Blog

Sun 25th November 2012

Posted on November 28, 2012 at 5:00 PM

Not very many sightings to report in the last couple of weeks I'm afraid. I've had a couple of sojourns into the field but highlights were few and far between. On Sunday 18th, I had an hour in the northern marais looking for any late lingering warblers, but only Chiffchaffs were on show. I flushed my third Woodcock of the Autumn from the edge of the Grand Pre marsh and I actually saw the bill on this one rather than just the arse-end. Sitting in the hide there I recorded a few birds and picked up something a little out-of-place. . . .

.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

.

.

This faint hooting was heard from the back of the reedbed and I presume it is from an Eagle Owl. Although not a likely vagrant, I think that it stands a chance. (Not really, of course. Apparently there is one in a cage in an adjoining garden. In the past some people have mistaken these low hoots as a booming Bittern.)

.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

.

.

Moorhen - Grand Pre, 18 Nov 12 - the spectrogram shows the four 'harmonics' (?) 3kHz apart on each note, producing the rough quality of the call.

.

.

Pink-footed Goose - Vale Pond, Nov 12 - this solo individual is still hanging around. It'd be nice to take it to L'Eree so it could hang out with the small flock that is down that end of the island.

.

The most interesting bird news really, is that the fabulous "Birdwatch" magazine has published a full-page article and cartoon of mine in the latest issue. I sent them a speculative piece of writing back in the summer to see if they were interested, and they were. Which is great! So go out and buy it - you know it makes sense. (And before you ask, no I didn't employ a male model to pose for the photo, it is actually me!)

.

.

And finally, I drew a picture. Beware the Munticorn! I'd like to explain but it's not that easy . . . . . . 

.

 

Sun 11th November 2012

Posted on November 13, 2012 at 3:40 PM

The first week or so of November can be excellent for birds, but it is always a bit of a come-down for me. Firstly, it is not October - beloved October. And secondly, I am always back to work after a week-off full of birding. And it's been quite miserable and dark and gloomy this year too. So I have not managed to see many interesting species.

.

That is apart from one. A shining light in the last dark throws of Autumn. I finally ticked Woodlark for Guernsey! Sherlock Holmes had Moriarty, I had Woodlark. There has been a massive increase in sightings here on the island in the last few years, and now probably double-figures get seen in late autumn every year, but I seem to miss all of them. I have trudged round Mont Herault fields always a day, or even an hour too late, numerous times. I have raced down to Rue des Bergers, and up to Rue des Hougues only to find that the birds have just scarpered. And as, unusually, none had ever been photographed, I was beginning to think that this was some kind of  massive practical joke.

.

But, on Wed 7th, a flock of 6 birds were seen in the fields at Rue des Hougues, and were actually photographed. They did exist! Thursday lunchtime I sped for a quick look but failed again, even though they were seen later in the day, and on Friday also. So on Saturday morning I was determined, and despite the pouring rain, I knew that this would be the day. Armed with Wayne's detailed instructions as to their favoured field, I pulled up in the car and scanned across the short grass. After a few finches and thrushes, there, at the back of the field was a fine Woodlark. Score! There were a few of them feeding in the grass but they never showed very well. After a short while something spooked all the birds and I watched and heard them fly.

.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

.

.

Woodlark calls, Rue des Hougues, 10 Nov 12 - I just managed to record a few contact calls as the birds flew up from the field.

.

Fifteen minutes later, Mark and I watched them reappear and fly around a couple of times and we counted 6 birds in the flock, but they soon disappeared and as it was raining I didn't hang around. There were lots of other birds here - it is amazing how well these seemingly anonymous fields in the middle of the island do for birds. They are quite large, and relatively open, but also I think it helps that they are on the very highest part of the island.

.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

.

.

Fieldfare and Redwing calls, Rue des Hougues, 10 Nov 12

.

Some other sightings have included a close but brief Woodcock flushed from the path at Marais Nord this morning, where there was a really nice Firecrest also. Hopefully the weather will gradually get colder and colder and push birds in from the continent during the next couple of months. Warm winters here can drag somewhat birdwise!

.

.

Cosmopterix pulchrimella - garden, Oct 2012 - these tiny tiny moths are one of the very few on the wing still. They breed on the Pellitory growing in the garden and I have been struggling to get a satisfactory photo of one. But now with the new lens I consider this a success.

.

.

Sketch of the Red-breasted Flycatcher at Icart last month.

.

.

Aidan joined me on one or two birding walks in half-term. He seems to really like taking photos but has not shown too massive an interest in nature yet. It is difficult to know how hard to nudge him in the right direction (i.e. birding) but he's only just 8 years old and there's time. He has potential, as he has a good eye for detail, and a good memory, and terrific genes of course.

