Tuesday, September 27, 2016

12 bars

This morning I went with UEA ringing group to our site in Waxham on the east coast. We were joined by a group of fresh IMAE students. Good to meet such an enthusiastic cohort of young conservationists. The weather was not promising and indeed it felt very quiet. But eventually it was a fine morning, with a reasonable catch, dominated by Chiffchaffs. Also a couple of late Reed Warblers. Highlight was three Yellow-browed Warblers. Always lovely birds to ring. Not surprising to get them after the huge arrival last week along the east coast. We heard and saw only one in the field, but evidently there were more about.

Yellow-browed Warbler 

We also had three Lapland Buntings - picked up by call, then we saw them flying north above the dunes. I went looking for them but couldn't find any.
Iain showed the students the moths he had trapped overnight - big numbers and nice variety. Quite many migrants. I especially liked the Pink-barred Sallows:

A view of our ringing site from the elevated dunes 

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Party's over

Yesterday was a terrific day for seawatching, but sadly I just could not get out. I hoped to pick some leftovers up this morning, but in reality the morning session at Cley was rather quiet. Not a sniff of a tubenose. Few skuas - about 10 arctics and 2 Bonxies when I was there. Big numbers of wildfowl (including my first Pink-footed Geese of the season), shorebirds and fewer Red-throated Divers etc. I wasted my batteries on photographing distant birds in horrible light conditions:

Artistic photo of an Arctic Skua


Brent and Shelduck



Grape Lovers (©Steve Minton)

Bamba was pretty bored too

I had to return home early but had a quick look at Stiffkey Campsite. It was very quiet there too. I actively searched for a Yellow-browed Warbler - I just knew there had to be one there, but failed. My friends Dawn and Pete found one there a few hours later... The only migrants there were a Whinchat and large numbers of hirundines.


Meadow Pipit

 I had this flock of 80 Greylags in off - I wonder whether they are true migrants:

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Wet and happy

After a few days of easterlies, that did bring a sprinkle of scarce birds to the east coast, last night weather shifted and heavy rain and storms hit the Norfolk coast. This was a day I just had to be out, despite my aching body after the bike accident I had a couple of weeks ago. As I switched on my phone in the morning I saw the message: 'PGTips ringed at Spurn'. Shit. A dream bird to see in the WP, but 4 hours drive and there was no positive news of it after it was released. So after a quick consultation with Dougal, my birding companion for today, and a few more friends, decided to skip and and stick with Plan A - East Hills. I had to accept that this is the closest I would get to a PGTips today:

Yesterday our mate Dave had an Arctic Warbler on East Hills which Dougal needed, and I just wanted to get out there and see some birds. We started walking at 09:30, hoping the tide would drop enough to cut across the deepest creek and save time, but sadly the water was too high still, and we had to walk all the way around along the beach. It was raining hard, the wind picked up seriously, so the walk itself was hard work. Also my dislocated shoulder was killing me - maybe this activity today was a bit too extreme? But our spirits were high as it all looked well for a good arrival of birds.

We got to East Hills and it was still raining hard, but it was evident that there were birds around. From the first line of trees we already had Spotted Flycatcher and a few Willow Warblers. Dougal was keen to look for the Arctic Warbler, but I worked my way across the hills slowly. Along the way I picked up more migrants - Pied Flycatchers, Redstarts, two Tree Pipits and more Willow Warblers. After a short while, while scanning a mixed flock of tits and Goldcrests, I found a Firecrest - fine bird. Sadly it was in the canopy of tall conifers, so no photos. Unlike some of the Goldcrests that foraged very low, possibly because of the howling wind.

