Sunday, 20 September 2020

North Uist and the NW Coast ... wind and rain ...

 Crossing to Lochmaddy on 3rd September seemed to hold much promise with wind and rain the previous night giving way to a bright day with a good breeze ...



Gannets are great but something more exciting would be nice ...


... a few small groups of Manx Shearwaters was as good as it got ... I bumped into Peter Stronach on the way off the boat and he had done no better ...

For a day or two the wind was vicious but subsided enough for some seawatching ... a Sooty Shearwater was the main prize along with lots of Manx Shearwaters ...

Approaching the Berneray causeway a large raptor broke the horizon .. Golden Eagle, and there were two ...



... many flocks of Greylags were looking fresh-in and properly wild ... 


Twite were present in some small groups but also forming quite large flocks ... interesting that a few Linnets mingled in with these ... 



There were some lovely Common Gulls in juvenile plumage ...



... and adults now well into winter plumage and progressing wing-moult ...


The beaches held good numbers of Sanderling, some still in summer plumage but most now in smart winter plumage ...


Divers, perhaps unsurprisingly, were fairly scarce ... this distant Red-throated still in full summer plumage ...


Many species assume a different character from that which I see at home ... Ravens are so much less wary here and a joy to watch  ...




... likewise the Starlings seem full of character and always on the go ...  these birds are apparently intergrades between the British race and the Shetland race zetlandicus ...


... and surely these are as close to Rock Doves as you can get ...



Golden Plovers dropped into mown fields in small groups ...


... and flocks of Oystercatchers included moulting adults and some pristine first-winter birds ...


Back on the beach near Balranald and a flock of Tundra-type Ringed Plovers ... slim delicate birds with smart dark mantles and neat little bills ...


The return crossing to Uig was on a calm benign morning and the 7.00 am light just about good enough but conditions gave little hope of anything good ... until a Bonxie flew past the boat ... then a dark phase Arctic Skua followed close behind a juvenile Herring Gull ... and better still, a single Leach's Petrel crossed the bow and headed away into the distance ...

In between the bands of rain coming across the loch at Ullapool the Sabine's Gull remained faithful to the area around the river mouth ...


... in amongst Common and Herring Gulls ...


... a superb looking bird ...


And a hybrid Herring x Glaucous Gull was reported in the harbour ... a search of the harbour produced no gulls at all ... they had taken refuge on the campsite field ...


An interesting looking bird ... aka ' Viking Gull ' features that probably gave away its hybrid nature were its relatively small size, lack of dark head and neck mottling and a wing length that was a bit too long





































Friday, 21 August 2020

A few days in Norfolk ... waders ... and some wader memories from July

Wood Sandpipers were present at several locations in Norfolk earlier in the week ... starting with one viewed from across the county border in Suffolk at the lovely Lakenheath reserve ... it was on the Little Ouse Washlands and was quite a testing view at long range in very murky light ...

Further birds were again distantly on the River Glaven at Cley and also at Stiffkey Fen ... the jewel though was one at the interesting North Point Pools, Wells ... this bird showed well as it fed energetically before giving a nice fly over while calling characteristically ...




... this species is generally recorded from late April until early June and then from late July until mid September ... much scarcer in Cumbria, it was interesting to see one at Wedholme Flow on the atypical date of 16th June ...

... two juvenile Little Ringed Plovers also showed nicely at North Point Pools ...


... thinking of waders back in July and the first-summer Greater Sand Plover at Tyningham Bay was a very definite highlight on the first day that travel of distance was permitted in Scotland ...


... a great bird to finally catch up with in the British Isles ... looking strikingly pale in this setting and not as large as I expected when seen alongside Ringed Plovers ...

... then a couple of weeks later the Long-billed Dowitcher flew in to Port Carlisle, first at the water's edge and then among rock pools to give nice views of this striking adult ...










Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Blyth's Reed Warbler sings its heart out at Longlands Lake ... Mediterranean Gulls gather up the coast ...

