Thursday, 26 May 2011

Butterflies - For when there's no birds

Well maybe the title is being a little unkind. I have recently taken an interest in butterflies; I guess it was unavoidable as I see them nearly all the time during the summer months and I like most things that can fly anyway. Its a little known fact I am not overly keen on moths but I do like butterflies I think they are very nice creatures and as I discovered yesterday superb little things.

I went out with a couple of mates of mine. One of them breeds giant moon moths and therefore has a real passion of these creatures. He was into butterflies and moths before he got into birding, infact he had moths and butterflies to thank for his current interest in birds. My mate said he would help to show me the ropes and kindly gave me a pocket field guide to British butterflies and we went to our first port of call; Bishop Middleham quarry. This site is famous for the Bee Eaters that nested near by some 6 or 7 years ago, I don't like to think about it to much as it pains me. The target species of butterfly was a Dingy Skipper which my mate informs me is quite a localised bird in Durham with not many found elsewhere. Below are some photos of butterflies we managed in Bishop Middleham quarry.

 (Common Blue - © Adam Williams)

(Common Blue - © Andrew Kinghorn)

  (Wall Brown - © Adam Williams)

(Small Heath - © Andrew Kinghorn)

(Dingy Skipper - © Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Durham Brown Argus - © Adam Williams)

Certainly the above butterfly is my favourite. There is a butterfly called the Northern Brown Argus but apparently this species is an isolated population and is treat as a subspecies known as; Durham Brown Argus. Such a beautiful looking butterfly. We left Bishop Middleham quarry fairly happy especially having seen Durham Brown Argus. Our next stop was Bishop Middleham Castle Lake DBC reserve for some birding. We didn't really see anything much of note other than a Yellow Wagtail but we did add the only Green-veined White butterfly of the day.

 (Green-veined White - © Adam Williams)

We had some lunch and then all agreed we could have a look down Rainton Meadows to see if anything was about and also we might get the chance to see some butterflies aswell. Turns out there was nothing much at all on the reserve and it was quite for birds so we turned our attention to butterflies again.

 (Small White - © Adam Williams)

 (Large Skipper- © Adam Williams)

  (Small Copper - © Adam Williams)

  (Small Copper - © Andrew Kinghorn)

The Small Copper looked very fresh, my mate reckoned it must have just come out. We also had a Large White fly past us but it was to quick for a photograph. Superb day getting acquainted with butterflies. I can tell myself and butterflies are going to get on quite well. 

Off to Norfolk for a long weekend, will hear all about it when I am back.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Facebook Application

Hi all,

Got Facebook? Like a challenge?

Then this is the post for you.

I have recently developed a Facebook Bird Quiz application where you are asked a series of 10 questions, after answering these questions you will be given a score. You can then post this score to your wall.

I developed this application as part of my University course and you can access and use it free here:

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Monday, 23 May 2011

More (r)egrets

Actually a Spoonbill isn't a member of the egret family but its a good title for the blog so ignore that fact. So here I was quietly getting along with my work for my University end of year project when all of a sudden my phone goes and I am alerted to a message from BirdGuides that a Spoonbill had turned up in Durham; Spoonbill at Stoneybeck Lake, Bishop Middleham was the message I received. Having never seen a Spoonbill in Durham before I had to go so I grabbed bins, scope, and coat and loaded the car. I was on site within about 25 minutes and so was the finder Neil Fawcett, who's dedication on patch has paid of again when he found a cracking Spoonbill. It was a first for the site as the other bird reported back in 2008 was only a flyover and therefore didn't actually land on Castle Lake itself. However the problem was this bird wasn't on Castle Lake but the nearby Stoneybeck! Nevertheless we enjoyed before moving on. Myself and Neil checked out Castle Lake and while in the hide I spotted it coming flying in and it thankfully landed on Castle Lake; making it a first for the site!

It showed well:
 (Spoonbill - Andrew Kinghorn)

  (Spoonbill - Andrew Kinghorn)

  (Spoonbill - Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Spoonbill - Andrew Kinghorn)

And some video, as always best views in HD. To do this click where it says "360" on the video tab bar and change it to "720HD":

But really I don't have any regrets as the tile might indicate as although I went to Northumberland to see 4 on Saturday I didn't enjoy the bird any-more or any-less than I would have anyway. The more I see the merrier in my opinion.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

List OR Not To List?

