24 November 2011

A day during which the sun and Barney take the piss

Another day goosing around down Boat Lane. All of the birds were slightly more amenable than they have been, in fact the Greenland Whitefront was within 'almost close' range at times. Mind you, just as the entire flock started to draw near, the sun disappeared, which means I still haven't bagged really good photos of the hutchinsii/taverneri-but-most-probably-hutchinsii-given-the-ranges-etc Cackling Goose but did manage some passable video before they were all flushed onto the pill by something scary, unknown and unseen.

On top of the crap light and borderline working distance, getting pictures of the wee fella was not helped by Barney working on his photo-bombing technique.

[NB. Still no sound recordings, couldn't help but bag the new Cetti's singing down there though.]

21 November 2011

What is happening to Autumnwatch?

More evidence of the BBC dumbing down their nature/environmental programming. Who has Chris Packham taken birdwatching now? I think that's Martin Hughes-Games on the right but don't recognise the others?

20 November 2011

Ynys-y-fro tick!

The Goosander survey at Ynys-y-fro produced precisely no Goosander. It did turn up three Wigeon, nine Shoveler, a Gadwall and nine Little Grebe, all of which, I'd say, qualify for 'good haul' status in a Ynys-y-fro context [NB. should that be "an Ynys-y-fro context"?]. The real highlight, however, was a Woodcock which flew across the road as I gave up on trying to see in the dark (damn my lack of tapetum) and headed back to the car - Ynys-y-fro tick!

19 November 2011

Oh yeah, I saw a Sharp-tailed Sand today

Bagged the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitchers and Spotted Sandpiper (plus Red-breasted Merganser, Bewick's Swans, etc., etc.) at Chew Valley Lake this morning and then popped down to Torr Reservoir for the really good stuff,...

A few images of the, rather light-dependent, breast coloration, the contrast between coverts and their pale tips and bill structure [NB. Will try for better shots of the same on the Gwent bird tomorrow,... again]. Didn't hear any calls definitely attributable to the Richardson's but, when the entire Canada (plus Bar-headed,... plus Canada x Greylag hybrid) flock flew from the fields to the reservoir at dusk, I did hear two very high pitched (but more-or-less canadensis structured calls), probably higher pitched than any female canadensis I have heard and, presumably, emanating from the little guy/gal.

Cutesy but not too cutesy bill profile. This bird has a much more restricted whitish collar at the base of the neck sock than our little tiddler.

Second generation scapular tips markedly more contrasting (broader and paler) than, actually not that contrasting, juvenile covert tips.

Ditto re scaps but note that brassy/bronzey sheen to the upper breast/lower neck.

Ditto re scaps but, wait a minute?! Where'd the metalwork go?

A less subtle example of the effect of different lighting on the breast. Now you see it,...

Never been to Torr before, not a bad little reservoir, even had a few waders with two Black-tailed Godwits, eight Snipe and five Lapwing dotted about,... not quite Chew mind.

17 November 2011

And you thought hybrid geese were shit

Ever seen a Goshawk x Sparrowhawk hybrid? No, I hadn't either, until today, when a chap comes along the sea-wall noisy accipiter on his glove. Luckily, for those of you who may want to see such a chimaera, and despite a certain caginess on the part of the owner, I was told it was "from a bloke in Wales" so, who knows, at some point one or two might escape and roam about, confusing all and sundry.

It's birds like this that bring out my cynical side, I couldn't help but wonder: a. about the origin of the breeding stock; and b. what is the point in this hybrid? I mean, if, for whatever reason, you wanted a bird of prey somewhere between Goshawk and Sparrowhawk why not get a Cooper's Hawk? Or a life,... obviously,... you could just get a life.

Don't get me started on Gyr x Merlin.

14 November 2011

New goose in town

Hanging with the homeboys,...

... ready for action,...

... strutting his stuff, "Hell-o ladies!"...

... making an entrance, "Let's PARRR-TAY!"

Keeping his head down, "Who let them in?!"

