|Posted on September 17, 2015 at 5:50 PM|
There wasn't much occurring in the first week of the month, but things got more interesting as we went through week two. There was the odd migrant early on - such as a Tree Pipit over Fort Le Marchant (6th) and the first Bar-tailed Godwit of the year on the patch at Pulias (8th) - but it wasn't until Friday 11th when it was clear that birds were on the move. At Pulias, there was Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail and Golden Plover, with another 2 Whinchat at Fort Hommet in the lunch hour. Late in the evening a single Swift flew over the house.
Whinchat - Pulias, 11 Sep 15
So, with pleasant conditions and a light breeze blowing from in from Europe, I tried Pleinmont on Sunday 13th. I didn't rush there as I wanted to empty the moth trap first as it was National Moth Night weekend (first Scarce Bordered Straw seen for a few years). It was about 9 am before I arrived in the car park which I felt was a little tardy. It seemed like a open-country migrant kind of day and so I started by checking the fields on top of the headland. Within ten minutes I had seen a couple of Whinchat by La Societe fields and then suddenly saw a larger bird fly right-to-left, just above the brow of the slope, below the skyline, away from the BBC field. It may have been in there, or it may have been in the bottom of La Societe's weedy field.
My initial impression was, oddly, a Corn Bunting - with pale brownish streaky plumage, not very contrasting and a clear dark eye standing out. It was against the bracken and gorse and it was difficult to see the exact shape, but it looked quite large for a "smaller" bird. As I tracked it away from me, it landed on the top of a small tree amongst the gorse and I could then clearly see white outer tail feathers - so not a Corn Bunt. I hurried back towards the car for a better view wondering which species of bunting it was, and I was just about to put my bins back on it, when a Dunnock chased it off its perch. It then appeared quite flycatcher-like and I could see a pointy, longer bill. It then flew back round to aother field nearby and I watched it drop into the long weeds.
I was pretty sure it was a large pipit now and I creeped into the field to try and refind it. It eventually flew up pretty close to me and then it clearly was indeed, a large pipit. It flew up fast and away, and did a brief circle of the area, before heading purposely east towards Mont Herault, never to be seen again. Luckily, as it was flying around this time, it gave regular short, sparrow-like "chip" calls, making the identification of Tawny Pipit quite straightforward. Luckily it did call otherwise I wouldn't have been able to definitely rule out a very early Richard's. Due to a decline in records, Tawny Pipit is now an official rarity in Guernsey, so this is the best find of the autumn so far.
I thought I should head over to Mont Herault to see if I could refind the Tawny and I saw Wayne & Mark's cars parked up. I gave Wayne a ring for him to look out for the Tawny, but before I could mention it he said he was watching a Honey Buzzard now! I had been so intent on marching in the direction of the pipit's exit, I wasn't paying attention to anything else, and didn't realise that the buzzard flying around above me was in fact Honey Buzzard - massive schoolboy error! But I was happy to accept this good fortune and watched a very dark juvenile Honey Buzzard circle low around the fields before eventually drifting off to the east.
juvenile Honey Buzzard being mobbed by a crow - Mont Herault, 13 Sep 15
The most common migrant up on the headland was Whinchat, and I had probably about 20 - 25 birds in total. There wasn't much other variety, just a sprinkling of common species.
Surprisingly, on Tuesday 15th, the Rose-coloured Starling from the previous week re-surfaced on the patch at Fort Hommet. After missing it on its first visit, I popped down at lunchtime and saw it well, feeding with a Starling flock in the windy conditions. This species is so regular on Guernsey, we even considered dropping it as an official local rarity last year. Just on a quick count in my head, I have seen at least nine here on the island, and at least three have been on my Hommet to Rousse 'patch'.
Rose-coloured Starling with Starlings - Fort Hommet, 15 Sep 15
The highlight of the insect world this month has definitely been Long-tailed Blue. There had been a bit of an influx into the Channel Islands of this usually-very rare species, and I had decided that I definitely wouldn't go "twitch" any, I was bound to find my own. However, I almost immediately caved, and with excellent, precise directions from Andy S, I headed for a blue-hunt to Jerbourg Point. After all, this may actually be a one-off occurrance. It was the middle of a hot, cliff-walker-packed, sunny day and I slogged it to the bunker by the Pea Stacks track, where Andy had seen a few the previous day or so. I immediately picked up a small blue flying around the gorse which didn't look like the Holly Blues which were also flying about, but it didn't want to land, and whenever it did, some Ted or Fred would stomp past making it take flight. Grrr.
