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Sun 30th September 2012

Posted on September 29, 2012 at 3:05 PM

With the weather breaking big time during the last couple of weeks, with storms and winds and rain, punctuated with nice clear spells, it has really mixed everything up and a few nice things have been seen around the island. Most of these were ungettable for me for various reasons. Last weekend was exceptionally wet and there were a few massive downpours. On Saturday, the road outside our house became a small river temporarily, which I have never seen before. I have just bought a new, very small video camera, about the size of a mobile phone. Here are some results from it, which look very promising.

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Video recording of the small river outside our front gate on Saturday morning. It went as soon as it appeared.

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After the deluge seemed to be stopping, which was around Sunday lunchtime, I decided to head out in the field, especially as the wind had been from the East also. My first stop, at Fort Hommet, revealed that there had been some kind of arrival as there were 4 Whinchats together in the car park. I also found out that the rain wasn't stopping at all, as it started to pound down again!

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Quite a wet Whinchat - Fort Hommet, 23 Sep 2012

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Where to be when it's raining hard? In a hide of course. So I headed down to Claire Mare hoping for a good grounded wader, but all there was was a Common Sandpiper. After a while, I watched two Water Rails chase each other across the pond and just behind them I caught a glimpse of a movement in the reeds. It took a while longer but eventually a Jack Snipe wandered out. This was quite a surprise being so early in the winter and may even be the earliest record for Guernsey - I can't find any before 24th Sep in the records. The strong northeasterlies no doubt scooping it across from Scandinavia faster than usual. After this nice find, I continued on to search the L'Eree area where there was a nice selection of species, with another uncommon wader - a Knot on L'Eree beach being the pick.

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adult Yellow-legged Gull - L'Eree beach, 23 Sep 2012. The surrounding LBBGulls are showing their variability, with at 7 and 8 o'clock to the YLG what are presumably British birds, and at 9, 10 and 11 o'clock what are probably Scandinavian birds on their way south (slightly darker backed, smaller, pointier-winged, different leg tone?) but racial ID is notoriously difficult.

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Ruddy Shelduck - L'Eree Old Aerodrome scrape, 23 Sep 12 - clearly pining for the Steppes.

I moved on up to Pleinmont where there was not a great deal in the now worsening conditions, but another 4 or 5 Whinchats were present. As I was getting wetter, I headed back home, and calling in at Vazon on the way, I found another Knot and a winter-adult Curlew Sandpiper. I am sure there will have been a wider selection of migrant waders on the island if I'd have been able to check all the sites.

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Knot - Vazon, 23 Sep 12 - the weather was so dreary as can be seen from the above photos.

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The tramping around in the wet clearly meant I caught a "chill" (whatever the heck that's meant to be) and suddenly I got sick and had to take a couple of days off work and a few more recovery days meant birding was curtailed. Back in the groove, I went out for a few hours around Pleinmont this morning but we were disappointed by poor numbers of migrants. The first 4 or 5 Firecrests were the highlight, but they are expected at this time of year.

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Red Underwing - garden, 20 Sep 12

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And that was September. It passed without a big rarity for everyone to see on the island. Tomorrow is October and the expectation is turned up to 11. Is this the year? Is it? IS IT?

Sun 16th September 2012

Posted on September 17, 2012 at 4:50 PM

Busy, busy, busy. These last couple of weeks have been a real slog and I am decidely "well-knackered". The start of the school year is always very busy anyway, but as we have just moved into the new school, then it has had extra work with unpacking boxes, sorting out the new rooms, extra meetings, extra training, and to top it all, I now have to wear a TIE! I may call Amnesty International to save me from this persecution. The new school is very impressive though - state of the art in practically everything. It's going to be a great place to teach (or at least it will be when they finish it). My classroom is now looking across the island and I can just about see the sea. I'll have to start my 'Lab List'. The strangest thing that happened in the first week was in the classroom next door to mine, just lying there on top of the rubbish in the bin, was a dead Redstart! I presume it flew into a window outside and was brought in by one of the workmen.

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first-winter male Redstart - Les Beaucamps High School, 5 Sep 2012 - he's joined the choir invisible.

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So my birding has been very reduced, which is a shame since it is one of the finest times of the year. Things have settled down somewhat now, so I should be getting out a bit more. One of the best sightings was this morning though, as I was having my morning cuppa in the garden, I looked up to see a 'V' of birds coming towards me from the NE. Grabbing my bins, I was shocked to see that they were a group of 25 Bar-tailed Godwits crossing the middle of the island on their migration south. This species is very strictly coastal here and I have never heard of any being seen 'inland' before. I even managed to grab a record shot as they raced across the sky.

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Bar-tailed Godwits - over the garden, 16 Sep 12

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juvenile/first-winter Common Gull - Vazon, 4 Sep 12 - we very rarely get these young Common Gulls on the island, and it threw me for a second.

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I've had the moth trap out a few times but it has been very poor for interesting stuff. One thing I forgot to mention last time was a sighting of a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly at L'Eree on the last day of August. This may not sound very exciting, but this was only my second record of this species in Guernsey in the last ten years. It must be practically extinct as a breeding species here, this one probably being an immigrant as it was with a Painted Lady.

