Saturday, 10 August 2019

North Uist Revisited ... Common Quail and Sabine's Gull ...

The Western Isles hold good memories for me with great birds such as Gyr Falcon and Harlequin Duck standing out ... so I was very happy to be heading across The Minch from Uig towards Lochmaddy last week ...

A walk around the harbour area at Uig and the first typically Scottish birds were Hooded Crows ... pristine looking birds with pale grey bodies - quite unlike the Hooded x Carrion Crow hybrids that we see sometimes in Cumbria ...


... and smart Rock Pipits called loudly and posed on the quay ...


... a Sedge Warbler sang stridently despite a bill full of food ...



The crossing was pleasant in the warm evening sunshine but not conducive to pelagic birding ...

The resident Starlings on North Uist always seem to have a prominent presence ...


... and great looking birds ... taxonomically they are part of a cline and fall somewhere between the Sturnus vulgaris vulgaris of mainland Britain and Sturnus vulgaris zetlandicus of the Shetland Isles ...

It was good to see a number of Corn Buntings at Balranald ... although I encountered this species nowhere else ...


... offshore at Aird an Runair there was a flock of around 200 Manx Shearwaters ... sometimes on the sea ... and then flying around before settling again ...

Great Black-backed Gulls were fairly ubiquitous ... with some nice looking juveniles ...


With the temperature in the mid-20s I sat on a rocky outcrop near Loch Mor on Benbecula to try to relocate a White-tailed Eagle that had been soaring distantly earlier ... it was not long before it sailed right overhead ...


... and performed some lazy aerobatics ...


So often birds seem to come in clusters ... and next a Short-eared Owl flew across the marsh ground ... and gave some similarly spectacular views ...


... but back on the coast and searching for some migrant waders ... a juvenile Common Gull flew by ...


The sound of Red-throated Divers was almost a constant feature among the many lochans ... calling as they flew ...





Rather more convincing as a distinct form was Hebridean Wren Troglodytes troglodytes hebridensis  ( Meinertzhagen 1924 - and a reminder that this flawed character made some significant contributions to ornithological knowledge despite his larcenous crimes ).  The darker upperparts and particularly the prominent barring on the flanks really stand out ...






The mainly rather small flocks of Greylag Geese certainly looked very much the part as truly wild birds in this landscape ...


Skylarks were very widespread and good to see apparently flourishing in these machair zones ...


... and this was where Twite also were frequent ...



... along with the Twite but generally preferring the slightly higher and more inland areas were a few Linnets ...


... this apparently increasing bird on the Western Isles is of the Scottish form Linaria cannabina autochthona ( Clancey 1946 ) ... not the most convincing of sub-species ...

And eventually on the coast north of Sollas some waders were present on the beaches and mudflats in good numbers ...
... moulting adult Sanderling  were fairly common ...


... with Dunlin as the predominant species ...


... the flocks of migrating 'Tundra type' Ringed Plovers far outnumbered the local breeders ... and looked very attractive with their dark mantles and more delicate face-markings ...


On the peninsula in that same area there came a very unexpected sound ... coming from a barley crop amid the machair a Common Quail sang repeatedly ... apart from a record of one on Orkney and another on Shetland this seems to be the most northerly bird recorded this year ( BirdGuides ) ...





The sonogram shows the surprisingly low frequency of the start of each element of the song ... at around 1.5 kHz ...

Groups of Eiders comprised eclipse males and females ...


Whimbrel were there in small numbers ... very flighty and cryptic amongst the rocks 



... and some Red-throated Divers still in breeding plumage fed in a shallow bay ...




The sea state on the return voyage seemed little better than the outward journey ... then a gull flashed by down wind giving at first an unhelpful tail-on view ... then it banked and showed the characteristic black, white and grey triangles of an adult Sabine's Gull ... and was gone ...










Saturday, 27 July 2019

Geltsdale and The Solway ... a Hobby and Waders Galore ... and an unexpected Yellow Wagtail ...

An early morning visit to Tindale Tarn, Geltsdale Reserve on the hot day of the week was to check on Common Gulls and Wigeon ... a noisy juvenile Buzzard flew out of Tarn House Wood and was followed by an adult Hobby - a good bird for North Cumbria where the promise of increasing numbers of records in recent years has tended to wain ... and not for the first time the quest for one species results in something much better and totally unexpected ...

There was disappointingly no sign of any Common Gulls on the tarn possibly as a result of fluctuating water levels but three juvenile Wigeon were good to see ... then from the tall trees either side of Tarn House came the calls of Spotted Flycatchers as they performed their aerial forays ...




