Thursday, 20 February 2014

Little gulls...

For reasons best known to Little Gulls, Cogden Beach near Bridport seems to be the place to hang out at the moment. A field just off the beach has been attracting them for the last week or so and they've slowly been building in numbers from 6 to 10 to 12 to 16! With a break in the weather today, I decided to drive over and take a look for myself. On arrival it didn't look too promising, the field looked empty and only two other people were there staring out to sea. But, within a few minutes I saw an adult little gull flying down across the field and a few minutes later it was joined by 16 others, so 17 there at least, possibly a few more. After only five minutes, the whole flock moved out to sea and shortly afterwards another four birds came down across the field and headed out to sea too. I can't be sure the last four weren't part of the original flock that may have doubled back around, so I'm not counting them as extras. Fantastic little birds though and up there on my 'favourite gull' list only just beat into third place by med and laughing gulls. None of the birds settled but I did managed a few flyover shots as they battled against the south-westerly wind.

Adult Little Gull - shame I cut its wing off: R. Harris

Adult Little Gull, Cogden Beach: R. Harris

Adult Little Gull, Cogden Beach: R. Harris

Adult Little Gull, Cogden Beach: R. Harris
I also had a fly past 1st winter med and a rather sick looking Kittiwake sat in the field next to the track to the car park.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Phone scoping...

Never really tried it but it works well for some people with stunning results if you have the right equipment. I decided to play around and find a way of keeping my phone camera just the right distance away from the eyepiece of the scope. With a bit of trial and error I found that it was possible to get a better picture than I ever anticipated. Ok, this was a stationary subject but I was still surprised how clear the image was considering I have a cheapy scope and a Galaxy S4...

Grey Heron: R. Harris
More practice needed to feel confident but I'll definitely look at trying it again as a back-up way of getting a record shot.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Rarity at the res...

This weather had to deliver something to Chard res LNR and it did. Last night Dave Helliar found an adult kittiwake in the North-east corner near the reed beds and Andy Grinter managed to get a record shot of it before the light got too poor to do so...

Kittiwake - live, Chard res: Andy Grinter
This a mega for Chard res, the last record way back in 1997 and only a couple of previous records prior to that!  Unfortunately I didn't get to see it as I was otherwise engaged helping raise some money for Jacob's school (of all the evenings!). However I did drop by this morning and found the bird dead on the shoreline - Dave had mentioned it didn't look at all well.

Same bird, not looking at all chipper :-(
Personally I think it must have realised where it had landed and then drowned itself...I'd probably do the same.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Avocet on the Axe

Another brief respite in the weather yesterday (well, at least it wasn't raining), so popped down to Seaton with Dave Helliar in the hope of finding a wind blown gull or two on the river Axe.

Had to take a look at the sea front first though after seeing Steve Waite's photos of the tide damage from earlier in the week. Amazing what the sea has thrown up onto the beach in the way of debris and certainly quite a bit of damage noticeable. We had a few kittiwakes in close to the shore but despite reasonable numbers of larger gulls and common gulls, there was nothing unusual among them.

Back on the river we found a couple of Meds asleep on the far shore and Dave picked up this Avocet moving along the back channel before popping out opposite us on the far side of the river - quite a good record for here. Really good numbers of Common Gulls too - don't think I've ever seen as many on the Axe in recent years.

Avocet, Axmouth: R. Harris
Avocet, Axmouth: Dave Helliar
Adult med gull: R. Harris
We heard later in the day (after we'd left) a Glaucous gull turned up - adult too! Darn it, dipped out on that one. fingers crossed it reappears in the coming week.

Meanwhile, just a few miles along the coast into Dorset, Andy Grinter came out tops with a 1st winter Little Gull at Lyme Regis:

1st winter Little Gull: Andy Grinter
Just in case you've ever wondered what the
underside of a turnstone's feet look like...the one that
got away.

Friday, 7 February 2014

Eastern Beauty...

Four days ago a remarkable record popped up on Twitter and BirdGuides of a 1st winter male Red-flanked Bluetail in Gloucestershire. I hesitated to go the day after the initial news release expecting a large crowd and a bit of a scrum to see the bird and work prevented a visit on Thursday. So today, with sunny weather forecast, I dropped my son at school and then set off for the 70 mile drive to South Gloucestershire. When I started birding in the 70's these were mythical birds, with a few records confined to the far flung reaches of the British Isles but in the last decade it's become almost annual. They still manage to draw a crowd though,  particularly in this part of the country.

I knew I'd found the right place. A mass of cars parked along a lane in the middle of nowhere was obvious from some distance away. One of the first people I met was Dave Paull, a north Devon birder and former birding pal of my late cousin. He was heading back from having seen it and all he said was "it's worth the walk" - good enough for me. After a (muddy) walk of about 1/4 of a mile I saw the crowd and when I arrived at the bird it was sitting up in a tree about 10ft away and not taking a blind bit of notice of the endless stream of bodies walking past to get a view. Someone had put down some mealworms for it and every now and again it would nip down, grab one and then head back to the trees to eat it.

It's a lovely little bird and if it stays, I may well go back to see it again. Sitting in the trees most of the time gave great bin views but didn't afford much of an opportunity for photos or video. I managed to get a little though:

Video grab: Red-flanked Bluetail: R. Harris

Small part of the crowd today