Blog

Sun 15th September 2013

Posted on September 15, 2013 at 8:55 AM

Hooray!! It has been ten months since my last Guernsey tick, but yesterday I finally got the next one, and it was number 250 for my Guernsey List. And even better, it was a self-found one too.


Last Sunday (8th) I had a bash round Pleinmont for some migrants and I got really, really soaked! I don't mind getting a bit wet if there's loads of birds around - but there wasn't. Five Whinchats were probably the highlight, but there was not much else - single Yellow and White Wags, plus about 20 Wheatear. There were signs of autumn though with 50 Meadow Pipits flocking in the fields. Had a new plant species though, with a few Thorn-apples growing in the corner of a field.


During the working week I have been stopping off at my Pulias patch trying to add to my Patchwork Challenge score. I must say I am finding it difficult to progress much, and realise it was probably a mistake choosing such a small patch. I think that next year I shall have to extend my patch to a longer stretch of coastline to get more of a variety. The Greenshank continues to show well, staying all week, as has the Water Rail. On 11th, did a little micro-seawatching before and after work and picked up Balearic Shearwater, Arctic Skua and Bonxie for the patch year list. The next day, I finally ticked off Whinchat. Also visited Fort Hommet on 12th in my lunch hour, where there was another Whinchat and, what I assume was a personal fly-past by the Red Arrows.



Wheatear - Fort Hommet, 12 Sep 13



Greenshank - Pulias, 12 Sep 13


The Red Arrows - over Vazon, 12 Sep 13


Yesterday (14th), there was a decent onshore wind blowing from the north and so I arranged another morning's seawatch from Jaonneuse. A popular idea, there was eight of up there on the rocks at one point, and we enjoyed some great birds. The birds were not passing in high numbers like they were last time but they were regular and so kept our interest. Shearwaters were passing in small groups and I had totals of 20 Balearics, 14 Manx and 9 Sooties which were close enough to identify. There were not many skuas going through, and in the first couple of hours we had two each of Arctic Skua and Bonxie. Other birds included an adult Kittiwake and a few each of Common and Arctic Tern, but nothing too exciting or new for the season for me.


I was starting to think about leaving when we saw a dark Pomarine Skua go past. We didn't see it too well, as it was picked up already heading away, but it was really massive. As it powered along it looked like it could barely keep airborne. We didn't even consider Arctic Skua as a possibility, we just was making sure it wasn't a Bonxie. It was big, even for a Pom. This was great and made the seawatch worthwhile.


At about 10:10 I had decided definitely to head home, but the few terns had now become a definite trickle, and we were picking up flocks of 'commic' terns every few minutes, so I gave it a little longer. This was a great decision. I 'scoped up another Common Tern and then noticed a second tern following behind it. Well, that was my first impression, whereas my second impression was - 'Oh what? It's a skua'. As any birder knows, if you have a skua and it reminds you of a tern, then it can only mean one thing, and so I called out to the others "I think it might be a Long-tailed Skua". Everyone soon located it as it wasn't too far out - about reef distance - and we watched it purposely head west, low over the surface of the water, until it disappeared round the corner.


At no point did I think it was anything other than a Long-tailed Skua - it was so clear to me. I have seen adult Long-taileds whilst seawatching, and I have seen juveniles stranded inland, but I have never actually seen a juvenile whilst seawatching. However, I have seen hundreds of juvenile Arctic Skuas and this bird was different. It was just greyish with no hint of any brown or rufous in its plumage, and it was so tiny - not at all scarily fierce like its relatives. It didn't fly like a skua, but like a small gull, flicking, and bouncing, and dodging about. The wings were narrow-based, parallel-sided and long, whereas an Arctic has broad-based, almost triangular wings. There were a few other pointers I picked out, and also a few other features which I didn't notice at the time. When I got back home, I quickly made some notes in my notebook whilst the bird was fresh in my mind.




Everyone there seemed pretty happy that it was a Long-tailed but it was a pity that it went past so quickly or that we hadn't picked it up much earlier. This was a species I had not seen in Guernsey before - there are only 10 previous records from the island - and I was chuffed to get to 250 species with something I had found myself. Happy days!!

Thu 22nd September 2011

Posted on September 22, 2011 at 4:10 PM

I do not have a very good track record of finding rare waders. None of the good birds I have ever found have been shorebirds - maybe it's just the type of birding I tend to do. But 2011 has been splendidly different. First there was the Black-winged Stilt I discovered at Pulias in May, then there was last week's Buff-breast, and then this week, I managed to complete the hat-trick!

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Lunchtime on Monday I went down to L'Eree to look for rare waders - I quite fancied finding a Semi-p Sand actually - but  there were zero waders on the Aerodrome and the Shingle Bank just had a single Bar-tailed Godwit feeding with the common stuff. Checking the watch, I had just enough time to have a 5 minute look from the hide at the Claire Mare, so I scuttled down the lane and opened the flap - not a sausage. Not one single bird. Then all of a sudden I heard a wader call from really close below the hide, and I did not recognise this call at all. Immediately a wader took flight from a few yards in front of me. It was pretty plain above as it flew with no really obvious white patches or wing-bar - only a very subtle pattern. It landed on the mud and straight away revealed itself to be a bloomin' Pectoral Sandpiper!

