Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A local Pectoral more than makes up for ducking out on a Masked Shrike ... who cares!!

Been rarities aplenty up and down the east coast these past few weeks and if I was a confirmed 'twitcher' I'd be pretty gutted not to see the UK's 3rd ever and Yorkshire's first Masked Shrike at Spurn, not to mention Sabines Gull, Olive Backed Pipit and Pallid Harrier at the same location but in truth I'm not too fussed. There's something I don't quite like about attending a major 'twitch' and be in amongst hordes of lens laden, khaki clad birders on a mission! Nothing against twitching per se, and if I'm already somewhere like Spurn I'm not gonna ignore a rarity of course, its just not my scene to go chasing.

Here's the bird they've all been raving about though.
Masked Shrike (juvenile)
Juvenile Masked Shrike, Spurn (3rd UK record)
Its still there as I write this but I doubt if I'll have time to go see. I've no idea what my UK or world list is (should I be? Is this is maybe why I'm not into twitching?) but I know I've seen a Masked Shrike ... in Israel, plenty of them, so I'm not tempted!

A few weeks ago I had 4 Whinchats, a Redstart and 2 Spotted Flycatchers on my patch at Strensall Common, just up the road from me and I was amazed. Not rarities of course but to me far more memorable!

Autumn is the time for wind blown rarities and they can turn up anywhere. This Pectoral Sandpiper turned up on Hatfield Moor recently and this is my mate Mark's patch so it don't count as a twitch!




Unlike most of the rarities that turn up on the east coast in Autumn, Pectoral Sandpipers hail not from Europe but from North America and although well off track from their destinations in South America a few turn up every year across the UK but normally on the west coast so this is a good bird for Hatfield.

Northern Wheatear


There were a couple of Little Stints there too as well as a Northern Wheatear and a Whinchat but the light was so poor the pics are not great.


Little Stint
Common Darter (female/ imm male)
So whilst I'm on it and in catch up mode from a Summer of 'non blogging' here's a few pics from recent visits to Hatfield earlier in the year, starting with some splendid Dragonflies.



Common Darter (female/ imm male)


Common Hawker?


Migrant Hawker.. in Mark's garden!

























...........and here's a sight for sore eyes and a tribute to one man's determination to get on his bike and not let a mere broken leg get in the way of getting out and about!

Mark back on his bike 2 months after his leg was broken in 100 places after a motorbike accident.. good on yer mate!

High summer seems like a life time away now but it really was another good one for butterflies .... here's a Small Skipper on Hatfield, closely followed by Gatekeeper ....

Small Skipper
Gatekeeper
.... and everyone loves a good Peacock!
Peacock Butterfly on Thistle heads.


Wall Butterfly


Not on Hatfield but in my very own garden and a first for my little since departed plot ... a Wall butterfly on the grass!












 


Here's my Hatfield parting shot, a Willow Warbler perched high up on the perimeter fence of Lindholme prison ... it was singing free as a bird!













Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Back to Spurn ... Migfest revisited, tidal washovers and hordes of migrants


How disrupting to life is selling up and moving on! I'm now in the final flings of casting off for good my comfortable 3 bed semi in the suburbs of York for a more adventurous existence in the new motorhome for a few months before heading to Spain for a few more months this coming Winter. Sounds like fun, and I know it will be but my oh my its been a distraction!
 
Determined to keep this blog going though and without further ado here's a post from the 2nd annual Spurn Point Migfest earlier this month.
 
No better place to start than with this splendid and very confiding Wryneck, one of at least 4 seen on the point that w/e. It was a rather restricted shooting angle as the bird was nervously settled down in someone's back yard and I had to creep up and point the lens through a garden fence! I wasn't the only one either but he didn't seem that bothered. Unique birds, sadly not breeding here in the UK anymore but they're always a special sighting on migration.


Wryneck 'wrying its neck'!
 

Wryneck - shame about that grass stem!


Tidal surge, Dec 2013, Spurn Point (Hull Daily Mail)
 
I've posted on Spurn a few times and indeed on the last year's migfest here, so no need to dwell on the marvels of this place except to say that as many of you will know, Spurn Point suffered a significant breach in its historically flimsy defences last winter due to an unusually large tidal surge that affected the whole of the east coast of England. More info here

The road to the point swept away and unlikely to be restored, each high tide now cascades over the 'Narrows' (the thinnest point of the peninsular) making part of Spurn a temporary island, and there's many that believe this may well be a permanent reality in years to come.
 


