Saturday, December 24, 2005

Is Woody wild?

This well watched Wood Duck on the Glamorgan Canal at Coryton provoked a lot of interest regarding it's origin. Why isn't it wild? It arrived at the same time as the influx of Yankee Laughing Gulls, and disappeared in early spring when other wintering wildfowl were thinning out. Apparently they are this approachable in the States. Anyway, he brightened up winter visits to this reserve.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Divers and Laughing Gull at Porthcawl

With news of divers off Kenfig Sands on Saturday, it seemed a good idea to make a trip down to the coast and see if I could get some better views of the Laughing Gull that is now resident in Porthcawl. Jeff and I met at Kenfig and walked out to Sker. A look along the bay at Kenfig Sands revealed about 5-6 birds that could have been divers, but much too distant to identify. We dcided to have a quick look at Sker Point and Pink Bay just in case some birds were nearer. A flock of Oystercatchers were busy, with a few Curlews and Turnstones. A Peregrine sat on the Ffynnon-wen Rocks. We soon picked out three Red-throated Divers not too far out. After a while at least three more divers flew up channel, but these were too distant to id. As we made our way back to Sker, a Shag appeared close-in and I picked out a Guillemot diving out a sea. Scanning the Kenfig Sands bay this time revealed that the potential divers had gone as the tide ebbed. A lone Great-crested Grebe was all that remained onthe water. We moved on to Porthcawl to find the Laughing Gull. I wanted some better views and maybe a photo or two. It was a UK tick for Jeff. We parked at the harbour, and scanned the flagpoles and beach. Sure enough, within a minute Jeff had picked out a dark blob on Sandy Bay which turned out to be 'our bird'. We got onto the beach and took a few photos before it flew back to the harbour, whereupon it returned to the beach as we arrived back at the harbour. Not too worry though, as we were able to watch it in flight and feeding on the beach for quite some time as the tide went out. A couple of Gwent birders were there too, and mentioned they'd seen upto twenty Red-throated Divers and sixty Golden Plovers at Rest Bay that morning.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Slimbridge pays off

Unable to go on the Club trip, I was keen to get to Slimbridge before the New Year as I new it would hold a few birds not on my year list. Arriving just before 10:00am I had a quick look in the Rushy Pen and ticked off four Bewick's Swans. On to the hides near the Holden Tower and it was clear that there were many birds in for the winter. On to Holden Tower for the geese and who should be standing at the top of the stairs, Tim! Nice surprise. He'd managed to pick out the two Pink-footed Geese but the distance and light were proving difficult to keep tabs on them. A couple of active Peregrines and a mobile Dunlin flock didn't help to keep a focus of the geese. Plenty of White-fronted Geese were on show to help me creep towards 200. A very obliging Little Stint showed well amongst the Dunlin and I was nearly there. We decided that the Zeiss Hide would offer a better view of the Geese. A false alarm on for a pink-foot was soon followed by the real thing as Tim picked out two Pink-footed Geese waddling out of a shallow pool. One very obligingly stick its pink foot out for us. Bird 200 for the year! We made our way back, Tim to his driving lesson and me to the South Pool for some waders. Thsi proved fruitless though as the pool was very deep. Not to worry though ... mission accomplished!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Stuff I missed

Perhaps its a bit early to reflect on the year, but there's a few things I missed and won't see now. I'm not too worried though as I've had a good year, and saw most things I went for, albeit after several attempts in some cases. Here's what I could have seen, in no particular order:
  • Whimbrel - along the Gwent and Glamorgan coast on passage, but never managed to get out at the right time
  • Puffin - missed the Skomer trip
  • Spotted Crake - the Radipole bird hid from us
  • Dotterel - we went too early for the Garreg Lwyd birds. They turned up a week after we went
  • Ring Ouzel - somehow managed to miss the influx and the stragglers last month
  • Wilson's Phalarope - I was stranded on the other side of the Solent
  • Bee-eater - perhaps the dip of the year. Missed the Hampton Bishop pair the last open day of the view point. They reappeared later in the day
  • Squacco Heron - stuck in work when Tim and Dan went
  • Ring-billed Gull - the Cardiff Bay bird was never around when I was there. Could get one later possibly
  • Red-necked Grebe - returning from holiday when it showed up in Kenfig
  • Black Tern - didn't manage to get out when they were on passage through the area
  • White-winged Black Tern - no time available to see the Weston bird
  • Whiskered Tern - didn't know it was at CWP, but probably wouldn't have made it anyway
  • Wood Sandpiper - none at Slimbridge or Goldcliff when we went after the Bee-eater dip
  • Red-backed Shrike - no time to get to the Gower bird
  • Grey Partridge - hoped for one on the New Forest trip and haven't searched the Vale
  • Chough - haven't been West or searched Southerndown yet
  • Little Stint - missed the main wader passage
  • Temminck's Stint - ditto
  • Baird's Sandpiper - ditto
  • Turtle Dove - no chance!
  • Tree Pipit - a shocking ommission
  • Richard's Pipit - dipped the three at Huntspill on the Upland Sandpiper trip
  • Firecrest - missed the birds at Portland and tried Kenfig North pool area without success
I'll draw up a list of highlights at the end of the month.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

196 - Laughing Gull

Well, I finally caught up with this bird that's been eluding me for the last few weeks. Fifth time lucky! I didn't need to be in work until 10:00am this morning and with me working on Saturday, it seemed like the only chance I'd get to go for it. I arrived at the harbour in Porthcawl at 7:30am. It was just beginning to get light but it was bloody freezing in the wind. A scan across to Sandy Bay revealed a large flock of gulls at the tide's edge. As I began to walk along the sea wall, Turnstones appeared from every direction as they fed on the fishermen's scraps along the wall and pavement. I've never been so close to them. They're actually a lot smaller than I'd realised. Anyway, on to the gulls for a scan. Most were Black-headed gulls with a solitary Great Black-backed Gull. One of the smaller gulls looked dark and was alone. The light was difficult but I decided to pay this one some more atention. Viewing from the wall down on to the beach I was optimistic that I was on the bird, but it flew off before I could get near enough to confirm it for sure. With time wearing on, and frostbite setting in I decided to deploy plan B. Bread! Thinking of Dan's text, I'd brought half a loaf with me just in case. I walked over to the harbour where some gulls seemed to be active. As I threw some pieces of bread in to the water, I began to attract a few more birds, and sure enough the bird I was after appeared within a minute. Blimey, it stood out a mile! Extremely dark wings. Black primaries and secondaries, brown coverts and a dusky grey mantle. A black or very dark terminal band on the tail really stood out too. Black bill and legs completed the picture. It was a little smaller than I'd expected. Perhaps the same size or slightly bigger than a Black-headed Gull. I placed some bread on the sea wall and managed some nice close views of it fluttering down to feed, though it failed to land all the time I was there. Never mind, the second lifer in a week. Number 196 for the year, Laughing Gull. A very confiding Rock Pipit completed the morning. I thought at first it was a littoralis type, but I think this was the light playing tricks on me. Anyway, its gamy leg revealed why it kept close.