Friday, 31 July 2009

Alston Grey Shrike - 31st July 2009.

Having been working nr Carlisle the previous night, I had been scrutinising Wader flocks on the Solway at Port Carlisle for the past five hours, when the surprising news of a possible Steppe Grey Shrike at Alston came through on the pager.

This was too good an opportunity for me to hopefully expand my experience with SGS which currently stands at the grand total of one individual, the 1stw in Lincolnshire in November 2008, and no experience of this species abroad.

Upon arrival, It didn't take long to find the bird, but what I was confronted with left me of the opinion for some time that the bird appeared to be a Great Grey Shrike.

The only other person present, Cumbrian birder Craig Shaw also independently formed this opinion and this is how it remained for some time until we both began chewing on the fact that neither of us could remember a record of a summering GGS in Britain in at least the last 25 years that we had both been active birders.

So, with the stats apparently stacked against a summer GGS and with no literature to hand, coupled with the messy state of the birds plumage which we thought was likely to be 2nd calendar year, we elected to err on the side of caution and call it a Grey Shrike sp pending further research/opinion.

Here are a few more images of the bird:

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Local birding: Brockholes Wetland LWT - 28th July 2009.

Above: Adult Green Sandpiper, Brockholes Wetland LWT, Lancs - 28th July 2009.

My kingdom for some decent local wader passage!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Local birding: Brockholes Wetland LWT - 27th July 2009.

Above: Adult Little Egret, Brockholes Wetland LWT - 27th July 2009.

Above & below: Juv Green Sandpiper, Brockholes Wetland LWT - 27th July 2009.

The highlights of 3.5hrs on the local patch today.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Local birding: Brockholes Wetland LWT - 26th July 2009.

Above & below: Juv female Green Woodpecker, Brockholes Wetland LWT, Lancs - 26th July 2009. The family party still regularly in the vicinity of the access road.

Above: Male Kingfisher, Brockholes Wetland LWT, Lancs - 26th July 2009.

Absolutely no evidence of any wader passage through the site in 2.5hrs this morning was disappointing, probably due to too much south in the wind.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Local birding: Brockholes Wetland LWT - 24th July 2009.

Above: Adult Little Egret, Brockholes Wetland LWT - 24th July 2009.

Above & below: Eclipse drake Garganey, Brockholes Wetland LWT - 24th July 2009.

Early morning on the Notts/Lincs border, the satnav told me that it was 104 miles to Salthouse, Norfolk, site of a Great Spotted Cuckoo the previous day and 135 miles to the local patch, Brockholes. It was five long days since my last visit to the patch, but I had only seen one GSC before, at Teesside in, I think, 1995, a long time ago, so it was a no-brainer.... and I arrived at Brockholes a few hours later!!

To be honest, I was kicking myself for much of the way for not twitching the GSC and it was a relief when it disappeared late morning, though i would have made it before. But the pull of the local patch prevailed!

Highlights were the continued presence of both the eclipse drake Garganey which was associating with a single Teal, and the Little Egret, which appeared on the Main Pool at 12:21. Both have been present for almost a week. Of interest, I was able to read the metal ring on an Oystercatcher on the Main Pool. Initial feedback indicates the bird was ringed at Bangor Harbour, North Wales, in Oct 2001. Three Gadwall on the Main pool should herald a regular presence at the site for the rest of the year.

Notts: Turtle Dove, Girton GP - 23rd July 2009.

Above: Turtle Dove, Girton GP, Notts - 23rd July 2009. Testimony to how rare this species is in Lancashire, this delightful male, a yeartick, kept me enthralled for over an hour as it sang and display-flighted. The last time I personally saw one in East Lancs was way back in Sept 1993 when a bird found by John Metcalfe spent a week at Rishton Reservoir with Collared Doves by the Playground/Cut Wood. One thing is for certain, a twitchable East Lancs Turtle Dove would be a much appreciated bird.

Above: Adult Green Sandpiper, Girton GP, Notts - 23rd July 2009.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Local birding: Brockholes Wetland LWT - 18th July 2009.

Above: Adult Little Egret, Brockholes Wetland LWT - 18th July 2009.

Above: Adult Med Gull, Brockholes Wetland LWT - 18th July 2009.

Above & below: Whimbrel, Brockholes Wetland LWT, Lancs - 18th July 2009.

Above: Eclipse drake Garganey, Brockholes Wetland LWT - 18th July 2009.

A cracking day on the local patch began with a phone call from Mark 'Milvus' Fanshawe to say a Red kite was showing at Brockholes. At the time of the call, it was impossible to twitch the bird as I was stood in a long queue at the Bank trying desperately to avoid contracting Swine Flu from the several sniffing and coughing people present amongst the queing horde! - The Kite is the fourth site record and the third since easter 2009, MF has seen three of these hence the proposed new nickname! - I keep saying it, but surely it won't be long before i add this species to my own Brockholes list!