Spurn Island



During the 4 days I was there I walked to the point and back twice and on the last occasion we timed it right to catch the high tide 'washover' and a chance to see some wader action! This it what we see now at high tide at the 'Narrows'
 


Warning, no vehicular access at high tide! (R.Marrs)
 


Spot the Knot amongst those Dunlin? (R.Marrs)
 
Brilliant for close wader shots if you don't mind getting your feet a bit wet!
 
 


Dunlin fly past
 


 


Dunlin close up, still in full summer kit!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Here's a pic of that solitary Knot ...strange to just get one in the flock when there were  1000s elsewhere on the estuary.

Knot .. lovely 'margination' on those winter feathers!
 
 
 
This is a 'feet soaker' coming in!


Bar Tailed Godwits have the legs to cope the waves!

 
 

Constantly 'klacking' Oystercatchers all around us!
 
Whatever happens to Spurn in the future, for now this almost daily 'washover' is becoming quite an event in itself for visitors ... but as the warning signs clearly nag - 'you've got leave enough time to get back', otherwise you're stranded for an hour or two (not a bad place to be stranded though!)

 
Waders aside, the point was positively thronging with common passage migrants and the odd rarity all weekend and blessed as we were with predominantly good weather there was plenty to see and photograph. Whinchats were maybe the most obvious with small 'gangs' of up to 15 flying around together ...
 

Whinchat, juv. On a car tyre!
 
 
Wheatears were also 'getting around'
 
 
 
 
On one of the days there was an influx of Common Whitethroats with a few Lesser's mixed in and it seemed to me that there was one in nearly every bush
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 


















 
Plenty of Willow Warblers about of course and the juvs are so tricky but I'm going Chiff Chaff on this one ... sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong!
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This is a far from perfect shot of one of the rarer warblers that were about ... a juvenile Barred Warbler. Skulky bloody things!!
 
 
  Some equally poor shots here I'm afraid but anytime you get to see Pied Flycatchers in decent numbers you have to have a go ....
 


and to round things off after a superb few days here's a nice Redstart in the last rays of the evening sun .. with luck this and all the other migrants will be well on their way to down towards Africa by now and who knows I may catch up with some of them early next year when I'm in Spain!

 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Norfolk Road trip pt3 - unspoilt Wheatfen, stunning Marsh Harriers and oriental deers

So here's the final part of my road trip to Norfolk.

With just a few days to spare in this most wonderful part of the world and after out forays on the coast. it was important not to try and do too much and end up spending more time driving than out in the field, so we decided to concentrate our efforts around a small but habitat rich area around Surlingham and the Yare Valley. We took in 3 reserves - Wheatfen, Rockland Broad and Strumpshaw Fen.


Wheatfen
First port of call was the delightfully unspoilt nature reserve that is Wheatfen. The famous Norfolk naturalist and broadcaster Ted Ellis lived near here, revered the place and its wildlife, and after his death in 1986 the Ted Ellis Trust was founded to preserve this area of outstanding beauty.

I'd picked this place out as a likely place for the elusive Swallowtail Butterfly but although 1 had been seen the day before, predictably they remained elusive!

Lots of Cuckoos, several Marsh Harriers, Reed & Sedge Warblers, Common Terns flying down the River Yare and common butterflies, and yet with 2 cameras and 2 pairs of eyes we somehow conspired not to capture much! Terrific place if you're a fenland purist though.

Common Blue, Wheatfen

Wheatfen

Just across the river Yare is RSPB reserve Strumpshaw Fen. Its bigger and higher profile but in my opinion not necessarily better than unspoilt Wheatfen. It does however have raised hides and crucially some nearby birds to point the lens at! Marsh Harriers breed in good numbers here as they do right across Norfolk and this was a pleasing series of shots of a passing male.



Male Marsh Harrier, Strumpshaw

Male Marsh Harrier, Strumpshaw

Male Marsh Harrier, Strumpshaw

Male Marsh Harrier, Strumpshaw


Male Marsh Harrier, Strumpshaw


Whinchat, Strumpshaw
Less obvious and something of a lucky sighting as I scanned across the lagoon was this Whinchat perched in the reeds. Fully expected it to be a Reed or Sedge Warbler ... goes to show its always worth scanning and checking every bird in such places!


Whinchat, Strumpshaw

Somewhat more 'showy' this Common Tern was one of several pairs on the reserve.
Common Tern, Strumpshaw

Rockland Broad is a fairly typical area of wet meadow / fenland but we didn't get much here ... good pub next to the nature reserve though and a free berth for the van in the car park!

Great Crested Grebe, Rockland Broad
 Not sure how common these are in Norfolk but this is the first Chinese Water Deer I've ever seen
Chinese Water Deer, Rockland Broad