This is the question? Well I suppose its a question for a few of us who actually keep lists of birds, insects, etc.

For the first 4 or so years of birding I didn't really keep a list as such, I knew what I had seen and what I hadn't seen and therefore never thought about keeping a list. When I first got into birding it would be very rare if I got any further than Rainton Meadows DWT. The reserve had served me well, on one occasion I remember my RSPB bird book showing me a map for Brambling distribution in the UK. The map showed that Brambling wintered where I lived in Durham and therefore off I went to Rainton Meadows DWT for a walk around Joe's Pond. I saw about 20 or 30 birds along a walkway; I know now that it must have been a good Brambling winter as I don't see many birds down Rainton Meadows most winters. Other than the Bramblings I can't really remember having anything else of great note apart from a self found Greenshank that practically made my day; though I did think I had found a Lesser Yellowlegs at the time!

However I joined Durham Bird Club in the year 2008 and a wealth of information was opened up to me and I also met many like minded individuals who lives fairly close to home. This wealth of information helped me to spread my wings and I started birding at different places and places further afield. It wasn't soon until I became hooked due to the fact I was seeing new birds I had never seen before. Therefore I started to keep a list.

I have kept lists for about 2 years now and I have a few;
- British Life List
- World Life List
- British Year List
- Durham List
- Durham Year List

The latter 2 being fairly new lists I have started within the past few months. But why keep lists? For me personally it helps with my interest. I like to count how many species of birds I see myself over my life or in the case of a year list over a short period of time. Its interesting to see how as I got more interested and saw more birds my list grew at quite an extortionate rate. Back in 2008 my British List was about 148 and now its 292 which means it has nearly doubled over a period of 3 years. I hope by the end of 2011 I shall have reached my target of seeing 300 species of bird in the UK. The next milestone should follow after about 10 years I reckon.

But does keeping a list retract from the enjoyment of the birds? In some ways I think certainly yes. I think you spend so much time whizzing around looking for birds to add to a list that you don't stop to enjoy the birds as much as you should. I am sometimes guilty of this but can I ask who isn't? New Years day......wife/family wants you home for something and you whiz around somewhere local hoping to pick up a couple of year ticks before the day is out. Sound familiar? But keeping a list is fun; lets face it we all enjoy having a cheeky word with your mates asking what their lists are on and having a bit of a joke if you have more than them.

But does keeping a list mean that you are only interested in lists and not birds? Absolutely not! For some people it might be the case where they are only in the hobby because they want a bird to "tick of a list" and don't care if they see the right bird but just want one up on their mates or to claim they have the biggest list in the land. For me I keep a list as its for me; its a personal record of what I have seen. I don't care who's list is bigger or how many more birds they have seen than me. I am interested in the birds not the ticks! I take delight in seeing a new bird as believe it or not; I want to go and see and enjoy the bird.

Can listing make a bird special? In some cases certainly yes. If your a local patcher and keep a local patch list sometimes the most common of birds are the ones that could get pulses really going. A Little Stint at an inland site would be an excellent bird to tick of the local patch list compared to seeing the bird on coastal mudflats. More importantly the bird is likely to be much more admired because of its location on your local patch rather than somewhere you would normally expect to see Little Stint.

So is listing bad; No.
Does listing take away from the enjoyment of birds sometimes; probably.
Will I continue to keep a list; yes.
Do I care more about my list or enjoying the birds; enjoying the birds.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Saturday, 21 May 2011

No (r)egrets

Myself and a mate of mine had planned to spend the day in sunny Teesside hoping to either find the Spoonbills that had flown north the previous evening or go and see them if they were relocated. It was a fairly early start (I am a student) so shortly after about 09.00 I received a text from my mate saying the birds had moved to Northumberland. My mate lives in Sunderland so I said I would pick him up and drive for the day. So off we headed to Druridge Pools where the birds had been reported on my mates pager.

