Monday, October 31, 2016

Hume's Leaf Warbler, Middleton, Gower - or is it ?

News broke last Saturday of a Hume's Leaf Warbler found by Eddie Hunter mixing with a couple of Yellow-browed Warblers at Middleton on Gower, Ed covers this little patch and has discovered some great birds in the past month.
I couldn't make it down there on Saturday but met up with Richard Smith at 8.00am yesterday morning at Sarn Junc 36 on the M4 and with Richard at the wheel and quiet roads we rolled up at Middleton at 8.55am.
Eddie Hunter, Alistair Flanagan, Paul Parsons and Paul Tabor were already present and Ed led the two of us into the cottage garden which the bird had been frequenting with the kind permission of the lady owner of the property.
The warbler had already been seen and throughout the morning we heard it's distinctive call a few times and got views of the bird in the dense foliage but getting a clear shot of the bird with the camera was another thing !!
As lunchtime approached we decided to take a break for a sarnie and Paul Tabor phoned to let us know that he and 'Sid' had found a Pallas's Warbler in the lane leading down to the coast from the village.
As we set off we were joined by Chris Brewer and bumped into the two Pauls who gave us directions to the location but also advised that the bird had been lost from view.
We reached the location and decided that it would be impossible to refind the bird and so headed back to the cottage for another go at the Hume's joining the two Pauls in the garden.
After a little while we struck it lucky and the warbler came into the apple tree on the boundary and showed about as well as one could hope for and both myself and Richard managed some shots in the gloom at high ISO.........

A few birders looked in on the bird one of which was Gary Harper the Carmarthenshire County Recorder and much discussion ensued about the bird's characteristics, the call was perfect for Hume's in comparison to YB which had also called whilst we were there and the general consensus as we left was that the bird looked good for a 1st winter Hume's.
We next headed for Broughton Bay Caravan Park near Llangennith where Mike and Emma Cram had found a pair of Black Redstarts during the half term break.
We found the location on the site but no birds but after a search found two over the opposite side of the park which include a smart but rather dowdy male.......

We decided to finish the day at Llanrhidian hoping for a couple of owls but had to be satisfied with a distant female Marsh Harrier in the gloom as the Little Egrets came in to roost.

My run of cracking day's out connecting with some great birds in the last couple of months had continued with Hume's Leaf Warbler if accepted being a 'lifer' for me having failed to connect with one over in Norfolk on a winter lad's weekend some years ago.

Monday, October 24, 2016

"Boxer Boys" Day Out

After much trying the four of us finally agreed on a date for a well overdue lads' day out and Sunday 23rd October found us heading 'over the bridge' to Somerset and Steart Marshes which over the weekend was holding some good birds.
Dan, Wayne, Gethin and myself left our meeting point at Dan's house at 8.00am with Wayne at the wheel and made good progress arriving at Steart at 9.30am.
WWT have made an excellent job of turning the place into a proper reserve with car parks, good paths, top quality hides and a toilet block at the main car park.
We parked up (in the wrong car park !) and headed for the location of the 'star' bird, this being an american Lesser Yellowlegs which had been identified from photos on Friday and which Gethin wanted to add to his 'life' list.
As we walked up the embankment the word from a departing birder was dissapointing, he had made his third visit and was yet to connect and the bird which had been at the lagoon earlier had flown off.
We settled on the embankment and after a short while the bird dropped in from nowhere and started feeding as close to us as was possible, bingo, result !!
'High Fives' with Gethin and Tunnocks all round !!
I grabbed my camera and although the light was poor with a grey, overcast sky I managed some shots which I was quite pleased with.............

A Merlin flew through and a Meadow Pipit had a lucky escape, the Lesser Yellowlegs became a little edgy and after about 45 minutes or so flew off strongly in a north-westerly direction and didn't return.

A female Kestrel was hunting the rough grassed area just below us and I managed a few shots as it perched up on some fence posts.........

We decided to move on to try and catch up with a Cattle Egret which we had picked up on fields in the distance and it flew strongly towards us landing in a field near Marsh Farm adjacent the main access road to the reserve, we crossed paths with bird a few times allowing me to get some shots......

We next headed for the beach on the Severn Estuary side of the reserve which held good numbers of waders the main bird being good numbers of Dunlin, with smaller numbers of Knot, Grey Plover and Wayne picked out a Little Stint before the birds took flight.

