30 September 2011

This one's for... Xenon

A demi-decent Goldcliff wader roost over a highish high tide produced: 1 Little Stint, 1 Curlew Sandpiper, 1 Golden Plover (flyover, heading NE), 2 Spotted Redshank, 7 Grey Plover, 50+ Avocet (seen in flight when flushed from the pill), 7 Ruff, 7 Greenshank, 200+ Curlew plus Lapwing, Ringed Plover, Dunlin and Redshank in the sort of numbers which fail to inspire a count. Non-waders included: 1 Kingfisher and 1 Peregrine plus, overhead, Skylark, Swallow, Grey and Pied Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Siskin and Reed Bunting.

The height of joy was reached on realising the first of the two new hides was open for business. Screaming like a girl, I hot-footed it from the sea-wall and, knees shaking and fingers popping, I started up the access-everybody entry ramp,... half an hour later, excitement levels somewhat eroded, I reached the door and, whaddya know, a prestigious luxury hide. Beautifully decorated inside, wooden floors throughout, large observation room with 50" LED TV, library (again with 50" LED TV), dining area with staffed kitchen (free non-alcoholic beverages and a tempting selection of pastries, cakes and chocolates on offer [including my personal favourite: petite Madeleine de Commercy, yum-yum]), and finally, bathroom facilities done out very tastefully in marble with mini swimming pool, jacuzzi and Turkish bath. Sweet. Good job everyone. I did not realise Carlsberg did bird hides.

29 September 2011

Actually, I'll have a Mivvi

Lovely day out up-country, nothing too exciting on the birding front (a couple of juvenile Red Kites were about the best) but the undoubted sighting of the day was the ice-cream man taking a piss up the back of his own ice-cream van, before having a good old scratch of his arse and then climbing back in to take up his post alongside the Mr. Whippy dispenser. All I'm suggesting is - don't eat the cone. Don't. Eat. The. Cone.

25 September 2011

23 September 2011

American Golden Plover,... in Gwent!

Headed to West Usk for a bit more shutterbuggery of the phalarope, a look for the Pec and a shufti of the wader roost. On arrival it was pretty obvious, pretty quickly, that the phalarope and Pec had done gone and the tide was producing nothing (not helped by the fact I'd thought high water was at 14:30, it actually rolled in at 16:15). And then something caught my eye on the water's edge,...

1. My first view of the plover this afternoon, hmmm, looks interesting,... 2. The point at which I phoned NC (knowing he'd be out and about somewhere) and suggested he'd be best off heading my way,... "Interesting pluvialis plover,... small-headed/billed,... capped appearance,... big ol' super,... looks quite long-legged". Whilst we were still on the phone the bird hopped across two small creeks in the mud, momentarily opening it's wings, I didn't see gleaming white, but were those axillaries dusky or in shadow? "Er! Yeah, I think you'd better get down here..."

Still hadn't nailed it when NC appeared, the bird having stayed pretty much head-on in the interval, refusing to reveal the relative positions of tertials, primaries and tail. It then got pushed further up by the rising tide before coming to rest behind a large clump of spartina. NC had grabbed an image which seemed to show an attenuated rear end and the black on the underparts extending towards the undertail. Stuck it out as a 'probable'. Now the dilemma, do we scoot right to, hopefully, get the profile view and risk flushing it? Or do we await the arrival of the County Recorder? Being the well behaved little birders we are...

... County Recorder arrives (finally!), so I scurried right, and within 30 yards I'm looking at the elegant profile of an AGP (left-hand image below) and the rest, as the cliche goes, is Gwent ornithological history.

The all important rear end structure; looking ridiculously long-legged/necked/arsed when spooked by three fisherfolk; and, on being flushed by the aforementioned fishymen, the duskiest of underwings, even when slightly over-exposed in bright, low-angled sunlight.

First for Gwent! Tut-tut Gwent birders of yore.

[NB. Re quality of images, distance and heat haze my dear reader, distance and heat haze.]

22 September 2011

Little in the way of sunshine

Another one from last weekend, just in time for this weekend,... when we can all go out and play again.

It rained on and off for the first 72 hours of this bird's stay,... no wonder the colour has drained from his cheeks.

18 September 2011

Grey Phalarope at West Usk Lighthouse

You know when there is a flipping easy to photograph bird down the road and you end up laying in mud, cow shit and rubbish for hours in the rain because you can't think of anything better to do? Yeah, that...

I suppose the colour on the sides of the neck would be best described as 'chamois', or maybe 'misty buff'.

Please note the rather large rain drops.

If you look carefully at the reflection in the bird's eye, you can just make out a bedraggled, mud-spattered, prostrate, semi-aquatic lifeform,... that's me that is.

I was having a nice cup of tea when Nathan found this, alas, it remained unfinished,...

... on the plus side, for those of us on Twitter at least, the arrival of this bird did lead to us learning that the County Recorder can't spell 'bugger'.

