Sunday, October 28, 2018

Foreness Point

This doesn't show how monstrous the weather was today.  The sea was billowing into a frothy frenzy backed by a north-westerly wind that howled and buffeted the shore.  Sometimes you just have to stand and watch.  Watch and feel.  Feel and admire the forces of nature. 

It was a day for that.

A relaxing day, to escape for a few hours, to calm the mind, to breathe deeply.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Wanstead Flats - Rustic Bunting

A rare bird hit East London.  Not many of these tend to visit the capital.  Only the second ever for the big smoke.  This is a rare bird, difficult to catch up with.  Perhaps a chancy encounter on the east coast or on the outer isles.

So a full scale twitch ensued.  I for that matter had a leisurely train ride toward the east.

The Rustic Bunting was seen well but not enough for any decent pics.

Nice to see familiar faces, wasn't fussed about a couple of narky ones though.

Wanstead looks like a great site, understandably well used but looks like there's something for everyone there.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Kingsgate - Red-rumped Swallow

Making the most of a week off and hot on the heels of the Scoter trip, I headed down to Kent and based myself in an area between Margate and Ramsgate.

It was great and a little frustrating too having missed the Pallid Swift by a matter of minutes at Kingsgate,  What this did result in during the search was an unexpected Red-rumped Swallow that breezed through in the company of a House Martin.  Both pale rumped, this was an obviously totally different bird and perhaps the juvenile that was seen the previous evening.

The day turned out to be quite leisurely, the warm sun and breeze, and the stunning backdrop of golden sand and white cliffs.  It really is a lovely area.

Barn Swallow were passing through in small groups all day, speeding low along the cliff-face fighting against a head-wind.  Another interesting feature were small groups of Chaffinch heading inland in-off the sea with a few Skylark and Siskin.

The sea was interesting later on in the day.  A Great Skua passed close by, a Red-throated Diver flew west, a single Sandwich Tern and two 1st winter Mediterranean Gull flew past and a couple of Harbour Porpoise were loafing about offshore.

A rare sighting of an ageing Cavok Air AN-12A on a cargo flight from Stansted to Budapest.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Musselburgh Lagoons - American White-winged Scoter

Rewind back to a dismal July day in 2016 when I opted to head up to Aberdeen to twitch a rare bird.

I was hungover, tired, but the flight was booked.  Unfortunately the bird went missing for a day which was just a little inconvenient.

This perennial American visitor was back, returning to the place where it had initially been identified in 2014.  I decided to head for Musselburgh Lagoons for another crack at this yank seafarer.

A 4.15am alarm call, 5am taxi ride, 5.50am coach ride, and an 8.55am plane ride from Stansted, had me at the car hire office by 11am,  By 11.50am I was on-site, firstly walking the wrong way, and then hacking back to the sea-wall away from the town.

At 1.30pm, the American-White-winged Scoter was picked up associating with a small group of pristine Velvet Scoter.  The open water was at times back-lit on a mild and breezy afternoon.

It roosted for a while, preened for a while, swam up and down for a while, flicked its head back for a while.  It was all rather entertaining and not to mention the relief after the aforementioned failed attempt.

This was a great site.  Lots of waders out on the exposed mud of the receded tide that was starting to surge its way back in.  There were hundreds of Oystercatcher, Bar-tailed Godwit, and Curlew, with smaller numbers of Knot and Dunlin flying close past the seawall.

On the sea, two Slavonian Grebe were bobbing about as were small groups of Red-breasted Merganser, Common Eider, and the odd Guillemot and Razorbill.

Four Sandwich Tern flew through, and a few 1st winter Gannet were present offshore.

The sight of hundreds of yapping formation flying Pink-footed Goose passing high overhead on inward migration was magical.

With no further incidents, I finally returned home at 11.50pm.  It is amazing what you can do in a day.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Isles of Scilly - Day Seven

It was sad to leave.  A week never feels like long enough on the Scillies.  At the airport after a check-in, I took a final wander toward the hangars.

Flying through were four Cattle Egret that circled before heading further inland.  It never stops here and a great way to end the week.  Four Northern Wheatear were feeding on the airfield.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Isles of Scilly - Day Six

The best day of the trip.  The day started clear and mild and that's how it remained for much of the day.

After a fruitless walk around the Garrison, I headed to the quay for the short trip across to St Agnes.

The Greenish Warbler from the day before was still present and showed brilliantly in the sunlight, flitting along the tops of the laurel bushes, dashing into pines, and calling a couple of times.  A very strong mono-syllabic 'sweet'.  Very Pipit-esque.

A Firecrest was also present here.

Shortly after I thankfully bumped into David Bradshaw and proceeded to walk down to see the juvenile Red-backed Shrike that was equally as showy.

He kindly invited me back to his digs at Porth Killier joined by Jamie Partridge sitting in the warm sun in almost exactly the same spot four years ago on my first visit to the Isles.  That time it was shortly after a serious flare-up of my UC.  The visit to the Scillies had expedited my recovery immeasurably.  The moment felt perfect then as it did now.

And while we sat lamenting the dismal autumn for avian vagrancy, a 1st year Common Redstart flew in and sat briefly on the garden washing line before dashing into cover.  Things like this happen on the Scillies.