.

.

.

The most amazing sighting of the last two weeks though was this amazing "twister"! On 5th November I sleepily set off for work in the car and as I reached the coast by Grandes Havres, I looked to the north, and out-to-sea I saw a massive funnel coming from the dark, stormy clouds. I am pretty sure it reached right down to the water when I first saw it, indicating a waterspout. By the time I'd pulled into the car park at Rousse and got the camera out it had weakened and drifted behind Chouet headland but it was truly an amazing sight.

.

.

Sun 28th October 2012

Posted on October 29, 2012 at 5:05 PM

It has been my half-term week and so I have been able to do some proper hardcore birding. This is the first October half-term for years that I've spent here on the island, since I have been in Yorkshire, or Cornwall, or Scilly recently. So, with the generosity of my wife I have had three full morning sessions, plus a few other hour or two's here and there.

.

Of course, with all these hours in the field I have found innumerable rarities, kicking them out of every field and bush, tripping over them on the cliff paths . . . . . er, no. Not one proper local rarity found I'm afraid, but that's how it goes. It's all pretty random. I haven't minded at all though because it has been really good quality birding and I enjoyed every minute of it, and I'll briefly summarise each session. (btw, the weather on each of my trips out was poor - wet or foggy or dark or hurricaney - so expect a series of very poor photos below - getting my excuses in first!).

.

Sun 21st - Went to the fields at Rue des Hougues to look for a couple of Woodlarks that had been seen the previous day as I still need Woodlark for Guernsey. But, as predicted, one of my bogey birds avoided me again. The best bird seen was the striking whitish Buzzard that has been hanging around there, which I first saw over my garden way back in August (see here). It is a terrific beast and when you first see it it takes you aback. A few Skylark and Siskin were flying about, and a very worried looking Grey Partridge cowering in the grass was wondering where the hell it was.

.

.

Grey Partridge - Rue des Hougues, 21 Oct 12 - it looked like a recently released bird that had been "put down" for idiots to shoot at it as it wasn't exactly wary of me.

.

Mon 22nd - After a pint in Town, returning to my car at about 11:30 pm, I was astonished by the amount of bird calls overhead. I don't think I have ever heard such a concentration of Redwings, with birds calling constantly, with no gaps between the calls - quite remarkable. Also there were lots of Song Thrushes calling - I'd estimate about once every 5 seconds, and there was even a Skylark calling over North Beach car park. Even accounting for the lights of Town attracting the birds, there was clearly a massive movements going on in the night.

.

Tues 23rd - After last night's mega-numbers, I spent 5 hours at Pleinmont this morning from first light, covering every part of the headland. It was difficult as it was a very foggy day, with few breaks, but there were lots and lots of birds around.

.

.

Chiffchaff feeding on the road at Pleinmont at first light, 23 Oct 12.

.

Hundreds of Redwings were grounded but not as many as I expected from the night-time flight that was going on. The most visible species was Robin, and I estimated about 300 birds on the headland. They were Robins every few yards along every path, with small parties feeding in some corners - the most I've ever seen here, clearly continental birds arrived overnight. Other birds seen were a late Whinchat, just one Fieldfare and a Mistle Thrush, 2 Black Redstarts, 3 Snipe in the fields, and 2 Firecrests in amongst the numerous Goldcrests. The species of the morning though was Short-eared Owl, with two birds disturbed roosting near the TV mast, then a third bird flying around fields at Mont Herault, the latter showing really well.

.

.

Short-eared Owls - Pleinmont, 23 Oct 12 - these are the two flushed from the scrub by the TV mast (although I could claim them as bustards from this photo I think..)

.

.

.

Short-eared Owl - Mont Herault, 23 Oct 12 - (it was rather foggy for photography)

.

.

Goldcrest - Pleinmont, 23 Oct 12

.

Fri 26th - Decided to start with the Bigard/Corbiere loop this morning at first light. It was very windy today from the NE and pretty darn cold. More or less the first bird I saw was a Woodcock which I flushed from the path by the stream at Bigard and a two Swallows fed over the valley. There clearly was some movement going on as 22 Lapwings came in from the sea and a Snipe shot over, and there were regular thrush and finch flocks heading East along the cliffs. There was also a Mistle Thrush in the fields and there was an obvious increase in Goldcrest numbers.

.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

.

.

Goldcrest calling, Le Bigard, 26 Oct 12 - the jaggedy shape of each call note shows that Goldcrest is quite 'buzzing' call, and the ghosting of the main call at a higher frequency (a harmonic) means that it isn't a fully pure note.

.

