23 April 2015


Having vanquished the über bogey that was Pied Flycatcher, I thought it might be a bit much to expect another patch tick this spring.  But no!  Goldcliff produces another wader, albeit a rather odd one.  Flipping Stone-curlew, get in! 
 The view throughout the afternoon.  Not great.  It's,... it's in the rushes.

 And then, rather predictably, it came out to play at dusk.

 Ended up coming reasonably close.  Which was handy for the patient few and/or wily types who rocked up late in the day.

Though not doughnut distance,... and it was dark,... hence the gawd awful pics.

By the way, the bird was/is colour-ringed and seems to have been ringed in 2010 at Porton Down on the Wiltshire/Hampshire border.  Thanks to Messrs Rylands and Tomalin for the rapid provision of information. 

13 March 2015

"Are they still there?"

Three hours at Goldcliff, all three notable for their distinct lack of proper migrants.  Copious amounts of rain fell but neither LRP, Sand Martin nor Wheatear had bothered to drop in.  A (non-singing) Chiffchaff tried, and failed, to give the impression that nature's twice yearly spectacle was underway but I had to make do with a reasonable array of waders and wintering hangers-on.  The waders included 11 Bar-tailed Godwit, six Ruff, three Knot, three Spotted Redshank, two Greenshank, three Grey Plover and just the one (count 'em) Ringed Plover.  On the winter visitor front, the female Merlin was probably the best.

At Boat Lane the semi-notables included another (non-singing) Chiffchaff, one of Marsh Harriers and a few more Black-tailed Godwits.

Two Pintails managing to maintain their elegant air despite the dreich and the appearance overhead of wingèd death.

NB. The 'they' in the titular enquiry referred to Avocet,... and yes,... yes, they are still there. 

12 March 2015

Exalted among the heathen

A lone deciduous Scot surrounded by legions of innumerable coniferous aliens.

01 March 2015

Angels of death

A few images of the five Glaucous Gulls and some of their friends that were knocking about Ponta Delgada harbour last week.  Came to bread like your average Aylesbury.  As ever, click on the images for slightly larger versions.

"Big ones, small ones, some as big as your head..."

Lovely bit of photo-bombing by a first-winter 'Azores Gull'.

A different oooooge great big one.

Second-winter angel of death.

One or two birds showed a reasonable amount of head streaking producing a slightly hooded effect,...

... but the general impression of all five individuals was of uniformly pale birds, perhaps they'd spent their winter in a bleaching southerly sun.  Feather mites were apparent on at least a couple of the birds.

Contrasted beautifully with the local volcanic rock, nice little test of the new camera's dynamic range.

28 February 2015

Mostly Azores gulls,... mostly

Flight to Lisbon, night in a decent hotel, flight to Terceira, abortive landing attempt at a fog-bound Lajes, flight back to Lisbon, night in Lisbon's answer to the Hotel Earle, another flight to Terceira,...

And so began my latest trip to the Azores.  However, once the stop-starty start had been overcome it was a high-octane, fun-filled, knockabout adventure amidst the beautiful landscapes of Terceira and São Miguel.

High-octane gulling, I assume he was gulling as he was tazzing around within metres of the pontoons in Ponta Delgada harbour.  He probably got some cracking views of Glaucous and Ring-billed Gull.  

The port at Praia da Vitória,... in the dark; moments earlier two Bonaparte's Gull, two Mediterranean Gull and 15 Ring-billed Gull had tucked their bills under their wings and settled down to sleep for the night.

On Terceira, days were largely spent touring such fragrant delights as the tip, the fishing port and the oil refinery quarry in search of a mythical hyphenated larid (think Glaucous-winged, Slaty-backed, Black-tailed,...).  In between times we took time to stare in wonder and awe at 'Azores Gull' (for which read, 'obtain yet more photos and some very poor sound recordings'). 

Gull.  Tip.  Gull tip tip: speak to the manager of the tip and gain a VIP pass and a front row seat at the tipping face,... get in! 

Second-winter 'Azores Gull' on a bollard.  [Dear reader, as per any reference to large white-headed gulls, please remember to add the suffix '-type' in your head after the assumed age class as, a. I can't be bothered to type it every five seconds, and b. neither you, me or anyone else can be 100% sure of this little bleeder's age.  Some of them do weird shit and we shouldn't let them get away with it.]
First-winter 'Azores Gull', this one looks a bit fluffy because it is preening in readiness for going out on the town, they don't all look this fluffy.

First-winter 'Azores Gull', the main confusion species here is Laughing Gull, just because a gull is laughing does not mean it's a Laughing Gull.  This one is actually laughing because it had seen a hilarious discussion about a stringy 'Azores Gull' on Facebook.

Second-winter 'Azores Gull'.  There is always a modicum of head-scratching when gull watching, this one is pondering the much overlooked conundrums that Lesser Black-backed Gull can cause. 