And then it came much too close to focus on,... which was nice. It fed, pretty much, the whole time I was present, did the anti-predator crouchy-thing on three occasions (in response to Kestrel, Buzzard and [maybe] Woodpigeon?!) and called twice.

Whilst I was fannying around a Little Stint dropped in, before instantly deciding to try somewhere else; amongst the roost at high tide were two or three Curlew Sandpipers and a Sanderling; three or four Wheatear dotted about along the sea wall; and overhead passage included Redpoll, Skylark, Mipit and hirundines.

17 September 2011

Working nine 'til five

Goldcliff 09:00-1200
High tide on the lagoons produced 1 Little Stint, 2 Curlew Sand, 2 Knot, 1 Sanderling, 1 Barwit, 3 Greenshank and 5 Ruff; and, overhead, a few Yellow Wagtail and Siskins, a few more Skylark, Swallows and Mipits.

Boat Lane and Goldcliff Pill 12:00-12:30
One Green Sandpiper and Barney on the pool plus c.200 Shelduck flushed from the pill by three kids riding their bikes along the top of the sea-wall

Saltmarsh and Farmfield lanes 12:30-14:00
Two Whitethroat and a fair few Chiffchaff and Blackcap in the hedgerows; overhead the trickle of hirundines (mostly Swallow) heading east had become a constant flow.

Uskmouth 14:00-17:00
A brief 'commic' tern distantly over the lagoons, two or three Greenshank on the foreshore and slightly better views of the Wryneck...

Deep in the thick stuff something stirs.

An over the shoulder jynx squint.

Showing off its water repellent properties.

Showing quite well by the end.

15 September 2011

In short

Today in brief: dead Little Grebe,... alive Goshawk,... gone Grey Phalarope,... not gone Wryneck.

13 September 2011

The only living boy in Newport

I get the news I need on the weather report

Must remember to up the volume on the iPod when using it as an alarm clock. Three Weetabix, glass of orange, no time for tea.

Oh, I can gather all the news I need on the weather report

Out into the low angled, unruly sun to join the ranks of golden flanked traffic and a delicious drive through the rush in a caffeine free, sleep starved, not-in-a-hurry-to-get-anywhere fuzz.

Hey, I've got nothing to do today but smile

Met at Goldcliff by the last few eddies caused by Katia's passing and a wandering, collarless retriever; neither promised too much in the way of seabirds but I was on autopilot and soon lining up on the nuthouse-cum-naval academy.

Do-n-doh do-n-doh do-doh and here I am

An hour, a Great Crested Grebe and the first in a series of sharp downpours later and I start wondering about waders at the pools. But, before I could muster the gumption for a Buff-breast hunt, a trickle offshore provided just enough entertainment to ensure my inertia. One each of Manxie, 'auk sp.' and Gannet, and a handful of Arctic Terns would probably have been enough to maintain my spine-eroding embrace of tripod and scope, so a (the?) juvenile/1st-winter Little Gull was just the dinky little toy, on the icing, on the big, brown wobbly cake.

The only living boy in Newport

And then I had to head off and do some 'work',... 'work',... I think that's the correct spelling.

Apparently a local escapee,... no bugger appeared to be looking for him mind.

PS. There was also a Wheatear in the garden of the pink house and a trickle of Skylark, Swallows, pipits and wagtails overhead.

12 September 2011

Lovely little larid

Popped out for an afternoon's fieldwork only to be met by Katia coming the other way,... at some pace. Missed an Arctic Skua, which almost certainly went straight over my head, but did (re)find a Little Gull that looks the spitting image of the bird seen at New Passage yesterday.

Diabolical image of a bird that deserved much better. Must try harder.

[Addenda: 1. the above all took place in Glos not Gwent; and 2. warning, prolonged exposure to the gorgeous smaller larids (Little, Sabine's, Ross', etc.) has been shown to result in a chronic debilitating condition 'Gull Phwoar! Syndrome', if observers experience such symptoms as fatigue, headaches and boredom when looking at less good looking birds they should visit their GP as soon as birding allows.]

10 September 2011

Into the wilderness

You know God doesn't exist? Yeah? We all agree on that? Good. Well, if he did (which he doesn't) and he decided to forsake somewhere (which he won't, because, remember, he doesn't exist) it would be Garnlydan Reservoir. Hats off to the chap who summoned the fortitude to go birding there this afternoon, let's face it, if anyone deserved to find a Gwent rare today it was him. Handily, the Wryneck in all its streaky loveliness, was easy to relocate (location marked 'X' on the sketch map below or details on the GOS sightings page here), less handily about half an hour after we arrived so did a thousand year storm. The bird, quite understandably, took cover in the lone bush on the banking of the reservoir; the two birders, less understandably, stood in the raging gale and horizontal precipitation like a pair of prize plums. Finally, the penny dropped that this was but the first of a likely 960 hours of rain, and we squelched our way back to the cars with a nice Gwent year-tick, moist underwear (mostly caused by weather ingress) and incipient bouts of pneumonia to show for our trip into the uplands.

The star bolts for cover, presumably mistaking the nearby Hawthorn for Gopher Wood.

