Sunday, 15 October 2017

Some showy migrants ... at Geltsdale the Old Water Hut revisited ... provoking some thoughts on Hen Harriers ...

Sometimes a normally secretive species will unexpectedly pose for the camera .. so it was with this Garden Warbler at Druridge Pools last week ...



... the elder berries adding a touch of autumnal luxuriance ...

... this bird was so different from one on Shetland recently that disappeared into a tussock by our feet ...

Nearby at Druridge a juvenile Red-necked Phalarope delighted as always ...


Closer to home an adult Greenshank posed at Port Carlisle while Redshanks wandered by ...


A Scops Owl in County Durham was an incredible turn up ... a county first and the first for northern England for a century ... all credit to the finder ... it was hard enough to pick out even knowing the bird was there ...


A walk past the Old Water Hut in Geltsdale today provoked some thoughts on Hen Harriers ... 


... it looked so different from how it was, little more than a year ago when we were in the final stages of wardening the successful Hen Harrier nest of 2016 ... the single satellite-tagged chick survived until disappearing on a nearby grouse moor around December last year ... neither the body nor the satellite tag were ever found ...

... recent information suggests that a tag will continue transmitting in the event of a natural death ... this reinforces the conclusion that this bird was illegally killed ...

... there was no successful breeding of Hen Harriers at Geltsdale this year ... any readers of the RSPB Skydancer blog in August might have surmised that we did not have any Hen Harriers around this summer ... in fact the blog was unequivocal about the absence of Hen Harriers ... this is what it said ...


... hmm ... this was not so ... there were not only birds present but there was a breeding attempt which failed before the egg stage ... it failed when the male Hen Harrier ventured towards the grouse shooting estate boundary and was not seen again ... not great work from the RSPB mouthpiece and not a great endorsement of the good work carried out on the reserve ...
... the other important thing that the RSPB refuses to do is to encourage us to sign the new e-petition to Ban Driven Grouse Shooting ... please do sign it !
                                                                                   ... this is the link -                                                                                https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/201443

There are those apart from the workers on the ground at Geltsdale whose efforts in battling raptor persecution are admirable ...
... yesterday I listened to Ruth Tingay being interviewed by Charlie Moores ... 


... available on RPUK website ( linked from this blog ) 12 October 2017 ...
... I had heard Ruth speak persuasively at the Scottish Hen Harrier Days ...
... Charlie ( formerly of Birders Against Wildlife Crime ) is now with LUSH ... so well done Ruth ... well done Charlie and well done Mark Constantine of LUSH ... 




Sunday, 8 October 2017

Shetland ... Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler ... Red-flanked Bluetail ... Little and Rustic Buntings ... and more !

A somewhat wet and windy week on Shetland with the excellent Paul French produced some great birds ...

The stand-out bird in terms of good views was this Red-flanked Bluetail at North Roe on 6th October ... a day that was also memorable for its absence of rain ... the bird perched obligingly on a twig only a few meters away ...



... before flying a short way ...


... revealing the blue tail ... then perching in thicker twigs to reveal the flank and tail colours together ...



... not every bird was as showy as this one and unsurprisingly the Pallas's Grasshopper Warbler at Collafirth on 1st October was one case in point ... it lingered in a dense iris bed and sometimes moved through grassy tussocks to give obscured views ... and then performed several flight circuits of the small valley when the cinnamon underparts, rufous rump and white tips to the tail feathers showed well in the last few minutes before the heavy rain arrived ... it was admired by a fair crowd ...


... after arriving at Sumburgh on 30th September , a wander around the farm area produced Goldcrests and Bramblings and a warbler in the quarry was attracting some attention from the possibly over-enthusiastic birders ... we were on Shetland so it MUST be a Blyth's Reed , or was it ? 



... no supercillium on front of the eye, too great a primary projection and emarginations extending only to P3 showed on the images and gave three final nails in the coffin of Blyth's ... it was a Reed Warbler ... but an educational bird nonetheless ...

... such was the level of expectation that birds that normally attract welcome attention hardly warranted a second look ... Twite were all over the place ...


... sub-species are always good though and Shetland Wren certainly did not disappoint ...


... T.t.zetlanicus ... a much darker and longer-billed form than the nominate race ... 

A Great Grey Shrike was at Dale of Walls on 1st October ... while never giving very close views, it was constantly active ... having caught what looked like a shrew, it lardered the prey in some wire ...


... then immediately resumed foraging ...




