Sunday, 19 December 2010

Snow birds

on 31st November, Seaford got nine inches of snow. This is an amount virtually unheard of in November this far south. And the following day, a few birds were seen locally.

In the garden, we had two firsts. A REED BUNTING was at the feeders and a WOODCOCK flew over. Other birds in the garden were a Common Gull, a Pied Wagtail, lots of Redwings and larger than usual numbers of the regular stuff. 15 Black-headed Gulls in the neighbourhood were also unusual.

I saw a few other birds on a walk in Seaford too. A second WOODCOCK, lots of Fieldfares and Redwings, a few Meadow Pipits in the gardens and, the undoubted highlight, a gorgeous FIRECREST in one St. Peters Churchyard, on Belgrave Road. Dad also had a third WOODCOCK on Seaford Golf Course, the fourth successive time one has been seen up there after snowfall! He also saw a drake GOOSANDER on the River Ouse at Southease.

all photos taken from the garden on 1st Dec

Thursday, 16 December 2010

November 2010

It took me all of November to get up to date with a week of birding in October! Luckily (depending on your outlook) I have done very little birding since then, so catching up is a tad easier.

By the time we got back to Seaford (31 Oct) visible migration was all but over. A few Meadow Pipits moved over in the first week of November, and overnight Redwings moved over in very good numbers, up until mid-month. November 7th was particularly good. I took a sample count of 23 in 10 minutes, which works out to approximately 120/150 per hour. I'm assumig they would have been moving from approximately 20:00 to 05:00, about first light at this time. This would have meant that approximately 1080-1350 Redwings moved over during that night!

I also saw Siskins in Seaford on 16 and 18 November. I have never seen then actually in town before now, only flying over, so this was unusual. I haven't seen any since though, so I don't think they are wintering.

On 20 Nov, in a mixed flock of Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit and Blue Tit, I saw a Chiffchaff of eastern origin, either abientus or tristis, but most likely the former. It was browner above and without any yellowish tone on it's underside, looking strikingly similar to the bird here (scroll down to 15 Nov). two Ravens also flew over today, and I saw my first wintering Redwings in Seaford.

After that, I saw very few birds until the snow arrived. On 28 November, a flock of 25 Lapwing and 30 Skylarks flew high over my house, all heading SW. I'll sign off with some photos from the garden taken recently...

Friday, 3 December 2010

ending scotland trip

well, it's been a whle bloody mnth since I was up there, but school, social life and general teen lethargy have prevented me from doing much on this blog since then. October 29th was my last day in Scotland, and on the 30th we took the ten-hour drive back down to East Sussex.

We spent the late morning birding on the 29th. At Longniddry, a Sparrowhawk came in/off, disappearing inland. A female Long-tailed Duck flew west, and other ducks were 3 Velvet Scoter, 20+ scoter sp (probably all Velvet), 1 drake Eider and 1 female Goldeneye. A Slavonian Grebe (yeartick 193) and a Guillemot were also offshore. Waders on the shore were c10 Sanderling (yeartick 194), c10 Dunlin, 1 Turnstone, c40 Lapwing, 2 Grey Plover, c250 Golden Plover and c100 Bar-tailed Godwit.

Golden Plover on the shore east f Longniddry. and No, they aren't Starlings!

At Mussleburgh Lagoons, I didn't bother with a camera. A mistake in retrospect, as Razorbill, Shag, Goldeneye, Slavonian Grebe and Velvet Scoter all showed well within photographic range. The totals were c20 Velvet Scoter, 3 Slavonian Grebes (together, and very close inshore), 1 Guillemot, 1 Razorbill (also very, very close), and 3 Shags. On the lagoons were c100 of Golden Plover and Lapwing, and c20 Curlew.

In the same field (off the A27) where we had seen 2 Roe Deer on the 24th, there were 13 today!

On the 30th, we stopped in Kieltner Forest, Northumberland. On a beautiful morning walk in the stunning scenery, a flock of 40 Crossbills were brilliant and my best ever views of this normally elusive species. Also seen were 60 Siskin, a sole Mistle Thrush and several Goldcrests. Dad also saw another Dipper.

two Red Kites were seen over the A4, and several flcks of Golden Plover and Lapwing were seen from the A68 (Pennines), A1 (the NE) and A14 (E Midlands). Totalling 600 Golden Plover and several thousand Lapwings.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

28 Oct-The highlands, the lowlands and the wetlands

we had stayed the night with my Uncle, Aunt and two kid Cousins in Kirriemuir, Angus, and today Uncle Danny, Dad and Me went out around some of the spectacular areas of Angus. The first birds  we saw were 12 Pink-footed Geese, flying low over the house in Kirriemuir and honking all the time.

