Follow in Nigel's Footsteps

Sunday, 30 March 2014

A little taste of summer...

Had an excellent morning out with Dave Helliar and Andy Grinter in Dorset yesterday. A visit to Wareham produced a ring-tail hen harrier and a couple of lovely Woodlarks. Though we never saw them particularly close they fed in the open and showed very well.

Woodlark: R. Harris
Woodlark: R. Harris
Showing somewhat better were these stunning Sand Lizards though - four in total. Again, this is where a bridge camera with a good zoom comes into its own...

Sand Lizard, male: R. Harris
Sand Lizard, male: R. Harris
Sand Lizard, male: R. Harris
Sand Lizard, female: R. Harris
If you ever wondered why they are so green...: R. Harris

...and an adder basking in the sunshine. Unfortunately I didn't notice the dead heather lying across its snout at the time.

Adder, male: R. Harris

Friday, 28 March 2014

What a difference a day makes...

Yesterday it felt as though Spring was really here at last, it was mild and the sun peaked out (from time to time anyway). With it came the first wheatears of the season on patch too, two males just a few hundred metres from my house. They were mega distant though, here's a record shot on x 200 zoom - you can tell, 'cause it's crap:


By contrast today it was almost Arctic conditions with sleet, rain and bitterly cold winds. Not surprisingly the wheatears had both moved on and there was little of note except a few yammers singing and the flock of 300+ golden plover still flying around calling. It's all change again tomorrow, a warm front is suppose to be moving in off the continent. I'm hoping it brings some suitably continental birds with it.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Exmouth Glaucous.

Today was a family day. Since his birthday a few weeks back, I'd been promising my little boy a trip to Toys R Us in Exeter so that he could spend his birthday money. Afterwards, we headed for Exmouth for lunch so that he could play on the sand, even though it felt freezing in the strong northerly breeze today!  After nearly three hours of sandcastle building, we were all ready to head home. I'd been keeping a keen eye open for this Glaucous which appeared a couple of days ago but hadn't seen any sign of it. In a last ditch attempt to connect with it, I stopped at the quayside car park near the mouth of the Exe and as I pulled in around, there it was. It was the only gull in the car park and only 10 ft from the car!  Luckily I already had my camera close by so without having to get out I managed a few good snaps of it and a very short video clip (my boy could only keep quiet for 15 seconds, so that's all I managed), lovely young bird though.

1st or 2nd winter Glaucous Gull: R. Harris
1st or 2nd winter Glaucous Gull: R. Harris
1st or 2nd winter Glaucous Gull: R. Harris
Showing the extent of the bill damage, not nice!
Fight, fight, fight!!
Short video

It clearly has an injury to the culmen but seemed perfectly ok.

Great Spotted Cuckoo...

Pleased that one of the locals managed to go and see the Great Spotted Cuckoo in Pembrokeshire. Andy Grinter made the long trip last weekend and managed to see the bird just before it was flushed by photographers and flew off to part of the nearby island you can see in the image below. I know only a handful of photographers who have the proper field-craft to get great shots without detriment to the bird itself and they all happen to be great birders too. Nothing more sad than watching a hoard of photographers chase a rare bird all over the place just so they can get a crippling shot published online or in a magazine, shame. Anyhow, that's enough grumbling - I didn't even go for it so I'll let you drink in the scenery - he did see a few other birds as well:

The cuckoo flew to the Island when spooked by photographers.

Chough: Andy Grinter
Kestrel: Andy Grinter
Stonechat: Andy Grinter
Tenby: Andy Grinter

And that's the beauty of Bridge Cameras, you know you're never going to be the next David Bailey but you can still get a decent shot without having to get too close to the bird. Some nice pics Andy.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

...and still no migrants...

Surprised there haven't been any major signs of migrants on my patch at Chard this week. The best from the last few days has been an increase in the number of golden plover to over 300, 38 fieldfares still kicking about, loads of singing skylarks and yellowhammers and small numbers of meadow pipits and alba wagtails. I really expected to see a wheatear this week but it looks like that may have to wait as the weather is due to deteriorate once more as the week progresses.

