Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Kitten, bee and other friends

In recent days I have been super busy getting prepared for my PhD viva (tomorrow, wish me luck!). Therefore my wildlife experiences were again reduced to non-birds. My urban bathroom continued to deliver relative quality, in the form of Small Clouded Brindle last night. It waited in the bathroom till the morning, then I took it out to the garden for some modelling.



A few nights ago two less-common and very welcome visitors entered my bathroom - Small Blood-Veins:



Large Ivy Tortrix was another new #bathroommoth:


Today while waiting for my car to get MOT'd, I paid James a quick visit for a cuppa and some moths. James trapped several fine moths this morning, and I played around with two. Sallow Kitten is one sweet little pussycat. Sadly one wingtip was broken.




Common Emerald is an attractive moth too

The single Bee Orchid growing in James's garden is looking fine


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

My most-wanted!

Bird news coming out of East Anglia have strange ways. Yesterday evening a Buff-breasted Sandpiper was found at Potter Heigham Marshes, but the news didn't reach the internet-generation until mid morning today. I was stuck doing things in the morning, but as soon as I could free myself I picked up my gear and shot off. Negative news didn't put me off, and I did my best to relocate it. After a long and hot search, on the farthest scrape, a flock of Ringed Plovers flew in. I did a quick scan through the scope and  - boom! The sweetest-ever shorebird, my lovely lifer - Buff-breast! Beautiful, gingery, delicate, just as I had imagined it. Not obliging like a Davidstow Airfield slut, but I enjoyed very good scope views. Photography was horrible though, distant through heavy heat-haze, no joy here.




Phonescoped videos are a bit better:


Buff-breasted Sandpiper has eluded me since I arrived in the UK almost four years ago. There were no gettable East Anglian birds during this period, and I didn't go all the way to SW Cornwall for one (though I was tempted). I narrowly missed one in Dorset last year, so this species climbed to the top of my most-wanted birds before my departure in August. I secretly hoped for this scenario exactly. Now, after a few rapid heartbeats all is well - the plan fell into place and this embarrassing gap in my list is closed now. In fact it was a global lifer for me - I have not seen it in N America in several trips there.

Even though I was really focused on one sweet bird, I did see quite a lot of other stuff (check my eBird checklist here), including many families. Notables were Spoonbill and Hobby.

Reebu


Will I have another tick before heading back? Stay posted...

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Recent moffs

Haven't been doing any birding in recent days, so my wildlife experiences were limited to a few more bathroom moths, and a couple of imported hawk-moths courtesy of James Lowen.

Pine Hawk-moth - stunning creature

Elephant Hawk-moth - always popular

Bright-line Brown-eye - flew in to the bathroom and wouldn't settle down for a proper photoshoot

Common Marbled Carpet

 Lychnis - very similar to the Campion I had a couple of weeks ago

Pretty micro - Hook-stream Grass-veneer 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Yorkshire Coast half-term holiday

After the rather emotional previous blogpost, now it's time to wind down and tell you about the relaxed, wildlife-filled, rarity-void annual half-term trip to Yorkshire. As usual, we stayed with our extended family in Filey, Mark and Amity. Admittedly, weather was not great for a family holiday. Rain, fog and wind for much of the time. However, this is exactly what birders want in early June. Mark and I snuck out birding as often as we could (after repeating our mantra three times: 'F~%&ing Spurn'), but came up with close to zero reward. Birding was hard-going. We checked all the famous migrant spots, but there was nothing around. Sole local scarcity was a Wood Sandpiper (present for several days) at Carr Naze Pond.


View of Filey Brigg protruding into the North Sea from Blue Dolphin:


Early Purple Orchid

Luckily, I like Tree Sparrows. This one was taken at Filey Dams:



So rather than hardcore birding, we focused on recreational birding and wildlife stuff. One morning was spent rock-pooling with Mark at South Landing on Flamborough Head, which was brilliant as always. So much diversity, and this time I even brought my proper camera to document it:

Monster Shanny



Butterfish

Five-bearded Rockling

Beadlet Anemone

Common Grey Sea Slug and its eggs

Shore Crab with a belly-full of eggs

We visited the seabird colony at Flamborough's North Landing twice. First time in fog as thick as soup and high tide. Second visit was better. From a photography point of view it is very different and perhaps less ideal than Bempton Cliffs. However, the experience there is great - the birds are so close, flying on and off the cliff inches from my head. It is a very busy beach and the birds tolerate human activity. Brilliant stuff.


Razorbill - their eyes are so hard to see in photos!

Liked the water patterns here

Atlantic Puffin - still holding on here somehow, about 3000 pairs breeding in Bempton - Flamborough colony


This photo was taken in really murky conditions - heavily photoshopped

This excellent photo was taken by my son Uri, 10 years old:


I love Yorkshire, especially at this time of year. This was probably my last visit for a while, but I'll be back.

