American Redstart on Barra

21 Sep

12/9/17 Another quiet day at High Eske NR on Tuesday morning, only a Tawny Owl being mobbed in the bushes on the west side adding any interest. As I was walking back to the farm got a call from TD about twitching the American Redstart on Barra. Been around a few days but had no excuses now so agreed. Did Swine Moor, the easy way, from Weel Road, on the way back. Also been hard work here recently but did have six Ruff in flight a few times from hidden pools near the drain. Also a Dunlin on the closer pools.

Set off for Tony’s a bit early in in hope of avoiding the forecast rain but started early as I reached Harland Way. However despite this and my problem riding in the dark [due to badly scratched glasses, now being replaced] I managed to get to Tony’s in one piece. Waited for AW [his 2nd attempt] then went via Wetherby to pick up SL. As seems the pattern when ever I head to Scotland there was road works on the A1 but fortunately they didn’t delay us much.

13/9/17 However not long after joining the M6 from the A66 the traffic came to a stop. From the ‘net’ found there had been a crash up ahead. Initially talk of not opening again until half past four which would have meant missing the ferry although we could get one early afternoon. Fortunately started moving again around three which meant with luck and fast driving we could make the early ferry. All went well and joined the queue just before they started boarding. The early ferry from Oban to Barra on Wednesday. although getting in earlier than the other one, visits several other islands on the way so is a bit of a drag. Spend the time sea watching when not dropping off. Little of note bird wise only adding Manx Shearwater and Black Guillemot. However a message over the tannoy alerted me to two Basking Sharks close in. Only the distinctive fin tips but a new creature for me. Getting into Castlebay late afternoon we joined the small convoy heading to Eoligarry. Reaching the RC church we were told the American Redstart had just shown so some of the pressure was off. Early on got one of those ‘that’s the bird but hope I see it better’ views but needn’t have worried as although mobile did show well on and off.

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‘Waiting for a better shot”

Got a few shots but when I relented and went closer only got some sharp but headless shots.

 

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Female American Redstart-Eoligarry, Isle of Barra

 

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Pied Wagtail-Eoligarry, Isle of Barra

Had a heavy shower and as the sun had sunk behind the hillside decided to head back to Castlebay. Tried for a B&B but there was no rooms on the island so ended up sleeping in tents or the car. Believe this was the experience of most other birders. Nearly did the Yellow Warbler as a foot passenger a few years back and shudder to think where I’d have spent the night. In fact the island seems lacking in facilities with the Coop superstore the only obvious shop and the only bars in town in hotels. Didn’t try them myself but told even the nearby hotel bar wasn’t very friendly.

 

14/9/17 Early ferry back and direct to Oban so not too long and the drive back was uneventful getting home before midnight.

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The ferry back in Castlebay Harbour.

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Great White Egret and other stuff at Tophill Low NR

2 Aug

2/8/17 I haven’t been to Tophill Low NR for a few weeks but with rain forecast it seemed a good place to be. Despite the title the big white heron wasn’t too important as I had seen one there in May, which despite their increasing occurrence was my first for almost three years and even longer at this site. More interesting was the report of Spotted Flycatcher at Hempholme Meadows yesterday. They had bred in O Wood but I hadn’t managed to see them there. However no sign up there but did see a Ruddy Darter on the way up and photographed some Little Gulls on the straight wall walking back [had counted at least 12 earlier from the visitor centre].

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Ruddy Darter at Tophill Low NR near “top hide”.

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Little Gulls at Tophill Low NR on D res wall.

Also no Kingfishers but had one walking past South Lagoon.

 

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Red Admiral at Tophill Low NR wildlife garden.

Headed to South Marsh East where the big egret had been earlier, as well as a variety of waders. No sign of the Great but several of it’s Little cousins.

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Little Egret at Tophill Low on South Marsh East.

Also a couple of Black-tailed Godwit and few Green Sandpiper but no sign of the Wood Sandpiper. The Lapwing regularly got up, as is their habit, taking other waders and some Little Gulls with them.

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Green Sandpiper at Tophill Low NR on South Marsh East.

