Saturday, 12 April 2014

More White Wags (10-11th April)

10th April

I decided to revisit the manure field again and was delighted to find not one but 2 White Wagtails feeding in the same area, along with the lingering male Wheatear.  A showy Skylark was an added bonus as was a Red Kite showing very well as it searched for worms in the newly ploughed field.


2 Swallows were also hawking around the barns and I saw my first Comma and blue sp. (probably a Holly Blue) of the year!

This Large Bee-fly was also new to me.

Large Bee-fly

11th April

I decided on an early start and although I find getting up just as difficult as everyone else I still managed to make it out around first light to the sound of the dawn chorus.  The Cetti's Warbler was once again singing from the canal-side and was a lot more active in the early morning bursting into song a lot more frequently (even flying across the path and landing on one of the branches above my head).  I made my way back up to Middle Farm again where I joined Sh4rpy and Brendan watching not one, not two but 3 White Wagtails!  Added species of note included 5 Swallows, the remaining male Wheatear and a Willow Warbler by the A41 bridge.

Bricket Wood (9th April)

The intention was to try and track down some of the local goodies the Woodland has to offer but unfortunately I failed miserably (note to self, an earlier start is essential!).

I ended up wandering around the perimeter of the wood and making my way across the fields towards the Ver-Colne Valley.  Here, the habitat is far better than I could have wished for as the open mixed farmland and flooded fields have created a temporary habitat for a couple wetland species including a flyover Snipe and drake Mandarin.  Reed Bunting and Lapwing were also present and further on was by first Herts singing Willow Warbler of the year followed by my first 2 Swallows of the year!  I also saw my first 2 Orange-tips of the year, located 3 Wheatear in the nearby horse paddocks and the woodland and farmland was filled with the site of Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshells and Peacocks.

Just as I was planning on heading back I received a text from Ephraim with news of 2 Wheatear on patch!  I had no choice but to head straight for the manure field by Middle Farm where I managed to catch up with the remaining male Wheatear but not the earlier short staying female.  I was fortunate enough to find a patch first in the form of a stunning male White Wagtail also using the fields to its advantage and making the most of the early evenings emergence of flies!  A brilliant patch reward which keeps reassuring me that decent migrants can be found in any habitat however dull they may seem on first glance.

White Wagtail

White Wagtail

late afternoon sun over the manure fields at Middle Farm

Friday, 11 April 2014

KL patching again (6-8th April)

6th April

After dipping the long-staying Baikal by less than a day I decided to remedy the situation by getting back out on patch.  Scatterdells was my chosen location and it was admittedly rather slow going but 2 Marsh Tits did perk up my spirits as did the ever present Red Kites, Buzzards and Sparrowhawk.  I also found signs of probable breeding Stock Doves.

7th April

Walk behind the RSSSKL with Ephraim and Theo produceed 1 Lapwing, a couple of Skylarks and the highlight a single 2CY male Wheatear (a scarce but increasingly noted patch migrant).

8th April

Out again with my brother, this time we struck patch gold.  To be precise 42 Golden Plover!!!  A patch tick and better still they were in their breeding plumage finery.  We watched them for a couple minutes as they headed in the general direction of Chipperfield before they started moving purposefully away from us and out of sight over the horizon, absolutely thrilling for the both of us!

1 Lapwing was the only other species of note on the farmland before we headed down to the canal and KL Fisheries.  Once again the Cetti's Warbler showed itself (albeit briefly) and despite getting a couple half decent views I only managed to get a dirty smudge with my digital compact camera which is supposed to represent the bird.

Cetti's Warbler (the dark smudge in the centre)

A pair of Great Crested Grebes have also set themselves up on the small island on Gaywood Fishery with a second pair (and a third lingering bird) on KLF.  We also saw our first Green-veined Whites of the year (including a mating pair!) along with a single Small White and a flypast Kingfisher and Sparrowhawk.

mating Green-veined Whites

Mega Dip (5th April)

After sticking around for about three weeks I managed to secure a lift kindly offered by Dominic Pia (A Staines Res patcher).  We set off relatively early and arrived after first light to the noise of Cetti's Warblers, singing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs, we'd arrived at Fen Drayton Lakes for the Baikal Teal!

