Tuesday, 8 December 2015

North Ron (30th August-19th November)

Here's an attempt at rounding up three months worth of sightings into one blog post from the latter part of my volunteer experience on North Ron.

Twingness sunset

The 30th August heralded an impressive passage of over 395+ Swifts (the highest day record for the island!)

A second batch of Barred Warblers arrived in early September and a seawatch on 1st produced a pod of 4 Risso's Dolphins and a trickle of Sooty Shearwwaters.  Another highlight materialised at a rather unexpected time.  I was in the bar lounge at the time serving a guest when I noticed a warbler working it's way along the fence from the window.  As most of the Willow Warblers had moved on by now I thought it would be worth scrutinising this one a little more closely.  As the bird flitted closer I could just about make out the faint wing bar, it was a GREENISH WARBLER!  In a mad rush I dashed around the obs scooping together whoever I could before frantically trying to relocate the bird once I'd grabbed my bins and camera.  Fortunately it was only a matter of a few minutes before it was relocated in T4 where it was promptly trapped and ringed!

Arctic Terns

Wheatear fledgling


A couple Barred Warblers surfaced around the early part of the month assisted by the NE winds followed by another surge of Wheatear passage and seabirds.  A CITRINE WAGTAIL on the 6th added additional spice to the day along with the remaining Greenish Warbler.  The 7th brought with it a potential Arctic Peregrine which shot past George, Mark and I at Holland (further notes and photos on the NRBO website).  Other notable species for the early part of the month included the lingering Wood Sandpipers, Little Stints, Lesser Whitethroats (including a likely blythi trapped at Holland), Pied Flycatchers, Spotted Flycatchers, a few Rosefinches, Wood Warblers and juv Marsh Harriers touring the island.  A spectacular year for Yellow-browed Warblers was had at NRBO with birds arriving from early/mid-September, soon becoming one of the commonest phyloscs on the island!  A small number of Snow Buntings began to arrive throughout the month leading to an impressive climax as over 700+ in a single day.  The odd Wryneck also cropped up through the month but moved on quickly due to the total absence of suitable food.


Offshore, Red-throated Diver numbers began to build up along with some Great Northern Divers.  Long-tailed Ducks also increased with over 35+ riding the swell with the Eiders and Wigeon.  A couple juv Merlins were nice additions to the daily census as were Whinchats and Siberian Chiffchaff, PintailJack Snipe and good numbers of commoner wildfowl.  Mark produced yet another good find on the 22nd in the form of a BLYTH'S REED WARBLER skulking through the Senness dock field before trapping and ringing it.

The 25th September hosted one of the most awesome experiences I've had, a frantic dash up to Westness with George, Johny and Espen to meet an elated Mark who'd just encountered yesterday's harrier found by the Heatherlea birding group, it was a stunning male NORTHERN HARRIER!!!  A good portion of our time was then spent dashing around the island in land rovers trying to keep up with it.  We were treated to excellent views but best of all was seeing it glide past me at Brides before pursuing a flock of Snow Buntings!  It treated us by remaining on the island and was still present after my departure in late November.  Other highlights included our first Lapland Buntings of the autumn, occasional flyover Tree Pipits and a Richard's Pipit.  Some other entertaining sightings included the annual Pink-footed Goose, Barnacle Goose and Whooper Swan passage, a great spectacle to behold and another treasured experience.  A Buff-breasted Sandpiper and Slavonian Grebe on the 1st October began the month nicely.  Seawatching produced plenty of auks, Sooty Shearwaters, a few Pomarine Skuas, Bonxies, Arctic Skuas and Harbour Porpoises.  October also marked the beginning of the owl passage with NRBOs best year yet for Short-eared Owls with some fields containing a dozen birds!  Long-eared Owls were also encountered on many days with the occasional bird also trapped at Holland or at the obs.  Additional scarcities arriving on the island included a Bluethroat and Little Bunting.  A frustrating census on the 7th yielded 2 Grasshopper Warblers (neither of them were the hoped for rare).  The last two months of my stay involved being swamped with Snipe with up to a hundred being flushed from a single loch or damp field.  Woodcock also built up in number with birds bursting up at my feet from behind dykes or tussock grass inflicting a rather sudden dose of shock and adrenalin.  These arrived alongside a large fall of winter thrushes, Fieldfares and Redwings streaming overhead, flocks of Blackbirds, a few Ring Ouzels and commoner passerine migrants bursting up from under rocks every step of the way, it was incredible!  Northerly winds brought with them a few Glaucous Gulls, an Iceland Gull and a large fall of Goldcrests which smothered the west cliffs and the rest of the dykes along my census route.  Bramblings also arrived in early October along with a Redstart (potentially of the eastern race samamiscus), a few Great Grey Shrikes and a TEMMINCK'S STINT at Trola before relocating to Bewan and Gretchen the following day.