After a while though I did get some good views of 3 individuals but they never stayed still for very long at all. I walked down the slope a little way and I soon saw that there were some more fluttering around the gorse and brambles to the west of the path in the sheltered side of the headland. Here there were at least 5 more, again rarely stopping except for short 'drinks' of the Bramble flowers. They were quite tricky to take pictures of but I did manage one or two snaps.
|Posted on May 10, 2015 at 5:15 AM|
GUERNSEY BIRD RACE 2015
As is the tradition, The Sultans of String met in the Rue des Bergers car park at 5 am, this year dressed in wet-weather gear to combat the bloney dizzle which was falling on us. This overnight rain, and the recent change to southerly winds, had some potential but with such little migration during the previous week, we were not expecting a massive day. We had no specific plan sorted out, so we planned to just follow our noses and see how it panned out. With no owls showing at RDB or at the Reservoir, we headed for the coast and the rising tides.
From the car, passing L'Eree, we soon had a new species for the bird race, never been recorded before! However, this was not as exciting as I am pretending, as it was feral Greylag Goose, a species just this year re-categorised to category C and so now countable. This should not have any effect on comparative, year-to-year totals since Red-legged Partridge has gone the other way and is no longer countable. Looking over the ridge at L'Eree Shingle Bank, 3 Redshank flew off - a very good species that we haven't seen on the bird race for years, but Mark had had them yesterday, so not a surprise. Teal at the Claire Mare were also very useful.
There were a couple of positive signs at Fort le Crocq, with Wheatears on the beach and 3 Swifts which came in off the sea really low, which is not what one would expect at 6 am. Dunlin, Raven and Fulmar at Vazon before moving into Saumarez Park on 44 species. In the park we very soon heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and, following the sound, it was located in an old tree. We had what was probably my best ever view of a woodpecker pecking, right out in the open - superb.
We moved up the west coast checking most of the bays and headlands with nothing much interesting of note. Helpfully, we didn't have to wait long at Marais Nord for the island's only Cetti's Warbler to start singing, and we hit 60 species with Meadow Pipit at Fort Doyle. By now we were aware of a paucity of migrants on the headlands and relaxed, knowing we would not be going for a record total. A time-consuming tramp round the Track Marais produced very little new and we caught the morning boat to Herm, pleased that the rainy weather had finally ceased. As usual, Guillemot was the first auk seen from the ferry, and Razorbills were showing well off Jethou. Puffins were more difficult but we saw a couple near the base of the cliffs. As the boat was emptying of people we 'scoped up Brent Geese on Herm beach and we headed straight back to Guernsey with 69 species.
Arriving back to the harbour, we checked the list to see what we still needed, to plan our afternoon. We had actually done very well with the 'local' birds and had very few gaps to plug. The fog was lingering on the high ground but it looked like it was soon to burn off, although the wind was still annoyingly fresh. We decided to head to the less foggy and more sheltered side of the island and stopped off in the Talbot Valley and saw Long-tailed Tit (70) and Stock Dove (71), and a Firecrest (72) was singing in a large tree near King's Mills as it had been doing during the last couple of days. Down at Rue des Bergers hide there was nothing new and we umm-ed and ah-red whether to check Grande Mare lake. We decided that we would - good choice!
There were quite a lot of hirundines flying above the golf course and we saw a group of about 20 Yellow Wagtails (73) feeding on the fairways. The daytime migrants were clearly arriving in force now that there was a break in the weather. Upon leaving the golf course, we started walking down the douit-side track towards the road and we noticed even more hirundines flying over the fields in front of us. Wayne said something like "With all these arriving, we really should look out for Red-rumped Swallow" and almost immediately as he did so, I saw through my bins, flying away from me, a pale-rumped hirundine, which immediately banked round to reveal tail-streamers - I shouted out "RED-RUMPED SWALLOW!! I'VE GOT ONE!!!" (74).