We made our way over to Moore Lake where we expected it to be lingering as usual but it was a little concerning when, on arrival, there was reportedly no sign.  We didn't worry too much but as the day wore on and there was still no sign our concern did start to increase and by early afternoon we had no choice but to leave and dip.  Despite spending the several hours wandering around the sight getting really exhausted all I could find was a drake Scaup...

Once back home again, I collapsed on the sofa, woke a couple hours later only to find out it had been refound a couple miles up the road!  That was painful.

Recent Herts Patching (2nd-4th April)

2nd April

I've been trying to get into the habit of using Birdtrack a little more, particularly with the breeding season now upon us, it's very important to enter all possible, probable and confirmed breeding statuses of anything you encounter.  I find noting singing birds is the easiest way to assert a possible breeding code so I'm glad to report that singing Grey Wagtail, Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs, Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Robin, Great Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Skylark and Wren are all already on the patch possible breeding list for the year.  Long-tailed Tits were observed carrying nesting material (probable breeding) and the Cetti's Warbler was once again singing heartily every 10 mins or so from the canal side which was also visited by a Kingfisher.  Also along the canal was a Red-eared Terrapin sunning itself on a log and I came across this Ruby Tiger caterpillar sunning itself by Nash Mills.

Red-eared Terrapin

Ruby Tiger

Raptors included 4+ Red Kites, 3+ Buzzards, a Kestrel and 1 Sparrowhawk whilst butterflies included Small Tortoiseshells, Peacocks.

3rd April

Much the same as the past two days with the singing Yellowhammer on the farmland behind the RSSKL, Red Kites and the highest count yet of local Meadow Pipits numbering at 47+ birds!  Stock Doves were also much in evidence as were the odd Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock.

4th April

Fields behind the RSSKL had 3 Yellowhammers singing, 4 Red Kites, 2 Buzzards, 1 Sparrowhawk, 3 Lapwing, 62+ Stock Doves and a Muntjac.


I was also rather upset to see a fox-trap in the back garden of the house at Middle Farm (unfortunately trapping seems to be a legal practice but I'll keep an eye on it to make sure it isn't misused).

baited Fox trap at Middle Farm :(

It was encouraging though to see at least one surviving Little Owl still remaining on patch as I've been failing to locate more and more as I fear they are dying out in the area.

Back to Herts (1st April)

After a rather long and stressful term I was glad, to say the least, to have the opportunity to get back home and rest a little.  Patching the KL farmland however wasn't going to take a back seat so I was soon out again for a usual round of the arable and pastoral fields.  2 Lapwing were chasing each other over the fields (a good sign they may try and breed here) and there were large numbers of Small Tortoiseshells on the wing (including two feeding on a dead Fox Wayside Farm).  Plenty of Buzzzards and the odd Red Kite were also flying overhead with accompanying Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs singing from the hedgerows, particularly along the canal where I was headed next.  A couple of Peacocks were also on the wing along with a white sp. (probably a Small White).  Whilst checking the local fishing lakes I came across a nesting pair of Mute Swans (one bearing an orange band no. 4BDR).  No doubt the highlight of the day came when I heard an instantly recognisable explosion of song from the side of the canal, a CETTI'S WARBLER (a patch first!!).  It required a lot of patience but after an entire hours wait I finally connected with it as it came out on an open perch for a couple seconds.

the Cetti's Warbler spot

By now, it was early afternoon and as it was only singing once every 10-15 mins I decided to move on, content with the views I'd just had.  My first Brimstone of the year also put a smile on my face.

Lizard WeBS count (30th March)

Back for another regular monthly round trip through Lizard for the WeBS (Wetland Bird Survey) with Dan, covering Loe Pool, Helston Boating Lake and sewage works, Hayle Kimbro, Croft Pascoe and a seawatch from Lizard Point.