The dark-breasted hutchinsii-type Cackling Goose spent the morning on Goldcliff Pill, as did the two Canada x Greylag hybrids. Yesterday morning's Greenland White-fronted Goose was present on the grasslands but, for long periods, was hidden from view,... and Barney is still in his field.

PS. This bird is being reported by RBA as an escape, I would suggest 'of unknown origin' is a better label. This bird has occurred at the 'right' time of year, is the 'right' age, has arrived at roughly the same time as hutchinsii-types elsewhere (Islay [2], Sligo [3], Mayo [1], Donegal [1] and Somerset [1]), has arrived with another transatlantic species (Greenland White-fronted Goose, [only the second for Gwent]), is behaving like a wild bird, lacks any signs of captivity, has arrived at the same time as other transatlantic geese appearing in the region (Pale-bellied Brent Goose and Black Brant in Glamorgan), and is on the western side of the UK. OK, so there are lots of hutchinsii-type Cackling Goose in captivity and Gwent isn't Islay (and all the points above have a slight whiff of desperation hanging over them) but, if you keep a Welsh or Gwent list, you should probably make the effort to see it.

13 November 2011

He's only ickle

Early November, appears at the same time as Greenland White-fronted Goose (Gwent's second record), unringed, undamaged wings, won't allow close approach; well that's the provenance sorted, now what the furcular is it?

Bill: small, short, stubby but not quite the ridiculous little triangular affair of minima.
Body size: very small, only seen in close association with UK feral Canada Goose (mostly canadensis? Referred to here as canadensis) although Greenland White-fronted Goose and Barnacle Goose also present. Body length appeared approximately two thirds of canadensis but much less in bulk (you might get three to every one canadensis; or, to put it another way, if a canadensis is 3 hours at Gas mark 6, then this bird would only be 1.5 hrs). Whilst not seen alongside one another, it seemed slightly smaller than Barnacle.
Neck: quite thick and, at all times, very short, even when extended during pre-flight anxiety behaviour.

Overall colour: dark, upperpart base colour a shade or two darker than canadensis; underparts very dark similar to canadensis upperparts, pretty concolouress across breast and belly, darker on lower neck, contrasting strongly with white collar, and regular pale and sparse blackish barring on flanks. Also a slight brassy sheen to the breast. Vent undertail and uppertail white. Tail blackish.
White 'cheeks': quite extensive and, though thinning slightly, still broad and square-ended at top.
Collar: clean white, quite deep on fore-neck thinning, and petering out, on sides.
Black chin stripe: lacking, although perhaps a slight 'dent' of black below the bill (maybe).
Voice: not heard (yet)
Structure: proportionately narrow in 'arm' and 'hand', quite a pointed wingtip; horizontal carriage; steep forehead and square head shape.

Structurally good (great?) for hutchinsii but really dark-breasted. Anyone got a photo of Hanson's 'baffinensis'?

See here for discussion and photos of the recent (near identical) bird at CVL, Blagdon Lake and Torr Reservoir (co-travellers or co-escapees?); and see here, and the references therein, for a good starting point to a white-cheeked goose inspired mental disorder.

12 November 2011

Catching the penny?

Caught up with CH's Slavonian Grebe at Uskmouth this morning then went on a tour of likely Pallas'/Yellow-browed/Firecrest locales in the surrounding environs all of which looked exceedingly likely, none of which produced. Actually, Fishyfinger/Fishybox [or whatever it is called] Lane looked absolutely perfect for a Dusky Warbler and I consider it the height of rudeness that one wasn't present. Of those things that did pop up, mentionables included: a juv/first-winter Marsh Harrier, the female Pochard hybrid, good numbers of Water Rails, a few flyover Snipe and Skylark, and both Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

Saw a fair few of these today.

Might have missed top bird of the day though, NC had a, presumably escaped but who knows(?), ickle (minima-looking hutchinsii apparently,... maybe) Canada Goose this evening.

