Monday, October 31, 2011

"A jewel from the East down West"

I'd been keeping an eye on the two rarities within reasonable driving distance since they turned up during the week with a view to "twitching" at least one of them but as Saturday dawned the Pied Wheatear which had shown so well at Oldbury on Severn was nowhere to be seen and by late morning when the forecast rain arrived the Isabelline Shrike at Porth Clais in Pembrokeshire hadn't been found either !!
I therefore spent a peaceful chilled out Saturday at the caravan with Teresa and enjoyed a cracking pub lunch at a local pub in the village.
The forecast was somewhat drier for Sunday and with no news of the rarities I decided to visit nearby Garwnant and have a look for the Great Grey Shrike that had turned up earlier in the week and was frequenting one of the clear fells.
Just as I got in the Jeep my phone bleeped to the sound of a text from Mark Hipkin informing me that the Isabelline Shrike down west had been refound at 8.30am,what to do ?
Do I head down west for a lifer and the opportunity of some quality photographs or do I spend hours in the local forestry searching for a typically elusive Great Grey Shrike.
I reckonned I had time to do both and after obtaining some good directions from both Martin Thomas and Rob Mitchell found the clear fell.
As I feared the GGS was nowhere to be seen although there were plenty of other birds around.
A GS Woodpecker perched on one of the lone "tree posts" on which I hoped to see the shrike and several Jays flew over with lots of Crossbills also flying across the treetops calling as they passed.
After a while a pale grey large raptor flew across the common on the edge of the clear fell and as it banked it's black wing tips gave it away as a crackin' male Hen Harrier,my first of the winter.
Unfortunately it flew through rather quickly and I couldn't get the camera on it,another long winged raptor a little further away a few minutes later gave itself up as a rather disappointing Red Kite.
15-20 minutes passed and as I scanned the area for the shrike another Hen Harrier appeared,this time a "Ringtail" which hung around for a minute or two quartering and crossing over the edge of the clear fell.
This gave me a little bit of time to get the camera on the bird and although a little distant I was pleased to get some hurried but reasonable record shots.
The "Ringtail" soon moved on after a mobbing from a couple of crows and after an exciting half hour or so things went quiet again and with noon approaching and no sign of the shrike I decided to move on and go for the other shrike a little further west.
I eventually managed to get a mobile signal and Peter "Pedro" Morgan was well up for the twitch,1.00pm at the Harvester car park at Junc 43 0n the M4 was the arrangement and soon we were en-route to the west tip of Pembrokeshire.
We made good time and were soon walking up the hill from the car park at Porth Clais to where the bird had relocated meeting Mike Powell on the way.
The shrike was in a weedy field and had been showing to about 30m mostly in the hedgerow as it hunted for flies and bees,as we approached the gate to the field and chatted to the other birders most of whom were familier faces the bird dropped on to some weeds not 18-20' directly in front of us,result !!!
Myself,Peter and Alex Bevan who was already there let fly with the cameras for a couple of minutes as the bird performed beautifully until it disappeared back to the hedgerow.
We couldn't believe our luck and the closeness of the bird more than made up for the dreadful light (we "toggers" will always find something to complain about !!)
This had to be the "quickest" twitch I've even been on as the bird performed almost to order and the overnight disappearance of the Pied Wheatear was soon forgotten.
The light quickly began to fade,something we are going to have to get used to over the coming months and it was two very happy "toggers" who headed back east.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Severn Up

I had a day off on Friday, October 28th and, since the current Mrs Jenkins-Jones and beloved daughter Gwenni were away in London for the weekend, Geth and I hatched a couple of birding plans:

Plan A: Get up early, bird our patch on the Radyr Floodplain and find ourselves a 'mega'.

Plan B: Get up early, bird our patch on the Radyr Floodplain, find bugger all and then go and twitch somebody else's 'mega'.

Plan B it was! (Highlight on the patch: 3 Reed Buntings). Why we bothered to formulate Plan A I'll never know. A little over an hour after leaving home we were at Oldbury-on-Severn and watching this little beauty:

A very impressive roof nut with a female Pied Wheatear to its left.

It may not have been the most beautiful bird in world but I really enjoyed watching this little beauty. I must have fallen for its personality as it hawked insects on top of the Oldbury Sailing Club roof. I don't know what Darryl Spittle was doing birding this particular spot on the English side of the River Severn instead of his beloved Gwent, but I'm very grateful to him for finding this beauty.

Onwards and upwards. With our luck obviously in, Geth and I headed back west (paying £5.70 for the privilege of returning to our homeland) to do a bit of birding around The Forest of Dean. Without a doubt, one of Gethin's bogey birds is Hawfinch. He's had untickable glimpses of them at Fforest Ganol and dipped on one at The Forest of Dean by a matter of a few seconds. His luck was about to change. Within moments of getting out of the car he'd found one . . . but thanks to my inability to get on to the bird, and his efforts to help me, he again only managed a brief and untickable view.

