Thursday, 12 March 2020

More winter birding around my area ... with ducks drawing my attention ...

One of the nice features of winter is the presence of small flocks of Bullfinches which seem to favour certain locations ... a small group of trees and bushes bordering the Hare Beck near to my house is one such place ... these birds were typically flighty when in roadside trees and skulky when in the bushes ...




With the returning American Wigeon again present at Grindon Lough it was a real surprise to be standing there on a March day and feeling the warmth of the sun.  Recent rains have added to the extent of the water body and where the bird was swimming is normally well above the shore line ... it was consorting with a small group of Wigeon and feeding actively ...


Today on the Solway at Port Carlisle the range of birds was a bit limited so I started to look more closely at some Wigeon in the old harbour ... the sun was shining and the foreheads of the males were looking a strikingly golden colour ... except they weren't all - a few had orangey brown foreheads while the rest of their plumage looked identical to the other males ...  the bird on the left has the duller forehead ...



... is this a feature of age, possibly first-winter birds ... or perhaps a retarded transition into breeding plumage ... or is it a variant ... so far the literature has not given me the answer ...

At Glasson Point some Goldeneye were bobbing about in the rough water as the tide began to come in ... some smart although rather distant males ...


... and a first-winter male showing the first traces of the white loral spot which had a strangely Barrow's Goldeneye look and shape about it ...


... and the lack of the third ( median covert ) wing bar confirming its immaturity ...


Sunday, 9 February 2020

Back on the old Patch ... Nosterfield ... with Lesser Yellowlegs ... and interesting Redwings ...

It was good to revisit the Nosterfield reserve in North Yorkshire a couple of days ago ... one of my favourite spots from when I lived in North Yorks ... memories of Turtle Doves and Corn Buntings in the area - now sadly gone ... and Little Owls would be virtually guaranteed on a summer's evening visit ...

But it was a long staying Lesser Yellowlegs that prompted the visit ... there were around ten birders about on arrival as the morning mist was just about clearing ... always good to have plenty of eyes searching ... but after an hour and a half of searching the Kiln Lake , Flask Lake and beyond there was no sign ... people were starting to drift off ... there was still the main lake to check but others had already been there and returned with negative news ...

The main lake looked more promising and after around 15 minutes checking the extensive shorelines we located the wader ... on the very far shore and disappearing frequently behind a mound and clumps of vegetation ... soon the news spread to the other birders still present and everyone had good if rather distant views ...



... always active, the bird fed busily ...


... and associated loosely with Redshank - thanks to Adam Moan for the next two images ...



There were good numbers of Redwings feeding on some wet areas by the hedges ...

... some appeared to be the nominate race Turdus iliacus iliacus ... 


... while others looked distinctly darker with much more heavily marked breasts and bellies with blotches rather than fine streaks ... the ground colour on the mantle was also darker on these birds and more of a solid dark brown and lacking greyish tones ...



... the features shown on these are more consistent with the Icelandic race I.i.coburni ...

Thanks again to Adam for the Redwing images ...

Smallways Lake on the return journey home was awash with waders ... large numbers of Curlew and Lapwing  ... and also two Ruff ....




Sunday, 2 February 2020

The joys of winter ... Iceland Gull and showy Eiders at North Shields ...

Having failed to see the juvenile Iceland Gull earlier in the winter it was a particular treat so watch it in the mid-afternoon sunshine last week ...


... appearing with the milling Herring Gulls just offshore from the Fish Quay ... it then flew a little way upstream to give a nice fly-by view ...


... then as the Herring Gulls contested scraps in the harbour the Iceland Gull perched with the company of only one 1st winter Great Black-backed Gull on the Fish Quay roof ...


... striking a typically elegant pose ...


... and after the melee of Herring Gulls had dispersed a little consort of Eiders looked equally striking in the inky waters of the harbour ...



Monday, 20 January 2020

Mid-winter Birding ... Purple Heron, Siberian Chiffchaff ... a proactive female Goosander ...

The Eagland Hill Purple Heron in Lancashire gave wonderful views recently in its relentless pursuit of what looked like Bank Voles ...








... while nearby a flock of fifty or so Whooper Swans was accompanied by a handful of Bewick's Swans ...


... and a Cattle Egret demonstrated its small size by flying in to land near some Little Egrets ...


At Pilling, still in the same county the water treatment works hosted a nice selection of common passerines including three Chiffchaffs, one of which was a clear tristis ...



Back in Cumbria at Siddick Pond, five adult Mediterranean Gulls made up for an unremarkable seawatch ... there were a few Goosanders and one female was constantly pursuing a male ... the male responded each time the female got close by performing a strange but highly stylised upending motion followed by some wing flapping ...



... I can find nothing in the literature about females pursuing males ... nor anything about the strange routine that the male performed ...



Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Norfolk ... with some interesting forms ... Grey-bellied Brant ... Alaskan Yellow Wagtail ...

The now renowned dung heap near Sedgeford was still hosting the Alaskan Yellow Wagtail at the end of last week ... despite its name this form, the nominate sub-species of Eastern Yellow Wagtail Motacilla tschutchensis tschutchensis has a breeding range from eastern Kazakhstan to the tip of Far Eastern Russia ...