With numbers building steadily and netting at Holland becoming particularly busy we found ourselves processing many Goldcrests and Redwings (including many coburni).  It was in the midst of this that Mark phoned with the discovery of an OLIVE-BACKED PIPIT which was promptly twitched before returning to help the others at nets again.  Yet another great pipit find by Mark the following day.  This time a PECHORA!  I was at the northern end of the island and had just started walking Quoy Banks when the call came through, the bike ride back to Hooking was a mad rush and I got a few smirks from the other volunteers for arriving red in the face and totally sweating but it was worth it!  Only flight views were had to start with but Espen and I persisted and eventually caught up with the bird showing reasonably well on the deck.  A Firecrest the following day was on a par with Pechora for being the 5th island record but wasn't quite as exciting having been spoilt with them as a garden bird in Cornwall.


Purple Sandpipers (including one with a darkish breast)

The 18th yielded something truly special, a HUMPBACK WHALE!  A special encounter shared with many islanders and visitors as we watched it cruise past, arching its back and occasionally raising its fluke out of the water to begin a deeper dive.  Nearing the latter part of the month, seawatching was given another bought of attention.  This rewarded us with yet more Pomarine Skuas, a few late Storm Petrels and our first Little Auks, which began appearing more regularly and in greater number as November loomed up.  As winter slowly dawned upon the island the last of the winter thrushes moved through, leaving the stragglers and less fit individuals behind (including many wounded or tailless birds to make the journey at their own peril).  Amongst the late autumn surprises was a redhead Smew at Bewan, good numbers of Pintail, occasional Goldeneye, daily Hen Harriers and a Stonechat.

Mark, George, Espen and I took two days off for a quick trip to Papa Westray from 29th-30th October and were fortunate enough to successfully twitch the CHESTNUT BUNTING on it's last day!  The following day was spent birding the rest of the island, tallying up a few Woodcocks (including a bird that nearly collided with my face after the others inadvertently flushed it, this triggered off quite a lot of laughter!).  Great Northern Divers were on the move and other birds of note included Red-breasted Mergansers, Black Guillemots, a Siberian Chiffchaff, Hen Harrier, Peregrine and a small flock of Snow Buntings were a few highlights.

Back on North Ron, the educational autumn continued with in the hand views of Yellowhammer, Great Grey Shrike and a great deal more commoner migrants.  My final month on the island was equally exciting as the rest with seawatching producing a few Black-throated Divers and a surprise Velvet Scoter quite a few more Little Auks, Pomarine Skuas and Sooty Shearwaters and I managed to get some experience of a variety of "Blue" Fulmar shades.  I was also very keen to scrutinise the Woodcocks which we trapped with many happy hours spent trawling the obs bookshelves and internet with Mark in our attempts to understand what was going on with the birds we'd been trapping.  Perhaps one of my favourite moments to round off my time on North Ron was the discovery of an Icelandic Snow Bunting on the East Links (followed by a few other individuals later in the month).  Having read the Garner winter challenge series and indulging in some further reading I finally had a chance to put what I'd learnt into practice.  Despite a substantial decrease in their presence from the many hundred that had graced the island earlier in the year I thought my chances had all but vanished.  As a result I spent a good two hours scrutinising the bird, only the presence of some islanders with JCBs collecting gravel from the beach suppressed my anxiety to burst out into a dance out of sheer joy!