By the way, this bird with some grey on the nape looks like a continental bird. See here.
It was a very tough day for photography. Most of the time I daren't get the camera out of the bag because of the heavy rain. And light was..., well there was no light today. And all the better birds I saw today did not play ball at all. But good birds kept on coming. Immediately after Dougal called me to say he had just had a Red-breasted Flycatcher (probably the same one from yesterday) I heard a familiar call, a call I had spent many days listening out for - Greenish Warbler! I knew exactly what it was. It gave several clear calls, and then I located it for a second or two very close to me, maybe 4-5 meters away at eye level - it was in  a small conifer, good views but all too brief. I knew excatly what features to look for. I saw the wingbar well, and the good supercilium meeting above the small bill. It was a relatively bright bird so I assume it is a 1cy. It vanished quickly - the whole tit and goldcrest flock had moved on and the bird was gone. I spent some time trying to relocate it, and was joined by Dougal and Pete (another birder who walked with us out to the hills) but without success. I am really happy with this bird. I saw one a few months ago in Suffolk, but it feels good to find a fresh migrant in a migrant hotspot. 
We continued to work the habitat for a couple more hours. I was mostly searching for the greenish. We saw more Pied and Spotted Flys, Redstarts, one Cuckoo and a few other bits and pieces. I actually saw some fresh migrants falling out of the sky into the trees - pretty cool. There was this miserable Siskin there - it was very wet like all birds today:

Eventually I got brief views of the Red-breasted Fly but it was very shy, like most other birds today, because of the fowl weather. All three of us heard and saw a Yellow-browed Warbler - probably the same bird, and one was there yesterday as well so probably the same as yesterday. The view from the far end of East Hills towards Wells Woods was rather gloomy today. Lots of birds on the mud but I didn't have a scope and my brain was on passerine mode anyway. I did notice some 50-60 Brent on the saltmarsh.

Then the weather became so bad that we hardly saw birds anymore, and we just wanted to get back home. The walk back was again very wet and quite cold - bye bye summer I guess. We got back to the car drenched but rather pleased. It was a good day, with quality and decent numbers. This is very good compared to the rather weak results from nearby strategic points in N Norfolk - Blakeney Point and Scolt Head - very few migrants in both these sites today.

Migrant totals for today 11:00 - 14:00 on East Hills:
10 Pied Flycatcher
5 Spotted Flycatcher
1 Red-breasted Flycatcher
8 Redstart
5 Song Thrush
15 Willow Warbler
10 Chiffchaff
20 Goldcrest
1 Firecrest
1 Yellow-browed Warbler
2 Blackcap
1 Garden Warbler
2 Tree Pipit
1 Cuckoo
2 Wheatear
30 Swallow
2 House Martin

Friday, September 2, 2016

A week in the Swiss Alps

Got back yesterday from a family holiday in the Swiss Alps, south of Interlaken, in a small village called Stechelberg. It is a very scenic part of the country - the village is situated in the top of a huge cliffed gorge, that is an international hotspot for paragliders and base jumpers. I must admit that I chose this part of the world because I knew there would be very few birds, and no potential lifers or too much quality for me to be tempted to sneak out of bed early. It was a relaxed week indeed. Sadly we could not get to the highest elevations - cable-cars and mountain trains are outrageously priced there. So most of our time was spent in the mountains near the village, up to 1900 m.

Scenery was breathtaking - Jungfrau (4197 m) towering above us constantly:

Birds were few and far between. Admittedly I did not try too hard but still saw very little. Relative highlights were a high flying Lammergeier, 2 flyby Citril Finches at Allmendhubel, a flock of 10 Crossbills, some Alpine Choughs, a Nutcracker and a family of Dippers. On the lake at Botingen there was one 2cy Med Gull and some Yellow-legged Gulls. Check my eBird checklists here and here.

Dipping Dipper

Dedicated to my UK friends who get excited by Black Redstarts

I was sometimes so bored I even looked at Butterflies:

Old World Swallowtail

Small White

Red Admiral

Silver-washed Fritillary

Please correct me if I got IDs wrong.
I apologize for the poor quality of images in this post. I carried my 'bridge' lens (400 mm/f5.6) only, and photographed mainly using my phone, hence the crappy photos.