Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Local birding (or lack of it) - 31st Dec 2008.

What a miserable end to the birding year. A dawn visit to Fishmoor was ruined by pea-soup fog and no chance of seeing anything. No Waxwings were present in Weir St. Car Park at 08:25 and was followed with an hour long visit to Pleasington Old Hall Wood and the predictable failure to locate any local Hawfinch. The pea-souper affected Fishmoor all day, resulting in no chance of doing the roost.

So that's it for 2008. All the very best to everyone and great birding in 2009!

PS - Of interest, I have received details of the colour-ringed Whooper Swan I saw at Bowness-on-Windermere on 16th Nov 2008. I have updated the blog entry accordingly:

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Local birding: 1stw Caspian Gull and possibly an ad Yellow-legged Gull, Fishmoor Reservoir & Whinney Hill Tip, Lancs - 30th Dec 2008.

A first light assault at Fishmoor before the Gulls began to disperse was rewarded with both the 1stw Caspian Gull briefly on the water and an adult Yellow-legged Gull for ten minutes.

From the outset, the latter bird looked good in terms of upperpart colouration and structure with a good head and bill shape, appearing full bodied and long-legged when flapping, and long winged at rest. The upperpart colouration was spot-on with a strong, white trailing edge to wings, extent and pattern of black in primaries looked good with small primary spots on folded wing, single white mirror visible in p10 on raised wing, complete dark band on p5 is visible in a videograb and good contrast between darker under-secondaries and whiter underwing coverts all point to this species. The head appeared to be clean white. Leg colour was certainly not obviously pure yellow, but probably dull pink/yellow.

Above: Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Fishmoor Res, Lancs - 30th Dec 2008.

The 1stw Caspian Gull (above) was located distantly at Whinney Hill Tip early afternoon.

After the excellent and prolonged show in good light put on by the Caspian Gull to several observers the previous evening, this evenings Gull roost at Fishmoor was a spectacular disappointment, with encroaching murk steadily getting worse from 15:00. A lot of the Gulls appeared fidgety, many not spending long on the water which did not help matters and plenty of Gulls were still coming in as the light became to poor to continue. Despite c25 observers looking from various positions around the site, nothing of note or interest was seen to the best of my knowledge.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Local birding: 1stw Caspian Gull, Fishmoor Res, Lancs - 29th Dec 2008

Above videograbs by John Wright.

Deciding that the Fishmoor Gull roost would be adequately covered tonight, I decided to see whether there would be a repeat of last nights Owl fest close to my home. Hoping that the LEO may be flying in good light for a few photos, I arrived prior to 15:00. By c15:40 I was regretting my decision to miss the roost as the light was now starting to go and unlike last night no Owls had shown by this time.

Then the mobile rang. Cllr John F. Wright had a 1stw Caspian Gull on the water at Fishmoor. From his position at the NW end of Fishmoor, JW could see Mike Watson & Pete Morris on the banking of Guide Reservoir, but didn't have eithers mobile number so I rang MW to get them onto the bird. It wasn't necessary as MW & PM were already watching it.

The bird was looking settled, so I simply had to twitch it, which I did successfully, a really cracking 1stw bird which showed well on the water to several birders, the aforementioned, plus two already at the JJB who had independently seen the bird prior to my arrival.

From the JJB viewpoint the Caspian Gull was more often than not face-on in the easterly and I could only manage the above record shots before ditching the camera to study the bird, but eventually all salient features were seen inc the underwing and tail pattern.

By the time of my arrival the light was starting to go, so I could only manage the record shots above but fortunately JW was able to secure much camcorder footage.

At this stage the bird is considered the same bird as on 23rd-24th Dec.
Thanks to JW and Mike Watson for updates on the bird whilst I was enroute.

If there is a downside to tonights roost, it was surprising no white-wingers were seen, ever delightful to see, but clinching Caspian Gulls is the number one priority nowadays, for us at Fishmoor at least.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Local birding: Owls, 28th Dec 2008.

A Little Owl, 2 Barn Owls and a surprise Long-eared Owl at a site close to home kept me away from the Fishmoor Res Gull roost tonight.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Local Birding: 27th Dec 2008.

The journey from home to Fishmoor Res, was livened up by a superb Barn Owl and a Little Owl at a site close to my house. Magic! - Hopefully the Barn Owl will be a regular feature in this area this winter. I will keep checking. The 1stw Iceland Gull roosted at Fishmoor Res for the second day.

1stw Iceland Gull, Fishmoor Res, Lancs - 27th Dec 2008.

Friday, 26 December 2008

Local birding: Waxwings & Iceland Gull - 26th Dec 2008.

Following my second unsuccessful search in two days for the reported Cattle Egret at Hapton, I called into Weir St. Pay & Display Car Park, Blackburn Town Centre where 9 Waxwing were showing in beautiful light.

Many fewer Gulls roosted at Fishmoor Reservoir tonight, the reduction no doubt the result of the cessation of tipping at Whinney Hill over the Christmas break. In this context, a 1stw Iceland Gull, the first to be recorded locally since 14th December, was most welcome.

1stw Iceland Gull - Fishmoor Res, Lancs - 26th Dec 2008.

Enroute home from Fishmoor, I was most surprised to see a Woodcock fly from suburban Houses across Livesey Branch Road at roof top height towards a large garden only a few doors away from my house!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Local birding: 1stw Caspian Gull, Whinney Hill Tip, Lancs - 23rd Dec 2008.

Above: the left hand bird, showing underwing.

1stw Caspian Gull with Herring Gulls and a Great-black backed Gull - Whinney Hill tip, Lancs - 23rd Dec 2008.