It really was that quick. As soon as he said it, we had one! I was so excited by this bird. For years and years and years I had been diligently checking hirundine flocks for this species and I had never found one myself. And as I have said previously, it had been ages since I had had a good self-found bird of any species. I was punching the air in delight! Definitely my birding highlight of the last couple of years. We watched it for a short while feeding above the line of trees between the field and the golf course. It was difficult to keep track of it as it was feeding voraciously and all the flock were being buffeted around by the gusty wind. (It was impossible to try and get any photos, but I did a few sketches from my head when I returned home.)
Red-rumped Swallow sketches - Rue des Bergers, 3 May 15
Of course, we were somewhat buoyed by this terrific find, and after it moved off, we headed back to the lane wondering what else we might find. Over the lane a Peregrine (75) circled in the sunlight, and we relocated the RRS with the hirundine flock over fields just to the west of the hide. It stayed around for a couple of hours at least allowing one of the other teams to see it, but it was not seen again. It must have headed off with the rest of the flock, as there were not many hirundines around later in the day.
We hurried up to Pleinmont with high expectations, as we thought there may be other exciting species coming in from the south also, but this was not to be the case. We barely saw any migrants up on the headland apart from a superb Cuckoo (76) racing past us a couple of times, clearly just arrived from Europe. Disappointed with this and tired from trudging around, we picked up Jackdaw (77) near Torteval Church and were lucky with a Willow Warbler (78 ) and Bullfinch (79) in the valley below St. Peter's Church. Also lucky was a Short-toed Treecreeper (80) by the roadside somewhere in St. Saviours.
We were pleased to get to 80 with plenty of time to go since it was only 3:30. But then we hit the wall. A massive wall. Everywhere we checked there was nothing new. We spent ages looking for Little Grebe at the Reservoir as it was the only obvious species we were missing, but failed miserably. We were finding no extra wader species on the coastline, or migrant landbirds anywhere. Three hours later, we were still on 80 and we despaired where the next bird was coming from. We bought some chips from L'Islet to nourish us for the final burst and we sat in the car park at Grandes Havres to polish them off. Even though we'd checked the Whimbrel on the beach numerous times, Chris suddenly spotted some Bar-tailed Godwit (81) with them, as if appeared from nowhere!
We headed straight up for a half-hour's seawatch from Chouet and we soon saw a few Manx Shearwaters (82) passing by, but there was nothing else to surprise us. As the light was now fading and it was after half-eight, we set ourselves up on the hillside at Chouet to wait for owls. I walked up to chat to another team, and whilst up there, I spotted a Long-eared Owl (83) come out of a conifer. I ran down the hill to the rest of the guys and, luckily, it came out again for everyone to see. Just ten minutes later, from the same spot, we saw a Barn Owl (84) fly low along the lane, our final bird of the day.
84 species is a low total for us on the bird race, as on a decent day, we expect something between 87 and 90 species. We do feel that we are getting better at finding the regular species though, and we shall keep going until we smash the record of 96. The score really didn't matter to me though, as the day was all about the frickin' brilliant Red-rumper!
|Posted on November 9, 2014 at 2:15 AM|
Well, October is more or less over, and I gave it the best welly I could. So much so that I didn't stop to take any photos at all this month. I managed a morning round Pleinmont three times in the last few weeks, plus popping in somewhere most days either in my lunch hour or after school. So, as much time as I could spent in the field and a few decent birds seen, but no megas unfortunately.
The first trip round Pleinmont was on 5th Oct and this was the first obvious day of late autumn migrants, with Meadow Pipits in the hundreds and at least 20 Skylarks seen. Swallows were also passing through, and I also had 3 Grey Wagtails and 4 Firecrests, plus a Reed Bunting pretending to be rare in the top fields. The best bird was a juvenile Rose-coloured Starling high up on the TV mast that was pointed out to me by the RSPB group who had just spotted it, but unfortunately it immediately flew off distantly.
The next Pleinmont trip was on 12th Oct and was quite quiet for the time of year. There were a few Skylarks milling about and the best bird on the tops was a Mistle Thrush by the camping field. In the valleys there were quite a few Chiffchaffs plus two Firecrests, and by late morning I headed out of Vau de Monel. As I walked up the road away from the VDM car park, I saw a bird flit across the road in front of me left to right, and into the small trees along the edge of the 'Chatsworth' lawn. It was quite a way ahead so I saw no detail but it was Robin-like, although a pale grey-brown colour, compared to the more rufous colour of that species. It looked very interesting and so I jogged up the road and realised it was still in the small roadside trees, as I saw glimpses of it hopping around the branches, quite warbler-like.