An, as yet unidentified, small, presumably first-winter, gull.

Variously aged 'Azores Gulls' all nicely lined up on the quayside.  On this evidence it appears first-winters and adults can appear very fuzzy, an anti-predator strategy p'raps?

Probably an advanced second-winter,... or retarded third-winter,... or downright educationally subnormal fourth-winter,...

A poorly looking fish.  Luckily this Great Black-backed Gull was on hand to attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation,... did not go quite as it should.  I should probably have intervened when the gull started by pulling the patient's guts out through his bunghole,... I knew that wasn't what you're supposed to do.  
Sub-adult (third/fourth-winter) 'Azores Gull' with young 'uns looking on. 

The gull roost in the port at Praia da Vitória. 

06 February 2015

Ickle Bunting

Arrived at the hide 20 minutes after it had 'done one' (largely due to the fact I got horribly lost in the uncharted wilds of Forest Farm).  Waited two hours,... and then a bit,... and then out it popped into the unforgiving midday sun.
When not sheltering in the hazel hurdles-cum-hedge, the wee fella fed directly in front of the olive-clad throng.  Nice find Messers Powell and Gilmore. 

NB.  I should just take this opportunity to bring the readers attention to the borderline subliminal near prediction of this species in last week's post.  Just one county out.  Bugger.  

03 February 2015

The end of an era,... *sob*

I seem to remember some bright spark once wanting to rename these Orange-breasted Scrub-chat,... or did I just make that up?
Having tired of waiting for Nikon to produce a proper update to the D300 (i.e. something built to be bashed about with an AF-ON button, a decent sized buffer, etc.), I have finally replaced mine with a D810 (which is exactly what Nikon are wanting D300/D300s users to do).  That means three things: 1. there is a slight whiff of melancholia in the air due to the passing of a much-cherished camera; 2. the Robin redbreast pictured above is the last bird to grace my D300’s sensor; and 3. I have a handful of accessories that require a new home, namely,…  

1. Two Nikon EN-EL3e rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for use in Nikon D50, D70/D70s, D80, D90, D100, D200, D300, D300s and D700.  Details of which are available on the Nikon website at http://www.europe-nikon.com/en_GB/product/accessories/slr/slr-power/batteries/battery-en-el3e

2. A Kirk BL-D300 L-bracket for use with Nikon D300 and D300s.  Details available on the Kirk Enterprises website at http://www.kirkphoto.com/L-Bracket_for_Nikon_D300.html

3. Thom Hogan’s Complete Guide to the Nikon D300 (second edition) ebook and Thom Hogan’s Nikon D300 To Go (2nd edition) ringbound real physical book (a compact reference companion to the ebook).  Some information on the series (though not this particular book, which is no longer available) at http://www.dslrbodies.com/books/

If anyone is interested in the above drop me a line (leave a comment below, email gwentbirdingblog@gmail.com, DM me on Twitter, attach a missive to a pigeon's leg, put a message in a bottle, etc.)  All are in a used but perfectly serviceable state.  I will willingly swap them for small amounts of money, failing that, I might be open to barter (e.g. beer, wine, cakes, a good egg-laying chicken, a young goat, etc., etc.) 

30 January 2015

Doon the patch

A morning on the patch. Water Pipit and Marsh Harrier were the highlights with just enough Water Rails, Stonechats and Cetti's Warblers dotted about to stop me from dozing off. Also a reasonable number of waders on the foreshore with a big flock of Dunlin near the mouth of the Usk.

A half-decent flock of 50 Reed Bunting were knocking about near the seaward end of the floating bridge,... what price a Little?   

29 January 2015

I saw the light

Another week north of the border, mostly spent up to my eyeballs in, increasingly excitable, Crossbills.  Singing their little twisty-schnozzled faces off they were.

Woke up in a snow globe this morning, the sun beat off the last of the snow flurries,... and the visibility was incredible.  It was that clear I could see the future.  I saw unspeakable vulgarity, institutionalised mediocrity, infinite tragedy, little souls rising up and joining a doomed army to fight the good fight and wage the unwinnable war.  I also saw a Crossbill with a half decent wingbar and well-marked tertials, inner secondaries and median coverts to boot.

A 'barred Crossbill', not that you can make it out but the median coverts were pale tipped/edged too. Also note the gross under-exposure, chromatic aberration and almost complete lack of anything in focus. Yay for digiscoping.

PS. Yay for the Divine Comedy too.

24 January 2015

Twmbarlwm shrike

Arrived at Twmbarlwm to screaming kids and scrambler bikes. Thought I was on to miss three Great Grey Shrikes in a week. The bikes buggered of, the kids dispersed and up popped the shrike. Lovely. It covers a fair bit of ground, initially in the dead pines east of, but hidden from, the car park; then in the re-growing clear-fell north-east of the car park; and then heading to the open, bracken clad, slope south-west of the car park.

Digiscoping with the wrong camera,... pointless.