Thursday, September 30, 2010

White-winged Tern

On Tuesday, Fiona Barclay and myself took a trip to Hyde Park to take a look at the juvenile White-winged Tern that was, bizarrely, hanging around over the Serpentine. When we arrived, it was showing distantly hawking over the far side of the lake. After a little while, it landed on one of the posts where it gave good views from the road bridge.

Moving footage to follow.

After duck & rice in South Kensington for lunch, I headed off for an afternoon of touristy sight-seeing. Harrods first, then across to the palace, St James's Park, through the Foreign Office to Whitehall, down to the Houses of Parliament, back along Whitehall to Downing Street, then to Trafalgar Square before catching the tube back home.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Leach's Petrel video

After over a week in prep, here it is - the product of two days spent on the north Wirral coast, being blown over sideways, severely sandblasted, and getting my feet wet: quite possibly the best minute of Leach's Petrel footage you will see this week. Even if I do say so myself.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bluethroat spots

Occasionally, despite how things might appear on here, I try a bit of attempting to be clever. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't. A couple of weeks back I wrote something for Martin Garner's excellent blog on variation on spot-colour of 'white'-spotted Bluethroats in northeast Spain. For those of you who haven't seen it, you can find it here:
The rest of the blog is also worth checking out. There's some really interesting stuff on there!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

At Farlington this morning:

At least two Lapland Buntings, showing well. The first I've seen for quite a while. Long winged and long billed, I'm sure you'll agree.

Also a few Wheatears knocking around, assorted waders, and a flock of restless Bearded Tits that kept erupting from the reed bed, attempting to climb high, then bottling it and diving back into the reedbed calling constantly. Migration or just post-breeding dispersal? Here they are in action:

Just enough time for some healthy breakfast before heading on to Blashford:

Not a lot there worth mentioning. A Little Egret on Ivy lake was about the most exciting. We checked a few spots on the way back home (pig farms for gulls, ploughed fields for Dotterels etc etc) but managed to find nothing. Literally nothing.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Falsterbo: sound & vision

A couple of things I never got round to posting while I was away:

Marsh vs Reed Warbler. Note the difference in head shape, the difference in tertial pattern, and the position of the undertail coverts.

We caught a few 'yellow' wagtails in the reedbed, presumably thunbergi.

To my ears, they sounded different from what I was used to hearing. Slightly more sweeee than swee-oo. However, there's two things to bear in mind - 1) these birds were on migration. I'm not sure when the last time I heard a Yellow Wagtail on active migration was but I'll bet wasn't too recently. And 2) I spent the whole spring listening to iberiae-cinereocapilla (southern) type birds, so there's a good chance that's the reason these (northern type) birds sounds different to me. Anyway, I made a couple of recordings on my phone, one of which I've attempted to make into a pretty-looking sonogram:
Click >HERE< to listen to the recording.

Here's the alert sent out when we found the Barred Warbler:

Uppt av Menzie och Brinkman. Oooh yeah!

One evening, we were treated to a table full of Swedish food:

It included (extremely tasty) raw Herring. This one has extra fin:

(Apparently 'fin' is Swedish for 'fine'). And this one - sometimes the Swedes don't try very hard to combat the stereotypes:

There was also some (not quite so tasty) Surströming. Again, it's raw Herring, only this time it's left to ferment...

If ever you've been on one of the Scilly pelagics and have sat next to the bucket of chum, that is exactly what this smelt like. And yes, I did eat some.