Headed for the back-2-back hide in the hope that the missing two would be seen from there but got diverted to Watton NR where as expected an unidentified ‘stint’ was a Dunlin. Nice to see Common Terns feeding young though.

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 Common Terns at Tophill Low NR on Watton NR.

Had a look from L-shaped hide where as often moths provided more interest than bird.

Agonopterix alstromeriana, Copper Underwing and Mouse Moth at Tophill Low NR in L-shaped Hide

Back at South Marsh East where I had just missed the Wood Sandpiper but the Great White flew into view.

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Great white Egret at Tophill Low on South Marsh East.

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Goosander at Tophill Low on South Marsh East.

Back round to the first hide and the Wood Sandpiper was showing but distant. Having opened the visitor centre and with no one else around to past the task on to I went up there with the hope of locking up and going but a had a steady stream of customers. No problem though just made myself a cup of tea and rigged up a ‘scope to show those interested a Little Gull. At least I’ve gone some of my way to paying for my annual permit!

 

25/7/17-Alkborough Flats

26 Jul

I hadn’t started the year with the intention of year listing but this month I have seem to be unintentionally listing so with little excitement about any of my local sites a trip across the bridge to Alkborough Flats appealed. The fact that the wind had dropped and, although overcast, rain wasn’t forecast. Quickly added Spoonbill, although only three, and stubbornly remained asleep at the back of the pool.

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Spoonbills-Alkborough Flats

Also my other target, Spotted Redshank, was present although also right at the back. Nearer were a number of Black-tailed Godwit and Avocet, and with a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls a single Yellow-legged Gull.

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Yellow-legged Gull with Lesser-backed Gull-Alkborough Flats

Water Rail was squealing under the hide and occasionally a chick would show. Bearded Tits were regularly calling and flying over but only once had one perched up long enough for a quick photo.

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Bearded Tit-Alkborough Flats

Eventually some of the waders came within range, including several young Avocets.

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Black-tailed Godwit-Alkborough Flats

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Spotted Redshank-Alkborough Flats

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Avocets-Alkborough Flats

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Little Egret-Alkborough Flats

Pacific Golden Plover at North Cave Wetlands

22 Jul

21/7/17 Spent Friday morning at High Eske NR. Again nothing new but at it was peaceful, without the teenagers who tend to invade on warm summer days. Took in Swine Moor on the way back. Despite some good rain yesterday it was drier than on Tuesday won’t be worth looking at again before some prolonged rain. May be some hidden pools nearer Barmston Drain which I may check next week.

Getting in saw a probable Pacific Golden Plover was at North Cave Wetlands. My previous Pacific Golden Plover was found by RL and spent much of July 2000 at nearby Brough Haven. My first was on the opposite side of the Humber at South Ferriby in 1993, yet again in July. Checked the reserve Facebook page to confirm it was at least a Lesser Golden Plover and therefore worth ignoring Wilbur’s demands for a walk. Getting there mid afternoon had reasonable views over the gate on Dryham Lane.

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Pacific Golden Plover on Cell A-North Cave Wetlands.

It moved close to Crossland’s Hide but before entering was I distracted by a group viewing an adult Yellow-legged Gull on the silt lagoon. Had a look at it among Lesser Black-backed before they all got up and on re-alighting the Yellow-legged wasn’t to be seen. A Caspian Gull had been found so I went into the hide where luckily most were still looking the other way at the plover. The Caspian was easily found, being the only large pale gull among the Lesser Black-backs with no Herring Gulls present. Was shortly joined by JH who’d also viewed the plover from Dryham Lane. After taking a few pictures of the Caspian, and the Yellow-legged Gull not reappearing, I decided to get back to take Wilbur out instead of visiting the rest of the reserve.

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Caspian Gull with Lesser Black-backed Gulls on silt pond-North Cave Wetlands

Managed to find a Smoky Wainscot on a thistle in fields off Dunswell Road but typical of this time of year the birds were hard work.

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Smoky Wainscot-fields off Dunswell Road-Cottingham

The plover flew high south after I left and didn’t return by dusk.