... we all need a little luck and as we drove into Melby as the rain came down a Rustic Bunting was feeding on the side of the road ...


... hopping right out in the open ... we hardly got wet at all ...

... a small group of Common Redpolls were in some trees as we continued around Mainland Shetland ...


Before heading for the ferry which would take us onto Yell and then to Unst we ventured out to the far NW point at Esha Ness ... it was a truly wild morning with frequent showers coming through on the force 10 gale ... quite remarkably a Little Stint was feeding in some small pools ...



... and a single Snow Bunting flitted by the edge of the cliff ... several Ruff foraged and flew around ...


... and a faeroeensis Snipe kept low ...


... some Greylag Geese looked edgy against a dramatic backdrop of sea stacks ...


A putative Siberian Oystercatcher had been reported at Sandwick ... the tide was right in leaving no exposed beach and the small Oystercatcher flock was on a nearby hilltop ... the bird showed an increased amount of white in the closed wing but the nasal grooves were hard to assess as the gale buffetted us around ...


... it certainly had a brownish cast ...

Some Crossbills started to be reported and after waiting a while in the lea of the pine plantation at S.h.e. a female perched obligingly on a top branch ...


... later on a lovely male finally showed as it fed quietly among the lower branches ...


The headland at Skaw offered little shelter and a Red-throated Pipit there gave brief views among the tussocks ... a Lesser Whitethroat showed a brownish cast to the mantle - probably a blythi ...


... and a small number of Bonxies were still around ...


... a single juvenile Sanderling fed on the beach ...


At Halligarth a sheltered spot provided nice feeding for some common migrants and nice viewing for us !
... Spotted Flycatcher was confiding ...



... as was a female Redstart ...



The fields at Norwick near to Valyie were attracting birds among which was a flighty and elusive Little Bunting that would often fly over calling and disappear into deep vegetation ... it did eventually perch on a building just long enough to give some nice views ...



Ever-present were Shetland Starlings with their tantalising calls that seemed to mimic almost anything ...


After a few sightings of elusive Snow Buntings we found one in a small quarry - a lovely male of the nominate race ...




At Mossy Hill another of the seemingly ever-present species cavorted in typical Raven style ...


And on the choppy waters of Easter Loch a female Ring-necked Duck associated with a group of Tufted Ducks ...


... while out at sea in a sheltered bay there was a very distant Slavonian Grebe along with Black Guillemot ...


With our time on the islands running out we fruitlessly searched a pool at Gruness for a Buff-bellied Pipit that had been present earlier ...

... a dark grey-brown Continental Song Thrush perched among the rocks ...


... and a Chiffchaff fed out in the open on the short turf ...





Sunday, 24 September 2017

Birds and Books ... The Wigtown Book Festival ... Loch Ryan and around ...

The only shelter to be had at Loch Ryan was by Bishop Burn ... thirty-nine Red-breasted Mergansers had got the picture ...

The males were all still in eclipse plumage ...


... some displaying ...



... The Wig was a different story with the wind whipping up the waves and the birds taking shelter ... a group of Eiders was on the end of the point ...


... where a first-winter Mediterranean Gull had just taken off ... a Sandwich Tern battled against the wind and a small group of Dunlin and Turnstones and a single Sanderling fed on the shore ...


... most of the Dunlin were showing mixed-generation scapulars as they acquired winter plumage by degrees ...


... on the more sheltered south side of Wig Bay a solitary Slavonian Grebe showed intermittently between the crests along with another ten Red-breasted Mergansers ...



 ... still in breeding plumage ...

... Meanwhile in Wigtown the early stages of the Book Festival were taking shape ... this event really takes over the town and the whole place is buzzing ... they do it really well and the bookshop/cafes serve up excellent food and good coffee ...

... the sheer number of books is quite phenominal, mainly second-hand but with a few new books ... I was tempted by a set of Witherby's Handbook for £30 before discovering that this is the going rate ... when I checked the price just a few years ago it was £100 ...

... I did come away with this however ...


 ... which I've just dipped into, but it looks promising ...

Patrick Barkham spoke with unpretentious eloquence and showed his formidable intellect in answering a tricky question around the relative merits of Brexit and small islands  ( complicated stuff ) ...

And the Craft Tent had a few tempting goodies ...


... but why Canada Geese ? I wondered ...

Back along the coast near the Isle of Withorn, this time in sunshine, and groups of Shags loafed on the rocks ...


... along with the occasional Cormorant ...


... while some very flighty Wheatears perched always just a little distantly ...