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Quite amazed, I realised that I had just 15 minutes before I had to be back in the classroom and I dashed back to the car and took a few record shots as it fed amongst the glasswort on the far shore of the mare lake.

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juv Pectoral Sandpiper - Claire Mare, 19 Sep 11

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That evening the wind picked up from the North and I had a 10 minute seawatch from the recycling centre at Chouet. A Great Skua soon passed and there was also other bits and bats - I wish I had the time to stay longer as it looked really good.

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On Wednesday lunch I went to see the Pec Sand again at the Claire Mare in the hope of taking some good photos, but it was exceptionally dull and the bird just never stopped moving. My photography skills are not good enough to be succesful under these conditions and the best I got is below.

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The number of quality birds around the country this week has been superb, and I have been yearning to go on a some mega twitches to see them all - but alas, this is impossible. So one has to keep hoping that some crippler manages to turn up here on Guernsey. You've got to keep believing, or it'll never happen. So despite being knackered, I had a half-hour round Lihou Headland today and flushed a Wryneck from the top of the hill exactly where I had two last year. It seems to be a good year for them on the island.

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Just realised that all the three self-found waders this year have been on a Monday afternoon. Surely not a coincidence, eh, eh?. . . .(except of course, like most 'mysterious' things in this world - it is).

Mon 12th September 2011

Posted on September 12, 2011 at 5:35 PM

My only birding plan for today was to head out at lunchtime to try and see the Tawny Pipit found yesterday at L'Eree. However, since the weather was again terrible, I agreed to swap lunch duties with a workmate so I was stuck in school for the whole day. At the end bell, the rain had been stopped a while and I saw on Birdguides that there was a flock of 6 Buff-breasted Sandpipers on Scilly. I thought that there just had to be one here on the island.

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So after packing up I set off home in the car and decided I had enough time to go find a Buff-breasted Sand, and I would definitely find it on the golf course at L'Ancresse which has had records before. Of course I always think like this, and I am sure most birders are like me and spend plenty of time predicting what they are about to find.

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The golf course is only 2 or 3 minutes off my route home, and so I pulled into the car park at Les Ammareurs and looked across the closest fairway to see what appeared to be a pale bird running around on the grass. I put my bins on it and could see it was definitely a wader, and the colouration appeared quite. . . well, buff! No it couldn't be surely? I scrambled out and retrieved my scope from the boot, rested on the car, and focussed it to reveal - a superb BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER!

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I grabbed all my gear, and jogging past some rather confused golfers, I managed to get pretty close. I only had about 5 minutes to get some snaps as I had to be home by 4 to take Abigail to her club. I tried digiscoping but was failing terribly in the now quite windy conditions. So I dropped to the floor and crawled commando-style towards it with the Lumix - I don't think my work trousers were very impressed with this, nor were the golfers who pinged their drives over my head as I lay on the ground in front of them. In the end I managed a few pleasing shots before I had to rush away and grapevine the news.

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Buff-breasted Sandpiper - L'Ancresse Golf Course, 12 Sep 2011

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I really couldn't believe that I just went to look for one and found one within 10 seconds. This is the first Buff-breast that I have found myself, and as usual with this species, it was a real cracker.

Tue 10th May 2011

Posted on June 8, 2011 at 5:30 PM

birds : On the way back from work I called in at Pulias and was pleased to see that the Black-winged Stilt was still present. I managed to take a few decent photos but the sun was so bright it was rather difficult.

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Black-winged Stilt, Pulias Pond, 10th May 2011

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Mon 9th May 2011

Posted on May 28, 2011 at 5:45 PM

birds : Quite a splendid Liberation Day for me today. After the previous two weekends of family abandonment, this was a weekend with no birding, spent relaxing at home. Late afternoon today, I took the kids out in the car to drop Rosie off at her friends house, and was slowly driving home along the coast road. As I passed Pulias Pond, I casually glanced out of the car window to see if there was anything obvious there, just as I always do, twice a day, to and from work. Of course there never is anything there, so I was pretty gobsmacked to see, wading around in the shallows, a superb BLACK-WINGED STILT! Incredulous, and thinking I was perhaps just daydreaming, I span the car round at Ronez and there it certainly was - a chuffing Stilt!

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A fabulous bird for the self-found list, although as I have seen it twice in Guernsey in the last 12 months, not quite as mind-scrambling as it might have been. We pulled into the car park and I managed to get Abigail to look at it through the bins - "It looks like a tiny flamingo with black wings" was her assessment which isn't a bad description of a Stilt. Whilst this was happening, Anais had sprinted off down the path and Aidan was having a grump, so I couldn't really stay long to study it. So I snapped a few record shots with the phone before heading back. It was nice to find a rare bird that a) wasn't a pain to ID, and b) didn't scarper straight away. The first self-found tick I have had for about a year, and a total cracker! 

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Black-winged Stilt, Pulias Pond, 9th May 2011 - Self-found tickage baby!!