Snow Buntings

nivalis Snow Bunting

November also brought a Pale-bellied Brent Goose to the island, Mealy Redpoll, my first Greenfinch of the year, a couple dozen wintering Twite, a distant flock of White-fronted Geese and a drake Green-winged Teal.  And so my time on North Ronaldsay came to a close all that is left is a massive thank you to the staff and volunteers who made my time on the island a massive eduction, enjoyable, fulfilling and a valuable experience.  Thank you Alison Duncan, Kevin Woodbridge, Mark Warren, Fleur Warren, Gavin Woodbridge, Stephen Rutt, George Gay, Pete Butler, Espen Quinto-Ashman, Johny Scragg and everyone else who I met on the island.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

North Ron (23rd July-29th August)

Sigh... yet another long gap between blog posts and it will be particularly hard to catch up on what I've seen in the last month as it has been absolutely hectic birding here on North Ron.  Seawatching attempts yielded 2 Sooty Shearwaters, numerous Storm Petrels and a couple Manx Shearwaters whilst Arctic Terns numbered into their thousands.  Another Leach's Petrel was trapped and ringed on the 27th alongside many more Storm Petrels.  Nearing the end of the month the island began to feel the mid-summer lull in bird activity with only a few Redpoll, Black GuillemotsArctic Skuas and Bonxies to entertain us.  

With the onset of August, activity gradually began to increase again with a few Ruff and Golden Plovers arriving (many still in their stunning summer plumage).  Hundreds of Knot and Sanderling also began moving through the island alongside TurnstoneDunlin, Ringed Plover, Common Sandpiper and a few Green Sandpipers.  I can hardly contain myself with the excitement at the sight of relatively common waders in their summer plumage so watching hundreds of each on a daily basis is an awesome spectacle to behold and appreciate.

A few Spotted Flycatchers featured along the way adding a spur of excitement to some otherwise quiet census routes.  A Spotted Redshank on Gretchen was a good bird for the island followed by a surprisingly early Fieldfare on the 8th August and a Goldcrest on the 13th.  We were all quite fortunate to get a second stab at connecting with a BEE-EATER which Gavin found flying over the obs before heading to Holland House were all the obs team gauged themselves on its lush colours.

An AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER, found by Stephen mid-month kick started our efforts in preparation for our first wave of common migrants which soon followed the fresh easterly wind. The plover remained for several days and I encountered it on a few occasions, at times alerting itself with it's triple pipping call as it flew over with other Golden Plover.  I also finally connected with my first island Short-eared Owl whilst doing the nets at Holland House.

American Golden Plover

One of my personal highlights was chancing upon a MARSH WARBLER on the 15th whilst heading back to the obs one day to start my shift.  By pure chance I happened to see it perched out in the open on the perimeter fence of Beranha before it realised it didn't like the attention so became a lot more skulking.  Thankfully, proper confirmation came when Kevin, Stephen, George, Alex and I returned with a net.  It was trapped surprisingly quickly but despite taking several biometrics for separating Marsh and Reed the Walinder method failed at assigning the bird to either species.  Using the formula A-(BxC)=? where A=bill to skull, B=tarsus width and C=bill width at base of nostril.  We measured 15.5mm, 2.1mm and 3.4mm for each respectively.  This produced a value of 8.36.  According to Svensons, only six out of 959 fell in the range 8.0-8.5 whilst values between 4.5-8.0 would have confirmed A. palustris and a value between 8.5-12.5 would settle the debate on A. scirpaceus.  It seems this bird was a rare example of one that doesn't assign itself using this formula.  However, dividing the bill to skull measurement by the wing length (68mm) produced a result of 4.39 which is well in the range of Marsh (4.16-4.86) and well outside that for Reed (3.67-4.21).  Bios aside, we were all confident in agreeing that the subtleties in upperpart colouration, fairly pale primary tips, yellowish tarsus and bright feet as well as the general jizz suited Marsh over Reed.

The odd Peregrine has also appeared on the island, often flushing entire wader flocks making census a particularly challenging task not to mention the difficulty of sorting out numbers at log in the evening.  A Marsh Harrier also arrived on the island a little later in the month, producing some mayhem around the lochs as it would often flushed many of the increasing number of wildfowl including TealWigeonGadwallTufted DuckShoveler and Mallard.