As I arrived people were standing around outside and my hopes were dampened. I was in my usual "Woe, we are not going to see them" mood. I had never really had a good look at a Spoonbill before as the only ones I had ever seen were at Cley Marshes NWT reserve and they were asleep pretty much the whole time. On arriving at the budge screen on site I noted everyone looking purposely out of the right hand side of the platform. Thankfully there they were; 4 stunning Spoonbill. Also they weren't sleeping but feeding! We enjoyed watching the birds for about 30 mins until we had our fill and moved on. As always it was great to have a chat to some of the locals and expand our knowledge of birds and bird history in the Northumberland area.

 (Spoonbill - Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Spoonbill - Andrew Kinghorn)

As always best to change the video quality to HD to enjoy the video fully. When you put it on HD its pretty good footage the stuff I take, well at least I think it is. No Spielberg but there you go. 

 (Spoonbill - Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Spoonbill - Andrew Kinghorn)

Since we had thoroughly enjoyed the Spoonbills we headed off north and scoped over to Coquet Island and managed to see a fair few Roseate Terns aswell as our first Arctic Terns of the year. I also added Puffin to my year list as I hadn't seen any so far this year as I haven't really done any seawatching and haven't been out of Durham for most of the year. We also checked East Chevington NWT where we enjoyed excellent views of Sandwich Terns and a 2 Arctic Tern. A check of Cresswell produced 4 Avocets with one still on eggs thankfully; these birds are the most Northerly breeding Avocets in the UK at the moment. Lets hope Edinburgh gets them next.

 (Arctic Tern - Andrew Kinghorn)

 (Avocet- Andrew Kinghorn)

We then went home after an excellent days birding. Until next time, Foghorn out!

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Some Owling

I had a nice evening out Owling. Headed to a site that traditionally holds a few pairs of Long-eared Owls (as many as 7 this year I believe). We had excellent views as always of 2 birds; 1 bird from a pair that nests near and abandoned tip and 1 bird near an abandoned railway track.

The first bird I picked up was out hunting at 08.10 and it was still daylight; excellent to watch. Also strange to see a Swallow having a go at it. We had a few other excellent views of them before we retired for the evening at about 9.30.

I love Long-eared Owls me, definitely my favourite of them all. Barn Owl is nice yeah, but still I prefer Long-eared Owl.

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Not so brief stint

On Monday morning Gary Crowder and John Bridges found 3 Temminck's Stint that flew into the pool in front of the hide at Rainton Meadows DWT. Thankfully I managed to get down on the evening and see all 3 of these superb little waders. As always views from the hide were excellent and I enjoyed probably my best ever views of Temminck's Stint. I went down again myself yesterday evening and found the birds again but my intention was to get some video as the other video I have of Temminck's Stint is very distant and its hard to make the bird out! I was successful and managed a video, I will let you be the judge of my efforts.

(Temminck's Stint - © John Bridges)

 (Temminck's Stint - © John Bridges)

(Temminck's Stint - © John Bridges)

Temminck's Stints, make sure you view in HD:

Here's a Ringed Plover that was also present, this is a semi-rare bird itself on the reserve:

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Terns, Ducks, and the likes

On Tuesday of last week myself and a mate decided to check out the White-winged Black Tern that had turned up at East Chevington NWT in Northumberland the night beforehand. I wasn't hopeful the bird would still be present and in the interest of saving my fuel I waited until it was reported on BirdGuides as being present. Sure enough the bird had been reported as still being present and myself and my mate made our way for the short trip north to East Chevington NWT. My mate checked his phone just before we arrived on site only to be greeted with that sad face every birder hates to see on BirdGuides which symbolises negative news and the bird has gone. I still had to keep moral up and said it might come back.

We arrived on site and sat around for a good 45 minutes but the bird failed to show! We went back to the car and I decided I would have a snack before moving onto Cresswell Pond NWT for a look, I don't usually snack but it proved to be a good move. I saw my mate lift his bins and turn to his side and I saw the subject he was looking at; a small gull like bird gliding into the main pool at East Chevington NWT. He turned to me and said "That looked like the White-winged Black Tern", I smiled and he said something like "honestly". So we jumped out smiling and I peered over a nearby gate that looks along a hedge toward the pool. I caught a glimpse of about a second and knew straight away his eyes had not deceived him. We grabbed our gear from my car boot and made our way down to the hide. The bird performed excellently and it was my first summer plumaged bird; what a stunner!