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Small Tortoiseshell - L'Eree, 31 Aug 12

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Phyllonorycter geniculella - garden, 9 Sep 12

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Cobo Bay - photo taken from the car on my way to work one morning

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Managed some creative stuff over the summer holidays. I have wanted to try some digital painting using the drawing tablet for some time now, so I decided to do a front cover piece for the annual Rarity Report that I am currently working on. It was quite a time-consuming process, but a lot of that was experimenting with the techniques and I am sure my next picture won't quite take so long. I was very pleased with the outcome, especially since it was my first proper attempt.

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Olive-backed Pipit - Grand Pre, Oct 2011

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I also have done another quick Gyr Crakes song. Just a silly song about warblers, and all done in one take may I add!

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And also, my parents brought over a DVD, copied from an old video of me playing in a football match when I was 11. So here is a video of me scoring a goal for the mighty Garforth Villa.

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Mon 3rd September 2012

Posted on September 3, 2012 at 3:50 PM

The end of the Summer seemed to be going out with a whimper but I'm pleased to report a sudden surge of excitement in the last few days. Especially today, when the excitement levels nearly tipped me over the edge! It was the first day in the new school today - (which, by the way, is totally amazing!) - and so I had spent most of the day listening to people talking and unpacking boxes. A grapevine message on the phone cheered me up as there was a Pectoral Sandpiper on the Old Aerodrome and I decided to quickly pop there at 3 o'clock.

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So there I was, just setting up the 'scope to look for the Pec, when another grapevine message appeared from Jamie. "probable UPLAND SAND on Lihou - be quick, you have about an hour before the causeway closes". Blimey!!! I could see Lihou from where I was standing! So I maniacally piled everything back into the car and screeched over Lihou Headland. I sprinted across the causeway, phoning Jamie as I ran. He had seen it twice in flight but not at the moment.

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When I arrived somewhat out of breath (I am 40 now you know!) after a rather difficult cross-country run, Jamie pointed out where he thought it had landed in amongst the rockpools and rocks along the rocky shore, directly into the sun. Looking for brown waders amongst these brown rocks was a nightmare from distance, so I decided, since I was sweaty and knackered anyway, I'd wander over the seaweed to try and get closer. I flushed a Snipe and 2 Whimbrel but there was no sign. Jamie phoned me and suggested it was a bit further and so I rolled up my trousers and went into the water. So, I am now wading out into the sea, right up to my knees to try and find this bird, my trainers totally full of water and my socks rather soggy. It was all rather silly but funny.

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There was no sign anywhere and we then looked all around the island, and it had clearly disappeared. I didn't mind so much as I had had a good time, and as only one person had seen it, I didn't feel as though I'd greatly missed out. Returning to the car across the causeway, I squelched back to L'Eree where I was able to watch the Pectoral Sandpiper on the saltmarsh in the company of two Ruff. When I got home, Rosie was somewhat bemused to see my trousers rolled up to my knees and dripping water all over the kitchen floor, "Where on Earth have you been?". "There was a bird", I said. No further explanation needed. A roll of her eyes and she carries on with what she was doing.

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Pectoral Sandpiper - L'Eree, 3 Sep 2012

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Yesterday, I also managed to easily twitch a rarity - well a 'scarcity' I suppose - as there was a Rose-coloured Starling on the beach at Jaonneuse. I managed to get a chance to go mid-afternoon and I saw it straight away on top of the Martello Tower. Unfortunately, I couldn't get very good photos because of the jumpiness of the Starling flocks, but it was nice to see. A pretty good statistic is that in the last 16 years, there have been 28 Rose-coloured Starlings seen in Guernsey.

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juvenile Rose-coloured Starling - Jaonneuse, 2 Sep 2012

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The only other birding done was last Thursday when I managed to squeeze a couple of hours seawatching in and saw my annual dose of Arctic and Great Skuas, plus Balearic Shearwaters, but all just in single figures. I am never going to see any decent seabirds unless I put a bit more time in. There was nothing startling discovered in the moth traps during the week and only a couple of new plants were noted. I did have only my second ever Blue-winged Grasshopper on the cliff path at Le Gouffre however.

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Archer's Dart - garden, 18 Aug 2012

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Rough Star-thistle - Rocquaine, 23 Aug 2012 - there is only a single patch of this rare plant on the whole island.

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Great Mullein - L'Eree, 23 Aug 2012

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Bee Wolf - Gouffre, 23 Aug 2012 - this wasp is called the Bee Wolf because it hunts and kills bees!

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Meromyza sp. - Gouffre, 23 Aug 2012 - a small, colourful fly.

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So, between the last post and this, I passed the 40 years-not-out mark. The last twenty years, in some ways, have just flown by, disappearing without trace, but yet the photo below feels like it was taken in the distant past. Wonder what he was thinking? Perhaps he was daydreaming of finding rare birds and playing for England. He still is.

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