Monday, 21 October 2013

Semipalmated Plover in Hampshire.

After going to Stiffkey instread of Hampshire on Friday Gary was itching to go look for the Semipalmated Plover on Hayling Island, but with things planned it was not until 4.30am on Sunday 20th that my taxi to the south coast arrived. Driving down the weather was awful with torrential showers, thunder and lightning. After a breakfast stop we arrived at Black Point on Hayling Island around 9am and would have a 3 hour wait until high tide. Slowly the tide pushed he waders off the mud and sand flat forcing them to roost on the beach. Sanderling, Grey Plover, Dunlin and 30 or so Ringed Plover eventually all came close, but despite 100+ birders looking at everyone, no one could call the Semipalmated Plover. Around 11.45 with most birds roosting high on the beach a Carrion Crow spooked everything up and the birds all moved off. We all packed up our scopes and headed half a mile or so along the beach a favoured place for the Ringed Plover to roost at high tide. Here we found c20 Ringed Plover and their slightly smaller cousin, the Semipalmated Plover. The birds had no where else to go with the tide now at its highest and offered great views despite once being cased off by a dog. It turns out the SPP was probably across the bay earlier in the morning at Thorny Island, so the main flock watched for 3 hours hadn't held the bird.

The weather had held out so we decided to try and find the 5 reported Parrot Crossbill along with a Two-barred Crossbill at Hamsted Forest in Kent on the way home. Arriving at the forest we first walked the wrong track before a kind dog walker pointed us in the right direction. On parking at the correct end of the forest, the rain started to fall. We soon found the assembled birders, who very soon left us, as the rain became harder and harder. Hiding under and umbrella but still getting wet, we waited 40 minutes before the rain finally stopped. Almost as soon as the rain stopped we heard the call of a Parrot Crossbill. A few Common Crossbill flitted along the clearing back edge, and among them a male Parrot Crossbill perched up. Although slightly distant the much more chunky beak was clearly visible, compared to the Common Crossbill in the same tree. After enduring the rain we decided to wait a little longer, hoping for better views and possibly the Two-barred to reappear. However by 5.15pm the clouds had started to form again so we headed back to the car, heading home via the Dartford crossing we completed a full lap of the M25 and arrived hope about 9pm.

Final Patch Visit & North Norfolk

On Thursday 17th I decided to visit Whitlingham for what would be my final visit to the Country Park with it still being my 'local' patch. Sadly it proved to be an anti-climax with a distinct lack of wildfowl and very little bird life in general. Fly over Redwing and Fieldfare were two new patch ticks for the year and close views of a Treecreeper the only highlights. I had planned to walk the woods and Whitlingham Marsh, but the lack of activity lead me to the Flint Barn for a warming cup of tea, followed by a slow walk home.

Friday the 18th was a much better day, Gary collected me at about 6.30am and we headed off to North Norfolk (the night before we had debated driving down to see the Semi-palmated Plover in Hants.). We arrived at Stiffkey more hopeful than expecting, as the winds had not been ideal for much migrant movement. Walking towards the Whirly Gig we soon picked up quite a few Redwing, Fieldfare, Song Thrush and Blackbird, also 2 Ring Ouzel but not the numbers of Thrush seen on Monday. With the thrushes was a large mixed flock of Tits and Finches but nothing out of the ordinary. Near to Garden Drove we found a group of 13 Blackcap but they proved to be the only warblers we found in the area. News of 4 Glossy Ibis seen past Wells had us keeping a look out over the salt marsh and eventually they came past, flying on then over Blakeney Harbour and tracked onward East. Small groups of Redpoll flew over most of the morning, along with a couple of Brambling and Crossbill so with at least some evidence of incoming birds we decided to slip and slide out to the bank of gorse out in the salt marsh. Our rewards for this was 2 Rock Pipit and a Water Pipit mixed in with the numerous Meadow Pipit, and a Peregrine hunting over the marsh. The remains of whom's lunch we found in the form of two well stripped Redwing carcasses.

Just back at the car we got news that the elusive Dusky Warbler at Weybourne had been trapped and would be released in 20 minutes, rather than walk the Campsite Woods we raced (always obeying Speed Limits) to Weybourne and arrived shortly before the bird was released at Denmark House. We got brief views in the hand before the bird whizzed off into the bushes.

A brief stop at Cley Spy in Glandford enabled us to view a rather smart male Black Redstart frequenting the barn roofs, before returning home. Driving back Gary was cursing that we had not gone to Hampshire with the Semi-palmated Plover message reporting the bird 'Showing Well', maybe another day!

