Monday, 23 August 2010

Canada Trip: instalment no.1

Due to being without a computer, I haven't managed to update on a so far fantastic trip to Canada. My highlights so far have been American Bittern (showed to 20 metres right out in the open), Green Heron (showed to five metres!), Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-billed Cuckoo, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green and Blackburnian Warblers and American Redstart. However, this first instalment deals with the humble beginnings of the trip, travelling from Toronto to Mont Owl's Head (in Quebec) over the 15-16 of August.

Things began on 15 August, with an 06:00 wake-up-call, and an 07:00 train to Gatwick. We left for America at 12:30 pm, with two Carrion Crows on Gatwick runway the last british birds I would see for three weeks. After an eight-hour flight, we arrived in Toronto at 15:00. The first bird I saw on american soil, having got away from Britain, was a Peregrine! though since it was probably one of the airport's birds I can't count it on my trip list. However, a Red-tailed Hawk, also on the runway, was far more likely to be wild, so makes it on as trip tick no.1 and lifer no. 556 (I think!). Around the airport, I felt right at home again with House Sparrows trip tick no.2, and, having hired a car from some slightly mad jamaican ladies at the airport, we headed off out of toronto.

Our plan as to drive to Quebec in two days, doing about a quarter of the journey on the 15th and getting some rest before going the rest of the 400-mile journey on the 16th. By the time we had stopped off at a motel in, of all places, Brighton(!), I had added Rat-bird no.1 (feral pigeon), rat-bird no.2 (starling), and Purple Martin, Ring-billed Gull, Mourning Dove, Great Blue Heron, Red-winged Blackbird, American Kestrel and Barn Swallow, with six of those lifers no. 557-563. At Brighton, we had dinner at a fantastic restaurant on the shores of Lake Ontario. 20 or so Caspian Terns and numerous Ring-billed Gulls were offshore, a Wood Duck was on the water, and Purple Martins, Tree Swallows and Chimney Swifts circled above. a Night Heron gave us a brief fly-by and large groups of Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles flew overhead, going to roost in the marshes nearby. Walking through the town, we added Black-capped Chickadee, Eastern Phoebe, American Robin and Chipping Sparrow, and by the time we were home I was so jet lagged I slept through the massive thunderstorm that came in the night. By the end of the day I had seen 25 species of bird in Canada, 15 of those lifers.

On 16 August, I woke up to a scene of destruction. by destruction, I mean the thunderstorm had scattered a few twiggy branches around the motel grounds from the trees above. And I didn't notice this until it was pointed out to me. However, I partly blame this on the fact I was admiring the birds in the sweetcorn field opposite our motel (there are lots of these in Canada, I have found). There were a few Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles. some Barn Swallows zipped overhead, an American Goldfinch was singing away, and American Crows and Blue Jays were calling from the woods behind the field. The highlight was a beautiful male Indigo Bunting, singing from a telegraph wire, which I got a few suitably crap photos of, to appear once I get home. However, slightly more photogenic was a dazzling Monarch butterfly, which I got some goodish photos of. However, by mid-morning we were on the road heading off on a six-hour trip to Quebec.

en route, we made a brief stop at Presquile provincial park, about 10 minutes drive from the motel. Among many birds seen here were a Cliff Swallow, 4 Barn Swallows and 5 Purple Martins, a Chimney Swift, 6 Song Sparrows, 2 Wood Ducks, 2 Eastern Phoebes and 2 Cedar Waxwings. On the road to Quebec thee were a few distractions, including an Osprey perched by a roadside lake, a Bonaparte's Gull that flew over the car, a Caspian Tern that did the same, several each of Turkey Vulture and Red-tailed Hawk, and, crossing over the St-Lawrence River (a huge river that feeds into the Great Lakes), 200+ Bonaparte's Gulls and a few Double-crested Cormorants. non-bird sightings were of a White-tailed Deer, in one of the seemingly endless fields in lowland Ontario.

