Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Lark of the Shore

As usual South Tyneside has turned up some pretty bad birds with Shorelark being the highlight of today. Don’t you just hate that place, what with Greenish Warbler, Firecrest, Yellow-browed Warbler, famous Eastern Crowned Warbler, and now Shorelark!

A few texts from some mates alerted me to the birds presence in Mango’s Car Park. So with my University tutorial (yeah, that’s what they call a lesson) over I headed down and picked up on the bird nearly straight away. I had some good views of the bird an decided to leave it in peace so it could feed around the cars in the car park.

I had a quick look in Trow Quarry itself and was rewarded with Lesser Whitethroat and 2 Goldcrest. A Willow Warbler was present but it’s hardly an Eastern Crowned is it?

Special thanks to Stephen Egglestone for letting me use his photos for my blog. Greatly appreciated as it is to everyone who lets me use their images: Derek, Dougie, Mark, James, and others. Thanks again.

(Shore Lark -  © Stephen Egglestone)

(Shore Lark - © Stephen Egglestone)
Click on the images to enlarge them

Until next time, Foghorn out! NO, I won’t stop doing on about the Eastern Crowned Warbler! lol

Sunday, 26 September 2010

I don’t really care about that Flycatcher

I mean who would travel all that way and take a knackering 3 mile walk to go and look for a bird like that! Well I was going to but sadly the plans didn’t go ahead, not to worry can’t win them all!

However every dark cloud has a sliver lining. This morning was a good seawatch but frustrating when a Pom flew past and a few of us couldn’t get on it. There’ll be others; I wish I could say that about the Alder/Willow flycatcher! This afternoon things looked up when I couldn’t resist a Woodchat Shrike at Hartlepool Headland, cracking views and a lifer! A Snow Bunting around the corner was very interesting especially considering how I found it. mILLYg had turned up and we were walking down this alley by a Childs play park (don’t get any ideas!)

So here we were walking along and the conversation when something like this.
mILLYg: “So where’s this Snow Bunting then?”
(Whilst mILLYg was talking I was thinking: I don’t actually know but think its on the headland – or along those lines)
Foghorn: (not even a second after mILLYg got his question out). “There.” (I point at the bird 7ft in front of us as we flushed a little way)

No kidding! Was really funny so we both burst out laughing. We had cracking views of the Snow Bunting and then I had one last quick look at the Woodhcat Shrike and then off home. Here are my best efforts at photographing the birds:

(Snow Bunting - Hartlepool Headland)

(Woodchat Shrike - cick photo to enlarge)

Until next time, Foghorn out! OH! I didn't want to see that Flycatcher, I will convince myself!

(Woodchat Shrike - Derek Charlton)

(Woodchat Shrike - Derek Charlton)

Friday, 24 September 2010

Birding at technology in the 21st century

 (If some of the text in this post is a different colour then you can click on it as it is a link to another page online.)

There can be no doubt about it; technology has assisted birding hugely over the years. With the invention of the pager allowing the ‘early’ twitchers to get to see birds that often they would only hear about a couple of weeks later! Now of course the pager is somewhat becoming ‘old news’ with bird information now being able to be sent to peoples mobiles, or of course people can check the internet with their mobile phones to see what has been seen. Speaking of the internet where would we birders and twitchers be without it? For one thing we wouldn’t have Eastern Crowned Warbler on our British list see HERE and HERE, read first one then second. Then there is a the many bird news services broadcasting news day and sometimes night so that birders around the country can see what birds they desire. Let’s not forget the countless forums, blogs, and other bird related websites that we use or can use if we need them. Additionally how do you know what many birds you have never seen before sound like? The answer is thanks to technology bird calls and sounds can be recorded and uploaded for everyone on the planet who can access it to enjoy. We are also fortunate enough to view images of birds taken on our doorsteps, counties, and the other parts of the world, on occasions you can view images taken on the other side of the world on the same day they were taken! Technology is great for birding and I am sure many wouldn’t disagree, in fact if you are enjoying this post so far you can’t disagree. ;)

However (you might have know this was coming) technology also has its draw backs when it comes to birding in this day and age, or so I think anyway. You can of course make your own mind up and please do leave your comments in the comment section as I would like to hear them. This post is fuelled by the recent Brown Flycatcher on Shetland thread, until late on this afternoon there was a big debate going on about a photo and how much it looked like a Spotted Flycatcher. It turned out in the end that it was actually a Spotted Flycatcher and the finder said that he couldn’t be 100% sure, good and honest of the observer to actually admit he rushed into the ID a bit. However it got me thinking, we are now always wanting to see photos instead of just taking peoples word for it when they claim rare birds. I personally think that notes and descriptions are sufficient enough to get a bird accepted, even if it is exceptionally rare. Are we not just relying too much on images to confirm if a bird is what the observer(s) say it is!