The first stop was Loch of Kinnordy RSPB. Out on the Loch we saw loads of Teal and Shoveler, quite a few Gadwall and a handful of Wigeon and Goldeneye, but not the Goosanders or redhead Smew put out on RBA the previous day. We also saw a few Fieldfares, while in the alders between Swamp Hide and Gullery Hide were a lot of Siskins and a few Redpolls. However, the absolute highlight was a flock of 40 WAXWINGS. They flew into one of the pine trees visible from Swamp Hide, and showed gorgeously in the early morning sun.
male Shoveler
two female Shovelers and a lady Teal (on the island at the back)

a few Mallard and two female-type Goldeneye

and a shitload of Waxwing!!

With Kinnordy done, we headed up into the mountains of Glen Isla. We stopped to eat luch on a small road through a mountain wood, with Siskin and Redpoll above our heads. A walk through the valley of Glen Isla had no birds, bar a few Buzzards, Crows and a flock of 15 Linnets. But no matter how Dipper-less were the streams, no matter how obviously Golden Eagles lacked from the mountain tops, it was a beautiful, scenic walk in some of the remotest country left in Britain.

October snow on the mountains

you see? not bad is it! kinda makes up for the avian dearth

Driving back to Kirriemuir, we were going through along a road through a mountain-side wood, when a RED SQUIRREL ran accross the road in front of the car! we saw it for about 30 seconds as it scampered away through the wood. This was the undoubted highlight of our two days around Kirriemuir.

following that, we headed back to Kirriemuir for a drink with Danny, in a deathly quiet pub. The only other humans were a couple of subdued alchholics, the only sub-human was an angry, sulky barmaid, and the only music was the morose, monotone noise that my generation seem to love for some unfathomable reason...

We bid farewell to Danny after this, and began the drive back to Edinburgh. With one stop along the way...

A Slavonian Grebe and a Greenland White-fronted Goose had been seen at Burleigh Sands, and we stopped along the way to keep a look. We saw 200+ Greylag Geese, a few Pink-footed Geese, 100+ Whooper Swans, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mallard, Wigeon and Gadwall and the highlight, 15 GOOSANDER and 3 Red-breasted Merganser (all redheads), but neither of our target birds. The Goosanders were a yeartick (no. 192)

After this it was back down to Edinburgh. We had one more day left before it was time to go home, and we saw a few mre good birds, as I shall write in the next post n the trip...

Monday, 15 November 2010

27 Oct 2010-up into real Scotland!

On October 27th, we drove up to Kirriemuir, where we stayed the night with my Uncle Danny, having a day in the Highlands (next post, prbably to be put on tomorra) before heading back down to Edinburgh the following afternoon...

We stopped off first at Fannyside Lochs, near Falkirk. Here were 160 TAIGA BEAN GEESE, in a faraway field with sheep onLuckenburn Farm. This, aside from being great birds, was the first time we've ever parked the car in one county (Clackmannanshire) and seen a bird in another (Falkirk)! The nearest place to the Bean Geese where we could park the car was in fact 20 yards over the border! A few flyover Redpoll and Siskin were also seen/heard. This was only the second time I've seen geese of this race, the previous time being in Feb 2008 in Suffolk.

Taiga Bean Geese, 27 Oct 2010, very distant photo!
The geese were my 190th birds of the year.

We later stopped off at Vane Farm RSPB. Here I had great views of 30 Whooper Swans, my 191st bird of the year. There were also about 300 each of Wigeon and Teal, several Tufted Duck, a few Pochard, 8 Goldeneye and a single male Pintail showing well on the water, and a flock of 80 Pink-footed Geese flying over the Loch fairly distantly, though still showing well until they dropped down on a marsh.

try and find the two Goldeneye and two Pochard in this photo!
The Whooper is a bit more obvious...
a lonely little Black-headed Gull

Whooper Swans, Mallards and a Tufted Duck

Grey Heron in the marsh
Driving along the small B-Roads to Kirriemuir, Fieldfares were in all the fields in brilliant numbers, and a few more flocks of Pink-footed Goose flew over, probably abut 300 overall.

