Showing posts from February, 2010

Great Grey Shrike

East Lancashire has had a happy knack of turning up Great Grey Shrikes with some regularity over the past few years but after a lean winter for them, the news of one near the summit of Grindleton Fell meant that I just had to stop my coursework and head for the hills!

I phoned Mark Breaks who lives just 2 miles from the site (as the Shrike flies - it's all uphill) to tell him of the news that had pinged up on my e-mail (thanks Jonathan) and I set off post haste!

It was around 2:20 when I got there but the bird wasn't showing and had been rather distant but after ten minutes of scanning, I picked it up on a far dry stone wall near the skyline from where it srtied up to the top and then to various placed on the moor near the plantation. However, at three, having perched up on a lone small conifer, it flew down and we never saw it again. I don't know if it was a juvenile or adult as we were far too far away (and certainly too far for any pictures), but seeing it flying around…

Rishton Grebes

A quick visit to Rishton Reservoir this morning produced two pairs of Great Crested Grebes in amongst the ice. They'll be starting their courtship rituals soon, something I look forward to each year.

There were 87 Lapwings on the far bank along with a single Oystercatcher and Curlew. Several gulls around but nothing unusual in amongst them.

The redpolls are still coming down to the garden feeders and I heard a few Siskins yesterday - they've been notable by their absence but I guess things will start moving an a week or so or perhaps not if another cold blast arrives as predicted.

It's Bath not Baaaarth

As it was half term, we decided we'd have a mini-break around Bath. I said I'd leave my bins behind but Bernie insisted I take them :-). The trip down was fine - everyone seemed to observe the speed limits a lot better these days and there were few problems, even through the ubiquitouscentral barrier repair zones.

We'd not planned a precise route as it was last minute, so we got the NT book out to see where we could stop off. Everything seems to open in March so there was nothing else but to visit Slimbridge. It's ages since I've been here but we re-accustomed ourselves to the new layout and headed for the marshes. A few hundred Russian Whitefronts were showing distantly along with several Barnacles (rubbish views compared to Islay!) and a Peregrine regularly spooked the waders on the scrapes.

I managed to find the female Ring-necked Duck in amongst the snoozing Aythyas before it headed for the cover of a reedy area and I scanned through thousands of Teal for a Gre…

Another Richardson's Canada Goose?

Our final day on Islay started early for me as I headed down to Loch Gruniart for dawn. A Tawny Owl greeted me as I pulled into the car park and on the short stroll to the watchpoint, a woodcock flew over. I could hear plenty of geese and in the first glimmers of light on this cloudier morning, I could make out the large flocks below me.

Around 7:30, geese started to depart in small flocks, mainly the White-fronts but at 8, the remaining Barnacle Geese all took off as one - a splendid sight and sound that lasted for a minute or so until they were dispersed around the fields near and far. Happy with that I headed back for breakfast and packed up our things for the journey home.

First port of call on our way back was around Bridgend Bay again - no changes really to the avifauna there with several Great Northerns, Slavonian Grebes and Long-tailed Duck along with the hundreds of waders, ducks and geese. A party of Brent Geese fed on the eel grass.
Next we headed for our departure point at …

The great Great Tit hunt

I can't remember who said it but 100 species would be a good total for a trip to Islay at this time of year. So we decided we had to make a point of testing our birding know-how and find some of what we call 'commoner' birds as well as some of the specialities.

We started another crisp and beautiful morning down at Loch Indaal where we had several Slavonian Grebes, Great Northern Divers, Red-throated Divers and sea duck in the shape of 220 Greater Scaup and 9 Long-tailed Duck. We made our way around to Bowmore (having stopped off very briefly at some likely looking woods to tick off Greenfinch and Great Tit) where we had an otter and more divers.