Finally, massive thanks for Andréas for sorting it so Christian and myself could stop in the house at Falsterbo, and to Arvid, Marcus, Mikael, David, Per, Anders and everyone else out there for making our stay so enjoyable.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Another hard day in the office

With the strong winds forecast to continue overnight, I headed back to the north Wirral coast this morning to try and get some more footage of Leach's Petrels. At New Brighton, there were fewer petrels in the river mouth than there had been yesterday and they were all staying quite far out. A little further along, off Wallasey coastguard station, there were a couple of birds passing at a reasonable range; also a Guillemot and a Razorbill there, both looking rather helpless as they were tossed around in the surf.
Down at Leasowe gunsite I found two Leach's Petrels feeding (or attempting to feed) on the beach. They were really difficult to intercept and were ranging over a massive distance but at one point I did manage to time it right and one of the birds was pattering around on some standing water no more than a meter from my feet. Here's a photo of the video camera screen:

I will post some of the actual footage once it's been uploaded onto the computer in work. Hopefully it should be half-decent.
Also on the beach was an adult Med Gull.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Leach's Petrels

Yesterday, after 1 and a half hour's sleep, a 55 minute bus ride, a Dime bar and a bottle of Coke for breakfast, a somewhat extended train journey due to signal failure, a dash through check-in and a 1 hr 50 min flight, I was back in the UK.
This morning I was back in 'work'. Work, today, being filming Leach's Petrels at New Brighton...
When I arrived, there were a couple of petrels and two Manx Shearwaters out in the middle of the river mouth. As the tide came in, the petrels came closer until eventually they were flying over the surf line. As the tide reached its peak, they headed further out again.
Hardly the best quality photo in the world, but here's what one looked like on the camera screen:

A 1st-winter Little Gull and several more Manx Shearwaters were also seen. A few auks were about (including a very close Guillemot) and there were reports of Sabine's Gull and skua but, having broken my tripod, I was scope-less and thus didn't see them.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Falsterbo: day 6 (evening)

Yesterday evening into the early hours of this morning was spent out on the southern spit mistnetting waders. Three large bats flew over south at dusk - Falsterbo migration isn't just limited to birds!
We caught good numbers of birds (over 70) of 8 species: Little Stint, Dunlin (including a Polish control), Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit and Redshank, plus Sandwich Tern, Common Teal, and a bonus Wheatear.


Tonight is my last night in Sweden; I have to catch a bus from Falsterbo early tomorrow morning (in about 2 and a half hour's time, in fact), so I suspect this will be my last update from Falsterbo.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Falsterbo: day 6

Lazy morning this morning with rain putting stop to ringing and migration watching. However, 3 Blackcaps and a Redstart in the tree outside the office window at 8:30am spurred me on to get out and do some birding. There was, however, very little of note.
A Sparrowhawk was caught and ringed in the lighthouse garden; also two Grey Wagtails. A small flock of migrating Blue Tits was interesting to see. The walk back to the house was quiet with just a couple of Spotted Flycatchers and a Lesser Whitethroat of note.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Falsterbo: day 5

This morning started with a Red-throated Pipit flying north over the reedbed ringing site, followed by another 1st-year Marsh Warbler, a Water Rail and a Grey Wagtail in the hand. A Merlin caught in one of the lighthouse garden nets was a nice surprise and only the 5th to be ringed at Falsterbo. Overhead passerine migration was in full swing with counts of 99,500 Chaffinches and a record day-count of 27,290 Siskins passing over.

In the afternoon we went to take a look at a Red-breasted Flycatcher that had been found in a garden near to the lighthouse. It spent most of its time calling in the very tops of the trees, occasionally showing itself briefly.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Falsterbo: day 4 (afternoon)

It seemed to be that most of the passerine migrants had moved on by mid-afternoon. We did manage to find a mixed flock on the east side of the village though. It was mostly Blue Tits with a few Great Tits, with about 10 Willow Warblers and a few Common Chiffchaff. Also in the flock was a single Wood Warbler, a Pied Flycatcher and at least two Spotted Flycatchers. A Treecreeper was calling from nearby but never did show itself.