News of other patch goodies kept coming throughout the afternoon: Juv Peregrine, 2cy Hobby, then the first Little Egret of the year, and a Whimbrel, the latter typically represented in autumn by just a handful of records, a total contrast to spring at the site.

I wasn't able to get down until late afternoon, but was able to contribute some noteworthy sightings. The Little Egret was present on the Main Pool upon arrival, but only briefly before flying north. An adult Med Gull, different to the bird seen a few days ago appeared briefly at 17:15. Presumably the same Whimbrel seen earlier by others was still present but flew SW at 17:30 and an eclipse drake Garganey, the first of the autumn at the site was located at the eastern end of the Main Pool at 18:37 and still present at 21:00.

Whilst onsite, another local birder, Carl Partington, dropped an extremely belated bombshell with the news that he saw an adult drake Long-tailed Duck on the Main Pool on a date in December 2004!!.... The only site record.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Local birding: Brockholes Wetland LWT - 14th July 2009.

Always a treat, a stunning ad summer Med Gull dropped in for a wash and preen mid-pm. The bird was metal ringed only.... pointless in my opinion without a darvic on the left leg which would have been very easily read.

Some recent images from Brockholes Wetland LWT, Lancs.

Above: Male Lesser Emperor, Brockholes Wetland LWT, 1st July 2009. Photo: Tony Disley. One of two males found by Allen Holmes on 1st July. Amazingly the fourth and fifth individuals to be found onsite in the past four years, with 2 in 2006, 1 in 2007 and 2 so far in 2009.

Above: Male Green Woodpecker, Brockholes Wetland LWT, 1st July 2009. Photo: Tony Disley. A family party consisting of a pair & two juvs are currently on the reserve. This species does not breed onsite, but obviously does close by.

Above: Greenshank, Brockholes Wetland LWT, Lancs - 29th June 2009.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Barry James RIP

Barry James in typical 'thumbs-up' pose shortly after seeing a Thrush Nightingale in the hand at Spurn, 29th May 2008.
Photo: Jeff Howarth.

Barry James, an incredibly popular birder on the East Lancashire birding scene finally succumbed to cancer after a brave fight, mid-afternoon of 29th June 2009.

Today was Barry's funeral, held at the Carleton Crematorium, Skipton.

It was an exceptionally well attended and moving celebration of his life. Testimony to the popularity of Barry was the fact that 50% of those attending had to stand outside the Chapel, including a good number of east lancs birders.

I remember very well the first time I had the pleasure of meeting Barry. It was at Fishmoor Reservoir on 31st October 1995 and the American Golden Plover twitch. From the moment we got talking, Barry instantly came across as a most genuine, likeable chap with a great sense of humour and it was the start of a birding friendship that was to last almost fourteen years.

Indeed, my one regret is not having the pleasure of knowing Barry much, much longer.

Birders who knew him, myself included, always used to gravitate towards Barry when he appeared at a twitch, such was his popularity on the birding scene. Future twitches will be all the poorer without his presence both locally and nationally.

For me one of the most 'feared' sights in twitching upon arriving at the site of a rare bird was that of a triumphant Barry James coming the other way, already with the tick in the bag, a huge grin on his face, giving the big thumbs-up. This meant the pressure was on to see the bird, or risk being 'gripped-off' forever by Barry!!

I fondly remember one of Barry's favourite excuses for having to leave a twitch was for him to say to me "i'll have to go, i've got a pie in th'oven". From this a bit of banter emerged between him and me in which I used to text him that i'd left his favourite pie atop the Pendle trig point, in a bid to entice him to go up looking for Dotterel in spring! - It didn't wash with him, but Barry needed no enticing to ascend Pendle in his annual pursuit of an east lancashire Dotterel.

One of my favourite birding memories with Barry was when He and I were wildlife watching in general at Cross of Greet in Bowland. Parked at the bottom car parking area, we were just about to leave in separate cars when we spotted a large raptor flying directly away at the top of the valley. We both looked at each other and shouted "Osprey!" in each others faces. What followed was an almost suicidal drive in convoy up the winding road of White Greet and over the top to Whitray Fell where we intercepted the Osprey as it did a close flypast. A magic birding moment shared with Barry which i will never forget.

God bless you Barry. It was a true pleasure to have known you and I know that I speak on behalf of every birder on the east lancashire birding scene.

Above: Barry watching a Red-necked Phalarope at Loch Mor, Benbecular, 19th May 2008. Photo: Gareth Morgan.

Below: Barry, Outer Hebrides, May 2008. Photo: John Metcalfe.

A link to a tribute thread for Barry on the ELOC forum can be viewed via this link: