Monday, October 23, 2006

Portland Plus, 14-15 October, 2006

We were underway well before light, though a little later than planned after the driver, Geri, hit his snooze button. After a pit stop at Exeter, we decided to have a quick look at Bowling Green Marsh. A curlew sandpiper had been around, but the tide was still out and few birds of were on show apart from a small group of greenshanks from the viewing platform. Waders were starting to move up the estuary but we could not afford the time to wait for them to come closer. We set off for Cornwall and arrived at the Hayle Estuary by mid-morning in search of two Nearctic waders. We ran into Rob Jones from Port Talbot who had been on site since first light. He’d already one of our target birds and was now looking for the second. It had not been seen all morning so we decided to hang around. After about an hour without a glimpse, a group of birders on the opposite side of the river appeared to be interested in something so we decided to join them. They were not positive, but there was certainly a small stint giving brief glimpses. After a few minutes, it appeared and sure enough our pale-legged peep was running around on the marsh. We all had views of our least sandpiper running, standing and flying before it disappeared behind a little mud bank. A life tick for two of us, and a UK tick for Jeff. We attempted to get better views from our original location but this proved fruitless. We moved on to the other end of the estuary where our other target had been showing for a few days. As we chatted with a few locals, along came a group of Celtic Bird tourers. We were told that the bird was showing from a pub car park, but the landlord has a strong aversion to birders. We managed to get onto the saltmarsh nearby and sure enough a couple in the group located the bird before it sneaked up a small creak no more than twenty yards way. An anxious wait of around twenty minutes was rewarded when the bird reappeared, first of all roosting and then walking around. This strongly marked spotted sandpiper, was very confiding and we managed great views, though some rather tall reeds made digiscoping difficult. Satisfied with two from two, we now had to make a choice of where to go next. Birdguides provided a few choices, but we decided to go for a melodious warbler, firecrest and wryneck at Porthgwarra. We arrived after around half an hour, to see Rob Jones once more giving us the thumbs up. The main target bird was still showing. Porthgwarra is at the end of the world. Well nearly, its just down the road from Land’s End. A small little valley, with a tiny bay, a car park, cafĂ© and a few small cottages. As we got out of the car, two old dears smiled. They’d seen the melodious warbler no more than five minutes earlier. We headed to the location, and a few birders were there, and showed us where the bird was flitting about. After a few minutes, it showed fleetingly, and frustratingly for me as I missed it. Not to worry though as it was out again before too long, but this time giving prolonged views at the top of an ivy. Two local put their ‘scope on it and welcomed us all forward for a nice close-up view. Another lifer for Jeff and me. Geri reckoned we were extremely lucky to get such good views. Melodious warblers are skulkers. We had a brief look for the wryneck, but as the afternoon was wearing on our thoughts turned to the journey up to Portland. We headed off, satisfied with three great birds. After a couple of hours we arrived at the Obs and then moved straight on to the Pulpit for a meal and a few pints. We were met with some glum faces as we arrived. Did we smell that bad? Was our company not wanted? Maybe, but it probably had more to do with the fact that the Club had been chasing and dipping some good birds all day. Notably, little bunting, hoopoe and barred warbler had all been on the Isle during the day, but proved elusive to many observers, not just the GBC. After enjoying the craic, we headed back to the annexe for a couple of hours sleep. We all rose early, and made breakfast before convening on the patio area to wait what was being trapped early on hope that some news would come through of some decent birds. A pair of cattle egrets were reported from Lodmoor, so at least we had a backup plan. A ring ouzel flew into the bushes around the huts and a group set off to find it. A merlin was a nice reward, before the ring ouzel appeared once more. By now the wind had really picked up and very few birds were in the nets. We decided to have a look around the Bill to see if the long-staying rosy starling was around. It wasn’t, so we had a half-hours seawatch in gale force conditions. Plenty of gannets we following the fishermen, but there was little else of interest. Before we headed off for the egrets, we called in at the Tump, with a few to bush bashing some migrants. A local was already there and reported that nothing was about, and what was present was keeping very low. After a twenty minute search we concurred that he was right. We parked at Lodmoor and Geri was accosted by some foreigners who mistook him for a hunter. Disabused of this notion, a lengthy conversation followed about the presence in the UK of dotterel and various other species. We moved on to the lane where the egrets had been found. They weren’t showing at first, but once we’d located the cows out in the reserve, we caught our first glimpse of a bird in flight. At the same time we noticed that the other GBCers were viewing the birds from the opposite end of the reserve. We made our way to the viewing platform and enjoyed good views of both cattle egrets feeding amongst the cows. Our next target was a long-staying marbled duck at Stanpit Marsh, Christchurch. The journey there proved eventful, as we learned what the life of a county recorder is. Geri’s mobile rang with news of a possible ring-necked duck at Eglwys Nunydd Reservoir. It was found by a birder with little experience of the species and verification as required. Several calls were then made to birders in the vicinity, all of whom were unable to check it out right away. We arrived at Stanpit Marsh to be welcomed by Paul Bowden who was just leaving having watched our target a few minutes earlier. Soon enough we were watching the young duck. Its behaviour was certainly wary. Waddling about, and then disappearing out of site or constantly looking around nervously. We all concluded it was looking good for a genuine wild bird rather than plastic. With another target in the book, we decided to conclude the day with a short trip to the New Forest to locate a hoopoe that had been around for a few days. We soon found the site, but it looked really poor hoopoe habitat, and we were unable to find the bird. Nevertheless, we were satisfied that we’d made the most of a quiet day and we headed home. A call came through with news that the ring-necked duck was in fact a pochard. We arrivied back in Whitchurch around 8:00pm. Another good trip, with thanks to Geri for driving such big distances. Opening the latest Birding World on Monday, it seems that the marbled duck is being written off as a fence hopper by many observers.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Good Godwit, What a Grey Day!