Falsterbo: day 4

This morning was mostly spent ringing. This Icterine Warbler was in the lighthouse garden:

And this Marsh Warbler was in the reedbed:

Both first-year birds. Also ringed were a Pied Flycatcher, a Spotted Flycatcher, a couple of Tree Pipits, and two (ad & 1st-year) Lesser Whitethroats.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Falsterbo: day 3 (afternoon)

With a report of a probably Pallid Harrier heading south, Christian [Brinkman] and myself decided to go and attempt to intercept it. We didn't get more than 150 m down the road though before we found a patch of bushes with some Sylvia activity: two Garden Warblers, two Whitethroats, a male Blackcap and....
...a Barred Warbler! A surpringly scarce bird at Falsterbo. Also in the same patch of bushes were a Pied Flycatcher and a Spotted Flycatcher, with a juv Hobby in the tree overhead.

We carried on thrashing bushes between the house and the Baltic coast but failed to find anything as scarce. A Redstart, a Spotted Flycatcher, a Lesser Whitethroat, a handful of Blackcaps, plenty more Hobbies, Sparrowhawks, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were the best on offer.
major short bill

Falsterbo: day 3

This morning started with a 1st year Thrush Nightingale at the lighthouse.

On the way up to the reedbeds, a Honey Buzzard and a Common Buzzard flew over, a Temminckäs Stint was migrating south, and a Hobby was giving a Sparrowhawk a hard time.

Ringing totals from the reedbed included three Grasshopper Warblers, three Yellow (presumed Grey-headed) Wagtails, a Whinchat, and a Mallard.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Falsterbo: day 2

Caspian Gull, Tawny Pipit, Hen Harrier, Marsh Harrier, Hobby, Peregrine, Merlin and load'a Sparrowhawks this morning.

The afternoon was spent birding by bike. Easier said than done for me thanks to:
- Having not ridden a bike for near enough about 7 years now
- Having to ride on the wrong side of the road
- Having only one gear*
- and having no working brake**
Sightings included Pied & Spotted Flycatcher, various waders and a Whooper Swan this afternoon. Assorted pictures below:

Big bridge, viewed from the 'north point'

Watch out for nekked bathers.

Whooper Swan

*It turns out I did have more than one gear; I just hadn't worked out that I had to do an odd back-kick sort of thing to change to go from 'low gear' to 'high gear'.
** And I did have working brakes. I simply had to back-peddle... It seems the brake on the handlebars was simply there for decoration.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010


IKEA; ABBA; The Hives; Swedish House Mafia; expensive beer; attractive blondes; Falsterbo. Is there anything more to Sweden? If the adversitment board in Svägertorp station is anything to go by, no.

It just so happened that my friend Andréas (attractive blonde) is spending the autumn working at a bird observatory (Falsterbo). Not one to turn down the offer of free accommodation, I set off to Copenhagen. A short train journey over a long bridge later and I was in Sweden. After a 55 minute bus journey, I arrived at Falsterbo.
Updates to follow as and when.

Friday, September 03, 2010

You're Barred!

On Wednesday morning, I had to be in Norfolk for work. Not wanting to waste the opportunity to get a bit of coastal birding done before hand, I got up at 02:15, left London at 02:45 and arrived at Cley coastguards car park for 05:50, where I met up with Joe Cockram who has been working on Blakeney Point over the summer. From there, we headed down to the point.

Blakeney Point at dawn.

With clear skies overnight, the previous day's migrants had all cleared out. All except one... We checked the plantation and soon found a big grey beast of a warbler of a warbler shaking the leaves off branches as it crashed through the small trees. It refused to give anything but the briefest of glimpses, though, as it moved from one patch of trees to another. Then, eventually, it flew across to the Tamarix bushes giving prolonged good, unobscured views and finally allowing me to tick that little box next to Barred Warbler that had remained empty for so many years!
A Spoonbill in the channel was a pleasant (though probably not to be unexpected) surprise. Other than a load of Meadow Pipits and Dunnocks, all doing their best to look like something rare, the walk back was quiet. We were back in the car park by 08:30, more than enough time for me to head off and get where I needed to be. A Wheatear was around the car park as I left and two Swifts were over Hepton as I drove south.