Thursday, January 22, 2009

Petrel bomb

Here's a blast from the past. Last July, to be precise. An excellent few days spend up in northern Scotland ringing European Storm-petrels with the Merseyside Ringing group. I didn't mention it earlier for reasons that may, or may not, become clear in a year or two's time...
Alan Hitchmough and myself headed up on Sunday to meet the others on the island that afternoon. We set up camp and grabbed a few hours sleep before our first night of ringing. Each day was generally the same, with ringing from 23:00 that evening to 04:00 the next morning, then a few hours sleep, then a bit of time around the island before another doze ready for another night of ringing.

^ View from my tent

^ View from the top of the hill looking back toward the "campsite"

^ Setting up the nets

^ Storm-petrel...

More pics of petrels in the hand HERE.

Other birds ringed on the island indlused a juvenile Wheatear and a juvenile Great Skua (doing its best to hide behind a clod of earth).

Leaving the island, there were dozens of Black Guillemots on the sea and a small flock of Twite when we got back into the harbour.

^ Health & safety nightmare

^ Leaving on the boat

^ The aptly named Goldcrest (the tiiiny orange boat at the end of the small pier) arriving back in the harbour with the second lot

Friday, January 16, 2009

A slow start

Ah, it's that time of year again... January. And that can only mean one thing: January exams. And what do January exams mean? No birding... Or relatively little, anyway.

Here's the highlights from the last 16 days:

2nd Jan, Martin Mere. Lots of ducks and things. And a Dutch Ruff sporting national colours (on orange legs).

Later, at Mere Sands Wood, more ducks but not so many things.

(the ducks are somewhere over to the right on the bit that's not frozen solid)

At Moore, on, umm, sometime between the 3rd and the 10th, the usual stuff inc. Willow Tits at the feeders and 'the' Tawny Owl. Two Bitterns on the Eastern Reedbed at dusk were nice.

And at Frodsham, a Merlin, some Curlew, errr....

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Goodbye 08

I started the year in one of my favourite places for birding: the Pyrenees in northern Catalonia. Highlight there was a Wallcreeper, along with other exciting birds like Alpine Accentors, some stunning scenery and the best of company…

Back in the UK, I bought myself a shiny new telescope.
The first notable day out was late January when I spent the day in north Norfolk. Highlight was a Lapland Bunting through… The supporting cast included a several dodgy white geese and the White-crowned Sparrow. Possibly the final nail in the twitching coffin for me: the sparrow was a boring bird and the hordes of clueless "birders" left me wishing I’d stayed in Spain and never wanting to leave the house again!

Skip to April. I’m not actually sure what I did for the 3 months since the end of January but whatever it was, it was largely uneventful. A Cattle Egret was a much sought-after Merseyside tick in the first week on the month. The end of the month ended with a ringed Avocet with a nice bit of history and me breaking my shiny new telescope…

The Ross’s Gull in Lancs at the start of May was quite nice; better than the first winter I saw a couple of years back, though the species is still vastly overrate in my opinion. A Temminck’s Stint was a nice find at Frodsham on the 15th, even if it is a bit lame on a national level. A few days later I added Red-rumped Swallow and Red-backed Shrike to my county list, the former being the first one I had seen in the UK.

Then I headed back out to Spain for a week. Highlights (picked from a list of already top class species & experiences) included my first Lammergeier, in the Pyrenees; some night-time birding (a chorus of European & Red-necked Nightjars, Scops Owls, Nightingales, frogs and crickets: magical!); flocks of Red-footed Falcons all over the show; and two days on the Ebro Delta, where we spent the evening on the beach sound-recording & photographing a flock of Collared Pratincoles, and a day helping to monitor Audouin’s Gulls in the 12,000+ strong colony there.

Midsummer was spent sleeping, or something. Fast forward to the end of August, on the Isles of Scilly. Highlight here came in the form of a Humpback Whale that nearly flattened the MV Sapphire when it decided to breach fully only yards from the boat on one of the evening pelagics.

Undoubted highlight of late Autumn was in October when, after a trip to Tophill Low in Yorkshire, we heard news of a Desert Wheatear in Merseyside! Excellent stuff. And then there was the small matter of that falcon. “NOML” I think is the twitching term.

Seeing birds land on people’s heads is always funny and shrikes are quality, so a Steppe Grey Shrike in Lincolnshire - combining both of these features and with the added bonus that it was rare - was nice to see.

The year finished in Eire where I froze my balls off for the sake of a few gulls and Forster’s Tern.

Happy 2009, everyone!