From here we decided to go goose watching again and made our way up to Loch Gruniart again. We were delighted with our views of the geese and especially the Greenland White-fronted Gees - they were splendid all day.
A little way up the east side of the loch, we managed to find a Black Redstart that had been reported the day before …

Eagle spectacular

The rain of last night had passed and a beautiful day dawned. We decided to head for Loch Indaal and look for some sea birds at the head of this large sea loch that is very reminiscent of Loch Ryan.
There were plenty of birds on the mudflats and just offshore. Wading birds included several Bar-tailed Godwits, a small number of Knot and several commoner species. Some Pale-bellied Brent Geese fed on the shore and a smallish raft of Scaup stretched along the shallows. Tim spotted a Peregrine sat out on the mudflats and between us we saw several Great Northern Divers and Slavonian Grebes. However, today we were to head for the Oa where the Gyr had most recently be seen. We pulled in at the loch where the bird had been seen three days earlier and scanned the area thoroughly. there were more White-fronted and a few Greylag Geese in the fields and Hen Harriers over the hillside. Choughs fed in the fields and we added Kestrel to the raptor list. With no sign of anything else, we headed for the …


Growing up around the mosslands of Southport, I am well used to huge flocks of geese around the place but Islay is something else. Geese are just everywhere - Barnacle Geese are by far the commonest and a flock assembling just outside our B&B was a great start.
There were also good, though much smaller numbers of Greenland White-fronted Geese around as well.
The early part of the day was predictably freezing cold but the sun started to peep from behind the clouds around 9 as we scanned our umpteenth flock of Barnacle Geese. Something spooked them (I 'blame' John) but as they had just jumped up the field a bit, John found one of our target birds - a Richardson's Lesser Canada Goose. This is a much smaller version of our regular resident Greater Canada Geese and smaller than the Barnacles. Though distant, we watched it for a while and I managed to get some distant record shots that showed the diagnostic white patch on the top of the breast,
From our viewpoint we also noted …

En-route to Islay

I have foresaken a trip to Ewood Park to have a few days on the Scottish island of Islay, famous for Whisley (or even Whiskey) and birds!

John, Tim, Janet and I will spend the next few days traversing the island in search of geese, raptors and anything else that comes our way. We started at 6:30 and by 10 we were heading to the Slammanan area to look for Bean Geese. Suffice to say, we were unsuccessful but I now know we took the wrong road.

Anyway we got back on track eating our butties at Arrochar, just beyond Loch Lomand, whilst watching our frst Hooded Crows as well as the expected commoner birds. We stopped and viewed the Lock Fyne shoreline at several places, the best being Lochgair where we had a couple of Slavonian Grebes as well as plenty of Red-breasted Mergansers, Eider, Curlew, Oystercatcher and Redshank. We checked numerous gulls at Lochgilphead but to no avail so we set our sights on Ormsary. As we arrived we could see LOADS of gulls and I managed to pick out a first wint…

... and more Goldfinches

And Redpolls of course. Another ringing session and the birds were a bit wise to the nets as we tried a new combination. The Goldfinches were still obliging as eight came straight into the nets along with three Lesser Redpolls.

We had a paler Redpoll in the net at one stage but a Blackbird hit the net and dislodged it! That wasn't the only thing that got away as later on in the day, a large female Sparrowhawk got itself caught up - Mark dashed out only for the bird to escape before we were anywhere near it.

Three more Long-tailed Tits got caught but the numbers of other birds were generally down. Robins put in a good show with two new birds and three re-traps. 26 new birds were ringed and eleven controlled mainly from earlier in the year bit a couple from March 2009.

A good Mealy at last

The Redpolls have been regular again in the garden but at 11 o'clock, whilst peeling some spuds, I noticed a Lesser Redpoll on the near Niger feeder and a pale one on the plum tree - pale greyish mantle, pure white, very contrasty wing bars and whitish rump. A nice Mealy Redpoll at last. I dashed for the camera but it flew to the blind side of he feeder and sat there for around five minutes before both birds flew off. A little later a whole flock came into the feeders but without the other two. However the pale bird seen on previous days with whiter wing bars and pale rump was with them and posed on the feeder for some photos.
The pictures were taken hand held through the window. The bird has a very pale rump and much fainter breast and flank markings.