Thursday, January 26, 2006

Black Necked Grebes Ynys-y-fro 25th Jan

Distant, but showing well. Parking is a nightmare at this site. Travelled on to Llandegfedd Res, where there has been a Red Necked Grebe. Unfortunately, the gate was locked, so no access to the North end was possible.

Another Black-throated Thrush 22nd January

Townhill, Swansea Sunday 22nd. Showed within 2 mins, much more obliging than the Somerset bird.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Little Egret Penylan 19th January

An interesting recent sighting has been this Little Egret, which I have now seen from our house 9 times in about a fortnight. As we live in an urban area, it was a surprise. It is often flying past, but has been in the stream in the park a couple of times. Seen here perched on a dead tree usually used by Collared Doves or LBB Gulls.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Woodcocks at Dusk

I met Dan at the Brynffynon Hotel at Llanwonno at 4:45pm having ticked a female merlin on the road to the pub. We were soon in situ along the Pontypridd road waiting for our birds. At about 5:00pm we saw two woodcocks fly in just 10-15 metres in front of us with one landing nearby. They appeared a little earlier than I'd anticipated as the light was still reasonable. Over the course of the next half an hour we a had decent but brief views of another 3-4 birds all in the same spot heading towards the field I suspect they are feeding in. We concluded the evening with a pint of Tomos Watkin Cwrw Gaeaf in the Brynffynon, spending half an hour or so chatting with the Barman there.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Cardiff Four

Not another John Williams novel, but the four good species we managed to tick on Saturday, 14 January. An early start with Jeff and Dan in an attempt to see the owls at Mardy Road at dawn. At about 7:30am a little owl flew into the old oak tree. As the light improved Dan and Jeff picked out the shape of the second little owl that must have been in the tree before we arrived. One owl then flew to the roost hole towards the base of the tree while the second then showed nicely against the trunk of the tree with all its spots on show. Sadly, the barn owl did not appear before we left for an emergency toilet break at the nearby Tesco's. As we were nearby, we decided to take a quick look for a reported jack snipe in the reedbed at Green Point on the Rhymney Estuary. We had a good look around but it didn't show. Next port of call was the Barrage in the hope of getting ring-billed gull and black redstart. There were few gulls to be seen, and no sign of the American. We walked to the very far end of the Barrage, picking out a few meadow pipits, a rock pipit, stonechat and a linnet. Then Jeff saw a white wingbar and we were soon onto a nice male black redstart, shortly joined by a second. One bird stayed perched atop a fence for quite some time and Jeff managed a record shot through Dan's 'scope. We returned to the car, pleased to have connected with this species. On to Cosmeston in the hope of seeing the gull and some long-staying scaups. Again there was no sign of the gull, but we were soon on to a first winter male scaup and a nearby female. Another possible male/hybrid was close by too. On to Western Avenue for firecrest and yellow-browed warbler. A few birders were already at the site watching two, possibly three close firecrests. We all enjoyed terrific views, but unfortunatley the warbler did not show. At least we were consistent with our 50% hit rate. We rounded the day off with a walk across to Pontcanna Fields in the hope of getting the lesser-spotted woodpecker. A football match gave us little hope of seeing it near its nest hole and unfortunatley there was no sign of one along the river. Another enjoyable morning out, and I'm pleased to have connected with two species I missed last year - firecrest and black redstart. As I arrived home, Dan texted through to report the ring-billed gull was at the Barrage. B@ll%*ks!

Monday, January 09, 2006

Exe Estuary Trip

Jeff, Colin and I left Cardiff at 7:35am and in good time we were in the top fields searching for cirl bunting about 30 minutes before the club arrived. Though we were unable to locate our target bird, the good news was that Geri and Kevin had seen a couple lower down the hill near the Farm Cattages. A small group of us wandered down the hill and were onto a nice male in short time. As ever Geri and Kevin were keen to press on and as there was no sign of the club moving soon we decided to follow them over to Woodbury Common for a long-staying great grey shrike. On arriving at the carpark it was raining so we had a bite to eat and a drink. As the rain eased we headed south to where the bird had been last seen. We spent about 45 minutes searching to no avail. Just as we were about to give up and head to Dawlish for the high tide, Kevin got news on his pager that the bird was now northeast of where we were parked. Another hour was spent searching the heath to no avail except for a brief Dartford warbler seen by me and Jeff. Disappointed we returned to the carpark intending to move on. One last scan of the heath from the carpark however, revealed a bird at the top of a tree about 200m south. Sure enough it was our bird and another nice tick for the day. We managed to put a few other bedraggled birders on to it too. We moved on to Dawlish where the club were reporting that the long-staying first winter glaucous gull was showing well down to 20m. Sure enough as soon as we crossed the railway bridge near Langstone Rock the bird was spotted paddling around near the seawall. It flew back and for to the rock a couple of times too, so we enjoyed good flight views. Although the bird was in really close digiscoping proved difficult as it bobbed up and down on the waves. Nevertheless, this was a great bird for me - another lifer for the year. Other birds on show here were razorbill, shag, gannet, eider, and red-throated diver. As we had little daylight left moved on to round the day off at Bowling Green Marsh. Along the way we picked up black-tailed godwit and little egret at Cockwood Harbour, red-breasted merganser from Starcross railway station and dark-bellied brent geese on the golf course at Starcross. At Bowling Green Marsh were the usual ducks out on the march with a few pintail too. We headed on to the Exe and were pleased to see plenty of birds feeding. Dozens of avocets, dunlin, curlews, bar-tailed godwits and a lone grey plover were on show. We rounded off another enjoyable day with about 15 minutes on the viewing platform overlooking the Clyst. Another grey plover was in close with a few common waders and a fishing little egret.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Black-throated Thrush and more