Monday, 14 October 2013

A Day in the Dunes

The middle 2 weeks of October are always set aside by Gary and myself for a spot of Autumn migrant hunting. Going away this year wasn't really an option, Gary has a new baby and I'm moving house, so Norfolk will be our stomping ground for the next few trips. 

We started today bright and early at Burnham Overy dunes. Walking down the Gun Hill track it seemed rather quiet, maybe this is just because last year we had thousands of thrush streaming in all day, or maybe it was the stiff breeze keeping things low. The first migrant was a Woodcock flushed from the hedge, followed by a few Redwing and Song Thrush. 2 Bullfinch were nice to see, even if not of the trumpeting northern variety. In the sueada by the sea wall we located a few Chiffchaff, Robin and Goldcrest, an early president for the day. A fly over Crossbill with a strange call could of been part of the Parrot Crossbill influx but we will never know. The bushes by the board walk are always productive and today was no exception, singles of Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethoat and Ring Ouzel, along with more Robin and Goldcrest. Walking Gun Hill large numbers of Reed Bunting and Meadow Pipit seemed to dominate along with small flocks of Redwing off the sea. A few Blackcap were by the old brick chimney, and 3 Brambling were near the board walk as we returned. 

Walking towards Holkham we continued to pick up small numbers of thrush, before Gary found a Great Grey Shrike being chased by a large flock of Meadow Pipit. We watched this for a short while before it headed inland with some purpose. In the brambles and bushes by the pines, Robin and Blackcap were about in good numbers, before we stumbled upon a group of c30 Chiffchaff all in a small area. Here we also found our only 2 Fieldfare of the day, 4 Mistle Thrush and 2 Swallow. Walking the southern edge of Holkham Pines we soon stumbled across a Pallas's Warber, more Chiffchaff and Blackcap. Pallas's Warbler are one of my favorite birds and this tiny eartern migrant flitted about at close quarters for a while. From the Cross tracks we headed towards the beach and dunes, seeing 2 further Crossbill and lots of Goldcrest. Things had gone rather quirt so we headed back along the seaward side of the dunes. Nearly back at the boardwalk came news of 2 probable Parrot Crossbill back in the pines! We headed back but after 45 minutes without signed decided to call time on the days birding. Nearly back at the boardwalk again and more news, this time a Siberian Stonechat at Wells. 

Parking in the beach car park and walking back we soon found the location to the West of Beach Road but no sign of the Stonechat. Gary headed back to pick up the car giving me 10 minutes or so to keep scanning, and just as Gary arrived back I found the Siberian Stonechat a little distant, but still showing most of it features and general pale appearance. With a Barn Owl Drifting past in the back ground this was a nice way to finish the day. 

Totals for the day included, c900 Redwing, 58 Song Thrush, 3 Fieldfare, 58 Blackbird, 10 Ring Ouzel, 4 Mistle Thrush,18 Brambling, 3 Crossbill, 125 Meadow Pipit, 64 Reed Bunting, 55 Robin, 56 Chiffchaff, 73 Goldcrest, 1 Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 58 Blackcap, 2 Swallow, 1 Pallas's Warbler, 1 Woodcock, and 1 Great Grey Shrike.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Its October, time for some migrants?

On Tuesday 1st, after leaving Mum at the hospital for a day procedure Dad and I headed off to Winterton in search of some October migrants, hopeful brought in by the proceeding few day's easterly winds. Standing in the car park the wind was still brisk and was going to cause problems, any passerines would surely keep low, but on the sea Dad soon picked up 2 Pintail and 7 Brent Geese. With the breeze we decide to walk the south dunes under the Hermanus hoping the bushes would offer some cover. It was evident there had been a recent fall of Robins and there was a passing of c40 Meadow Pipit, but it was surprisingly quiet. 3 Siskin, 2 Willow Warbler, 2 Chiffchaff and a Goldcrest the combine migrant total after nearly 2 hours searching, although we thought we briefly heard a Yellow-browed Warbler.

An impromptu sea watch in the lea of a dune for 30 minutes was much more successful, with 2 Med Gull, 3 Little Gull, 15 Brent Geese, 2 Red-throated Diver, 1 Great Skua, 13 Wigeon and numerous distant Gannet, Kittiwake and Sandwich Tern. Bird of the day however went to a Black-throated Diver heading south.

We briefly looked in the bushes around the totem pole, but the wind was rushing through them so we decided to get some lunch. Walking back to the car we flushed a single Wheatear and 5 Skylark. Back at the car park c50 Common Scoter were close to the beach, but contained nothing rarer. We had planned to look for the Rose-coloured starling at Caister, but mum called and would soon need collecting.

Throughout the dunes we found lots of large hairy caterpillars, which i believe to be Fox Moth caterpillars.