Archive | September, 2017

Scops Owl in Co.Durham

28 Sep

27/9/17 A text message at 0830 informed me of a Scops Owl at Ryhope in Co.Durham. This was followed closely by the siren MegaAlert of the RBA pager. This has quickly lost it’s novelty and made a note to change to a less disturbing alert before too long. Need this one having not been able to twitch the Cornish bird and not going for the Oxfordshire bird early enough. Also failed to connect with one in southern Europe. None of my usual “team’ needed Scops so I started by texting JH and putting a message on twitter asking for a lift. I haven’t done any twitching on my own outside of Yorkshire, except for the odd excursion into Lincolnshire, for over fifteen years, largely due to RSI in my hands that started not long after I brought my current bike. I also suffer from a mental fear of motorways. However on checking the Apple “Maps’ found Ryhope only just over 100 miles away and just off the A19. Having attended Teesside Polytechnic in the 80’s most of the route was familiar. I still had a feelings of miss belief about the Owl but further updates, plus a photo on twitter, dispelled them. With no offers of lifts it’s seemed time to give it a try on my own. Three route were offered by “Maps”, the quickest but longest by M62/A1/A19 wasn’t a option so it was via York bypass or the cross country route via Malton. Like most people I find the York bypass complicated and often very slow [pre-bypass I always found the inner ring road very easy] but the other route had the problem of possible wrong turns and having to stop to check the map. I choice the York route and for once it was problem free. I did have some problem with my hands initially due to regular braking and clutch use but once on the A19 dual carriageway things good easier. I did get some legs pain but late enough not to worry about. Traffic was light and the wind was light so didn’t get the motorway “panics’ due to going fast in congested traffic or the wind blast when passing HGV’s. Therefore reached the turn off for Sunderland feeling sanguine. The turning for Ryhope followed and was expecting to have to stop for directions but reached Albion Pub before I did. One issue with twitching by bike is you can’t check the pager and can ride for hours after the bird was messaged to have gone. A quick look though confirmed it was still present recently. It was just a quick walk through a railway underpass and almost immediately saw a quite small crowd looking in a fairly close bush. Grabbed a quick look in a scope then set up myself. Initially found it difficult to find for myself as being deep in the bush it was obscured from some angles but eventually got an good position where I managed a few record shots then watched it for about an hour, occasionally waking to preen.

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Scops Owl-Ryhope, Co.Durham

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Viewing the Scops Owl at Ryhope Village Dene.

Not usually one to tick and run but as it wasn’t doing much and the only other attraction were a few Yellow-browed Warblers I decided to leave early afternoon. Partially this was a fear that the feeling of euphoria would go making the trip back a drag but also I wanted to get round York before the rush hour. The trip back down the A19 wasn’t as easy as coming as the traffic was much heavier and the wind had increased so I was glad to get back on ordinary roads at Thirsk. The York bypass again caused no horrors, the early return paying off. The only fear was noticing how low my petrol was, due to high speed riding, but fortunately cleared the bypass before needing to go on reserve.

The addition of Scops Owl means I have now seen all the European Owls.

Post Script

This was written and posted in the early hours of Thursday morning well before any news had got out. Last report of the Scops Owl was flying off, presumably to hunt at dusk. Not seen in it’s bush early morning but re-found mid morning.

No sign on Friday but seen again on Saturday. Again after going missing for two days it has been located again early Tuesday morning. Obviously it’s varying it’s roost site and it’s a lottery whether it’s found each day. No sign on Wednesday, although windy so could just been hunkered down, but no news so far on Thursday.

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Great White Egret at North Cave Wetlands

24 Sep

Last year at this time there were enough birds. particularly waders, locally to keep life interesting. So far this month it’s been hard going at my sites. Choose High Eske/Pulfin NR as my Patchwork Challenge site but so far it’s not pay off with many previously tied on birds not yet recorded. Added nothing this week despite visiting every other day. Nearby at Swine Moor it’s been slightly better finding a Garganey on the 21st.

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Garganey-Hornsea Mere

 

However the waders have been disappointing with just Ruff, peaking at 13, and the occasional Dunlin or Redshank.

Did Hornsea Mere on the 21st where a few Little Gulls were still around the jetties and my first returning Pintail off Swan Island.

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Little Gull at Kirkholme Point-Hornsea Mere

Also had two Bearded Tit briefly under Wassand Hide and a late Hobby nearby.

At Tophill Low NR on the 22nd only managed 2-3 Green Sandpiper with a Barnacle Goose [of unknown origin] on Watton NR.

On walk to Creykebeck substation with Wilbur on the 23rd was bit of a raptor-fest, the highlights being a Hobby hitting finches at Lawns Farm and Peregrine near Millhouse Woods Lane pumping station, although the latter may have had jesses.

Sunday morning I had planned to do Welton Waters in hope of seeing a few Bearded Tit. However got a text from SG about a Great White Egret at North Cave Wetlands. Not even a year tick but although there are a few previous records it would be a site tick for me. Didn’t panic though waiting for The Andrew Marr Show to end. Getting there the Egret had gone over the bank to the back of Main Lake. As distant as it was possible to be but did my best with the camera.

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Great White Egret on Main Lake-North Cave Wetlands

Some debate about whether it was the bird recently seen at Tophill Low NR [see here] but I remember the one I’d seen having pale legs when the current birds are almost black. There have been several records recently anyway including one at Hornsea Mere the same day I was last there. Moved on to Crosslands Hide, usually the best chance for waders, but was very quiet. In fact apart from Lapwing the only waders on site were the large number of Snipe on Island Lake and a brief Dunlin.

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Snipe on Island Lake-North Cave Wetlands

Had earlier seen a falcon, more likely Peregrine than Hobby, spooking everything off the north fields.

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.