Our first proper fall of passerine migrants occurred around the 17th onwards and lasted for over a week with Willow Warbler numbers topping triple figures.  Wheatears have also been trickling through as have a couple dozen Pied FlycatchersWhinchat and lesser numbers of Redstart and Wood Warbler.  I've also been fortunate enough to have found a few Icterine WarblersBarred Warblers and Wrynecks as well as getting to see a few of the former two and one of the latter in the hand.  Helping with the ringing also gave me the opportunity to ring an Icterine Warbler and Barred Warbler for myself after having seen so many in the field for the last few days it was a great treat to observe them at such close quarters.  A trapped Whinchat was a bonus bird to see in the hand.  An influx of lepidoptera has also not gone unnoticed with Painted Ladys and Red Admirals featuring heavily on most days alongside some rewarding moth trapping nights.

Mark Warren (the assistant warden) treated us all to another great find, this time a GREENISH WARBLER at Stennabreck on the 19th which took a fair long time to finally track down but after a few hours of our combined efforts the obs team were able to appreciate some good views and get the chance to take some pictures.

The 20th brought with it yet more good migrants but more of the same with the exception of a Wood Sandpiper which flew overhead calling, I saw a further three on the Post Office Flash on later dates.

BOOTED WARBLER, yet another brilliant bird, found by Johny on his first day on the island took several hours of booting around multiple thistle fields before it gave itself up to the last remaining observers.  It proceeded to show fairly well until dusk, gifting us all with a lot of smiles as additional reward for our hard efforts.  That afternoon a very happy small group of the obs team were watching Icterine WarblerBarred Warbler and Booted Warbler in the same field!

Booted Warbler

By late August several Icterine Warblers and the odd Barred Warbler were still about alongside a more recent arrival of Lesser Whitethroats.  A Garganey also appeared again amongst the Teal only to be flushed yet again by the 2 Marsh Harriers now frequenting the island.  A juvenile Red-backed Shrike on the 25th was my first for the autumn.


Icterine Warbler

Yet another flurry of activity occurred on the 29th when none other than Gary Prescott (the biking birder) walked into the obs!  It was great to get the opportunity to catch up with his adventures since I last met him down in Falmouth where I show him the King Eider on patch.  No sooner had he walked in, Mark phoned.  He'd just found another Greenish Warbler!  Five minutes on the bike and we were watching it hopping around on the wires providing us with some point blank views at close range in the open!  What a way to round up the month.  And we still have two more days of August left, anything can happen!

Sunday, 26 July 2015

North Ronaldsay!! (11th-22nd July)

Well...  It's been a long week and a great deal has happened since I left home for my volunteer placement on North Ronaldsay up in Orkney.  The first leg of my journey took place on the 11th July, leaving London by megabus and arriving in the evening at Aberdeen following a long day on the road.  The following day was spent walking through town to the River Don to find the stream on which a Harlequin Duck had set up residence several months ago.  It had long since moved on but a female Goosander with 4 young were nice to see.  Approaching the beach yielded greater rewards with c.6 Bottlenose Dolphins tumbling over one another, 1 Red-throated Diver flew south whilst Eiders, Sandwich Terns, Kittiwakes and Guillemots were all present in high numbers.  I left Aberdeen by boat at 5pm for the crossing to Kirkwall where I was scheduled to overnight before completing the final stretch of my journey the following morning.  40 Goosander at the entrance of Aberdeen harbour, 1 Storm-petrel, Common Terns, dozens of Puffins, 2 Manx Shearwaters, 8 Bonxies, 1 dark Arctic Skua and a couple Guillemot jumplings with their parents were the highlights of the crossing.  A Common Dolphin also surfaced briefly alongside the ferry.

I finally arrived on North Ron on the 13th after a 15 min plane ride to be greeted by a beaming Kevin Woodbridge who kindly drove me down the road with the land rover to the obs.  The last week has been a massive blur of action starting with a dark Arctic Skua shooting past the land rover as we were pulling out of the airport.  Arctic Terns are everywhere and although I am taking part in a daily bird census I wont bore you with the day-to-day detailed counts.  Nevertheless, a few highlights from the week include daily counts of ever present Bonxies in the region of half a dozen along with lesser numbers of Arctic Skuas.

Kirkwall from the air

my first view of North Ronaldsay

The near total absence of trees leaves only the sheep dykes as shelter.  However, some species still seem to hang on.  Twite, for instance, have featured on nearly every day with singles appearing at random and small flocks being an occasional treat.  Soon after arriving, Gavin Woodbridge kindly invited Molly, Stephen and myself to ring a brood of Meadow Pipits he'd located down the road, a pleasant start of what was to be a week packed with ringing of all kinds.


