Sunday 29 September 2013

Other people's birds

It promised much but in the end delivered little. Perhaps that's unfair because it was still a good day's birding.
After a few days of decent easterlies it looked promising, a YBW and /or Firecrest was almost guaranteed (ahem!)..
We parked up at the Nelson's Head Pub at 8am and started towards Horsey Gap. The wind was from the east but it was blowing strong, seeing or hearing anything would be tricky. We walked all the way to the pipe dump past Waxham Sands caravan park and the best we had was a Chiffer calling, a single Wheatear and a passing flock of about twenty Brents. We took a short break at the carpark at Horsey Gap, where I enjoyed a bacon butty and coffee from the mobile cafe. We headed back via the road to the car and from there headed to check the paddocks at Sea Palling.
The path behind the dunes at Sea Palling holds a row of sheltered gardens and looks like it could be excellent in good fall conditions. Today was quiet though, save for the strong wind.
After a thorough check we decided to give up searching for our own birds and go and see someone elses. We headed to Caister-on-sea to look for the Rose-coloured Starling.
We parked in front of the sea-front cafe, the second Wheatear of the day bobbed about on the roof of the nearby public toilets. I scanned the few gulls out on the surf and was pleased to pick up a single Little Gull amongst them.
We wandered around to the beach car park and I managed to locate the Rose-coloured Starling sitting on a roof-top amongst all the Common Starlings.

A juvenile Rose-coloured Starling amongst the European Starlings, Caister-on-sea, Norfolk - 29th September 2013
Nick noticed that the bird had dropped down into the garden below and was feeding on some dropped pears.We crept up and managed a few shots through the fence before the flock took flight once more and returned to the roof top.

We took a short lunch break and then headed to Great Yarmouth Cemetery to look for Firecrests. But this was where our luck disappeared. Despite there being several  reports of Firecrest and several birders saying they had seen at least one Firecrest there, we couldn't connect with them. The best we had in the hour we spent there were two Chiffchaffs, a female Blackcap, a Goldcrest and a mixed flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits.

Chiffchaff, Great Yarmouth Cemetery - 29th September 2013

We called it a day around 4pm. The day didn't deliver as we had originally hoped but it was still good to be out.
I had just got home when I noticed a tweet saying Rufous-tailed Robin at Overstrand, Norfolk. Drat and double drat! However the report was subsequently withdrawn as the observer had only flight views. At this stage I believe it had been seen this morning by three very experienced birders, so watch this space!

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Eastern Kingbird - now an annual vagrant!

Last year's bird of a lifetime is back. Another Eastern Kingbird has turned up today in Co. Galway. This time on Inishboffin island (last year was Inishmore). Found by the one and only Anthony McGeehan......well done indeed mate! Amongst many other things, Anthony has also also found a White's Thrush on Inishboffin in 2008 and a Mourning Dove there in 2007.
More details here;


Oddly enough, its Hugh Delaney's birthday today..........Hugh found last years Eastern Kingbird on Inishmore, which was the first WP record of the species.
Hopefully this one will hang on for all the visiting birders!

Footnote: Anthony also found the 2009 Cedar Waxwing on Inishbofin......quite an impressive track record!

