Blog

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

Categories: 2011 Autumn