Monday, 8 November 2010

around Edinburgh, 25-26 Oct

After a day out birding on the coast east of Edinburgh on the 24th, the nest few days were somewhat quieter, though with a great bird thrown in...

on 25 Oct, we spent part of the day in the Pentland Hills. First stop, with all the family, was Threpmuir Reservoir, where I can list all the species of note on one hand. 50+ Siskin, 4 Bullfinch and a few Goldcrest. The reservoir held only four species of bird, two of which were gulls.

Next stop was Leith Water. Here we had one particular bird in mind. We almost had a false alarm when a Grey Wagtail was seen on the stream, and then, we picked it up by its song, a scratchy tune oddly reminiscent of a Reed Warbler. This DIPPER stayed on show for 10 minutes, perched on rocks and doing the 'dipping' it is so famed for. Luckily, my camera has a video function, so I caught it 'in the action'

We also saw a few Redwings and Goldcrests along here, and a single juvenile Grey Heron

P.S unless you want my annoying voice ruining the peaceful tranquility of this video, I suggest turning your volume down right this instant...  Or sometime before you play the video. You know. Whatever...

26 Oct was a wet and drizzly day. We visited Straition Pond, a little reserve on the outskirts of Edinbugh. The fact we saw more pieces of litter than birds tells you what kind of 'reserve' this is. A few Redwing was as good as it got. Sometimes, you just gotta love the city birding...

Sunday, 7 November 2010

24 Oct-Midlothian birding

In the interests of my sanity, I'm using as little thought in writing this post as possible. Just a list of birds and pics for a change...

  • Several big skeins of Pink-footed Goose flew over, 1000+ overall
  • waders on the rocky shore were approx. 15 Redshank and the same number of Curlew, 40 Oystercatcher, 40 Bar-tailed Godwit and 40 Turnstone (unbelievably, a yeartick!!)
  • offshore were 20 Eider, 40 Common Scoter and a handful of Velvetines, and 2 redhead Red-breasted Mergansers

Oystercatchers and Curlew

a skein of Pink-footed Geese


Black-headed Gulls

and a few of my picks from the many Turnstone's I photographed

Next up was Aberlady Bay. Waders were the main feature here, with approx 300 Lapwing, 100 Golden Plover and Dunlin, 20 Redshank, Oystercatcherand Curlew and a single Grey Plover(yeartick 187 for Britain). The only wildfowl were 200 Pink-footed Geese, 100 Wigeon a few Shelduck and a single Common Scoter, picked out well flying well offshore...
Grey Plover and Redshank

scenic shots of Aberlady
The final stop was Mussleburgh Lagoons. Here, I had barely got out of the car when I saw a flock of 20 starlingesque birds, making a trilling call it took me a few seconds to recognise. The WAXWINGS gave us a flyby before landing by the lagoons. Out here were 400 Golden Plover, 50 Dunlin and a few Lapwing. As we went to check offshore, we saw a loose flock of 30 Velvet scoter in the distance, 5 Eider scattered accross the sea 3 female-type Goldeneye fairly close in, and 2 female LONG-TAILED DUCK flying west. Walking back, two more female Goldeneye were on the pond by the car park, along with 10 Tufted Duck.

As we drove back to Edinburgh, we saw 2 Roe Deer, in a field off the A720 near Tranent.
some of the Waxwings

various Golden Plover photos

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Road to Nowhere (22-23 Oct)

click on the title! :)

I do now know what The Talking Heads were headily talking about...

This post contains insights into a journey that can only be described as long. So long it took two whole days!

Friday 22 Oct was an inset day from school, so it was today that completed the first leg of a journey from Sussex-Edinburgh. We stopped off in Lincoln overnight, to stay with my dad's cousin, wife and kids.

Before we left Seaford, I heard saw of my last migrants of the year going over. A House Martin was lazily going over the house, a Redpoll gave it's call a few times and two Meadow Pipits went over together calling. The Grey Wagtail from Blatchington pond also flew over in a high circuit, looking to drop down by the pond again. I also took a few photos of the Starlings on the rooftops. All looking rather resplendent.

The rest of the journey was dominated by nothing. I read a book, listened to my MP3 and occasionally took the headphones out if anything good was on Radio 4. The single animal worth noting was a Roe Deer seen by the roadside somewhere along the M11 near Cambridge. Somewhere near here, we also stopped at Drayton Fen RSPB, for a walk. The birdlife was tedious, with a small hint of boredom. Apart from a flock of 80 Fieldfare, actually quite a good record for October, birdlife consisted of 40+ Tufted Duck, 3 Great Crested Grebes, a few Cormorant, 4 Meadow Pipits and 2 Green Woodpeckers. Cue distant and crappy shots of Mute Swans, with a few Wigeon if you look hard enough...
I also saw a Peregrine from the A1 neat Peterborough. But that was all...