The visit to St. Agnes was all too brief, a lazy walk back to the quay, and back onto St. Mary's.

It was just nice pottering around for a bit.  A quick look into some of the craft shops, and then back onto the beaten track.

This Whinchat posed beautifully at the Dump Clump in the warm late afternoon sunshine as did this striking Red Admiral butterfly.

A Spotted Flycatcher was present in the old town churchyard.

The young Merlin that had been in the area for much of the week landed on a rooftop near Porth Mellon beach.  

Then onto the beach where this juvenile Black Redstart was present along with a Common Redstart.

A great way to end the last full day with a hint of sadness beginning to creep in of the impending return back to the mainland.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Isles of Scilly - Day Five

Today was a moderately frustrating one yet infinitely better than being stuck in an office on a Monday.

The morning started with interest at Morning Point on the Garrison with a Lesser Whitethroat that popped out of a path-side laurel bush and the continuing 1st year male Common Redstart that was typically skittish within the bracken.

The news of an Aquatic Warbler caused contention, never being firmly confirmed as views were extremely limited as it skulked deep within the bracken at Porthmellon beach.  The juvenile Sedge Warbler which it is purported to be when one appeared late in the day (or perhaps a different bird?) will provide enough disagreement and discord to make unequivocal confirmation difficult.

These Turnstone and Bar-tailed Godwit on the beach at Porthcressa were unfeasibly confiding.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Isles of Scilly - Day Four

Wow what a stunning day!  The sun was shining, it was warm, proper t-shirt weather, and there were some decent birds around.

By midday, I had managed to snag a juvenile Barred Warbler down at Porth Hellick, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper on the airfield, a Common Redstart on the Garrison, and a calling Yellow-browed Warbler along the coastal path towards Giants Castle.

At the Standing Stones field, a Little Bunting evaded the sight of the assembled crowd but for a ten second appearance when it sat up on a bramble before returning back into cover.

It would have been rude not to have stopped off at the Strudel cafe for some home-made....Strudel.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Isles of Scilly - Day Three

The weather turned.  It started wet and very windy that delayed the start of the day.  By late morning there were glimpses of blue sky, and false hopes that the storm was about to clear.  I set off with these vain hopes.

Three Sandwich Tern and a 1st year Mediterranean Gull were sat out on the rocks off Porthcressa. 

The showers began to pulse through after the brief hiatus but a lot of ground was covered.

On The Garrison, a Spotted Flycatcher was present actively feeding within the pines.  A lone Whinchat was also present here.  

Walking through Lower Moors, a lone Greenshank, a couple of Water Rail, Grey Wagtail, and four House Martin were all on offer.

The showers were heavy but there were enough dry spells to keep powering on but there were slim pickings on offer.  A real soaking wrapped up proceedings with the hope for better over the following days.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Isles of Scilly - Day Two

A Tawny Pipit had been present on Bryher for at least a week so the first full day on the Isles started with a boat trip across to see this little beaut.

And what charisma, darting around the tops in very Wheatear-like fashion, running circuits around the few that were privileged to see it.

A flava Yellow Wagtail paused briefly in a horse field during a walk round the island.

Back on St Mary's and a lovely walk back to hold haunts, tea and cake at the Old Town cafe, then onto the cemetery where a Yellow-browed Warbler was seen almost immediately.

The walk round Penninis was spectacular where a pod of Porpoise lazily drifted past off the point.

This juvenile Merlin was a surprise late in the day seen perched up on her headland overlooking Porthcressa having recently devoured a local House Sparrow. It looked rather bedraggled but was later seen flying well across the coastline.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Isles of Scilly - Day One

Arriving onto the Isles can invariably be a challenge, particularly in October when the weather can cause havoc with the flight connections.  Flying is always my preference to the Scillonian despite the cost and the potential on missing out on a seabird or cetacean bonanza.

The last couple of days have seen fog rolling onto the Isles and the furthest tip of the south-west mainland.  The drive down was smooth and without incident but the patches of fog en route indicated that trouble may be looming through the murk.

And so it came to pass that on arrival, it was no surprise to find that all flights were grounded due to the fog that had set in for the past couple of days.

A quick phone call and a quicker dash down to the Lighthouse Quay where a jet-boat (without a jet) was waiting to spin us across the swell to St Mary's.  A spectacular lone drake Eider glided past the Quay.

The ride was choppy but exhilarating.  Seabirds were few in number apart from the small groups of Gannet.  Two Great Skua and a Razorbill were seen close to the boat providing a bit of interest.  A Dolphin sp. briefly passed by and a small pod of Harbour Porpoise rolled through in the distance.

It was a great feeling to be back.  A late afternoon walk routed passed Portmellon and Porthcressa Beaches and up to the golf course.  There were a few things about, with a group of waders on Porthloo that included a Bar-tailed Godwit, a group of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, and a single Grey Plover.  Two juvenile Northern Wheatear were seen at Porthloo and the golf course.

A Spotted Flycatcher was seen sallying for insects in pines on the north side of the golf course, and nine Swallow flew through on the way back.