... this was a strikingly attractive bird ... a male moulting from juvenile into first-winter plumage ... the general appearance was reminiscent of the Blue-headed form of Western Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava flava except for its dark ear coverts ... also the white supercillium did not extend as far in front of the eye, stopping well short of the bill ...

... it fed for a time around puddles closer to the track than the dung heaps to give close views ...





Not very far away a Grey-bellied Brant was reported in fields near Fring along with several thousand Pink-footed Geese ... this bird proved more tricky than the wagtail ... and the Pinkfeet lifted frequently while some birds came in and out of view in the undulating terrain ... some left the area while others flew in ... and all the while the heavy drizzle piled in on the stiff breeze ...
But then the skies brightened and the Grey-bellied Brant was re-located near Choseley ... and now in much easier terrain ...


... the belly had a distinctly brownish tone as compared with the dark grey belly of Black Brant ... the neck collar was bold, more so than that of Pale-bellied or Dark-bellied Brent Goose ... but did not concentrate to such a dense white area on the ventral aspect as does the neck collar of Black Brant ... rather, the white lines faded towards the ventral surface of the neck ...



... the bird was continually on the move and behaving fairly aggressively towards the nearby Pinkfeet ...
This form has a complicated taxonomic status ... it is not recognised by the IOC ... the latest version IOC 9.2 gives only three sub-species of Brent Goose - Dark-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla bernicla , Pale-bellied Brent Goose Branta bernicla hrota and Black Brant Branta bernicla nigricans.

Sebastien Reeber ( Wildfowl of Europe, Asia and North America 2015 ) takes a different and well argued view ... he describes how DNA studies indicate that Grey-bellied Brant have been reproductively isolated from the other forms for 40.000 years in their breeding range in the Western Queen Elizabeth Islands in Arctic Canada ... interestingly the type specimen of Black Brant was taken in New Jersey in 1846 where that form is only an occasional visitor ... the description of that bird seems to be more consistent with Grey-bellied Brant rather than Black Brant.  He cites a paper by Lewis et.al.2013 that gives Grey-bellied Brant the name B.b. nigricans and re-assigns Black Brant as B.b.orientalis  as this is the next oldest available name.
We will doubtless hear more on this ....

At Titchwell roosting Marsh Harriers provide quite a spectacle with upward of ninety birds often present ...


... and also at Titchwell two Spotted Redshanks fed in a deep pool in characteristically frenetic style ...


Along the coast at Wells a Rough-legged Buzzard surveyed the scene from a large bush in the pleasant mid-day sunshine ...



... and a Short-eared Owl flew almost overhead ... 


... a Kestrel hovered similarly close-by ...


... then as the day drew towards its early mid-winter end a walk along the beach at Titchwell seemed to hold little promise in the fading light ... but among a small group of Herring Gulls and Oystercatchers along the shore-line was a smart adult Yellow-legged Gull ...



Saturday, 21 December 2019

Some local(ish) Birding in the period leading up to the Shortest Day ...

Purple Sandpipers delighted as always on a stormy day on Workington Pier ... the birds sheltered near the base of the pier but still were vigilant for the big wave ...



... and nearby there was a first-winter Shag ... not too common in these parts ...

On the day that the General Election results emerged it seemed somehow a good idea to cross the border into Scotland ... and the Ken Dee Marshes felt remote, quiet ... and the sun shone beautifully on that lovely landscape ...

... that bizarre almost 'car alarm' style of call announced the presence of Red Kites ... and there they were ...


... Fieldfares piled out of the trees along the lane leaving just one watchful bird ...


... and an adult male Reed Bunting showed off its winter plumage ... striking but with more subtlety than its breeding plumage ...


... and then into the wet woodland with the potential for Willow Tits ... a sadly declining species ... but two birds gave wonderful views ...





... apart from the long established identification features that separate this species from Marsh Tit it was interesting to note the bill pattern - the absence of the pale spot at the base of the bill that is diagnostic for Marsh Tit was easily discerned ...





Then at Threave the high water levels created large areas of flooded marsh ...


... that were teeming with birds ...

Greenland White-fronted Geese fed among the vegetation ...



... and male Pintails performed excited displays to the single female ...




... and all the while the calls of some distant Pink-footed Geese came through the still air ...


Monday, 16 December 2019

Eastern Yellow Wagtail at Prestwick Carr Northumberland ...

The bird was immediately visible on the muddy ground of the flooded field in the early morning sunshine today ...

Initially distant it flew across to near the track ... but into a shady area ...



... the characteristic long hind-claw was surprisingly easy to discern as it picked its way across the mud ...


... and even closer as it fed seemingly unconcerned behind the hedge just a few meters away ...


... when a Pied Wagtail came close that bird looked so much larger and more robust than the Eastern Yellow Wagtail ...


... strikingly pale grey with just a hint of yellow near the vent and the alula ...


... as the sun gained a little height the colour tones showed better as the bird fed incessantly ...



... and eventually it called again ... a note with a distinctly rasping quality ...