 

Caspian Tern at Swillington

22 Jul

A Caspian Tern was seen at Swillington Ings near Leeds on Tuesday morning [18/7/17] but disappeared fives minutes after being reported. Belatedly reported through nearby Fairburn Ings the previous evening. Back at Swillington Ings on Wednesday morning where this time it lingered all day.

I have already seen three Caspian Tern in Britain, the first at Lound GPs in Nottinghamshire on 3rd July 1998, then a lucky addition to my Yorkshire List after twitching the Kilnsea Rock Thrush and the third again in Yorkshire when one lingered on the river off Faxfleet/Alkborough Flats on 24th July 2016, a county tick for RL. Also seen a few in Spain and Finland. As I don’t habitually year list, the current bird was more a matter of hoping it would come nearer to add to one of my site lists.

20/7/17 Thursday morning brought torrential rain so a rest from birding. However late morning got a call from JH asking if I fancied the tern. Nothing better to do so shortly we were heading along the M62 in rather worrying conditions. Fortunately things improved the further west we got and when we reached the end of Fleet Lane, Oulton, with the help of the SatNav, it was just a fine drizzle. Joined the small group below the private elevated hide expecting to be given some positive news but there was talk of no sign for over 90 minutes, despite reports on the pager much more recent. Scanning further afield noticed a few distant birders ‘walking with a purpose’. Obviously we weren’t in the right place so headed off like a latter day Pied Piper. A good walk reached another lake [would give names but not being local not sure of the correct ones to use]. Still not meeting anyone who had seen the tern we kept towards what we hoped was the east where the tern was last reported to be. Headed across a causeway from where we could see what appeared to be some very distant birders looking at something. By this time I’d lost JH so hoped we’d meet up at the bird. Continued to circumnavigate the lake and after what seemed a very long walk finally caught sight of the tern and not much further a small group watching it. Only grabbed a few shots before setting back in the hope of finding JH.

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Adult Caspian Tern-Swillington Ings.

He’d tried ringing me but either my phone was malfunctioning or the signal was poor. Tried ringing back with no answer then JH called back. Fortunately by continuing straight on he’d located some birder watching the tern but at a greater distant. Was now heading back to the car park. Finished my circumnavigation of the lake and then more by luck than judgement found my way back to the car.

The Caspian Tern wasn’t seen on Friday but may turn up again somewhere soon.

Twitching Waxwing with Wilbur

20 Mar

20/3/17 Got a text from RL early afternoon about 23+ Waxwings in Hull at the Junction of Hotham Road South and Wold Road. Had been raining heavy all morning and Wilbur was restless for a proper walk so as it was only a small diversion to my Willerby Carrs walk [see here] took this route. Met another regular dog walking birder and thought he was going to follow me but he baulked at going down the very muddy Wood Lane. Got a message that the Waxwings had flown but on arriving found MU photographing some with his mobile phone through his telescope. Only four left and just got in one shot before they flew behind shops and didn’t return by 4pm.

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Waxwings on Wold Road, Hull

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Carrion Crow off Wold Road eating what appears to be a Woodpigeon squab.

Apart from a flock of Fieldfare that alighted near Haltemprice farm I had little else of note although there were still a few Wigeon and Teal on flashes north of Carr Farm and Lesser Black-backed Gulls were seen regularly.

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Wilbur at the back of Springhead GC

Eastern Lesser Whitethroat in Cottingham

18 Mar

A Lesser Whitethroat was found in a garden near me last week.

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The garden in Cottingham

As this is a well watched garden it’s interesting to think where it spent the rest of the winter. Following circulation of photographs it was confirmed as a likely Eastern or Siberian race. Following a confrontation with a Robin it lost a feather. A feather, hopefully the same one, was later retrieved and forward to Martin Collinson for gene analysis ,so with luck the exact race will be known. I was lucky to be able to see the bird twice this week.

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Eastern [Siberian] Lesser Whitethroat

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Eastern [Siberian] Lesser Whitethroat

Unfortunately as the bird can only be seen from with in the house and there is no nearby public area where it might be seen I am unable to give anymore information. Even parking for few cars would be very difficult. Fortunately we’re only talking about a race! If I’m ever lucky to find a similar bird in my garden I have the advantage ample parking nearby.

Still present on Tuesday 28th March.