apparently the Pacific (the second kindness for the day).   He was sure of it but unfortunately it was a little too distant for my licking to be able to tick it.  Once again, a little downcast I wandered back towards the car park.  This time I bumped into another birder and together we gave it our best efforts to finally nail the bird.  We headed for the closest shelter out of the wind by an old shack, set up our scopes and began scanning.  It only took a few minutes before Andy got onto the bird, and he too kindly gave me plenty of opportunity to take a look through it (the third kindness for the day) and together we finally confirmed the key features that finally got us our first ever PACIFIC DIVER!!!  We had prolonged views as it rested on the water, behaving very well without taking a single dive.  Between the swells we were able to confirm the lack of an anterior flank patch, comparatively small bill, very dark brown back, as opposed to black and slightly smudged boundary to the pale ear coverts and dark nape (unlike the clear defined boundary of Black-throated).  After having rested for some time it gradually became more buoyant and rose a little higher out of the water exposing the faint beginnings of a pale for-flank, apparently another feature that becomes evident as the bird rises higher above the water level.

 since I forgot to take a photo, here's a drawing to make up for it, all labeled the features were observable in the field, none have been added from ID books.  Drawn up with the use of notes taken in the field whilst watching the diver.

Content with our ID we watched it from a relatively close range for at least 20 minutes before finally deciding to head back to the car park.  At the Redruth River mouth, it only took a minute to pick out the ICELAND GULL before finally calling it a day and taking the bus back to campus.

Iceland Gull

What a day!  Many thanks Andy for helping jointly getting a positive ID on the Pacific.  Unfortunately, in the excitement of getting the bird I forgot to take any digi-scope shots, all the same still a great bird!  I'll do my best in future not to forget.

 St Michael's Mount

looking NW over the bay towards the diver

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Bittern still at College (6th December)

A very brief trip down to College with some friends to stake out the Bitterns and do some photography.  I ended up only birding and left the photography to the others.  We eventually bumped into the Bittern on the west side but we approached it unaware and only saw it in flight as we had accidentally flushed it near the path on the west side of the reservoir.  I managed to refind it briefly, after scrambling through the undergrowth and muddy edge to the reservoir but it only popped its head out before disappearing again.  There were plenty of Snipe about too and at least 1 female Goldeneye.  I think I found the American/Eurasian Wigeon hybrid but it was too distant for a certain ID as I connected with it from the north bank, right at the opposite end of the reservoir as to where it was hanging around with the rest of the Wigeon. Still a reasonable amount of activity and would still highly recommend local birding at the moment around the Falmouth area, it's really hotting up! Well done to all those local birders who have got out there in the past couple of days and found some of the good birds I've been twitching, much appreciated!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Death by Dusky (5th December)

Its been nearly 2 weeks since the Dusky was first seen in Swanvale and only a handful of selected birders have been lucky enough to see it, not including myself obviously!  I spent the day wandering around staring at a bunch of sallows from dawn till dusk hoping to see the little brown job but had to call it a day after another gutting dip.  Anyway, on the brighter side there were a few highlights including several Firecrest working their way through the low canopy, anywhere between 2-4 individuals, a Water Rail running around in the mud and a Robin feeding out of my hand!

Robin on the hand, always nice to be a dude once in a while


and again.......

and even again......... It was literally never full

I was also pleased to eventually set eyes on the Siberian tristis Chiffchaff that also been seen on and off in the past week.  Probably one of the best highlights of the day, however, were 3 WAXWING which I picked out flying overhead in a westerly direction whilst at Swanvale with Dan.  As a break from staring blankly at the trees, Dan and I moved on around Swanpool to the beach.  Not much of note to be honest except 1 Guillemot off Castle Beach, 2 Stonechats, a Black Redstart and a Song Thrush nearly colliding with a hotel window.

Black Redstart and Stonechat at Castle Beach

The day ended as it started with another long stake out for the Dusky.  A few extra eyes on the scene but still none of us could get any positive ID on any of the potential birds.

Finally, I heard a female Tawny Owl calling on campus on my ride back.

Also woke up a few days back to the call of a flyover Curlew whilst on campus.

PS. Sorry about the multiple videos!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

College gets better! (4th December)

As a treat for handing in two major essays today, I went down to College Reservoir in search of the recently arrived Bittern.  From the north end of the causeway, I picked out 5 female Goldeneye but nothing else unfortunately.  It definitely improved when I got round to the western side of the res. where I soon picked out not one but 2 BITTERNS (a very welcome Cornish tick).

 a little on the blustery side, otherwise it was very nice and sunny

 Bittern, distant but showing

 Bittern A chasing Bittern B

 Snipe, doing there best to hide

Both showing well in the open on the trampled down reeds at the southern end of the reservoir and stalking one another in a rather aggressive way!  Later I caught up with the win. Black-necked Grebe which popped up from a dive very close infront of me.  Definitely a treat to see one so well after such a long time, think the last one I saw was back in Herts last winter!

 win. plumaged Black-necked Grebe

Anyway, other species of note included 3 Snipe resting in the aquatic vegetation on the west side of the reservoir, a flock of 100+ Starling in the fields over the back (on the east side of the res.) a Raven cronking somewhere in the background and a few stunning male Bullfinches.  Not a bad turn out for a 2 hour stint around the local patch!

do you know who this might belong to? I'm hoping otter.  It was about a meter from the edge of the reservoir