Blog

Sun 27th November 2011

Posted on November 27, 2011 at 4:45 PM

This week has been the first week that, whilst walking around birding, it has felt more like winter than autumn. In the headland bushes there are practically no chiffs or crests calling, any overhead migration seems to be half-hearted and the expectation of rarities has slowly dissolved away. Autumn 2011 has passed and a winter of mourning has begun. Here's hoping that we get another cold spell at some point during the next three months, because otherwise winter in Guernsey can be birdingly dull.

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Of course it doesn't stop me getting out searching however, and the highlight of the quiet week was discovering a Water Pipit on the beach at L'Eree. There has been about 4 reported so far this autumn, so perhaps the wintering population is set to expand (or one is moving around a lot).

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Water Pipit - L'Eree Shingle Bank, 21 Nov 2011

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The habitat choice of the Water Pipits we are getting at the moment is curious. Just a short flit inland from this bird there are various wet marshes and flooded grassy areas which look ideal for Water Pipit, but most of the recent birds, like this one have been sticking to the rocky beaches, feeding in amongst the Rock Pipits. It must just be that the feeding is just so great there, with millions of insects in amongst the vraic, that they are happy to move out of usual habitat.

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Teal - Claire Mare, 23 Nov 2011

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Ringed Plover - early morning, Vazon Beach, 25 Nov 2011

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In the summer I bought an identification book on fungi to expand my knowledge of stuff that grows (and it was a steal at that price). The best time for fungi is the autumn, but the problem is during this time of year I don't hardly look down, as my eyes are always looking up for flyover migrants or for flicks in the bushes. Since it has quietened down though, I have photographed quite a few species whilst out and about, and have discovered that it is bloody hard! There seems to be endless types of 'agaric' species, all pretty much looking the same and trying to match the photos up with the book is a nightmare. I think I will have to be asking for help online for the ID of a lot of these. But there are still a few which are obvious though, and I saw these Candle Snuff Fungus this afternoon by the side of the road at Moulin Huet. It is amazing that when you start looking specifically for things, you wonder why you've never seen them before. Apparently, this species is common, but I have no recollection of seeing anything like it before.

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Candle Snuff Fungus - Moulin Huet, 27 Nov 11

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Sat 19th November 2011

Posted on November 19, 2011 at 4:55 PM

Busy, busy, busy. I have not been out for a proper birding session at all this month - my football is my weekend activity at the moment. If I had to choose between birding and playing football, then it would be birding every time to be honest. However, with my ever-increasing age, I know that playing 90 minutes of football won't be an option anyway soon, so I am making the most of it while I can.

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Since I was unable to play football anyway this afternoon, I managed to get out this morning for a couple of hours in the field. My target bird was Woodlark since November seems to be the best time for it and I still needed it for Guernsey. I headed up to Mont Herault fields and found about 30 Skylarks altogether but no Woodlarks were with them. The highlight though was a Short-eared Owl that I put up from a few yards away as it was roosting invisibly in a potato field I was working through. My first for ages. I also had a wee look in the valleys but warbler migration seems to have halted now and I only found a single Firecrest.

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I have seen a few birds this month so far though, including some fine surprises. In my lunch hour on 3rd November I went down to L'Eree to see a Snow Bunting that had been around for a few days, and it was feeding in the bare field when I arrived showing nicely but not closely as I'd hoped.

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Snow Bunting - L'Eree, 3 Nov 11

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Nothing surprising about that bird of course, but I then went for a quick look in the trees at Fort Saumarez for any migrants and I found something skulking in the top of an evergreen oak. It was being very elusive but I eventually got it in the bins and saw it was what appeared to be a young Pied Flycatcher. November is majorly late for this species and I hoped that if I grilled it some more it might actually be something even rarer - (I was praying for Mugimaki!!). But although I only had brief views, the white in the wing was exceedingly Pied-like, but I was very pleased anyway to have seen such a late one.

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I had to rush back to school, but as I was driving through Richmond, I saw what was clearly a Swift whizz over the houses. The standard flag then popped up in my head: late Swift = check for Pallid. So I swerved off the road and jumped out. It was nowhere to be seen, so I continued on, and then as I rounded the corner at Vazon, low over the road, now two Swift raced by. Again, I quickly pulled over to look at them in my bins, but both birds looked distinctly sooty-coloured and I sped back to school.

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Then during the afternoon a grapevine text informs me that two Swifts had been seen feeding at Mont Saint (near where I saw them) and that Pallid hadn't been ruled out. So after school I needed to re-check them and I went back down to Richmond - they were still there and I watched them for a while. The late afternoon sun made the birds much browner but I couldn't pick up a single feature that indicated Pallid. I tried to take some photos but it was a bit tricky!

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Swift - Richmond, Vazon, 3 Nov 11

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There has been lots of Pallid Swift claims this November so far around the country, but only one or two have been proven. They are so difficult - even these birds I couldn't say for 100% certain that they definitely weren't Pallids.

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A female Black Redstart has kept me entertained in the school quad during the last couple of weeks, but the main rare bird of the month so far has been a Desert Wheatear at Pleinmont which stayed for at least six days. Unfortunately I never got the chance to go look for it. I have seen two previously in Guernsey, hence the lack of urgency - but I would have liked to see it. But last Saturday - the 13th - I did get a Guernsey tick at Fort Hommet. I just managed to get there in time in the late afternoon to twitch a young Red-backed Shrike, and I saw it fly across and land in a Tamarisk. It perched for a minute or so before heading into the bowels of the bush to go to roost, so I was quite lucky to get it at all as it left overnight. Although not massively rare here, with records every 2 or 3 years, this is only the second twitchable one since my arrival, and none have stayed more than a day. Again, this was a very late bird in keeping with the mild conditions that are prevailing. With the late date I was really hoping that it would turn out to be a Brown Shrike!