Sunday 22 September 2013

Common Rosefinch

I was bit knackered after chasing around Suffolk yesterday. Today, rather than looking at other people's birds I decided after lunch, to head over to Great Yarmouth and do a quick check of the cemetery. Again, winds hadn't been easterly but a few Yellow-browed Warblers along the coast were enough to have me thinking that there was an outside chance of finding one.
The weather was glorious, 26 degrees as I parked up on Kitchener Road. Not the sort of weather conducive to finding rare migrants though. I did a full circuit of the southern part of the graveyard and had nothing other than a Jay.
I had almost finished walking the northern part and was thinking whether to go home or move on somewhere else, when I saw a finch-like bird fly into the top of a bare tree. The light was from the wrong side, but initially it looked a little bit like a juvenile Greenfinch. But once I got the bins on it I started to think Common Rosefinch! It gave a single call which I immediately  recognised from all my summer birding in Latvia.......definitely Common Rosefinch. Then it flew off. No photos sadly, but I confirmed the call on xeno-canto, just to be sure. I searched for an hour but couldn't relocate it. Nevermind, I was happy and rather than tire myself out I ended on that note went away home.
I've seen plenty of these in Latvia, but its not on my Irish list and is a British tick for me. The only one I came close to, was a bird I saw briefly at the Myrtle Warbler twitch on Cape Clear in 2010, that was almost certainly a Common Rosefinch. But 'almost certainly' is not good enough, so I never ticked it.
This time I will!

Great Yarmouth cemetery - 22nd September 2013

Saturday 21 September 2013

Shriking in Suffolk

I suppose if I was still living in Cork I'd been off to Dursey to see the first Irish record and second WP record of Wilson's Warbler. Another stunning find on the Beara Peninsula. Anyway, I'm here in Norfolk, so with a day free to go birding I decided to head out of the county and try for the Leiston, Suffolk, Lesser Grey Shrike.
Now, I've had mixed luck with Shrikes. Of all the species, I would say I have dipped on more Shrikes than anything. This year alone I dipped on Great Grey Shrike at Wrentham, Woodchat Shrike at Horsey Gap and Red-backed Shrike at Walsey Hills. While news on the LGS was good, with my track record there would be no guarantee I'd connect.
I arrived in Leiston without a hitch, but finding the site was trickier. Eventually I got there, and knew I was in the right place when I saw the cars parked up on the ditch and people walking towards me with scopes across their shoulders and bins 'round their necks.
The bird was showing well though, moving from fence posts to the tops of hawthorn bushes and occassionally dropping to the deck to pick up a beetle or some other misfortunate bug. However, it was distant. At best it came within twenty meters, which given the number of birders present, wasn't all that bad. Still, great to see one in the UK. I've only seen them previosuly in Namibia where they are the most plentiful species of Shrike.

Lesser Grey Shrike, Leiston, Suffolk - 21st September 2013
I didn't expect to improve on the shots above, so I took some tips from another birder and drove towards Sizewell beach to see if I could get shots of a rather tame Arctic Skua that had been present there for the last week.
I walked up the shingle in the shadow of the enormous Sizewell Nuclear Power Plant. I could almost see Mr. Burns up there at his desk gazing down on us lowly birders as we passed below!

Sizewell Nuclear Power Plant - sector G7
The skua was easy to locate, it was out harassing the gulls (including several Little Gulls). Within a few minutes it landed on the beach and began to preen before being flushed by a dog, whereupon it flew back out to sea, landed and began more preening and washing.
I sat and waited and before long it took off and landed about one hundred meters down the beach. I circled around and managed to get reasonably close as it sat preening on the beach. While I was photographing it I noticed it had metal ring on its right leg, I don't think I have any details on this though. The other thing I noticed is that the bird looked quite oiled. Sadly, it looks as though its tail and flight feathers had become matted with oil and this of course would explain why it was preening so much.

Arctic Skua, Sizewell Beach, Suffolk - 21st September 2013
Sad to see a nice bird (or any animal for that matter) suffering, it was able to fly and move about, but I suppose its survival depends on how much oil it has ingested. I wish it well.
For the last hour I walked up and down the path alongside the power plant looking for Black Redstarts, which breed there. Eventually I found two female types and managed some shots of one of them as it chased flies around the steel and the concrete.

Black Redstart - Sizewell Nuclear Power Plant, Suffolk - 21st September 2013
After that it was hometime.