(White-winged Black Tern - Andrew Kinghorn)

A quick check of Rainton Meadows DWT paid dividends when I managed to see a cracking male Ruff along with his female. Best looking Ruff I have ever seen:

(Ruff - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Ruff - Andrew Kinghorn)

On Wedensday I decided as a break from working on my Uni assignment I would have an hour or so fresh air and decided to head down to Rainton. The Ruff's were still present (this was when the above video was taken), a walk around Joe's Pond produced my first Garden Warbler of the year in full song. These are great birds in my opinion.

On Friday I went to Teesside with another mate of mine; I had one target in mind and this was Shorelark. It was a bird I missed when I went away to Israel for my unforgettable week. We went to Saltholme RSPB and had a cracking Wood Sandpiper from the new Phil Stead Hide, from here a quick check of Dorman's Pool when eagle eyed Martin spotted a cream crown Marsh Harrier hunting feet away from my window! I had incredible views of the bird before it flew up high and over Saltholme RSPB. They are truly superb birds. From here we checked North Gare where we had good views of a Shorelark on the golfcourse. As I am doing a county year list both of these birds were county year ticks for me. 

On Saturday I decided I was going to pop up to Gateshead again and this time in the hope of seeing a pair of Garganey's that had been reported earlier on the in morning. To my delight the birds were still present, although distant at first they decided after a rain shower they would move closer. Once they had moved closer I had good views of the birds bathing and preening as the videos will show. So a fairly eventful week for birding. 

(Garganey - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Garganey - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Swallow - Andrew Kinghorn)

(Sand Martin - Andrew Kinghorn) 

Until next time, Foghorn out!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Good to Better to Superb

This year I decided I would keep a county year list as I am passionate about my home county of Durham and I think it is definitely one of the best counties to birdwatch in the UK. Before I went on holiday I went to Castle Lake DBC to see a cracking summer plumaged Black Tern that turned up. I enjoyed excellent views of these stunning birds and then days later I jetted of to Israel for a truly unforgettable week.

Here is a truly awful video of the Black Tern:

When I was away in Israel I read of a Nightingale that was back home at Cowpen Bewley Woodland Park in Teesside, this is a simpy a superb bird to get in county Durham. As it stands there is more records of Thrush Nightingale than Nightingale in Durham. So on Wednesday the 4th I went for a day down Teesside where I managed to see the Nightingale aswell as 4 cracking Little Gulls and at least 27 Whimbrel. The views of the Nightingale weren't superb so a return on Friday the 6th brought much more satisfactory views. I managed to locate the bird sitting deep in the bush and managed to get the scope on it. I watched it as it sang its heart out. The video really doesn't reflect views of the bird but you can see what it is and more importantly hear it:

Here is an excellent video taken by Paul Hindess early one morning of the same bird:

(Nightingale - © Ian Forrest)

Half decent view of Wood Sandpiper at Saltholme RSPB:

Part of the 28 Whimbrel present, though I only managed to count 27:

So how could county birding get any better than tickable views of a singing Nightingale? Well on Saturday I had planned to pop out and just go local in the hope of finding Garden Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat. The car was packed and I had put my scope in the car just incase, its a good job I did as my phone went of with a message from BirdGuides. It informed me there was a Temminck's Stint at Castle Lake DBC (Bishop Middleham) so I made my way there. I got into the hide and already the lads had it on view and I got my scope on it and enjoyed excellent views of this fairly rare wader. Some years you get eruptions where quite a few turn up in the UK and Durham and other years you just get nothing much at all. Then a mate recieved a call of a Stone Curlew down at Teesside at a place called Hargreaves Quarry which is near the Petro Plus Pools in Teesside. I couldn't quite believe it so I text a mate to ask him what the score was and he informed me that it was indeed a Stone Curlew and he rang me to explain where about it was.