Mediterranean dip with salted plastic and rice pudding

As I drove back from Yorkshire (more to come on this...) on Sunday evening, I was saddened to witness a beautiful sunset in a clear sky over the North Norfolk coast. The Moltoni's Warbler (another brilliant find by my mate Dave) was last seen in the late afternoon. I guessed it might have moved on last night, but decided to give it my best shot. In a somewhat masochistic way, I like the walk to Blakeney Point, and hoped to find some other stuff if Mr. Moltoni made a bunk - the weather still felt rare. When I started walking from Cley beach carpark this morning there was already negative news from early birders. Those who have walked to the Point know that there's a lot of time for thinking along that loooooong shingle bank. I had plenty of time to think about dips and the reasons why I still twitch. I started encountering dead birds in an increasing rate. Alcids, first of two very fresh Kittiwake, Teal, Lesser Blacked-backed and Common Gulls, Cormorant. Pretty morbid. Some of the alcids had been on the beach for a while, perhaps a few weeks, but not too long, as they were all in summer plumage. I did not spend time opening their stomachs - I was trying to get to the Point as quickly as possible. However, out of the open bellies of three auks plastic bits stuck out. They were all decapitated by some necrophiliacs, so identifying them was not easy.  I think most were Guillemot, with fewer Razorbill and Puffin.


So sad to see dead Kittiwakes, in context of their dire state in the UK as published today in The Guardian.

Anyway, eventually I got to the Point. I first checked some bushes between the huts, and flushed a tiny acro out of a bush. It flew right past me at close range, I noticed it was very short- and rounded-winged. It flew around a hut. I walked there and saw it perched on a bramble for a split second. I immediately noticed a bold supercilium, but then the bird shot off to the east, behind another hut and I lost it. Paddyfield Warbler! But I was unsatisfied with the brief views, and left it as a 'possible'. I spent a few minutes searching for it but could not relocate. I alerted some birders around, and headed off to try my luck with the moltonis. I was surprised to be alone on site but at least there was no annoying chit-chat. The weather was pretty grim with strong wind and constant drizzle. The bird did not show during the couple of hours I stood around - must have moved on last night. Dip. I did have a trickle of migrants popping in the garden briefly - Tree Pipit, Spotted Flycatcher and Chiffchaff. A spoonbill flew east miles away.

The moltonis was here

Tree Pipit

 Spoonbill

Quite a few Cinnabar Moths on the dunes - my phone camera wouldn't focus, sorry:


Before walking back, I picked up a garbage bag from the wardens, planning to collect some plastic and other rubbish en route. I was shocked by the amount of plastic. I filled the large bag up until it almost burst within 500 meters. I kept on finding dead birds. I was frustrated that I could not pick up more plastic because my bag was full, knowing the rubbish would wash back into the North Sea at the next high tide. My spirit was not very high. 

Foreign plastic (NL and France)

I continued to walk faster low down on the sand, avoiding the shingle. Mistake.When I got back to Norwich, I learned that James McCallum had found a tame paddyfield on the shingle a couple of hours after I had passed below there - must have been an beautiful experience. If my bird was indeed a paddyfield, it may or may not have been the same bird - who knows. My bird disappeared in the right direction but James described his birds' behaviour as a bird fresh in off the sea and reckons his was a different bird. Who knows. 

Map from Birdguides:

Friday, May 25, 2018

High expectations, slim pickings

I left Norwich early this morning with Phil and Will, with soaring expectations: weather conditions could have not been better for a fall, and/or for something really good. Burnham Overy Dunes was our choice. We were surprised to be the first birders there. As we walked out, the White-winged Tern showed nicely, albeit distant and in bad light conditions. A bird I wouldn't twitch in the UK, but was still really nice to bump into:

White-winged Tern

We worked the dunes hard, again and again, from Gunn Hill to the woods. At first there were no migrants to be found at all; evidently there was no fall. In those moments of disappointment, someone always uses the useless phrase 'biggies always travel alone'. If there were any biggies around, we missed them. News started to pour in, of decent arrivals and scarcities elsewhere in Norfolk and along the east coast; this enthused us to do another circuit of the dunes, and another... Then we had to move on, leaving the dunes goodies to be found by others. Between our group of 4/5 (including James and Dave Appleton) we did find eventually singles each of Pied Flycatcher, Common Redstart, Tree Pipit, Whinchat and Cuckoo. There were also 3 Wheatears, presumably local breeding birds. A Little Ringed Plover flew by uttering its sad call over the saltmarsh, and a Merlin bombed around Gunn Hill. On the marsh the distinguished residents showed OK - Spoonbills and Great White Egret. Two Barn Owls hunted out in the open - always fun. On the way out, several Bearded Tits pinged from the reedbed, and among a distant group of lingering Brent we found a striking Pale-bellied. The total for the morning was 95 species (check my eBird checklist here) - not bad I guess. And if you read the list above it feels like a pretty good morning. However, my expectations were much higher, both for quality and numbers. But hey, better to look at the bright side and enjoy what we did see, which ain't too shabby.

Stonking male Pied Flycatcher

Pale-bellied Brent

Barn Owl

Some other fauna and flora included:

One of quite many Wall Brown

Female Muslin Moth

A scarce hoverfly identified by Phil - Scaeve selenitica

Southern Marsh Orchid

We then went to Titchwell for a quick visit. The Greenish Warbler was surprisingly vocal in the midday (relative) heat, and showed OK, demonstrating its very faint wingbars; sadly I failed to get a decent photo.


I sound-recorded its vocalisations with my phone. Song came out rather OK; I need to work more on the calls. James got similar results with his iPhone...
We drove back by Choseley, where we added Corn Bunting and Yellowhammer to our day list, bringing it up to 99. 
Thanks to Will for driving there and James for driving back; good day out - maybe there still is another chance for a fall or a biggie this spring.