Friday 20 September 2013

Sunday 15 September 2013

Walsey Hills, Wells Wood and Cley

A frustrating day's birding. I headed out towards Walsey Hills NOA this morning to see the RB Shrike which had been reported present at 07:48 hours this morning on BG. The morning was chilly but sunny and pleasant, I drove up towards Cley with the roof down and Van the Man (Van Morrison that is) on the car stereo! But by the time I got to Walsey the wind had picked up and there had been no sign of the bird for over an hour and a half. I stayed around for a short while before deciding to try somewhere else.
Rather than go to the hides at Cley I drove towards Wells Wood. This was more of a reconnaissance trip than anything else. Come some good easterlies in October, this place will be well worth checking. Not having been there before, I wanted to get my bearings. But it was simply crawling with people and dogs, plus the wind had picked up. A Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker and two Jays were the best I had. After thirty minutes I was thoroughly fed up, I called it a day and headed back to the car.
My next stop was to be Titchwell RSPB but looking west, the clouds seemed very dark and the wind was strengthening. Plus the RB Shrike was been reported again at Walsey Hills. What to do?
I headed back towards Walsey. I stopped off briefly at Cley Spy and got some good advise about my sick Kowa scope.
Back at Walsey though there was no sign of the Shrike.....double dip! In order to salvage something from the day I walked along the East Bank at Cley and towards the hide on the north scrape. I stopped at Arnold's Marsh and scanned through the waders, mainly Dunlin, Redshank, one Ringed Plover and several Black 'wits.
I had a single Wheatear about halfway along the North Norfolk Coast Path, the wind was really strong now, from the south west it seemed. At the hide, the main body of smalls were disappointingly distant. I scanned with a scope and could manage to pick out at least two if not three juvenile Curlew Sandpipers and four Little Stints. Ticks for my British list at least, but way too distant for photos.
On the way back I tried a brief sea-watch, but the wind was all wrong, the best I had was two Sanderling, one Red-throated Diver and a Sandwich Tern. I thought about trying for the Snow Bunting reported from the beach car park at Cley, but by now I'd had enough.

Sunday 8 September 2013

All quiet on the eastern front

This morning I took off about 7am, hoping to connect with the Woodchat Shrike reported on Saturday from Horsey Gap. However, after a clear and still night, I wasn't holding out too much hope. I met a couple of birders at the car park and they told me what I already sign of the bird. I walked the paths both north and south of the car park but the best I had were a few Phylloscs, a Green Woodpecker, several Whinchat and a few Wheatears - none of which showed well enough for a pic.
From Horsey I went to Winterton dunes and it was pretty much the same there, Common Whitethroats, a few Blackcaps, two fly-over Yellow Wagtails and a Med Gull. No sign of any Whinchats though, despite reports.
On the way home I stopped at Great Yarmouth cemetery, not because I was expecting any migrants there (not if the previous spots were anything to go by), but because (i) it was on my way home and (ii) I just wanted to check the place out so when the next set of easterlies arrive, I know where it is, where to park and what to look for maybe. Apart from plenty of Grey Squirrels and Magpies, it was pretty dead (boom, boom!). Does look good though for, and I'm guessing here a little, Yellow-browed, Pallas's, Firecrest, RB Fly and even Red-flanked Bluetail.

Monday 2 September 2013

Manky gulls

After all the migrant action of the last week it was back to brass tacks as Nick, John and I headed to Southwold, Suffolk to check through the hordes of manky gulls in the hope of finding some sub-adult Yellow-legged or Caspian Gulls. It was far more of a challenge trying to pick out something from the hundreds of Herring Gulls than I expected. I admit to being a complete novice when it comes to ageing sub-adult white headed gulls. In South-west Ireland, gulling usually involved looking for and ageing white winged gulls or attempting to find a Ring-billed Gull. Caspian Gulls are rarer there than here in the UK (I think they would require a description for the IRBC, however not so for the BBRC).
Anyway, we drew a blank although I did enjoy some mighty fine fish and chips while I was in Southwold. A rather tatty looking adult Med Gull was bird of the day.
We need some easterlies me thinks!