The seawatch had priority but we still had a brief stop at Hayle Kimbro as it was en route.  March tends to be the hardest month for producing something so it wasn't a surprise that the highlights were a Reed Bunting and 4 Mallard.  Next up, a walk along the SW cliff to the point for the seawatch where we manged 1 Red-throated Diver flying east, 2 Common Scoter and I was rather pleased to pick out my first 4 Manx Shearwaters for the year!  I joined the seawatch a little later as I was in fact checking out the small valley west of the point.  A bit of pishing produced a single Chiffchaff but it was noticeably different in plumage, particularly its colouration.  Siberian came directly to mind and the grey nape, head and very pale underside all seemed to add up.  All the odds stacked up in favour of tristis up until the point at which it called... Suddenly, it was too much like collybita again as the tone of voice was too load and Chaffinch-like, not the quiet and timid Bullfinch-like note that should be expected of tristis.  We also saw our first 2 Choughs of the year and bumped into a couple regulars also seawatching from the point who pointed out a second Red-throated Diver sat on the sea.

A quick pass by Croft Pascoe produced another calling Reed Bunting but little else before we finally headed for Loe Pool.  Accepting defeat by this time, we didn't expect much else so in the end we slumped ourselves on the bench and enjoyed our first Willow Warblers of the year, soaking up their beautiful song and watching them flit around the willows (a total of at least four birds were singing in the area).  Loe Bar had very little at all as we only found 1 dead Guillemot, a dead auk sp. and rotting Shag corpse on the side of the pool.

Moving on to Helston Boating Lake, I spent the couple precious minutes we had here photographing the long-staying Whooper Swan before having a brief check of the sewage works and traveling on to the next and final site, College and Argal Res's.

Whooper Swan

Not much at either site but 2 Willow Warblers were singing and there were 2 Goldeneye on College Res with unusually high numbers of Great Crested Grebes (a total of 16) split between both res's.

Thanks goes once again to Dan for all the driving, cheers!

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Icing on the Cake! (28th March)

Everything was still very hectic in the last week of term, even the weekend was progressing into all-nighters with only the odd chance for a quick sleep before continuing with work/birding/travel and cleaning.  None the less, I did use up most of Friday with a walk down to Swanpool followed by a seawatch from Pennance Point.  Swanpool produced this rather unusual gull.  I can't put my finger on it but I was given some helpful ideas on BF and on the gull research forum.  However, they seem equally confused and uncertain about the ID so any further opinions would be very welcome.  The best bet yet is an unusually thin-billed Great Black-backed.

Great Black-backed Gull?

Offshore, the water was a lot rougher than usual so picking out the regular grebes was going to be a bit more tricky.  However, given the fact I'd been seeing the same individuals for a good couple of months now I didn't see it as a priority so instead headed further in the direction of the point with the aim of getting my first shear or Common Tern for the year.  In reality, the seawatch was a little less eventful and I had to be content with distant views of Sandwich Tern and a mixed passage of gulls.  After an hour or so of looking solidly through the eyepiece of my scope I decided to rest my eyes shortly, looked up and WOW!!!  In that split second a juv ICELAND GULL flew right past my face!!!  A mega patch bird and something I've been looking forward too nailing for a long time following the string of patch Glaucs.  I watched it as it glided into the bay, head for Swanpool and eventually came to land on the lagoon.  No sooner had it done so I legged it as fast as possible back to the pool but it was already in flight again by the time I reached the Hooked Cafe.  Thankfully, it lingered a little longer offshore, working up and down Falmouth Bay moving as far as Castle Beach before making a close pass again by the cafe.  Thankfully Dan manged to get down just in time to see it but JSL was a little too late.

juv Iceland Gull

I tried hard to relocate it but it seemed the bird had moved on.  As a final resort, I headed for the docks to see if it had roosted there, on the way connecting with the usual Slavonian Grebe and my first Wheatear of the year!  When I finally arrived at the docks, it was clear the swell out to sea was putting the gulls off from roosting offshore which gave me a good opportunity for an unsuccessful check of them before darkness and rain started falling fast.


Falmouth Docks