Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More Kite News

It was about time I headed north for a visit to Rhayader. The now well-discussed and photographed Black Kite has been on show for a few weeks, and presents a good opportunity to see the species at close quarters alongside Red Kite, regardless of its credentials.

A stop-off at Llwyn-onn Reservoir did not produce its annual Water Pipit tick, though a Woodcock flushed at the north of the Reservoir, a small party of Goosander on Cantref Reservoir, and a Goshawk over Erwood produced year ticks for our group.

At Gigrin, we were on the Black Kite within a few minutes, being perched in a nearby tree. Good views through the binoculars and telescopes were enjoyed, and our team photographer snapped away. It drifted off, so we made our way to the feeding area, and took up position outside the hides. There was plenty of activity, with Red Kites, Buzzards, Crows, Ravens and the odd Grey Heron waiting for their grub. A mixed group of Siskins and Lesser Redpolls fed on the Alders behind us.

At 2:00pm prompt, the tractor arrived with its load. Sprinkling this over the ground in front of the hides soon saw the sky full of birds. Buzzards and corvids seem to feed on the ground, whereas the kites prefer to stay aloft, picking up scraps and feeding on the wing.

Black Kite: courtesy of Handy Grouse Imaging

The feeding frenzy lasted around 30 minutes, after which we departed south for Ponsticill Reservoir where an Iceland Gull has been reported coming in to roost in the later afternoon. We arrived at 3:50pm, with large numbers of gulls, already roosting in two large group on the water. We spent some time working through the roost, but it consisted of Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls for the most part. We left with new birds still arriving at the roost as darkness fell.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Kitefest at Gigrin Farm : Jan 2010

Saturday morning 9th January saw myself and Neil meet up at the Harvester car park at Llandarcy to take advantage of the glorious winter weather and head north to Rhyader and Gigrin Farm Kite Feeding Station in the hope of catching up with the recently arrived Black Kite together with the feeding spectacle of the hundreds of Red Kites that turn up for the afternoon feeds.
Both the A465 and A470 were clear of snow as was the B road across the common from Penderyn although the countryside was a picture postcard snowscape.
We picked up two Red Kites as we approached Brecon and another two as we turned off onto the A470 north of Brecon for Builth Wells and as we approached Rhayader the numbers steadily increased.
We turned off the A470 at the Brynafon Hotel who were kindly letting visitors to Gigrin use their car park and made our way along the snow and ice covered track only to find a Ford Mondeo making a valiant but rather foolish attempt to get up to the farm blocking our way.
The driver thought he was in with a chance with a push from ourselves and despite our best efforts he had to concede and make his way back down to the hotel car park.
The Jeep flew up the track effortlessly and we were the first vehicle to arrive,Chris the owner introduced himself and we parked up for a coffee and a bite to eat.
Soon after another two 4x4s arrived carrying yet more Glamorgan birders and out tumbled Paul Bowden,Glyn Roberts,Matt Evans,Mark Duttfield,Rob Gaze,Martin Bevan,Phil Hill and Martin Bell all armed with an assortment of 'scopes,cameras and video recorders.
We made our way along the snow covered track to the hides and scanned the sky and trees which were dripping with Red Kites waiting for the feed to commence,in one of the trees was perched the leucistic "White" kite which has been a regular visitor to the feeding station for a number of years.
At precisely 2.00pm Chris arrived with his tractor and the feeding frenzie commenced with the sky full of acrobatic swooping kites interspersed with a few Common Buzzards,some Ravens and lots of Carrion Crows.
Gigrin Farm is probably the best place in the UK if not the world to see and photograph Red Kites although I don't know if I agree with Andy Rouse's suggestion that "it is too easy and anyone can get a good Red Kite photo at Gigrin".
For a novice such as myself there are probably too many birds in the air at one time criss-crossing with eachother,having said that I couldn't wait to have a go with my new camera and big lens.
I'd only seen one Black Kite previously in the UK which was the Black-Eared Kite over in Norfolk at this time of year a few years ago and was keen to catch up with this bird.
It put in a few fleeting appearances but moved through the feeding field very quickly,but as time went on and the Red Kites started to thin out and disperse it seemed to seize it's chance and was almost the last kite to remain feeding challenged only by the corvids,does that mean it's down the pecking order from the Red Kites and it feels intimidated by their large numbers ?
It made several passes close to the hides and gave amazing views,it really put on a 5 star show.
We filled our boots with some great views and just before leaving the hide the bird perched up in a nearby tree to enjoy what must have been a welcome meal.
The feed came to an end and as the Red Kites dispersed the Black Kite disappeared over the hides prompting us to call it a day and make our way back to the Jeep for a welcome cuppa and chat with the rest of the Glamorgan lads before departing for home.
As we made our way down the track the other lads were on the Black Kite again which had perched up in a tree in a nearby field giving more excellent 'scope views as it sat with several Red Kites.