Map showing location of Wryneck (click to see larger version).

[NB. Gopher Wood?! WTF was/is Gopher Wood? I mean, beyond just one of the more obvious transliteration errors in the Bibble.]

09 September 2011

Everything I touched today turned shiny

A 1st-winter Arctic Tern kicked off the day on the South Glos bank, then followed two Curlew Sandpipers and a dose of Wheatear before, at just gone elevenses, four Great Black-backed Gulls drew attention to themselves and the Manxie they were harassing; it had to dive headlong into the drink on several occasions before the gulls got bored and the, otherwise healthy looking, tubenose bolted towards the old bridge. Redstart and Bar-tailed Godwit appeared, then a couple of Siskin popped over, and, as the wind dropped to powder-puff levels, it really hotted up. A flock of 24 (mostly Arctic) 'commic' terns flew low downriver followed by a lone Common Tern and then,... panic! Every gull within half a mile took to the air which proved to be a precursor to a Bonxie heading purposefully downstream, mid-channel, two foot off the water; not giving a second look to the gulls and terns but still exuding an aura that suggested it was constituted of nothing less than pure aggression coated in feathers.

Next stop Goldcliff. I arrived pretty much simultaneously as a flipping female Peregrine and had to make do with the wader leftovers: Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Knot, Ruff and Greenshank. Also a few Wheatear around and about 35 Yellow Wagtail.

Then Uskmouth for some tinkering with a net lane. Due to the window in the wind we thought we'd stick up a net or four, it proved worthwhile as 15 Yellow Wagtails piled in, probably the largest annual total for Gwent since Yellow Wagtails were invented.

Left the house at 08:30, returned 21:15, consider the diem carped.

08 September 2011

From seawatch to riverwatch

A quick look in at Severn Beach on the way to work yesterday produced Stormy, Manxie, Mallie, Gannet, a few Arctic Terns and the big brown wobbly Severn doing its best to look like the sea.

Everyone does know the images get slightly bigger if you click on them don't they.

06 September 2011

[*silent scream*]

In a change to the run-of-the-mill, and to reflect the high tech gizmo infused world that is birding in the UK today, this post will not follow the standard template but consist of an annotated data printout from my newest app purchase 'OW-b Monitor v2.2'. You will probably have to click on the graph to see the text/details.

In relation to the above I have just a couple of queries:
  1. Why is the bird being referred to by RBA and TurdForum as 'Madeiran Petrel' surely that invites confusion with regard to Zino's Petrel; why not 'Madeiran Storm-petrel' or 'Band-rumped Petrel'; or even 'Madeiran Storm-petrel type' or 'Band-rumped Petrel type' (I'm assuming the observer[s] will not have ruled out the various species[?] within the group)?
  2. Why did the pagers in our car only go off at some point just prior to 16:00 when the first observation was at 14:30? I'm sure there is a perfectly understandable explanation, I just wanna hear it.
PS. If anyone finds a Spotted Sandpiper at Hayle in the next few days, so help me Jeebus, I will lay waste to all creation.

[Addendum: have heard second/third hand the reason why the initial sighting did not get disseminated into the birding ether; something along the lines of the identity realised/confirmed in light of second sighting,... all very plausible.]

[Addendum again: have now heard first hand that the above was/is a fair representation of the happenings at Pendeen.]

04 September 2011

An interesting* Sedge Warbler

A big dose of Sedge Warblers down at the reserve this morning (about 150 processed amongst a catch of nearly 200 birds), one of which appeared to be undertaking an unusually extensive post-breeding moult. The standard partial post-breeding moult in Sedge Warblers involves the replacement of body feathers only, this bird obviously had other ideas,...

Right wing: primaries 1-3 (numbered descendently) new and fully grown; 4 new, almost fully grown; 5 in pin, not visible in image; 6 missing; 7 old; 8 new, almost fully grown; and 9 old. Primary coverts have been/are being replaced in line with the primary moult.

Left wing: primaries 1-3 new and fully grown; 4 new, almost fully grown; 5-7 in pin/missing, not visible in image; 8-9 new and fully grown. Primary coverts have been/are being replaced in line with the primary moult. One secondary (4?) (numbered ascendently) is also in pin/missing, not visible in image and the fourth greater secondary covert has been replaced.

The bird was showing a limited amount of body moult and no moult in the tail, as would be expected.

Presumably this moult will be suspended and the bulk of the secondaries (plus tertials and tail) replaced in the winter quarters.

* 'interesting' in this instance is being used in a loose, ironic or downright misleading manner and may, or may not, denote the actual existence, or former/future existence, of anything described as 'of interest' as per standard English usage.

02 September 2011

'Stit'? 'Tip'? 'Tit'?

From amongst the poo-eeping plovers was heard a stitting stint.

Oh look,... one of them.

Spent most of the day wading through oodles of Fox Moth caterpillars.

[Addendum (again): for those who don't do the Twitter thing, this bird was at Rhaslas Pond, Glamorganganganshireyshire.]