(They get worse, and worse!) The Glamorgan Twitchmeister (Gethin) dragged me out for a bit of birding this morning and it turned out much, much better than expected. Everybody in Glamorgan seemed to be seeing Black-tailed Godwits this autumn - apart from me. But, my nerves were finally eased when we found one busily feeding down at the Ogmore Estuary. I was extremenly happy with this (East) Glam year tick but better was to come. I was about to point the car homewards when I decided at the last minute that I'd try for Tree Sparrows (for Geth) up at Ty'n-y-Caeau Farm. There were no Tree Sparrows visible but I couldn't care less 'cos there, at the bottom of the field, was a covey of 8 Grey Partridge. I've been searching this area of the Vale for years in the hope of seeing this species, and the one time I'm in the area and not specifically looking for them, there they are in front of my nose! Not only an (East) Glam year tick but a Glamorgan lifer too. Glam year list = 169 East Glam year list = 163 (By the way, I'm looking forward to reading the Cornwall/Dorset trip report - get a move on!).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Scoter Surprise

Sophie wanted a trip to see the sea yesterday and of course I didn't need a second invitation. We walked from Rest Bay up to Kenfig Sands. It was quiet with very little viz mig - just a couple of Wheatears to keep us company and a couple of Skylark overhead. The only waders on the beach were Oystercatcher and Curlew. I always feel a sense of expectation when I arrive at Kenfig Sands. You can arrive there one day and there will be a nice little selection of waders on show. The next day, for no apparent reason, there are none. I was a little disappointed that the only thing visible were more Oycs and Curlews, but with the falling tide I decided to have a closer look at the Mussel Bed. Amongst the gulls were a few Turnstone and little else. But, while looking at the Mussel Bed, out of the corner of my field of view, I saw a small flock of dark birds heading towards me from Swansea. 7 Common Scoter. Another addition to my Glam Year Lists, and a very pleasant surprise. They dropped down on the sea off Kenfig Sands. I watched them for a few moments, took my eye off them to look at something else (a Shag), and never saw them again - even though the sea was relatively calm. I'd been lucky! Dead chuffed we walked home and on the way back a large flock of about 120 Golden Plover circled overhead. And so my local year lists are still ticking over, but I dipped this morning on the Ruff at The Watermill. That would have been a nice addition. I was already thinking of the title of my blog ("Ruff Stuff!") as I drove down there. Perhaps I shouldn't have tempted fate.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Falco subbuteo . . .

. . . back of the net! I went to the Vale today in the hope of finally picking up Grey Partridge and possibly Common Scoter off the coast for my Glamorgan Year Lists. I got neither of them. But, and it's a big BUT . . . walking along the cliff top at Nash Point I saw a raptor coming full pelt towards me. It was obviously a falcon, but it wasn't the Kestrel which had been hanging around for the last quarter of an hour. Neither was it as bulky as a Peregrine. As it whizzed past me there was no doubt - it was a Hobby! It didn't hang around, dashing straight off east in the direction of the lighthouse. Not the best view of a Hobby I've ever had, but I was chuffed to bits. I'd completely given up on seeing this species in Glamorgan this year. Earlier in the day I'd visited the Barrage. Would the reported Yellow-legged Gull still be around? No, it wasn't. I re-found Wayne's two Common Tern and had a pleasant surprise in the form of 21 Ringed Plover and 3 Dunlin roosting on the rocks on the inside of the Barrage. There was also a Wheatear hanging around. Next stop, Cosmeston. Would the Yellow-legged Gull be hanging around there? No, it wasn't. And there was little else there either. Is it me, or does anybody else find Cosmeston frequently disappointing? After leaving Nash Point I went on to the Ogmore Estuary. No sign of the Little Gull - only half a dozen Curlew, a Redshank and a Kingfisher of note. Still, I'm not complaining - I wasn't at work and that Hobby really made my day. East Glam Year List: 160 Glam Year List: 166

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

No (re)Tern, but Oodles of Ouzels

Sorry - I couldn't resist it. On my way home from Swansea last night I 'terned' off into Eglwys Nunydd in the hope of adding another tick to my Glamorgan Year List. Sadly the Little Tern had naffed off an hour before I had arrived. The sight of 5 Black Tern hawking along the reservoir was some sort of consolation. ring ouzelI had more luck on Sunday with the Ring Ouzels at Cwmparc. I felt like a Victorian aristocratic ornithologist because, there waiting for me at the bottom of hill with the Ouzels already staked out for me was my scout - Wayne 'Trapper' Morris. He put me and Gethin (the two biggest twitchers in Glamorgan this year) onto the birds immediately. A lifer for Geth who was suitably impressed. Sadly, we couldn't refind the two Black Redstarts which were also present which would have been yet another lifer for JJ jnr. Many thanks Wayne - I owe you a pint.