What a brilliant day out,Gigrin Farm never ceases to amaze me and the facilities there are second to none,to see so many kites in such wonderful snow covered scenery was a treat,but to get such amazing views of a Black Kite as well was really "the icing on the cake".

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Twitchmeister's New Buddy

I'm not saying he's obsessed . . . . .!!!!!!

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

New Year Birding

New Year's Day saw myself and Kevin meet up early for a visit to the Gower and from there on to WWT Penclcwydd.
First call was to Blackpill and on a receding tide were good numbers of Oystercatchers and Curlew with the usual gulls but nothing else of note.
From there we pushed on to Bracelet Bay,Mumbles to pick up Mediterranean Gull and about 20 of varying ages but mostly adults duly obliged on the rocks below the car park.
A small flock of Linnets on the gorse bushes attracted a cracking male Sparrowhawk who perched for a short while enabling me to "digiscope" a distant record shot.
Next stop was Pennard where we hoped to pick up Chough and have a scan of the Scoter flocks which generally form large rafts offshore,unfortunately we dipped on both and the lack of any Scoters was something of a surprise and disappointment.
We then called into Millwood just off the main road at Penrice which is always pretty reliable for Marsh Tit and 3 duly obliged at the end of our walk along the circular route.
In addition we also picked up Lesser Redpoll,Goldfich,Nuthatch,Treecreeper,and all of the more common tits.
On the way to Port Eynon we called into Scurlage to pick up Lapwing and Goldie Looking Plover which had been on the fields in good numbers during the Gyr Falcon twitch and good numbers still remained,we kidded ourselves that we would refind the Gyr Falcon but no such luck !!
At Port Eynon we marched out to the "Grassy Knoll" and rocks beyond to catch up with Purple Sandpiper picking up the likes of Turnstone,Stonechat and Rock Pipit on the way.
A single Purple Sand showed itself but only after I had slipped and drowned my little Fuji compact in a rock pool so anymore thoughts of "digiscoping" duly disappeared !!
We crossed over the Gower to Penclacwydd and after about 30 mins were glad we hadn't based our whole day there as everything including the scrape in front of the British Steel hide was frozen over.
A few Lapwing,Curlew and Common Snipe lurked around the scrape by which time it was too late to travel anywhere else so we moved over to the lagoons over the "other side" in the hope of picking up an owl or harrier as the light faded.
We had no success with either and so headed for home more than a little disappointed that the day had fizzled out after a promising start.
With Dan unavailable on Sun 3.Jan myself,Kevin,Wayne and Geri made an early start to get down to Devon by first light and catch up with some of the good birds that had shown up in the area.
First stop was Topsham for the Spotted Sandpiper but with an early high tide we decided we make another stop on our return journey.
We pushed on to Powderham where a Cattle Egret had been showing and the bird duly obliged in amongst half a dozen Little Egrets near the distant group of Fallow Deer.
It is a Cattle Egret,honestly !!!
Next stop was Dawlish where a female Surf Scoter lurked offshore with the Common Scoters,we trudged out to Warren Point passing several of the sea defence groynes on the way most of which had a Grey Plover perched on each of the posts on the high tide.
I was using Teresa's old Sony W1 to "digiscope" as my little Fuji was well and truly knackered after my mishap on New Year's Day,with it being about 5 year old and not having image stabilization is my excuse for producing some really crap photos (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it).
We scanned and scanned and still we couldn't find the Surf Scoter,there were several Commons and we found a few Velvets but the Surf sadly eluded us.We still picked up some good birds with good numbers of Dunlin,some Knot and Ringed Plover as well as Slav and GC Grebe and GN and RT Divers.
Time was pressing and after a long walk back to Kevin's car we headed for Exminster Marshes where the Red Breasted Goose had been reported with a large flock of Brent Geese,no sooner had we arrived than we were told that they had all moved to Dart Farm over the far side of Topsham.
En-route we de-toured to the stubble fields above Exminster village where Cirl Bunting,Woodlark,Linnet,Green Woodpecker and other more common farmland species all put in an appearance.
Next stop was a return visit to Topsham for the Spot Sand which after a trudge across the recreation fields to the river gave excellent views as it picked it's way along the bank.

We pushed on the short distance to Dart Farm at which time Kev's pager informed us that the RB Goose and Brents had turned up at Bowling Green Marsh and after a quick about turn and march down the lane we were soon watching this terrific looking goose feeding with the Brents in the field adjacent to the path leading to the viewing platform,it appears to have all the credentials for being genuine and althiugh it will probably never be accepted by any rarities committee it's going down as a "tick" on my UK list.

We enjoyed cracking views of the goose and then walked the short distance to the viewing platform where Geri enjoyed showing several non-birders Avocets and the difference between Common and Spotted Redshank as they fed side by side on the mud.

The light soon faded and a cracking day had come to a close,my only regret was that I had left my new SLR and big lens at home never dreaming that we would get such close views of the Spot Sand and RB Goose,there's a moral in that story and a lesson to be learned there I think.