Monday, August 27, 2018

Cornwall - The Lizard

Saturday was a glorious day. The six-and-a-half-hour journey to Lizard Point was well worth the hard slog, the M5 is particularly soul destroying but it is from Exeter where the journey really starts.

Overlooking the cliff face onto the sparkling sea, the hoards now sporadically spread across the clifftop path from the Point to Kynance Cove.

Sunday was the day when the weather turned up. By association, it was the day when the birds turned up. The howling mild South-west breeze churned up the sea, buffeting against the cliff face, and where hardened day-trippers still in summer plumage battled the elements unperturbed by the frequent heavy showers.

Seabirds were piling past. Visibility was sporadic, determined by the pulsating showers. Hundreds of Manx Shearwater scythed effortlessly through the storm, twisting between the surf with utter contempt.

The passage of birds was relentless. The key was to keep an eye out for something unusual, to keep optics as dry as possible, and to resist the urge to pop into the café for a cream tea.

You lose count really, but Manx Shearwater passed by in their hundreds, the dirtier Balearic Shearwater count was twelve, with three dark Sooty Shearwater piercing through like arrows. My first ever Great Shearwater in British waters numbered fiver, a much more elegant flyer. It seemed so easy for them.

Sea-watching was broken up by inevitable trips to the café, and shelter from the rain. There was more to be seen though. My favourite seabird, a lone Great Skua sauntered past, some distant terns, but a few closer in revealed Arctic Tern and Sandwich Tern. A few small groups of Kittiwake including juvenile birds were regular. Two Red-billed Chough rolled through and settled on a nearby cliff. So charismatic.

A small pod of Common Dolphin drifted by and up to five Atlantic Grey Seal were bobbing/lounging around off-shore.

There were local Raven and a male Sparrowhawk causing mayhem amongst groups of Linnet, Goldfinch, House Sparrow, and Swallow.

There were still a few Butterfly on the wing that included Red Admiral, Wall Brown, and two pristine Small Copper.

Yes, there were Cream Teas, Ice-Cream, wonderful ‘home-cooked’ foods, the resulting bulging belly, but it wouldn’t have been Cornwall without them.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Dungeness - American Black Tern

A quick trip down to Dungeness to get a glimpse of the American Black Tern that favoured the western end of Burrowes Pit as viewed from the Makepeace Hide.  It remained distant while at least 25 Black Tern were scattered more widely, frequently seen passing by the hide.

American Black Tern

American Black Tern

This scarce nearctic tern appeared slightly more compact than it's european cousins, displaying noticably dark rustic tones without the clean breaks seen on the 'nigra' a shorter tail and 'dirtier' flanks.  Most of the Black Tern observed showed pristine white underwing and underparts.

Black Tern

Black Tern

Black Tern

Sand Martin :-)

There were five Great Egret present, and a quick scan of waders revealed good numbers of Ringed Plover and Dunlin, and a single Knot.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Staines Reservoir

A quick visit to Staines Reservoir to make the most of a balmy evening where the temperature rose to a crazy 28C.

It was generally quiet but the return was pretty respectable with a Black-necked Grebe seen on the west side of the south basin.  Waders were sparse, but was made up by singles of Ringed Plover, Little Ringed Plover, and two Common Sandpiper on the north basin.

A juvenile Yellow Wagtail was in amongst around sixty Pied/White Wagtail along the causeway.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Farlington Marshes

The south-coast is now in reach, a generous hour and fifteen away and proves to be a great escape when on a Saturday the hangover of a working week feels heavy on the mind.

The initial part of the walk round the reserve is dominated by the sound of thunderous traffic belting along the A27.  Heading towards the estuary, the traffic fades out to a distant hum, replaced instead by the echoes of piping waders as they began to fly in on a rapidly rising tide.

Only common waders but a joy to see large groups of Common Redshank, their red legs illuminated by the warm sun that had finally penetrated the grey skies.  There were decent numbers of Dunlin on the lake, many still in summer plumage.  Black-tailed Godwit began to fly in, around seven Greenshank were mobile, with two Whimbrel and a Turnstone seen off-shore.  A minimum count of 117 Grey Plover were occupying the exposed islands with small groups wheeling around the bay, many again still in summer attire.  Oystercatcher had occupied their own island further out.  A single Common Sandpiper flicked low across the water.

The day was capped by some bonus species.  An autumn Whinchat was new for the year seen perched on wires close to the pool.  Three Swift were battling the warm breeze, and a small group of Sand Martin were hawking insects oover the pool.

Triple bonus points went to the Cattle Egret that took a while to emerge but flew past before settling down low in the long grass.  This represented my 200th UK species for the year.  This was added to by a first-year Yellow-legged Gull on the pool by the information centre.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Staines Reservoir

A mild breeze swept through the reservoirs under leaden grey skies.  There was barely a soul around as I made my way along the causeway.

The highlight was a way overdue London first, a roosting moulting adult Sanderling on the North basin accompanied by an adult and juvenile Little Ringed Plover.

There were six flighty Common Sandpiper scampering along the shoreline of the South basin.

Hirundines were sparse, but for a single Swallow, three House Martin, and four Swift powering low past and always a pleasure to watch.

Common Tern have successfully bred here with around a dozen including young either flying or settled down on the rafts.

A single eclipse drake Shoveler was present as was a juvenile Shelduck and an Egyptian Goose.