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Below is my contribution to "Children in Need" day yesterday. It is a 10 foot by 10 foot drawing of a donkey, which was a little tricky to do since they only gave me a roll of 3 foot wide paper to do it on. It was stuck to the canteen floor and the kids covered it with spare coins - I don't really understand the point but it seems to be something they do here for charity - make pictures on the floor with coins. Well I'm sure it raised some cash. Unfortunately I was unable to take part in the Karaoke event as I was on lunch duty - shame. I was in the playground and even through the walls, it sounded like some kind of nightmarish X-Factor for dying cats on Helium.

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Pudsey the Guernsey Donkey

Sat 29th October 2011

Posted on November 13, 2011 at 5:10 PM

TRIP TO YORKSHIRE - DAY FOUR

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Duncan and I went off early to hit the Head at Flamborough. I was very surprised that, despite it being October, we had been birding a full hour before we saw any birders at all, and in the couple of hours that we were there, we only saw about 8 or 9 in total. It was great to walk around the place after so long and I was very impressed with the improved access. All those places that we used to say about, "it'd be good if we could walk along there", mostly seemed to be open. We did not see a great many birds of interest - one or two Great Spotted Woodpeckers may have been immigrants. Thrushes, Skylarks, Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings were common enough but there was nothing out of the ordinary. So we enjoyed a fine breakfast at the Head Cafe.

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The white cliffs of Flamborough

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The Bay Brambles - a rare bird magnet of the highest order

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Yellowhammer - Flamborough Head, 29 Oct 11

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We headed over to Filey for another shot at the Olive-backed Pipit since it had been showing the previous day. We passed a massive flock of Golden Plover in the fields which was a new species for Duncan. But at Filey we soon heard that the pipit had not been seen at all today, and there seemed to be little else around which was new so we headed home.

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After lunch me and Abigail waved goodbye to our East Yorkshire family and drove back West. It was dark when we arrived in Leeds and Abigail persuaded us that she wanted a second attempt at a MacDonalds. After such fine dining, I watch MOTD and went to sleep. Early next morning we said our goodbyes and headed back to Manchester Airport after a very enjoyable few days, despite the lack of quality birds.

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Fri 28th October 2011

Posted on November 10, 2011 at 5:10 PM

TRIP TO YORKSHIRE - DAY THREE

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I woke up early in the morning and at first light the Yorkshire Wolds were a picture. The sun was shining through the hanging mists, creating an odd copper-coloured glow. I managed to take a few photos of the scene that I was very pleased with.

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Whilst I had the camera out, I noticed a Starling bathing in the bird bath and I took a few snaps from the front window. I was dead chuffed to get the terrific photo below as the droplets of water splashed through the air. It's an unusual photo but I think it looks really effective (click it for full size).

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Today's activity was a fun-filled adventure at the magical world of Flamingoland - The DisneyWorld of Yorkshire. I had not been here for ages and ages and so didn't really know what to expect. It was all a bit stressful overall with people in your face at every turn - the biggest demographic seemingly geordie chavs. But of course, I wasn't there for me, I was there for this . . . .

 

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Abigail rather enjoying herself on the mini-rollercoaster.

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So, I really did enjoy myself, but only because I loved watching Abigail, Heidi and James enjoying themselves. Not having been to a theme park for years I was amazed at the 'extremeness' of some of the rides there, with people being strapped to fake motorbikes, dangling their legs and dropping like a stone, all at ridiculous speeds. Despite my hatred of going fast, even I managed to have a go at one of the more extreme rides . . . . .

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Flamingoland sits quite unobtrusively in the Vale of Pickering.

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Also at Flamingoland there is a small zoo section and I had more interest looking at the animals and birds they had there, and taking lots of photos. Although strangely, I saw no Flamingos at Flamingoland! Below are a selection of the pics: Meerkat, thoughtful Baboon, baby Baboon, Rhea, Rhino, Squirrel - I don't think the latter was part of the zoo.

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Thu 27th October 2011

Posted on November 6, 2011 at 5:05 AM

TRIP TO YORKSHIRE - DAY TWO

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In the morning we headed eastwards to my sister's house on the Yorkshire Wolds. They live in a fabulous location - a small village nestling amongst the rolling chalk hills. And, more importantly of course, only 20 minutes from both Filey and Flamborough! It was disappointing that, after some SE winds, there did not seem to be very much on the Yorkshire coast at all - the only rarity was an Olive-backed Pipit at Filey, a species I only saw last week.

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It was a rainy day, but after a soggy drive over and some lunch I headed to Filey with my Dad and my brother-in-law, but it was very quiet. There was the odd Goldcrest and Reed Bunting in the bushes, and quite a few Skylarks going over, but it was not as busy as October should be.

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Tree Sparrow - Filey, 27 Oct 11

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We were having a bite to eat in the cafe when we heard that the Olive-backed Pipit had just been showing, so we walked up to the spot and joined the group of ten or so birders stood in the bushes. After about five minutes or so it was clear that it wasn't showing and so we headed back out of the trees. If a bird disappears then it is better to retreat and see if it returns back to where it was, but no, most of the birders just carried on tramping around its favoured feeding area. Lack of common sense. So we dipped the bird - although if I'd have stayed around I would have probably seen it - and we headed down to Flamborough's South Landing which was deathly quiet. A single Chiffchaff was the only bird of note.

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Me, my Dad and my Brother-in-law at South Landing - Note that my Dad has such highly advanced birding skills that he doesn't even need bins any more, and that Duncan's birding is pretty good to say that he does not have any arms. 

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