Monday, September 29, 2008

Weymouth Sunday 28th Sept

Lodmoor for an hour on Sunday morning with D#1. 2 smart Little Stints, 3 Dunlin, a Ringed Plover, and 2 juvenile Ruff, identical in their elegant warm buff but one was twice the size of the other. A few Snipe and Gadwall. On a couple of occasions the reserve rang to the pinging of small parties of Bearded Tits flying around, and at least one party head off high and SW, off to start a new colony somewhere.

Then at lunchtime we went for a short walk round Portland Bill. We failed to see Firecrest at Culverwell and a Yellow-Browed Warbler near the obs, but migrants were somewhat surprisingly in evidence - I thought the clear sky and warm weather would have meant they all cleared off. We had a sprinkling of Wheatears and Pied Wagtails on the east cliffs, a swarm of hirondines over the top fields, and in the obs garden masses of Goldcrests and Chiffs in constant motion, making taking photos almost impossible. A Common Buzzard was receiving the attentions of the local crows, and we had 2 Sparrowhawks and 3 Kestrels . And a Clouded Yellow Butterfly too - have there been many of these this year?

We’ve walked the ease cliffs on the Bill on many occasions, but for some reason had not seen the enormous ammonite impression in some of the exposed rock - a foot across. And having read recently of exposed beaches millions of years old, looked again at some of the rock surfaces - is that an ancient beach? Anyone with geological knowledge please comment.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mr Angry’s back

I Remembered why I don’t like twitching today.

I mean, when there’s twenty or so birders in a line resting against the sea wall at Rainham waiting for a couple of hours for a Wryneck to appear, and the folks at one end of the line see it, you’d think some kind of information might flow to the other end. Just a hand pointing, a look, or “it’s out”.

But no. By the time we finally enquired if they’d seen anything it was “oh yes it was out on that Cow Parsley half way up. It’s gone now. Would you like to see my photo?” No, I’d like to stick your camera up your backside.

I didn’t say that of course, I admired the excellent photo, and instantly opened a new list, of birds that others have photographed whilst I missed it. #1. Wryneck.

I suppose its just me, and I’m being unreasonable. Luckily, I’d had a twenty minute spell with D#1 when we had admired Whinchat , hunting Hobby,and some nice Wigeon and Teal on the Thames, and had spent some more time with the family at the at the brand new play area and scoffing some cake, and had notched up a distant Sparrowhawk, but all the same, I think I’m better off not going twitching.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

fifteen lumps of mud

It was a busy day today - Dipper taxis were fully booked. I sneaked a half hour at the high ground on the way to the Supermarket and found a large troop of metal-detectorists on the ploughed fields on the north side of the old airfield. The one I spoke to was a bit disgruntled - paid thirty quid and hadn't found much. The way he described the local area was intriguing. Whereas I see habitat, fly-ways, and viewing points, he saw ancient tracks, forgotten camps, farms and villages, and Tudor farmhouses with piles of old coins dropped over the centuries.

I went back to the field north of Tharbies which has been subject to a fine ploughing. There were a few gulls, and fifteen incongruous lumps of mud. Through the scope these turned out to be, as expected, Golden Plover. As time passed they became more active and started walking round and wing-lifting (apparently something they seem to do to signal to distant birds). In the end I got to over twenty birds, but their disguise against the mud was just amazing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Trims Green

A hobby was hunting over central Sawbo today as I did the 3:15 school run. Suitable inspired, I went up to Trims Green from 4-5

About 90% of the birds here are either Wood Pigeons or Collared Doves. A tree by Morris's Farm was heaving with the later.

Once again I failed to see the Osprey. A Sparrowhawk female chased a Grey Partridge, and then came close by before hiding in a tree.

Three Lapwings flew past in the distance, but there was no sign of the Goldies Graeme had here recently. I moved on to the field by Tharbies Farm, and eventually teased 4 Meadow Pipits out of it. Round to Blount's Farm for a few Linnets, then completed the circuit back to the field by tharbies and found a covey of 9 Red-Legged Partridge, with just a couple of young.

When the wind is in the east, Airplanes landing at Stansted come in from the south west. As all Flight-Simulator owners know, they hit the beacon at Gilston, and come in over Trims Green. Here's a regular visitor.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Dipping the local Osprey

It started on Saturday. I was at the pool where D#1,2 were having a half hour lesson. Just as I'd sat down the phone pinged, and Mike was texting me about an Osprey that had just left Trim's Green. Just time for me to go and find it. I'd hoped that a flock of crows or gulls would lead me to it, but I drew a blank.

I went up this morning to see if a stray Honey Buzzard was drifting over, and had been there about 5 minutes when I got another text from Mike saying the Osprey had flown off 5 minutes previously. Fantastic. I saw 3 Lapwings, a flock of 6 Jays, a Yellow Wagtail, 4 Skylarks, a few Linnets, a small flock of Swallows, 3 vocal Kestrels, and a couple of local birders too, but no Osprey.

I returned late afternoon, and it was dead. I stopped by a nearby field and checked. Completely empty. I just had one last look at the sky, picked up a distant falcon; as it drifted high over I could see it was a tatty Peregrine, my first for this area. I stopped again at Blount's Farm and had a smashing male Sparrowhawk fly slowly over.

So in the last two weeks this square mile of farmland has produced Kestrel, Hobby, Merlin, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, Marsh Harrier and Osprey! Testament to the success of wildlife conservation measures

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Canvey part II

I thought I’d blown it again. The weather map showed light easterlies but as I drove along Canvey sea front it was absolutely still, not a leaf moving.

I joined a local watcher at the point, and slowly things appeared. A male Common Scoter in the middle, a couple of Arctic Skuas in the far distance, and then a Marsh Harrier battling across the Thames.