Don’t get me wrong I like to see pictures but if a picture was of bad quality and features were hard to make out and decipher between species I would take the observers word for it. Am I naive, perhaps? I just think that sometimes birders (myself included) just don’t look at the bigger picture and need to see a photo of a rarity to believe it and if it doesn’t quite look right we question the validity of the record.

Don’t hate me by the way! Until next time, Foghorn out!

ps. Go back to the post with the photo of the Eastern Crowned Warbler on it. Hover over it and see how many views it had. Compare that to the picture next to it. LOL

Monday, 20 September 2010

Sharp-tailed Sandpiper - Greatham Creek, Teesside - 20/09/2010

The first day of Uni went ok but I was tired when I got home as was looking forward to a nice restful evening. I was watching The Simpsons on Channel 4 when news came through that a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper has been seen at Greatham Creek. I rushed my tea down, topped up my engine oil, and was on my way. I arrived at about 7:30ish and got good views in fairly poor light, however 5 minutes after I had been there the light deteriorated further making viewing even more difficult. I had cracking views if I am honest and at fairly close range. A fantastic bird and a one I will no doubt be forgetting for a while, its one of those birds I didn’t think I was going to see ever in the UK never mind locally.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Its over

Yes this is the end friends.

Sadly I just don't think me and birding go together anymore. I have enjoyed my brief stint and getting to know everyo............

HAHAHHA! As if! You really think I would pack in birding? LOL

No, what is over it my constant daily birding as I start University (today). So I better get off here and get some sleep! I will still be birding but sadly not as much I fear as just like before June of this year work stops play. However lifers will still be just too irresistible and I will certainly still be very keen and hopefully using my blog as regular as I have been over the past few months.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

It all Terned out well in the end

In answer to PC wanderings question there are never too many Tern puns. Some of you may know I dipped the White-winged Black Tern at East Chevington last week and I thought that was my chance gone however this was not the be the case. Today was another failure by saying that I wasn’t going to go out birding to save fuel costs. This was thrown out the window on refreshing a bird news service page at White-winged Black Tern coming up as being present at Cresswell Pond NWT. Having realised that if you snooze you loose I shot of up there with my friend Andy who is also a birder, sure I have mentioned him here many times before.

On arrival I didn’t really feel good about the bird still being present. However on crossing the road to the area where the photographers where standing I was greeted by news from a kind lady that the bird was still present as well as a Wood Sandpiper. I looked and here was the Tern flying only about 30ft from the photographers feeding quite happy and not bothered by their presence. I joined them and had some fantastic views of the White-winged Black Tern allowing for me to observe all the distinguishing features separating it from Black Tern. Observations:
- Smaller than Black Tern and very dainty in appearance.
- Sharp contrast between the white rump, brown mantle, and grey upper tail coverts.
- Underwings very white and when the bird turned very contrasting.

I was quite taken back at how different it was from the Black Tern juveniles I have seen in the past. It was nice to see it gain some height and then fly off out to sea never to be seen again, quite special. Good to finally meet Alan Tilmouth and catch up with Tim Cleeves.

(White-winged Black Tern - Andrew K)
Click on image to increase size

Life tick and year tick, unimportant when I consider the views I got of this fabulous bird.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Wry the knas’!

Or for those who don’t understand the way some people speak around my way: Well you know! I have had some excellent days birding since I made my last post. I have seen a few quite rare birds and had some good days birding. On Thursday I was out with Killy Birder and we started the day of well with 4 Spotted Redshank, 3 Curlew Sandpiper, and a Marsh Harrier being the highlights in a brief look around the North Tees Marshes. After this we went into Saltholme RSPB to the new CafĂ© there, they ruined Saltholme since they built that flipping reserve you know! ;) I must remember to have my lunch there once as they serve proper food: Pies! (Not as if I am a typical Northern birder or anything). From here we decided that we would head up to the Headland and we quickly found the Firecrest in its usual spot in front of Borough Hall on the Headland. We failed to locate the Barred Warbler so we headed of to Hendon Docks which is well north of where we were, however it was worth a look as we were rewarded with good views of the Red-backed Shrike that has been reported. Fish & Chips for tea was a nice way to end a very memorable days birding.

Friday I said I wasn’t going out at all and was having a day in to save on the old fuel bill. This was thrown out the window at about 4 when news came through of a possible Citrine Wagtail that was reported as being present at South Gare, a quick call to The Finch and he said he would go down and have a look. When we arrived it wasn’t positive news and after thorough searching all birders present couldn’t relocate the reported Citrine Wagtail. We walked along the beach and didn’t see much, when I was making my way to the other birders I saw a birder on his mobile that was waving me over quite frantically. It all became clear why as literally minutes ago the birders had discovered a Broad-billed Sandpiper! Typical, I had just scanned through them before I came up off the beach!!!!! I had cracking views through the scope and obtained some phone scoping images just so I could get a record shot since I was there when it was discovered. We also saw Little Stint and Curlew Sandpiper amongst the hundreds of Dunlin and Sanderling present. We then went and I managed to sort of relocate the Wryneck at the Cabin Rocks and had some excellent close range views of the bird as it went about its business. Then off home for some pizza!