After a spot of lunch we decided to leave and at about 2.30pm we headed over the M5 to Ham Wall on the Somerset Levels hoping for a few more good birds and were not to be disappointed.
After spending some time at the look out point and the hide out on the marsh we decided to chance our arm at the fairly new Avalon Hide and soon had a couple of Marsh Harriers hunting the reedbed....

As we scanned the various wildfowl present which included Shoveler, Wigeon, Gadwall and Common Teal the pair of Glossy Ibis which have been on the reserve since the early summer dropped in to feed and preen on the edge of the reedbed in front of the hide, luck or what, needless to say my camera sprung into action.......

Wayne called a Great White Egret from the back of the hide and two dropped into the near reed bed......


We finished off the day hoping to see the Starling murmuration picking up a confiding Grey Heron on the way having been told that in the order of 10,000 birds were coming into roost in the reed bed, birds flew in from various directions in different size flocks and we estimated that something like 40-50,000 birds came into roost over 30 minutes or so.

Unfortunately probably because of the windy conditions the birds did not display and settled almost immediately in the reeds, still it was an awesome spectacle........

The light was now beating us and having enjoyed a great day out we headed for home at about 6.00pm, great company, plenty of friendly banter and some cracking birds made for a thoroughly enjoyable day out, we mustn't leave it so long next time.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Baird's Sandpiper : KNNR

Baird's Sandpiper is one of the American 'peeps' that I haven't caught up with over the years, whilst the more common species such as Pectoral, Buff - brested and White-rumped have been reasonably easy to connect with Baird's has proved more difficult, I should have made the effort to have gone for the Pembrokeshire bird a few years ago and have regretted it since.
So when Neil Donaghy found one on his 'patch' yesterday morning I promised myself I would make an effort although work has a habit of intervening.
I couldn't make it yesterday and hoped that it would stay overnight so when Neil posted via the text 'grapevine' that the bird was still there at 7.30am I managed a visit between meetings and got to Kenfig by about 9.50am.
The bird was reminiscent of the White-rumped Sandpiper back in 2007 as it was feeding in the same spot on the East shore of the pool and was equally confiding.
There were already about 9-10 birders and 'toggers' present including a few familiar faces and although the grey overcast conditions made for terrible light I managed a few shots that I was pleased with as the bird showed down to 5-6m..........

I had hoped that the bird would stay until tomorrow and that I would be able to revisit in better light but a phone call from birding friend Steve Howcroft from Cardiff telling me that the bird had flown off west a couple of minutes before he arrived at 3.00pm means that Plan 'B' whatever that is will have to be put into motion.
Although I would have liked the bird in better light a 'lifer', Wales and county 'tick' and some reasonable photos can't be sniffed at especially on a work day.

Sunday, October 09, 2016

Yellow - Browed Warbler : KNNR

With the easterly winds and the recent influx of Yellow - Browed Warblers into the UK myself and fellow birder and "togger" Peter Morgan decided to stay local and head for Kenfig this morning where a few YBWs had been found in the last couple of days by local birder Neil Donaghy.
We met up at Sarn on Junc 36 of the M4 at 07.30 and headed first for Sandfields in Aberavon in the hope that the juvenile Rose - coloured Starling was still present having been reported last Thursday after an absence of reports earlier in the week.
We stayed for an hour and searched rooftops of the street which the the bird had favoured but had no luck and decided to head for Kenfig.
Just as we arrived a "grapevine" text alerted us that Neil had found another YBW  and after a quick mobile call to Neil who was still there and had Paul "Sid" Parsons and Paul Tabor for company he met up with us and showed us the location.
We waited a little while and two YBWs appeared flitting around the willow and hawthorn bushes and we all managed some shots although the harsh sunlight casting shadows with the foliage caused some headaches..........

Richard Smith phoned and then joined us but with the birds disappearing and photographic opportunities becoming scarce we headed for Dunraven on the Heritage Coast where another YBW had been reported yesterday.
After getting ripped off for the £3.00 parking fee we parked up and were joined by Cliff Woodhead who was hoping for a couple more shots of the Hobby that had been hunting the fields at the top of the cliffs for a few days.
We searched the wooded area near the viewpoint and a Chiffchaff threw us for a moment and eventually having no luck we decided to call it a day and headed for home.