322 golden plover, Chard
Zoom shot showing signs of summer plumage
Goldfinch in the garden this week

Monday, 10 March 2014

Still no migrants...

But they can't be far away! Bit of warmer weather over the weekend and a nice southerly breeze blowing them up their arses, wheatears should be on patch any day now if the weather stays favourable. Until then I'll have to content myself with the occasional flyover peregrine and 125 golden plover, which have appeared two fields up from my house - in fact you can just about make them out from my office with the naked eye.

Golden plovers, Chard: R. Harris
Loads of bloody-nose beetles out today too -


I love Spring, wouldn't mind betting my local colony of grey mining bees will be emerging in the next week too.

Orange-flanked Bush Robin...

Ok, ok, red-flanked bluetail if you prefer. Another Chard birder caught up with the long-staying Gloucestershire bird at the weekend and found a celeb with a touch of the verbals into the bargain...

Star of the show - Red-flanked bluetail: Andy Grinter
Distracting celeb, the very vocal Mike Dilger
Apparently Mike Dilger is loud...very loud. The general feeling was if he'd talked less and a bit more quietly, the RFB would have shown much better than it did, hmmm...they say celebs like nothing better than the sound of their own voice...

Next up for Mr G was the forest of Dean for Goshawks and this obliging chap at Crabtree Hill:

Great Grey Shrike: A. Grinter

...and the warmer weather has seen a few of these appearing over the last couple of weeks - Vipera berus sunning itself:

Adder, Forest of Dean: Andy Grinter
This one's interesting, although it's the females who are usually brown, males can be this colour too. The supralabials are also very bright and contrast well with the rest of the head indicating it could be a male. Females tend to look more muscular with shorter tails than the guys and usually look less contrasty overall. My bet is that this is a male.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Glaucous Gull...8th March, 2014

There has been more than one Glaucous at West Bexington recently but I hadn't gotten around to making the effort to try and see one so on Saturday, with a couple of hours to spare, I thought I'd put that straight. I've seen loads of these in Canada and here before but they are such impressive gulls in size and build - you have to love them. I arrived early at the West Bexington car park and immediately noticed groups of large gulls scattered to the east and west. Being short on time I plumped for the group to the east as they were slightly closer and walking on shingle has never been high on my list of 'must do' experiences. After about 400 metres I was close enough to the first group to get a clear view and could see this adult even without bins:

Glaucous Gull: R. Harris
...and a short video clip too

What a beauty! After 5 minutes it departed with a group of herring gulls west along the shoreline and out of sight somewhere near Cogden Beach. Satisfied and with only 20 minutes to spare, I decided to head home. Later that day 3 glaucous were reported, 2 adults and a younger bird - probably among the groups settled to the west. Lovely birds.

Monday, 3 March 2014

Another look at the Bluetail...

South Gloucestershire's red-flanked bluetail has certainly been over wintering and has been present for about a month now. Dave Helliar made the trip up to see it last week and got some brilliant photos:

Red-flanked Bluetail: Dave Helliar
Red-flanked Bluetail: Dave Helliar
Red-flanked Bluetail: Dave Helliar
Red-flanked Bluetail: Dave Helliar
It should be moving off any time now but it's entertained many hundreds of birders during its stay.

Sea bird wreck....

Another unfortunate consequence of the bad weather we've been experiencing in the UK, is the effect it has on many of our sea birds. On a visit to Abbotsbury in Dorset, Andy Grinter saw some of the many hundreds of dead auks that have been washing up onto our shores over the last couple of weeks. The seas have been so rough that they haven't been able to feed properly - the result is a very high mortality rate.

Dead guillemot and razorbill: Andy Grinter
Dead Puffin: Andy Grinter
He did catch up with a few other goodies too though...

Little Gull: Andy Grinter
Brown Hares - spring is in the air!
Brown Hares: Andy Grinter