Then with the promise of the return wader passage delivering something interesting I was positioned by the old wall near Kirkland House at Port Carlisle an hour or so after the high tide and waited for the waders to drop in onto the exposing mud as the tide receded ... the numbers of Dunlin and Redshank were impressive with many hundreds of each species ... the Dunlin flew by in nice flocks and they were clearly all Dunlin ...


... as they circled around the old port they created some nice images ...




As the birds settled the focus shifted towards looking for juveniles ... some juvenile Redshank looking particularly pristine alongside the adults ...



A pair of Common Terns that had a week before been looking like a breeding pair were calling distantly and flying by ...



 The Dunlin started feeding and a few juveniles were noticable ...


... and the adults on the left look like C.a.schinzii in the foreground and C.a.alpina behind ...


And one of the Common Terns perched on the outfall post remaining faithful to the territory ...



Slightly apart from the main body of feeding waders a lone Black-tailed Godwit loafed among the rocky pools ...


... possibly the same individual that was solitary in its presence at Wedholme Flow a little while ago ...

Then a thin tseee call came from the island in the harbour ... what could there possibly be out there that calls just like a Yellow Wagtail ? ... and there it was perched on a stone ...


... calling repeatedly and preening ... a juvenile Yellow Wagtail and the first for me of this declining species in Cumbria for the year ...

As the tide went further out a line of waders fed along the shore just beyond the old cotton dock ... six adult  Knot still looking good with their rufous underparts ...


... and four Sanderling in transitional plumage ...


... adding something to the wader diversity ...

And nearby a nice little group of Little Egrets that has become pretty much the norm in recent times ...




Anthorn was virtually devoid of waders but Glasson Point had three Greenshank just on the edge of a Redshank flock ... a site that is often favoured by that species ...
















Monday, 22 July 2019

Some juveniles around the Solway ... and an early Black Tern ...

With the presence of juvenile birds always being a welcome sign of renewal of species it was good to see some juvenile Little Egrets feeding among the adult birds at Port Carlisle today ...


... and not far away a juvenile Little Ringed Plover fed in its own distinctive style ...



... showing quite bright yellow legs ...

There were signs of early autumn passage when a Green Sandpiper called repeatedly ...

Back at Port Carlisle a hybrid Carrion x Hooded Crow was again in the bay as it had been a week earlier ...



But more surprisingly very distantly off port Carlisle a moulting adult Black Tern was briefly on the water's edge with Black-headed Gulls before flying off south ...



... checking back through the Bird Reports this is the earliest autumn bird since 1999 when one was recorded on 10th July ... this is lumped in with spring records in that report but surely Brown & Grice ( 2005 ) have it right when they cut spring migration off in early June and have July as the start of Autumn movement ...

Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Coquet Island Ternfest ...

Having been thwarted by bad sea conditions late in June it was good to get the boat out of Amble yesterday to get close views of the breeding tern colony ... my third such trip ...

... and approaching the island several of the large number of Puffins there gave irresistible views ...



... but terns were the main target ... and particularly Roseate Terns ...

...  many of the juveniles were now fledged and waited on the rocks to be fed ...


... this juvenile showing the characteristic scalloped tertials as it looks to its parent ...

The adult Roseate Tern flies by and shows the typical features ...

... pale grey mantle ...


... dark outer four primaries ...


... long tail streamers ...


... long slim decurved bill ...

With constant action from the four species of tern there is never a dull moment ... this Sandwich Tern flies by on a steady flight line of that species ...


... showing similarly dark outer primaries but with a darker mantle ... and this Common Tern shows the typical dark wedge in the primaries ...


 ... as well a a faint dark secondary bar and red and black bill ... then a juvenile Arctic Tern flew just above the boat ...


... with all translucent primaries and a shorter stubbier bill ... and a juvenile Sandwich Tern contrasted with the adult in having scalloping rather reminiscent of juvenile Roseate Tern ...


On the rocks there was a mix of Common and Arctic Terns ...


 ... the blood red bill, duskier underparts and shorter legs of the Arctic Tern behind contrast with the features of Common Tern along with the darker primaries of the Common Tern ...

And a juvenile Common Tern flew a short distance ...


... to show its browner barred mantle, dark carpal bar and dark secondary bar ...


... and landed next to an adult to show those same features with the closed wing ...

Another Sandwich Tern flew by ...  



... with the white forehead of winter plumage beginning to show ...

A more advanced juvenile Common Tern flew overhead ...


... while as the boat headed for port an adult Roseate Tern gave some nice final views on the rocky shore ...