Saturday, 24 October 2009

Eastern Crowned Warbler, Trow Quarry, Tyne & Wear - 23rd Oct 2009.

An emergency twitch was organised late the previous evening following the shock news of an Eastern Crowned Warbler at the superb migrant trap on the north east coast that is Trow Quarry, Tyne & Wear.

I had previously visited this site on only one occasion, Sept 2008, seeing the female Subalpine Warbler, a Wryneck and common migrants including Spotted Flycatchers, Redstarts and Lesser Whitethroat. To me, Trow Quarry is one of the sites closest to the 'perfect' migrant trap I have seen.

The carload consisted of Myself, Dave Bickerton and a germ-ridden Phil Rhodes and we arrived onsite at c08:30. Following the short walk over the extensive grass strip of the Leas, the fantastic 'amphitheatre-like' Trow Quarry, and the twitch within, opened up before us.

Over the next three hours several prolonged and absolutely stunning scope views of this stonking, feature packed phyllosc were had in the Sycamores it shared with a Yellow-browed Warbler, and 2 Blackcap. Although my record shots may not convey just how good a bird this was, the Eastern Crowned Warbler was an absolute crippler, and even better 'in the flesh' than i could ever have previously fantasised!!!

Above & below: Eastern Crowned Warbler, Trow Quarry, Tyne & Wear - 23rd Oct 2009. Quite simply, the best 'old world' Warbler I have ever seen!!

Below: Yellow-browed Warbler, Trow Quarry - 23rd Oct 2009.

Above: left-right, Dave Bickerton, Phil Rhodes & Myself, Trow Quarry, Tyne & Wear - 23rd Oct 2009.

Above: Adult Med Gull, Trow Quarry.

Afterwards we travelled to South Gare for a couple of hours birding. The site was generally quiet for migrants; just 1 Chiffchaff & 1 Goldcrest seen amongst presumably migrant Robins between Paddy's Hole and the end of the Gare. We also dipped on the Lapland Bunting.

A final stop at the Shrike Bushes before having to leave resulted in a couple of brief binocular views of the palest Lesser Whitethroat I have personally ever seen. In these brief views i was instantly struck by the striking pale sandy upperparts, the head also appeared pale with the darkest area seemingly confined to the side of the head from the bill and around the eyes. Phil also managed to obtain a view to confirm the bird was pale whilst Dave manged only a flight view as it unfortunately flew into the densest area of the Shrike Bushes and didn't show itself again before we had to leave, but again the impression was of a pale warbler in flight. I was in no doubt the bird was some sort of Eastern Lesser Whitethroat and rang it out to alert local birders who will hopefully stick a mist net inside over the weekend, weather permitting!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Lancs: South Ribble Marshes - 22nd Oct 2009.

Above: Partial eclipse Drake Green-winged Teal or hybrid, Nels Hide, Marshside, Lancs - 22nd Oct 2009.

This Teal took up most of my afternoon as it was mostly elusive for long periods amongst vegetation to the far left of Nels Hide. In scope views, the head pattern looked ok for GWT with pale border to the green on the head restricted to below the eye and there are stripes on either side of the fore-flanks, but do the stripes, if fully developed where visible, look a little narrow? As it is still in partial eclipse I feel it is better to err on the side of caution until fuller plumage is attained.

Now gone 17:00, I hurried to Old Hollow Farm, where I eventually located the 2 juv Long-billed Dowitchers on the saltmarsh pools, 1 juv Curlew Sand and 1-2 Spotted Redshank amongst numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Redshank Lapwing and Golden Plover. As usual, 2 Peregrine and a Merlin were in attendance on the wider marsh.

Final stop was Hesketh Out Marsh RSPB at dusk. Single Spotted Redshank and juv Ruff being the best birds in the available light.

An update on the colour ringed Little Egret I have during visits to Hesketh Out Marsh RSPB on 12th & 20th Oct 2009.

It was the elder of a brood of 3 Little Egret ringed on 13th June 2009 at Porth Penrhyn, Bangor, and is the first report of this individual, but other birds from the 23 ringed on the same day have already made it to Northern Ireland and two birds on the Isle of Man. - Thanks to Richard Du Feu for pursuing details of this bird on my behalf and Tony Cross for details of the birds history thus far.