Being abused, mobbed, dive bombed, pecked, shouted at, vomited on and being shat on isn't many people's dream but it seems to suit me well as ringing the Arctic Tern chicks from some of the colonies involve just that and it was nothing short of enjoyable.  Besides the tern's harsh behaviour, Kevin, Alison, Heather, Gavin, Stephen, George, Peter and I all joined in on the hunt for newly fledged chicks to ring, something which proved to be both very educational and enjoyable.

Arctic Tern

It takes a while to become accustomed to the fact there are hundreds of Black Guillemots lined up on the dykes around the island squeaking to one another with their unusually high pitched calls.  If there were sailing boats present I'd probably be mistaking it for wind blowing through the rigging!

Black Guillemot

Learning the names of the various lochs and crofts is also a challenge but I feel as if it's gradually coming to me.  Over the last week the team focus for us volunteers has been to count, record and log all the bird and butterfly species we encounter, paying particular attention to any evidence of fledged young.  Wheatear have been particularly prominent amongst the ground nesters with juvenile birds outnumbering the adults.  Young Meadow Pipits are also on the wing, Skylarks are foraging around the cut grass fields collecting food for young and Eiders are lingering in a lot of the bays with their ducklings.  2 pairs of Ravens are also on the island but unfortunately they have suffered repeated losses at attempted breeding due to purposeful human destruction by those trying to protect their sheep.

The shift northwards has also meant I'm privileged enough to see my first ever wild Rock Doves!  Other birds of note include 3 Purple Sandpipers at Green Skerry and the summering Whooper Swan which I've encountered on a regular basis spending the day feeding, sleeping and commuting between various lochs.  On 14th July, whilst approaching the west side of the airfield, I accidentally flushed up a very dark duck sp.  On brief views I was confident it was too dark for Mallard but the white borders to the dark speculum opposed my initial impression of Black Duck.  Fortunately, I grabbed a few photographs which seem to suggest a mixture of Black Duck and Mallard features.  Whilst I haven't concluded anything from my brief views and rubbish photos I was struck by the solid dark tone of the whole body (including upper and underparts), uniform dirty yellow bill and pale underwing contrasting strongly with the dark upperwing.  The speculum didn't show up as blue but instead a very deep purple/brown similar to the rest of the wing.  A thin white border to the speculum was noted though.  Responses from other birders have suggested a hybrid but given the unlikelihood I've decided to let it pass as probably being a darker than usual Mallard.

duck sp.

Rock Dove

As the week has drawn on Mealy Redpoll numbers have increased steadily and reaching a dozen birds or more at peak.  Several Arctic Skuas are also about (mostly dark morphs) but I've encountered the occasional pale morph near the southern end of the island.  I've also spent three evenings petrel ringing, on the 14-15th, 15-16th and 19-20th.  48 Storm-petrels were trapped on the first night (ringing 47 and retrapping a control from Norway) along with a Leach's Petrel!  12 Storm-petrels were trapped and ringed on the second and 114 Storm-petrels were trapped on the third night (including three retraps) along with a second Leach's Petrel.  I also saw 5 Storm-petrels on a short seawatch of Westness on the 18th along with Puffin, Arctic Skuas, the usual Bonxies and the lingering Black Tern which I first saw the same morning after several days of absence.  On my return to the obs I accidentally flushed a burst of colour from the dyke beside me.  It didn't take more than a glance through bins to confirm it was a stunning BEE-EATER!  I scrambled for my scope, camera and phone and just about managed to get a few distant record shots as it landed on the fence before it left in the direction of the East Links.



Leach's Petrel with Storm-petrel behind it


Leach's Petrel

partially leucistic Storm-petrel

A short seawatch on the 19th July produced 20 Storm-petrels around dusk in 30 mins and I encountered my first island Hedgehog on the cycle back to the obs.


A text from Gavin on the 20th with a suspected Pectoral Sandpiper had me running back to the obs to collect a bike before heading north again towards East Links.  I suspected the ID wasn't yet clinched so went through the extra effort of running the last stretch.  Fortunately, the bird was still present when I found Gavin and George who were both still watching it.  I must admit I was a little sceptical of the ID so remained for a good long while taking notes and sketches.  Rather alarmingly I also observed what appeared to be a fully white rump on the few times I saw it in flight, the legs were black and the stance and very grey colouration encouraged me to take some detailed sketches as I had a feeling they'd come in use later on when I'd scrutinise the books in the evening.  Sure enough, on my return, I confirmed my suspicions and voiced my opinion to the other volunteers thinking we'd made a mess up and it was in fact a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER.  However, the others seemed rather set on sticking with Pec Sand so I left it be.  I stayed up late comparing photos and got up around 4am the following morning to double check pics and head back out into the field with the ambition of clinching the white rump.  However, on arriving at the Links there was no sign of the bird or any of the Ringed Plovers with which it had shared its stay.  Sure enough, on returning to the obs and checking the news services others on the internet had concluded that it was indeed a WRSand.  And that sums up our massive cock up of a misID!

White-rumped Sandpiper

The 21st was an improvement from the failure the day before as we all jammed in on a stunning Honey Buzzard which came drifting along the main road north through the island.  Stephen first reported it flying over Holland House but as I was in a dead spot for phone signal I only received the call and text later that day!  Fortunately, the terns, gulls and Starlings did a good job and alerted me to its presence.  Thankfully, I was able to call news through to the others who intercepted it again over Tor Ness where I could just about make it out being continually mobbed by a huge mass of birds, including an Arctic Skua!

The week was broken up nicely with the ringing of a couple Black Guillemot chicks and a single Ringed Plover chick alongside all the other previously mentioned species.  I've also been privileged to observe "drumming" Snipe for the first time as it's currently occurring all over the island throughout the day.

Stephen with a Black Guillemot chick

Ringed Plover chick

"drumming" Snipe


Non-bird highlights included a Hummingbird Hawkmoth seen on two dates at Holland House, a few Large Whites, a Red Admiral, the resident Common Seals and Grey Seals (all in abundance lingering offshore and on the rocky outcrops).  About five different jellyfish species were off the pier but I still haven't got around to identifying them.

Common Seal

unIDed jellyfish

dead Bonxie

dead Arctic Tern found amongst the colony

sunset on the island

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Staines and Patch (1st-10th July)

5th July

Staines Res. N basin: 11 adult Little-ringed Plovers with +3 large +4 small young.  2 Yellow-legged Gulls (adult and juv), 1 Redshank, Shelduck with 7 ducklings, 1 Dunlin.  South basin: 2 Black-necked Grebes.  Staines Moor: 5+ Brown Hawkers, 2 Emperor Dragonflies.

8th July

1-2 Siskin over the garden in KL.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

The big outdoors (16th-30th June)

I was based in Falmouth until the 24th June spending Mondays and Fridays working at Perran Sands and on days off I was working at the field or sorting the house out in preparation for leaving.

16th June

The 16th involved doing odd jobs around town but in amongst all the mayhem of rushing around the countryside I still managed to get singing Cuckoo and Garden Warbler on the day list as well as Tawny Owl perched on wires alongside the road, nicely eliminated in the headlamps of the car and a Barn Owl quartering fields near Treverva.

19th June

An early morning start to check the moth trap at Dan's field (and seeing a Badger run alongside the car) then straight back to Penryn before catching a lift to work.  This was followed by a mornings seawatch at Perran Sands which yielded at least 15 Common Dolphins in the bay perfecting their hunting technique.  This was done by dividing the pod in two groups with half the individuals speeding across the mouth of the bay herding the shoal of fish closer inshore to shallower waters before the second pod lay in wait closer inshore, intercepted the fish attempting to make an escape around the cetacean's barrier.  The afternoon was spent enjoying the company of hundreds of Silver Studded Blues on the sand dunes behind the caravan site!

20th June

The following day was spent nest recording at Stithians Reservoir with Daniel Eva.  We had some success discovering a few Sedge Warbler nests, checking the last of the tit boxes (almost all fledged or failed now) however, unfortunately the Buzzard nest that had three chicks in last time we checked had failed with no sign of the young.  We were also quite surprised to see that the Great Crested Grebe pair which had nested in the southern corner of the main reservoir which had been dangerously exposed to land predators due to dropping water levels had successfully hatched two chicks.  As a twist, the original clutch had included five eggs but these had dwindled down to only two, including a Little Grebe egg that had been dumped in the nest (almost Cuckoo like behaviour!).  This had then hatched along with the single GCG chick and was now ridding around on the parents back alongside it!