The gulls all went up over the point, as if to announce that Mr Osprey had arrived for breakfast, and there it was hovering over the bay, against the backdrop of Westcliff-on-Sea.

The tide was on its way up, and over the next hour we added Guillemot, more Common Scoter, Wigeon, Brent Geese, lots of Little Egret, Grey Plover, Curlew, Oystercatcher, and Barwit.

Then the wind picked up, and immediately The Expert arrived. He was shown the Osprey (“still here I see”) and the day's list read to him. He decided to grace us with his presence, and started picking out more birds. First up was a speck on the horizon pronounced as a juv Sabines Gull. We mumbled our thanks, and listened as we had a running commentary on its ID as it progresses east, and yes it did have a distinct two-tone appearance and yes in the sun the primaries were almost translucent, but if I'd been on my own there's no way I could have ID'd it. He proceeded to identify four distant Little Tern, and then got stuck into a passing Arctic Tern somewhere in Kent. At least I saw the two pale juvenile Arctic Skuas that headed off east. A Common Buzzard drifted over.

The Osprey reappeared. “Its heading off” The Expert announced, and indeed it did, slowly heading over to the Isle of Grain. And as it was nearly lunchtime, I headed off too.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Local migrants

A while ago I posted about finding the right field. Today I stopped at the field in the picture as there was a large flock of gulls.

I scanned the gulls, but could only see BHG's and a few LBBG's. As I was watching I could hear a Yellow Wagtail, and a passing falcon (a Kestrel, sadly not Graeme's Merlin) put a few up. I eventually located them on the ground, and as I got my eye in I could see more. By slowly scanning across and using the fine focus on the scope to scan back and forth I could pick up more birds. Totals were difficult as the birds were constantly on the move but minimum numbers were 3 Wheatear including a male, 20 Yellow Wagtails, and 20 Meadow Pipits. I think I heard a Golden Plover but there was no sight of it. The Yellow wagtails plumage was in just about every possible colour - Yellow, green, grey, even orange.

Elsewhere 10 Swallows through.

Afternoon update:

returned to the field after the rain had passed through. It was completely empty. I wonder if the presence of gulls in a field brins in other birds as the gulls act as guards against predators. Thsi was shown to be the case for wintering Lapwing/golden Plover flocks, so may be the same for other migrants.

stopped elsewhere on the top to the following effect:
c70 Collared Dove on wires at Trim's Green
5 Red-Legged Partridge at Morris's Farm
10 Swallows W over the big field
Wheatear 1 fem type on the metal fence by Blounts Farm
Hobby 1 over Mathams Wood

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

What does that big red button do?

Of all the stupid things to do, recreating the conditions of the Big Bang “just to see what happens” strikes me as being amongst the most stupid. Given that the last time this happened an explosion big enough to create an entire universe happened, having another go seems to be tempting fate.

The astrophysicists have done their calculations and assured as we are safe. The other main employer of astrophysicists is bank derivatives desk where astrophysicists are responsible for calculating the risk on collateralised debt-obligations, and we can now see what a rip-roaring success that has been. So I think we can give their assurances about the safety of their experiments the respect they deserve.

So with some free time and a south-easterly wind I headed to Canvey for one last look at the Thames before it becomes vapourized and spun to infinity. I arrived at the Point at 7ish just after high-tide and saw ... nothing. Just a few gulls and ships.

Slowly some Sandwich Terns appeared and eventually I located 3 Arctic Skuas way off on the Kent side of the river. I headed to the Coastguards in the hope that someone might have a clue what we were looking at, but the one local confirmed it was quiet. A steady stream of Swallows was going East, and the local picked up an Arctic Skua bombing west on the far side. A few Sandwich Terns came close; I rattled off some pictures.

I decided to cut my losses and head to Rainham. It was quiet. I almost got my first Ruff of the year; a non-descript medium sized medium everything wader asleep with some Greenshanks, I was just getting the scope on it when it flew off, in a non-descript sort of way. There were 5 Blackwits, a similar number of Greenshanks, and a Green Sandpiper. I was put on to a Whinchat and a couple of Stonechat. Not much overall, but at least I saw more than the couple of birders staring at some reeds in the hope the Aquatic Warbler would reappear.

I got back to find that firstly a Great White Egret had flown over Rainham whilst I was there, that Graham had seen Merlin and Whinchat at local spot Trim’s Green, and then one of the Sandwich Terns I photographed was a Common Tern – I can’t even ID the birds in front of me.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Local 7 Sept

Family stuff (D#3 turned 8!) meant the earliest I could get away was mid afternoon. So firstly Kevin sends me a text from Amwell telling me he's watching an Osprey, then Mike sends me a text saying a Blackwit has popped in to SLRS, followed shortly by a text saying both Blackwits and the juv Med Gull have just flown. Just what I needed.

I finally got to SLRS mid afternoon to find it completely deserted apart from Mike and Mrs Mike. There were Swallows zooming through, and parties of BHG's dropping in and swirling round the scrape like flurries of super-size snowflakes. Mrs M picked up a distant Hobby, and we had a flock of LT tits plus a few WillowChiffs.

I called in on the high ground to see if anything was moving through. Mike had seen a Wheatear up here earlier, so I stopped off at various points to scan for some migrays

The best I did was 15 Golden Plover packed tightly in the middle of the big field - the first of the autumn. Finally, I scoured a field of 60 BHG's - Mike had commented earlier how many of the BH's going through were juveniles, and more than half of these were juvs too. A couple of Mipits called unseen, then a wader called - two quiet notes, my calls aren't good enough to nail this one, so perhaps the big one got away today.

Rarity chasing in Cambridgeshire part 2.

Last post left you on the edge of your seats as your intrepid birders ticked off the first of three potential rarities and headed off in sea...