I also saw a Little Egret with the same colour ring combination (left: White, Right: yellow) on Crossens Outer Marsh on the 18th, which may have been this individual but was too distant to read the lettering.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Long-billed Dowitcher, Old Hollow Farm, Lancs - 17th Oct 2009.

Another enjoyable afternoon on the south Ribble Marshes, this time in the company of Dave Bickerton, Mike Watson and Cllr John F. Wright, saw us spend a few hours firstly at Old Hollow Farm where, after a lengthy search, we located the single juv Long-billed Dowitcher reported earlier in the day, but where is the other bird?

Above & below: Juv LB Dowitcher, Old Hollow Farm, Lancs - 17th Oct 2009.

Other waders seen: 2 Spotted Redshank, 2 Curlew Sandpiper, 2 Green Sandpiper, c80 Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwits, Golden Plover, Snipe, Curlew, Lapwing & Redshank.

Runner up in the bird-of-the-day stakes went to the 'flava' Wagtail which flew east over the seawall and into distant stubble at 15:17, my first and very likely the last in Lancs this year! Raptors included two sightings of Merlin and a juv Marsh Harrier. Four Raven included two at OHF and 2 at Hesketh Out Marsh RSPB and a flock of c60 Fieldfare flew east at OHF.

Above: Left-right, Myself, Dave Bickerton, Mike Watson and John Wright - on the seawall at Old Hollow Farm, Lancs - 17th Oct 2009.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Long-billed Dowitchers, Old Hollow Farm, Banks Marsh/Crossens Outer Marsh, Lancs - 14th Oct 2009.

Today's mission was to try and relocate the two Long-billed Dowitchers on Banks Marsh, which i did, and attempt and get some better images of them, which ended in failure after several hours of effort. The weather was grim for much of the time, murky with light drizzle, coupled again with distance, hampering digiscoping efforts considerably!

After a few hours a Peregrine flushed everything, but i relocated the Dowitchers much closer to the seawall at Crossens Outer Marsh, midway between OHF and the Coast Road at Marshside. This was my chance to obtain my best images yet.

Just after I had taken these 'insurance' record shots, I hurried further along the base of the bank on the inland side to get the birds in better light and crept up. The Dowitchers were still out on the pool. Then out of nowhere a Wildfowler appeared on top of the bank, flushing everything and I couldn't find the Dowitchers again from 15:00 - 17:15, either on Crossens Outer Marsh, OHF or the Junction Pool at Marshside. Did they go all the way to Inner Marsh Farm?

Other birds at OHF/Crossens Outer included: 2 Spotted Redshank, 3 juv Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 juv Grey Plover, 40 Dunlin, 10 Snipe, 50 Blackwit, 34 Little Egret, 6 Whooper Swan, 2 Black Swan, c300 Wigeon, 2 Peregrine, male Marsh Harrier, 1 Merlin, 1 Rock/Water Pipit heard and 1+ Twite > south. A Cockatiel provided unexpected entertainment as it flew over the saltmarsh calling, always great value in flight.

Looking towards OHF from Marshside late afternoon, several Wildfowlers with Dogs could be seen on the Marshes. The last port of call late-on was Hesketh Outer Marsh RSPB and once again I was positively salivating at the potential of this newly created reserve. 15 Black-tailed Godwit and a perched Merlin the highlights.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Lancs: Brockholes Wetland LWT & South Ribble Marshes - 12th Oct 2009.

The day began with three hours on the local patch, Brockholes Wetland LWT. The eclipse drake Garganey was still present for the fourth day, eclipse drake Pintail still, ad Whooper Swan new-in, a Green Sandpiper, and 15 Redwing > north.

Above: ad Whooper Swan, Brockholes Wetland LWT, Lancs - 12th Oct 2009.

Late morning, Councillor John F. Wright texted with his intention to book half a day off and visit the Stocks Reservoir area in the afternoon. I quite fancied doing a recce of the new RSPB reserve at Hesketh Outer Marsh now it was officially open and succeeded against the odds in persuading the normally stubborn Councillor to head to the Ribble Marshes instead of Bowland. It was to be a good decision.

We arrived at Hesketh Outer Marsh RSPB at 14:30 and noted a couple of birders to the far right of the car park. They were watching a few thousand Pink-feet in stubble, also containing 7 Whooper Swan, 2 Barnacle Geese and a 'Blue Snow Goose type'.

Above: Pink-feet and Whooper Swans, Hesketh Outer Marsh RSPB, Lancs - 11th Oct 2009.