Thinking of where else might be sheltered from the stiff wind, I went on the Jerbourg, specifically the west-side of the peninsula. One of the first birds I saw was a superb juvenile Hen Harrier whizz over the path. I saw this bird on and off for over an hour as it hunted low down on the cliffs, just above Petit Port beach.

.

.

juvenile Hen Harrier - Jerbourg, 26 Oct 12

.

I soon realised that the spot I was watching the harrier from was excellent for viz-migging as the flocks of birds were following the cliff edge easterly and so were often flying past at, or below, head height. There were plenty of Chaffinches and Redwings, and about 40 Fieldfares, and 3 late House Martins fed above Petit Port. There was another Mistle Thrush on the hotel lawn, and a further flock of 42 Lapwing headed off high towards France.

.

.

MPL "viz-migging" at Jerbourg - i.e. looking for birds passing on "visible migration" - not something I do regularly as I dislike the "staying in one spot" that is required for the discipline.

.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

.

.

Chiffchaff calls, Jerbourg, 26 Oct 12 - one of the classic sounds of the late autumn.

.

Sun 28th - The last hurrah of the half-term holidays, I spent at Pleinmont and Mont Herault. Again, there was astounding passage, with Chaffinches being the most visible. I estimated 1000 birds moving through during the few hours, and there were a few Brambling amongst them. I wrote down 20+, but it may have been more than that, and I managed to record one as it went past me, despite the windy conditions.

.

You need Adobe Flash Player to view this content.

.

.

Brambling flight call - Pleinmont, 28 Oct 12

.

Today was very different from the last outing because now the birds were going West rather than East. There were also hundreds of Woodpigeon and Starlings passing, small groups of Siskin, Skylarks and Fieldfares, and singles of Snipe, Merlin and Lapwing were seen. The number of birds was great and I sat down on the scramble track for a while to watch the passage. As I sat, I noticed a group of 3 very small finches flying directly towards me low over the rough ground. Due to their size, I assumed Siskin, but they suddenly turned and I put my bins on one of them and it was the spit of a Serin, with its squashed in face and big, blunt head. I watched it turn away and it had a pale rump patch, which was probably yellow. So perhaps Serins, but nothing definite I'm afraid.

.

On the way back home, it started to rain and I popped into Icart to look for the Red-breasted Flycatcher that Julian had discovered the day before. I found it straight away in the patch of Sycamores but only had a few quick sightings before it disappeared. It was getting chilly, so I left without getting a decent photo. (Evidence below)

.

.

Red-breasted Flycatcher - Icart, 28 Oct 12 - well, you can tell it is one at least! 

.

Sat 20th October 2012

Posted on October 21, 2012 at 1:30 AM

With October in full swing, I am trying to bird at every opportunity, trying to find 'The Boy'. It's not happened yet but the only way of finding good birds is to keep plugging away, even if you feel you are seeing nothing. This year for me has been terrible for "self-finding" - compared to last year when I kept bumping into rare waders. It's going to happen, these peaks and troughs in birding. At least now the Redwings have appeared, and so we know that birds have arrived from distant shores and may have brought a "Rare" with them.

.

Last weekend there was finally something good to go see which had actually stuck around - most rarities this year have been brief sightings from people. So Saturday afternoon I headed to Vau de Monel where a Red-breasted Flycatcher had been present for over 24 hours. Arrving at the car park, Chris and the other photographers were there, and had been in situ practically all day! Hats off to them, I don't know how they do it. If I stay still for 30 minutes I start getting fidgety. They told me that the RBFly was quite elusive and just appears for short periods and goes missing. So I had a bit of a wander around - there were lots of Chiffchaffs new in and I could here the Yellow-browed Warbler calling but again this was elusive and I never saw it. The blowy conditions perhaps? Eventually after waiting some more, there was a flurry of activity in the tree tops with a Pied Flycatcher appearing and a late Whitethroat feeding high in a Sycamore which was unusual. I saw the "R-B Flicker" briefly but well - my first in Guernsey for over ten years.

.

.

Pied Flycatcher - Pleinmont, 13 Oct 12 - I couldn't get a photo of the RBFly, just this one of its flycatching buddy, the Pied.

.

There were hundreds on pipits in the fields on the top of Pleinmont, and as I was looking at them, a beautiful Merlin chased them across the field. The sun was out and this fine bird flew at speed, about a foot off the floor, and past me at about 20 yards. I think probably my best ever view of a Merlin, as I spotted it early and watched it all the way.

.