The Blyth's Reed Warbler in West Cumbria showed remarkably well today for its fourth day ... singing from a patch of scrub and demonstrating its remarkably varied repertoire ...




... showing first of all the dark legs and supercilium that extends just beyond the eye ... the greyish brown tones ...



... then the short primary projection when viewed from behind ...


... a classic bird whose features showed so well thanks to its extrovert behaviour ...

... the sonograms of the song show the dramatic and characteristic phrases with those typical ascending and descending scales ... the characteristic clicks in between ...






Meanwhile in the Workington area Mediterranean Gulls were there on the beach in numbers unusual for so early in the 'autumn' ...

... flighty and unapproachable there were four first summer birds, seven second summer birds and five adults in this the largest group of sixteen ...



... how many will there be in late August when the the maximum numbers usually occur ...











Sunday, 14 June 2020

Beautiful Geltsdale ... Tree Pipits delight with their magical display flight ...

This time my focus is on the actual valley of the River Gelt rather than the wider RSPB Geltsdale which takes in the Black Burn and the Pennine slopes overlooking the Tyne Gap ... true borderland country this wider area sees the Gelt before it drains into the Irthing and then into the Eden as it heads to the Solway ... not far away the Black Burn arises on the eastern slope of Cold Fell and finds its way into the North Sea ...

For me Tree Pipit has a special place among the summer migrants ... rather like the special quality that Wood Warbler has among the phylloscopus warblers ... from the rather muted and curtailed song that comes from the bird as it perches in the top of a hawthorn ... then the vertical take-off and parachute descent with those strong drawn out notes ... pure magic ...



The Gelt valley has gentler feel than some parts of the reserve and it is here that Tree Pipits have their stronghold within the reserve ... in Cumbria we are fortunate to have good populations ... in much of England this is a very scarce species ...


... and a declining one with a 46% decline in the 1995 - 2010 period ... this is thought to be related to problems either during migration or in their winter grounds in West Africa ...

Even within Cumbria some areas have seen steep declines in recent decades; the Eden Valley and West Cumbrian plain have suffered particularly ...



Within the county the abundance map shows the picture as it emerged from the 2007 - 2012 Atlas ...


Despite current concerns about population declines it seems from reading MacPherson ( 1892 Fauna of Lakeland ) that this species was rather thinly distributed even at that time ... he would of course be judging the abundance of wildlife by different standards from those we experience today ...

As I watched one bird performing both its sedentary song and its display flight, it returned time and again to the same hawthorn ...


... the complexity of the song is only appreciated by looking at the sonogram ...


... that initial muted jumble of notes that leads into the hauntingly beautiful drawn out notes that include both ascending and descending elements before finishing with another quieter jumble of sounds ...




Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Beautiful Geltsdale ... Whinchats in full song ...

With the first broods of Stonechats already fledged the parent birds were alarming all around ... and showy as ever ...



... while some on the higher ground were still feeding young in the nest ...


... and in those upland areas with no tree within several hundred meters a Willow Warbler sang and fed from the heather ...


... on Brown Fell a rocky hollow with scattered boulders amid the expanse of heather moorland provided nice habitat for Wheatears ...


... the Lapwings in a stony field on the flank of Byers Pike were alert as always to any passer by ...


... probably suffering from the dry baked ground ... but there are winners and losers from this unusually dry spring and the Common Gulls on the tarn have a safe nesting place  ... as long as the water levels remain stable ( a rare event ! ) ...


... we built this island a few summers ago but much of the time there is nothing to see of it above the water surface ...

... the local Buzzards were looking unusually tatty ... but good to see them in numbers ...


... then heading along the Gairs Track towards Geltsdale proper a Grasshopper Warbler reeled from a bed of rushes ... a little further along past the Neuk Wall and as another one reeled, it was just visible on a distant fence post ...


... and then the first Whinchat song came from the same gully ... distant again as it perched on a section of wall ...


... a Pied Flycatcher sang from near the Gelt at Low Hynam and Wood Warblers were in full song as they flew and glided from perch to perch ...and then one of the many Cuckoos perched up in full view on a tree top ...