23rd June

My Dad was down in Falmouth from the 21st-24th June to help me transport the last of my belongings home.  Alongside all the work we managed to take a day off and visit the Roseland peninsula.  5 Cirl Buntings and 2 Painted Ladys were the highlights along with a very brief glimpse of what appeared to be a Hummingbird Hawkmoth.  Later that evening, Dan, Simon, my Dad and I headed down to Croft Pascoe for Nightjars.  We arrived just in time to be hear the sound of churring and connected with a total of 3-4 Nightjars (2-3 males and a female).  A reeling Grasshopper Warbler was an extra bonus.

25th-30th June

Back home in Kings Langley again...

Haven't indulged myself in a great deal of exciting birding but I have been out a lot with my brother.  Highlights over the last couple days include 2 Mandarin (one female with 4 ducklings) and a pair of Egyptian Geese with 5 goslings along the canal near Cassiobury.  Garden Warbler, Common Tern and Reed Buntings at Croxley Common Moor were nice to see.  There was also a singing male Reed Bunting at the lock house on the canal just south of the M25 junc. 20 (a rare occurrence just outside the patch limits!) and a rattling Lesser Whitethroat has set up territory at Balls Pond Farm.  2 Little Owls are also on patch as was an Emperor Dragonfly, Fox and the first Ringlets and Marbled Whites are emerging.  Red Kites, Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and to a lesser degree Kestrels have all encountered frequently.

Monday, 15 June 2015

More birding stuff... (7th-15th June)

I've been extremely busy recently, working at Perran Sands, a caravan park on the north Cornish coast as well as providing a helping hand with Dan at his small holding.

Perran Sands

Much of it has been a blur and I can't remember exact day-to-day occurrences but here goes.  Pretty much had daily sightings of Painted Lady, often two or three per day!  It may well prove to be an indication of an influx into the country of this species.  10th June was spent largely on the saddle of my bike taking in much of the Cornish countryside.  Starting at Camborne I biked over to Hayle (Whimbrel, Dunlin and 4 Red Kites of note) then St Ives for a seawatch.  This yielded very little other than some Manx Shearwaters, Kittiwakes, auks and some Shags.  I then bisected West Penwith, taking the B3311 south towards Penzance stopping at the tin mine of Wheel Reeth directly next to the road.  Most of my time was spent resting my eyes but a surprise adult Gannet cutting across the peninsula whilst circling upwards in order to reach Marazion was confirmation enough for me that seabirds truly are comfortable with crossing landmasses!

Once arriving in Marazion the time had slid away and it was now approaching mid-afternoon giving me a fighting chance for my main target species, Squacco Heron.  Waiting patiently at the side of the marsh revealed singing Cetti's Warbler, Reed BuntingLittle Egrets and c.10 Grey Herons, and eventually after some time of waiting I caught a satisfactory flight view of the SQUACCO HERON as it crossed the full length of the marsh from near the standing stones to the railway bridge.  I waited until 7pm for further views but with darkness impeding on my time and a long bike ride back still lying ahead of me I decided to call it a day.  Additional highlights included a probable Hobby at the far back of the reserve (a bird that would have been a county tick!  One was seen the following day hunting bats at over the reserve), 1 Red Kite, 6 Sanderling on Marazion beach and numerous bats flying around the fields as well as a Badger and Fox crossing the road in front of me near Helston-Falmouth.

a blanket of cloud approaching on my ride back to Falmouth, the panoramic shot has given it a fish-eye look

I've also continued helping Daniel Eva with nest recording at Stithians Reservoir.  Most of the Blue Tits and Great Tits have fledged (below average numbers this year I'm afraid), but we did find 2 Sedge Warbler nests in compensation along with a Chiffchaff building a nest not to mention checking in on all previous records of breeding birds in the area.

Patching has largely been neglected but this hasn't been of much concern as I've spent most of my time up at Treverva where regular Painted Ladys and Garden Warblers have been on the agenda instead along with my first emerging Large Skipper.

Garden Warbler showing well and singing in the open at Stithians Reservoir