Eventually, we reached a town called Mansonville, and from here navigated our way through the mountain's to Mont Owl's Head, a mountain (named after a native american chief), where we were meeting up with my aunt, uncle and two cousins in a condos (fancy word for rustic wooden house) on the mountainside, surrounded by woodland with a large lake that stretched into the U.S within three minutes walk. Around the house on 16 August I saw 3 Cedar Waxwings, 3 Chestnut-sided Warblers, 2 Alder Flycatchers, a Downy Woodpecker, lots of Black-capped Chickadees and 5 Chipping Sparrows.

That is the first instalment, in the next one I will write about my five days in the Mont-Owl's head area from 17-21 August.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Tide Mills 14 August

a late morning dog-walk at Newhaven Tide Mills was fairly dull, a few Whitethroats, one Lesser W, one Will Warb (sorry for dodgy abbreviations) and three Sandwich terns flying out so sea from the fields, where they had presumbaly been among the Black-headed Gull roost. My last birdwatching foray in britain for three weeks, as tomorrow morning I'll be off to Canada for the rest of the summer holidays!! computer access might not be brilliant all the time but I'll try and keep updated with fairly regular posts, and photos if I can manage it. For now though, it is au revoir to you all, enjoy the rest of August, and don't find anything good until I get back!! :)

Monday, 9 August 2010

6 hour stint at Seaford Head

woke up at 05:00, tiptoed around the house getting ready, left at about 05:30 by bike and I was at South Hill Barn by 06:00.

The first migrants I saw were 3 Whitethroats, a Willow warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat from the lower half of the small copse by the car park. in the top half were single Willow and singing Reed Warbler. Walking down the path from the car park to Hope Gap there were a few  more Whitethroats, with a female Blackcap and a Lesser Whitethroat mixed in.

Walking down through Hope Gap was good first time round, with the sun breaking onto the bushes a sudden flurry of activity came and went, with 13 Willow Warblers, 19 Whitethroats, 9 Lesser Whitethroats, 4 Blackcaps, 3 Reed Warblers, a Garden warbler and a Chiffchaff noted. The highlight were seeing the Chiffchaff posing well with two Willow Warblers, a nice comprison between the two, showing how different they can really look in autumn. Down one the rockpools was a single Whimbrel, 2 Gannets were loafing offshore with some Kittiwakes and another one passed east. Walking along the west side of Hope Gap revealed a few Whitethroats, 3 Lesser Whitethroats, and 2 each of Willow and Reed Warbler, while the highlights were a croaking, but invisible, Nightingale, and a fly-over Tree Pipit, my first of the autumn.

Somewhere along here I saw Matt Eade and Bob Self ahead of me, and caught up with them at the top of the path through Hope Gap. I walked back down with them, hoping a tape recorder might lure out some more birds, but in the end saw mostly the same birds as before, along with another Nightingale croaking away.

after this followed a virtually birdless walk along to the Coastguard Cottages. a few Whitethroats, 2 Lessers and a Willow warbler the 'highlights'. However, there was a nice Silver-spotted Skipper, which Matt got some brilliant photos of, and which are probably on his blog by now. Once we reached the Cuckmere, with 3 Wheatear, a Ringed plover and a Dunlin(looking for all the world like a Broad-billed Sandpiper!) there to greet us, we went our separate ways, Matt and Bob back to the car park and me along the Cuckmere. 1 Lesser Whitethroat and 1 Reed Warbler, in bushes running down one of the drainage ditches, broke the monotomy, but it started getting interesting again along the west side of the valley. In the bushes along here were a handful of Whitethroats, 7 Lesser Whitethroats, 9 Willow warblers and 3 Reed warblers, while on the walk I could hear at least 2 Sandwich Terns distantly over the sea. One of the Lesser Whitethroats was incredibly close, I was eye-to-eye with it, at almost touching distance, for a few seconds, although they dragged out into eternity. I could see the bright white eyering and the beady black eye in minute detail.