So despite all the effort, I haven't seen much unexpected. A Redstart fed in the field by Rue des Bergers one lunchtime last week. A Water Rail was a surprise in the ditch behind the Peninsula Hotel. A few Med Gulls and the first Brent Geese and Grey Wagtail of the winter. The rarest bird I've seen was yesterday - popped in to look at a Pink-footed Goose behind the Vale Pond - only the 4th Guernsey record. To say it was an underwhelming sighting is exaggerating the excitement. A manky goose, in the distance, in the drizzle, just showing its head above the grass. I've seen better birds!

.

And the best bird of the week was seen during a lunch hour, whilst sat in the hide at the Rue des Bergers. A Kingfisher decided to land on the stick just in front of the hide. It wasn't there very long, and I just managed to fire off 4 or 5 shots before it scarpered off again. But I was so pleased to get 1 or 2 terrific pics of it. What a beauty!

.

.

.

Kingfisher, Rue des Bergers, 11 Oct 2012

.

I have finally finished the Guernsey Rare Birds Report despite starting it months ago. It is a bit of a poor effort that British Birds manage to get their country-wide report out long before I manage to get this little one ready. But it looks pretty good, with some improvements from last year. (click on the picture below, which takes you to the page where you can download it as a pdf for free - yes, FREE!) 

.

.

.

This is my garden shed with an item rescued from the old Beaucamps School before they knocked it down.

.

.

And this is a photo of my pigeon-hole at school. I think I am going to put in for some maternity leave . . . . .

 

Sun 7th October 2012

Posted on October 9, 2012 at 5:15 PM

A super Autumn day today without even doing any 'proper' birding. The poor weather of yesterday had disappeared to reveal clear skies first thing this morning, so I spent a while around breakfast-time "viz-migging" from the back garden. There was constant passage going on, mostly Meadow Pipits and Swallows heading south, but also a few finches and Song Thrushes. Very pleasant stuff indeed, but was very gripped to hear the news that 2 Great White Egrets had been seen on the island.

.

I wasn't in the position of trying to re-find them as I was kid-minding all morning, but I was keen to go out somewhere. So I took the kids for a walk along the Bordeaux scrubland where the Swallow and House Martin passage was even stronger as birds headed south along the coast in their hundreds. There were a few warblers in the bushes, and the odd other thing going overhead, but the highlight was a flock of 5 Mistle Thrushes calling and flying round and round, clearly new arrivals looking for a place to feed.

.

Back at home for lunch, I looked out of the landing window to see a dark, long-tailed raptor heading past. "Marsh Harrier" I presumed, but after locating the bins I saw that this was a buzzard. Looking closely, it was actually a Honey Buzzard, hence the long tail, but a not so obvious one, being a juvenile bird and being very dark. It was soon joined by a Common Buzzard as they drifted East. But the Honey appeared again and this time drifted west again. It sounds like it was the same bird Mark G had seen earlier in the day on the West coast.

.

Mid to late-afternoon, I managed to squeeze an hour or so out of the weekend, and decided to head west just in case the GWEgrets had reappeared. And as I was getting my stuff together, got a call that there were 2 Spoonbills flying round Rocquaine, which was good timing. Reaching L'Eree they were nowhere to be seen of course but there were 2 Black-wits, a Ruff and a Lapwing on the Aerodrome. A few birders gathered by the Shingle Bank and looking far to the NW, I picked up 2 big white birds in the far distance flying over the rocks at Perelle Bay. I was desperate for them to be the GWEgrets, but of course, I could faintly see that they were sticking their necks straight out in front of them - the Spoonbills. Not to be sniffed at though, and I drove to Fort le Crocq and watched them perched on the rocks off the headland. Both birds were ringed - one colour-ringed, one darvic-type - and we await to hear news of their origin.

.

.

distant Spoonbills - Fort le Crocq, 7 Oct 2012

.

Midweek had been pretty much of a wash out - it rained a lot again. This year has been so rainy it's incredible. The only notable sighting was of a Green Sandpiper at the Rue des Bergers pond. I suspect I will be visiting this area more often this year, as I have decided to try and stay very close to school during the lunch hour. Last year I was hurtling down to L'Eree as often as possible at lunch, and other more distant places, but the rushing around is not healthy and there's always the worry about not getting back in time for lessons. So I've decided to only do lunch hour birding within 5 minutes of school this year for a more relaxing experience. It still includes some good sites like Rue des Bergers, Fauxquets and Talbot Valleys, Grande Mare, top end of Vazon, Ft Hommet etc. (Unless something mega turns up, when I shall fly like the wind! I have tested it, and I can reach any spot on the island and still get back in time - so long as a walk is not required and the bird is showing immediately!). I didn't get a decent picture of the Green Sand though, so here's a Snipe from RDB instead.

.

.

Snipe - Rue des Bergers, 4 Oct 2012

.