Monday, 27 August 2012

Boatman's Holiday

Kathy and John were diving of little Cumbrae this Saturday. Guess who was on boatman duty... in the rain.

We sped out to Trail Island in the early afternoon, and I watched the birds as Kat and John went through their buddy checks. Then we tucked in close to Little Cumbrae and the guys "gracefully" dropped into the water.

This grey seal was alerted by our approach and slipped into the water as I dropped off the divers.

Kathy makes friends easily...
And then, they were gone. And I was left alone with the feeding seabirds. There must have been plenty of fish about as the birds were going nuts. These were joined by plenty of harbour porpoises. I kept my eyes open for minkies, but no such luck.

The real stars of the day were the manxies, around 400 circled the diving gannets and bobbing guillemots.

The little rib is great for watching shearwaters, which streamed past, oblivious.

Kicking the boat from drive to neutral I was able to inch into the path of the Manxies

On the way back, We were passed by a party of harbour porpoises. Probably the same group that had been feeding around the birds earlier.

A mother and calf pair

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A little sun at lunch

Sunshine at lunchtime saw me throwing the camera in the car for a second look at my WEBS patch this week. There had been a few Lapwing, Curlew and Barwits around on Sunday, and there were far too many tourists around to do "the point". At high tide everything is pushed up to the vegetated out crop around the Clashfarland end of the bay, I only had an hour, so I high tailed it to the nearest car park...

...tourists; everything was up, trying desperately to find some shoreline not occupied by dog walkers, picnicking cyclists, or daft blondes with cameras *cough*. Confident in my limited chances of sneaking up on anything today, I tucked myself into the scrub in Clashfarland and waited for the circling birds to overfly me.

And they did, in some numbers. Here's what I snapped on the way past...

Lapwing, the were about 50 around

Curlew (200 odd), accompanied by around 20 Barwits

There were a couple of eclipse Eider, six shags, a greater Black Back, and four common gull too. All in all, a bit disappointing, but a nice sign that the winter waders are on their way back. Maybe if it rains I'll have a better chance of seeing them.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Out of My Area: a weekend of my own

It is hand in for the MSc student dissertations on Monday. To avoid the general sense of panic, I've gone and hidden in Yorkshire for the weekend. It may seem a little extreme, but I get to go birding. It's BLISS! A few nights in the obs at Spurn, a couple of nights drinking Guinness in the pub with friends, and the chance of  some migrants.

I rocked up late with only a few hours of daylight to work with, so I started at Canal Scrape, ready to work my way south before dinner.

First birds of the trip, feeding on Canal Scrape

After Canal it was getting close to high tide so I sped on down to Chalk Bank to scope out the high tide roost.

Away from the Humber I miss the big wader flocks. It was fun to start dusting of my skills.

After grabbing some pasta Adam S and I headed toward Kew and ended up at the newly created wetlands; the terns were starting to stream over and the Avocets were busily strutting about in the margins.

New for 2012: Juvenile Avocets, right in front of the shiny Kilnsea Wetlands Hide

Sitting around at the Warren I heard Pete W shout a Marsh Harrier coming over from Canal; I got great views but awful pictures!

Great bird

As the clouds cleared and the light shone through I headed out on the beach at by Beacon Ponds to check out the little waders moving through. The wind was strong and many flocks were whipping past with the terns.

Cracking (and apparently blind and deaf) juv sanderling let me get really close up

In the evenings the tern passage was fantastic, providing plenty of commons and sarnies, with arctic, little and black thrown in.

My squeaky nemesis of 2010; I miss their sound...

Highlights from this trip include Barred Warbler, a great view of Ortolan Bunting, the cracking Avocets, catching up with the Obs folk in the pub, and putting on the air conditioning in the car in the blazing sun.

All in all, another fun trip, now just a 5 hour drive home!

Trip List (in no particular order):

  • Common Gull
  • Black Headed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Lesser Black Back
  • Greater Black Back
  • Med Gull
  • Yellow Legged Gull
  • Arctic Tern
  • Common Tern
  • Sandwich Tern
  • Little Tern
  • Back Tern
  • Gannet
  • Arctic Skua
  • Shag
  • Cormorant
  • Grey Heron
  • Little Egret
  • Knot
  • Sanderling
  • Dunlin
  • Turnstone
  • Curlew Sand
  • Common Sand 
  • Wood Sand
  • Redshank
  • Spotted Redshank
  • Greenshank
  • Curlew
  • Avocet
  • Grey Plover
  • Golden Plover
  • Ringed Plover
  • Shoveller
  • Mallard
  • Teal
  • Shellduck
  • Mute Swan
  • Coot
  • Moorhen
  • Swallow
  • House Martin
  • Swift
  • Winchat
  • Wheatear
  • Robin
  • Wren
  • Blackbird
  • Linnet
  • House Sparrow
  • Tree Sparrow
  • Blue Tit
  • Great Tit
  • Coal Tit
  • Gold Finch
  • Green Finch
  • Reed Bunting
  • Ortolan Bunting
  • Pied Wagtail
  • Grey Wagtail
  • Meadow Pippit
  • Pied Flycatcher
  • Reed Warbler
  • Barred Warbler
  • White Throat
  • Sedge Warbler
  • Willow Warbler
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Collared Dove
  • Kestrel
  • Sparrowhawk
  • Marsh Harrier
I've probably forgotten something, but oh well!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Why its always worth putting in a little extra.

This weekend was the Ayr Flower Show, meaning the show team were away and the reserve was a little short staffed. I love getting down to the centre, and Saturday was Rita's birthday so there was a fair chance of cake, definitely a good day to put in some extra hours. So in the morning I threw my laptop, camera and bins into the car and battled the traffic over to get to the reserve... where it was deathly quiet, bird- and visitor-wise. 

The weather was great, the feeders were full, but it was just not happening. A full set of staff and no one to talk to... Feeling the need to get outside, I grabbed an excuse in the form of the litter picking gear and headed out on the trails (obviously with camera to hand), praying for a little magic.

Well I was almost to the end of the Aird Meadow trail before it struck. A little moving russet in the corner of my eye. I backtracked, and was confronted by a young fox, who was so shocked to see me that it started to move towards me despite itself, before slipping back into to scrub.

I carried on around the corner to be confronted with a feeding frenzy of tits and finches, distracted by the swarming insects. Then as I got to the seat at the end of the trail, the single monotone note of a male bullfinch, which slowly flitted out of the bushes before heading off toward Castle Semple. I even came back with rubbish in my bag to justify my wander in the sun.  Not so dead a day after all.

Sometimes my manual focus isn't that bad!

The best of a year's worth of LTT hunting.