Although distant with heathaze a problem, we did not think the bird was a Snow Goose, but probably a Ross's Goose hybrid, perhaps Ross's x Barnacle, although the bird did appear larger than the accompanying Barnacles with which it always associated and noticeably smaller than the Pink-feet. The head and bill size/structure appeared 'Ross's-like' to us. Finer detail was hard to discern and when the Geese flew, the bird was lost immediately only to be relocated in a stubble field further away, in worse haze. EDIT - THE GOOSE IS APPARENTLY A PINK-FOOT X BARNACLE HYBRID!

Above & below: Ross's Goose hybrid, Hesketh Outer Marsh RSPB, Lancs, 12th Oct 2009.A distant Peregrine and six 6 Buzzard were noted before we moved to the viewing screen. Upon looking out from the screen, I was simply blown away with the potential of this site, a feeling I have not had since my first visit to Brockholes Wetland in 1998!!! - In the years to come this reserve is going to be simply MINDBLOWING!!

Above & below: View from the screen, Hesketh Outer Marsh RSPB, 12th Oct 2009.

Birdwise from the viewing screen, the highlight was a colour-ringed Little Egret, with another couple of unringed birds present.

Above & below: colour ringed Little Egret, Hesketh Outer Marsh RSPB, Lancs, 12th Oct 2009. Details of the birds history will be added in due course.

Single Grey Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, 15 Golden Plover, 20 Redshank, 15 Lapwing, 10 teal & 2 Pintail were noted from the screen.

Approaching late afternoon, next stop was Old Hollow Farm, Banks Marsh, and a check of the saltmarsh pools. Being long established, the pools were much busier that the newly created reseve at Hesketh, with c120 Golden Plover, 20+ Dunlin, 2 juv Curlew Sandpiper, Lapwings, Redshank. and 2 Little Egret.

JW had a millisecond view of a wader in the far right hand corner of the furthest saltmarsh pool before it went out of view. This briefest of views aroused his curiosity sufficiently for us to both train our scopes on the area. c1 min passed, before one of those magic birding moments occurred and a Dowitcher walked out into view... followed moments later by another!!!

Both birds were juv Long-billed Dowitchers. The birds fed very actively together and despite the distance and strong low evening sunlight from the west, the birds appeared unremarkably patterned above and detail such as the plain tertials with narrow pale fringes could be seen. Obtaining images at that distance in poor digiscoping light was another matter however, and below are the best I could manage with both still camera and camcorder.

Above: 2 juv Long-billed Dowitcher, Old Hollow Farm, Banks Marsh, Lancs - 12th Oct 2009.
Below: The Dowitchers were on the furthest pool, just below Cllr
Wrights right shoulder.

It was one of those magical, atmospeheric evenings on the Marshes, with little wind and plenty of birds to see. The evening roost flight of several thousand Pink-feet down the central channel of the Ribble and two Little Owls on the Mossland roads followed by a celebratory pint in honour of the Dowitchers in the Bluebell Arms in Preston rounded off an excellent day.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Local birding: Brockholes Wetland LWT - 11th Oct 2009.

Above: 2 Greater Scaup (fem & juv), Brockholes Wetland LWT, Lancs - 11th Oct 2009.
Good coverage throughout the day by several observers produced highlights of 3ad Whooper Swan until 11:00 when they flew SW, 2 Greater Scaup, eclipse drake Garganey for the third day, eclipse drake Pintail still, ad Peregrine, 1 Dunlin, 2 Raven, 5 Swallow > south and a pair of Stonechat.

At 14:20, Allen Holmes picked up a distant flock of large white birds to the NE of the site, on a westerly heading, and understandably thought them to be probably Swans. The birds must have been close to a mile away when first seen, but Myself, Mark Fanshawe and Robin Shenton all almost immediately got onto them with the bins. It was clearly a scope job and we were onto the birds in seconds. Instantly, it was obvious they were not the Whooper Swans we were expecting, they were Geese, the majority of which were white with black flight feathers and amongst them were at least 4 blue-morph birds. Despite the distance, they could only be Snow Geese. The flock was now quite tightly grouped meaning only a rough estimate of number could be made but there were 20+ birds, presumably part of/the flock reported on the Fylde a few hours earlier and I rang them out in the hope that whatever their origin, their movements could be further tracked. Total views were only c1 min before the flightpath took them behind Tunbrook Wood and out of sight completely.