Spot the Temminck's Stint:

So I went on down and arrived on site just in time for the bird to fly up! However I needn't have feared as it flew around then went low over a field and glided over to the Calor Gas Pools which were about as dry as the desert regions of Israel! From here I enjoyed excellent views of the Stone Curlew and smiles all around as I discussed with the lads how surprised we were at such a bird being in Durham. It is far more likely to get Collared Pratincole or some real exotic bird than Stone Curlew. Chris Bell informs me that it is the first twitchable bird available to the masses. Here are previous records:

1782: Wycliffe-on-Tees, August, (shot)
1843: Saltholme Pools, (shot)
1864: Frenchman's Bay, South Shields, 4th February, (shot)
1997: Piercebridge, 19th May

So basically unless you were the single observer of the 1997 bird it was a county tick for all birders who keep a Durham and Cleveland (which doesn't exist anymore) list. A superb bird and something I guess I won't see again in Durham. Here is a half decent videos I managed:

Here is a far better video Paul Hindess managed to capture whilst I was there. I was standing enjoying the spectacle whilst Paul was filming it. Awesome:

(Stone Curlew - © Ian Forrest)

Until next time Foghorn out!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Foggy in Israel

Hi all,

I am semi-back to the blog. I enjoyed my briefish break and since I last posted I have had some excellent bird. A trip to Israel was more than a little 'eventful' as I added many species to my world life list bringing it up to 334. So I have finally topped the 300 mark for my world list. Hurray! Now just got to top 300 for my British list (easier said than done). The long staying Pratincole in Lincs appears to have nicked of to Gibraltar Point NNR and I can't justify the costs of going all the way there at the moment, if it summers I will no doubt change my mind.

So here goes for Israel, please note that all totals are not 100% accurate unless it sounds believable. 37 World Ticks in Israel. Now here is a list of what I saw in order of when I saw them:
- Laughing Dove (hundreds)
- Spectacled Bulbul (50+)
- Palestine Sunbird (10-15)
- Tristram's Gackle (30-50)
- Fan-tailed Raven (50?)
- Rock Martin (5-10)
- Blackstart (2-3)
- Egyptian Vulture (only 1 confirmed very distant bird)
- Black Kite (30-40)
- White Crowned Wheatear (1 confirmed)
- Little Green Bee Eater (maybe birds of holiday, just 2)
- Short-toed Eagle (about 20)
- Arabian Babler (4),
- Crested Lark (1 confirmed)
- Namaqua Dove (brief and poor views of one from a moving bus! lol)
- Spur-winged Lapwing (20-30)
- Cattle Egret (hundreds)
- Levant Sparrowhawk (one flock of 8 and 2 other singles, 1 over River Jordon and 1 at Haifa)
- Sardinian Warbler (4 confirmed)
- Lesser Kestrel (3 confirmed, probably a few distant females seen)
- Pallid Swift (single birds on a couple of occasions)
- Roller (1 seen from moving bus, only one seen sadly)
- Bee Eater (8-10 distant birds went past whilst in service station),
- Red-rumped Swallow (10-20)
- Common Myna (5-10 invasive but ticked)
- Syrian Woodpecker (2 birds)
- White Pelican (flock of about 200 + 2 singles on Sea of Galilee)
- Little Swift (10-20)
- Graceful Prinia (5-8)
- Pied Kingfisher (5-10)
- White-throated Kingfisher (5-10)
- Pygmy Cormorant (30-50)
- Black Stork (1! then joined White Storks)
- Night Heron (30-50)
- Clamorous Reed Warbler (1 bird seen in flight and heard singing)
- Golden Oriole (finally! 1 seen in flight)
- Blue Rock Thrush (poor views of 1 male bird)
- Collared Flycatcher (1 bird showed well briefly).

Also 5 Hoopoe’s that took up residence on a piece of park lawn outside the second hotel we stayed at, also had a few other Hoopoe’s on patches of grass in various places. One Hoopoe was in a park in the centre of Jerusalem! Also I had 5+ Whiskered Tern and 6 Purple Heron at the Sea of Galilee. A few Hobby’s and Turtle Doves at various locations scattered about northern Israel. Hundreds and hundreds of White Storks, just all over the place some days when clearly there must have been a big movement on.

2 definite highlights stick out for me:
1) Being about 30ft away and at eye level with a Short-toed Eagle being mobbed by Hooded Crow’s. Just superb!
2) Wandered off the path at a restaurant in Dead Sea area and found 2 Little Green Bee Eater’s. They were flying back and forth about 10ft away catching insects. I had to stand back so I could focus my bins. 

Also I have had 2 excellent new county birds, but that's for another post.

Until next time, Foghorn out!