Stopping off for the night with family in Lincoln, I swapped camera stories with Dad's cousin, a profeesional photographer. I left with a lot more knowledge, which I decided to apply in the future with my camera. Whether the results are really any different, I'll have to wait and see.

Saturday 23 Oct- we went from Lincoln to Edinburgh. Can't describe it much more interestingly than that! However, the further north, the more avain interest, it seems. a scraggy looking Raven flew over the A1 near York, and on the A68 through the Pennines, I saw a few Golden Plovers in the fields, alongside countless Lapwings.
At Derwent Water, we stopped for a half hour. In the wood by the reservoir were Goldcrests, Siskins and Coal Tits, and a flock of Pink-footed Geese flew over calling. My second yeartick of the day (along with, ridiculously, Golden Plover!!)
Following that, we stopped for another walk, in Kieltner Forest, in Northumberland. we saw 4 Crossbills, and a few of all the commoner pine woodland birds.
And then, at about 19:00, we arrived in Edinburgh. At long, long last!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

back to town. turning 15 and dipping a pec!

With my exciting weekend gone, it was back down to earth for me now, as I returned to school for four more days. Still, I've got half term up in Edinburgh, from where I hope I'll get a few good birds! My school week wasn't totally devoid of birds though...

Mon 18 Oct
A few Siskins going over, and two Chiffchaffs seen. However, the large numbers of thrushes of the past few weeks have tailed off. The only migrant passing over was a single Meadow Pipit, though a Grey Wagtail going low over school might have been a migrant or wintering bird. I found out about a Shore Lark in the Cuckmere, and hoped I might just be able to sneak it in after school one day...

Tues 19 Oct
Once again, a few Siskins moving overhead, and a single Chiffchaff. No other migrants seen though. I've been seeing Jays regularly in Seaford since I returned from Canada, and today one greeted me to a nice flight view, during the most unspeakably crap english essay I have ever had to sit through. A Grey Wagtail was also seen, at South Downs Leisure Centre, walking back from school. This bird has been around for a few weeks now, and look like he's gonna winter here...

Wed 20 Oct
My 15th birthday today! In school a single Chiffchaff, with three Goldcrest around town, the Grey Wagtail seen at The Downs and not a lot else. When I got home, the Shorelark was apparently not showing, but a PECTORAL SANDPIPER had been seen at Arlington Reservoir! Neither are sussex ticks for me, having seen larks at Pett (2004) and Rye (2008), and a pec at Pulborough Brooks (2007). However, both would be local ticks, year ticks and just great birds to see in general! The odds seemed better for Arlington producing, so it was there we headed...
We saw Jake Everitt and Roger and Liz Charlwood on the dam, who greeted us with the dreaded news. The bird, which was acoompanied by two Ruff, had flown off to the other side of the damn! Jake had seen it for literally a few seconds as he arrived, Roger and Liz hadn't seen it at all. It wasn't looking good...
Before long, Bob Edgar arrived, nd we greeted him with the same unhappy news. One of the Ruff came back, but his brother and yankee cousin had both stayed put. A Green Sandpiper was on the other side of the reservoir, just ID'able. But in an hour we never saw the Pec Sand. The only consolation is that we almost certainly wouldn't have seen the Shore Lark either...

Thurs 21 Oct
from what I can remember, a dull day. The only bird of note was a Grey Wagtail on Blatchington Pond (probably the same bird that's been hanging around at The Downs, it's not that far away).

While I would love to tell of Friday, it is a tale of the beginning of a long, two-day drive, which really belongs in another post. So, I bid you farewell with these crappy pictures of the bird that wasn't a Pectoral Sandpiper...

however, it was a yeartick, no. 184 for Britain and 170 for Sussex I think...

Not a Pec Sand, Arlington Res, 20 Oct 2010

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Oop Noorf

Well, I am writing this biref message from Edinburgh. I've come up here to see family for half term, and hopefully get a bit of birding in too! I should be visiting Aberlady, Longniddry and Mussleburgh Lagoons, and on Thursday-Friday, Dad and I are heading up to Kirriemuir, Angus, to stay with my uncle overnight. We might be able to squeeze in a visit to Kinnordy, Vane Farm RSPB or Montrose Basin while we're up there!

