Sunday, 30 September 2012

Pembrokeshire Sept 22 - 29

The lack of recent posts is due to a holiday with Lyn and two friends, Pam & Rheinallt, at St Brides in Pembrokeshire.

It has to be said that the weather could have been kinder, mostly fresh to strong north-easterly winds and two days written off due to rain. I should also say that the birding was limited to early morning walks around St Brides castle, plus one full day of birding.

Fortunately, Thursday 27 September was the most favourable day for weather by a mile, and I was able to spend it walking from the Gann Estuary, up to Dale airfield, then along the coast to Marloes Mere, on to Wooltack Point, and finally back to St Brides. Pretty knackering. The birds were good though.

The Gann contained three adult Med Gulls, four Little Egrets, a Peregrine, and a Bar-tailed Godwit among over 100 Curlews.

On the way up to the airfield I met an excited local birder, Alan Hanson, who had just found a Lapland Bunting up there. I would love to have spent longer on the airfield, which looked superb for birds, but I duly saw and heard the Lapland Bunting in flight, and also logged several Wheatears and an amazing passage of southbound Swallows going through at about 400 per hour. A Golden Plover called overhead, but failed to show itself.

Walking along the southern cliff to Marloes Mere I chanced upon a Clouded Yellow butterfly, pretty scarce this year. At Marloes I was impressed by the habitat, and saw eight Shovelers, a Gadwall, about 30 Teal, several Little Grebes, and a Merlin before I finally located the long-staying immature Glossy Ibis.

Beyond here I started to find Choughs, at least eight, before a look around the Deer Park produced just a few Goldcrests and Chiffchaffs. The walk back to St Brides added little, but my species tally for the day reached 71.

The remainder of the week had produced mainly common birds around St Brides, although seven White Wagtails on Sept 23 and a Manx Shearwater and a Kittiwake on Sept 26 were more noteworthy.

I would love to go back and maybe spend more time birding at Dale airfield and some of the other headlands. The potential for finding your own birds looks considerable.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Tree Pipit, Sunday Sept 16

Dave & I started at Netherstead as usual, and soon noticed there was a steady trickle of Meadow Pipits going south. We eventually logged 35, and heard a fly-over Redpoll. There was also plenty of passerine activity in the hedgerows and reedbed. Most were various species of Tit, but we also recorded Reed Warbler, two Whitethroats, two Blackcaps, and several Chiffchaffs.

Arriving at the bridlepath Dave spotted a Whinchat on the fence, and we eventually counted three of them plus a Reed Bunting and a Meadow Pipit with very white wing-bars. While we were waiting for the latter to reappear (which it didn't) we noticed another Pipit at the top of an old willow. We quickly realised it was a Tree Pipit.

The Tree Pipit
 This is a half decent bird in Warwickshire, but the species has shown itself to be surprisingly regular here in autumn. I have recorded them in four out of six years, but this was only the second that wasn't a dot, calling as it flew south. In fact this bird didn't call at all, but was obliging enough to allow me to get some shots away before it dropped into the long grass and disappeared.

We continued onwards, Dave drawing my attention to a Hobby that zipped past us at close range. I was jotting something in my notebook at the time, which shows the value of having two observers looking. The flash contained 39 Teal and just one Green Sandpiper, but our return circuit produced three Spotted Flycatchers and the first two Wheatears of the autumn to round off another good visit.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Sunday September 9

 A fine sunny morning with only a very light south-westerly breeze. I was joined by Dave S and we started searching for migrants. Although very few Meadow Pipits were passing overhead, we didn't have to wait long for a patch year-tick to turn up. I heard the thin call of a Goldcrest, and Dave got onto the tiny bird as it made its way rapidly down a hedge.
Although Goldcrests breed in conifer woodland in the surrounding area, it is not unusual for us to have to wait until the autumn for one to turn up on the patch. There just isn't the breeding habitat for them.

The same could be said of our next year tick. Barely five minutes after the Goldcrest, we heard the distinctive sharp "tzik" call of a Grey Wagtail, and managed to get onto it as is bounded away over the fields. My year list has now risen to 109, but there aren't too many more bankers left so I don't think I will equal last year's total.