Here I realised that, almost without trying, I had racked up a total of 21 Lesser Whitethroats!! i was tempted to narrow it down a little and take a few off to make my total more 'realisitic' but that 21 was a bare minimum, on the walk I had 10 or so other quick views of possible birds and brief tacking from bushes that I couldn't confirm, so perhaps as many as 30 Lesser's were in the area!

Harry's Bush was dead other than a Willow warbler and a female Blackcap, but up on the mast were 7 Willow warblers, 3 Whitethroats, another Reed Warbler and the star bird of the day, a juvenile Whinchat. At first I could clearly see it was a chat, but equally, that it didn't look like a stonechat. If I could have remembered to look at the tail when it flew, I could have saved a bit of time (20 minutes scouring the bushes for the damn elusive creature!), but the short tail, plumpness, obvious supercilium, buffish breast and that much cuter expression than a Stonechat left me happy to have found Seaford Head's first Whinchat of the autumn.

the totals were
46 Whitethroat
33 Willow Warbler
21 Lesser Whitethroat (a record count for me)
11 Reed Warbler (also a record count)
6 Blackcap
1 Chiffchaff
1 Garden Warbler
1 Tree Pipit(sussex yeartick 157)
2 Nightingales
3 Wheatears
1 Whinchat(sussex yeartick 158)
1 Whimbrel
1 Ringed Plover
1 Dunlin
3 Gannets

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Seaford Head and Cuckmere Haven-7 August 2010

55 Whitethroat, 41 Willow Warbler, 4 Garden warbler, 14 Lesser Whitethroat, 6 Reed warblers, 1 Blackcap, 2 Wheatears, 1 Whimbrel, 21 Curlew and 30 Meadow Pipits. For four hours in the field I'd have liked  bit more but as soon as it kicks off properly it should be good up here. Just hope autumn gets going bfore I get going across the atlantic!

6 August-Hope Gap undercliff

walking along the undercliff from Hope Gap 1/2 a mile west and back, a pair of Fulmars were feeding a chick on the cliff, six Rock Pipits, some recently fledged juveniles, were along the undercliff. three Little Egrets and a Grey Heron were on the rockpools, along with 8 Oystercatchers, a Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper. a few Cormorants flew past offshore, and about 100 yards out a stream of Kittiwakes, mostly adults, were moving west. Also seen 2 Ravens 6 Whitethroats, 5 Willow Warblers, 2 Lesser Whitethroats and a Chiffchaff, all of this mid-afternoon. 3 Jays and 20+ Magpies were on Seaford Head Golf Course, including one gang of 10 maggies. a few Swifts and House Martins were overhead.

In Seaford, a Goldcrest in the garden, while a few days ago were 15 Long-tailed Tits, mostly juveniles, and the same number of Swifts still screaming overhead. A Whimbrel flew over two nights ago.

Sunday, 1 August 2010

little to be seen

updates from 30th and 31st July

walking the eastern edge of Seaford Head Golf Course on 30 July revealed one fly-over Sand Martin, and there were 3 Whitethroats and a Willow Warbler. There were plenty of Kittiwakes at the viewpoint, and also 1 summer-plumaged Black-headed Gull offshore here, this bird also being present on 27 and 28 July. Further long Seaford Beach were greater numbers of Black-headed Gull and a single juv Kittiwake, while just opposite the Salts was a large gathering of gulls, in excess of 200, mainly Herring and Black-headed but with one or two young Lesser and Greater Blackbacks identified. it looks like a good potential spot for Yellow-leggd Gulls if the group remains there. There was also a Gannet flying around several hundred metres offshore, and over Seaford plenty of screaming Swifts.

on 31st July, on my first visit to Seaford Head, round 10am with Dad, dog and some family friends, there was very little around, bar 5 Whitethroats, a Willow Warbler and 40 or so Meadow Pipits in the heavy mist. All these were in the wild-land between Hope Gap and the Coastguard Cottages. On a later visit (around 7pm), with just Dad and the dog, walking through Hope Gap was even quieter, just 1 Willow Warbler was there to show for out efforts, although a Great Green-Bush Cricket was a nice surprise anyway.
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