I haven't updated since last sunday, when i went ringing at Whitbread Hollow. Since then, I've turned 15, and dipped a sussex rarity on the same day! All part of the rite of passage I guess. I've also seen three yearticks on my way up here, and one on the 20th in Sussex. This brings me to god-knows-what, but probably something around 185 for Britain and 175 for Sussex. Of course, i could have checked the sidebar, and come back to edit this again, but where's the fun in that?

I'll have some proper posts when I'm back home, and can put photos with my posts

Hasta Luego!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

17 Oct-Ringing in the Hollow

Today, at long, long last, almost two months after returning from Long Point and vowing to try it out again, I went up to the ringing at Whitbread Hollow, Beachy Head!

Dad and I left the house at about 7.30 AM, arriving at 8.00. Driving the 15 miles, I counted 31 Magpies along the roads! Not exactly the most exciting thing in the world, I know, but I was wondering if the rhyme could be extended that far!...  ;)

The sun was just rising above the sea as we arrived, making a spectacular backdrop. However, I couldn't be faffed to take any photos.

As we walked the short distance from where we were parked to the Hollow, several Stock Doves passed overhead, among a few hundred Woodpigeon. Two Bramblings also passed over, one dropping down into the hollow, and we saw a single Wheatear, probably my last of the year.

Wheatear, Whitbread Hollow, 17 Oct 2010
In the Hollow itself, the first bird we saw was not what we expected. On the football fields, being harassed by several Magpies, was a single juvenile BRENT GOOSE! It had clearly become separated from its family, and had dropped into the fields to graze. No sooner had we seen the bird than we met up with Bob Edgar and Jacob Everitt, just back from a net round. With four people now here, they had a novel, if a tad optimistic, plan, involving the branta. It was feeding very near some football nets. If the four of us could drive it in to them, we would have a rather good bird to ring!

Sadly, the plan, as with all hastily set out plans, went awry. The bird was faster on the mark than us, and flew off about 50 yards, away from any football nets. Worse still, the coldappeared to have  mucked up my cameras batteries! Though after about half an hour in the relative warmth of the ringing hut, they were working again.

We stayed for a few hours to watch the ringing. I didn't get to help out, unfortunately, but it was still good fun watching the ringing and holding the birds, and Bob and Jake, far more used to the early start than us, remained in upbeat moods! They banded about 40 birds, not a great tally, and nothing particularly rare either. However, seeing Goldcrest and Long-tailed Tit in the hand was new for me. They are both truly adorable little birds when you see them up so close! We also caught a few continental Song Thrushes, which Bob very well pointed out the ID features on. Other birds trapped were a male Blackcap, several Chiffchaffs and a little flock of Blue Tits, all of presumed dispersive origin.

male Goldcrest, Whitebread Hollow. sexed by the orange feathers on the crown

Whitbread Hollow, Beachy Head

Whitbread Hollow is a great place to see visible migration too, which was very visible. loads of Siskin were passing over, with smaller numbers of Goldfinch, and a handful of Redpoll and Brambling. A few of the latter were also in some of the bushs in the hollow. 1500+ Woodpigeon also went east, with 30+ Stock Doves among them. One leucistic Woodpigeon was also seen, it was with one flock that flew over and dropped into the hollow, and all four of us got a good look at it, agreeing we hadn't seen anything quite like it before! About 50 Swallows and a few House Martins went over, and thrushes included one Song Thrush, three Mistle Thrushes and four FIELDFARE, my first of  the winter. Meadow Pipit and Skylark were ubuquitiuos as always.

We left at about 11:30 AM. It had really quietened down, with the  last two net runs having returned about five birds!

After the Hollow, we had a brief stop at Belle Tout. I was hoping for third time lucky with the gorgeous Phyllosc, but it had had other ideas, and was believed to have cleared out overnight! There were a few Chiffchaffs around, and a group of Siskin passed overhead, while a Kestrel and several dragonflies kept the camera busy!

This Kestrel posed brilliantly

and while photographing it, I took the opportuity to photograph this male Ruddy Darter (?), who landed on my shoe!

another presumed male Ruddy Darter

while I believe these to both be females of the same species. If Jake, or anyone else, could confirm/correct me again I'd be grateful. Just a hint  (:
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