11 November 2011

I've been here before

Thought I'd finished my extended vigil on the much disputed Avon/South Gloucestershire boundary, but no, another week back on the soft banks of the Severn. Nothing too outrageous to report: 16 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, the odd Yellowhammer and Little Egret, a few Rock Pipits and a Brambling; best (and worst) of the bunch though was the terrible view of a Hawfinch disappearing NE high overhead. I hate getting shit views of a good bird.

07 November 2011

Shrike porn

A couple more of this lovely little fella/lass from Saturday.

It's amazing how much difference...

... a slight change in the auto white balance makes. If I was interested in accuracy I guess I'd start carrying a neutral grey card around with me.

[NB. Just in case nobody notices, I removed a twig from the background of the top image.]

06 November 2011

Where not to watch birds in Gwent: Caldicot Moor

The long-awaited second instalment of this once-every-37-months feature takes in the delightful Caldicot Moor.

Location - Just south-east of Undy; from junction J23a of the M4 head south and then bear left (signposted Magor), at the mini-roundabout turn right and stay on the B4245 for approximately 4.5 km through Magor and Undy. On reaching Llanfihangel near Rogiet turn right onto the minor road signposted Severn Tunnel Junction Station. After approximately 0.5 km you will pass the station on your left, head over the bridge crossing the railway and then, almost immediately, the bridge over the M4. On crossing the second bridge you have arrived at the eastern end of the moor.

Access - The majority of the moor, can be viewed from the main track (telescope essential) which you join by turning right at the T-junction approximately 200 m from the M4 bridge mentioned above. This track runs south-west across the moor before reaching another T-junction (turn right) and then another (turn left); it then joins a minor road which can be followed to Undy and the B4245. On the left, 600 m along the main track, is Fisherman's Lane, a track leading to the sea wall.

Habitat - The fields to the south of the road are largely improved grassland grazed by cattle and sheep; those to the north are a mixture of improved grassland and arable with limited areas prone to flooding.

Species - Very few species of bird have been located at this site making it another of the premier sites for not watching birds in the county. Apart from seeing a very small number of Buzzard, Kestrel, Lapwing and Skylark, this afternoon I managed to not watch birds during most of my visit.

Caldicot Moor, probably best to stay to the track or you might get shot in the privates.

Fisherman's Lane, tree-lined along its southern half, but for lying under a Gwentish sky, it would look ideal for a Yellow-browed Warbler or Firecrest.

05 November 2011

Shrikeathon Day 2

An hour into our return to Pembs and it didn't look good; a Black Redstart had popped up, a Lapland Bunting had gone over and two or three misplaced Water Rails had been logged in amongst the very 'birdy' fields and hedgerows, but there was a distinct lack of shrike. Then, a bit of long distance, mobile communication orchestrated, wizardry, resulted in us locating the lovely little critter sitting on the 'wrong' side of a nearby hedge. After another temporary disappearing trick (during which, entertainment was provided by a first-winter Hen Harrier) the bird resurfaced, eventually working its way back to the, now almost famous, five-bar gate, at which it showed down to not many metres at all.

A quick nose around in the bottom of the valley failed to result in the hoped for Pallas'/Yellow-browed/Firecrest but was punctuated with a brief heart-stopping moment when I noticed an amorphous, pale sandy, blob in the bottom of some dense scrub. The colour wasn't unlike the flanks of American Woodcock, but this is not why the moment was heart-stopping, no, the anxiety occurred on realising that I was not observing it, it was observing me,... the hunter had become the hunted,... I had come face to face with the Pembrokeshire Panther.

04 November 2011

Shrikeathon Day 1

Schlepped up to Salop for the shrike. Good scope views but left the Coolpix in the car, so had to make do with the DSLR,... you can see what it is.

PS. Overheard at the twitch: "I suppose if it was a 'normal' one it would sit on the top of the bushes".

01 November 2011


Lovely day in the hills, in between the showers it was mostly dry,... except in the wet bits.