Some heated words were exchanged, the mood was tense - you could cut the atmosphere with a knife. A stressful 20 mins passed and then . . . thank God! . . . two Hawfinch popped up on top of a tree and the Twitchmeister finally had his tick. The relief washed over us - me in particular!

Cannop Ponds, The Forest of Dean

We stopped off briefly at Cannop Ponds on our way home where there were 50+ Mandarin Duck, a nice selection of waterfowl but had no joy with Willow Tit.

To celebrate our success (and because Mrs JJ and Gwenni were away) the day was rounded off at Queen Street Pizza Hut where we hatched our birding plan for the next day:

Plan A: Get up early, bird our patch on Radyr Floodplain and find ourselves a 'mega'.

Plan B: Get up early, bird our patch on Radyr Floodplain, find bugger all and then go and twitch somebody else's 'mega'!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Cetti's Warbler:RGW,Cardiff

Arranged to meet up with Clive Ellis at first light this a.m to have a look for owls along Rumney Great Wharf,unfortunately despite a good walk over a few hours we didn't get lucky but I managed to get a few "images" of an unusually obliging Cetti's Warbler on the way back in quite nice light.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Snow Bunting:Newton,Porthcawl.

Myself and Teresa enjoyed a relaxing peaceful weekend up at the caravan and the only birding I did was to call in at Llangasty Point on Llangors Lake on our way back from a visit to Crickhowell on Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately despite scanning for an hour or so there was nothing of any real interest although wildfowl numbers are building,suffice to say the camera didn't see the light of day. I'd noticed the report and some nice photos of the Snow Bunting at Newton Burrows on Friday and Saturday and hoped that it may stay around so that I could catch up with it on the way home. It hadn't been reported today but I took a chance that it would still be there and whilst walking across to the location a couple of birders coming towards me confirmed that the bird was still there..........result !! I found the bird quite quickly as it flew from almost under my feet but only a short distance where it settled and continued to feed. It was quite confiding and I managed to get a few "images" that I was quite pleased with,doubtless this one is the first of several that will probably visit us over the coming months as the weather gets colder.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

A Pizza the Action II

We Boxer Boys certainly know how to celebrate in style. Being well known connoisseurs of fine dining we managed to pull a few strings and get a much sought after table at the 3 Michelin Star McArthur Glenn Pizza Hut to note the occasion of Gethin's entry into the UK 250 Club.

Gethin (a.k.a. The Twitchmeister) was presented with a 'Diploma in Birding' by the Birders in Boxers Board of Ornithological Excellence (BBBOE). A particlularly noteworthy occasion as Gethin is the first recipient of this diploma - none of the other Boxer Boys being anywhere near reaching the standard of ornithological excellence.

The evening was attended by Gethin (the Guest of Honour) and Messrs Jeff Slocombe (BBBOE's Chief List Statistician) and Wayne Morris (Secretary to the Board). Gethin's father was also present to pay for the meal.

The Guest of Honour enjoyed a Tuna and Sweetcorn Thin Italian; Jeff (because he's 'hard') had a super hot Flamin' Inferno; Wayne a Veggie Supreme and Dan had his usual double jalapeno peppers and pineapple. All washed down with some vintage Pepsi.

A telegram received from a 'Mr L Evans from Bucks' rubbishing Gethin's list was ceremonially burned. We look forward to holding a similar event in the very near future to celebrate the Twitchmeister's entry into the UK300 Club.

Flashback to June 2009 when we celebrated The Twitchmeister's entry into the UK200 Club.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Mediterranean weather-mediterranean bird !!

Called in to the Watermill on the way home from the caravan after a barren weekend in that birding wilderness of Breconshire,thankfully the bird was still there enjoying the fine weather over the weekend.
Tried to sneak up on it using the hedegrow halfway down the field but it wasn't having any and took to the air a couple of times but always came back to the flood where it seemed quite settled.
Little bit too distant to get some really good shots and it was still there when I left at 17.40 hrs.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Recent Photos

Just a couple of humble photographic offerings to back up the posts already made by Jeff and Wayne below. I'd like to make the obligatory opening disclaimer made by all photographers who post their images on any website in the world: "at no time was I happy with the light conditions when these images were taken"!!

Not a creature from Doctor Who - it's a very wet Twitchmeister at Llanrhidian Marsh.

The weather finally beats Wayne. He's clearly had enough despite not nailing the White-rump. But, he makes himself feel better by gripping off the Twitchmeister about the Kenfig Pool White-rump Sand the boy birder dipped on by a mere 5 minutes back in 2007 when he was only 8 years old. (Please note Jeff being 'hard' and not wearing his hood up despite the crap weather).

The next day, Wayne (no doubt feeling guilty for being so mean to Gethin) offered us a lift to St Brides/West Usk Beach, where we duly found the American Golden Plover.

I wasn't particularly happy with this image . . . .

But it turned out not bad after I'd photoshopped it a bit.

A cracking bird and a lifer for us all. Thanks to Darryl Spittle for finding it.