Friday, March 10, 2017

A trip up north - Pacific Diver

Utterly frazzled by long days at work, sixteen on one horrendous day when the pressures weighed heavy on my shoulders, the demands of sadistic clients demanding delivery of work that were likely to be disregarded anyway.

I'd had enough and spontaneously headed north late Friday morning.  We ended up in York for the evening, relaxing in this beautiful city under the grandeur of the Minster and the quaint cobbled streets.

The next morning was a stab at the Pine Bunting.  Present for a long stint in the village of Dunnington, the bird was seen early morning.  Arriving at around 1030 after a tardy morning start, the scope was set up as resident gregarious flocks of Tree Sparrow and Yellowhammer flew nervously around the paddocks.  There was no sign.  A male Bullfinch brightened up the short vigil under leaden skies but by 12 I had given up and the bird wasn't seen since.

We continued north and arrived in Amble early afternoon.  It was throwing it down, but clad in my waterproofs, I headed over to East Chevington where the Pacific Diver was still present on the north pool.  There was no one around.  The place had an eerie feel, the silence punctuated by distant sounds of wildfowl and the belligerent rain as it bounced off the metal hide,  After a brief rest, the Diver become a bit more active swimming to the far end of the pool before heading back across my eye-line.  Darkness began to creep in, but the light was still sufficient to observe at least six Scaup there including two drakes, a pair of Red-Breasted Merganser, and at least 25 Goldeneye,

The next day, we visited Saltholme RSPB for early migrants but none were forthcoming so continued onto Skinningrove for my second Eastern Black Redstart of the year which showed down to a few metres,  The singing Dunnock there was evidence the our common birds shouldn't be overlooked.

Just a couple of recommedations;

The Bridges B&B in Broomhill is just fabulous, the owners are so friendly and the rooms extremely comfortable and well designed.

The Old Boathouse at Amble offers a great seafood menu overlooking the estuary.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A weekend in Schweiz

Switzerland at any time of the year explodes with stunning scenery.  The clean air, crisp snow covered landscape, and clear blue skies made this trip really special.  I have a very good friend here, it was a joy to see her and to share in the wonderful landscape that the local Swiss residents get to enjoy throughout the seasons.

This is ski season, and while we don't ski (well not yet anyway), hiking is still a popular pursuit during the winter months.  Our trek wrapped round the back of the ski resort at Sattel a 20 minute drive from Baar.

The light was pristine as was the snow which away from the ski slopes remained untouched by human activity.

The views were simply breathtaking.

And then for the big game in the evening - Zug vs Kloten in the Swiss Ice Hockey league in which EVZ ran out 5-4 winners after over-time.

Finally before leaving back for the UK, a quick walk along Lake Zug in the watery sunshine on a cold afternoon.  It was hard to draw yourself away from this place.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Cornwall - Eastern Black Redstart

It's a long way to go for a weekend, and to be honest, I am still feeling the long drive back two days on.

But it was so worth it.  I would like to think of myself as a pilgrim to the rugged cornish coastline, taking in the breathtaking scenery is as spiritual as it gets for me these days.  Maybe I've got it right.

The Eastern Black Redstart was still present on the rocks by the Rockpool Cafe at Mousehole and what a little cracker it was showing ridiculously well at times.

During a fruitless search for the Pacific Diver at Marazion, this stonking male Black Redstart flashed past me and rested briefly on the high sea wall.

At Perranuthnoe, the Hudsonian Whimbrel flew into Boat Cove after an agonising wait.

On the Hayle Estuary, the Green-winged Teal was still present as viewed from the Causeway on the B3301.

Other noteworthy sightings were Mediterranean Gull off the coast at Marazion with plenty of Rock Pipit along the rocky shoreline, a Great Northern Diver offshore, six Chough at Sennen spooked by a local Peregrine.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Dungeness - Stejneger's Stonechat THAT WASN'T...

Another gorgeous day on the coast feeling the sun on my face while joining convivial groups out to enjoying the quality on offer.

Bird of the day went to the Siberian Stonechat of the stejnegeri form that had been present by Denge quarry for a while.  Showing really well in the low winter sun, the bird was noticeably paler with a bold supercilium and a rusty rump seen in flight.  The rest I leave to the poop and DNA.

So, the poop went back to the polling station for a re-count and this was the final unequivocal result.  What do I know!

But it was a real birding bonanza today with plenty to see and hardly enough time.  So I had to be selective.

Only my 2nd ever Ring-necked Duck drifted by a flock of Common Pochard on New Diggings.  Also there was a single Great White Egret, and plenty of Lapwing and Golden Plover.

Parking in a restricted area, I was keen to move onto the reserve where an assembled crowd with eyes on peering through the thicket managed to pin down one of the two Long-eared Owl present on site.  It was tough to prize out, but only when it peered did it become more obvious.  Still notoriously difficult.

It was also great to meet the Craig family there, my former colleague Paul James, and one-time flying buddy Phil Rhodes.

Moving around the reserve, wildlife and water birds were present in large numbers.  Three Chiffchaff were present outside of the Firth Hide and another Great White Egret seen from the Christmas Dell Hide.

On the way out of the reserve, at least two Tree Sparrow were hanging around the feeders at Boulderwall Farm.

The last stop was for a 'sitting duck' Red-necked Grebe (4th) present on a small lake just west of Camber village.

A lot of variety and a great few hours away from the big smoke.