2nd January saw an early start for the black-throated thrush in Somerset. A lifer for Dan, Jeff and myself. We arrived around 8:40am with a suspected speeding offence in the bag! It didn't look promising at first as a few birders were leaving to look elsewhere. We scanned the fieldfare and redwing flocks to no avail. Patience paid off however, as after about half an hour or so the bird appeared about 250 metres away giving prolonged views. Jeff managed this record shot. After a while, Geri, Kevin and Martin arrived and we decided to team up for a jaunt through Somerset. We left Curload having ticked kingfisher, grey wagtail, little egret too. We stopped at North Curry Moor for some reported Bewick's swans. There was no sign, but we had nice views of two peregrines overhead. We headed north for Shapwick Heath NNR, stopping a couple of times for reported ruff in the area. Again this species proved elusive, but we enjoyed huge flocks of lapwing with smaller numbers of dunlin and golden plover. At Shapwick Heath, we were soon viewing upto 16 water pipits at the first tank. Cetti's warblers were heard along the path upto the Noah's pools. Canada goose was seen here along with 3 grey geese. We thought greylag at first but Geri suspected pink-footed. We didn't get good enough views to confirm identity either way though. We all however, managed brief glimpses of Cetti's warbler though. On the return Geri did his best impression of water rail to entice a skulking bird out of the bog. He failed! On to Chew Valley Lake for a reported Slavonian grebe on Herriot's Pool. Dan did well to pick out the distant resting bird and Geri picked out ruddy duck too. We headed on to nearby Barrow Gurney reservoirs where a long-staying great northern diver remained. Tank 3 gave us nice views of 4 black-necked grebes feeding together amongst the ducks. 5 goosanders were on show too. Over the road to tank 1 for the diver. It was showing well, and constantly diving. This is a big, heavy bird! A large flock of linnets flew across empty tank 2. The light was fading now, but we had just enough time to dash across to Avonmouth to conclude the day with the long-staying drake ring-necked duck at Avonmouth Water Treatment Works. An enjoyable day out with some great birds.

Laughing Gull and Red-legged Partridge

1st January saw Alec and I make a trip to Porthcawl. Bumped into a few birders there, all with the same idea of getting laughing gull on their year list. Sure enough it was easy to find at the harbour again. Added a few gulls and turnstone and oystercatcher too. News of red-legged partridge at Wig-fach saw us pop-in on the way back for 5 birds giving great close views and another easy tick. On to Cardiff Barrage with the hope of getting black redstart and ring-billed gull. Dipped both but managed 5 shags, redshank and cormorant. Enjoyed playing in the park with Alec.

Monday, January 02, 2006

2005 Highlights

A good year for me, the first I've ever bothered to compile a list. I'm sure though that this would be my largest total for the UK in one year. The final total for the year stands at 202. A modest total of course, but some good birds nonetheless. Quite a few lifers were added this year including Marsh Sandpiper; Upland Sandpiper; Long-billed Dowitcher; Red-necked Phalarope; Cory's Shearwater (not UK); Red-crested Pochard; Long-tailed Duck; Honey-buzzard; Little Crake; Laughing Gull; Arctic Warbler and Lapland Bunting. White Stork, Cattle Egret and Black-winged Stilt were all added to my British List. Highlights would be the waders, especially the Marsh Sandpiper and the Red-necked Phalarope.

A rest from Year listing

Having yearlisted for 10 years now, I have decided to rest this year. I still intend birding frequently, but with more local patch/ survey work. Previous year totals (UK and Europe only): 1996 170 49 lifers (a few in Holland) 1997 205 31 lifers 1998 226 26 lifers (a few in Belgium) 1999 233 24 lifers 2000 250 20 lifers 2001 204 5 lifers (Foot and Mouth, a few in Belgium) 2002 217 4 lifers 2003 233 4 lifers (another 22, inc 18 lifers in Majorca) 2004 227 4 lifers 2005 232 11 lifers (another 66, inc 56 lifers in NZ; and 2, both lifers in LA airport)