Yesterday was another fantastic day out with some mates from Durham Bird Club, young Kieran, The Mitch, and The Finch. We started the day looking for the juvenile Red-backed Shrike at Hendon Docks and we were successfully but it only showed briefly before doing a disappearing act! From here we headed onto check out Trow Quarry and The Leas Mound, we had some good birds with Little Owl and Black Redstart the best birds of note. We departed and went to see how the ringers were getting on, not so well with only a few migrant caught up until the point when we arrived. After some lunch we headed onto Hartlepool Headland where we got terrific views of the Firecrest before going onto South Gare where good views were had of the Wryneck again. A walk around produced crippling views of a Lapland Bunting at the end of South Gare (see photos below).

(Red-backed Shrike - Hendon Docks - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Broad-billed Sandpiper - South Gare - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Lapland Bunting - South Gare - Derek Charlton)

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

The Great Fall of September 2010

It’s the sort of day that we birders dream about. The feel is in the air that there must have been a good fall of migrants up and down the east coast of the United Kingdom. Today our suspicions where confirmed with armies of migrants all over the place up and down the east coast and Durham was no exception!

Getting up bright and early (11:30) I had some lunch and picked up a mate of mine and we went migrant hunting down at Hartlepool and hoping something really good would turn up at Whitburn later on in the afternoon that we could go and see. It was one of those days where even if you went to see other people’s birds you might find your own stuff and this seemed to happen today. We started off looking for the Red-breasted Flycatcher opposite the Jewish Cemetery but we failed miserably! However further down the road be managed cracking views of 5-7 Whinchat’s, which wasn’t the actually overall total of birds present. So we went onto the Headland and the call went up of a Wryneck, we went over the crowd who said a Firecrest was calling from the tree in front of us and the Wryneck was in the other trees. We waited a while and had a canny total:

1 Wood Warbler
2+ Spotted Flycatchers
1 Willow Warbler

Ten the call went up that the ringers had caught a Barred Warbler, the young lady who was going to ring the Barred Warbler was coming and we rushed over and had cracking views of the Barred Warbler, all be it in the hand. But a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush! We also had good views of Pied Flycatcher and Garden Warbler in the hand being rung. From here we headed back to where the Firecrest was and as we arrived back it has just been seen and all eyes where focused on looking for the Firecrest. It zipped along after a while into a stack of trees and then minutes later flew back and sat out in the open for a few minutes allowing for fantastic views of these fantastic little birds!

From here headed back for another look for the Red-breasted Flycatcher. Just as we had got out or car no sooner where we back in and heading back to the Headland as Mark rang me to tell me the Wryneck was showing now! We rushed back and on arrival discovered it was in the same tree as the Firecrest. We got some fantastic views of it and I also managed a few pictures. We went back later for another look for the Red-breasted Flycatcher but drew a blank, though I did see a Pied Flycatcher which was self found until someone told me they had spotted it only minutes beforehand!

(Wryneck - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Garden Warbler - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Pied Flycatcher - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Barred Warbler - Andrew Kinghorn)

All in all and excellent day with Firecrest and Wryneck both being year ticks. So until next time, Foghorn out!

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Barred for life

About time I had my wings clipped! University will put an end to that when I go on the 20th of this month. However I am enjoying my last few weeks of birding. With plans to try and obtain some better views of the EOW than just a quick flash by I went back to Flamborough Head with The Finch and young Kieran who hadn’t seen one before. On arrival it became clear it had done a runner, inconsiderate little brown job. However we were soon happy with news the Barred Warbler and Common Rosefinch had been present. It wasn’t long until one of my blog followers and a friend from BirdForum Rob introduced himself and said who he was. Nice to meet you mate!

Out hopes were dampened when we were told the Rosefinch stayed only a while before flying off! However everyone started looking up on the hill at the Barred Warbler, I couldn’t find it on the thick undergrowth with directions like “next to the white flowers” and “in the undergrowth”. However it took flight and flew over the path to the other side on a more open area of undergrowth and bushes. When I think about it I was taken back by the size of the bird, it was really big for a warbler. I managed some scope views of the Barred Warbler down low in the tree and it was quite a distinctive bird. We gained some height and it took flight again and we saw it in flight and I picked it up clambering about in the bushes in the distance briefly before it disappeared. We then decided to do a bit sea watching with Fulmar being the highlight, no kidding!