After a short while of waiting, I watched the mystery bird move slowly higher and higher, but giving only poor views, despite it being about 5 yards from me. It finally hopped into a more open area and I could see it a little better. Its plumage was very plain with few distinguishing marks and I was just trying to work out what it was when it fanned its tail. As soon as it did this, its identity became obvious, since the tail was almost jet black, with two bright white patches of white by the base - a Red-breasted Flycatcher!
As soon as the ID clicked however, it took flight again, across the road in front of me, and left round the corner back into Vau de Monel valley. Despite a good hour of searching I never saw the bird again and, as far as I am aware, neither did anyone else, although the weather deteriorated around lunchtime, and I don't think it was extensively searched for. It was a little disappointing - great that I had found a rarity, but not great that I barely saw it. I am pretty sure that this is the first RBFly that I have found myself and it's a pity that I was unable to get even a record shot. (so below is a sketch of the last one I saw a couple of years ago instead).
During the next week I had a couple of decent sightings at my Pulias patch. Firstly a Ring Ouzel flushed between rain showers on 15th, which I think is the first one I've seen there. Not a surprise since there was a huge influx into SE England just before this. Two days later, a young Common Tern was fishing off the headland, which has lingered up and down the west coast until the end of the month at least.
The final Pleinmont trip was on 19th where the highlights were a group of 4 Ring Ouzels arriving in off the sea and another Mistle Thrush - not a very pleasing haul for a mid-October morning. The final decent sightings of the month was the tail end of a decent seabird passage that I missed as I was at work. But off Pulias on 22nd, in just 20 minutes I had 3 Bonxies and a Balearic Shearwater.
Another October passes without "The Boy" being found, but it's the expectation that keeps you going. I always expect to find something even though I generally don't. If I presume I'll find nothing when I set off, then I won't enjoy what I am doing.
So for me, it's not the finding of rare birds that keeps me birding, it's the constant, exciting, unpredictable possibility of me finding a rare bird that does it.
|Posted on February 6, 2014 at 1:55 PM|
The winter continues to be wet, windy and wild. Granted, extreme weather conditions can cause distress and misery if you are unlucky enough to be caught up in it, but to the unaffected observer it is pretty darn awesome! We've had front after front rolling in off the Atlantic, and with the massive tides at the moment the island is struggling to cope with the water. The waves have been pounding the coastline, swamping buildings and floating away cars. And the last few days have been so wet with rain that the inland lanes are also flooding, with rivers flowing through the countryside. With the island getting hit from both sea and air, it has been rather spectacular.
These poor conditions and warm weather have meant that my "Foot-it" efforts were disappointing (see details here) but I have been more successful with the "Patch-birding". The stormy seas have brought a lot of gulls into the coastline, as they usually do, and I have been regularly checking any flocks I have passed. On 28th Jan, I was driving home past Cobo and noticed a lot of gulls feeding close inshore on the high tide. It was after a meeting and so half-four-ish, and so getting to be quite dark and dull. However, I soon picked up an Iceland Gull amongst the throng, which was excellent, presumably the same one that was seen at Chouet the previous week.
As I watched this bird, I noticed how dark it was, not standing out from the other immature gulls as Icelands usually do. The primaries were not gleaming white, and the rest of the plumage was quite dull and "unbiscuity". I wondered that perhaps this bird was an immature Kumlien's Gull. There had been plenty around the country and of course, we've just had an adult bird. Frustratingly, the bird never was still and I found it difficult to see the details of the plumage properly. It was either bobbing on the waves, feeding frantically or flying around. Even taking proper photos was impossible in the half-light and the couple below were the best of a bad bunch, and have been extremely lightened.
first-winter Kumlien's Gull - Cobo, 28 Jan 14
It was also difficult to get any details in flight as it swooped and flapped, but I did catch a clear dusky tail-band and the primaries again did not glow. I had to leave the bird thinking it was probably Kumlien's but not really nailed-on for certain due to the tricky viewing conditions, but I did have a good gut-feeling. Looking at the photos at home, one picture (the top one) seemed to show some good features - the dusky lines down the primaries, the dark on the tail, the quite brown plumage around the head and breast, the dark bill, the largish size. I have not the bird since, but luckily it moved down the coast to L'Eree where other observers have been able to watch it properly and have confirmed the identification as Kumlien's, which is an excellent start to my year on the 'patch'.