After yesterdays frustrations at Fishmoor re adequately documenting the prob 1stw Caspian Gull in the roost, I knew i wouldn't get a good nights sleep and predictably woke early at 05:00. Within 5 seconds of awakening I was 'chewing' on the bird, so i got up and poured over Caspian Gull images on the net until 07:30!

Hell bent on relocating the Gull, it was still dark when I arrived at Fishmoor. During the first 40 mins of light, a (the?) 1stw Glaucous Gull was seen both on the roof and the water but I failed to locate yesterdays target bird.

By 09:00 I was stood looking across Whinney Hill Tip. The Gulls took over an hour to settle over the tipping area having been resting in fields in the wider area. The Glaucous was eventually seen a few times.

I began concentrating on an area where the Gulls were within 'clinching' record shot distance. Over an hour passed before the magic moment I was praying for thankfully arrived... and 'THE' bird appeared perched on a ridge amongst other Gulls........... an absolutely cracking example of a 1stw Caspian Gull! - No doubt!

Grainy record shot of the 1stw Glaucous Gull. On two occasions during the week I suspected two 1stw may be present but never proved it. Today, both Allen Holmes & Mark Fanshawe both independently commented that they thought two birds may be involved at Whinney Hill/Fishmoor, one more of a brute than the other.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Local birding: Probable 1stw Caspian Gull (or just possibly Cachinnans x Argentatus hybrid), Fishmoor Res, Lancs - 22nd Dec 2008.

Of all the damned bad luck! - Weather conditions could hardly have been worse for the time I finally clapped eyes on a bird showing the jizz/structure and some of the plumage characters that I have been trying to find on a large Gull species since the beginning of November!

Mucky, murky, drizzly, nay truly 'minging', weather conditions with rolling mist was steadily getting worse when I panned onto this bird, distantly on Fishmoor Res from my viewpoint on Guide Res at 15:30. Within a few minutes, I had seen enough to prompt a mad dash involving hurdling a fence, running over farmland, squeezing my way through a newly created hole in the perimeter wall of Fishmoor and climbing up the banking!

Several minutes later, and thankfully this distinctive bird was still on the water and easily picked out, but conditions deteriorated further with more murk rolling in and more 'in-yer-face' drizzle.

Through the scope, c80m away, I was unable to critically examine the plumage as the rolling murk/drizzle frequently partially obscured the bird, but was able to discern a grey 'feel' to the mantle/scapulars with dark centred feathering mixed in, 'thumbnail' effect neat pale fringing to otherwise solidly brown tertials. What could be seen of the greater covert pattern was better appreciated when i reviewed the images, but looked pro-Caspian.

Structually, i thought the bird was excellent; The black bill was slim, long and parallel with, in scope views, a shallow gonydeal angle. At no stage did i comment to myself that the bill looked obviously blob ended, as is suggested in the heavily cropped image. The headshape and colour was good, small eye set well forward with an obvious shawl of fine neck streaking. The bird appeared 'long' at the back end with an acceptably good primary projection.

In a mindstate starting to exceed that of mild panic that i would not be able to adequately document the bird, I decided to attempt some record shots using the still camera on 10 second timer/3 shot burst and the camcorder, but the light was such that the best I could manage are what is posted, and are frankly remarkable given the light/conditons.

After this i watched the bird as best I could through the scope until 16:45. During this time the bird sauntered on the water, constantly displaying that mesmerising jizz/structure, but stubbornly refusing to do as much as even preen briefly meaning I did not see the underwing, tail or legs! - With the light long gone, the bird was still on the front edge of the roost giving views to allow scrutiny to die for in good light!!!!! - I didn't know whether to laugh or cry!

As for what else may have roosted, God only knows, I didn't take my eye from this bird throughout!

Dick Newell kindly commented as follows: "It looks very good to me Bill. As you say, the overall feel is right, the head and bill look right, the shawl around the neck is right, the greater coverts (what you can see of them) are right, and the primary extension looks good . If one were pedantic, the bill possibly looks a little blob-ended, but maybe that is just a photographic effect, but it is just possible it is not pure - you would need crisper pictures, a view of the legs, and sharper plumage details to be rock solid sure."


I will locate this bird tomorrow if its the last thing I ever do, but if I do, then please God let the weather improve!

Friday, 19 December 2008

Local birding: Waxwings, Blackburn Town Centre, Lancs - 19th Dec 2008.

Three Waxwings at Weir St. Pay & Display Car Park at 10:30 had increased to four upon my return at 12:30.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Local birding: 1stw Glaucous Gull, Fishmoor Res, Lancs - 16th Dec 2008.

Tonight, in deteriorating weather, the Glaucous Gull came into pre-roost on the water from 15:20-15:37 when it flew onto the roosting roof.

Monday, 15 December 2008

Local birding: Waxwing & Glaucous Gull, 13th-15th Dec 2008.

1stw Glaucous Gull - Above: Fishmoor Res roost, c16:00, distantly from the banking of Guide Res. Below: Earlier, very distantly at Whinney Hill Tip - both 15th Dec 2008.

Above: Waxwing, Weir St. Car Park, Blackburn Town Centre, 13th-14th Dec 2008. Too tight to get a parking ticket, this was a quick smash-and-grab shot on the 13th, in between visits by the Traffic Warden! - I didn't see it in a very quick check of the car park berries late morning of 15th Dec (Traffic Warden lurking in general area!).

Below: Aged on size, a 1stw Brown Rat showed well at the top end of the car park on 13th-14th Dec. Even the Wife plucked up the courage to watch it through the scope!