Me and Kieran then decided we would look for the Barred Warbler one last time. We waited a bit and I caught site of a large chunky warbler flying into a tree on the thick undergrowth of the hill. I shouted out to alert others of where it flew, after people having difficulty to locate the tree from my good directions the warbler flew out behind right out in to the open eventually and people said it was a Garden Warbler. However it looked large, broad tailed which also appeared to have a greyish tone to it, and didn’t look slim like that of a Garden Warbler and I have seen a few Garden Warblers before. It was just too big; it showed its face again and the chaps beside me who said it was just a Garden Warbler said it was big and seemed as though they where also in agreement with us two young lads it was actually the Barred Warbler that we were looking at. It was a tricky one as light was bad and we couldn’t see the tell tail bars on flanks or on the tail but it seemed to be we came to the agreement it was the Barred Warbler. From here we left shortly after and headed back to Ryhope back home in the hope of getting the Lapland Buntings. We arrived at about 4:30 and where soon watching the Lapland Buntings. I had some simply fantastic views of these 6 Lapland Bunting through both the scope and the bins of these fantastic little birds.

(Lapland Bunting - © Derek Charlton)

(Lapland Bunting - © Derek Charlton)

2 lifers with Barred Warbler and Lapland Bunting. Here’s to these strong easterly winds + rain on Tuesday!

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Thursday, 2 September 2010

A day pretty much wasted at St Mary's

After having dipped the Greenish Warbler on Tuesday after having seen the Bonaparte's Gull I wasn't to fussed about going again as it was elusive. Therefore I decided to have a day in gaming, I rang Martin to tell him about the views I got of the EO Warbler yesrerday. It cropped up about the Greenish Warbler and Martin said he thought one was due in Durham, thiking nothing more of it I just went about my daily routine.

I got a call later on when I was relaxing and wathing the TV from Mark (County Recorder) he said that a Greenish had been found on The Leas! My reply was something like "your joking?" followed by something like 'I'm on my way!'. Picked up The Finch (Derek Charlton) and young Kieran and went to The Leas and got there in good time whilst obeying the law I might add!

When we arrived it was nice to catch up some local lads and we had some fantastic views of the Greenish in both the scope and bins, nearly unreal views. Scope views where simply fantastic and I got a pretty good chance to study the bird, I think I would know one if I saw one again. It was also calling, a very distinctive call nothing like I've ever heard from Willow Warbler or Chiffchaff. What a day! Greenish is a lifer for me and what a bird to have for a lifer!

(young Kieran looking a bit guilty lol)

(from left: Mara from Jara (Mark-background) Kieran and Me (front))

(Greenish Warbler © - Dougie Holden)

(Greenish Warbler © - Dougie Holden)
Special thanks as always to Dougie and Derek for allowing me to use their photos in my blog posts. Also thanks to Mark who also lets me use his photos.


Skulk but I shouldn’t sulk

I am not the greatest fan of skulking little warblers as I often get terrible views that are barely tickable. However yesterday I got some quite mediocre views of a rare vagrant warbler from the continent, I am of course talking about the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler at Flamborough Head in East Yorkshire. Being a clever lad and living in the North I wasn’t far really but I couldn’t find anyone who was up for going to twitch it! The local county recorder sent me a text asking if I was going and said that I was quite tempted, special thanks to Mark has he rang Newton Stringer and it was soon arranged that I could go with Gary and Alan, who’s car it was. We arrived at 6:00 and stayed until about 8:00, I saw the bird three times in all. Once when it zipped past out in the open, but didn’t get it in the bins. Another time just before I left when it was visible in a gap in the tree, I lifted my bins and just as I got on the bird for a millisecond it flew off left into cover. However the best view I got was first time I saw it, I could see a bird sitting hidden by the vegetation at the top of a bush, it was a sandy brown colour and as the bird had been seen there a few minutes before hand I knew it had to be the bird. The people immediately around me got onto the bird with the bins and the people to my left much have got a better view than me as I only saw the back and tail, I don’t even think I saw its legs or head. Gary waited for it to move slightly and as Gary got a better view it flew left and down into deeper cover in the willows. I asked Gary “Gary, was that it?” to my delight he said “Yes”. So when I think about it I was very happy because Gary confirmed it was the bird as he had a better view from where he was standing. I got better views of the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler than what I did of the Greenish Warbler which I didn’t tick on views I had.

So all in all a good day, I was disappointed I didn’t see the bird sitting out in the open briefly like I did with the Sykes’s Warbler but still at least I know I defiantly saw the Eastern Olivaceous Warbler. I also heard the tacking call from deep in the cover when it was skulking around, so all in all a good day with another lifer in the bag.