Every day the sea has been choppy, but on 30th Jan there was a brief respite and the bays were calm. It is worth making the most of these still days as it is much easier to find feeding birds. In just 20 minutes on the way home from work I found a Slavonian Grebe at Cobo, a Black-throated Diver at Grandes Rocques and a Great Northern Diver at Port Grat, as well as a few Great Crested Grebes and Razorbills.
On 5th Feb there were 2 Great Northern Divers and a Slavonian Grebe at Grandes Havres, plus a welcome return by the Black Redstart in the garden after being missing for a month. Finally, today at lunchtime, I braved the wet weather to look out over the stormy seas from the car park at Fort Hommet and was rewarded with a fine adult Little Gull flying over the headland.
singing Wren - Fort Hommet - Jan 2014
This Wren was singing at Fort Hommet on one of the few sunny days. I recorded it because it sounded a little atypical for the species. It may have been because it is just warming up, or practising, or just doing some sub-singing But I always like to think, when I hear a slightly different song of a common species, that it is a foreigner singing in a French accent! (or german, or irish, or russian - or wherever our visiting wintering Wrens may come from.)
West coast from Pulias
One of the best decisions I made a few years ago was to stop watching TV. I know there are some amazing TV shows and it is a shame I have missed out on them, but I just can't bear thinking about the hours wasted staring into the corner of the room and the inactivity, loafing on the sofa. I only watch the footie nowadays (and Sherlock!). I'd much rather do something creative and active, but whilst doing these I always either listen to the radio or to podcasts downloaded onto the iPod. These are my top ten favourite podcasts that I listen to, and I'd advise you to do the same - much better than the crap that's on TV most of the bloney time!
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10
1. THE FOOTBALL RAMBLE : If you are a fan of football then I strongly advise you to listen to this podcast. One of my favourite hours of the week is the hour I spend listening to this, and I generally listen again straight after. Rather than listening to the insipid football pundits on TV or the gobby gits on these phone-in shows, these guys are funny, intelligent, knowledgeable and have a real love of the game. Pop, Bang, Lovely!! ---[LINK]---
2. RICHARD HERRING : My favourite comedian, Richard Herring produces a variety of different podcasts at different times. His comedy is intelligent and I appreciate his philosophy of producing content, not for the maximum financial return, but just to 'get it out there' for people to enjoy. Visit his site to see the selection of stuff he produces. ---[LINK]---
3. KERMODE AND MAYO'S FILM REVIEW : Friday night is film night for me. I spend the evening listening to this radio show, then watch a downloaded film recommended by the good doctor. A very popular podcast & radio show, I am sure lots of readers are wittertainees (hello to Jason Isaacs). ---LINK---
5. FIGHTING TALK : A Radio 5 topical sports show - A popular radio show and generally pretty funny, especially when Bob Mills is on, although I'd have preferred Colin Murray to be still presenting it. ---LINK---
6. THE MOTH : An American show, it is simple story-telling, people coming up on stage, telling their true story for 10 minutes, without notes or prompts. Some funny, some sad, some incredible. ---LINK---
7. THE SQUARE BALL : Not for everybody clearly, "The Square Ball" is Leeds United's main fanzine and so this is where I get my LUFC news from. Despite it being very partizan (I am not the kind of football fan that hates other teams), and some of the presenters are a bit annoying, it does give me good insight as to what is going on at the football club. ---LINK---
8. RADIOLAB : According to the info, this is a "Radio show and podcast weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries". This podcast, more than any, gets me thinking "what!? really?", coming up with stuff that's really mind-blowing that you've never thought about before. Love it. ---LINK---
9. THIS AMERICAN LIFE : A well-known podcast with a documentary theme, but the stories are usually personal and obscure, and full of interest. A quality production and well-worth listening to if you have never before. ---LINK---
10. R4 COMEDY OF THE WEEK : Now that I have my new phone which has iPlayer, I don't listen to this as often as I can go through the whole week of comedy on Radio4 and listen to all of it. This podcasts picks out one of the best comedy programmes of each week. ---LINK---
|Posted on October 8, 2013 at 5:05 PM|
Of course, with it now being peak bird rarity time, this post is bound to be all about the rare birds that I have seen and found during the last week or so......