We had two more interesting fly-over species; two alba Wagtails heading south looked rather pale and may well have been White Wagtails rather than British race birds, and Dave picked out a Sand Martin among the other hirundines. A small farm pond produced the Kingfisher seen a couple of weeks ago, and we later had good views of it on the main pool. The fence posts bordering the main pool supported four Whinchats, no doubt the birds seen by Matt on Friday.

The Flashes contained 33 Teal, and just one Green Sandpiper. Three Cormorants flying over added to the mix.

It is starting to feel distinctly autumnal in terms both of birds seen, and birds not seen. Although we were pleased to find a Sedge Warbler and two Reed Warblers, we saw no Whitethroats or Lesser Whitethroats all morning.

Finally I took Dave to see Haselor scrape. We saw two Green Sandpipers, the Common Sandpiper, and three pale backed, white flanked, juvenile alba Wagtails. If they weren't White Wagtails then I don't how you identify them. This race of Wagtails heads up to Iceland every spring and are readily identified in the Midlands through April. But if you believe the records, they never return in autumn! The fact of the matter is they are just a bit too tricky in non-breeding plumage for many birders to commit themselves, and I'm afraid I am as guilty as everyone else.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Saturday Sept 8

It's funny how the bird composition of sites can change from day to day. Yesterday Matt W counted 44 Teal, four Whinchats and two Redstarts at Morton Bagot. A lot better than my totals the day before.

Today, Lyn and I decided to take a sneaky peak at Haselor scrape on the way to Waitrose. We saw a bird I have yet to record at Morton Bagot, admittedly just a feral Barnacle Goose, plus 94 Lapwings, a Common Sandpiper, eight Snipe, and a Green Sandpiper. This was miles better than I managed on Thursday.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Thursday 6 September

A rare midweek morning looked pretty promising at first. A Siskin flew over my house as I stepped outside, and then Morton Bagot started producing vis mig as soon as I arrived in the form of my first migrating Meadow Pipits. I eventually counted a modest 23, all heading south-west. About 100 Swallows and House Martins were present in an excitable throng, and presently the cause of their anxiety, a Hobby, flew past.

This species is pretty regular here through August and September, although this year I have seen fewer than usual. It was also noticeable that there were fewer Warblers about, although I had a particularly good view of a Lesser Whitethroat. The pool produced the usual Little Grebes and Tufted Ducks, but the flash was a bit of a disaster. Not a wader nor a Teal to be seen. I assume some major disturbance had occurred before I got there.

Needing a wader fix, I drove down the road to Haselor scrape, but that only produced a Common Sandpiper and two Snipe.

It is fair to say that the morning's early promise was not sustained.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Sunday September 2

I was joined by Dave this morning, back from a fortnight on Scilly, and we were hopeful of seeing the Wood Sandpiper and some Small Red-eyed Damselflies. The former was last seen on Thursday by Mike, while John had drawn a blank yesterday, so we weren't too surprised that it was nowhere to be seen. More disappointing was the apparent absence of the damselflies, although the mostly cloudy conditions won't have helped.

The day did have its up side though. We found two juvenile Whinchats, Reed Warbler, four Common Whitethroats and the first of two Lesser Whitethroats at Netherstead. Then at the Flashes, although Green Sandpipers were down to five, the number of Teal has risen to 54, and Lapwings to 67. The hedgerow beyond the fishing ponds produced at least one Redstart, at least one Spotted Flycatcher, and our second Lesser Whitethroat.

I was slightly disappointed that we had no visual migration through the day, but we redeemed ourselves slightly on insects, finding a Small Copper and three Migrant Hawkers.

That afternoon I took Lyn for a drive a few miles south of Morton Bagot to try to find a new scrape which Mike Inskip has told me about. We located the place quite easily as it is beside the road which runs between Great Alne and Haselor. I have to say we were impressed. It consists of several quite large shallow pools which you can view without even leaving the car, although the road is a bit narrow. We saw species which are regular at Morton Bagot; five Green Sandpipers, some Lapwing, and about eight Snipe for example. The site also contained a Common Sandpiper and 71 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, species and numbers which I see less often on my patch. Definitely worth keeping an eye on this place, which for the moment I will call Haselor Scrape.