Monday, 16 March 2015

Birding back home

Prior to returning home from university on Saturday, I arranged to spend Sunday with Scott, birding around Cheshire and North Wales in order to clean up on a few year ticks. The day started at the ungodly time of 05.00 however the early start proved worth it when, an hour later, we were watching at least 11 male Black Grouse lekking at point blank range at a traditional site. As ever I was captivated by these charming birds, their haunting calls carried through the moisture-laden air providing a fitting soundtrack for the ethereal dawn landscape. After getting our annual Black Grouse fix, we headed to Pensarn where we caught up with the juvenile Iceland Gull showing distantly at the eastern end of the beach. A confirmation message on Birdguides then had us shooting across Angelsey to Cemlyn Bay where Scott finally connected with Lapland Bunting. The female bird showed incredibly well feeding on a seeded path to the north of the western car park allowing me to capture some great phone-scoped shots.

On the way home we made the short detour to Burton Mere Wetlands where I finally saw the wintering :Long-eared Owl which gave good views as it roosted in a shrub on the path to the IMF hide. This was only my third Long-eared Owl and constitutes a great record of what can be a very difficult bird to see in Cheshire. The returning Avocets and a singing Chiffchaff also reinforced the feeling that spring is on its way.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

2015: The story so far.

The days are getting longer, the migrants are pushing in and as winter inexorably gives way to spring it seems like a poignant time to compose a short summary of my first few months of 2015. After painfully dipping the Little Bustard on New Year's Day due to illness, I've actually had a good few months listing wise with 6 lifers, with the Harlequin Duck in Aberdeenshire and the Pacific Diver in Cornwall the obvious highlights from a rarity perspective. 

Harlequin Duck, River Don, Aberdeenshire

Other standouts include the Cheshire Laughing Gull, an absolute county mega and a bird I've long since wanted to see in the UK. The winter of 2014-2015 has been another cracking season for rare Larids and  I've also seen Franklin's, Bonaparte's and Thayer's Gulls in addition to the Laugher. This leaves me, Sabine's Gull aside, with very few easy Gull ticks left for the UK.

1st-winter Laughing Gull (Phonescoped)

Against my better judgement, I finally made the pilgrimage to Bedforshire earlier this week and after a considerable wait and more than a modicum of luck I managed to catch a glimpse of what is likely the only Lady Amherst's Pheasant left in Britain. To my surprise, seeing what this unarguably stunning species engendered a considerable amount of joy, especially considering its as plastic as they come! I've also managed to catch up with a couple of tricky passerines this winter with Little Bunting and a couple of Serin thankfully finding their way on to my list.

Patch-wise its been a relatively modest start to the year, with the gull roost in particular being a complete waste of time with no Casps or white-wingers for me despite many hours stood in the cold and dark freezing my bollocks off. Despite this poor showing it has been an educational experience with a couple of 3w Yellow-legged Gulls one evening in early March a nice age class to catch up with.

3rd-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Port Meadow

The unshakable feeling of Spring unfolding is raising my anticipation for the season ahead however the impending doom of my final year exams has so far managed to temper my excitement to a large degree. Inevitably, my birding will be somewhat curtailed however I still have the NGB trip to Spain in early April and the prospect of Lammergeiers in the Alps next week to tide me over. I'd like to imagine that the Spring will pass by mega-free and exam revision won't cause me to miss too many birds but I'm not holding out too much hope. At least I'll have the prospect of an Autumn volunteering on North Ronaldsay with it's mouth-watering potential to keep me going through the inevitable misses!