Well, to Hell with all that bird crap, I only went and discovered a bloody rare, once-in-a-lifetime, mega-moth didn't I!
Last Saturday morning (night of 27th Sep) I casually strolled out to the trap, bleary-eyed, and saw an unfamiliar carpet-type moth on the outside of the trap. This was great as I knew it was something new for me, and went inside to get a pot and popped it in the fridge for ID later. I had no idea that it was to be a big rarity. As I have done very little moth-ing elsewhere, if I haven't had a moth species in the garden before, then I won't recognise it, no matter how widespread the species is. I didn't think too much about it, and was more excited by the first garden record of the awesome Convolvulus Hawk-moth that was resting near the trap.
Convolvulus Hawk-moth - garden, 27 Sep 13
After a bit of brekkie, I thumbed through the moth book to see which new species this carpet was, and was confused when I couldn't find it. It was pretty distinctive but I went through a few times and it simply wasn't in there. Puzzled, I got out my "Papillons de nuit" French moth book and, despite not really expecting anything, there it was - a Pungeleria capreolaria.
Pungeleria capreolaria - garden, 27 Sep 2013
I knew that this had to be pretty special because in that book I had pencilled in all the names of the moths in English to avoid confusion, and this had nothing by it, and this had no English name. There followed much panicking, and research on the internet, and postings on twitter, and emails to other moth-ers, No-one appeared to doubt the ID and no-one thought the species had been recorded in Britain before. Much excitement ensued!
At the moment, I am not 100% definitely saying it is a Pungeleria capreolaria and am awaiting confirmation from European experts in the field, but it does look extremely likely that it is this rare species. Of course not a first for "Britain" or the "UK" since the beast has not crossed the Channel to England, but it would be the first time it has been recorded in "The British Isles". I can't find a lot of info about the species but it is apparently from the mountains of Europe, feeding on Fir trees. People have told me that being a first, I may get to choose an English name for it..... (*mischievous grin*).
Getting back to the birds, it has been disappointingly quiet for rarities here on the island, and just at the minute it is very quiet altogether. I went for a stroll round Le Guet today at lunch, and not a single Chiffy, Blackcap, crest or other warbler. Last Sunday though (29th Sep) it was better and I had a really nice couple of hours at Pleinmont. I got there just after first light, and the first bird I saw as I stepped out of the car was a Wryneck. It was very mobile and I kept seeing it on and off for the next hour or so in the Scramble Track car park area.
Wryneck - Pleinmont, 29 Sep 13
There were little pockets of migrants around, but it was quite hard work locating them. I had 2 Whinchat, 2 Yellow Wagtails, 3 Whitethroat, 2 Spotted Flycatchers and about 20 Chiffchaffs, but the valleys were quite dead with most birds up on the top of the headland. Around the TV mast field there was a flock of about 50 Meadow Pipits and I briefly saw something slightly different with them on the deck. They all then flew up and I watched a Lapland Bunting fly over me, calling, and head East towards Mont Herault. A Grey Plover came in low and calling, confusing me at first due to the unusual location, before flying off far to the east.
The other main sighting of interest was on 1st Oct when I went down to Rue des Bergers hide for my lunch. At the far side of the marsh I saw, for a second or two, about half of a back of a snipe - some browny plumage with an orangey-stripe. I didn't see any head or beak or legs or any underparts, but even so, I knew it was a Jack Snipe and grapevined it. Why was I so certain it was a Jack Snipe from such non-views?......bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce.........
Almost as rare as the rare moth, a species which is on the brink of extinction was sighted at Cambridge Park on Saturday. I was being another filling-in substitute for the Police football team, when I got called into the fray just into the second half with the score at a tight 1-0. First touch - pass : Second touch - an edge-of-the-box curler into the top left corner - GOAL! I'm not saying it was a goal of genius, that's for other people to say. But I was pretty chuffed (and it was quite a good goal too!). Here is the evidence.